With the Capitol Hill community college undergoing a period of transition, Seattle Central is vetting candidates to permanently fill its presidency.
It’s been almost a year since former Seattle Central College president Paul Killpatrick stepped down from his position after five years on the job and Sheila Edwards Lange began her tenure as interim president. The college search committee responsible for finding replacement candidates started looking in December, and, in early March, announced their pool of three finalists, including Edwards Lange, the current interim president.
The three candidates are appearing at campus forums taking place throughout April to meet with students, faculty, and staff, in addition to meeting with the Seattle College District’s Board of Trustees, outgoing chancellor Jill Wakefield, and her executive cabinet.
The first of these forums took place last week with two forums presenting Lawrence Buckley—former President of Cañada College in Redwood City, California and history professor in community college systems in Hawaii and California—to the Seattle Central College community.
Seattle Central’s current interim president, Sheila Edwards Lange—former vice president of Minority Affairs and vice provost for Diversity at the University of Washington, faculty at the UW Evans School of Public Affairs, and Seattle College District employee working on education and planning—will attend forums on April 21nd.
Last but not least is Dr. Wei Zhou, whose forums will take place the following day on April 22nd. Zhou currently serves as the Vice President of Instruction at Cuyamaca College and has held similar, administrative positions at institutions like Copper Mountain College and Evergreen Valley College. Zhou received his P.h.D at the University of Austin, emphasising in student learning, success, equity and diversity, and organizational development.
The eventual president will inherit several challenges — and opportunities. The Seattle College District still faces issues of chronic underfunding from the state legislature (despite the public college slight tuition reduction passed during this past legislative session). State funding for community colleges was slashed in the financially brutal years following the 2008 recession (due to significant declines in tax revenue), and pre-recession levels of state higher education funding haven’t returned since due to the legislature’s inability to raise tax revenue, resulting in continued pay equity issues for college faculty and staff.
Underfunding also forced Seattle Central to scramble to fill the funding gap with alternative means like obtaining private sector grants, public/private partnerships and marketing to international students. Killpatrick pushed for such initiatives, with the college rolling out new four-year bachelor degree programs in applied nursing (and leasing space in the Beacon Hill PacMed building to accommodate the program).
Fast forward to now with interim president Edwards Lange having served for almost a year. Ty Pethe, a program assistant in student development and active member in the Seattle Central branch of the state’s public college classified staff (like janitors and maintenance technicians) union, said that it’s a “180 degree difference difference” with Edwards Lange. “Sheila has been much more collaborative with the faculty and staff on campus than Killpatrick was,” he said. It’s much easier to have shared decision making with Sheila than Killpatrick.”
“Morale is generally better,” he added. “She’s the obvious candidate for the permanent position.”
“There’s been kind of a buzz of how much of an inside track Sheila Lang already has,” said Tracy Lai, a long-time history professor at Seattle Central and former co-president of the Seattle Colleges branch of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
Meanwhile, the Seattle Central hiring will come under a new leader at the top. The Seattle College District announced it has selected a new chancellor after a search process initiated by outgoing chancellor Wakefield’s announcement last year that she would be stepping down. The District Board of Trustees voted to approve Shouan Pan, former president of Mesa Community College in Arizona, as the new chancellor. According to his bio, Pan, like his predecessor, values coordinating institutional planning with input from the local business and employers, as well as emphasizing equity, diversity and using data-driven decision making.
“Jill’s leadership has been really wise in trying to watch the change in the [economic and business] trends and the next chancellor is going to have to do the same thing,” said Annette Stofer, current president of AFT Seattle and former english as a second language faculty at South Seattle College.
Pan will start in June.