Academic VP’s goal is to be a barrier breaker for students

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Minou Djawdan Spradley

Southwestern College has a new Vice President of Academic Affairs, one who is hoping to break down barriers for underserved students.

Minou Djawdan Spradley took over the role on March 1 after her hiring was approved by the Southwestern Community College Governing Board in late February.

Spradley, 58, replaced Renee Kilmer, who had been serving the role on an interim basis, in the seat left vacant by the retirement of Kathy Tyner in 2017.

Spradley, a local hire, has spent the last ten years working as the dean of multiple schools at San Diego City College, where she started as a professor of biology – a position she held for 13 years – and recently served as the college’s acting vice president of instruction.

Now, she will be taking her talents to the South Bay.

“It’s a community I’m interested in serving,” Spradley said. “The college itself has a number of programs that are geared to certain students that I want to be involved in.”
One of these programs is Jaguar Pathways, which is designed to provide services to students which will allow them to reach their academic goals in a timelier manner.
“Whether it is the cost of textbooks, to the cost of units, to a language difference to not understanding the culture of a campus. All of those things become barriers to even getting into the classroom,” Spradley said.

Southwestern College Superintendent/President Kindred Murillo said what made Spradley stand out during the hiring process was her dedication to serving all students.

“She wants to ensure that each student, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender preference, sexual identity, ability, that they all the right and the ability to achieve their dreams,” Murillo said.

Spradley’s role will include enrollment planning, overseeing the development and implementation of various instructional programs and serving as Southwestern’s accreditation liaison officer, according to a news release put out by the college.

“(Students) should expect from her that she will put them first,” Murillo said. “That she will always have a student-centered approach to how she would solve a problem.”
Helping to educate students is nothing new for Spradley, who said she enjoyed working in a classroom as a teacher’s assistant during her undergraduate years at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland.

It wasn’t until she came to California, however, to get her doctorate in biology at UC Irvine that she realized her calling was to be an educator.

“Halfway through my graduate career I said I loved being in the laboratory, I loved doing what scientists do, but I loved people more,” she said.

In fact, access to higher education is what brought Spradley to the United States as a 15-year-old immigrant from Iran.

Spradley also spent time in Germany during her formative years, and her worldly experience was not lost on Murillo.

“I think (immigrating from Iran) brings such a great diverse way of coming from the world,” Murillo said. “Her experience in Iran and coming to the United States just adds to her wealth of knowledge and her ability to see that differences are important.”

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