Southwestern College president Dr. Melinda Nish resigns

Posted at 3:33 PM, Jun 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-17 20:50:15-04

Southwestern College is looking for a new president after President Dr. Melinda Nish tendered her resignation Friday.

School officials said Nish's last day at the helm of the South Bay school will be June 30.

10News learned the outgoing president was a finalist for jobs at other community colleges in Santa Barbara and Portland, but ultimately didn't land those jobs.

Nish said in an emailed response to several questions that she is no longer looking for a job at this time and the board did not ask her to resign.

The first half of 2016 has been troublesome for the South Bay college. Southwestern College's award-winning paper, The Sun, documented racial tension at the administrative level with the school's Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee.

Southwestern College was also slapped with a warning about financial issues from the Accreditation Commission of Community and Junior Colleges.

Nish's resignation comes less than five years after the school's last president, Dr. Raj Chopra, left after he feuded with faculty and student groups. He was later indicted and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor after being caught in a widespread bribery scandal.

The Southwestern College Governing Board said it will begin looking for an interim and permanent president immediately.

10News reached out to some Southwestern College employees for their reaction to Nish's resignation.

Max Branscomb, faculty advisor for The Sun said, "Dr. Nish is a very intelligent woman with considerable talent and energy who worked hard to improve Southwestern College for its students. I would like to thank her for her many contributions to SWC and wish her all the best in her future endeavors."

CSEA Chapter President Andre Harris said, "It's a sad day for our institution and I wish her nothing but continued success."

A joint statement issued by Nish and the school's governing board said the decision was mutual and that Nish would be taking a sabbatical for personal and professional reasons.

The full statement:

Superintendent/President Dr. Melinda Nish has mutually agreed with the Southwestern Community College District Governing Board to leave her position with the College District effective June 30, 2016. After four and a half years of intensive work to advance the mission of Southwestern College, Dr. Nish is taking time to pursue a sabbatical for personal and other professional development opportunities.

During Dr. Nish's tenure, the number of Southwestern College graduates transferring to the California State University system has increased significantly each of the last two years. This student success was the result of concerted efforts by District counselors, faculty and staff, and this year the Campaign for College Opportunity named Southwestern College one of the top 10 High Performing Colleges in the state.

Dr. Nish's ability to forge alliances with university partners on both sides of the border has resulted in agreements with three Mexican universities—UTT, UABC and CETYS—to develop bilingual, binational, dual degrees. In San Diego, Dr. Nish's partnership with UC San Diego Chancellor Dr. Pradeep Khosla resulted in 50 Southwestern College students receiving free tuition at UC San Diego upon transfer. Dr. Nish has also served as a resource for the City of Chula Vista on their University Park & Innovation District.

Working with the Governing Board, Dr. Nish has strengthened the relationship with the Sweetwater Union High School District, facilitating a successful transition between high school and college for students. Together with her partnerships with universities, the higher education opportunities have greatly expanded for South County students during her tenure at Southwestern College.

During her tenure, Dr. Nish has hired 72 full-time, tenure-track faculty, which represents 30 percent of the College's full-time faculty, which is one of the most important factors in providing educational excellence to students.

Dr. Nish led a collaborative effort to resolve procurement issues surrounding the Proposition R bond measure and re-energize the construction program resulting in the development of the College's corner lot—which had been vacant for more than 50 years.

The Governing Board thanks Dr. Nish for her tireless work, and wishes her success in the fulfillment of all of her pursuits.

This change provides the College with the opportunity to find its next leader to build on the hard work of our students, employees, partners and leadership over the last four years. The Board will immediately select an interim Superintendent/President, a process that will include input and participation from constituency leadership. At the same time, the Board will begin the search for a new permanent Superintendent/President through a transparent and shared process. More details regarding these plans will be shared and discussed in the coming days and weeks.