Dr. Frank Chong, the new president of Santa Rosa Junior College, acknowledges that he doesn't know what the future of the college's Petaluma Campus will be — yet. “It is really up to the community,” he says. “I want to hear from the community and find out what they want.”
Chong has already met with several community and business leaders, including members of the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce, to get their thoughts on the campus and its future. That learning process continues today when he meets more area residents at a reception to formally introduce him to the Petaluma community.
The reception will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Mahoney Library reading room on the campus, located at 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway. The reception is free, but there is a $4 fee required for campus parking.
Chong has already met many community members informally as neighbors after moving into a home on Petaluma's west side.
He is just over two months into his new job, replacing Robert Agrella, and becoming just the fifth president in SRJC's 94-year history.
Chong has lived for the last two years in Washington D.C. where he served as deputy assistant secretary for community colleges for the Obama Administration. He had previously served as president of Laney College in Oakland and Mission College in Santa Clara.
While he listens to the community to determine what it wants on the Petaluma Campus, Chong already knows it is underutilized. “We have an excellent facility there,” he says, “but we're at 50 percent capacity. We have the ability to grow to 12,000. We would be larger now if the state would fund us more.”
Even with the tough economy and constricting class offerings, Chong says the Petaluma campus has a lot going for it, pointing to what he calls “a very forward-thinking faculty” and innovative programs like its multi-media program.
“In 1995, the people in Sonoma County had the vision and the foresight to build the Petaluma campus. It was the right thing to do,” he says. “We're trying not to duplicate programs on the two campuses. We have to develop our own niche at Petaluma, and to do that we have to find out what the community wants.