Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone narrows president search

By Wes Bowers.

Friday, April 18, 2008—Reprinted from Fremont Bulletin.

Just seven months after Ohlone Community College President Douglas Treadway announced his retirement, a search committee has narrowed a list of potential candidates to three finalists.

On Monday, the college held three open forums at its Fremont campus, giving the community a chance to learn about the candidates, and ask them questions about their experience.

Two of the candidates currently hold similar positions at community college districts in California, while one has the same position at a community college in New York.

The search committee that selected the three finalists consisted of 15 members from Ohlone's faculty, staff, student body and the Board of Trustees.

Cecilia Cervantes is president of College of Alameda. Born in El Paso, Texas, Cervantes said the role of a leader came naturally to her as she is the oldest of eight children and knows a lot about being in charge.

Cervantes added that while serving at the College of Alameda, she has been devoted to improving instruction, student success, and connections with the community.

She said she prides herself on forming collaborations with public schools, foundations, businesses, and other higher education institutions.

A partnership she highlighted Monday was with the Alameda City Unified School District, where the two agencies implemented a college and high school diploma program. The program helps students attain both a high school and college diploma within four years by taking both college preparatory classes and college courses simultaneously.

Cervantes said one of the things that attracted her to the position at Ohlone was the college's diversity, which she said is the key to successful student learning and achievement.

"A community college is a great starting point for all students if we can come together and learn from each other," she said. "Once we go out to the community we can learn from the same spirit and take it out there."

Cervantes claimed she is resourceful when it comes to finding funds for college programs, and hopes her ability to form lasting partnerships with the community at large will serve her in that area as it has done in Alameda.

When asked about how she would handle working with boards of trustees that are deemed "difficult," she said she would spend more time with the panel to get to know each other.

"I'd help the board understand and practice their goal," Cervantes said. "They'd need training, but it can't be just a one-time thing. It must be ongoing with periodical evaluations."

Cervantes has more than 30 years of experience in higher education at the university, state college, and community college levels. She has been a community college administrator for more than 25 years and has served in a variety of positions including director, dean, associate vice president, vice president, provost, and president at community colleges in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Laurence Spraggs is currently president of Broome Community College in Binghamton, N.Y.

Although he has worked in community colleges for almost 30 years, Spraggs also taught at the high school, college and university levels.

Spraggs said Monday that he considers himself a "teacher, first and foremost." He added while he would bring new eyes to Ohlone College, Spraggs admitted he does not believe in taking a new position and reorganizing an existing system.

"This is a learning college, and I'd be the ÔLearner in Chief,'" he said. "I'm still learning about Ohlone, and I'd be focused on learning as much as I can about the college."

Spraggs said he believes community colleges are an important part of America's education system, and that he's devoted to what they do.

"I want a position that will allow me to take a college that is already great, and take it to another level," he said.

When asked how long he expects to stay at Ohlone if chosen, he said he wouldn't be leaving anytime soon and isn't interested in retirement.

Like Cervantes, when asked about working with potentially difficult trustees, Spraggs said he would take time to get to know them and work with them closely. He added he believes in professional development at all administrative and civic levels within a college, and that it is critical to fund.

Spraggs claimed that he has also brought the Binghamton community together through Broome College, and that he is currently a member of the Binghamton Rotary. He serves on a variety of community and national civic panels. Spraggs has also served as president at the Titusville Campus of Brevard Community College in Florida, and vice president of instruction at Red Rocks Community College in Colorado.

Gari Browning is currently serving as vice president of instruction at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif.

There, Browning oversees all instructional programs, off-campus sites, contract and community education, learning initiatives, institutional research and planning, grants, program planning for capital outlay, accreditation, and instructional support services.

Browning said she has taught nearly every educational level, but loves the atmosphere of community colleges.

She has been a professor and department chair of the English as a Second Language program at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Cailf. Browning further served as a coordinator, institutional researcher and planner, and division dean there.

She has also served as an associate director at the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, where she helped develop the current standards that include student learning outcomes.

"I loved being a community college student, that's why I'm in community colleges today," she said. "My life was changed and shaped by community college I found my career, my spouse there. Community colleges are very precious and important to me."

Like the other two candidates, Browning said she is determined to strengthen a link between Ohlone College's strategic goals and its budget an area that an accreditation survey team recently said the school needed improvement on.

She said she also wants to improve funding for developing leadership programs to strengthen both school administration and the Board of Trustees.

Additionally, Browning said she wants to explore improving the success for Ohlone's student population that takes courses on the Internet. To that, she said she would like to make sure online students at the college are receiving the same quality instruction as regular Ohlone students.

In five years, Browning said she hopes that everyone will know that Ohlone is a "learning college" that is about both students and staff learning.

"As we move forward we need to be untied," she said. "We have a good opportunity to share the same basis of information and move the college forward together."

Like Spraggs, Browning has served on numerous committees and boards, however, hers have been in the educational field.

She has also served as a president and in other leadership positions for California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

Full biographies for the three finalists can be found online at: www.ohlone.edu/org/president/search/finalistbio-browning.html; www.ohlone.edu/org/president/search/finalistbio-cervantes.html; and www.ohlone.edu/org/president/search/finalistbio-spraggs.html.

Ohlone College's Board of Trustees reviewed written feedback provided by the community on the candidates Tuesday. A decision on picking Ohlone's new president is tentatively scheduled to be announced during a Board of Trustees meeting in May.

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