Interview with the President

DATE: Friday, March 31, 2017

This interview, conducted on Jan. 24, 2017, is a companion piece to "Royal Days Ahead," the cover story in the Spring 2017 issue of HCC's Alumni Connection magazine.

President Christina Royal

You've been working in Ohio and Minnesota for the past ten years but you actually grew up not too far from western Mass.

My hometown is Burnt Hills, which is a hamlet of Saratoga, N.Y., outside Albany. I actually grew up in my early years in Latham, N.Y., and then we moved to Burnt Hills, and that's where I finished out middle school and high school. When my parents separated my father moved to Clifton Park, N.Y., and so I spent a lot of time between Clifton Park and Burnt Hills. 

My father was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and his side of the family was still in Poughkeepsie. He was a twin, so he and my uncle were very close, and we would go down there frequently. 

You lived mostly with your mother, though?

Yes, me and my brother, and sister, both younger. My brother is three years younger and my sister is seven years younger. My brother is now living in San Francisco and my sister is in Clifton Park, so most of my family is still in the greater New York area. My mom's side in the greater Albany area, my dad's side between Poughkeepsie and New York City. My brother and I were the ones who got away.

You wanted to get away?

For some reason, I had some pretty good insight growing up that education was going to be the way out of my circumstances. Growing up poor and with limited means our world was quite small, and so I'd heard through my counselors at school that I could go to college, and they would talk to you about that and start to groom you for those opportunities, but, financially, I knew it was going to be quite difficult to figure out how to go to college. But they encouraged me not to worry about that and to focus on doing well in school. And so I constantly had this thought in head, particularly in high school, that if I could just go to college my life could be different from the life that I lived as a child and my parents lived. I was really fortunate to get a scholarship to go to Marist College, and that was for me  the start of being able to build a different future.

Was it important to your parents that you go to college?

I think both my immediate family and my greater family — my mom has several sisters so she has a little bit bigger family — I think that all of them said, she's going to go on and do something. I don't know what but she thinks differently and she's really focused on trying to create a future for herself. She's got a lot of curiosity, and so it's funny cause when I posted the notice online about stepping into the presidency of HCC, a lot of my relatives said, I knew from an early age that she was going to do something like this. If you were talking to them they'd probably say, we knew all along that she was going to be the one to do big things in life.

You must have been a good student.

I would say, yes, although I did have awareness at a very early age that schools were not all the same. When we had lived in Latham and then subsequently moved to Burnt Hills, initially I was placed in some developmental type courses for a few things because the schools were different. I was doing fine in one school district but when we moved to a more affluent school district I was not up to the level of that school system. It wasn't long. I think it was maybe a couple of months or the equivalent of a semester before I was at the grade level needed.

That did have an impact on me. I can relate to students and how we create that experience for students who are going through developmental education because I remember what it was like going to regular classes and suddenly a portion of the day I would have to leave the classroom and go to a special classroom. I just remembered that feeling, and for me once I knew what I needed to do to get out of it I was able to rise to the level needed to go into the regular curriculum for all my classes.

You ultimately decided to pursue math. What was it about math that appealed to you?

Growing up I was always the type of kid who had a curiosity about life. I liked to solve problems. I liked to figure out puzzles. I liked to do logic games for fun.

I really did feel early on an interest in math, so when I was going to college I was unsure exactly what I wanted to do for a major, so ultimately I decided I would try mathematics, and I also was very interested in psychology. I started talking to my professors about what I should be and it really stuck in my head what my math adviser said when I asked her, what am I going to do with a math degree? And she said, you'll be able to do whatever you want because mathematics teaches you how to think critically about life and how to solve problems. That means you don't have to focus on a specific field, you can do whatever you want, and that always stuck in my head.

There was a brief time when I took organic chemistry and one of the faculty was talking to me about becoming a chemistry major, but ultimately mathematics was what I was most interested in. I ultimately decided I would major in math and minor in psychology. Later I got a graduate degree in psychology.

You've mentioned a couple of times that you grew up poor. How poor were you and what was it like for you?

I think it's hard for me to answer the question of how poor we were because I think having the experience of working at a community college there are a lot of people that are much less fortunate than I was. I wouldn't say we were the poorest of poor, but when we couldn't afford the rent we had to move out of our apartment and went to live with my grandparents, so we were suddenly living in an affluent district, which created a different kind of experience. Having limited means and living in a more affluent area I think accentuated that a little bit for me, but we weren't living on the street. We weren't homeless.

What kind of jobs did your parents have when you were growing up?

My mom was a waitress and my father was a bartender and that's how they met. My father had dropped out of high school in about ninth grade. When he was growing up, my grandmother on my father's side couldn't make ends meet. So she told my father and his brother — they were twins — that one of them needed to drop out to go to work to help with the bills. My father dropped out of high school so that my uncle could graduate. He was in the army briefly, but their lives reflected that educational decision. My father was a bartender all his life, and my uncle got a job with IBM and worked there until retirement.

My mother was a waitress. At some point she decided she wanted to go to trade school to essentially become a massage therapist, and she did do that, and then she was her own employer. She worked for herself. But the highest she ever earned as a single parent raising three children was $14,000 a year, and that was the year I went to college. She was also caring for her aging parents.

How much did racial identity play in your life growing up and your awareness of students' experience in the educational system?

Growing up in a bi-racial family — my mother's white and my father black — was impactful on me, particularly because the cultural norms were different with my mom's side of the family and my father's side. Some of that was social and behavioral and others were in terms of customs and how the families were raised, my dad and his brother, and my mom and her sisters. And so when I was growing up I think I had a clear sense of not being white like a lot of my peers, but also not being black. I often felt like I wasn't white enough to be white and I wasn't black enough to be black. I think because of that I became very acutely aware of the differences in terms of the families. There were some challenges even with the integration of my parents' families, so that was something I was aware of too.

I think that one of the ways that I started to figure out my identity in that regard in terms of race and ethnicity was realizing I had an opportunity to address racism in a unique way because I was light skinned enough that I would get accepted into the white circles and then I had a chance to have them get to know me, and when I would hear racist remarks I had an opportunity to say, my dad is black and I'm half black, and it created somewhat of a cognitive dissonance for them because they have this perception that they did not like black people but they liked me and they already knew me so it gave me a platform to challenge racism in a different way.

Was it hard for you to speak up like that?

At first. I noticed that they would make comments directly to my face and I would think to myself, but my father's black and some of them may or may not know, depending on my circles, because my father wasn't living with us. Then I started to use that to have a conversation, as different folks would have a chance to meet my father. I think it gave me a different kind of voice in being able to address that.

At a recent staff meeting you talked about the feeling of hopelessness that some low-income, first-generation students experience after being told for so long that they're not college material. Did you ever feel that way?

Not hopeless, but I did feel sometimes my opportunities were limited. I was very active in sports during my K-12 years and particularly I really loved baseball and softball. And I remember one time making the freshman varsity team and not having any transportation, so that was difficult. My coach couldn't understand why I couldn't play on the team, and it was hard for me to be able to say, I don't have a ride to the games. My mom had to work second shift often times, 3-11, so I wouldn't necessarily be able to get rides to a lot of things cause her work conflicted with those types of extracurricular activities.

I started off trying to walk the five miles to the field. It wasn't practical, especially when you're having to do all those practices and stuff and then I'd be exhausted. Occasionally I was able to get rides from different people but it just wasn't sustainable. 

I was also really big into bowling. That was another one. The middle school, where the softbal games were, and the bowling alley were not too far from the high school but they were about five miles from my house. I had a friend who would give me a ride sometimes when I played on the bowling leagues, but, occasionally, if I didn't have a ride I had to decide if I was going to walk five miles with my 14-pound bowling ball, which I did on some occasions, or if I was going to miss it.

And I think being the oldest child, you also have a responsibility for watching your siblings too, so it was a combination of trying to balance those, so that's an example of a way I felt some of my opportunities were limited by my circumstances.

I remember my dad being so proud, I think I was 17 or 18, either junior or senior year, and my father shows up one day, and he was so excited to let me know that he had bought me a car and that I would have the transportation that I needed, and that I could fit in with my peers. So he was really really excited about that, and the first day, or second day, I go out after classes and my car wouldn't start. And so I was really struggling to figure out what to do cause I had a haircut lined up and then I had to go work for my part-time job.

I went to the shop area for my high school and one of the shop teachers came out to look and couldn't get it started. His wife (Carol Forman-Pemberton) was my English teacher, and so when she heard about what had happened she offered to drive me to get my hair cut and make me dinner and drive me to my job.

I was fortunate to have some really good teachers that I felt really cared for me beyond academics, and those experiences really resonated with me in terms of how much faculty tend to go above and beyond just focusing on educating the student in their respective discipline. I think a lot about how my teachers really helped me even beyond the classroom.

I remember telling one that I was struggling financially for something in our household, I don't remember what, and she was like, why don't you come rake leaves for me and I can pay you? I feel like I've been really fortunately to have had some good teachers, and even my Spanish teacher (Louise DiNapoli) had told me I should consider taking a college class in Spanish while I was in high school. That was a great opportunity to get a chance to experience college. That was a SUNY Albany class at my high school. It was a good experience.

I feel like I've had a lot of really great people around me helping to draw out the potential for my success, and I wouldn't have been able to do it without those people. Those folks ultimately helped me conceive of a life different than the one I was experiencing, which was two very hardworking parents trying to raise three kids with very limited means and a lot of curveballs thrown at them. My teachers, as well as some other folks, parents of friends and others, really provided a lot of encouragement that I had the ability to control my own destiny and that education is a path to make that happen, and so I was going to do whatever I could to go to college.

Did you have any role models or mentors who inspired you?

Three in particular: My English teacher, my math teacher and my Spanish teacher were the three people in high school who had a very formative impact on me. My Spanish teacher did a lot to draw out the potential in me academically and show me that if I work hard, if I study, that I will have an opportunity to go to college. She was also very helpful in terms of overall support and encouragement. If I was having a really bad day, she'd spend some time after class talking to me.

My math teacher (Mary Kosky) was the one who recognized that I was having a hard time following in class because I needed glasses. It's stuff like that. It's the noticing beyond just the, well, why is she struggling to pick up the information? And so that was something I remember. She said, you really have to talk to your parents about getting an eye exam because I think you're having trouble seeing the board. She was also the teacher who encouraged me to get involved in the Math Club, and ultimately I became co-president of the club, and that was a great experience in terms of being able to get involved academically in something beyond the classroom.

And then my English teacher, she was someone who really helped me understand how a college application worked, and she gave me good feedback on my college essay. She really walked me through the practical things, and she's also the one who helped me when my car wasn't running.

I do feel I've been surrounded by people who cared and were willing to invest themselves in helping me so I could be in a position to thrive and not just survive.

How have those experiences affected you as an educator?

I can really appreciate the multitude and varied stories that our students have about their circumstances, and one of the key things as a community college is being able to care for the whole student and recognizing that they come from a lot of different circumstances. You don't always know. Is someone homeless or living out of their car? Did someone just lose a parent or a child? Is someone working three jobs just to pay tuition and keep their family going? You have all these types of experiences that students come with, and the community college is the place where we meet students where they're at, and it doesn't matter what their circumstances are. What matters is that we have a caring and welcoming environment that shows them that they belong here and we've got the resources both in and out of the classroom to help support their success.

Why did you choose Marist College?

I applied to a few schools but I think not really knowing how to deal with transportation and the extra cost of going back and forth between semesters and academic years was a little problematic for me. Marist was close to my father and his family. Being a private school, it was more expensive but I was able to get a scholarship, between that and Pell aid as well as New York State aid and also having a presidential scholarship, was really the way I was able to afford it. My uncle worked at IBM, and Marist and IBM have always had a close affiliation, a very strong partnership, and so my uncle was also going to help make sure I could go to college.

Did you have to work?

I was able to get about three or four years covered through aid and scholarships, and, to be honest, the most challenging thing was paying for textbooks. That's why the textbook affordability initiative I've been involved in in my former schools has been personally interesting to me because the cost of textbooks is tremendously high, and for people who are struggling to pay tuition and other course fees, it can be problematic. That was a challenge. I remember getting to college and realizing there's all these day-to-day expenses, and textbooks is one of the big ones. I remember realizing that the books were going to cost a lot of money and my parents just didn't have it, so it was challenging. Fortunately, my uncle through his work had the ability to get me a computer. So that was helpful in terms of just having the resources I needed to be successful in college.

I did live on campus. I tried to have that full experience and then I worked on campus mostly, too. I had a variety of jobs — tutoring, and I was even guarding a parking lot. It wasn't the most intellectually exciting job but it paid more than some of the other jobs.

What did you think you were going to do after college?

Given my uncle's affiliation with IBM, I imagined I was going to go out and get a job at IBM. I actually had my voice mail on the dorm phone that said, "Future IBM executive overseas." That's what I imagined myself doing. Then I graduated from college and my father was very sick. I was originally planning to go to graduate school to become an industrial organizational psychologist, a psychometrician, and use my math and psychology in that way. Then with my father being very ill I decided to postpone those plans, and it's a good thing, cause he died the next year.

My first job out of college was working in insurance, and I started off in sales as an insurance agent. Then I saw an opportunity, because the world was changing from paper to electronics, and the use of laptops was becoming more prevalent, so I wrote a business proposal for the creation of a training department that could help agents use technology, and they liked the proposal and they hired me into it.

That was Prudential. I became a technical adviser overseeing training and worked with the sales agents to understand the software programs,. They were carrying around these rate cards to figure out mortality and morbidity rates that they would bring into homes, and so I was saying, you just have to bring your laptop and plug in your information. So, I really enjoyed that, and I had a chance to work in the greater New York area. Manhattan, White Plains, Yorktown, and Poughkeepsie were the areas I worked in, and I really liked the educational element of it.

I then looked at a job that was in teaching computer applications in the corporate sector. When I was there they were telling me about this national training project that was doing an IT deployment for the Social Security Administration branch of government, and we were subcontractors. This was CompUSA. We were subcontractors of the UNYSIS Corporation. We'd travel to different cities, do training for a week at that particular office, install the new software, and train them on that, come home, do laundry, and then head back out.

I was first in New York doing the training, and I was moving up in the company very quickly so my boss, who worked in Dallas, said, if you want to have a chance to move into management, are you willing to move to Dallas? I said, yes, and he said, then I'm going to promote you. They moved me to Dallas, and that's where I got a chance to oversee the project that I was working on. That's when I started to enjoy being in IT project management.

And then my boss moved to Fort Lauderdale to work for a startup company that was essentially a bridge between the corporate sector and education, and I ultimately followed him a couple of months later. That was the Beacon Institute for Learning, and I was the director of curriculum. We were writing, designing, building curriculum for IT certification programs, and then we would offer those at colleges and universities. That was my first exposure working with colleges, and I really enjoyed it.

While I enjoyed working at the company, I could see that business model was probably something that wasn't going to be sustainable in the long term so I was looking to move on from that job.

I had two options. I had one option to go work for Maris to head up workforce development in the graduate and continuing education school in the college, or I could go work for COMPTIAA, which is an IT certification company, to be project manager in that organization.

That would have been similar work?

It was. It was an opportunity to go to another level, but it was the same kind of work. One of the things, when I look back on my career and look forward, I just have a curiosity about how things work and looking for ways to improve them, and that curiosity keeps me as a lifelong learner. I love just learning about the way things work and how to improve things. So I went to Marist and was working in IT workforce, and the college was looking at getting into online learning at the undergraduate level. The college had built the first online graduate program in New York State and was looking to do undergraduate, and I had the opportunity to head this up.

That was your fork in the road, and you chose higher ed.

I was really intrigued with higher education. My alma mater afforded me the opportunity to make the transition into higher education, but I was really intrigued with understanding better how higher education worked. It obviously had had a real big impact on my life. Now going there and working as an employee rather than as a student I felt it afforded me an opportunity to look at the intersection of the areas that I had experience in in terms of workforce development and IT certification training as well as technology, and so when they asked about getting involved with starting up an undergraduate online program I felt I was the right person for that job. It was a connection of a lot of the different loves and interests I had in my life in terms of technology, education, and having a chance to use that experience I had learned at a startup. I was using that startup mentality to look at how we build a new program.

As as I look back at my life I can see now that this has been a strength for me. I essentially started my career off in the business world and really developed a business mindset. When I came into the higher education world I would ask very different questions about how things operated, and look differently at where the opportunities were, what the potential solutions were, and I think that's really helped me a lot as I've tried to understand more of higher education. I think I have a good balance of understanding between the world of higher education and the world of business. 

You also started classroom teaching at Marist.

Yes. Absolutely. When I started my graduate program I had a chance to teach an educational technology course to start. That was my first class, and I absolutely loved it. I loved being in the classroom, I loved working with students, I loved being able to find new ways to deliver information that made it interesting to students, and I fell in love with teaching, and I continued to do that while pursuing my own education.

Why did you leave Marist?

I felt like I had had the experience of doing a startup type endeavor within higher education and I was looking for a contrasting opportunity of being able to step into a large established organization and take it to its next level, and so that's where I made the shift to Cuyahoga Community College, and Cuyahoga Community College, or Tri-C for short, is a nationally recognized community college, a leader among leaders, that gave me an opportunity to head up the e-Learning and Innovation division of the institution, which allowed me to experiment with new and different ways of thinking about we solve the same types of problems in higher education: enrollment, retention, completion, success of students, increasing diversity of learners.

I had a chance to work on some really cool initiatives that allowed us to think differently about how we support students, especially in a more digital age and with more engaging, virtual support services. And so I had a chance to build the distance learning area, which eventually became the e-Learning area, and also work on some really neat initiatives on social media and building a homegrown emergency notification system.

What would you say your proudest achievement or innovation has been?

When I was at Tri-C, I had sought a Title III grant, $2 million over five years, to help us build infrastructure to support more virtual students, and that to me is one of the most impactful things because it was about supporting students who wanted to access services at the college through the website. And we know that the website is more and more an absolute critical tool for marketing and support of students, so we had this initiative I called the virtual front door, because when we think of the first impression of colleges a lot of people think it's the campus, but it's actually the website. That is their first impression. They're going to go on and look up some information about the college. Sometimes even before visiting the college. And so I felt like it was important that we be able to start to adapt the virtual support services to students, both the way that we share information and also recognizing that there are some services that students don't necessarily want to have to drive to campus for.

And so now, students can register online and they can pay their tuition online, and there's a lot of these services that they couldn't necessarily do before. They can access support services. Being able to access support from the writing center was a really big step forward for students, because they would be sitting at home at 7 p.m. and needed to access services, and maybe our writing center was not open at that time or they didn't want to drive to campus or take a bus, so being able to access those services at a distance was really critical. So that's something that I think is a good example of things that specifically impact the student experience that was innovative in our use of technology.

Why did you want to be a college president?

When I was at Tri-C I was considering an opportunity to be president of a virtual campus, but I really wanted an opportunity to impact an entire college so I felt like it was important for me to understand other areas of the college that I hadn't supervised previously. The reaston that really prompted me to look at the provost position at Inver Hills was having a more well-rounded experience.

When I was thinking about the possibility of becoming a college president some day, I really wanted to look at what kind of experiences were going to prepare me for the presidency. I was not interested in just getting there quickly, but getting there most prepared, so I knew I had to have an opportunity to work with other areas of the college and to be able to lead those areas effectively and to understand college as a whole, both the internal aspects of the college as well as the connections with business, industry and workforce.

At Tri-C I worked with a fabulous president, Jerry Sue Thornton. She was an outstanding leader, and I really had a chance to learn a lot working under her. When we started talking about what a presidency is like she sponsored me in an executive leader development program. I really left that program feeling like this was a job that I could do and I could make an impact.

Why did you want to be the president of HCC?

There were a couple of reasons. One of the things, when I first started talking to the search firm and I read the college profile, I really had a favorable impression of HCC from the start. It was a campus that I thought was very caring and welcoming to students. The language seemed to reflect even what I experience today, which is that this is a very learning-centered culture, and that learning centered culture is something I was looking for.

I was looking for a place where I felt like people really cared for students beyond their job descriptions. When I look at some of the successes that HCC's had, as well as the transitions that we're going through in terms of achieving the designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution and being able to respond to the changing demographic needs in the local community, I was definitely interested in looking for a place that had a multicultural student body and employee base. I think that multicultural aspect of an institution enriches the student experience. It gives them an opportunity to interact with different people from all different walks of life that they might not interact with on a day-to-day basis, so I was looking for an enriching environment that was inclusive in that regard.

I was also looking for a place that was doing a good job already. There are obviously problems that we will have to address. Enrollment is not just affecting HCC; it is a national issue, and state funding also a national issue. A lot of these things are not just impacting one institution, but I felt like HCC has a really strong base we'll be able to build off of, and it's got employees that really care about the institution.

I think that with the support of new leadership, the college, everyone is going to be able to pull together, and we're going to be able to define the future of the college.

What are your goals?

I certainly would like for us to look at how we can continue to increase the success of all our learners, including reducing the achievement gap. We want success for all of our learners, not just some of our learners. That's really important to me. Also, opportunities to grow enrollment in this area.

As you've heard me say, I believe that education is a way to transform an individual and their family, and that extends also to a community. Thriving communities have good educational opportunities, and so I think the more that we can work with businesses and community agencies to strengthen the number of people, citizens, we have getting an education, it's going to elevate our community, and so that's also really important to me.

There's an interdependency there, and I think that's really important in recognizing that our role isn't just serving our students, it's really about recognizing that we're a partner in the community.

You often use the term "co-creation" to describe your decision-making process.

I think my leadership style is the kind where I like to provide a vision for where we need to go, but I think that any good initiatives that have staying power have to be done in co-creation with others. That's important to me. Staff and faculty here and the students here all have great ideas on ways we can make HCC better. I want to leverage and help cultivate some of those ideas to creation. And so all the great ideas are not just going to come from me, they're going to come from us as a group so the collaboration is going to be important.

I think sometimes the idea of co-creating something or being a collaborative leader people perceive as weak, but I actually think it make you stronger in terms of working with other people and being in touch with those you're leading and so forth, but when you talk about being the first female president, stylistically, there are going to differences like that.

You also like to say "it takes a village to raise a student."

Yea, I very much believe that statement. It was really working at community colleges that helped me to see that in action. You can't look at education in a bubble. You can't just think, we have to figure out what students want to study and make sure they have the curriculum to achieve that end goal because students come with a complexity of issues, and if a student is hungry they are not going to be able to focus in the classroom on learning. If a student doesn't feel safe, they are not necessarily going to be focused on engaging in clubs and activities on campus.

Speaking of hunger, you helped set up a mobile food pantry at Inver Hills.

I was on the board of a local food pantry there. We had a partnership where we had a mobile food pantry, and they would bring that on campus and deliver food, healthy food, I should say. It was one of the few organizations that had taken a stance not to bring junk food, to bring healthy food on campus so that students would not have to take another bus somewhere else. The food would be delivered to them, and they could just take their classes and then take the food home. We also had emergency food available to students if they needed something that day, and the mobile pantry wasn't there.

We also had a community garden on campus, and so we would grow food and we would donate part of that to the food pantry and then they in turn would bring it to our students. Hunger is a big challenge for a lot of our students and again when we think of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, we knew we had to address that problem for students to thrive in the classroom.

Is that something you had experience with either growing up or in college?

Growing up my family did have to access some support services that were available to them through social services. But I think for me the real reason why that became important to me at the college was seeing what our students were experiencing and hearing the number of students who were food insecure and housing insecure. There were a lot of issues, but really it was more about understanding the demographic that I was supporting, really figuring out, well, what do our students need? This was one of the topics that came up a lot, so I felt like it was important for us to make this a priority.

What does it mean to you to be the first female president of HCC?

Growing up, obviously, most of the role models were men, and it's been nice in my lifetime to see more females be able to assume the CEO positions at various companies, and so it is a great honor and privilege to be able to do that here, and I know just even the presence of a female in the president's role is going to have a transforming effect on the institution, because it's an opportunity to think differently about how we lead. Stylistically, they'll be some differences. I think sometimes the idea of co-creating something or being a collaborative leader people perceive as weak, but I actually think it make you stronger in terms of working with other people and being in touch with those you're leading and so forth, but when you talk about being the first female president, stylistically, there are going to differences like that.

I also feel like it's great to be able to serve as a role model for girls and young women and even adults, so that we can normalize seeing women in the top leadership positions in any sector, and seeing that more and that that's a normal thing and that there are equal opportunities I think is very encouraging for the next generation.

Clearly you've thought about this.

It was a real awareness when I realized all of the finalists for the HCC job were women and that this was going to be a historic moment if I had the pleasure of serving in this role, and I do take that seriously.

Is there anything else you'd like people to know about you?

I don't want HCC to be just a good school. I want us to be an outstanding school, in support of this community and our students, and so I am someone who does like to look for ways we can continue to innovate in support of our mission. I think, in that regard, I'm looking for us to really focus on excellence and not just maintaining the status quo. We have to work to get students to a level of college readiness in partnership with the high schools, and we really need make sure students don't view HCC as the final step, that they go on for their bachelor's degrees or find other ways that they engage in lifelong learning at the college, like coming back for noncredit experiences. I hope that the role we play is instilling the importance of education in their lives for themselves and their families.

I like to be an approachable leader. I think that stylistically that might be different from past leaders. I really like to be active and visible within the community and within the college, so I think people can expect to see me around, participating in events locally on campus and in the community. 

You're on Facebook and Twitter.

Maybe this is a generational thing — I like to use social media. I won't be sending any 3 a.m. tweets, I can promise you that, but I do believe it's part of the piece about being approachable and accessible to folks.

You have a dog named Milo. Any other family?

I'm not married and I don't have kids. Since you're hitting all the aspects of my life, and I'm single, I don't think this will come up naturally, but I am a lesbian, and I am out about it, although I don't feel the need to make declarative statements. I feel like it will come up organically throughout my engagement with different folks.

The Spring 2017 issue of HCC's Alumni Connection magazine is available online as a PDF. The print edition is distributed around campua and mailed to the homes of HCC alumni.