Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone hopefuls have long history

'My life was changed and shaped by a community college'

By Wes Bowers, Staff writer.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—A replacement for retiring President/Superintendent Douglas Treadway of Ohlone College could be named this week.

Trustees planned to meet Monday to discuss a successor among the three finalists and could announce their choice at Wednesday's public meeting.

The candidates—Cecilia Cervantes, Laurence Spraggs and Gari Browning—recently attended local public forums and interviewed with the board. Two have similar positions at California community colleges, while one has the same position at a New York community college.

Cecilia Cervantes

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

Cervantes said she prides herself on collaborating with public schools, foundations, businesses and other higher education institutions.

One partnership she highlighted was with the Alameda City Unified School District, where the agency and the college formed a joint degree program. It lets students attain both high school and college diplomas in four years by taking simultaneous college preparatory classes and college courses.

Cervantes said one aspect that attracted her to the position at Ohlone was the college's diversity.

"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."

When asked about how she would handle working with a board of trustees sometimes deemed "difficult," she said: "I'd help the board understand and practice their goal. They'd need training, but it can't be just a one-time thing. It must be ongoing, with periodical evaluations."

Cervantes has spent more than 30 years in higher education at the university, state college and community college levels.

She has been a community college administrator for morethan 25 years and served as director, dean, associate vice president, vice president, provost and president at junior colleges in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

Laurence Spraggs

Spraggs is president of Broome Community College in Binghamton, N.Y. He is looking for a job at numerous junior colleges across the country.

He has worked for community colleges for almost 30 years and also taught at the high school and university levels.

Although Spraggs considers himself a "teacher, first and foremost," he said: "This is a learning college, and I'd be the 'learner in chief.' I'd be focused on learning as much as I can about the college."

Spraggs said he is devoted to the mission of community colleges in American education.

"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 isn't interested in retirement anytime soon.

Asked about working with potentially difficult trustees, Spraggs also said he would take time to get to know them and work closely together. He said he believes in funding professional development at all administrative and civic levels in a college.

Spraggs said he has brought the Binghamton community together through Broome College. He serves on a variety of community and national civic panels and is a member of the Binghamton Rotary.

Spraggs served as president at the Titusville Campus of Brevard Community College in Florida and as vice president of instruction at Red Rocks Community College in Colorado.

Gari Browning

Browning is vice president of instruction at College of the Desert in Palm Desert.

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

"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 a community college. I found my career, my spouse there."

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

She said she also wants to boost funding for leadership programs for both administrators and the board. In five years, Browning said she hopes everyone will know that Ohlone is a "learning college" that is about both student and staff enrichment.

Browning said she wants to focus on Ohlone students who take Internet courses to ensure that they are getting the same quality instruction as regular Ohlone students.

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

She has been a professor and department chairwoman of the English as a second language program at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa. She served there as a coordinator, institutional researcher and planner, and division dean.

Browning was an associate director at the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, where she helped develop current standards that include student learning outcomes.

Biographies for the three finalists are online at

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