Placeholder Image photo credit: Marc Albert/KRCB
Dr. Angelica Garcia, President of Santa Rosa JC


Recently, there was a changing of the guard at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Dr. Angélica Garcia, a Fresno native, assumed the helm after leading a counterpart across the Bay---Berkeley City, formerly Vista College.

Dr. Garcia spoke with KRCBnews about her philosophical outlook, trends and challenges in public education, and Santa Rosa Junior College's place in the galaxy of California's three tiered university system....

A former classroom teacher, Garcia has both a frontline view, and a wide perspective that's helped set admirable if challenging goals.

"I feel like a lot of things have prepared me to lead Santa Rosa Junior College, but I think the most important element for me and the most important value for me is, I just really believe in equitable access to higher education, equitable opportunity to have upward social mobility. I believe that if you are born in this Zip code, you should be adequately provided educational opportunities in this Zip code, earn a living wage in this Zip code, and then ultimately be able to buy a home in this Zip code. A community college education can be the great equalizer to disrupt generational poverty," Garcia said.

Her path to the helm at SRJC took many turns. Being a high school teacher was very rewarding, but  teaching foster youth inspired a shift.

[Reporter:] "I imagine you didn't grow up saying, god, I want to be a university administrator

[Garcia] (laughs) "Not at all!"

[Reporter]: "And I imagine had some misgivings about being away from the classroom."

"That is actually what changed my life, to really understand what it means to be the lowest represented student population in higher ed, the least likely, the one that has all the odds stacked against them, so it was between the driving my students around, from group home, or whatever house they were staying at, to get them to San Diego State, to take a college level class while they were in high school. That's what did it for me. And then I went into higher ed, from there, but I never thought I was going to be a college president. That was not part of the original plan," Garcia said.

That sent her into social work, eventually moving on into college administration in San Mateo County.

Just as the pandemic was exploding, she was hired on to lead the Peralta Community College District's Berkeley City College, leading that institution before assuming the top role here at SRJC. Garcia said she's a strong believer in the flexibility of junior colleges as a resource for the entire community.

"Community colleges are able to show up in a way where it's providing access for someone who might just want to come in and start off in a certificate, and it gets to be part of a stackable certificate that then leads to an associate's degree, which that could be the end of the road or it could be transfer and moving on. There is a place for everyone at the community college," she said.

The college is focused both on academics and vocational training.

"Career and technical education is huge. For example, this years first group of cadets for the police academy has the highest number of females in a cohort that has ever existed. So between fire and police, but especially for fire, they are securing jobs before they even finish the program," she said.

In terms of challenges, SRJC has its share of financial travails.

But Garcia told KRCB News that enrollment is on a trajectory toward its pre-covid level and that should put it on solid financial ground. She said she's charged everyone associated with the campus to refocus on retaining students--offering more help and understanding, and just generally being welcoming.

"We have an entire student services team that are relentlessly welcoming students. Like, that is actually what they are working on. We have classified professionals that are supporting what it means to build a caring campus initiative. We have faculty that are really looking at how to continue to build culturally relevant curriculum. We have a courageous leadership academy that is saying, 'we're all leaders across this campus' regardless of our title," she said.

And she said, the campus is always looking to improve.

"We look at, do we have enough support in the evening hours? Do we have enough presence online? Do we have enough presence in different languages, given the demographics of our county. Those are the kind of questions, and so we just have to think about things," Garcia added.

For all the nurturing, Garcia says that at a two year school, goodbyes are equally important.

"What I was just telling a group of students this morning: 'I am glad that you are here, but I need you to hurry up and do what you need to do and move on. I do, I love that you're here, but you have to move on to the next phase of what your goal is, and we have to make that OK," she said.

In terms of practical goals, Garcia says she wants to see more students complete programs in a more timely manner. And assure they have the groundwork for success financially, but also as people.

"That is ultimately for me what I believe our role as a community college is. And how we can be just be this massive energy that brings in the love, the care the power of students and their communities, and we can disrupt the system that just keeps certain people in poverty and keeps certain people at the table, from being at the decision-making table. I really, really believe that that's what we can do here. And, honestly, the combination of who I am as a person is but a starting point, because all the conversations I'm having with colleagues and faculty and classified professionals, so rich, so rich the people that we have here. And, we're lucky."


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