MOUNT VERNON — Christopher Villa said he has a roadmap for his first year as Skagit Valley College president.
He said outgoing President Tom Keegan laid the groundwork through the college’s strategic plan.
“It’s my job, I believe, during my first year to ensure that we continue the good work that (has) already been done by many people in the college and the community (and) to move forward on those plans,” Villa said.
Villa will officially replace Keegan, who spent 10 years in the position, on Sept. 1 as the college’s seventh president.
He plans to focus on increasing access to the college and supporting the success of students; sustaining the culture of the college through a commitment to its guiding principles of integrity, open and honest communication, collaboration, and compassion; and developing stronger ties to the wider community.
Villa said he aims to take a proactive approach to developing relationships with the community and to community outreach. He will live in Mount Vernon and plans to become an active member in the community.
He said he’s already made a couple major purchases through local businesses to show his support.
“I want to work with local businesses or local community-based organizations or schools,” Villa said. “My goal is to be a very visible college president in the community. It’s not about me. It’s about the people that we serve, and I want to make sure that our faculty, staff and students feel connected at the college.”
Villa said he will continue Keegan’s work to raise the college’s Latino population to 25% of the student body, thereby making it eligible to receive federal grant funding.
He expects the college to achieve that 25% goal within several years through investment in programs supporting Latino students.
Villa stressed that he wants to make the college a welcoming and inclusive space for a diverse student body, not just Latino students, he said.
“We’re here to serve our people in our communities,” he said. “If there’s anything thematic about my presidency during the first year, that’s what I’m going to keep honing in on. It doesn’t matter if you live in a small rural community, or if you live in a more urban setting, we’re going to do everything possible to serve you.”
Villa has a doctorate in educational leadership and policy from the University of Utah, and a master’s in public administration from the University of Southern California.
He brings to Skagit Valley College more than 40 years of experience in leadership positions at universities, including two as president of Portland Community College-Rock Creek and three as vice president of student services at Los Angeles Mission College.
Villa said he brings to his work values of respect, honesty, and integrity from his Mexican American upbringing.
“I believe no one’s perfect. I make mistakes just like anybody else, but one thing I hope that people observe in my presidency is that I’m very authentic with the way I approach leadership,” Villa said. “I believe in treating people with respect; I believe in being honest with people; I believe in having a high degree of integrity — and I think when you combine those values with leadership and the experience I’ve had, I think I’m in a great position right now to do everything I can to help the people that are being served by this college and the people who aren’t being served yet.”