Dr. Gregory Anderson will start Oct. 16 as the new president of Saddleback College. (Saddleback College)
Saddleback College started its search for a new president March 24 after former president Todd Burnett announced his retirement during the spring semester of 2017. Applicants faced various screenings, in depth reference checks and three rounds of interviews until there were four finalists. The South Orange County Community College Board of Trustees unanimously voted to select Dr. Gregory Anderson as the new president of Saddleback Aug. 31.
“The interview process impressed me on a number of levels,” Anderson said. “First off, it’s very thorough. It engaged many aspects of my career and required several reference checks from a couple of institutions that I worked for. It was almost if [Saddleback College] wanted to find a president that would meet the needs of the students, the college and the district.”
Saddleback College’s vision is based around students and making sure that students have the tools and resources they need to succeed. Anderson has over 20 years of experience in the educational system, teaching from preschool level all the way up to doctoral programs. He believes that in a decision making position, students, faculty and staff need to be informed to make the best decision.
“I think they were looking for somebody who’s values met the values of the institution and they found a good match with me,” Anderson said. “The faculty, the students, the classified professionals, everybody needs to be involved when it comes down to decisions and that way, we will decide on the best decision so that is something I believe and is apart of the culture of Saddleback College.”
Before deciding on taking his position at Saddleback, Anderson has taught all over the world, with the exception of Australia. He received his masters in teaching at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Virginia and his doctorate in higher education at the University of Southern California
Anderson double majored at the University of Wisconsin in speech communication and English linguistics, but college was not an easy experience at first. His family valued education, but most of them had to go to work before graduating high school, eliminating the idea of higher education.
“I come from a family where nobody had ever gone to college before,” Anderson said. “I struggled when I got to college because I didn’t understand how things worked. I didn’t understand something as simple as the dorm room numbers start with the floor that you’re on. I didn’t know you could rent books because I couldn’t afford to buy books.The first year I really struggled, but I got help from professors and I finally was able to do much better and graduate with honors by the end.”
Looking back, Anderson recalls one of his favorite teaching experiences when he taught at the Academic Camp for International Students in Florida where students from 34 countries travelled to the states to extend their educational knowledge. After the camp finished, he says that he learned more from the students than they learned from him.
“They were all extremely well educated and interested in world events and politics so I think I learned more from those students from 34 countries than they learned from me,” Anderson said.
Work isn’t Anderson’s life though as he has a family of four who resides in Cupertino, just south of San Francisco. He has an 11-year-old daughter who enjoys horseback riding, a 9-year-old son who plays baseball and a wife who joins him on his rock climbing and hiking adventures.
Anderson has hiked from Georgia to Maine, travelled all around the Sierra Nevada mountain region and this past July, hiked 52 mi. in one day from Mt. Hood to Mt. Jefferson in Oregon.
Anderson and his wife, who is Japanese, are raising their kids to be bilingual, sending them to Japanese school and speaking Japanese in their household. He plans on moving his family to Orange County at some point, stating they would like to keep their kids in touch with their culture by putting them in Japanese Saturday school.
Anderson is excited to get started at Saddleback, saying when he arrives, his main goal is observe Saddleback’s student and staff culture, hoping to fix any gaps that may reside.
“It is my duty every single day to talk to as many people as I can and read as many documents. I want to bring in students and faculty and observe, soak it all in and find out what is working,” Anderson said. “What I find most of the time is that the ideas are there already, but it’s the job of leaders to find resources or help facilitate faculty or staff as they are implementing those ideas. The challenge that community colleges face is not around the lack of ideas, it’s more around organizing the ideas and how to facilitate the programs and how to properly foster creativity so that we are actually impacting student success.”
Anderson is still employed as the Vice President of planning, research and institutional effectiveness at San Mateo Community College but his official start date at Saddleback is on Oct. 16.
“I just want to say how grateful I am to the students, staff and faculty who took part in the public forums and all the different opportunities to chose the next president,” Anderson said. “ I take it as a great opportunity but also a sacred trust. The community has put a trust in me to lead the college and it is my duty to meet those expectations and fulfill that trust.”