West Hills Community College District Chancellor Dr. Stuart Van Horn welcomed the new Spring 2019 semester—which began Jan. 11—with his annual State of the District address.
The address marked the beginning of the 86th spring semester at West Hills and featured a discussion of district goals moving forward and the celebration of the past year’s accomplishments.
“Our students dream of a better future and we are privileged to do our part in providing educational access that results in social and upward mobility for so many of them,” said Van Horn. “We ended the fall semester well positioned to meet or exceed our goals. We plan to continue our relentless efforts this semester.”
This past semester, a dozen new programs were added throughout the West Hills Community College District, two new sports teams entered competitive play at West Hills College Lemoore, and West Hills recorded the highest primary term headcount in its history, with 8,455 students districtwide.
West Hills also saw transitions, growing to over 800 employees and bidding farewell to some long-time employees while also welcoming new ones.
Van Horn acknowledged the retirement of long-time Deputy Chancellor Ken Stoppenbrink, who has served the district for 23 years, and welcomed new Deputy Chancellor Dr. Richard Storti.
“Ken has shown grit and toughness,” Van Horn said. “He’s shown patience. He leaves his division in good hands.”
Van Horn also highlighted the recent creation of registrar positions on each campus and the dramatic growth in online enrollment across the district. Now, 4,966 students take at least one online course, a growth of 1,300 students from the previous fall.
He also highlighted new tools implemented in the Fall 2018 semester, including better usage of data tools and a full time equivalent faculty dashboard and classroom space utilization tool.
Open Educational Resources—essentially free digital textbooks and resources WHCCD is offering to students— and credit for prior learning initiatives—a WHCCD initiative aimed at giving academic credit for learning on the job and life experience— were also discussed. In the past year, WHCCD has greatly expanded programs targeting “non-traditional”, diverse populations of learners.
“Educating students from a wider array of backgrounds, many of us have realized, requires being attentive to life experiences students have had before they enrolled,” Van Horn said.
Van Horn also addressed recent state funding changes, including a new focus on educational attainment and rural communities. Part of the new state focus and WHCCD’s continued focus is on addressing challenges students face outside the classroom, including lack of internet access, equity issues and hunger. Van Horn addressed the many programs at WHCCD that address these issues and more.
“It would be fair to think, at least initially like a lot of people, that what happens outside the classroom isn’t our mission,” Van Horn said. “The community is supposed to solve those problems. But, we’re the community’s college. We have to see our mission in addressing these issues, even if it means gluing the resources in the community together in a coherent program.”
Van Horn gave a glimpse of the future, including the completion of a new District Office building in Coalinga in 2019 and a new North District Center building in Firebaugh in 2020.