Candidates for Gavilan College president share views

Steve Kinsella walks in graduation this week.

The three finalists for Gavilan College’s next president were interviewed during a public hearing Monday at the Gilroy main campus.
Out of 40 applicants, the final three were selected by a screening committee made up of Gavilan board members, students, staff, faculty, administrators and community members.
Each of the finalists had 45 minutes to introduce themselves, answer a series of set questions delivered by a moderator and otherwise make their case to a crowded room.
“I came because this person will have a huge impact on campus,” said student Tarianna Perez, 20, and president of Rho Alpha Mu Honors Society Club.
The finalists were: James M. Limbaugh, currently the interim president of Oxnard College, one of three institutions in the Ventura County Community College District; Wei Zhou, currently the vice president of instruction at Cuyamaca College; and Kathleen Rose, who for the past seven years has been the executive vice president and chief instruction officer at the college.
Because of her longstanding affiliation with the school, which serves up to 5,600 students, many in the audience knew Rose, and her presentation included some personal asides, at one point calling attention to a student leader who sat in the front row.
The daughter of a poultry farmer and kindergarten teacher, Rose told the audience she was not chasing presidencies across the state.
“So if I’m not chosen today, I want to stay here,” she said.
The day’s moderator was Jose Ortiz, from PPL Inc., the California community college executive search firm that in February started looking nationwide for current president Steve Kinsella’s replacement. Kinsella announced his retirement in October.
Ortiz asked the finalists a series of questions gathered from each constituency representative on the president’s council, an advisory board to the college president.
Asked about what opportunities and challenges Gavilan College faced, both Rose and Zhou mentioned the need to look at greater pathways for basic skills instruction and determining what type of programming will best suit new campuses in Morgan Hill and Hollister.
“We made our promises to those communities,” said Rose. “We have infrastructure happening. What are we going to offer? We need Gavilan programming there; what makes sense?”
Zhou, who touted his experience securing outside funding for his institutions, including grants from National Science Foundation, NASA, Kresge Foundation and others, said that Gavilan needed to build partnerships with business and industry.
“If we wait for college money,” he said, “we’d need to wait for a long time.”
Dr. Zhou also suggested partnering with industry to utilize their equipment and technology.
“Even if the students go to work somewhere else, they’d refer back to that business because that is where they trained.”
He also touted Gavilan College’s minority student population as another way to appeal to big business.
“We are a minority-serving, diverse institution. We can help you diversify your workforce if you help train our students,” he said.
After the interviews, mature student, David DiDenti, who Rose referred to during her initial comments, said, overall, he was impressed by the candidates.
“Dr. Limbaugh seemed like he wanted to engage people; he had good suggestions and input,” said DiDenti, who also serves as the Region 4 representative of student government at Gavilan. “He had good energy.”
DiDenti has worked with Rose on various commissions before, and he said he’s trying to keep an open mind, but to him, it all seems like a done deal.
“I had a feeling she would be selected when [Kinsella] announced his retirement,” he said.
The decision now goes to the Gavilan Joint Community College District Board of Trustees.

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