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Educational Philosophy

 

Educational Leadership

As chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, I work to facilitate collaboration among faculty, staff, students and the community to keep teaching and learning the focus of our daily and long-range efforts. My educational philosophy has twin elements: 1) ensuring universal access to a community college education for every student seeking higher education in Silicon Valley and beyond; and 2) working to achieve success for each individual student. Toward these ends, excellent liberal arts & sciences, occupational, basic skills, and technology-mediated learning opportunities are essential to our mission. Understanding the changing nature of our diverse and growing student body, the need for infusion of multiculturalism into all aspects of our curriculum, and attracting beneficial public and private partnerships among the colleges, the public and private sectors of the community, and government are critical to our success.

For higher education to play its part in leading America to a brighter future in the new millennium, and certainly at Foothill-De Anza, I believe instruction and student services must be integrally linked. Why? Because the needs of community college students are complex, and students should take advantage of courses designed to help them achieve their educational and career goals along with the services needed to help them do so. These services may be child care because a student is a single parent; they may be financial aid because many students cannot afford a college education without loans, scholarships and grants designed for this purpose; services may include counseling or academic advising because students need to design an appropriate path for themselves that is focused and efficient. In the early 1980s, I played a central role in policy development predating AB 1725 and the state's revisions to California's Master Plan for Higher Education. At the state level, academic reforms and matriculation (coordinated student services) were envisioned to go hand in hand. In 1988 I chaired the state's Matriculation Assessment Task Force established in response to Assembly Bill 3. Since that time, I have continued to work at linking access to academic achievement so that students can realize their educational dreams.

A significant focus of my work as an educator has been to clearly identify the scope and sequence of basic skills and ESL programs as the foundation to the instructional mission of the college. I am also challenged by the task of reinventing administration from a bureaucracy to a streamlined team of individuals whose primary purpose is to engender the confidence, trust and creativity of students, faculty, staff and the community we serve. In fact, the word "administration" comes from the Latin "administrare" which means "to serve." I also think that developing partnerships between and among the community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, high schools, business, government, and the community-at-large are critical to the success of our institution.

Throughout my career and in my personal life, I have demonstrated the highest commitment to achieving diversity, affirmative action and cultural/global pluralism. On a number of occasions, I have been a victim of hate crimes and acts of intolerance. Thus, I bring my own personal experiences as well as an integrated and, I believe, healthy intellectual perspective to these issues. I do not tolerate acts of harassment or discrimination and expect the same of everyone else. I have conducted workshops on these topics and have been instrumental in supporting staff development to keep these topics in the forefront of who we are, what we do and how we do what we do. Campus climate is a chief issue of concern to me; as a key player in the California Postsecondary Education Commission's campus climate studies, our institution has undertaken a major initiative in this regard to make our campus climate attractive, welcoming and inclusive. I have spoken and written on this topic frequently. It is critical that students benefit from faculty and staff who can serve as role models for them.

Student diversity is particularly important to me. I work hard to tailor our recruitment efforts to get underrepresented and underprepared students to be first in line at registration, financial aid and other opportunities we afford our students. I also work on these issues statewide and nationally. I represent community colleges on the state's Task Force on Educational Equity and am adamant about access and equal opportunity, both professionally and personally. Open access is crucial. I speak out regularly on these topics. I also mentor several faculty, staff and students from historically underrepresented groups, both in the district and statewide.

I don't believe anyone could lead a California community college into the 21st century without an unwavering commitment to quality improvement, futures research, and technology. However, most of us have not taken the time to understand and operationalize these terms. Although some fear that we are planning our own obsolescence, I don't think that is the case. Improving college programs and services can only happen when staff honestly acknowledge what does and doesn't work and commit themselves to making things better in the institution on a continual basis. A leader is responsible for linking institutional change with personal change; when this relationship is understood, then real change can occur.

In regard to technological change, at Monterey Peninsula College (MPC), I initiated the first High Tech Center which resulted in a $5.5 million grant from the state Department of Rehabilitation to implement the MPC model in 51 community colleges. I wanted these centers to provide access to technology for students with disabilities. In 7 years, that program expanded to 85 centers around the state. The California Community Colleges now have 114 such centers. I believe that instructional technology and computer automation are essential tools for higher education. Students must become "knowledge navigators;" we are responsible for helping them learn how to access the information they need skillfully and quickly. At De Anza College, we opened the state's first Advanced Technology Center on a college campus. This center now has over 10,000 students a day taking classes offered in most disciplines. Technology gives us tools for learning that we didn't have a quarter century ago. It's important that we learn to use these tools wisely.

I strongly support library automation and networking employees, students, and the community to use Internet and other global databases to benefit our work at the college. Every day, usually early in the morning or late at night when I come home, I spend time on the Internet communicating with people around the world. I want to make sure that our faculty, staff and students have this type of global access to information. Experience has taught me that technology is only as effective as the people who make it work. Technology depends on the commitment, training and support of faculty and staff.

Organizational Leadership

I feel that my work history exemplifies my style: to work with people as a team. I know how to create team spirit and how to support the positive values and behaviors that lead to team effectiveness, shared decision-making and empowerment. I believe that shared governance along with shared responsibility should be used for most activities on a college campus, and this has certainly been the case in all of the places I have worked. Through "straight talk," strong supervision, regular and meaningful feedback and evaluation, and the setting of clear, achievable and measurable goals, I now lead a team that has at its core trust, respect and a productive, innovative work ethic. Decisions are shared and those affected are included in generating solutions and making contributions to move us forward.

The chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District must be a change agent. I've published several articles such as "Taming the Turbulence" to discuss the ways that we educate students under conditions of uncertainty and even chaos at times. I think about and respond to change every day as I direct my energies to achieving outcomes beneficial to the institution. I believe I am generally in the forefront of change and welcome taking risks in order to make improvements. I also believe that at every level of the organization, change agents (faculty, staff or students) can affect positive outcomes. I also recognize the stress that comes from change without ownership or stake in the change. I think that, while change is attractive, it must be a risk that those most affected want to take. I anticipate change and plan for it, whether that change involves downsizing because we don't have enough money to educate students (as is the case right now) or expansion based on new institutional priorities and/or enrollment growth. I pride myself on being flexible and adaptable to change. To address the changing conditions in which we find ourselves, I believe that planning is an essential to effective policy development and college operations. Strategic plans are only useful when they reflect the true priorities of a college. Good plans build upon a clear understanding of shared goals and values. Without these plans, programs, services and facilities have little value. That is why we are continually working on the districtís educational masterplan for the future.

In masterplanning, teaching and administration, my approach focuses on quality and involvement by everyone to improve student learning. I closely follow the work of Peter Senge, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Bob Pace, Sandy Astin, Jim March, Amos Tversky and others who write about change, the learning process, and preference, engagement and decision-making theories. When faculty, staff and students are involved in the development of curriculum and instruction, they become actively engaged in the institution. They acquire a sense of ownership. When they are fragmented and territorial, factions develop and conflicts often remain simmering under the surface. In the "academy," conflict can be a healthy way to generate alternative solutions. When people are involved in teaching and learning, healthy forms of conflict flourish. And there is more curriculum development, new courses and programs, debate and excitement about the institution as a whole.

Community Leadership

Throughout my career, I have been, and continue to be, actively involved in community affairs. The changing demography of California has caused me to rethink the ways in which programs and services can be offered to meet the needs of people underserved in California higher education. For many years, I have focused on "learning communities" initiatives as a means of bringing the classroom into the community in innovative ways. One example is toxic clean-ups done in an at-risk community as a project for an environmental studies or biology course. Another is the traveling drama productions in neighborhoods where citizens have not traditionally taken advantage of the performing arts. Community colleges must find ways to serve the diverse communities around them. In the economic arena, I strongly support the development of partnerships with businesses that enhance teaching and learning as a result of new technologies and state-of-the-art equipment in occupational programs. We have many fine examples of these partnerships at Foothil and De Anza colleges.

As part of the Vision Leadership Team of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, I advocate for community colleges and their place in the future of Silicon Valley. I believe that our two colleges and the other community colleges in our region have a prominent role to play with K-12, colleges and universities to ensure a seamless transition for students throughout their lives. Students in the new millennium will change jobs five to seven times in their lifetime and will need lifelong learning, continuous training and support to be successful in an increasingly complex and challenging global society. In the community, I participate actively on several boards and commissions, and volunteer my personal time outside of the institution to get involved in making Silicon Valley a better place to be.

Regarding the interaction among community colleges and business, a proactive approach with industry depends, first, on a clear understanding of the two-way nature of the relationship with the risks and benefits calculated up front for both sides so that programs undertaken will be mutually beneficial, and, second, on active participation of those who have a stake in the outcome of such relationships. I believe that high visibility in the community is essential for such partnerships to work and I have encouraged those who report to me, in addition to interested faculty and staff, to serve on community task forces and business advisory committees to build relationships that will benefit our students. I firmly believe that every community college president should develop and maintain a high profile within the community, nationally and now globally to the extent possible.

On a Personal Note

I am, first and foremost, a teacher at heart, but I have a natural talent to build relationships with others to get things done. Most everyone with whom I work would say that I am a creative academic leader, and that I am a person who brings out and recognizes talent in others. I am mindful of a statement made by the Board president of the East Side Union High School District: "Every child is worth saving." This powerful statement deeply affected me because of my belief in human potential and my respect for people. I believe fundamentally that people want to work hard and be proud of what they do, and that these qualities are key ingredients for the success of the district.

Community colleges have long been styled as "open door" institutions. The "open door" is also characteristic of my interpersonal style. I strive to be approachable, honest, direct, and available. At De Anza, faculty and staff felt free to regularly drop by to conduct business or to chat. I take this as evidence of the trust and confidence that I have cultivated over the years. I am strongly committed to remaining accessible to students, faculty, staff, trustees, and community people. I seek to infuse a spirit of openness and collegiality in my work with others, one founded on mutual respect and trust.

My colleagues and those whom I supervise will confirm that I am not afraid to take risks and make decisions that challenge traditional ways of doing business. I believe that the institutional decisions I make in collaboration with faculty, staff and students have not only resulted in improvements, but also demonstrate the orderly nature of the decision process I use: a clear plan, involvement by the appropriate parties, conscious attention to creativity and innovation, recognition of the hard work and commitment of others, and follow-up. I ask hard questions and expect others to ask them of me. That way, the best thinking can occur in making decisions for the institution.

I believe that stability in an organization comes from people who are serious about their work and respect those with whom they work. I continually work to facilitate an environment where people can count on each other to be there and to finish what they have begun. I welcome the suggestions and criticisms of others. I am also one to admit a mistake and tolerate the mistakes of others. Finally, stability is maintained when expectations are high and people feel that they want to contribute more to the organization. I try to achieve this atmosphere in everything I do.

In closing, it is a pleasure to share the tenets of my educational philosophy with you. Please join us on campus at Foothill College and De Anza College. You will find our institutions to be among the most rewarding and exciting places in the world.


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Last Updated: Thursday, June 26, 2003 at 10:48:59 AM
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