An Interview with Incoming Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley

President, ASCCC

On December 19, Long Beach City College President Eloy Ortiz Oakley will begin his tenure as Chancellor for the California Community Colleges. President Oakley has a long history with California community colleges, beginning as a student at Golden West College after serving four years in the United States Army. He then transferred to the University of California, Irvine to complete a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Analysis and Design and a Master of Business Administration.  Oakley returned to Golden West College as a part-time faculty member in the environmental technology program. Eventually, he transitioned from faculty to administration and has held administrative positions at Oxnard College and Coast Community College District as well as in the private sector. In 2002, he was hired at Long Beach City College as the Executive Vice President of Administrative Services and was appointed president at the college in 2007. While at Long Beach City College, Oakley has worked collaboratively with faculty, staff and administrators on a number of initiatives and projects, including the nationally recognized Long Beach College Promise Program. As President Oakley prepares to assume leadership of the California Community College System, he has provided the ASCCC with some thoughts on his new role as chancellor.

Why do you want to be the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges?

As a first generation college graduate, student of color, product of a California community college, and native of California, I can’t think of another system that impacts the future of working class Californians more than our colleges. Thus, I can’t think of a better position from which to advocate for our students, communities, and colleges than as the chancellor of the system.

What lessons did you learn about working with faculty as a college president that you can translate to the state level in your role as chancellor?

Faculty come to their colleges every day wanting to make a difference in the lives of their students. That is the most important lesson that I’ve learned because that means that we all have a fundamental basis of agreement about what is most important in our decision-reaching process. I’ve also learned that our faculty are capable and dedicated, which means that they are a vital part of forging a direction for our colleges and the system. I look forward to working with the academic senate leadership to forge a way forward for our system.

How do you see the role of the Academic Senate at the state level and how will you work with the senate to help promote success for our students and colleges?

I have a long history of strong working relationships with the leaders of the state Academic Senate. I plan to operate with an open door and clear line of communication with the Senate leadership and do everything I can to promote the importance of Senate participation in student success. I also hope to promote shared responsibility and accountability for student success on all of our college campuses and advocate for the resources we need to improve student outcomes.

As the incoming chancellor, do you have a specific project or initiative that you would like to accomplish as you take on this new position?

The only preconceived initiative that I’d like to embark on at this point is to return more control of the curriculum approval process to the colleges and program recommendations to regions, especially for CTE curriculum development. Otherwise, I want to hear from the field and the various local, regional, and statewide constituencies that rely on our colleges before we begin to set a working agenda.

One of the best known and most successful initiatives at Long Beach City College in the past few years has been the Long Beach Promise. What have been the most important elements of that program and how might they be translated to the state level?

I will certainly be an advocate for the kinds of partnerships and initiatives that led to the success of the Long Beach College Promise. Building trust and strong partnerships with K-12, public university, and community partners is one key element that I can help promote as chancellor. Beyond that, every local community has to have the freedom to develop solutions that address the local challenges. The Long Beach solution can not be transplanted to Sacramento or Fresno or anywhere else in California. But the principles of building trust, creating strong partnerships, investing in innovation, and having clear accountability for student outcomes are something that as chancellor I can promote.

How do you imagine our system and colleges will be different in five years? Ten years?

What we know for sure is that the nation, the state, and our system will look very different in the coming years. The question for us in California is whether that future will be shaped for us or whether we will take responsibility for shaping it.  I favor the latter. We will have a system that continues to break down silos on and off campuses, focuses technology innovations on improving student outcomes, and greatly enhances the support and professional development for our faculty.

Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share with our readers?

We are in an exciting time for our colleges. We have resources, excited new faculty, and an impetus to improve how we deliver and measure education.   At no time in our recent history has the country embraced our mission more than today.  I look forward to working with the ASCCC to shape the future of our system and to significantly improve the future of all Californians.

The Academic Senate welcomes Eloy Ortiz Oakley in his new role as chancellor, and we look forward to collaborating with him in service to our students, our colleges, and the system.