Indian-American named Chancellor of California Community Colleges

New York: Indian-American Sonya Christian has been named the 11th permanent Chancellor of the California Community College system, the largest and most diverse system of public higher education in the US.

With her appointment, Christian, a Kerala University graduate, becomes the first woman and the first person of South Asian origin to lead the college system that serves 1.8 million students every year.

“Dr. Christian is one of our nation’s most dynamic college leaders, with a demonstrated record of collaboration and results in the Central Valley,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

“She understands what is needed to deliver on record levels of higher education investment to make real improvements to the lived reality of our students. I look forward to continuing to partner with Dr. Christian to ensure our community colleges are engines of equity and opportunity.”

Christian, who is Kern Community College District Chancellor, will step into her new role on June 1, 2023. She replaces Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who stepped down in August after leading the community college system for nearly six years.

For more than 30 years, Christian has actively engaged in policies and practices related to state and national completion, quality and equity agendas.

“I am honoured to be selected to lead the most important system of higher education in the country and grateful to the Board of Governors for their confidence,” Christian said.

“We continue to face many challenges, but I truly believe our greatest challenges enable us to do our greatest work. We are called to design the most vibrant, resilient, and effective learning environment ever. We are called to do this work at scale, not eventually, but now. And we will work with a shared vision that keeps students first.”

In July 2021, Christian was named the sixth chancellor of the Kern Community College District, where she implemented a call to action with a focus on advancing student success and closing achievement and equity gaps.

She also spearheaded a statewide coalition in 2015 that led to securing philanthropic funding for the 20-college Guided Pathways demonstration project in California, leading to a $150 million state investment in Guided Pathways and broad adoption of the framework throughout the college system, according to a press statement.

The distinguished educationist started her career in higher education as a mathematics faculty and later as division chair, then Dean of science, engineering, allied health and mathematics at Bakersfield College.

She served as an administrator at Lane Community College in Oregon for several years before returning home to Kern Community College District in 2013 after being selected as the 10th president of Bakersfield College.

Christian earned her Bachelor of Science degree from University of Kerala; her Master of Science in Applied Mathematics from University of Southern California; and her doctorate from University of California, Los Angeles.

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