Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez presented his first State of the District address to the community alongside California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.
A higher education update from a local and state level was given, along with highlights of academic and student programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to an independent report by Emsi, a research, and marketing analyst firm, Southwestern College (SWC) has contributed more than $440 million to the local economy in South San Diego. The college had multiple community partnerships to assist students and their communities during the pandemic, like the San Diego Foodbank, which distributed 1.2 million pounds of food during drive-through on campus.
The San Diego County Health Department, San Ysidro Health, and Champions for Health provided, and continue to provide, community members with vaccines and boosters.
“Some of the most powerful images I have seen since re-opening are students and employees talking, laughing, engaging,” Sanchez told the audience at the Performing Arts Center and those watching the live-streamed version. “Our Jaguar community was ready to return. Everyone simply wanted the best in health and safety protocols.”
District-wide response during the pandemic included emergency grants of up to $1,000, laptops, hot spots for students who need access to online learning, and creating a safe WiFi space on the Chula Vista Campus. In an effort to address and alleviate systematic barriers and alleviate students, district employees, and departments, such as the Foundation and Food Services, distributed computers and food in the Jag Kitchen-To-Go to address technology gaps and food insecurity with students.
For students who have returned to in-person courses, there are no parking fees, eliminating another potential financial barrier.
Sanchez highlighted the college’s new programs in drone technology and cyber security, faculty-led expansion of employment opportunities with district workforce development efforts, and the success of the Restorative Justice Program at Donovan Correctional Facility.
Additionally, Sanchez announced to the community that during the pandemic, SWC applied for and received, four planning grants totaling more than $600,000 to research the feasibility of building affordable, quality housing for students and staff at each of the college’s four campuses.
Recruitment for stakeholders throughout the region will begin to study living and learning hubs that will include cafeterias, child care, and basic needs resources.
The college implemented specialized faculty training that advances equity, re-imagining College Police and seeking housing resources for students and staff.
Cross-border attendance is now possible with a new full-time director of bi-national and international programs who laid the foundation with Tijuana universities. The college plans to host a summit of university presidents on both sides of the border.
To further expand, the college announced a new $600 million bond measure aimed to expand the San Ysidro campus and help students find housing to be incorporated in the November 2022 ballot.
In addressing the audience, Chancellor Oakley said he hoped to see more funding and resources to help colleges adopt new schedules and teaching methods that meet students’ changing needs. He also aims to increase diversity throughout the employee ranks of community colleges.
“I want diversity among faculty, staff, and administrators so students see themselves in the classrooms, offices, and hallways of all our community colleges,” Oakley said.