The current Fresno City College vice president of student services has big plans for Contra Costa College if he is chosen to lead.
Christopher Villa, one of the four presidential candidates, may be selected by Contra Costa Community College District Chancellor Helen Benjamin to begin leading the college July 1 after former president McKinley Williams retired in December 2011 and Interim President Dan Henry took over for a six-month term.
Until Dr. Benjamin makes her final decision on April 11 and the Governing Board votes on her decision on May 23, Dr. Villa plans to follow what changes may hit CCC during the next few months of economic uncertainty.
The 56-year-old plans to work alongside all entities of the college — faculty, staff, managers and students — when the time comes to make decisions to cut services, employees or course sections.
“There’s some anxiety with the budget cuts that are being experienced,” Villa said. “People want to pull together and make things work on campus. The people seem to really care about the college.”
Villa said the motivated employees and students of the college made him take up the opportunity to perhaps one day lead CCC.
“(Everyone’s motivation) makes me want to work even harder to be an effective president.”
Villa has spent more than 30 years in education. He worked at multiple two- and four-year institutions up and down the state. He was also employed at the University of Utah for six years.
Villa’s colleagues said he is fit for the opening at CCC.
“He’s a college president,” said Sean Henderson, director of student activities at FCC. “That’s what he should be doing. It’s him continuing where he’s needed.”
Mark Sanchez, FCC dean of counseling and student services, agreed.
“There’s some people who can talk academia,” Sanchez said. “He really walks the walk.”
Villa began working in higher education as the Educational Opportunity Program coordinator at Cal State-San Bernardino in 1980, but soon moved to different departments at different universities in the state. He eventually went on to become the director of student outreach and recruitment at San Jose State in 1989 and the assistant dean for minority recruitment and student affairs at the University of Utah in 1994. In 1993, he received his doctorate in educational leadership and policy from the same institution. Villa also has a master’s degree from the University of Southern California and a bachelor of arts in social ecology from UC Irvine.
FCC Dean of Students Lee Farley said Villa’s extensive resumé boasts a love for education.
“He brings a lot of information to the table,” Dr. Farley said. “He’s definitely served the colleges well.”
Villa’s community college career began in 2000 when he became the associate dean of student services at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita. Three years later, he briefly left community colleges to become the assistant vice president at Cal State-Northridge for three years.
The East Los Angeles native served as vice president of student support services at Long Beach City College from 2006 to 2009 and moved to his current job at FCC after.
His colleagues believe Villa’s experience and dedication can help any department or college into which he is placed.
“He’s definitely a scholar,” Sanchez said. “He and I are often here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night when not many people are here. He’s always looking at research and data.”
Sanchez said Villa has the strong social skills of a college president.
“He’ll have a lot of dialogue with people,” Sanchez said. “He’ll talk to faculty, staff, administrators and students. That’s one of his strengths.”
Villa said he will use his social skills to work alongside as many people as he can to follow a shared-governance model when making decisions about budget cuts.
“You make those decisions with good input involved in a very concentrated process, should I be president,” he said, “I’d interview a lot of different people and figure out what’s most important at Contra Costa College.”
Villa’s focus is on student success and completion. He wants to make transferring and graduating an easier process for students by sustaining course offerings.
“Students are very sensitive to course section cuts,” he said. “I’m really about getting as many students (as possible) to complete an objective.”
Farley said Villa optimized the process of using Student Learning Outcomes at FCC to see where students were succeeding and failing.
Henderson said Villa would also meet and greet staff members with coffee on Fridays to become familiar with the college’s backbone and see what concerns affected student services.
“He appeals to everyone,” Henderson said. “They respect the fact that he’s open and honest.”
Villa said part of the charm he would bring to CCC is his love for diversity.
“When I walked around the campus (in February), I got a really good feel for the school,” he said. “The fact that there’s so much diversity in the cities served by the college really interests me.”
His colleagues said he deserves to be president at CCC.
“If he was the person selected, he’d do a really good job,” Farley said. “He has the ability to roll up his sleeves and get the job done.”