Dr. Rose looks to put into place knowledge and skills learned in her first year

Published in the October 11 – October 24, 2017 Issue of Morgan Hill Life

Student Chris Fuentes speaks with Gavilan College President Dr. Kathleen Rose during a visit to the Morgan Hill campus.
Photo by Marty Cheek

Chris Fuentes sat down Aug. 28 with Kathleen Rose, Gavilan Community College’s president, for a friendly chat about what it takes to succeed in higher education. The 19-year-old Central High School graduate had just finished his first day of class working toward earning a degree in administration of justice.

“It’s really important that you know how special it is to come to Gavilan,” Rose told him as they sat in the lobby of Gavilan’s Morgan Hill satellite campus. “We want you to know you have all kinds of resources to support you along the way. It’s definitely not an isolated experience.”

Gavilan offers students counselors, labs and tutoring to help them succeed, she told the young Army reservist. Fuentes smiled and nodded at learning about the help he would get toward his goal of a career in gang intervention.

“You’ve got me as your college president,” she said. “Someday, you’ll walk to get your diploma and I’ll give it to you and shake your hand and give you a hug and say congratulations. That’s why I’m in it.”

Rose’s conversation with Fuentes demonstrates her style of personal interaction with people in leading the South Valley’s community college. The district serves a diversity of students who reside in Morgan Hill, San Martin, Gilroy and San Benito County. They come to Gavilan to gain the knowledge, skills and academic credentials to help them achieve their career goals as well as for personal enrichment.

Starting her second year as Gavilan’s leader, Rose looks forward to the many challenges running a college with about 10,000 students, more than half of them full-time equivalent taking nine or more units. There are also opportunities in partnerships with local businesses in growing the college to help those students journey toward their dreams.

Rose became Gavilan’s president July 1, 2016. She calls her first year on the job a “year of renaissance.” The transition was especially challenging for the college as students and staff faced major renovation activity at the Gilroy campus with the final projects paid for by Measure E bond funds. The Student Union was closed for the entire year as workers brought it up to current seismic safety code. The admissions and administrative offices and campus bookstore were closed for remodeling.

“We were all kind of displaced,” Rose said. “We weren’t in our regular offices but were in different areas. We didn’t have a Student Center cafe, so students were eating out of a trailer. We really didn’t have our regular homes on campus and we didn’t have Student Services and the bookstore in a regular place. We were all over the place.”

But out of the chaos came creativity. People adjusted, she said. The college developed its Welcome Center to create a more personal form of interaction. Student peer mentors helped the incoming students make their way through the admissions maze and also register for the classes they needed. The new focus is on the person, not the process, Rose said.

“It’s no longer how we sift you out. It’s how can I help you,” she said.

Three months into her second year as president, Rose sees opportunities for the district. She’s calling the 2017-’18 year “the year of practice,” putting into place the knowledge and skills learned in her first year. The primary focus is improving student achievement, she said.

“We have to narrow the student achievement gap in a big way — not only Gavilan but all community colleges across the state,” she said. “For that, I would point back to the Vision for Success document that came out of the Chancellors’ office. That’s a pretty major document that is looking at how the state needs to look going forward in the next 10 years, how we are going to get students through and completed in a way that is going to address some of the achievement gaps statewide.”

Part of that plan is to improve the remediation track of students who recently graduated from high school but are not yet ready for a more arduous college learning environment, she said. Many students given assessment tests fail at basic math and English skills. If this deficiency is not addressed, the students have a limited chance of academic success in higher education.

“We have a large basic skills initiative to help us with the remediation track,” she said. “One of the many things we discovered is that we need to learn to do remediation smarter. We need to compress our layers of remediation and we need to better be in tune in how to remediate, not just adding layers of remediation but adding efficient and effective layers and placing onboarding students in an effective way.”


Taking steps to deal with the problem, Gavilan began having “deeper conversations” with public high schools during the summer. English instructors partnered with high school teachers to develop acceleration and emersion in some teaching techniques. The intention is to move juniors and seniors forward and have them enter Gavilan with a higher level of language skills.

Rose notes many successes for Gavilan during her first year as president. The college saw expansion beyond its Gilroy campus. It finished moving its aviation program from Hollister to the San Martin Airport by opening new facilities and providing state-of-the-art training equipment. This year’s aviation class has 22 students, up from 10 last year. On the southern border of San Jose, the Coyote Valley campus opened in spring. The facility now serves as the hub for the South Bay Regional Public Safety Training Consortium program to prepare men and women for jobs in law enforcement. Another exciting area of growth for Gavilan is its new drone program to help local people gain the skills to work in this rapidly growing industry.

Rose sees her role as creating a “contagious culture” where energy, attitude and integrity expand through the Gavilan community. She hopes this culture continues to gain momentum with the revitalization of the Gavilan

“It’s really been a fantastic year,” Rose said. “I have really felt like I have had a broad-brush opportunity to get to know the district on a deep level. I try to be involved in as many community events as I can, and I continue to be completely energized by every pocket of the community and every initiative that we’re trying to do in the community.”


Marty Cheek

Marty Cheek

Publisher at Morgan Hill Life
Marty Cheek is the publisher of Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. He is also the co-author with Congressman Jerry McNerney of the book Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America From the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels.
Email: marty@morganhilllife.com
Phone: (408) 782-7575
Marty Cheek