Sion Roy

Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a series on newcomers to City Council, the Rent Control Board and the Community College District Board of Trustees. Greg Morena, Naomi Sultan and Sion Roy were sworn in Tuesday night.

The new member of the board that governs Santa Monica College plans to focus on preparing local high school students to succeed at the college and use his connections with hospitals in the area to explore expanding the college’s healthcare curricula.

Sion Roy, a cardiologist at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and UCLA professor, will use his new role as a Santa Monica College trustee to create a dialogue between hospitals like UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica and Providence Saint John’s Health Center around training students for the healthcare field. More than 10 healthcare specializations have workforce shortages in California, Roy said.

“They offer great jobs for students of all types,” he said. “This would be similar to what we’ve done in offering partnerships with the tech field in the past two years.”

Roy also plans to focus on improving outcomes for SMC students who matriculate from Santa Monica High School or Malibu High School. Only 18 percent of those students come to SMC college-ready in English and math, he said.

“One thing that’s happening is that students at Samohi may decide early in high school that they’re going to SMC and may not be as engaged in doing well in school because they feel the finish line is easily attainable for them,” he said. “They’re going to show up unprepared.”

SMC counselors could engage with SMMUSD students interested in attending the college, Roy suggested. Making sure students show up prepared is particularly essential because of the new student performance-based funding formula California lawmakers enacted in June.

“I have to explore how we can do this, but we have to find a way to reach those students early in their high school careers,” he said. “You want to go to SMC, we want to make sure you show up prepared.”

Roy wants to engage with the older members of the community in addition to high school students.

“I feel like there’s a number of people who view the college as a guest behemoth in the middle of the community that’s perhaps unrelated to it,” he said. “It’s up to the college to really communicate with the community and make them aware of the services they offer for the community to take advantage of.”

Louise Jaffe, a trustee who was re-elected in November, said Roy’s priorities align with what the board is already working on. The college has made it easier and free for local students to enroll at SMC while they finish high school and is strengthening its career pathways.

“In terms of expanding our healthcare presence, we’re all in favor, but it’s a pretty detailed and costly process to add programs,” she said.

Jaffe added she believes Roy will be effective in making connections with hospitals, SMMUSD and the state legislature.

“(Roy) is interested in dealing with the larger political world … and this is a period of enormous change for California community colleges even without a new governor coming in,” she said. “Once we see what Newsom’s funding preferences are, we may be in a whole other game … the funding formula has changed and to some extent, we’ll have to reshape the college.”


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