Vela vies for chancellor position

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By Kevin Hudec

Noelia Vela, one of three candidates for the position of RCC chancellor. (Christopher Ullyott)

By Kevin Hudec

During more than 35 years of working in education, Noelia Vela has built a reputation of her numerous honors and is the president/superintendent of Cerritos College.

Adding to these achievements, the Riverside Community College District has selected Vela as one of the final candidates for the chancellor position at Riverside City College.

Vela began her career in education after graduating from Illinois State University with a bachelor of arts degree. She also received her Masters degree from Illinois State University before moving out to California.

Vela received her doctorate in Leadership Communications from the University of San Diego and was hired as the dean of Student Services at Cuyamaca College in 1989.

After four years there, she received her first presidential position at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose. During her presidency, she received a vote of no confidence, according to Brian Reece, president of the Faculty Senate at Cerritos College.

Despite the allegations from Reece, Paulette Romano, the president’s secretary and a faculty member for over 20 years, said she has no knowledge of a vote of no confidence during Vela’s presidency.

Maria Longoria, the current Board secretary, said that she joined the college immediately after Vela’s departure, but heard that Vela’s only reason for leaving was for a better offer, and that “the District was satisfied.”

Vela accepted the president position at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz. Her reputation was bolstered by many awards and honors.

After serving PCC for a year, Illinois State University, her alma mater, inducted her into its Alumni Hall of Fame for her accomplishments since her graduation from the university.

She also was named a “Woman on the Move” by the Tucson Youth Women’s Christian Association.

Vela was also invited to become a member of the America’s Mujeres en la Cumbre (“Women at the Pinnacle”), along with many other awards.

Vela continued to strengthen her image among the public by staying involved with the community. She was on the executive boards of many different organizations including three Tucson-based hospitals, an economic council, city committees and college councils.

In 2004, Vela relocated to California for a second time to take over the president/superintendent role at Cerritos College in Norwalk. In the last three years, she has secured enough money to build a brand new science building and get new turf for the field.

Vela has also been known to support student movements. Cerritos College students and faculty members were protesting against the war in Iraq and the administration’s restrictions on freedom of speech in November 2004.

Throughout the demonstration, Vela continued to allow and promote students to speak their minds, so long as they did not harass students or impede the walkways so that other students could go to class.

“This is being done in a constructive manner,” Vela said. She did not state whether she was for or against the war in Iraq.

Though she does not engage in political discussions, she has no problem making decisions about other issues including academic policies.

“She has built up a reputation of calling meetings at 4 o’clock on a Friday evening,” Reece said. “She is a hard working president which will make sure that everything that she wants done, gets done.”

When speaking of Vela’s attitude toward effective leadership, Reece adamently supported her methods.

“She is anything but low-key… she may be hard working and stresses out some people with her intense work ethic. But she makes good decisions and looks out for the students,” Reece said.

For coverage of Vela’s town hall forums:

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