Kristina Whalen, the vice president of Academic Services, is leaving Las Positas to become the president of Foothill College. She has worked at Las Positas since 2019, for a total of three years. As VP, she supported around 450 students and employees and oversaw instructional programs like career education.
On Jan. 9, Whalen was elected by the Foothill-De Anza Community College District’s board of trustees in a unanimous vote. She was recommended by the district Chancellor Judy Miner. Whalen was selected from a pool of three finalists in a national search conducted by a 16-member committee of staff, students, faculty and administrators.
Foothill’s former president, Thuy Nguyen, served Foothill since 2021 and faced disapproval in her leadership. In October, the district’s board voted not to renew Nguyen’s contract, which put her on academic leave for the rest of the school year. Faculty disputed Nguyen did not listen to input and lacked leadership skills.
In the meantime, Bernadine Chuck Fong served as Foothill’s interim president.
Whalen also currently serves as the vice president of the California Community College Chief Instructional Officers Association. Before Las Positas, she worked at the City College of San Francisco as a vice chancellor of instruction, enrollment management and instructional support services.
She received her undergrad sociopolitical communication degree from Missouri State University and a master’s in rhetoric and public address from Florida State University. She also received her doctorate in speech communication from Florida State.
Whalen will be leaving Las Positas in late March and will spend the remainder of her time at the college tying up loose ends.
In an interview with Whalen on Feb. 21, she answered questions about her role, her contributions to Las Positas and what she learned as vice president. In addition, her coworkers noted her contributions to the Las Positas community.
Q: What were your responsibilities as Las Positas Vice President?
A: “(My) responsibilities include overseeing classroom instruction, faculty evaluation, curriculum development and design, and the tenure review process.”
Additionally, she serves as the Accreditation Liaison officer and oversees the accreditation process.
“(Though) president is chiefly responsible for accreditation, I also do that and oversee adult education, distance education and workforce education.“
Whalen then reports back to president Foster about the accreditation process.
Q: How long have you been at LPC?
A: “I was hired in 2019 by Roannie Bennie, previous Interim President of LPC. Then, Dr. Foster came (onboard) and then the next month the (COVID-19) shutdown happened.”
She continued, “So having more than two years of my time here spent during pandemic times has certainly been interesting.”
Q: How have you been adjusting to life at LPC?
A: “Well, I don’t feel like I had too many carrots or too many sticks because my team is incredibly dedicated. I’m so blessed with the people who want to do what is best for the college and its students.
Q: Now that we’re approaching post-COVID-19 times, how have you seen LPC change?
A: “When administrators were asked by our president to return to work five days a week, and we started offering more classes, we knew we had to be here [in office]. We had to be right here, so that when people looked through our doors, there would be somebody available to deal with any issues.”
Q: How has working at a community college specifically shaped your career?
A: “That’s a very interesting question, and maybe one that is even a little painful to answer because I most certainly enjoyed my time here and that’s kind of an understatement. Being at Las Positas College has been an enormous time of both professional and personal growth.”
She continued, “ever since I became connected to the community college, I knew my purpose. There’s a calling for leadership that emanated from that.”
Q: What does it mean to be an active president?
A: “I wasn’t sure that I ever wanted to be a college president,but I then went to Aspen Institute and participated in their competitive Rising President’s Fellowship. And it was there where I learned what it means to be an effective president. There, (participants) learned to put students first and understand their own strengths as a leader.”
She continued, “I came out of that fellowship — which was full of exploration and a huge professional development — feeling confident that I could be successful in that position.”
Coworkers Timothy Druley and Elizabeth Mcwhorter both shared positive experiences working with Whalen.
“I’ve worked with her on several big projects, including accreditation for the college,” Druley said.
He continued, “She has always been a leader and has pulled people together to get big products completed, which I really appreciate. I’m going to miss her.
Similarly, Mcwhorter agrees that Whalen has shown exemplary leadership in her department.
“I have had the pleasure of working and serving with Vice President Whalen for the past two years. She let us (administrators and specialists) comfortably transition to in-office life as the COVID-19 pandemic calmed down.”
She continued, “Whalen inspired our team members to build and work together, innovate and request support when needed and wholeheartedly encourage professional development.”
“Her leadership and infectious laughter will be missed in our office.”
Whalen will be earning a starting $249,559 a year in her new position.
Brandon Byrne is the social media manager and A&E editor of the Express. Follow him @brandon95511931. (Top Photo Credit: Georgia Whiting/The Express)