The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Moving forward: President Kathryn Jeffery opens up about leaving City College

City College President Kathryn Jeffery sits at the table in her Rodda Hall North office. Photo by: Vanessa Nelson | Photo Editor |
City College President Kathryn Jeffery sits at the table in her Rodda Hall North office. Photo by: Vanessa Nelson | Photo Editor | [email protected]

Editor’s Note:

As I sit down in Kathryn Jeffery’s office, the president of City College offers to make me coffee in her usually warm tone. I take her up on the offer, talking with her about her week and the news that she’s found a new job. After making and serving the coffee, she sits at a table in an office that will soon belong to somebody else. I ask her questions about her time at City College, prompting the president to think back through the years to her first time working here as a young woman.

As Jeffery recalls special moments in her life, her eyes well up with tears, followed by a catch in her throat, causing her to pause between questions. She reaches behind her, fumbles for a tissue box. Her fingers find one, but it turns out to be empty, so she turns to a second tissue box sitting nearby. As she mulls over her time as a City College counselor, Jeffery talks about the people who have shaped her into who she is today and the students who have affected her most.

Her words are saturated with a tone of appreciation for what she’s received, a strength, an ethic, a generous attitude that has she kept with her to this day. At the end of our interview Jeffery gave me a hug as tears sprang from both of us, and I left the office that has always been open to me and countless others, officially as a students, but most importantly, welcoming us as people whom she says she has been honored to serve.

Tell me about this new position.

I have been approved by the Board of Trustees for an appointment pending contract negotiations to become the superintendent-president of Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California.

Are you excited?

You know, I am excited, but you know, it’s also… it also creates some sadness. Sacramento City College has been so much a part of my career, not just during my time as president, but before that when I was a young faculty member. In total, I will have been here in March of 2016 — 18 years — and that’s a long time. And I think it’s a good amount of time to contribute to the development and growth of an organization. As president I will have been here nearly eight years, and that’s a very respectable reign as a college president.

Are there any things you wanted to accomplish but weren’t able to?

We were still working on some things here with respect to building out some of our programs to decrease the gaps in student achievement. That will continue to move forward. In fact, during my time here we made some small strides, but we got some things in place, so that will be important for whoever comes in next to build upon. We want every student who comes into the college with a level of skills and proficiency that allows them to move to the next step in their life, and I think we still have some work to do to make sure students are moving at the same rate.

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The students. I’m going to miss the students, some of their stories, hearing about why they chose City College, what motivates them to move in their career direction, hearing them talk about the successes that they had. I know people who live in this community who were students here back when I was here in the ’80s… ’81? ’82? I hate to say what year it was because then people will know how old I am. I see former students now who live in the community who will say things like, “I still have the [education] plan that you wrote out for me when I was a student starting out, and I saved it because, by following that, by following what you gave me, I was able to complete my degree on time.”

So I guess the thing that I’ll leave here, that I would take with me as I leave here, is that knowing when I was doing counseling, I was an excellent counselor. I took great pride in my counseling. I always wanted to make sure that what I gave students was accurate information that related to the direction that they told me they wanted to move toward. I never wanted to give people information that was wrong, and if I made mistakes, and you know — over the course of 10 years of doing counseling I did make some mistakes — but I never left it where I didn’t contact people to say, “You know, I found some new information to update what I gave you. Can you come back in, and let’s make this right? ’Cause I want you to be on track.” People will forgive you a mistake if you tell them.

Anything else you’ll miss?

This is a fun community, and I’ll miss being a part of the Sacramento community. I was a young woman here in this community and grew up here in a lot of ways, personally and professionally. I made a lot of friends [with] people I’ve known many years now, and continue to have good relationships with those families of people. I think it’s import- ant for me to not just look at where I’ve been but to look at where I’m going, and not to think about leaving City College but to think about the ways in which I’ve affected this institution. I think I have affected the institution, and I think I’ve affected the students in a good way.

When you first came back eight years ago, did you expect this to be your final stop?

That’s a good question, because I wasn’t sure. It was hard for me leave the place where I worked before here, and I was only there for two years, but I loved that school, absolutely fell in love with it, and that’s when I was at Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota. For Sac City, I already had roots here, so naturally it makes it harder to think about leaving here.

I felt, eventually, it just depended on how things went here. If I felt like I was making a contribution to the school, then I felt like I could just stay and stay and stay. Sometimes programs take on the personalities of the individual, rather than the individuals managing programs., But the organization is so much more than the impact of a single individual, and so I think that periodically it’s good for someone to move out of the way to make room for some other energy. I do think for growth to really occur, you kind of have to mix it up a bit.

I thought I would stay, but I didn’t know if I would stay forever.

What’s your greatest strength and weakness?

My greatest weakness… I have great empathy for people and for situations where folks are challenged, but that’s also one of my strengths. I try to help people move out and away from situations that are holding them back, and trying to help them see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is a path that you can follow where things can really better. But you have to be motivated to move in that direction.

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