New president selected for Modesto Junior College

James Houpis has accepted the offer to be president of Modesto Junior College.
James Houpis has accepted the offer to be president of Modesto Junior College.

James Houpis, dean of academic support and learning technologies at Skyline College in San Bruno, has accepted the offer to become president of Modesto Junior College, the Yosemite Community College District announced Thursday.

The action is expected to be ratified by the YCCD Board of Trustees at its March 13 meeting. Houpis will replace interim MJC President Steve Collins, whose term ends Feb. 28.

This was the second go-round in finding a successor to Jill Stearns, who left MJC last year to become president of Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo. In July, YCCD Chancellor Henry Yong declined to select from two finalists.

In January, MJC announced the four latest finalists for president: Houpis; Jennifer Zellet, vice president of instruction at MJC; Brenda Thames, president of West Hills College in Coalinga; and Jerry Buckley, assistant superintendent/vice president of academic affairs at College of the Canyons, near Los Angeles.

In a news release announcing his selection, Houpis said, “I am excited about joining such an outstanding college and developing relationships and working with committed colleagues, faculty, staff, students and community members toward common goals.”

Before taking his position at Skyline, Houpis served at California State University, East Bay, as provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of earth and environmental sciences. He was dean of natural sciences at CSU Chico and professor of applied ecology, pollution ecology and environmental sciences at Southern Illinois University. He also worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as an environmental scientist and project leader. He earned a doctorate in forest science, a master’s in biology and a bachelor’s in environmental sciences.

“Jim comes with a strong background in the California State University system, where many of our students are preparing to transfer,” Yong said in the news release. “He has also been a strong advocate for sustainability and equity, as well as for increased support and development programs.”

Board Chairwoman Leslie Beggs said she is impressed by Houpis’ advocacy for faculty support and development programs. “I’m also very pleased that Dr. Houpis is planning to live in Modesto so that he can better connect with and appreciate the community we serve.”

Houpis said he looks forward to facilitating and improving the quality of MJC students’ educational experiences, the college’s commitment to the health and welfare of the local and global communities, and its faculty and staff in the performance of their jobs.