Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone welcomes aboard new trustee

Tahmasbi, 27, topped five other candidates for Archer's seat

By Todd R. Brown, Staff writer.

Friday, April 20, 2007—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—After a nearly three-hour interview session Wednesday night, the Ohlone College board tapped 27-year-old Trisha Tahmasbi to fill the vacancy left by longtime trustee Dan Archer.

"I don't know if you guys are aware, but you just elected your second Persian American on the board," student Trustee Sahar Yousef said.

Tahmasbi was the lead vote-getter among six candidates after a round of balloting, but a debate over the process ensued—requiring the board to consult a parliamentary protocol book kept in a cabinet at the Child Development Center—before the choice was approved.

"I was so impressed with everybody I sat down next to," said Tahmasbi, wearing a dark pinstriped suit and spunky 2-inch heels. "Thank you, everybody."

The new trustee is a field representative for Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, and earned a 2004 bachelor's degree in political science and multimedia from California State University, Hayward—which since has been renamed Cal State, East Bay—after transferring from the University of Oklahoma.

"Folks in the Midwest, we have kind of a beacon of shining light from the California college system," Tahmasbi said Thursday. "It was an exciting choice for me to make."

Her father grew up in Iran but moved to the United States shortly before the Islamic revolution in 1979 to study chemical engineering and computer science. Her mother, who worked as a nurse and hailed from Arkansas, died about 10 years ago. Tahmasbi's younger sister, Farah, is a software engineer in the Ventura area.

"My father tried to get me into the technology field, but it didn't stick," Tahmasbi said with a laugh.

Working full time to put herself through college gave Tahmasbi some insight into what community college students face, she said, noting that the fiscal problems she witnessed while at Cal State Hayward, including soaring tuition increases, taught her about finding diverse funding sources.

"I would hate for us to have to attach to the roller coaster of the state budget," she said.

On the other hand, she hoped the campus frontage area along Mission Boulevard could be turned into student housing with bookstores and coffee shops, instead of being developed into offices—although she didn't rule out commercial use.

"Student life is one of the biggest parts of the college experience," she said, suggesting that Ohlone might evolve from strictly a commuter school.

College President Doug Treadway said the board is expected to vote in the next couple months on soliciting bids to develop the land with a 50- to 60-year lease into revenue-generating retail stores and apartments.

Tahmasbi, who will fill the remainder of Archer's term, until November 2008, said one of her priorities as a trustee will be to seek partnerships with local biotech and nanotechnology companies in light of the health science campus opening in Newark.

"It's a way to kind of align the classroom learning with workplace standards," she said. "I think you're going to see a surge of those companies here."

The Tamayo Street resident beat out former Fremont and Newark teacher George Mathiesen, Cal State East Bay administrator Jan Giovannini-Hill and other candidates with decades of experience.

Trustee Bill McMillin made a motion to have Tahmasbi fill the vacancy, but Trustee John Weed felt a second round of voting on the leading candidates should happen.

That spurred Treadway to consult a copy of "Robert's Rules of Order," a 19th century legislative manual, to see whether the initial motion took precedence, as was the case.

"I'm sure she'll do a great job. She's not that far herself from having been a university student," Treadway said. "Maybe the generational balance is something they were actually looking for."

Tahmasbi studied the underfunding of colleges last year at Yale through a women's leadership program and helped coordinate a 2005 forum at the Silliman center on state education cuts.

She campaigned to elect Bob Wieckowski to the Fremont City Council and is part of the drive to preserve an exposed part of the Hayward Fault in Fremont through the nonprofit Math/Science Nucleus.

Yousef, an Ohlone neuroscience and philosophy student of Persian descent, cast an advisory vote for Tahmasbi and said the board's fresh voice is a good choice for the student body.

"We have such an array of cultures on campus," Yousef said. "Our majority is Asian Americans. That's who we're representing. That's who we are."

Staff writer Todd R. Brown covers Newark, Ohlone College and ethnic communities. Reach him at (510) 353-7004.

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