With the conclusion of the fall semester at Pasadena City College (PCC), and with the selection of Dr. Erika Endrijonas as the college’s 16th superintendent/president announced earlier this month, outgoing chief executive Rajen Vurdien, Ph.D., is sharing his reflections on his tenure at PCC. Dr. Vurdien will retire from California’s community college system in mid-January.
“In this time of transition – from semester to semester, from year to year, and from one phase of life to another,” Dr. Vurdien wrote in a “Dear Colleagues” letter recently, “I would like to take some time to express my sincere gratitude for all that we have been able to accomplish together.”
The remainder of his letter reads as follows:
Looking back, it is hard to believe that I came to Pasadena only three and a half years ago. Some memories are so rich and detailed that they suggest an engagement with this college that transcends time. The achievements we have witnessed together during my time spent at PCC include some of the most rewarding highlights of my career, and when I consider them as a whole the scope of our impact becomes clear. In our time together:
- We returned the college to full accreditation status in a process that engaged faculty, staff, administration, and students across all areas of operation at the college.
- We were recognized by the Aspen Institute as one of the nation’s top ten community colleges – not once, but twice! – for our tremendous dedication to our students’ success.
- We reorganized the college structure into academic divisions headed by Deans of Instruction.
- We demonstrated fiscal prudence and stability with balanced budgets and three consecutive perfect audit reports with no findings.
- We represent the pinnacle of educational attainment in the state of California, emerging as the top institution in granting associate degrees, associate degrees to minorities, and Associate Degrees for Transfer in the 2017-18 academic year.
- We achieved consistent, steady enrollment growth over the past three years, even in an environment where most of our peer institutions were struggling to maintain the size of their student bodies.
- Earlier this year, we opened our fourth site in our district at PCC Northwest, on the property of John Muir High School.
- We brought on new members of our faculty and staff that more accurately reflect our student population, through a process that was recognized by the state and national observers for its commitment to equity and diversity.
- We negotiated and successfully signed three-year contracts with each of our collective bargaining units, giving us stable ground for future growth.
- We were among the first colleges in the state to offer a “Promise” program guaranteeing free tuition to eligible students, and among the first again to expand that program to cover two years of enrollment at our college.
- Next summer, we will begin construction on a complete replacement of the U Building, finally returning much-needed facility resources to our campus.
- We have invested in renovated facilities for students that are veterans, former foster youth, and undocumented and LGBTQ+; those that have enrolled in our Pathways program or are seeking career advice; and any that will come for services in our L Building.
- We are working collaboratively and collegially towards incorporating changes in law and policy that govern placement and assessment, course sequencing, and state funding.
- We have nurtured a practice of shared governance that respects each individual’s right and responsibility to contribute to the future of our college while remaining true to our shared values.
- And lastly, we have created an environment where we are all able to realize a meaningful engagement with our students’ success.
These achievements belong to all of us, and I am sure you will be able to see your role in making them possible. I am deeply grateful for your support of, and engagement with our college during my tenure here. I will remember our time fondly, and the professional relationships I have had the pleasure of building will nurture me throughout my retirement.
I wish you and your families the happiest of holiday seasons, and I look forward to celebrating with you further during my final weeks in the New Year.