Cooke heads AACC board of directors

Sunita “Sunny” Cooke, president/superintendent of California’s MiraCosta College District, is the new chair of the American Association of Community Colleges board of directors. (Photo: MiraCosta College)

Sunita “Sunny” Cooke, president/superintendent of California’s MiraCosta College District, became chair of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) board of directors on July 1, succeeding Ava Parker, president of Palm Beach State College (Florida).

Ava Parker and Leigh Goodson

Leigh Goodson, president of Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma, is chair-elect of the board of directors.

Cooke, who is the first Indian-born person (Desi) to lead the board in its 104-year history, brings an incredible depth and breadth of knowledge and experience about the issues facing community colleges, said AACC President and CEO Walter Bumphus.

“As AACC looks to continuously advance the sector and provide the needed resources for the next generation of community college students, Sunny’s strategic and forward-thinking leadership will serve the AACC board and the nation’s community colleges well,” he said.

Cooke noted that AACC has played an important role throughout her professional career. She regularly attends AACC’s Workforce Development Institute and national AACC conferences, such as its annual convention. She recalled that the organization’s new CEO training program was invaluable to her nearly 18 years ago when she was first selected as a college president in San Diego County. 

“Through my leadership of the AACC board, I want to give back to the organization that has given so much to me,” Cooke said. “I want to ensure that it remains a vibrant and dynamic organization for the next generations of community college leaders and for our member organizations.”

Cooke, an educator for more than 28 years, has served as superintendent/president of MiraCosta College since 2015. She came to MiraCosta from Grossmont College (also in San Diego County), where she was president for nearly eight years.

Cooke earned her Ph.D. in biology from Georgetown University and then became a founding faculty member at Lone Star College‘s (LSC) Montgomery Campus, where she taught biology and biotechnology. She served as director of its Biotechnology Institute and dean of natural sciences, health and wellness. She then became associate vice chancellor for workforce development in the LSC district, leading district-wide credit, non-credit and corporate training efforts.

Cooke has worked at local and state levels in economic and workforce development in Texas and California. In 2015, she chaired the statewide Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy, ensuring that California and the community college system remain vital leaders. The work has resulted in an ongoing annual investment of approximately $260 million to enhance California community college career education and much more invested annually in K-12 career education in California. She continues to chair the San Diego Regional Workforce collaborative efforts across 10 community colleges.

New board members

New college representatives to the AACC board elected in February include:

The board’s new council representatives are Stephanie Fujii, president of Arapahoe Community College (Colorado), representing the National Asian/Pacific Islander Council, and Douglas Jensen, president of Bismarck State College (North Dakota), representing the National Coalition of Advanced Technical Centers. The board of directors appointed Lynda Villanueva, president of Lee College (Texas), as the new institutional at-large representative, and Linda Garcia, executive director of the Center for Community College Engagement (Texas), as the new public at-large representative.

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