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Presidential field narrowed to three Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Sep 24 2011 12:00 PM

The Southwestern College screening committee has chosen three finalists for the superintendent/president position.

Denise Whittaker, current interim superintendent/president of Southwestern College; Dr. Melinda Nish, vice president of instruction at Orange Coast College; and Dr. Betty Inclan, president of Berkeley City College will have to wait until at least Oct. 10 to hear who is chosen.

In the meantime, five members of the screening committee, including Vice President of the SWC Governing Board and chair of the screening committee Norma Hernandez, board member Jean Roesch, a representative student, classified staff member and faculty member will visit the job sites of finalists to speak with colleagues and the people they report to.

Hernandez said that choosing the right person to represent Southwestern College as its new superintendent/president is extremely important.

"We are looking for someone who will continue the positive path, be very collegial, have experience that is strong in running a college and who is willing to stay with the college for a number of years," Hernandez said.

"In the last few months we've been able to bring about a change in the environment that's much more positive," she said. "The college is moving forward. There's a lot of support on campus and in the community to continue to forge ahead in a positive way and make Southwestern College a premier institution of higher learning."

The college will have a special board meeting open to the public to decide who will be the new superintendent/president, prior to the Oct. 12 board meeting.

The screening committee, which is comprised of 18 people, was formed a few months ago and had the task of initially narrowing down 34 applicants to nine after interviews were conducted.

Based on criteria and how the interviews went, the committee recommended five applicants to the board, who were interviewed and went through a question and answer forum last week.

Last week, the community was invited to meet the five finalists for Southwestern College's presidency during two public forums and they answered questions from employees, students and the community during five one-hour sessions Sept. 12 and 13.

Whittaker earned a master's degree in counseling from CSU Los Angeles and completed coursework for the educational doctorate program at UCLA. She has more than 35 years of higher education experience in West Virginia and California. She has worked at Citrus College, Oxnard College, El Camino College, San Bernardino Valley College and Orange Coast College in California as well as Fairmont State University in West Virginia. She was president of San Bernardino Valley College from 2003 to 2007 and interim president of Orange Coast for six months in 2009. Whittaker, who has extensive experience with accreditation, budget and planning, has served as interim superintendent/president of Southwestern since January.

Nish earned an Ed.D. at the Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara after studying at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. She lived in Europe for nearly a decade and is fluent in French. After seven years at Salt Lake Community College in Utah, she joined the administration of Orange Coast College in 2002 as dean of business and computing. She became vice president in 2005. She is the college's accreditation liaison officer and in 2009 was named Orange Coast College Manager of the Year.

Inclan was born in Cuba and raised in Florida. She earned a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with distinction from the UT Community College Leadership Program. She speaks English, Spanish and French. Her 36-year career includes positions as director of educational reform at Miami Dade College, dean of language arts at Modesto Junior College and associate superintendent/president at Allan Hancock College. Since January 2008 she has served as president of Berkeley City College.

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