After 14 years away, Erika Endrijonas has returned to Santa Barbara City College, this time as the college’s president and superintendent.
She previously worked at SBCC for nine years as a career and technical dean before leaving in 2009.
Endrijonas first two months in office haven’t been quiet ones.
Already during her short tenure, SBCC student Benjamin Scott Schurmer died after falling from the cliffs in Isla Vista. Just a week later, 14 people, including SBCC students were displaced after a fire in the Beach City Apartments.
“It’s been challenging because those are the kinds of events that the college really needs to step up for and show the community and the families that we care and that we’re here to support them,” Endrijonas told Noozhawk.
Her plan is to improve communication with the community so that when unfortunate events happen, SBCC is able to share necessary news and resources with the community.
She’s bringing on a new executive director of communications and public relations, Jordan Killebrew, to help with this goal. Killebrew, a former staffer for Santa Barbara County Supervisor Laura Capps, started on Monday.
“These are the kinds of things that we want to make sure we’ve got all of the pieces in place,” Endrijonas told Noozhawk. “So when these unfortunate events happen, we have an opportunity to get the word out right away to the community.”
She most recently worked as the president and superintendent of Pasadena City College, a post she held since 2019, and before that, she was the president of Los Angeles Valley College for four and a half years, and executive vice president of Oxnard College for five years.
“I believe in the mission of the California Community College System,” Endrijonas said. “I believe in education being really the great equalizer. And nobody does that better than community colleges.”
Endrijonas received her bachelor’s degree in history from California State University, Northridge. She got her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in American and women’s history from the University of Southern California.
She was originally a journalism major, but while taking her first history class, her professor convinced her to change her major to history, which led to her wanting to work in higher education.
Endrijonas is SBCC’s seventh leader in the past ten years, including interim presidents/superintendents.
Coming into an office with high turnover isn’t anything new to her. At Oxnard College, she was the fourth vice president in five years; at Pasadena College, she was the sixth president in 12 years.
“I’ve done this before, where there’s been turnover, and I’ve come in and provided stability,” Endrijonas said. “I think what really helps is that I already know a lot about the college and I know a lot of people.”
She said that in her previous positions, she went through a learning curve to understand the dynamics and policies of other colleges, while at SBCC she already has nine years of context that she said have made a huge difference with the transition.
One challenge Endrijonas wants to tackle during her tenure is the drop in enrollment.
Community colleges across the state have seen enrollment decrease, and SBCC is no exception.
“I’m realistic in that our enrollment isn’t going to look the same,” Endrijonas said. “What we need to do is figure out how we can successfully serve adult students and non-traditional students. Especially with technology changing the workplace, we need to make sure that we’re ahead of the curve.”
Endrijonas is determined to work closely with the college’s trustees to figure out their goals. They went on a board retreat earlier this month to discuss goals and how they want to work together.
Board President Jonathan Abboud said the board wants to make sure Endrijonas has a smooth transition.
“It’s off to a very strong start. She’s getting reacquainted with the community,” Abboud said. “We’re going to be implementing a transition plan to make sure that she’s fully integrated and introduced to all the right people, and has all the right help with important issues.”
Abboud also said the board members want to focus on their strategic plan that will identify their priorities for the next 10 years. Abboud said they’re focusing on how they can care for students, employees, and the community
For Endrijonas, being back in Santa Barbara means tackling the problems of a community she cares about and be a part of the solution.
“Santa Barbara is a special community, it’s just amazingly beautiful,” Endrijonas said. “The idea that you can learn so much, you can advance so much, in a place that’s just beyond gorgeous. It’s really special.”
For the students of Santa Barbara City College, Endrijonas wants them to know that the college is here to support them. She will soon announce monthly office hours so that students can share what’s on their mind.
“I encourage them to come, and I really want to hear what they have to say and what they think about things and that they’re never afraid to articulate what it is,” Endrijonas said.