BC president speaks on first year

Photo Credit: Bernie Rejon

Sonya Christian intently listens to the questions posed to her about her late start as president

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Myrissa Johns, Reporter
September 25, 2013
Filed under Top Stories

Sonya Christian, president of Bakersfield College, discussed her transition to the presidency, chief goals, and other plans for the future of BC.

Christian, who started as president in the middle of the last school year, described what it was like for her starting such a key administrative role at that time.

“It feels completely natural,” Christian said. “Maybe that’s because I was here as a faculty member.

“I got my first full-time job at BC, so it’s like coming back home,” she said. “I feel I understand our student population very, very well. I feel I know what the issues are. I know our faculty and staff community. I know our external community.

“Because I feel connected, I feel comfortable where we are. There’s a lot to do. Our faculty and staff are very ambitious.”

Christian explained that her only daughter currently lives in Los Angeles where she is working on her residency.

“So in many ways coming back to Bakersfield, from a family perspective, is really great,” she said.

Christian expressed her delight about getting to drive to see her daughter on weekends rather than only communicating through text messaging.

Christian started her presidency this year in January.

“The sanctions and the issues related to football started in January,” she said. “Just two weeks after I arrived on campus.

“It has been really difficult but I do see it as an opportunity because what it showed me was that the community came on to support BC because they knew we were going through difficulty.”

Christian explained that she received many letters, phone calls, and emails from members of the community to express their concerns. She said that she has used that as an opportunity to get them to reconnect.

“I think it’s just going to make us even stronger and more close-knit,” she said. “The whole thing on the sanctions completely sucks, but I think it’s also a way for us to recognize how much our community supports us.”

Christian also came to BC at a time when there were many administrative vacancies. She explained that she felt that the turnover in administration has taken its toll on instructors and staff at BC.

“When I came into the presidency, we had several administrative vacancies and rather than hiring interim people from the outside to come and help out the college, what I did was I opened it up for our own faculty and staff,” she said.

“So now when you look at our list of people that are working on the different issues, we’ve got a team of administrators, but we also have a lot of faculty that are taking on lead roles. I think with that kind of distributed leadership we can build the confidence on our vision together.”

Christian stresses the importance of community for BC. She explained that there were 4,000 people at BC’s first football game at home. She said that her goal is to get 10,000 people in attendance.

“We’re really focusing on building that community back,” she said. “It’s our centennial year so it makes complete sense that during the centennial year we take that time.”

Christian explained that she would also like to get more events back on campus in order to attract the external community back to BC.

Christian explained the reason she feels the community is so important is because the community supports the college. She said that there are many ways that the community supports the college ranging anywhere from student scholarships to internships.

“So it’s really, really important to stay connected,” she said.

Christian explained that one of her goals is to increase the number of students with degree completion. She wants to instill student success habits in all incoming and current BC students.

One example that she explained was that sometimes students don’t study before taking placement exams. Therefore, they get placed in lower level classes.

Christian explained that if each student is informed that they should study and go back and retake the placement exam, then they might get placed in a higher level class which would then decrease the number of courses they need to take and also lessen their financial aid commitment.

“We’re trying to message them through our financial aid office and things like that,” she said, “but why not crowd source it?”

She explained that they want to use student clubs as a tool to try crowd sourcing. She said, “We’re planning on bringing all of our student clubs together so that all of them are messaging the same kind of student success habits.”

Christian urged students to follow her blog, stating: “It is a very intentional way of having people know the events.” Christian’s blog can be found by going to bcpresident.wordpress.com.

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