Christian named California Community Colleges chancellor
Sonya Christian, who began her higher education career at Bakersfield College and worked through the ranks to the top spot as Kern Community College District chancellor, was named Thursday to an even higher post — chancellor of the California Community Colleges.
The 116-college system is known as the largest and most diverse of public higher education in the nation.
Christian becomes the first woman and first person of South Asian heritage to be appointed as permanent chancellor after the California Community Colleges Board of Governors unanimously selected her.
Christian will earn a base salary of $411,252 annually as the new chancellor, EdSource reported, and her contract is for four years.
“I am honored to be selected as chancellor, and I’m grateful for the leadership and collective work that has created the largest and best community college system in the nation,” she said in remarks during the California Community College Board meeting in Sacramento. “I do feel a sense of urgency and moral obligation to the job at hand.”
Christian was selected following an extensive, nationwide search over the past seven months.
She becomes the California Community Colleges chancellor during “a uniquely challenging time for public education,” she said, with “uncertainties in college enrollment even among the unemployed and underemployed; a legacy of student debt; social and political unrest; and the persistence of inequity.”
Christian started her career in higher education as a mathematics faculty member and later as division chair, then dean of science, engineering, allied health and mathematics at Bakersfield College. She served as an administrator at Lane Community College in Oregon for several years before returning home to the KCCD in 2013 after being selected as the 10th president of BC.
“At Bakersfield College, our students are achieving great things because of Sonya’s leadership and vision,” Bakersfield College President Zav Dadabhoy said in an email. “Her brave and innovative strategies have enabled us to support students in ways we never imagined as little as 10 years ago. I have no doubt that Dr. Christian has big plans for the future and I’m confident that with her leadership, our community’s colleges will continue to thrive as a beacon of hope and opportunity for all who seek affordable quality, and local higher education.”
Christian earned her bachelor of science degree from University of Kerala in Kerala, India; her master of science degree in applied mathematics from University of Southern California; and her doctorate from University of California, Los Angeles.
“Dr. Christian is one of our nation’s most dynamic college leaders, with a demonstrated record of collaboration and results in the Central Valley,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a news release. “She understands what is needed to deliver on record levels of higher education investment to make real improvements to the lived reality of our students. I look forward to continuing to partner with Dr. Christian to ensure our community colleges are engines of equity and opportunity.”
Christian will begin her duties June 1 and succeeds Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, who stepped down in August after leading the system for nearly six years. Daisy Gonzales will continue serve as interim chancellor until Christian takes the position.
“We continue to face many challenges, but I truly believe our greatest challenges enable us to do our greatest work,” Christian said. “We are called to design the most vibrant, resilient and effective learning environment ever. We are called to do this work at scale, not eventually, but now. And we will work with a shared vision that keeps students first.”