As she prepares for her inauguration as the president of Santa Barbara City College this Tuesday, Andreea Serban, PhD, is about to cross another personally significant threshold in her life-15 years in the United States. Having arrived from Romania with her husband on August 23, 1993 to work on a PhD in administration at the State University of New York, Albany, Serban already had a great appreciation for the value of education. Despite the challenges of growing up under a communist regime, she noted that the education offered there was excellent, allowing her to pursue her dreams in this country.
Serban is no stranger to SBCC, and served as the Associate Vice President for Information Technology, Research and Planning from 1999 to 2006, leaving to serve a stint as Vice Chancellor of Technology and Learning Services at the South Orange County Community College District in Mission Viejo. “I worked with everyone [at SBCC] before, so it has made the transition easy,” she said. “I already know everyone and know how the college works. It feels like coming home.”
Serban’s arrival in the United States isn’t the only anniversary she will be celebrating as she assumes her role as president. Next year marks SBCC’s 100th Anniversary, and preparations are already underway for the centennial events, which will feature the campus’s dedication to innovation in education. “We will be showcasing the campus in a different way,” she said. “It’s very exciting that we’re having our centennial celebration and I’m the president that’s here for that.”
Aside from celebrations, Serban said that she will be facing many challenges and opportunities for SBCC as she leads it into the next decade. Not least among the tasks at hand is getting Measure V funding from ballot to bank book. Since the bond measure passed by nearly 70 percent in June’s countywide ballot, SBCC still needs a bond underwriter to actually sell the bonds. Serban also said that she plans to send out an announcement soon to solicit for a citizen oversight committee to ensure proper use of the funds. “I’m happy to start my job knowing we have this great endorsement from the community, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Fundraising is another objective that Serban said she will spend a lot of time on, and she is already working with Barbara ben-Horin, of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, to create new opportunities for funding. “For me, a major part of the job is community relations and fundraising,” she said. “It’s literally a 24/7 job. When you’re not here, you’re thinking about the college and getting out and about in the community. We’re facing a difficult budget year because of the problems with the state budget. There’s a great deal of uncertainty.”
SBCC is also preparing to renew its accreditation with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (WASCJC)-an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education-by initiating a self study to show that the college is achieving certain standards. Being accredited not only helps educational institutions maintain expected standards, but it allows students to secure federal funding and student loans. “I think that it’s very important that I lead this effort,” said Serban.
Serban has also stated that SBCC is dedicated to the success of its students, saying that the job market is much more competitive than it was a decade ago. “That’s why it’s important to be innovative,” she said. “We have to prove to our students that SBCC is a good choice. This is a concerted effort by faculty, administration, and classified staff to make sure that students get the services they need.” Because of rapid changes in technology and the economy, Serban said that it is necessary to train students for jobs that don’t yet exist. “Knowledge is easily accessed on the Internet and by other means. Our value added is how we focus that information, how we engage the students, and how the information is applied to students so they can have good jobs and good lives.”
Serban’s inauguration will be held on Tuesday, July 29, from 4 to 5 p.m. at SBCC’s student services plaza (behind the admissions building on East Campus). A reception will follow from 5 to 6 p.m. Members of the community are invited to attend both the inauguration and reception. “I’m excited about the inauguration,” she said. “The fact that [my husband and I] are here is just amazing. I wake up every morning and say, ‘Is this real?'”