CEO on the move
Sonya Christian will serve as the next permanent chancellor of California Community Colleges, the largest system of public higher education in the country, effective June 1. She is currently chancellor of California’s Kern Community College (KCC), a post she has held since 2021. Christian is the first woman and the first person of South Asian heritage to be named permanent chancellor of the California system.
“Dr. Christian is one of our nation’s most dynamic college leaders, with a demonstrated record of collaboration and results in the Central Valley,” Gov. 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.”
Over her 30-plus year career, Christian has engaged in the policies and practices related to state and national completion, quality and equity agendas. At KCC, she implemented a call to action with a focus on advancing student success and closing achievement and equity gaps. She also led a statewide coalition in 2015 that helped to secure philanthropic funding for the 20-college Guided Pathways demonstration project in California, according to a release.
Prior to KCC, Christain was president of Bakersfield College (BC), which is part of the KCC district. Under her leadership, BC improved student preparation and achievement through innovative partnerships and programs involving community and local school leaders. Some of those efforts included the Making It Happen mentoring program and guided pathways. Christian also helped lead a $500-million Measure J bond campaign, grew BC’s annual budget from $80 million to more than $180 million, increased enrollment by almost 60% and improved degree completion by more than 330%.
Previously, Christian served in a variety of senior administrative roles at Lane Community College (Oregon), including executive vice president, chief academic officer and vice president for academic and student affairs. During her first tenure at Bakersfield College, she was a member of the mathematics faculty, served as division chair of mathematics and computer studies and was appointed dean of science, engineering, allied health and mathematics.
Christian is a past chair of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and has also served on the boards for the Campaign for College Opportunity, the Public Policy Institute of California Higher Education Advisory Council, the California Community Colleges Women’s Caucus, and the Asian American Pacific Islander Trustees and Administrators Caucus, among other organizations.
Carli Schiffner will be the next president of Grays Harbor College (GHC). She is currently deputy executive director of education at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC).
“We sought a dynamic, innovative leader with a sharp financial acumen, excellent communication skills, and a bold vision for our future. I am proud that we found all of those qualities and more in Dr. Schiffner,” said Harry Carthum, chair of the Washington college’s board of trustees.
Schiffner will be the first woman to lead GHC in its 93-year history. She will succeed Ed Brewster, who will retire after working for GHC from 2004 to 2016 and coming out of retirement to serve as interim president in 2020.
Prior to her work at SBCTC, Schiffner served in various leadership positions in the state, including vice president of instruction at Wenatchee Valley College and dean of arts and sciences at Yakima Valley College. She has also served at the State University of New York, Canton as chief of staff, provost and interim president.
Schiffner is active in her community, serving as a trustee for 10 years for Humanities Washington and in leadership roles in the American Association for University Women, according to a release from the college.
Joey Battles has been promoted to dean of health sciences at Alabama’s Gadsden State Community College, his alma mater. He previously served as interim dean at the college and also was director of the radiography program.
Buddy Combs has been named interim vice president and chief financial officer for the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). He previously was assistant vice president of financial support services and has 27 years of service and experience with KCTCS.
Isaac Newsome is now director of community standards at North Shore Community College in Massachusetts. He previously was assistant director of residential education at Emerson College.
At Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York, Terry Kidd has been named acting assistant vice president of workforce development and continuing education, and Gail H. Fernandez is now acting associate dean of faculty. Previously, Kidd was vice president for strategic planning, research, technology and innovation at St. Augustine’s University in North Carolina. Fernandez comes from New Jersey City University where she was associate provost.
At Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) in North Carolina, Murtis Worth is now senior vice president for academic and student services, and Tiffany Watts is chief of staff/vice president for strategic initiatives. Worth was previously the college’s dean of nursing. Watts joined FTCC in 2020 as its associate vice president for curriculum programs.
At San Antonio College (SAC) in Texas, two longtime employees have been promoted to deans for student success. Christina Horton and Chaye Peña, who both served as interim deans, have now taken the roles on a permanent basis. Horton began her SAC career in 2005 and has served in various roles, including director of strategic initiatives and director of advising. Peña’s started at SAC in 2012 and has served as director of outreach and recruitment/enrollment services.