After nearly three months of searching, Texas Southmost College has determined its four finalists for president.
The four candidates are Hector Aguilar, Kenneth P. Gonzalez, Jesus Roberto Rodriguez, and David E. Pearson.
“ I am extremely pleased with the final four candidates. I believe each of them possesses certain strengths or attributes that will be an asset to TSC,” Vice Chair Trey Mendez of the TSC Board of Trustees said. “I am personally looking for a leader that will be inclusive with faculty and staff, as well as someone who understands the importance of the community college mission and workforce development.”
Aguilar has worked 20 years at Austin Community College, the last seven of which he served as Dean of Continuing Education. His division helps people with programs in computer science, engineering and trades, health care, education, business and teaching, and has a corporate training department that works directly with multiple industries.
“ If given this incredible opportunity … I would ensure that all stakeholders are included in transforming the Rio Grande Valley into a place where people of all economic situations and cultural backgrounds achieve their goals of a better life,” Aguilar wrote in his cover letter. “Students will have access to greater educational opportunities and the college will be known as a major catalyst for regional economic development.”
Aguilar pledges to establish key partnerships with the community, including local and regional businesses, schools, and organizations. He also wants to meet with people and speak to them about what barriers prevent them from obtaining an education.
Gonzalez is the director of a Joint Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership and a data coach for the National Initiative Achieving the Dream, where he has guided more than 40 community colleges in large-scale, collaborative student success initiatives. He has previously served as associate vice president for academic affairs at Our Lady of the Lake University and 16 years as a full-time faculty member at the University of San Diego, San Jose University, and California State University Fullerton.
“ Teaching predominately first-generation college students, I developed my own theory of student learning to inform my teaching strategies … ‘Students learn as they overcome or ‘breakthrough’ common hurdles in acquiring knowledge, skills, and dispositions,’” Gonzalez wrote in his letter. “Our job as educators is to understand and identify the common hurdles and develop breakthrough concepts, stories, or pedagogies to overcome and eliminate such hurdles for students.”
Gonzalez’s job, he says, is to ensure all students can show a high level of learning achievement. He feels that “distinctive colleges with diverse students provide the best learning environment.”
Rodriguez is Dean for the Business Center of Excellence at the Houston Community College District. He oversees the planning, development, and implementation of curriculum, instruction and course scheduling at 23 instructional sites. Prior to HCC, he was dean at Lone Star College System and Butler Community College.
“ The mission of a community college continues to be a comprehensive one; encompassing undergraduate studies, articulated transfers between institutions, developmental education, continuing education, workforce programs, closing the gap, and serving as a key resource to meet a wide variety of needs within the community,” Rodriguez said. “We can achieve this by building on current strengths and embracing emerging technologies, making the college the beacon of hope and resource for the community it serves.”
A critical step in Rodriguez’s plan is to strengthen working relationships with community partners to better understand the community’s needs. He also emphasizes the importance of letting the community know the educational opportunities available to them.
Pearson recently served as the dean of the campus at San Diego State University’s Imperial Valley Campus. In the past, he was vice president for partnership affairs at UTB-TSC. During his academic career, he was a professor of sociology, an academic senate president, a member of the editorial board of The American Sociologist, and as a member of the University of Texas System’s Faculty Advisory Council.
“… For a decade and a half I worked at UTB/TSC as professor, program director, radio talk show host, Academic Senate President, and Vice President for Partnership Affairs,” Pearson wrote in his letter. “Whereas outsiders might require substantial time to understand the Valley, its rhythms and culture and organizations and key players, I can get to work for you immediately, bringing together the people, businesses, and agencies we’ll need to work with in order to move the College forward.”
Pearson wants to focus on identifying new areas of excellence, pursuing more partnerships and funding, and marketing the college’s accomplishments to increase enrollment and student success.
Each candidate will participate in an open forum at the TSC Arts Center on July 12 and July 13. The forum is open to the public. The open forum for Aguilar and Gonzalez will begin at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively on July 12. The open forum for Rodriguez and Pearson will go at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively on July 13.
“ On July 12 and 13 students, staff, and community can hear the individuals’ communication skills as well as their administrative skills,” said TSC Board Chair Adela Garcia. “They need to demonstrate an understanding of our community needs, our culture, the history of our college, our faculty and staff and how much they love our TSC.”