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Monday, Oct 15 2012 06:22 PM

Bakersfield College hires former faculty member to be 10th president

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    By Courtesy Bakersfield College

    Sonya Christian speaks at a news conference Monday about her selection as Bakersfield College's new president.

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BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

Bakersfield College will welcome a former faculty member back as its new president.

The Kern Community College District announced it has hired Sonya Christian, a past math instructor and dean of science, engineering, allied health and mathematics, as BC's 10th president at a news conference Monday morning.

"I'm incredibly, incredibly excited to be coming back to Bakersfield College," Christian said. "To be coming back as the 10th president is an honor."

Christian worked at BC from 1991 to 2003 before leaving for a job at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore., according to a BC news release. She worked her way up the administrative ranks at the Oregon community college to the role of vice president and chief academic officer, a post she's held for two years.

Christian will start working part-time at BC on Nov. 29 and take on the role of president full-time in January. Her salary at Bakersfield College will be $180,000, according to Michele Bresso, associate vice chancellor of governmental and external relations for the Kern Community College District. She will also "have use of a dedicated district car" and a gas card, Bresso said.

With 16,767 students for the fall semester, Bakersfield College is the biggest of the three colleges in the district, according to the news release.

In February, the college's immediate past president, Greg Chamberlain, announced he would resign at the end of his contract and the search for a new president began in the spring. Nearly 50 people applied for the job and 14 were interviewed by a screening committee, BC spokeswoman Amber Chiang said. Christian was chosen out of the final three, according to Chiang.

Kern Community College District Chancellor Sandra Serrano praised Christian's "depth and breadth" of experience at the news conference, saying her experience makes her "the right person to promote education and to develop strong relationships with educational partners and the community at large," according to the news release.

"(Christian) is a successful grant writer, and she holds herself and others to high standards while achieving positive relationships among college and community groups," the news release quoted Serrano as saying.

Christian knows she's coming in at a time when funding for community colleges has be hammered, but she said she hopes to start conversations with faculty and staff and reach out to community organizations and business partners to make the hard decisions.

"During challenging times our creativity gets triggered," she said.

Christian wants to see the college continue to train students for careers and prepare students to go on to four-year universities, she said.

"We will meet every student wherever they are in their educational pathway and provide opportunities for them to realize their goals and their dreams," she said.

The new president said she believes in upholding the traditions of the past while also looking toward the future. She stressed that she's no stanger to this town and knows "the pulse of the community."

The job will bring Christian closer to her daughter, who is in her fourth year of residency at the University of Southern California.

Christian has a bachelor's degree from the University of Kerala in Kerala, India, a master's in applied mathematics from the University of Southern California and a doctorate in educational leadership from UCLA, according to BC's news release. Outside of academics, Christian enjoys hiking, travelling and cooking, especially for friends and colleagues.

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