Leading with Vision: Dr. Sonya Christian Assumes Her Role as Chancellor of the California Community Colleges

On June 1, 2023, Dr. Sonya Christian assumed her new role as the eleventh permanent chancellor of the California Community College system. Her appointment is historic, becoming the first female chancellor and the first person of South Asian heritage to lead the state’s 116 community colleges – the largest public higher education system in the nation.

Dr. Sonya Christian is the 11th permanent Chancellor of the California Community Colleges system.

With over 30 years of experience in higher education, Christian has excelled in various roles, most recently as chancellor of Kern Community College District. Her career began as a mathematics faculty member at Bakersfield College and advanced to the position of Dean of Science, Engineering, Allied Health, and Math. She also served as Bakersfield College’s tenth President for eight years and during her presidency, the college witnessed an increase in the graduation rate and the percentage of students completing required English and math courses for UC/CSU admissions. Christian has been a strong advocate for student support systems and removing barriers to student success. She played a crucial role in leading a statewide coalition that secured funding for the Guided Pathways project, a model that helps students plan their course sequences to complete their degrees.

Her ability to achieve measurable success is evident during her tenure as District Chancellor, where Kern CCD’s enrollment rates recovered to pre-pandemic levels despite the decline in community college enrollment due to the pandemic. Now, Christian will tackle the same issue at a statewide scale, as the California Community College system begins to rebound from losing nearly 300,000 students since Fall of 2019. Additionally, she will work to address the improvement of degrees and certification rates for the 1.8 million students served by California Community Colleges and help colleges adapt to technological, social, and policy changes that impact student and workforce needs.

Despite the challenges, Christian is optimistic and confident in the system’s ability to support student success initiatives. Alongside the implementation of the Vision for Success initiative, which aims to close equity gaps and improve graduation and transfer rates, Christian plans to further this equity-based mindset by further expanding the breadth of community college attendants with a specific focus on improving educational access to communities facing generational poverty.

“We are called to design the most vibrant, resilient, and effective learning environment ever. We are called to do this work at scale, not eventually, but now. And we will work with a shared vision that keeps students first,” Christian said.

We express our gratitude to Deputy Chancellor Dr. Daisy Gonzales for her work as Interim Chancellor during the California Community Colleges Board of Governor’s nationwide search to fill the position. We are excited to welcome Dr. Sonya Christian into her new role and look forward to witnessing her remarkable accomplishments as Chancellor.

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