Leading into an uncertain future

District chancellor appoints temporary president

By Roxana Amparo and Rodney Woodson

District Vice Chancellor of Education and Technology Mojdeh Mehdizadeh was selected to be the interim president of Contra Costa College through July 31, or until the college can find a permanent president.

Former college president Denise Noldon was serving in her third year as president when it was announced on Jan. 7 that she was selected to take the vacant position of vice chancellor for student services and special programs at the state Chancellor’s Office.

District Chancellor Helen Benjamin, who briefly served as interim president before making her selection, picked Mehdizadeh to fill the position based on her many years of experience working as a vice chancellor at the district.

“I knew I had to find someone immediately who could do the job,” Dr. Benjamin said. “She knows a lot about the college, and she met the requirements and has the experience.”

Mehdizadeh began her term as CCC’s interim president on Jan. 16.

“An acting president is here for a really short time while maintaining their prior duties,” Mehdizadeh said. “The chancellor intends to go out immediately and search for candidates for a permanent president. She hopes to have one selected before my contract ends.”

Although the interim president retains her prior title and position, her only job until a president is found is to maintain the daily duties of CCC’s college president.

“I’m fully focused at CCC,” Mehdizadeh said. “My first day — I loved it. I walked through the campus meeting new people. My favorite part was meeting with students.”

She said she was excited to see students’ desire for increasing their knowledge and choosing to be present at the college.

Having worked in various educational positions at Diablo Valley College, including speech professor, working in the Career/Development Center, working in the Assessment Center and her experience in researching and planning, Mehdizadeh has had the chance to gain a different outlook for students and fellow staff and faculty.

“It is an amazing institution,” she said referring to CCC. “I am very happy to be here.”

Mehdizadeh said she has never served as a president in any capacity, acting or otherwise, though she has served as acting district chancellor in Benjamin’s absence.

While at CCC, Mehdizadeh said her focus has shifted toward ensuring that the college has a strategic plan to increase enrollment.

Apart from her full schedule at the college, she is engaged in statewide initiatives that allow her little opportunity for free time.

With the little free time she does have, she likes to go on long walks with her Italian Greyhound and enjoys traveling when she can. She has travelled to New York City, Washington, Florida, Spain and England.

Familiar move forward

California Community College Chancellor Brice Harris decided in December that Dr. Noldon was his selection for the once vacant position of vice chancellor for student services and special programs on an interim basis.

The official announcement was made on Jan. 7 and was approved by the Contra Costa Community College District Board of Governors on Jan. 20.

Harris said, “Dr. Noldon is a highly talented professional who will bring a wealth of experience to the job.”

The two have worked closely with one another in recent years during their time in the Los Rios Community College District, when Harris served as the chancellor and Noldon as the vice president of student enrollment and development at Folsom Lake College.

Harris began his tenure as the California community college state chancellor in 2012, the same year Noldon took office as CCC’s 10th president.

“I think this is a great opportunity to do the same work I’ve been doing my entire career,” Noldon said.

Noldon also served as dean of counseling and matriculation at Chabot College and EOPS/CARE coordinator at Las Positas College, rounding out her career experience in student services and programs.

Serving students statewide

Since the announcement was made, the former president said she has been settling in to her new position and meeting new administrators and colleagues at the state Chancellor’s Office.

Noldon said although she is thankful and excited to take on a new position, she is a bit conflicted because of her attachment to CCC. Her focus, she said, has been on continuing to implement needed policies, programs and projects that have been on the college’s to-do list since before she took office, in addition to new legislation handed down to colleges by the state over recent years.

She has always been heavily involved in student services and programs in her work at the community college level. For the first time in her career in education, Noldon said, she will not be around students on a day-to-day basis.

There will be an adjustment process, she said, but it is her success in working in the arena of student services and programs, as well as the way she connects with students.

“I’ll provide a perspective of what it’s like to work on a college campus,” she said, referring to one of the reasons she was selected for the job.

Holding multiple positions at the community college level, Noldon is familiar with all types of student services and support programs — Admissions and Records, EOPS/CARE, CalWORKS and Financial Aid, for example.

Noldon’s new position puts her at the helm of the state’s development and implementation of these programs.

She also meets with the Statewide Student Senate.

“(My) job is to provide technical assistance and guidance regarding student services and programs — making sure funds are allocated properly and providing technical assistance,” she said.

Benjamin served as CCC’s interim president for a week until Mehdizadeh took office as the acting president.

Benjamin said that when she heard of Harris’ selection of Noldon in December it was the decision of the Governing Board not to renew her expired presidential contract so she could serve as a vice chancellor of the state.