Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Jose Fierro's

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Jose Fierro's

Article excerpt

In his first stint as president, Jose Fierro will be leading Cerritos College, a community college located in Norwalk, California near Long Beach, California. Fierro was named president this year. Previously Fierro served as chief academic officer at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming and was academic dean at Florida State University. Hence, he knows what issues community college students face and is tuned into what Latino undergraduates encounter in pursuit of higher education.

In spring 2015, 23,652 students attended Cerritos College. Of that number, 67 percent were Hispanic, eight percent Caucasian, seven percent Asian-American and four percent African American. Of Cerritos' students, 67 percent obtain financial aid with an average grant of $852.

Most Cerritos students major in liberal arts and science and pursue careers in social and behavioral sciences and business administration. The top certificate programs include culinary arts, cosmetology, child development and early childhood.

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Fierro was raised in Bogota, Colombia where his father was a researcher for the Department of Agriculture. Fierro emigrated to the U.S. at age 24 where he learned English. He has a doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from Northcentral University in Prescott, Ariz.

Here's what Jose Fierro said about embarking on the presidency of Cerritos College:

HO: This is your first stint as president of a community college. Ready for the challenge?

Jose Fierro: I'm ready for the challenge. My previous jobs have prepared me quite well to take on the presidency. I have experience in large community colleges as an instructor of Biological Sciences at Valencia College in Florida and at Florida State College. I moved to Laramie County College in Cheyenne to a smaller campus, which was great. There I learned to interact with many people in a small setting. What you do often rests on relationship-building.

HO: Describe the skills you learned as chief academic officer at Laramie C.C.

Jose Fierro: Academic affairs is usually the largest area on a campus. You have to work a lot with outside constituents and internal constituents, be very aware of the impact of faculty on student learning and work with different school organizations. I had to become very aware of curriculum changes, economic development, economic partnerships and strategic planning, which are essential in the president's role.

HO: Describe the typical Cerritos student.

Jose Fierro: Cerritos students are extremely engaged. When I first came to be interviewed, I took time to walk around campus. For a commuter campus in the middle of a large city, students were as engaged as I have seen on campus. They're engaged in student life, student government and campus initiatives. For example, they started a number of initiatives on sustainability. They love the institution and take pride on being part of Cerritos.

HO: To what do you attribute to the extreme engagement not common on most community college campuses?

Jose Fierro: It stems from the diverse students we serve. We are a minorityserving institution, so students connect by way of family. They feel safe here, feel that this is their college and their place to be. That helps to drive student engagement. In addition, the college has made significant efforts to provide student services to ensure that they feel comfortable here.

HO: Why call your student body diverse if 67 percent are Latino?

Jose Fierro: When I say diversity, it's not just about racial components. I see it as a diversity of ideas, diversity of thinking and diversity of socioeconomic backgrounds. …

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