Northeast Lakeview’s new president will spend her first several months speaking with students, faculty and industry before taking any action.
By James Dusek
In their Jan. 17 meeting, the board of trustees approved Dr. Veronica Garcia, vice president of student affairs at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, as the new president of Northeast Lakeview College.
Garcia will begin her position March 1.
Her first several months after entering the position will be spent meeting with students, faculty and local industry leaders, she said.
Recently, she visited the college to meet with some student clubs and others at the college.
“I met with the students and I met with the staff, and I’ll continue to meet with them to make sure to find out what it is exactly they need,” she said.
“I mean, I have a lot of experience, but I don’t want to just make assumptions that I know what’s right for them,” she said. “I want to hear … what are their barriers, what are their frustrations, and what their needs are so that they can be successful at Lakeview.”
Leo Zuniga, associate vice chancellor of communications, said Chancellor Bruce Leslie chose Garcia because of her “experience and expertise in student affairs, enrollment management, and financial aid,” among other areas.
Garcia oversees all of PVCC’s student services, including financial aid and admissions.
She is also responsible for PVCC’s strategic enrollment management plan, which she said “works on focusing how you grow enrollment and then maintain enrollment.”
She said it is important that students graduate from the college, and she currently works with programs providing groups such as athletes, students with disabilities and honors students with the resources they need to graduate.
She has held her position at PVCC since 2014, before which she worked for eight years as the district dean of student affairs and enrollment management at Portland Community College.
The salary budget for president of NLC is about $218,000, about $82,000 more than her current salary of about $136,000 at PVCC.
Garcia said she has worked closely with faculty at PVCC and her previous position at Portland Community College.
“I’ve worked well with faculty,” she said. “… If anybody can tell you how to improve student success, it’s faculty.”
Garcia said faculty members’ daily interactions with students give them unique insight into students’ needs.
Garcia said the college must look to the surrounding industry for guidance as well.
“If the curriculum is not teaching to what the industry needs, then our graduates aren’t going to be able to get jobs,” she said. “So there has to be a cohesive, very symbiotic relationship.”
The college has been without a permanent president since November 2015, when former President Craig Follins was removed from the position because of abusive behavior toward his assistant, failure to attend a visit from the accreditation agency, and lack of an ability to “become human and less intimidating.”
The college has also remained unaccredited since it was established in 2007. The accreditation agency visited the college Feb. 6-8 for an initial accreditation site visit, which found no negative results.
Garcia said she has been a part of the “core team” of reaffirmation of accreditation at PVCC, and that she worked with two colleges in Portland to gain accreditation.
Though she has not yet been directly involved in the accreditation process at NLC, she said in an email that she has been informed of the “Importance of achieving accreditation” by the chancellor and Dr. Thomas Cleary, vice chancellor of planning, performance, accreditation and information systems and interim president of Northeast Lakeview.
“We are very confident in her leadership,” Cleary said.
Cleary, who has served as interim president since Follins’ removal, said he believes picking Garcia was a “no-brainer.”
“She is very student-centric, she has a great background in higher education at multiple large, system-like schools … she has a wealth of experience in student services,” he said. “… So, I think she’ll be a great fit with the needs of this college.”
Cleary also said it is essential that Garcia launches workforce programs at the college.
“Clearly, this college will be receiving its accreditation very shortly,” Cleary said.
It will be particularly important for the college to offer vocational programs after it receives accreditation, he said.
Garcia is withholding from making any firm plans until she has met with the community at and around Lakeview.
“I don’t plan on coming in and making a bunch of decisions, because it would be futile until I’ve had the conversations,” she said. “For me, the first 90 days, it’s critical that I meet with all the students, with faculty, with staff, with the community.”