The three finalists in Santa Barbara City College’s superintendent/president search participated in public forums Wednesday and Thursday, introducing themselves and answering questions regarding diversity, conflict resolution and more relating to the college and its students.

Finalists include Erika Endrijonas, the superintendent/president at Pasadena City College; Richard Storti, executive vice chancellor of administrative services at San Mateo County Community College District; and Katrina VanderWoude, vice chancellor at Los Angeles Community College District.

Click here to read more about the finalists.

One question asked the finalists about their vision for meeting the needs of diverse learners at the college.

Erika Endrijonas

Endrijonas and Storti both talked about the importance of understanding who those students are and their needs.

“Not every diverse learner needs the same thing, so I think it’s important for us to understand, what is our homeless student population? What is our food-insecure population? What are the tutoring needs? Whatever those needs are, we need to determine that, and we need to figure out what those programs might be,” Endrijonas said.

“We need to serve the students who are here, not the students we thought we would have at some point in time, and the only way to do that is to survey, do the research and get the information.”

Storti said he would want to work with faculty, administrators and more to identify where there are gaps regarding diverse learners and engage the entire campus community to identify ideas to address those gaps.

Katrina VanderWoude

VanderWoude said she would want to look at what is already going on in regard to meeting the needs of diverse learners and ensure that students, faculty and the entire community feel comfortable and welcome on campus.

She also put an emphasis on recruiting and hiring a diverse staff that reflects the student population.

Finalists were also asked about how they deal with resistance to implementing diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and anti-racism culture change.

Endrijonas spoke of when she introduced the idea of hiring a chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Pasadena City College.

She said that while she was met with resistance since the college had never had someone in that type of role before, she emphasized the importance of expressing messages of diversity, inclusion, anti-racism and more at the presidential cabinet level.

Richard Storti

Meanwhile, Storti discussed the need to acknowledge areas of improvement and to engage in continued dialogue on issues such as training related to biased viewpoints, microaggressions and marginalization.

“You can’t disrupt [these issues], can’t dismantle them unless we fully have a serious discussion and ongoing professional development,” Storti said, highlighting his desire to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all students.

“And that’s all of our students — regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability. We need to look at and dismantle, disrupt and first acknowledge what’s happening before we could make an improvement.”

VanderWoude also talked about providing “safe zones” and making sure students feel comfortable and welcome.

“We all have biases,” VanderWoude said. “Let’s figure it out, let’s look at what’s important to us, let’s coalesce around our common goals and that whole culture of care that you’re pulling together, and let’s move it forward.”

All three finalists shared common strategies for making decisions and resolving conflict — gathering data, listening to all sides involved and bringing everyone together to talk about the issues.

All three finalist forums are available to view online, and feedback is accepted for each finalist until 8 p.m. Friday. Recordings of the forums and links to candidate feedback surveys are available on Santa Barbara City College’s website here.

Both VanderWoude and Endrijonas are also finalists in Mount San Antonio College’s president search.

Endrijonas worked at SBCC as the career and technical dean for nine years before leaving in 2009.

Last year, in her role at Pasadena City College, the Academic Senate passed a resolution of a vote of no confidence in Endrijonas, citing health concerns after she wanted to require teachers to return to in-person teaching in January when COVID-19 was still prevalent.

Before Storti’s role at San Mateo County Community College District, he worked as the deputy chancellor of West Hills Community College District and assistant superintendent/vice president at Pasadena City College.

Before becoming the vice chancellor at the Los Angeles Community College District, VanderWoude was the president of Los Angeles Trade-Technical College and president of Contra Costa College.

She resigned the Contra Costa College job in 2019 while placed on administrative leave pending “completion of an investigation of a personnel matter,” according to local news reports.

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Serena Guentz, Noozhawk Staff Writer

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