2014-03-21 / Community

Four hopefuls vie for college’s presidency

Final candidates to speak in public forum March 26
By Stephanie Sumell

And then there were four. M oorpark College, which has operated under the leadership of interim president Bernard Luskin since September, is in the midst of selecting its new leader from a group of four finalists: Cliff Davis, Joyce Ester, Betty Inclan and Vernon Smith.

Pam Eddinger, the college’s previous president, resigned last spring.

“Moorpark College is a great institution,” said Jamillah Moore, the chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District. “We’re looking for someone who has shown a high level of leadership (to take over).”

The finalists—selected by a search committee made up of 15 district employees, community members, and students, staff and faculty from Moorpark College— will participate in a public forum Wed., March 26.

The forum, which takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the school’s auditorium on 7050 Campus Road, will give Davis, Ester, Inclan and Smith the opportunity to share their visions for the college and answer questions from audience members.

Davis will speak at 11 a.m., Ester at noon, Inclan at 1 p.m. and Smith at 2 p.m. O pen to students, faculty, staff and community members, the forum is one of the final steps in a lengthy selection process.

Jim Walker, a consultant with Community College Search Services, was hired by the VCCD in November to recruit potential candidates for the position. W alker said the company, which has conducted more than 150 searches for community college executives in the last 12 years, recruited a pool of 37 “exceptional” candidates for the position.

“It was way above average both in size and quality,” Walker said. “That’s a testament to the reputation of Moorpark College and the VCCD.”

The search committee selected 13 candidates after reviewing all 37 applications. They interviewed the 13 over a two-day period before trimming the list to four last week. M ike Wesner, a member of the search committee, said he is pleased with the final candidates.

“I thought it was a very fair and open (selection) process,” said Wesner, who works as an attorney. “We feel the finalists are a very diverse, well-represented group.”

All have shown leadership in a variety of positions.

Davis is the vice chancellor for advancement, student affairs and workforce development at Ozarks Technical Community College in Missouri.

A former instructor at Missouri State and Drury University, Davis helps oversee the operations of a three-campus college with about 15,000 students at Ozarks.

He is also the executive director of the Ozarks Technical Community Foundation.

Ester, who most recently served as president of Kennedy-King College in Chicago, began her career in higher education as an area coordinator at Whittier College.

A former assistant vice president for student affairs at Cal State Fresno, Ester helped raise graduation rates at Kennedy-King through an emphasis on student progress and staff development.

Inclan, a recent consultant on program review, planning, enrollment management and learning outcomes assessment for the City College of San Francisco, is a former English professor, department chair and director of general education at Miami Dade College.

A former president of Berkeley City College, Inclan has spoken on many higher education topics at the national and state level.

Smith, chief academic officer and provost at MyCollege Foundation and Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s, a nonprofit college launched in January, began his education at Mesa Community College in Arizona.

A former dean of institutional effectiveness, dean of instruction and vice president of academic affairs at Rio Salado College in Arizona, Smith originally joined Rio as an adjunct professor.

Wesner said each of finalists is highly qualified for the position.

“It’s a strong group,” said the attorney, a longtime member of the Ventura County Planning Commission. “The breadth of their experience in the educational system is exceptional.”

The search committee will present its final recommendation for the position to the VCCD board of trustees in May.

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