On Oct. 2, the three candidates for next Las Positas College president spoke at the open presidential forums, sharing their experiences and visions with members of the LPC community. Prominent members such as District Chancellor Jannett Jackson and Board member Carlo Vecchiarelli were in attendance, as well as current Interim President Janice Noble.
Following are three basic questions asked of each candidate at the beginning of their 45-minute segments, along with questions from the audience.
Forum Question 1 – As an introductory question, please share with us a little bit about yourself, and what would you bring to the position of the LPC president?
Barry Russell – Being in different positions I think has really built my skill level of becoming president at LPC. I have a lot of background in many different areas and a lot of understanding in working on community college campuses…I feel ready to come to LPC and work with you to make LPC the best thing.
Christopher Villa – I’ve been a community college administrator for about 12 years in California, but I’m also a parent of community college students…as your president, I intend to make the college even better in terms of outcomes.
Pamela Walker – I’m here to bring all of the work I’ve done and as much as I’ve tried to learn myself in a senior position, I’d be honored to serve students as much as I could.
Forum Question 2 – Assuming additional fiscal restraints posed by the state, and thus limited local resources for the college, please share with us your strategies for maintaining programs and services for our students?
Barry Russell – One of the things we really need to focus on is genuine growth in areas that move students in the direction that the state and our local area see is very important…we have to be really frugal with the money that we get from the state, and I don’t think in the long term that we can keep depending on the state more and more. We need to come up with strategies on campus about how to fill out the budget, how to make sure we have enough resources.
Christopher Villa – The forecast, according to the Department of Finance, is that we’re going to see a continued increase in resources, as long as Prop 30 is in effect. The real issue is what’s going to happen after Prop 30 ends. What will be the continuing resources needed to sustain our efforts? Those are some of the issues that I’ll address as president. I’ll be vigilant to ensure that we have good relationships with local legislators and local business. I’m going to look for more revenue streams, one of those could be increasing international student enrollment.
Pamela Walker – When we look at resources, and resources are going to be incredibly difficult in the next few years but I don’t think as difficult, I think we have to be innovative and we have to partner with outside agencies and other groups, and we have to partner with each other to find ways to do what we’ve been doing. That’s just one example of many ways we can do this.
Forum Question 3 – We know that you have done your homework of the district, specifically of LPC. Please share with us what you have learned, and what you view as a significant challenge and as a significant opportunity for the next president?
Barry Russell – Looking through everything, the next big challenge for the campus will be the accreditation process…my hope is to lead the campus in that process, so that by the time it gets here, everyone will be comfortable and ready.
Christopher Villa – Las Positas has grown tremendously. We know where the growth is. It’s in this college, it’s in this community. As president, it will be a great opportunity for me to demonstrate my leadership skills and to be here in the long term. I can really make an impact. For those reasons, I find the college and the community quite attractive.
Pamela Walker – I have been very impressed with what Las Positas has done. This community has grown quite significantly. Everyone has really served the community and found ways for it to grow.
Q – As the president of LPC, how do you see yourself interacting and connecting with students? What role will the student government play at LPC? – Chris Southorn, ASLPC president
Barry Russell – The goal is student success. It’s about their success as citizens and as leaders. I think the student government is a great way for students to get involved.
Christopher Villa – You can expect that my door will be open. I have a very open door policy…you can be assured that I will hopefully mentor you and other students…I’ll do whatever I can to facilitate student involvement and student government on campus.
Pamela Walker – I got into this business of education because of students…I’ve always believed that higher education is to serve the greater good of the community and the success of the next generation.
Q – What is your experience with working with bargaining unit labor matters? Have you or do you intend to attend labor management meetings on a regular basis? – Linda Wilson, employed at the purchasing department at the district office representing the bargaining unit members
Barry Russell – When making decisions about these bargaining issues, you have to remember that there are people’s lives behind it. It’s not just a piece of paper or a spreadsheet.
Christopher Villa – I think it’s critical that as your president we maintain open lines of communication…my style is to basically do that now…I meet my classified staff for coffee.
Pamela Walker – It’s about presenting information and about finding compromise and solutions.
Q – Describe your experience working with the student media and comment on the role you think student media should have on a college campus. – Melissa Korber, mass communications teacher and co-advisor of the student newspaper, magazine and literary anthology
Barry Russell – It’s wrong to have a student media production program that ends at the distribution on that campus. It really has to (expand) to a university or a career…having students engaged on campus providing news is an important key to college life.
Christopher Villa – I want to ensure that every student gets the best possible learning experience associated with hands on, such as mass communications. I support what you’re doing.
Pamela Walker – I think I’ve been really helpful with student newspapers on campus…I like the idea. I like the work that goes on so students get the opportunity to write.
Q – Describe your experience with integrated planning and your thoughts on the role of program review. – Teri Henson, mathematics faculty and co-chair of the programming review committee
Barry Russell – (What I’ve learned from my experiences is) it’s a team effort. I will do everything in my power to work with the faculty, the staff and the administration in making that happen.
Christopher Villa – I don’t want to micro manage necessarily, but I do have an interest in this. This is essential for accreditation purposes. I intend to be engaged, but somewhat hands off.
Pamela Walker – The planning process needs to stay focused and on track, but it doesn’t need to stay dry. Why should we buy this? How do we link this with the budget that we have or don’t have, and what is our wish list? That’s how to put it together.
Q – Can you discuss ways in which you have committed to or encouraged a diverse working environment and how would you encourage that here? – Dyan Miller, Dean of Behavioral Sciences, Business and Athletics/Athletic Director
Barry Russell – Through the hiring process. I think it’s very important for me to lead the search for diversity as the hiring process goes on. That’s one thing as president that I’d work with the district office and human resources in figuring out ways to reach out to other areas.
Christopher Villa – My orientation with diversity because of my background is to always have equity and fairness in processes and outcomes. Everyone should have a fair shot.
Pamela Walker – I think one of the things that I can do best is try to hire people that reflect the community of the students that we serve. It’s not just to hire people. It’s to mentor and advise them as well, and to teach people who may have not had the opportunity in the past.
Q – One of the challenges that our program faces is that many people view the Early Childhood Development Center (ECD) center as a money hole. What is your perspective on the educational value that labs present both to the ECD students and the campus as a whole? – Nadiyah Taylor, ECD faculty
Barry Russell – It’s very worthwhile to have those programs funded and have them on campus…are there partnerships that we can build with city, county or community based organizations that would help fund and make it possible?
Christopher Villa – It’s an extremely impressive facility. I think that philosophically, there is a need for an ECD center on campus. It’s an important aspect of their success.
Pamela Walker – We’re doing some work at (American River College) where we’re working with (other) colleges so that we can make some extra money. You have to keep looking for resources.
Q – If you were selected president of LPC, what specifically would you do to increase resources and capabilities of career technical education (CTE) programs on campus? – Scott Miner, welding instructor
Christopher Villa – My view is that, as your president, I will definitely look at demand and potential opportunities to expand CTE programs.
Pamela Walker – If your curriculum is set, or if you have to do some additional work to do that, then those of us that have the ability to talk to people in the community and try to bring you along with and talk about the things that we can do, and it just starts to cycle. Maybe some of my experiences can help, as well.
Q – Interviews such as forums like this are great at determining job competence…how would you describe your leadership behavior? – John Armstrong, Admissions and Records
Barry Russell – You have to rely on trust and honesty. I am who I am. I’m not pretending to be something else. I’m honest, truthful, if you want to know something, ask me.
Christopher Villa – I want to be a leader at this community. I think what this college is looking for is a leader to listen to different groups…my style is to basically be upfront with an idea, roll it out, and then to let it develop.
Pamela Walker – One person is not more important than the other. I hope my staff at American River College would say, ‘Pam comes in and she asks us how we are or what we’re doing or what’s going on. She asks our opinion. She lets us be the first speaker in whatever.’ I think it helps to be someone who cares about people and cares for their best both as faculty, staff and administrators that work with you, but also as people who we serve as our students.