It was time for an update Friday on Long Beach City College (LBCC).

Acting superintendent-president Ann-Marie Gabel was at the center of speakers addressing the crowd at the liberal arts campus.

“I feel great,” Gabel said after delivering her remarks. “It went off well. Seems like it was very well received.”

She noted she wasn’t a very outgoing person.

“I’ve been mentally prepping for it,” Gabel said. “I laid out a backbone skeleton (of the speech)… It is an honor and a privilege to lead this amazing team during this leadership transition.”

Gabel took the helm in December 2016, after Superintendent-President Eloy Ortiz Oakley — who had the position since 2007 — moved to the chancellorship of California Community Colleges.

Besides Gabel, LBCC District Board of Trustees President Virginia Baxter, LBCC Executive Vice President Lou Anne Bynum and LBCC Academic Senate President Karen Kane were among the speakers.

Kane said she struggled with what she would say at the event, with the current political climate.

“I know that now more than ever, it will be the power of what we do in education that will serve to enlighten,” Kane said. “I know that we must lift our heads and focus because denying change means we might miss discovering the joy of who we are when we live through it and come out on the other side.”

Kane referred to a time early on in her career, when a club of Pacific Islanders got several other clubs to come together to perform. The leader reminded her that she was the one who told them if they worked together it would make them feel stronger.

“They discovered the joy that comes when you walk through the unknown together,” Kane said.

Kane pointed to LBCC’s students.

“Their whole lives have happened fast and they have learned to live with uncertainty, instability and untruths… They believe we can get them where they want to be,” she said.

LBCC operations manager Cheryl Williams was amongst those in the crowd.

“I loved it,” Williams said. “I think it’s positive for the climate we’re in… I think that the community has come together more than ever.”

Baxter talked about the search for a new superintendent-president, with a 22-member committee leading the effort.

“I know we will have a very strong candidate pool because of the excellent reputation of this college throughout the state and the nation,” Baxter said.

Baxter mentioned the transition.

“Our trustees made an excellent choice when they appointed Ann-Marie Gabel as our acting superintendent-president,” she said.

Gabel said Oakley “left some very large shoes to fill, but the good news is that we now have the benefit of his leadership as chancellor of the California community college system… We are a strong institution, well positioned to meet the challenging goals laid out in our new Strategic Plan.”

The plan, Gabel noted, is a “roadmap to transform and improve this college to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.”

The plan’s four goals include innovating to achieve equitable student success, accelerating college readiness, building community and investing in people and support structures for transformation. The plan includes guided pathways for students to ensure their success, Gabel said, much like a GPS. And transfer degrees are critical, she said. There were 576 transfer degrees given in 2016 — up from 460 the prior year.

“These degrees provide students with a streamlined plan, enabling them to complete and transfer to a CSU (California State University) more quickly.”

Part of helping students succeed is appropriate facilities, Gabel said. With 64% of LBCC District voters approving the $850 million Measure LB in June 2016, the school is able to finish Measure E bonds work, she said. The 2041 Facilities Master Plan, which the Board of Trustees adopted in May 2016, is guiding the construction. A Citizen’s Oversight Committee is ensuring money goes to facilities instead of salaries and pensions, she said.

Among the upgrades are an $11 million renovated nursing building on the Liberal Arts campus; $23 million student services building on the Pacific Coast campus; and starting construction of one new building and renovating another for the electrical and robotics programs, among others.

The students, Gabel said, are a mix of military veterans and families, first-generation, immigrants and more. In 2016, 1,307 students received associate’s degrees, about 1,300 transferred to four-year universities, 414 earned achievement certificates, 138 received honors, 72 had high honors and 10 had perfect 4.0 GPAs.

“We serve a diverse population and many LBCC students are not what you would call ‘typical students,’” Gabel said.

The school’s sports program also achieved milestones, she said. Baseball head coach Casey Crook reached his 514th career win — breaking coach Joe Hicks’s all-time records. She also pointed out the football team’s 9-2 and 2016 Western State Bowl win, men’s volleyball’s ninth state title win, women’s water polo second consecutive SCC Championship win — with a perfect record — and more.

Gabel also commended LBCC’s 2,189 employees. Professor and sculpture program coordinator Coleen Sterritt received the Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 2016 and electrical technology instructor Lynn Shaw earned the Vasconcellos Advocate of the Year from the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges. The student-run radio stations CKTY and KLBC received the national Spirit of College Radio award during College Radio Day, with LBCC the only community college awarded. Librarians David Goto, Vivian Linderman, Ramchandran Sethuraman, Ward Smith and Colin Williams won a Telly Award for a promotional video on the LBCC library.

Emily Thornton can be reached at ethornton@gazettes.com.

Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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