Harmon fills interim leadership role


Christian Urrutia / The Advocate

Interim Vice President Jane Harmon is passionate about supporting students at Contra Costa College. Prior to being hired at CCC Dr. Harmon was president at Yuba College.

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

Intent on providing support for Contra Costa College students, a new interim vice president joined its community in early Aug., after Tammeil Gilkerson, former vice president, took on a role at the District Office.

Jane Harmon has already begun her one-year interim position with CCC and has been working closely with fellow administrators, and faculty to strengthen a series of statewide education initiatives.

“My agenda is their agenda,” Dr. Harmon said referring to her colleagues.

Harmon said she plans on working to bolster CCC’s academic and economic resources for its students to take advantage of.

She said she hopes that working closely with counselors will increase student success.

Prior to being hired at CCC, Harmon was president at Yuba College this past Feb. and has held various high-ranking administrative positions that have allowed her to gain the experience necessary to be fit for the job.

After only working with Harmon for only a short amount of time, Dean of Student Services Vicki Ferguson said Harmon is the “perfect” candidate for the interim vice president position.

“Her experience — her expertise — and her organization skills.” Ferguson said. “It takes a unique individual (to be vice president of a community college).”

Harmon said she and Ferguson will be working together to promote the Student Equity Plan, a new initiative for California Community Colleges that will shift focus toward creating a more inclusive academic environment.

The student equity plan focuses on equal education opportunities for student and promoting student success regardless of race, gender, economic class or any physical disabilities. 

Contra Costa Community College District Chancellor Helen Benjamin said, “(Harmon) has a tremendous amount of experience, is committed to diversity and understands the (two-year) college community.”

Interim President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh speaks from experience when she said those taking on an interim position have to “hit the ground running.”

“There isn’t time to go through the training process,” Mehdizadeh said, “They have to understand the situation right away.”

Harmon has held interim positions at different community colleges, including Moore Park and Allen Hancock College as interim vice president and her first interim position was at Shasta College.

Dr. Benjamin offered CCC’s previous vice president, Gilkerson, a position as a Diversity Inclusion and Innovation Officer in June at the District Office.

She said the district needed someone with the “commitment” and “dedication” that Gilkerson has shown during her time at CCC.

When Gilkerson was called with an open opportunity at the district, she said she was reluctant to leave CCC, but said it was an opportunity she had to take.

Now, she takes part in the district’s procedures such as policies and how to improve situations regarding faculty and students districtwide.

Harmon said community colleges have been her focal point because she is able to provide opportunities to students by working closely with faculty and administrators.

Before CCC, Harmon set aside some time for a family trip to Switzerland, Italy and Paris.

For Harmon, she said growing up close to her grandmother Marie Harmon, who attended college and read to Harmon as a young girl, instilled a high regard for education within her.

She said her grandmother told her that she should not be afraid because life is going to require stepping out of her comfort zone, but reassured her that it is part of the learning process.

“I’m going to encourage people to take risks,” she said.

Gilkerson said, “She is qualified.  And often times a new perspective can benefit the college.”