Finalists for GCC president to visit campus

  • Christopher Gilmer Submitted photo/GCC—

  • Arlene Rodriguez Submitted photo/GCC—

  • Carla Oleska Submitted photo/GCC—

  • Julie White Submitted photo/GCC—

  • Yves Salomon-Fernandez Submitted photo/GCC—

  • Greenfield Community College President Bob Pura

For the Gazette
Published: 4/20/2018 10:03:08 PM

GREENFIELD — Five candidates are finalists for the role of Greenfield Community College president after Robert L. Pura retires.

They are: Christopher Gilmer of Alcorn State University in Mississippi; Carla Oleska of Elms College, Chicopee; Massachusetts Department of Higher Education adviser Arlene Rodriguez; Cumberland County College President Yves Salomon-Fernandez of New Jersey; and Julie White of Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, N.Y.

According to the GCC board of trustees and the college’s Presidential Search Committee, the five were chosen from among 11 semi-finalists from applicants in the nationwide search led by the R.H. Perry consultant firm.

From April 23 to May 2, each candidate will spend a day on campus, meeting and talking with students, faculty, staff and the general public. An open forum will feature each candidate from 4:15 to 5 p.m. during a visit at GCC. Those who attend the forums are invited to provide written comments about the candidates to the board of trustees.

Here are the finalists, in the order of their expected appearances on campus:

Christopher Gilmer, April 23

Gilmer is a first-generation college graduate from a rural Mississippi sharecropping family. His family’s sacrifices enabled him to earn an education and overcome multi-generational poverty. As founder of the National Institutes for Historically-Underserved Students and a student advocate, Gilmer considers education a right of every person willing to work for it. He is executive director of Alcorn State University’s Vicksburg (Miss.) campus and Southwest Mississippi Center for Culture and Learning. At Alcorn, he has served as director of Online Education and an English professor. Alcorn is the nation’s oldest public land-grant Historically Black University. Gilmer has spent most of his career in the Historically Black University system. Besides teaching in colleges, Gilmer is a volunteer vice president for academic and sponsored programs at Innovative Behavioral Services, a Mississippi nonprofit for which he oversees fundraising. He has led or served on teams that have secured $75 million in competitive grants for clients nationwide and has consulted for the U.S. Department of Education’s regional educational labs for many years.

Arlene Rodriguez, April 25

Arlene Rodriguez brings at least 20 years of leadership experience in public higher education in Massachusetts with a focus on creating partnerships, fundraising, and programs for student success.

Currently the senior academic affairs adviser to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, she works on initiatives that include: boosting college completion rates, closing achievement gaps and graduating more students from underserved populations. She co-leads 100 Males to College, which aims to create a college-bound culture among our most vulnerable students, low-income males and young men of color.

She began her career as an English professor at Springfield Technical Community College, progressing to administration, first as academic dean and then as vice president of academic affairs at the college.

Rodriguez serves on the Hampden County Commission/Status of Women and Girls, WGBY’s Board of Tribunes, Springfield YWCA’s board of directors and the Latino Scholarship Fund of Western Massachusetts. Her awards as a community leader include the National Council on Community and Justice’s Human Services Award, the Springfield Women Commission’s UnSung Hero/Woman of the Year and the Professional Women Chamber of Western Massachusetts’ Woman of the Year.

Yves Salomon-Fernandez, April 27

Before becoming president of Cumberland County College, Yves Salomon-Fernandez served as interim president of Massachusetts Bay Community College. She spent a decade as an adjunct professor teaching undergraduate and graduate courses; she also worked in various roles at four-year public and private colleges.

Salomon-Fernandez is passionate about community colleges and their potential for transformative effects on individuals and families and for advancing regional economic vitality. She has worked with faculty, staff and the local community on initiatives to reduce food and housing insecurity, provide child care and address transportation barriers.

Salomon-Fernandez has worked to broaden access to Feedback

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education opportunities, particularly for women — at the policy and ground levels. In Massachusetts, she served as co-chair of the Governor’s STEM Council’s College & Career Readiness Committee. She now serves on the New Jersey Business and Industry Association’s Post-Secondary Education Taskforce. She is a strong proponent for integrating the liberal arts across the curriculum.

Salomon-Fernandez has leveraged partnerships across K-12 education, government, industry and nonprofits to increase student success and workforce development. She serves on the local boards of the United Way, the YMCA, Gateway Community Action Program, the Workforce Investment Board and South Jersey Robotics. In Massachusetts, she served on the boards of New England Energy Consumers Alliance and the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce.

Julie White, April 30

Julie White is the senior vice president of student engagement and learning support at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, N.Y.

She leads programs and services for student engagement and retention. She has worked at a variety of community colleges, liberal arts colleges and research universities, with roles in student services, research administration, health education and women’s services.

She is active in statewide initiatives, including the SUNY Task Force on Food Insecurity, and she is president of the New York Association of Community College Chief Student Affairs Officers Inc.

She is a fellow of the American College Health Association and has received several awards for advancing diversity and inclusion, including the Miguel Garcia-Tuñon Memorial Award in Human Dignity from the American College Health Association and the YWCA Diversity Achiever Award. She is a member of the AACC Commission on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.

Her research interests include community college policy, success for underrepresented populations, and financial aid policy. She has served on several boards, including the Everson Museum of Art and the Say Yes to Education Syracuse Operating Board. She has taught sociology at the community college level and is an adjunct professor in St. John Fisher College’s Executive Leadership doctoral program.

Carla Oleska, May 2

Carla Oleska is vice president for institutional advancement at Elms College. Previously, she served as chief executive officer of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts for eight years. Before joining the fund, she had a 22-year career in administration and teaching at Elms.

Oleska has at least 30 years of experience in working to address the needs and aspirations of underserved populations, specializing in the design of programs enhancing academic preparation, higher education access, degree completion and leadership development.

Her work on behalf of women and girls has been recognized both regionally and nationally. In 2010, Oleska was one of the 100 women across the United States chosen as the charter delegates to Vision 2020, a national initiative to create leadership parity.

She was also one of 50 women from around the world invited to participate and speak at the United Nations Won Buddhist Center meeting on women and the U.N. development goals.

Her volunteer experience includes boards of directors for Girl Scouts, for Community Action of Franklin and Hampshire counties, the Hampden County Literacy Cabinet and the Conway School for Landscape Design. She serves on the boards of Girls Inc. Holyoke and the Treehouse Foundation — Reimagining Foster Care in America.

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