The Yosemite Community College District Board chose a new chancellor with a record of serving diverse communities and updating course offerings.
Board Chair Anne DeMartini announced the selection of Henry Chiong Vui Yong, 63, on Wednesday, a choice made in closed session with a unanimous vote. Yong will start July 1 as head of the district that includes Modesto Junior College and Columbia College. His annual salary will be $265,000.
He replaces retired Chancellor Joan Smith, who in 2015 made $259,199 in base pay, with a total compensation package of $314,408, the most recent year posted on the Transparent California website.
Reached by phone Thursday, Yong said he plans to spend his first few months in listening mode and house hunting in the Modesto area.
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“I am looking to establish roots. I currently attend Rotary and I want to get involved in the community,” he said, adding the vast YCCD territory will be a change from the more compact Silicon Valley area where he is a currently a community college president.
“It is geographically spread out, so one of the challenges will be making sure our services are going to benefit the widest section of the community,” said Yong, who has led Evergreen Valley College in San Jose since 2011.
Evergreen Valley College is part of the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District, which includes San Jose Community College. He has held administrative posts at Victor Valley College in Victorville, West Hills College in Coalinga and Taft College. In Taft he served as accreditation liaison for six years, his resume notes, and helped revamp college to help weather recession-era budget cuts without layoffs.
The Evergreen Valley campus serves around 13,700 students, including international students from 70 countries. Its enrollment is 42 percent Latino, 38 percent Asian. Two-thirds of students qualify for financial aid.
“This is Silicon Valley, but you don’t hear about the other side of Silicon Valley, where there is poverty, socioeconomic inequity. We serve the whole Silicon Valley,” he said, calling his college a microcosm of the San Jose area.
“We need to take a holistic look at our students and the community. How can a student be successful in his studies when he has to deal with homelessness and hunger?” Yong asked.
Over the last few years, a bond measure allowed the Evergreen campus to remake its central quad area and build an automotive technology center that works with Tesla, Chrysler and Honda on training programs to build and service the ever more automated vehicles packing Bay Area highways. He developed corporate partnerships with high tech companies and worked with the city of San Jose to create a waste water technology program.
“I look at the district as a great change agent in the lives of the community,” he said.
Under his tenure, Evergreen created condensed remedial courses to speed struggling students through the catch-up phase, courses also offered on the San Jose State University campus through a partnership agreement.
“The old school thinking was that those kids who are not prepared for college, we would create additional courses for therm so they would have the time to gain the skills they need. But research has shown the longer they stay, the greater the chance they will not complete,” Yong said.
The approach, in place at Evergreen for several years, is among a long list of strategies to improve completion rates being implemented at YCCD this year, administrators said at Monday’s board meeting.
Others include a statistics-focused math path for those not going into math-heavy majors instead of the algebra-to-calculus traditional line-up. The district has also widened its reach, signing contracts with Modesto City Schools and others to provide dual credit courses at high schools, and with county jails to provide community courses there.
The programs, speakers said, particularly helped low-income and minority students, reducing the so-called success gaps between ethnic and economic groups from 40 percent in past years to 7.7 percent in 2016.