For the first time in history, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors will have a representative from the Southwestern College attendance area.
Former state Assemblywoman and former Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month to serve on the 17-member board.
“I am honored to be appointed to such a critical board that serves the most students then any other public higher education system,” Mary Salas states. “It’s even more meaningful to me because community college is where I started my higher education journey.”
The Board of Governors provides policy decisions for the 116-California Community College system. With more than 1.8 million students enrolled, the California Community Colleges system is the largest system of higher education in the nation.
In addition to Salas, Newsom appointed two other new trustees and reappointed a third.
“The leadership, experience, perspectives and insights of this group will be of great value to our system and the lives of our students, their families and communities,” said Interim Chancellor Dr. Daisy Gonzales. “We will work closely to continue to build on the work we’re doing to advance equity and student success across our system and build a culture of unconditional belonging for every student.”
Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez applauded the appointment of Salas.
“In Trustee Salas we have a passionate advocate for community colleges and for our region,” Sanchez said. “She understands our students’ journeys and she will be able to bring that perspective to her colleagues on the board.”
Salas served as the Mayor of Chula Vista from 2014 to 2022; served on the City Council from 2012 to 2014; served as a California State Assemblymember from 2006 to 2010; was a corporate communications coordinator for Community Health Group from 2001 to 2004; and an economic development specialist at the California Trade and Commerce Agency from 1994 to 2001.
As a graduate of Southwestern College, Salas credits much of her career trajectory on the confidence earned through her time at the college.
Salas, like many of the students who attend Southwestern College, was at a tremendous turning point in her life. At 37, Salas found herself divorced with two daughters to care for. She was forced to redefine herself after 17 years of marriage, most of which she spent as a stay-at-home mother with a few part-time retail and banking jobs along the way.
Salas enrolled at Southwestern College and picked tough professors who she knew would challenge her. She finished her requirements quickly and graduated with honors before transferring to San Diego State, where she would graduate magna cum laude with a degree in social work in 1989.
“With every little success I gained more confidence in myself,” she said. “Getting an education and seeing the successes that you build for yourself allows you to take further steps and to challenge yourself more.”
Even without the personal connection Salas has with Southwestern College, she said she is grateful for how the college enriches the community she serves, including providing opportunities for students who are looking to transfer to a four-year university and for community members looking to develop their personal skills.
“Southwestern College was there for me and it’s there for whoever wants to access it,” Salas said. “You will never be stuck if you want to do something more with your life because you’ll always have Southwestern College.”