Newsmakers

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New CEOs

Lizette Navarette will serve as the next president of Woodland Community College in California, starting January 1. She is currently executive vice chancellor of institutional supports and success at California Community Colleges.

Prior to joining the state system office in 2020, Navarette was vice president of the Community College League of California, where she oversaw budget and policy advocacy for California’s community college districts. She has also served as associate director of regional relations for the University of California, Riverside, and as the youth and education coordinator for the city of Riverside.

Officials with the Yuba Community College District, where Woodland is located, called Navarette a “passionate student-centered leader” who has nearly two decades of experience in higher education and local government, citing her record for championing student success, affordability and equitable educational opportunities for all students. Among those efforts: helping to launch Completion Counts Riverside, a college access and success initiative between civic, education and business leaders; securing statutory changes to expand dual enrollment in California; partnering to establish the Affordability, Food, and Housing Access Taskforce and drafting legislation to increase basic needs supports, including expanding CalFresh access to community college students; and writing regulatory policies focused on excused withdrawal and distance education flexibility to accommodate students during crises.

Landon Pirius will serve as the tenth president of Colorado’s Red Rocks Community College (RRCC). He is currently vice chancellor for academic and student affairs for the Colorado Community College System (CCCS).

At CCCS, Pirius has overseen several systemwide initiatives to expand access to education and training, according to a release. He led the implementation of Colorado Online, an online learning model that allows students to take asynchronous courses and programs from all 13 CCCS colleges. He also supported work to establish the Rural College Consortium, which streamlines courses and services across several rural institutions to provide joint synchronous programs.

CCCS also cites Pirius’ strategic planning in helping to secure more than $100 million in federal, state and philanthropic funding to build stackable education pathways in high-need sectors, including healthcare, behavioral health and renewable energy.

“Dr. Pirius has been behind some of the most transformative work we have undertaken at CCCS and has a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our colleges,” said CCCS Chancellor Joe Garcia. “This experience, paired with his extensive background in student and academic affairs, will allow Dr. Pirius to make an immediate impact at RRCC and deliver a clear vision for its future.”

Prior to CCCS, Pirius was vice president for academic and student affairs at North Hennepin Community College in Minnesota.

He will begin his presidency on March 18, 2024.

Jenny Varner has been promoted to serve as the fifth president of Davidson-Davie Community College. She has served as acting president of the North Carolina since July, upon the passing of President Darrin Hartness.

Previously, Varner, who joined the college in 2008, was its vice president for external affairs and executive director of its foundation, positions she held for 11 years. Among her accomplishments in those roles: overseeing the renaming of the college from Davidson County Community College to Davidson-Davie in 2021; manging the foundation through its years of greatest growth; and celebrating the college’s history and milestones, including the 50th anniversary year in 2013.

“She has been a steadfast advocate for the school for the past 15 years, and has already been instrumental in helping guide the college through growth and change,” William P. Steed, chair of the college’s board of trustees, said of Varner. “She is deeply rooted in not only the fabric of the school but of our communities, and we look forward to furthering the mission of Davidson-Davie under her leadership.”

Prior to coming to Davidson-Davie, Varner worked for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, serving as director of grants and community outreach, and for NASPA, the student affairs professional organization in Washington, D.C., where she was director of operational services and coordinator of corporate relations.

Appointments

Lauren Fleck is now executive director for human resources at Cecil College in Maryland. She previously was director of human resources for the Red Clay School District in Delaware.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.