Andreea Serban, PhD, recently selected to replace retiring Santa Barbara City College President John Romo, officially accepted her new role on Tuesday afternoon. Inaugurated as SBCC’s 15th president, and its first female one, she pledged a commitment to the success of each student. Having arrived from Romania with her husband in 1993, to obtain 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.
No stranger to SBCC, Serban 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’m happy to be back home,” she said with a smile. Liz Auchincloss, president of the Classified School Employees Association and a member of the search committee, said that all of Serban’s Mission Viejo colleagues interviewed by the committee knew her as a leader and consensus builder, and were reluctant to let her go. “I think it’s a tremendous advantage to have someone return to the college who knows the college,” she said.
After introductions by SBCC District Board of Trustees President Desmond O’Neill, Academic Senate President Ignacio Alarcon, California Community College System Chancellor Diane Woodruff, and others, Serban said that she will be facing many challenges and opportunities for SBCC in the coming years, including the maintenance and expansion of college programs and infrastructure. Getting Measure V funding from ballot to bankbook will be a big priority. 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 said she plans to send out an announcement soon to solicit 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 due to the current problems with the state budget, noted that there is some uncertainty about how state funding issues will play out.
Emphasizing repeatedly that SBCC is dedicated to the success of its students, Serban maintained that the job market is much more competitive than it was a decade ago, and that educational institutions themselves face more competition. “In the past, higher education was defined by scarcity of knowledge. Today : knowledge is plentiful, easily accessible. Applying it to real-world problems is the challenge,” she said, adding that the value offered by SBCC lies in how its faculty and staff engage students and focus information into useful applications that will make their students more competitive in the workforce.
Serban revisited SBCC’s plans to build a new 60,000-square-foot school of media arts. The plan calls for a sustainably built facility, which she said will meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standard and will be the largest facility of its type between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The new president took a few moments to acknowledge the dedication of the college’s faculty, staff, and administration. “Our employees determine the quality of our programs and services,” she said, noting that SBCC’s current full-time faculty has served an average of 11 years, with staff not far behind at nine. “Longevity at the college is a testament to the quality of the work environment.”
Serban offered a quote by George Boggs to characterize SBCC’s importance: “Community colleges are the miracle workers of higher education, opening doors for those who might not otherwise have a chance.”