A new day is dawning at Long Beach City College, with a new superintendent/president and an ever-changing campus full of programs new and old.

That was the picture Dr. Reagan Romali painted Friday in her first State of the College address before an appreciative crowd of several hundred. Romali signaled the new digital age by using the Twitter hashtag #LBCCSOC to start a conversation, and invited attendees to use social media to discuss what she presented — education that makes an impact. 

The event also was the school's 90th academic year anniversary. Other speakers included LBCC Board of Trustees President Jeffrey Kellogg, LBCC executive vice president Ann-Marie Gabel, and LBCC Academic Senate President Jorge Ochoa.

"The work we do has profound economic and societal impact," Romali said. "It reduces crime. It lowers poverty. It provides homes, and economic prosperity. It brings families together. It provides social mobility — in to, and beyond the middle class."

Those impacts come from the college's education, she said, which included job training for both traditional students — those just out of high school — and others — returning and/or first-time adult students wanting to further their education. One example she provided was Eugene Sylve, who attended in the 1960s and was a successful football player, but whose life included prison time and health issues. Then he came back to LBCC.

"Eugene reminds us that no matter where we find ourselves, education is the path to a better life," Romali said. "And it's never too late. Never too late to make an impact."

His upcoming degree completion was just one example of LBCC's impacts, she said. In 2017, almost 1,700 associate degrees were earned, she said, 800 with enough credits to transfer to a four-year school — among the state's highest for community colleges. Other accomplishments included more than 360 achievement certificates and 1,300 students getting credits to transfer, she said. 

A way to take those numbers even higher, she said, the goal is to build on the College Promise. In the next year or so, she said she hoped two years of free tuition would be available. 

Besides students, the college impacted the community with new construction, she said, which was the result of voter-approved bonds in 2002 and 2008. Measure LB (in 2016) would enable completion, she said. Some of the work included opening of Pacific Coast Campus's electrical program/senior studies center building; beginning renovation of the journalism/language arts building; and nearly completing science labs' renovations.  

One area she said LBCC didn't want to impact was the environment, meaning using solar panels, recycled water systems and more to reduce the school's footprint. The school's efforts earned it Green Education Inc.'s Green School of the Year award in 2017. 

Safety was another area Romali touched on, with the addition of hundreds of video cameras in public areas on both the Liberal Arts and Pacific Coast campuses. Rooftop building numbers also were added, she said, to help helicopter crews locate them in an emergency. 

LBCC also plays a primary role, she said, in economic/workforce development. The school is the L.A. regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network headquarters. With help from the center, more than 325 local businesses were started last year, as well as 1,400 new jobs, 4,100 client advisories, and more than $142 million in growth capital for small businesses. 

Extracurricular and sports departments also made an impact, she said. For sports, those included one state title, six conference championships, four MVP awards, nine statewide finals appearances, and more. For extracurricular activities, accomplishments included the Viking newspaper receiving 14 state awards, including general excellence, and many more. 

Romali said she was ready to move forward, building on that momentum.

"When I got here in May, my first goal was to listen," Romali said. "I heard what our faculty and staff and other stakeholder groups had to say about the direction of the college. Now, I'm stepping on the gas."

Some of her priorities, she said, include increasing recruitment efforts; moving registration dates earlier; supporting/expanding accelerated learning; improving class scheduling; finding/removing barriers; better managing the call center; improving matriculation; adding services to student success centers; improving the governance system, ensuring hearing more stakeholders; and adding a social/emotional wellness team.

Those facing homelessness and food insecurity will receive help with the upcoming more comprehensive student health and wellness center, she said which includes mental health resources. 

New labor agreements with two of the college's employee unions was another way of supporting students, she said, so ongoing negotiations wouldn't distract faculty/staff from their mission. 

"I think you'll agree, our mission has never been more critical," Romali said. "Now, more than ever, education is the key. Crime, racism, class and wealth inequality, homelessness. These are all problems education can, and does, solve."

Second-year student Yesenia Ochoa said she was hopeful after Romali's speech.

"I started with the Puente Program," Ochoa said. "The mentors always help us out... It will help us reach our educational goals."

"I thought it was truly inspiring," third-year student Vanessa De Guzman said. "She showed passion through her speech... Faculty and students make Long Beach become one. That's how to improve and make it (city) better."

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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