Muto discusses RCC’s future

As the semester comes to a close, Riverside City College President Jan Muto is completing her first semester here. In an interview she discusses the effect the budget crisis will have on RCC and how her first semester went. S.H.: What has surprised you most in your first semester here? J.

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By Stephanie Holland

By Stephanie Holland

As the semester comes to aclose, Riverside City CollegePresident Jan Muto is completingher first semester here.

In an interview she discussesthe effect the budget crisis willhave on RCC and how her firstsemester went.

S.H.: What has surprisedyou most in your first semesterhere?J.M.: I am still in awe of thelevel of community support for ourstudents, faculty and staff, but I amjust so pleasantly surprised by justhow talented everyone is.

At the end of the year there areall these performances…betweenthe basketball team winning a statechampionship and the men’s trackteam winning back to back statechampionships and then I was atthe President’s Honor Recital fromthe music department and the ArtGallery opening, it just goes onand on and on.

The depth of talent here, Iknew it was good, but it’s betterthan I could have ever imagined.

S.H.: Are there one or twomoments that have stood outas really memorable to you thissemester?J.M.: One is not really academicat all, but I can’t help that it’sstanding out. I was probably herea week or two weeks and I wassitting here in my office and I heardthe fire alarm go off in the Quad.So I’m sitting here and I didn’thear any fire engines or anythingand the alarm kept going off andgoing off, so finally I decide tojust walk over there and see what’sgoing on.

There was an appropriatenumber of students and facultyon the exterior of the Quad…but Iwalk into the Quad and I just saw asea of people, so I had to stand upon a bench and say hello it’s me,I’m your new president. You needto quietly exit the Quad becauseif there is a fire you will be in thecenter of a ring of fire…and peoplewere like sure, we should probablydo that.

That was one, the other wasat each board meeting I try torecognize the achievements ofstudents, faculty and staff in myreport to the board, those Tuesdaynights are most important to mefor that moment of being able todo that.

The first time I was able toreally focus on that was probablymy second board meeting andI was able to say listen to theachievements of our students…itwas just one thing after anotherand it doesn’t get any better thanthat.

S.H.: With the recent failureof the propositions, how isRiverside planning to handlethe budget crisis? Are thereprograms that are already onthe chopping block?J.M.: Fortunately, we havea very comprehensive strategicplanning committee and in thatstrategic planning committee thereis a sub-committee that deals withfinancial resources and they havebeen working with Becky Elam,our vice president of businessservices, all year on helping tomake sure we’re prepared forthe cuts, we figured it was goingto happen…that group has beenworking very diligently…but Iwill be meeting…with all the vicepresidents and we’ll be puttingthings on the table.

Right now there are no specificprograms or services that arespecifically on the chopping block;quite frankly everything’s open tolook at.

The worst thing for us is theamount of our budget that’s inpersonnel, that doesn’t give us alot of flexibility. We have between80 and 90 percent of our operatingbudget in personnel costs. Thatdoesn’t give us room to cut otherareas, so we’re probably going tohave to cut some personnel costs.

S.H.: We received informationthat some of the advancedpreparation programs are indanger of being cut.Students are currentlycirculating a petition to savethem; do you see this as a goodway to save these programs?Also is it helpful for students toget involved and let you knowwhat they really need?J.M.: I think that’s probablythe most important thing and notto just let me know, but to let ourstate legislators know becausethose are the people who are votingon the budget.

It’s tragic that some of thespecific fund lines that have beentagged as possible cuts are whatthey call categorical fundingprograms and most of those arestudent support programs.

What we know about studentsuccess says it’s absolutely criticalto have that support. Yes thosethings do help and it could reallyhelp if we can get them to thelegislators.

S.H.: Is the campus preparedfor the expected rise in enrollmentin the fall?J.M.: Prepared is an interestingterm, we didn’t know we weregoing to grow as much as we didthis year.

The figures that we’ve seen areanywhere from 18 or 19 percentthat we grew in winter session andhovering right in the low 20s forlast fall and this spring.

The dilemma is how wecontinue to provide services…particularly classes for all of thosepeople who need it, because inthese economic times this is wherepeople come.

We’re looking at fullerclasses…this past year we wereabout 4000 full time equivalenceof students over our projectedtarget. That’s part of what we’llbe figuring out next week, canwe add some sections or expandsome sections that haven’t beenexpanded before.

S.H.: The three campuses areseparated, but do you think thatif there’s more communicationbetween the three, that will alsohelp students?J.M.: As we become three fullyaccredited campuses…it reallybecomes incumbent upon us toleverage our resources so we’renot working at cross purposes, butwe’re providing opportunities tostudents that can dovetail off oneanother, that can fit like a jigsawpuzzle.

S.H.: You’re a big supporterof distance learning, do you thinkthat’s another thing studentsshould be looking at?J.M.: It gives you a lot moreflexibility, a lot of students haveto work…and some students learnbetter in that environment ratherthan sitting in a classroom.

I’ve made it pretty clear that Iwould like this institution to look athow we can increase accessibilityto courses by having either partor all of a course online so that astudent has to make less trips here,so it’s also less expensive for astudent because they don’t haveto drive here.

Dr. Gray, our new chancellor,has had some great experiencewith distance learning, so I thinkwe’ll really be bringing that to bearon how each of the three locationscan promote distance learning.

S.H.: There’s a lot of newconstruction planned and in thenext couple of years the collegewon’t even look the same.Are you excited by thatidea or are you daunted andoverwhelmed? Will studentshave to step around tractors toget to class?J.M.: We hope not, but it’s avery legitimate concern. One of thefirst things I found out was that theplan for the new nursing sciencebuilding which will go next tothe Digital Library. The plansfor that building were to go intoconstruction the same time as thenew aquatic center which will godown near the football field in theparking lot there at the same timeand all I could see were parkingspaces going away.

I took it immediately to strategic planning and I took it tothe academic senate and also tookit to the district office…I feel veryconfident that we’re working withthe architects and we’re workingwith some partners nearby onhow we’re going to accommodateparking and flow of traffic.

I’ve already seen somepreliminary plans on both trafficand safety and I feel very confidentthat everyone will be okay.

S.H.: Do you have any advicefor graduates and transferstudents moving on to the nextphase of their lives?J.M.: My advice would be to betrue to yourself. You will all facechallenges, as long as you’re trueto yourself and true to your valuesand enlist the assistance of othersyou trust, you will do well. Andnever stop.

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