Opening Day Welcomes New President, Celebrations Leading into Spring 2024 Semester

The Cypress College Theater was filled with chatter and warmth as faculty and staff returned to campus to gather for Spring 2024 Opening Day. As is tradition, the day began with breakfast and mingling before gathering into the theater to welcome the new semester. But this opening day brought another welcome: that of the college’s 13th president, Dr. Scott W. Thayer.

Dr. Scott Thayer smiling at podium

Dr. Thayer closed the gap between leader and employees by stepping out from behind the podium and addressing employees from the front of the stage, sharing that he was honored to be Cypress College’s new president. After introducing the college’s constituent leadership, Dr. Thayer invited representation from each area of the college to share things to celebrate, as well as updates on accreditation, enrollment, construction, basic needs, and the impact of giving. He noted the importance of sharing the celebrations because “it’s important that we anchor the successes we experience instead of dwelling on things that go wrong. My mom always shared an old saying: there’s no such thing as failure; it’s just another step on the path to success.”

Welcoming Dr. Thayer included a segment with Office of Campus Communications Director Marc Posner, in which, through questions, the audience learned that Minnesota-native and former community college student Dr. Thayer loves baseball (he played centerfield and one of his favorite players is Rod Carew), he loves Prince (he saw him in concert three times), and as a founder of A²MEND, sees a need and makes every effort to fill it.

Marc Posner and Dr. Scott Thayer shaking hands on stage

“My freedom dream is to empower our students to be able to achieve the educational goals that they have set for themselves, without limitations and with enthusiasm,” Dr. Thayer said. “I am here to nurture the dreams of students and I see these possibilities in my daughters who are navigating education themselves and showing me that I can be most effective when I listen, pay attention, and take action…. I am excited to be here and thrilled about the opportunities for Cypress College…. I look forward to being part of this robust and kind community and to the journey we share. We all take this journey together.”

As we continue to take this journey together, our successes are our students’ and vice versa. Awards were presented to Stephanie Acosta, Kristina Oganesian, and Joseph Shonkwiler for the hard work they do as classified employees to help ensure college and student success. Bryan Ventura, Institutional Research & Planning Director, gave an update on accreditation, sharing that the Institutional Self-Evaluation Report (ISER) was submitted early. He advised of the timeline, stating that the ISER Peer Review Team will begin their review February 22. Following the review will be a Meet & Greet and Open Forum on March 12, core inquiries, and then the focused site visit the week of September 16.

Dr. Kathleen Reiland, Vice President of Instruction, gave an enrollment update, stating that the college is up in enrollment and has gained students from its participation in the CVC. Dr. Reiland went on to share the numerous accolades of each of the college’s divisions, including receiving an NSF grant of more than $1 million for the Cyber Patriot Program and Dental Hygiene being awarded the baccalaureate degree program for fall 2025.

Interim Vice President of Administrative Services, Dr. Stephen Schoonmaker, discussed the Educational and Facilities Master Plan Refresh, the campus’ project priorities, and future projects. Dr. Schoonmaker updated employees on the Cypress All-Access Passport, which includes the Charger Bus Pass, Charger Food Pass, and Charger Book Pass. These topics led nicely into Dr. Paul de Dios’ presentation on Student Services and basic needs. The Vice President of Student Services shared that Basic Needs Resource Center and Food Pantry on campus (located at Student Life and Leadership) has expanded to more than 1,000 square feet. This space is filled with various items to assist students, including food, diapers, and personal and household care items. Dr. de Dios noted that they are working with various entities to provide housing assistance and laundry services.

All of the celebrations and accolades shared showcased efforts to ensure student success. One other effort was presented by Howard Kummerman, Executive Director of the Foundation: An important way to help students is to give. This giving provides scholarships of more than $400,000 per year, emergency assistance (nearly $100,000), and overall program supports ($965,000). Efforts to raise these funds includes events such as Americana Awards, Golf Classic, Yom HaShoah, and Pups & Pints. It also includes employee donations. Lynn Mitts, Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program Director and Radiologic Technology Professor, encouraged these donations.

Board of Trustees President Evangelina Rosales and NOCCCD Chancellor Dr. Byron D. Clift Breland also spoke. Dr. Breland asked the crowd to really think about employee responsibility for student success and failure, and to strive ensure the successes and help students through any failures — or, as Dr. Thayer noted, their next step on the path to success.

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