Southwestern College’s governing board on Monday appointed Nora Vargas, 41, to fill the vacancy left by William Stewart, who suddenly resigned in March.
Vargas was one of 12 candidates who applied for the vacancy.
Board President Humberto Peraza said Vargas’s extensive work in the community separated her from the pack.
“Her investment in the neighborhood and community were really prevalent,” Peraza said. “I think she’s going to be a great leader for years to come.”
Vargas, a Southwestern College alumna and University of San Francisco graduate, has experience in education reform and community work.
The newest governing board member currently serves as vice president of community engagement for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, the second largest Planned Parenthood in the U.S.
In the past, she has worked with then congressman and now San Diego Mayor Bob Filner as his community representative and deputy campaign manager.
She said she helped Filner fight against cuts in financial aid at San Diego State University.
Vargas also founded and managed the first Office of Legislative Relations for SDSU.
Vargas said she understands the importance of quality education.
“In the end, education is the great equalizer,” she said. “When a person gets educated, a whole family gets educated in turn, a whole community gets educated.”
Most recently she served as executive director of the Latino Issues Forum, a statewide non-profit organization that focuses on consumer advocacy.
Vargas said she wants to gain the trust of the Southwestern College community.
“I hope I’ll be able to prove that there are good representatives out there to serve the community,” she said.
Vargas is finishing the term left vacated by Stewart. She will have to run for the same seat in November 2014.
Vargas was born in Tijuana and is a bi-national. She graduated from Montgomery High School in 1988. She did her graduate work at SDSU and Claremont Graduate University.