Alma Johnson-Hawkins is ready to embrace her new position as Valley’s interim president
by Jhanelle Rivera, Editor In Chief, and Edward Ruano, Copy Editor
With the experience that comes from an educational background of more than 30 years, Valley College’s new interim President Alma Johnson- Hawkins is aware and prepared to face the numerous challenges that come with the responsibilities of her new position.
On Sept. 17, Johnson- Hawkins, former vice president of student services at Pierce College, was named Valley’s new interim president by the Board of Trustees after Sue Carleo’s retirement last month. Her current assignment is for one year, during which she plans to familiarize herself with the college’s staff, mission and goals before creating a strategic plan to balance the school budget and tackle other issues.
“I don’t think my purpose is to come in and change Valley College,” said Johnson-Hawkins. “I come in acclimating to Valley College, getting to know Valley College, getting to know the faculty, staff and students of the college and familiarizing myself with the goals of the college.”
With challenges like limited courses, an inability to provide adequate support services for students and a cumulative deficit of more than $6 million, Johnson-Hawkins is focusing on doing her best as interim president first before applying for the permanent presidential position sometime in June, when the college will begin its hiring process.
“I’m focused on working with the college community through our challenges of the deficit and working with the community in terms of how we can offer the best courses. That’s my primary focus,” said Johnson-Hawkins. “After that is applying for the full-time position, and that’s yet to be seen what it’s going to look like.”
Born in Natchez, Miss., Johnson-Hawkins knew from an early age that she wanted to be an educator. After leaving the south and moving to California with her family at a young age, she began pursuing her educational career, starting with her first job at Van Nuys Junior High School and then Van Nuys High School. Moving into college education, she continued her career at Los Angeles Mission, West Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, and more recently, Los Angeles Pierce colleges before landing her position at Valley.
“I’ve served as an administrator for the last 18 years, I think that I’ve been quite successful as an administrator, and I feel privileged that all of those experiences resulted in my being selected as the interim president at the college,” said Johnson-Hawkins. “Now, it’s my turn to pay it back, so that when you come in and sit in your classes, you can be sure you’re going to get the best quality education.”
During her downtime, Johnson-Hawkins enjoys walking around the campus, where she gets to interact with students using a “secret-shopper” approach before identifying herself as the president. She recognizes the importance of keeping students updated and has regular communication with the Associated Student Union President Alexia Johnson in particular, who spreads her message across the student body.
“With the support of the students and faculty, she can bring great change,” said Johnson. “She is very approachable, and I am looking forward to regular meetings with her.”