The University Center at College of the Canyons was abuzz with activity Wednesday morning as the college received a visit from Sonya Christian, the chancellor of the California Community Colleges who was appointed in February.
Christian’s visit allowed her to introduce Vision 2030: A Roadmap for California Community Colleges, which “calls on California’s community colleges to lead in climate action. The 116 colleges … across California are primed to build … microgrids for grid resilience, particularly in disinvested communities,” according to the program provided.
Eric Harnish, vice president of public information at COC, acknowledged the support of local elected officials before introducing COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook.
Harnish discussed her arrival to the college in 1988, as well as her work with the college’s Economic Development Division throughout the years.
“Over more than three decades, the Economic and Workforce Development Division has generated nearly $65 million in capital growth for businesses that serve almost 13,000 companies and train more than 65,000 employees,” Harnish said during his speech. “Throughout her career at College of the Canyons, Dr. Van Hook has prioritized the cultivation of partnerships that benefit the wider community each and every day.”
Shortly after, Van Hook discussed her own trajectory as a leader, as well as acknowledging the work that has been invested into the students, which have then given back to the community.
“I thank all of you for being leaders in your own areas — for giving your best effort in service of the 1.9 million students who turned to California Community Colleges as their source of hope, inspiration and community. What’s best about it all is it’s affordable, it’s accessible … it’s quality,” Van Hook said during her speech.
Van Hook expressed pride in not only having smaller classes, where students are acknowledged directly by great teachers, but also stated that 72% of the college’s faculty, staff and administrators were at one point in time a student at COC.
The cultivated and competitive group of people selected to be associated with COC, as well as the 80% of graduating seniors from Academy of the Canyons who are presented with at least one associate’s degree, demonstrated Van Hook’s point about her work in facilitating a strong, education-based community.
Van Hook proceeded to define the word “partnership,” stating that a “partnership is an arrangement where parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. The parties have the same or similar visions that can be made better by joining forces and leveling up.”
Van Hook alluded to the presence of Christian and the Vision 2030 initiative, and added that Christian does not visit every campus in the state of California.
“We have the benefit of working for a leader now, Sonya Christian, who demonstrates the qualities that are necessary for successful partnerships,” Van Hook said during her speech. “She brings to the new role wisdom that only comes from experience … and she can explain exactly why something needs to change to Sacramento legislators … that can help our students. She wants to move forward with us — she wants to move forward with the field, with people who are out here doing the work.”
Van Hook and Christian embraced in a hug, before Christian discussed how it is hard to follow Van Hook as she is “very eloquent and very tall.”
Reflecting on 1988, not only Van Hook’s first year as chancellor, but also Chrisitan’s first year as a graduate student in the United States from India, she discussed the importance of community colleges and how she was “blown away” once she learned about their function, since India had a contrasting educational system.
“Vision 2030 really focuses on workforce and economic development,” Christian said during her speech. “We cannot focus just on our current students. There are 6.8 million [students who, between the ages of 25 and 54] have a high school diploma with no college credential. When we’re talking about economic mobility for our marginalized communities, it calls upon community colleges to go beyond our students, into our communities, to think about how we can take college to them. You’re already doing that at the College of the Canyons.”
Adding onto Van Hook’s emphasis on the power of partnership, Christian said it was deliberately decided on as the main theme for Vision 2030.
“When we were having a preliminary conversation, [deciding] what the theme for today’s gathering would be, Dianne said, ‘That’s a no brainer — it has to be partnerships,’” Christian said. “Whether it’s partnerships locally, with county agencies or at the state level … we are trying to strengthen our partnerships like never done before and see how we can streamline resources for our students.”
Not only is there a call to action to include more science, technology, engineering and math programs for students who may have not been represented in the particular disciplines, but also to ensure that students are equally represented in a diverse student population.
“The community college student population is very diverse, and to be able to act with urgency [is] to be able to develop systems that are customized for what the students need. We need to start calling out, even in a much more precise way, what these different student populations are,” Christian said.
Among the slides Christian showcased were goals and metrics, which were divided into three categories: equity in success, equity in access and equity in support. Equity in support entailed the increase of the number of community college students who will complete a meaningful educational program, as well as those who will attain a bachelor’s degree and earn a living wage.
Equity in access addresses the “increase of students attending a California community college, with particular emphasis on the number of underserved Californians,” according to the slide displayed. In addition, equity in support discussed the “increase [of] the number of California community college students receiving state and federal aid … to better support their educational journey, [as well as] the decrease of the number of units in excess of 60 units for the associate’s degree transfer.”
Christian emphasized that the chancellor’s office will provide colleges with the proper support through Vision 2030 in four spheres: people and active partnerships, resources and fiscal sustainability, policy reform and systems that are reviewed.
While this is a rather new initiative, the future of education in the community college system can expect to see the use of generative artificial intelligence for new opportunities, as well as the partnership of community colleges and the various industries regarding hands-on training for career readiness.
While there are many goals Vision 2030 aims to meet, it also “aims to increase attainment among California community colleges’ existing 1.9 million students, implement strategies to diversify faculty and staff, preserve and scale up equity-centered programs [and] use data disaggregated by income, race/ethnicity and age to monitor progress and improve outcomes,” according to the program provided.
With the coordination of various community colleges throughout the state, the “critical partners [can] help the state achieve its goal of 70% of working-aged Californians having a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2030,” according to the program provided.