College Leaders Share Local and State Initiatives

SWC College President Dr. Mark Sanchez speaking with State Chancellor Eloy Oakley
Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez (L) discusses higher education priority questions with California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.
Photo Credit: Mark R. Leopold

Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez and California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley teamed up recently to provide the community with a local and state higher education update.

In the first State of the District address made by Sanchez, the college president on Friday offered exciting highlights in academic and student programs that have persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic and he outlined expansions in other programs.

“Some of the most powerful images I have seen since re-opening are students and employees talking, laughing, engaging,” Sanchez told the audience at the Performing Arts Center and those watching the live-streamed version. “Our Jaguar community was ready to return. Everyone simply wanted the best in health and safety protocols.”

Over the course of the presentation, Sanchez discussed the college’s new programs in drone technology and cybersecurity, as well as highlighted the efforts of faculty to expand employer opportunities to connect with the district’s workforce development efforts.

Among the most rewarding highlights were the success stories of students at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility and others in the Restorative Justice program who have succeeded in earning degrees. Sanchez highlighted three graduates of the program: Maurice “Moe” Faulkner who graduated in 2019 with his Associate Degree for Transfer in business administration; Sean Khalifa, a 2021 graduate currently attending San Diego State University; and Jennifer Gomez, a 2020 graduate who graduated with her bachelor’s degree in political science from UC San Diego last fall.

Community Partnerships

Throughout his presentation, Sanchez highlighted the community partners who came together to assist students during the pandemic. The San Diego Food Bank distributed 1.2 million pounds of food during drive-through distributions at the college. The San Diego County Health Department, San Ysidro Health and Champions for Health provided, and continue to provide, community members with vaccines and boosters. District employees and departments, such as the Foundation and Food Services, distributed computers and food in the Jag Kitchen-To-Go to address technology gaps and food insecurity with students.

The district also continued its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion over the last two years by implementing specialized faculty training that advances equity, re-imagining College Police and seeking housing resources for students and staff.

Southwestern College applied for, and received, four planning grants totaling more than $600,000 to research the feasibility of building affordable, quality housing for students and staff at each of the college’s four campuses, Sanchez announced to the community.The college will begin recruiting stakeholders throughout the region to study living and learning hubs that will include cafeterias, child care and basic needs resources.

“Southwestern College being a partner in addressing a major societal issue–affordable, quality housing–is something that should make us very proud,” Sanchez said.

Housing would be a foundational step in two areas in which the college is wishing to expand–international and binational students and supporting current students.

A new full-time director of binational and international programs has already laid the groundwork with several Tijuana universities to allow cross-border student attendance. There are also plans to host a summit of university presidents on both sides of the border.

Group photos of Governing Board Members, Dr. Sanchez and Chancellor Oakley
Local and state leaders gather after State of the District presentation. (L-R) Governing Board Member Don Dumas, Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez, Governing Board Member Leticia Cazares, State Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley and Governing Board President Roberto Alcantar.
Photo Credit: Mark R. Leopold

Before introducing Chancellor Oakley, Sanchez wrapped up his comments with discussion of a new $600 million bond measure for the November 2022 ballot. Propositions R and Z have been successful in funding major construction projects at three of the college’s campuses. A new bond would expand these projects to include an expansion of the San Ysidro campus and help fund student and employee housing.

When Chancellor Oakley addressed the audience, he outlined three major priorities for community colleges and state legislators.

The first was increasing the funding available to community college students in Cal Grants. While enrollment in California community colleges far exceeds that in the University of California and California State University systems, community college students receive a fraction of the available Cal Grant funding.

Priority two was increasing diversity throughout the employee ranks of community colleges.

“I want diversity among faculty, staff and administrators so students see themselves in the classrooms, offices and hallways of all our community colleges,” Oakley said.

Finally, Oakley said he hoped to see more funding and resources to help colleges adopt new schedules and teaching methods that meet students’ changing needs.