Dr. Kindred Murillo is retiring this academic year after serving 24 years in the California Community College System. Beginning as an adjunct faculty at Desert Community College District, Murillo has served in various roles as an advocate for students and champion of equity.
While she spent 11 years as a Chief Business Official, Murillo served her last nine years in the system as a college president, first at Lake Tahoe Community College District and now at Southwestern College, where she will be retiring after serving for more than four years.
Her belief in staying focused on the student and achieving equitable outcomes for every student has been among the highlights of her career, Murillo said.
“It is the commitment faculty, classified professionals and administrators have had to the success and achievement of our students that has made my career so rewarding,” Murillo said.
The tenets of Murillo’s service at Southwestern College have been increasing student success, building strong leaders and creating a culture of equity, diversity and inclusivity for every student and employee.
“Southwestern College has been the most remarkable community college I have had the privilege of serving during my entire academic career,” Murillo said. “We have worked together to establish a path of transformation for our students and our community.”
Brought in as a change agent with a deep background in organizational change, Murillo led the district in tackling campus culture issues that had plagued the district over the years. She guided the college’s accreditation status from warning to reaffirmation within her first year. She also tackled the backlog of personnel investigations and complaints–building trust and accountability at the district.
Even before the national awareness and dialogue about structural racism emerged this summer, Southwestern College began addressing those issues head-on with Murillo’s leadership. Soon into her tenure, she formed an Advisory Task Force on Inclusion & Race Relations to acknowledge a history of racism and inequity by design and to develop transformative interventions designed to strengthen, enhance and support culture change.
In Murillo’s four years leading the district, and with the full support of the Governing Board, the college has accomplished a body of work that is now seen as a model for other community colleges seeking equitable and inclusionary practices.
Governing Board President Nora Vargas credits Murillo’s unwavering commitment to students and equity for positioning Southwestern College as a model of equity in the California Community College System.
“Dr. Murillo’s transformative changes would have taken any other leader a decade to accomplish,” Vargas said. “The work she has done will continue to benefit our students and our community for years to come. This will be her legacy.”
Murillo’s accomplishments at Southwestern College include:
- Implementing hiring practices, procedures and professional development that have resulted in the diversification of Southwestern College faculty, staff and administrators by almost 8%, and the leadership of the college by 14%, over a three-year span;
- Moving from a 17% diverse executive leadership team to 75% diverse executive leadership;
- Taking racial tensions head-on by building a strong equity-focused, student-centered leadership team; holding employees accountable; and laying the cultural groundwork for a diverse, inclusive and equitable culture at Southwestern College where all students and employees feel they belong;
- Creating more transparency and open communication;
- Increasing graduation rates as measured by the College Scorecard by 10% in a little more than three years;
- Shifting college culture and facilitating equitable transformation through the implementation of Jaguar Pathways, Advancing Equity Teaching Academy and an Equity and Engagement Department focused on culture and professional development;
- Implementing accountability measures, systems, processes and operating procedures;
- Leading the college’s COVID-19 response through quick decisive actions, early decisions and implementing key principles for student and employee safety and well-being;
- Increasing students transferring to a four-year university by more than 100 students this past year;
- Entering into a partnership with San Diego State University (SDSU) to launch an SDSU Microsite at Southwestern College that will provide access to four-year degrees to Southwestern graduates on the Southwestern College Chula Vista campus;
- Physically transforming campuses throughout the district as a result of the community’s investment and support of Propositions R and Z, including new science buildings on the Chula Vista and National City campuses;
- Transforming the corner lot of H Street and Otay Lakes Road with a new Wellness and Aquatics complex open to students and the community and a new Performing Arts Center scheduled for completion in January;
- Finalizing the Facilities Master Plan in 2018, providing a path for new construction of other major student and academic buildings.
Murillo is looking forward to retirement with her husband, Michael, and her son, Vance. She has found a home in South County and plans on spending more time paddleboarding on the San Diego Bay and enjoying bike riding on the Bayshore Bikeway.
“As my career in higher education sunsets, I am looking forward to more time with family and finding new opportunities to encourage and promote lifelong learning in our community,” Murillo said.
The Southwestern College Governing Board will be conducting a national search for her replacement that will include opportunity for community input.