Home > News


For Immediate Release
Contact: Max Branscomb
(619) 997-9054

Community Invited to Meet Five Finalists for Southwestern College Presidency

Members of the community are invited to attend public forums featuring the five finalists for the position of Superintendent/President of Southwestern College. Finalists will answer questions from employees, students and the community during five one-hour sessions September 12 and 13 at the Chula Vista campus.

Two sessions will be held on Sept. 12, from noon-1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. Sept. 13 will have three sessions, 10 a.m.-11 a.m., 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Forums will take place in the L 238 conference rooms across from the main entrance to the campus library. Each session will feature one finalist. (Video links now available below.)

Following a nationwide search that generated 34 applications, an 18-member committee of college students, faculty, administrators and community members has narrowed the pool to five. The college governing board plans to interview the five candidates September 14 and conduct site visits to the campuses of finalists during the week of Sept. 25. Board members tentatively plan to name the new permanent superintendent/president at its Oct. 12 meeting.

The five finalists are:

  • Dr. Willard Lewallen, president of West Hills College in Coalinga;
  • Denise Whittaker, interim superintendent/president of Southwestern College;
  • Dr. Melinda Nish, vice president of instruction at Orange Coast College;
  • Dr. Debra Daniels, president of San Bernardino Valley College; and
  • Dr. Betty Inclan, president of Berkeley City College.

Longer bios are posted at swccd.edu/candidates.

Nish earned an Ed.D. at the Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara after studying at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. She lived in Europe for nearly a decade and is fluent in French. After seven years at Salt Lake Community College in Utah, she joined the administration of Orange Coast College in 2002 as dean of business and computing. She became vice president in 2005. She is the college's Accreditation Liaison Officer and in 2009 was named Orange Coast College Manager of the Year.

Lewallen is a former collegiate baseball player who earned a Ph.D. in education from UCLA. He began his career in higher education as a counselor at Antelope Valley College, where he eventually became a dean. He served as vice president of student services for eight years at Victor Valley College before being named president of West Hills College in 2007. He is a working musician and plays guitar in a rock and blues band with other college educators. He and his wife are fitness enthusiasts who have completed the Los Angeles Marathon.

Inclan was born in Cuba and raised in Florida. She earned a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin, and graduated with distinction from the UT Community College Leadership Program. She speaks English, Spanish and French. Her 36-year career includes positions as director of educational reform at Miami Dade College, dean of language arts at Modesto Junior College and associate superintendent/president at Allan Hancock College. Since January 2008 she has served as president of Berkeley City College.

Whittaker earned a Master's Degree in counseling from CSU Los Angeles and completed coursework for the educational doctorate program at UCLA. She has more than 35 years of higher education experience in West Virginia and California. She has worked at Citrus College, Oxnard College, El Camino College, San Bernardino Valley College and Orange Coast College in California as well as Fairmont State University in West Virginia. She was president of San Bernardino Valley College from 2003 to 2007 and interim president of Orange Coast for six months in 2009. Whittaker, who has extensive experience with accreditation, budget and planning, has served as interim superintendent/president of Southwestern since January.

Daniels is in her fifth year as president of San Bernardino Valley College, where she oversaw successful affirmation of accreditation, a $250 million bond-funded facility modernization campaign and the award-winning Valley-Bound Commitment community partnership program that provides full scholarships to qualified freshmen. She has more than 30 years experience in higher education, starting as a faculty member. Daniels has served as an evaluator for three different regional accreditation organizations.

Norma Hernandez, Vice President of the SWC Governing Board, is chair of the screening committee. She said the board is committed to a hiring process that is thorough, inclusive and transparent.

"We are pleased by the very high level of involvement by our campus and our community," she said. "The pool of applicants was absolutely outstanding and I believe the committee has brought forward five very impressive, highly-qualified educational leaders."

Hernandez said the forums will afford citizens of the college district the opportunity to meet the candidates, ask questions and provide written comments to the governing board.

"We are looking for a motivated, talented leader to take Southwestern in a bright new direction and help our college to reach its enormous potential," said Hernandez. "The board is eager to hear from members of the community who attend the forums. We want to hire the person who is the best fit for Southwestern College."

Each of the five candidates will be presented to the community in tightly-scheduled, one-hour forums. They will be introduced by a search committee member, then given three minutes for an opening statement. Each candidate will be asked the same three prepared questions from the committee, then the forum will be opened for questions from attendees. Each candidate will receive two minutes for closing remarks. Audience members will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire with their impressions and are encouraged to write additional comments that Hernandez said each governing board member will read.

The forums will be videotaped and available for later viewing on the college website at swccd.edu/candidates.

"Hiring a talented superintendent/president is the single most important responsibility of the governing board," said Hernandez. "All five members of the board are committed to a fair and open process that will lead to sound decision making and community support for Southwestern College's next president."

The governing board retained Community College Search Services of Ventura, a professional personnel consulting firm, to conduct the search. Former community college CEOs Dr. James Walker and Dr. Eddie Hernandez are the search consultants for SWC. They were responsible for developing a job announcement, advertising the opening, collecting applications and advising the board on the conduct of the forum and final interviews. An 18-member selection committee narrowed 34 applications to the five finalists.

# # # # #

Media Contact Information:

Max Branscomb
(619) 421-6700 ext. 5701 (office)
(619) 997-9054 (personal cell)

Dr. James Walker
(805) 279-0009

Dr. Eddie Hernandez
(714) 336-1266
Community College Search Services,
376 Hamilton Ave., Ventura, CA 93003-1833
(805) 650-2546

Superintendent/President Candidates Forum Schedule

Monday, September 12, 2011
Learning Resource Center, L238 N&S

12:00 p.m. 1:00 p.m.

Dr. Betty Inclan Video

1:30 p.m. 2:30 p.m.

Ms. Denise Whittaker Video

Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Learning Resource Center, L238 N&S

10:00 a.m. 11:00 a.m.

Dr. Debra Daniels Video

11:30 a.m. 12:30 p.m.

Dr. Willard Lewallen Video

1:00 p.m. 2:00 p.m.

Dr. Melinda Nish Video