Welcoming the new RCC president

By Araceli Diaz / Staff Writer, Javier Cabrera / Editor in Chief

Taking it all in (Russell Hebert / Staff Photographer)

By Araceli Diaz / Staff Writer, Javier Cabrera / Editor in Chief

Cynthia Azari was officially sworn in as Riverside City College’s tenth president at the Landis Performing Arts Center on Oct. 6.

Azari’s inauguration took place six months after she officially accepted the position as president in April.

The search for RCC’s new president began in May 2010 when the last president, Jan Muto, abruptly resigned.

Muto’s resignation left Tom Harris as acting president, and RCC began an extensive search to find a permanent president which ultimately led to Azari.

The lighthearted ceremony included a student welcoming by Jonathan Flike, president of Associated Student of Riverside City College and salutations from Gregory Gray, chancellor of RCCD, Dr. Dariush Haghighat, and many others.

RCC’s Wind Ensemble performed “A Whole New World,” and John Byun, instructor of music, led the performance for “Alma Mater Riverside.”

In addition to being Azari’s inauguration, the ceremony doubled as a convocation.

The convocation is essentially a call of unity among the three campuses, as well as a formal assembly meant to signify a new academic year.

Traditionally, convocations are held during joyous occasions which in this case would be the welcoming of Dr. Azari.

Azari comes to RCC as an experienced veteran of higher education.

She served as the president of Fresno City College and as a dean for Business and Engineering at Olympic College.

In addition, Azari received the National Trio award in 2009 which recognizes her success in higher education.

Azari’s experience is what gives students, faculty and staff the confidence in her abilities, especially during these difficult economic times.

“She is welcomed; We are very impressed with her credentials and how she has handled herself so far,” said Laura Greathouse, associate professor of anthropology.

Other faculty members have faith in Azari as well.

“I made a special effort to get here today because she has been a wonderful president and person in her first months here,” said Ward Schinke, instructor of political science. “I thought it was very important that we show our appreciation that out of all the places she might have chosen to become president, she chose RCC.”

The student body came out to attend the inauguration as well. Many students feel that Dr. Azari has the required skills needed to be an effective president.

“I have met Azari a few times and I feel she really is deeply devoted to students and to diversifying our student body and really trying to move forward. She is an innovator so it is wonderful to have her,” Lisa Jayasekera said, an RCC student.

The administration believes that Azari’s experience, and her openness will help steer RCC during these difficult times.

“She comes with much experience,” said Cecilia Alvarado, dean of Student Services. “She has a vision; she works well with people, with different groups, students, faculty and staff.”

Alvarado does acknowledge this task will not be easy.

“During this climate I don’t think it’s easy for any president, but I think we are very fortunate to have somebody with a lot of experience to lead us through these times,” she said.

The faculty seems to be unifying together with Azari in hopes that together they can make it through the current economic climate.

“I think since the faculty, staff and administration support her, I think we can pull together to get through the budget crisis or at least handle it with the best amount of skill we can. I think she will lead quite well in that,” Greathouse said.

“I’m very optimistic that she will bring together the RCC team and we’re going to survive this budget crisis in a fairly good order compared to what could have happened,” Schinke said. “She truly cares about students and the teamwork here at RCC. She’s a true listener and she tries to create win-win situations, which not every leader does.”

Jayasekera feels that Azari’s approachability will encourage relationships with the student body and administration.

“I think it is really important for our students to have access and to feel that their president and their leaders are a part of their lives,” Jayasekera said. “To have these sort of events where the students can come interact with the (Board of Trustees), is I think really integral for students emotional health.”

As far as the ceremony goes, it was very well received by those who attended.

“I thought it was really informative and very interesting. I like the fact that they did keep it lighthearted, but at the same time being lighthearted, they also provided a lot of background information about the new president, which was very interesting,” Jayasekera said. “I look forward to having her as our new president and to see what type of changes and productivity we can obtain from her.”

The faculty were pleased by the outcome.

“It was a beautiful event; I love the fact that the students came out. We had guests from the city and from different universities. Her family was here,” Alvarado said. “It was a good time to come together and to celebrate.”

Greathouse elaborates on the importance of having these official ceremonies to unify RCC staff, faculty and the student body.

“The ceremonies are always tradition for Riverside and it does help bring the campus together, especially in a time in budget cuts,” Greathouse said. “It gives us something to unify and stand together with instead of standing against.”

Alvarado shares the same sentiment.

“I think it is tradition; I think it helps bring back moral, (and) it helps people understand the role that our president plays here,” she said. “Getting to know her and what her vision is I think it helps people understand what she is bringing.”

So what does Azari feel about the ceremony honoring her arrival?

“I’m honored (and) I’m humbled,” she said.

“I was humbled, because I’m a person and for the average person some things are good some things are not so good,” Azari said. “To hear people say things that were complimentary was really an honor.”

Azari acknowledges the difficulty of the road ahead, but remains optimistic.

“I’m challenged (with) mixed emotions because it’s a great school, (and) of course challenged by the budget constraints that we face,” Azari said. “But (I) know that we will get through this together. I’m honored to be here.”

Finally home (Jacob Willson / Asst. Photo Editor)