Dense fog

Santa Rosa Junior College begins 'community conversations' about its future

As it nears its 100th year, Santa Rosa Junior College is taking stock of itself.

At the Petaluma campus Friday morning, school officials held the first of four "community conversations" as administrators gather input for their five-year strategic plan for the 26,600-student district.

About 60 participants, including school employees, students, alumni, business leaders and members of the community, were asked to consider what SRJC should look like in 2018, the centennial of the Santa Rosa campus, and how the district can strengthen its connection with the community.

School President Frank Chong said the college, the 10th oldest of California's 112 community colleges, is "falling behind" with aging facilities and outdated technology. The budget has been cut by 12 percent and course offerings by 20 percent over the past four years, squeezing out some students and lengthening the time it takes to earn a degree.

In 2002, voters approved a $251 million bond measure that expanded the Petaluma campus and added to and upgraded existing facilities on the Mendocino Avenue campus.

"My pitch to the community is that you have to invest in the JC because you get a great return," Chong said.

One recurrent theme that emerged Friday was that the district should work with employers and schools to help create a skilled, in-demand workforce.

Vanessa Luna Shannon, director of a JC program to help high school dropouts go to college, said she would like to see partnerships with local technology companies or corporate sponsors of specialized study programs.

Others envisioned collaborations with individual employers, K-12 schools, parents, senior citizens and nonprofit groups. Some wanted to see the Petaluma campus remain open on weekends for community events.

Integrating the JC with schools and local employers will help create a fluid transition for students heading into the workforce, said student advisor Hilleary Izard, who led a brainstorming group.

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