The Yosemite Community College District board of trustees has appointed Columbia College President Joan E. Smith as the district's interim chancellor.
Smith will take over for retiring Chancellor Roe Darnell, who announced plans to step down last month because of personal and family issues.
"It's a privilege and honor to work with such a dedicated group of people who have a common vision and dedication to students," Smith said. "One of the things I think is special and nice about our particular area is we have a really amazing faculty, staff and administrators who work at both the colleges, and the board of trustees is a wonderful group of people who are united for the students."
Smith has been president at Columbia College for more than three years. Prior to that, she was executive vice president of student learning at Ventura County Community College and its district.
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She will begin as interim chancellor Aug. 1. The YCCD is the parent district of Modesto Junior College and Columbia College.
Smith said her 30 years of experience in higher education will help her meet the district's challenges.
"I am very familiar with the needs and demands of higher education, especially in community colleges," she said. "I have been exposed (to) and done every job on my way up to interim chancellor."
She said the budget will be one of the biggest issues to tackle, one that will require "high levels of creativity."
"You have to look at things from a real creative lens. When you are part of the system for 30 years, you've seen the ebbs and flows. This is probably a little worse than anything we've experienced," she said. "But you look at it from a point of view of where you ask, 'What is our recovery plan? How will we plan for the future? How will we look five years out, seven years out?' "
The board has not released any timetable for permanently filling the chancellor position.
Smith said she is happy and excited to begin serving the area.
"I love the Central Valley; I love the people, the foothills," she said. "I think it is really wonderful that both (community colleges) hold a real special place in the community. They are the heart of the area. In Modesto, you talk to people who have graduated from that school for generations."
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2284.