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SFCC has new president after two nationwide searches

UPDATED: Fri., March 8, 2019

Kimberlee Messina has been selected as president of Spokane Falls Community College and will start the job in June. (Community Colleges of Spokane)
Kimberlee Messina has been selected as president of Spokane Falls Community College and will start the job in June. (Community Colleges of Spokane)

After two years of interim leadership and two nationwide searches, Spokane Falls Community College has secured a new president.

Kimberlee Messina, interim vice president of instruction at Clovis Community College in Fresno, California, will start at SFCC in June.

“Dr. Messina has the qualifications, experience and proven reputation to lead SFCC,” Christine Johnson, chancellor of Community Colleges of Spokane, said in a news release Friday. “She is absolutely committed to the mission of community colleges and to our ability to open the doors to new opportunities for people seeking affordable high-quality education in our region.”

Messina’s appointment to the $189,000-a-year job follows two nationwide searches for a permanent successor to Janet Gullickson, who left SFCC in June 2017 to lead a school in Virginia.

After Gullickson’s departure, Darren Pitcher was tapped to serve as acting president, but he resigned in February 2018 amid allegations of workplace sexual harassment spanning several years.

Nancy Fair-Szofran has served as acting president for the past year. In May, Johnson passed over two finalists for the permanent job, saying SFCC would be “best served” by other leaders.

A new recruitment process began in November, and Messina was chosen over two other finalists: Mark Smith, a vice president at Temple College in Texas, and Peter Maphumulo, a vice president at Victor Valley College in California.

Fair-Szofran plans to retire when Messina takes over as SFCC president, and finalists are being interviewed for Fair-Szofran’s old position as district provost, said Carolyn Casey, a spokeswoman for CCS, the district that includes SFCC and Spokane Community College.

A native of Sacramento and a first-generation college graduate, Messina, 55, holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology, a master’s degree in Spanish and a doctorate of education from the University of California, Davis.

She has 27 years of experience at community colleges in Northern California, starting as a Spanish instructor at UC Davis and Santa Rosa Junior College.

She later served as dean of science, technology, engineering and math at Santa Rosa, then held administrative posts at schools in the Silicon Valley area. She was a vice chancellor of the San Mateo County Community College District and served as interim president for one year at Foothill College.

Messina joined Clovis Community College on a six-month contract in January, according to a spokeswoman for the school. News reports show Messina was recently in the running for presidential posts at junior colleges in Modesto, California, and Bend, Oregon.

In a statement, Messina said she’s “looking forward to continuing the positive momentum and energy of achieving SFCC’s mission and vision.”

“On a personal note,” she added, “my husband and I are excited to explore our new city and the beautiful surroundings of Spokane, and this move will bring us closer to family in Washington.”

Casey, the CCS spokeswoman, said 35 candidates applied for the presidential job, eight visited Spokane for interviews, and the three finalists took part in full-day campus tours, meeting with students, staff and faculty.

The district did not hire a private recruiting firm to assist in the process. Casey said the district last did so in 2000 at a cost of about $90,000.

The district hasn’t tallied all of its expenditures – which included airfare, background checks and ads placed in higher education journals – but Casey said each of the two nationwide searches cost roughly $15,000.

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