Following a national search and selection process, the San Diego Community College District has announced the appointment of Dr. Rita Cepeda President of San Diego Mesa College.
The Chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, Dr. Constance Carroll, said that Rita Cepeda will bring a wealth of experience and talent to this position. She is well known for her commitment to shared governance, for her excellent community relations and for her deep concern for student opportunity and success. I have known and admired Rita Cepeda for many years. Her experience combines both institutional leadership and work with the system office in Sacramento. I think we are fortunate to have her at the helm of the District’s largest college.” Mesa College currently enrolls 25, 000 students and is known for its success in preparing students for university transfer and numerous occupations.
Dr. Cepeda, 53, has had a distinguished career in community college education. Presently, she is on a special State assignment as Associate to the Special Trustee for the Compton Community College District. Dr. Cepeda also has a history of successful leadership as a community college president, having served as President of Santa Ana College in Orange County, California, and Interim President of Mission College in Santa Clara, California. She spent much of her career in the State Chancellor’s Office for the California Community Colleges, including a top leadership assignment as Vice Chancellor for Transfer, Curriculum and Instructional Resources. Dr. Cepeda’s background also includes service as a program director for various agencies, as a counselor and as a speech and hearing clinician.
Rita Cepeda’s educational credentials are also impressive. She earned a B.A. degree in Communication Disorders, with a minor in Psychology, at California State University, Long Beach. She also earned an M.A. degree in Clinical Psychology at CSU Long Beach. Her Ed.D. degree is from the University of Southern California, in Educational Policy and Administration. Dr. Cepeda is the author of numerous articles and published reports. In 2004, she received the Mertes Award for Academic Research Excellence from the Association of California Community College Administrators.
Born in Nicaragua, Rita Cepeda came to the United States with her family and was intensely proud to become a citizen. She is enthusiastic about her new role and about relocating to San Diego, emphasizing her sense that there is an excellent match. “One of the most important elements of a successful community college presidency is the degree to which there is a match with the values and priorities of the institution and those of the individual selected to lead the college; for me Mesa College is all that and more. The college is a place that values and reflects its community, a place steeped in collegiality and service but most of all a place where students and their future are the core of the enterprise. I look forward to serving Mesa College, and to working with Chancellor Carroll, the Board of Trustees and the entire San Diego Community College District. “
Dr. Cepeda also emphasized that community colleges should be locally aware and base their decisions and plans on their mission. “After twenty-five years of service in the California Community Colleges, I have learned that the genius of our institutions lies in one word’community.’ Our colleges are as great as the degree to which they reflect and continually adapt to meeting the needs of the communities we serve. Mesa College, with its extensive programs, courses and services, is a fine example of an institution of higher learning that deeply understands its mission of service to community. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to be part of Mesa’s tradition of service.”
The longest-serving member of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Maria Nieto Senour, commented on other aspects of the new president’s background. “Rita Cepeda is a first for our District. She is our first Latina president. I think it is important for us to have on our leadership team the perspective of someone who has first-hand knowledge of the culture of the largest growing segment of our community. In addition, she has lived the immigrant experience, which is characteristic of many of our students. I am also impressed by her commitment to international education, an important dimension of our District mission.”
Dr. Rita Cepeda plans to begin her work at Mesa College on July 1.