Michael Gutierrez, Sac City College’s new president
Michael Gutierrez, Sacramento City College’s new president, wasn’t quite settled into his office in Rodda Hall North on the west side of campus. Papers were stacked high on his desk and the walls were without the typical family photos and inspirational posters. Understandable, considering the Texas-native had relocated more than 1,500 miles for his new gig a week ago.
You’ve been in Sacramento for how long now?
I got here July 17, so I’m really brand new to the area.
You came from San Antonio, right?
Well, actually, I was born in San Antonio and [lived there] all the way through high school. The past—over the past 21 years, I’ve been in the Dallas Area.
What are the differences so far?
There’s some noticeable differences. For one, the weather is very different. It’s a little drier here, but hot is hot. (Laughs.) It doesn’t matter where—Dallas or Sacramento—it’s hot. But the biggest difference is really in the evenings and the early mornings. It’s quite remarkable here.
That Delta Breeze at night. Best part of the summer, in my opinion.
Right. But—100 is 100.
So why Sacramento?
Professionally, I felt like I was ready. It was a great time for me and my family to begin— if we were going to make a move together, to go on a new adventure together—it was good timing. I did a little bit of research and [there were] a couple of things that I learned that really were very intriguing to me. One is, Sac City is celebrating its 100th year. That’s very unusual for a community college. The other thing is, it’s a very diverse college. Diversity is tied into the strategic plan, and it’s something that the college is very proud of.
Where did the interest in community college originate?
You know it’s funny, because when you’re a kid, nobody says, “I want to be a community college president when I grow up.” Nobody does that. (Laughs.) Where I grew up, in south San Antonio, there wasn’t a lot of business and industry. So I took a career assessment test when I was in high school, and the results that I got said that I should be a social worker. Then I looked at what social workers made and I thought, Ehh, that can’t be right. (Laughs). My first [community college] job was actually at the district office. And the district office is very, you know—it’s an organization and it’s very bureaucratic. So there’s not a lot of connections with students, but I was in, and I knew that I wanted to be at one of the colleges. When I finally got the job at a community college, and I walked on the campus, I knew I was home.
What are some of the things here you’re hoping to change?
I think the first few months is doing a couple of things. One is getting to know people and getting a feel for the culture of the college. Until I have a firm understanding, making changes might be a little premature. Because then, any initiatives or opportunities that we take advantage of, it has to be built on the successes that we are already having.
Let’s talk transferring. State data shows 43 percent of students here are unprepared when they transfer. How do you change those numbers?
It’s a very good question. The students who are looking to transfer, their goal is, at the very least, a bachelor’s degree. It’s not the associate’s degree. So we are a goal, but it’s not the end goal. There’s two parts to it. One is, you mentioned the success once they transfer, right? The other is when our students graduate from here, we need to make sure that they actually transfer. These are things that colleges don’t often look at. We look at, “Did they graduate? Yay, we did our job.” But our job really goes back to, when a person is looking to transfer, it’s not the associate’s degree, it’s actually the bachelor’s or more. I think it’s investigating what’s the percent of students that are transferring once they graduate, and then once they transfer, how are they doing?
You’ve talked about campus diversity. Is equity in your staff and faculty something you’ve looked into?
That was one of the interview questions, actually. (Laughs.) I had to do a presentation on that. That’s one of the parts of the strategic plan for Sac City, is to continue to diversify in both the faculty and staff. Because the turnover is much quicker in the classified staff, it allows you to diversify a little bit quicker. Faculty tend to stay for a longer period of time, so the turnover isn’t quite there. With the administration and the faculty senate working together, if we can ensure that, or we can commit to try and diversify the adjunct faculty pool, you will probably have a diversified pool for the full-time positions. So that’s a way to ensure that we continue to diversify the institution to help mirror the community.