Dr. Angélica Garcia selected as next president of SRJC


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Dr. Maria Angélica Garcia accepts her nomination as the next president of Santa Rosa Junior College via Zoom on Tuesday, April 11, 2023 in Santa Rosa.

The Sonoma County Junior College District Board of Trustees unanimously selected “equity-minded educational leader” Dr. Maria Angélica Garcia to be the next president of Santa Rosa Junior College at the Board of Trustees meeting April 11.

After reconvening the board to open session, Board President Dorothy Battenfeld announced that Garcia was unanimously selected from three finalists. Cheers and applause erupted from the student activities center in Bertolini Hall.

“She is known for inclusive and strategic leadership,” Battenfeld said at the meeting. “While president of Berkeley City College, she successfully led the college through accreditation, reaffirmation and fiscal stabilization efforts.”

Speaking over Zoom because she was sick and couldn’t attend in person, Garcia said, “Dr. Frank Chong leaves rather large shoes to fill. But I’m absolutely honored to follow in his footsteps and even more so honored to work alongside you all so that we can continue to serve the needs of Sonoma County.”

Garcia will be SRJC’s first female president, first Chicana president and first openly LGBTQIA+ president. “I am absolutely honored and grateful beyond words,” Garcia said. “Please know that myself and my wife and our two daughters are looking forward to coming to Santa Rosa to be a community.”

Garcia is currently president at Berkeley City College and has an extensive background in social work and education. She’s spent 23 years as an educator and administrator, and she intends to use her unique perspective and experiences to enhance resources for underprivileged students at SRJC.

“I want to offer my heartfelt congratulations to Angélica Garcia; I’m so excited and relieved to know that SRJC is in good hands,” Chong said at the meeting. “I’m committed to ensuring a seamless transition and will focus now on making sure everything is right for when she arrives in July.”

After SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong’s retirement announcement in October, the Board of Trustees began a five-month hiring process to find a new president. According to Battenfeld, the board looked for a candidate “who will continue SRJC’s tradition of excellence and service to our community.”

The Presidential Search Advisory Committee, made up of board members, administrators, classified staff, faculty and students, spent several months reviewing candidates and presented their finalist recommendations to the board in March. Three finalists presented their cases to be the next president during individual public forums on March 27 and 28.

The other two finalists included former SRJC instructor and Dean Dr. Kimberlee Messina and Woodland Community College Interim President Dr. Santanu Bandyopadhyay.

In her public forum, Garcia cited her experiences as a growing up in a mostly single-mother household, first-generation college student and someone who had experienced homelessness and food insecurity.

“I think it’s important for the college community to know that your superintendent president is also a parent, a wife, is multicultural and part of the LGBTQIA+ community,” Garcia said. “So this job is not just about a job. It’s about giving me a chance to do what I love, which is to help disrupt the institutionalized racism, classism, sexism [and] all the things that keep people from being able to thrive.”

Garcia also highlighted her commitment to diversity, equity and student engagement within the SRJC community. She described the integral role that equity would play in administrative decisions, adjacent to the importance of diversity within syllabi, counseling services, and resource allocation.

“If all the voices are not included, then it’s hard to say that a decision has been made in the best interests of students,” Garcia said in the forum. “The minute that we stop respecting one another’s craft or perspective or position is when we start to shut down, and then this institution shuts down, and then that impacts students.”

She emphasized her dedication to bonding with students and immersing herself on campus to better understand student experiences. Garcia also plans to reach out to local youth at earlier ages and prioritize student retainment, specifically for students reliant on financial assistance and scholarships.

“There’s work we have to do so that students who have already said yes here continue to say yes, semester over semester,” Garcia said. “Our financial aid students are the most vulnerable.”

Garcia praised the importance of community colleges in fostering upward social mobility and granting resources and opportunities to students within marginalized communities. “I believe in the power of higher education; I think that it has the opportunity to liberate,” Garcia said at the forum. “Collectively, we are going to change the opportunity to disrupt generational poverty in this state.”

Dr. Garcia’s term with Santa Rosa Junior College will begin July 1, following approval of her contract at the May 9 Board of Trustees meeting. She will become the sixth president in SRJC history, following Dr. Chong’s 12-year tenure. Chong was preceded by Dr. Robert F. Agrella, Roy Mikalson, Randolph Newman and Floyd P. Bailey.