Angela Fairchilds will take the reins at Columbia College on Feb. 1 after a unanimous vote of the Yosemite Community College District board.
She was selected over two other final candidates after a public forum Dec. 2. Fairchilds will take the chair of Leslie Buckalew, who has served as interim president since the firing of former President Dennis Gervin on Feb. 28. Gervin continues as a tenured faculty member at Modesto Junior College.
Fairchilds has been president of Woodland Community College in Yuba County for eight years. Before that, she served in dean positions at community colleges in Arizona.
A first-generation college student, she took her first course at a junior college at the age of 26, according to a YCCD statement. She went on to get a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Arizona.
I have a passionate and enduring commitment to community colleges and to the students and the communities they serve, Fairchilds said.
Board Chairwoman Lynn Martin said she was impressed by Fairchilds expertise. I believe she can take Columbia College to the next level. She will fit in nicely, said Martin.
The board also got an update on the districts free speech policies and procedures. They were changed by Chancellor Joan Smith in the aftermath of an incident on the Modesto Junior College campus, where a student was not allowed to distribute copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day.
Posted on YouTube by an advocacy organization, videos of the MJC action drew angry calls and emails from around the country. The revised district policy says administrators can deny free speech only in a manner consistent with applicable law, rather than at their discretion.
In other updates, the board heard:
• The renovated MJC library on the east campus will open in mid-January with a more open floor plan, lower bookshelves and space for study groups. There will be more computer terminals and a cybercafe.
• The purchase of property at Pritchard and Blue Gum avenues will move forward, allowing the installation of a traffic light to serve the west campus, said Modesto Junior College President Jill Stearns.
• Modesto Junior College Academic Senate President James Todd told board members that recent meetings with state accreditation evaluators couldnt have gone better, from my way of thinking.
MJCs accreditation renewal has been in limbo, with the district working to answer concerns about the division of services across the schools two campuses and governance issues. A formal response from the accreditation commission is not expected for several weeks.