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Sierra College chooses leader

The Sierra College board of trustees announced the hiring of Dr. Leo Chavez as its new superintendent/president at the Rocklin campus Tuesday afternoon.

“Dr. Chavez brings with him an unparalleled depth of experience in education, business, and nonprofit fundraising,” said Jerry Simmons, the president of the board of trustees, in a written statement released Tuesday morning. “He is ideally suited to marshal the talent and resources of the entire college to maximize Sierra’s position as a national leader in community college education.”

Although he finds his new position appealing, Chavez, who had been serving as the interim president of San Jose/Evergreen Community College, said the position didn’t interest him upon first learning of it.



“I was reluctant initially,” Chavez said. “In fact when I was first contacted, I said I was not interested. But it’s a matter of small connections.

“My in-laws lived in Rocklin 20 years ago, and they were very enthusiastic. The board chair (here) was a student of West Valley College when I was president there. He was in student government and I knew him. He called me and asked me to apply. I said, ‘no, I was not interested;’ I was very happy where I was. He kept nagging me and I finally agreed to come up and visit just basically to get him off my back.




“And when I was up here, I was struck by the growth, the potential, the beauty of the area. It reminds me of the way Silicon Valley was 20 years ago, before it really took off. And I think this place is really ready to just about take off. And it’s going to be professionally rewarding to be a part of that, to make sure that the college becomes an integral part of that growth, helps to fuel it and participates in it.”

Among several positions Chavez held in the past, he was the executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Community Foundation of Silicon Valley in San Jose, the Chancellor of Foothill-De Anza community college district in Los Altos Hills, and the president of the West Valley College in Saratoga.

“I don’t want to come in with any preconceived notions of, ‘Oh! We need to do this different or that different,'” Chavez said Tuesday. “I want to just talk to as many people as I can and hear what’s important to them. I certainly need to get out to the other centers and out to the western campus, and become more familiar with the community that we exactly serve.”

Some of Chavez’s longterm plans include “taking a look at how well we work with our students, how successful they are, what we can do to make them more successful, what programs we can put in to increase their success, improve their experience here and making sure they leave here with the tools to become productive members of our economy.”

Chavez was chosen after a 17-member presidential search committee conducted a nationwide search for seven months. There were 53 total applicants nationwide, including eight who were called for interviews. Seven responded. Out of the seven, the board interviewed four finalists once again, before making the final decision, according to Diane Wright of the Sierra College Marketing and Public Relations.

Chavez said he intends to visit the different Sierra College campuses after July 15, when he begins as the president.

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To contact staff writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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