‘I think we can really grow’ CGCC selects Marta Yera-Cronin as next president

Marta Yera-Cronin

Marta Yera-Cronin

Florida educator Dr. Marta Yera-Cronin will be the next president of Columbia Gorge Community College.

Cronin is currently vice president of academic affairs at Indian River State College, Port St. Lucie, Fla. She received her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Sarasota, Fla.

Cronin’s hiring came in a special meeting at the Indian Creek Campus in Hood River. The college search committee started with a list of 44 applicants, and the community met the four finalists earlier this month.

The vote was unanimous, with all seven board members weighing in — including Sarah Segal and Dr. Kevin McCabe via conference call. Lee Fairchild, who led the search process, moved to adopt the contract with Cronin, and Charlotte Arnold seconded. Joining in the vote were board chairman Stu Watson, Pam Morgan, and Dana Campbell.

“This is an honor,” Cronin said by phone Thursday. “From the moment I stepped foot on campus I was impressed with the passion and dedication I saw everywhere. I can’t wait to get there and help the college become even better. I think we can really grow. I want to increase enrollment and also grow programs that meet the needs of Gorge residents. I want the college to be a place students really want to come to, where they can find a vibrant student life.”

Cronin said she plans to get involved in the community, and to seek new grants and other funding resources for the college to help enable the growth she foresees.

Watson said, “In all respects, the board was kind of blown away with how lucky we got to get someone with these talents. As vice president of academic affairs, she led their application for the Aspen Prize for community college excellence, they were second this year, and in the top 10 a couple of years ago. It’s a culture of excellence and coming from that I think she’s got the horsepower to create something like that here.

“She is very supportive of initiatives and has worked with the Indian River college to increase enrollment and retention, and those are issues we’re really high on as a board. We need to get people in and keep them here to graduation or transfer,” Watson said. Established in 1977, with campuses in Hood River and The Dalles, CGCC serves seven counties in two states bordering the Columbia River Gorge.

Cronin will succeed interim president Lori Ufford, who is CGCC’s chief academic officer. Frank Toda stepped down as president last summer, leading to a national search process that Fairchild said was rigorous and professional. He praised the search committee and support staff for its thoroughness and dedication, and said three of the four candidates were strong, but Cronin stood out.

She currently serves as president of the Florida Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and was chosen as a leadership fellow to the American Association of Community Colleges National Community College Hispanic Council.

Cronin will start work at CGCC July 1.

Watson said, “She’s got great experience and has worked a lot in the academic arena, helped develop bachelor’s degree teacher training programs. She pulled together 11 different institutions to support an $8 million grant they got not just for the college but other institutions. She’s got great energy and is dedicated to making this, as she put it, a destination college.”

Search committee member Rob Kovacich said, “I’m very excited for Marta to come in and change everything. She’s going to change everything.”

Asked to elaborate, he said, “Transparency. We really have no direction, not really sure what we’re doing. Money. She has brought so much money into her current situation. If she did that here, it can really create change,” said Kovacich, who teaches chemistry at the college.

“She will engage (a) student population that right now isn’t really looking forward to coming here. She wants to be everywhere all the time. She is going to put in so much effort, and we are going to be the beneficiaries,” Kovacich said.

Volunteers participating in the presidential search committee represented a cross-section of college faculty, staff, students, board members and the community at large. Committee members were Supt. Candy Armstrong, Annette Byers, Dana Campbell, Martin Campos-Davis, Martha Capovilla, Danny Dehaze, Kristen Dillon, Lee Fairchild, Cyndi Gentry, Supt. Dan Goldman, Robert Kovacich, Mary Martin, Jonathon Neptune, Stephen Shwiff, Andrea Padilla Smith, Eric Studebaker and Jeanie Vieira.

Fairchild also praised the work of executive assistant Tiffany Prince, and presented her with a plate made by Fairchild’s wife, artist Karen Fairchild.

“Tiffany spent many long hours on this, and was responsible for making everything happen at the time when it needed to, and saw it happened smoothly, while also making sure that everything coming along next the process also came into line smoothly.”

Also interviewed for the job were Dr. Leanne Frost, director of the General Studies Division at Montana State University; Dr. Sarah Thompson Tweedy, vice president of Student Access, Involvement and Success at the State University of New York; and Dr. Paul Jarrell, assistant superintendent and executive vice president of Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, Calif.

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