Nancy Greenstein. Courtesy photo

Five candidates, including three incumbents and two newcomers, are vying for four open seats on the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees. All five candidates were sent the same questions and given a rough word count within which to provide their written responses.

Each day this week, the Daily Press will print the responses of one candidate, beginning on Monday with incumbent Nancy Greenstein, whose answers are below.

Why would you like to be on the College Board?

I believe in the community college system and its critical role in providing excellent, accessible, affordable and safe education for a diverse cross section of our communities. Our students come from varied backgrounds, some directly from high school, others from circumstances that did not afford them the opportunities to attend or finish school, and still others have overcome incredible odds — disabilities, violence, poverty and lack of family support. Many attend Emeritus College, a place reminding us one is never too old to learn. I have made positive contributions through my work with students, support of Equity, Pathways, and Inclusion programs, environmental advocacy, vision for the SMC Public Policy Institute, community engagement, support of faculty and classified employees, leadership style, and community good will. There are ongoing projects of importance to our community requiring Board attention and responsiveness that I can contribute to including advancing student success, student equity goals, career and technical education, strong fiscal stewardship, and partnerships with our communities, Santa Monica and Malibu, and the SMMUSD. Why do I want to serve – because community colleges change lives for the better.

What experience do you have that qualifies you for the position?

I have a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, master’s in social work and a doctorate in education. My career has been in the nonprofit and public sector where I worked in elementary schools on the Navajo Reservation and in Southern California; in nonprofit organizations, for example Tribal American Children’s Center in southeast LA and Jewish Community Centers; local government, the City of West Hollywood, first as a council deputy and then the Public Safety Administrator; and in higher education. I am a retired administrator from UCLA, the No. 1 transfer school for SMC, where I had an eclectic portfolio, working with public safety, preventing victimization, providing public information and education, emergency preparedness, Clery Act compliance, and as a liaison for students, faculty and staff concerns. My work with survivors of sexual assault was recognized with the prestigious National Jeanne Clery Safety award. 

It has been a privilege to serve on the SMC Board for several terms. Recognized as a respected and effective leader, I successfully worked on initiatives, such as free tuition for first-time full-time students from local high schools, expansion of in-demand and new workforce development programs, protection of the Emeritus Program from proposed state budget cuts, participation in the Aspen Institute California Trustee Fellowship to reduce the racial equity gaps experienced by Black and Latinx students and the Public Policy Institute at SMC. I serve on SMC-related boards, such as Broad Stage and am chairperson of the Malibu Public Facilities Authority, which is the Malibu/SMC partnership developing the new SMC Malibu Center. 

How do you think the College handled Covid? Is there anything you would have done differently / you wished had gone differently?

As noted in Question 2, I have professional experience in public safety and emergency administration. In this context I can say with some authority that the college did an excellent job managing the COVID crisis. The safety of students, faculty and staff are always the priority and student success continued to be an imperative. This meant going virtual. The college’s Emergency Operations Team (EOT) was convened, meeting weekly throughout the crisis. Additional members were invited to participate so all segments of the college had representation, were part of the dialogue and integral to the solution. The pivot to online programming required technical considerations and training for faculty who had not been involved in distance education. I cannot say enough about the staff, faculty and administrators that rose to the call, recreating services, such as counseling, tutoring and making space for clubs and activities, virtually. We loaned Chromebooks to students and supported their basic needs, with meals and other resources. Classes and services have returned to campus though some students introduced to online possibilities are choosing this approach. COVID recovery is not about returning to the way it was but how we can take the lessons learned from the pandemic and incorporate them into new models that allow for flexibility, promote learning and create a sense of community. Check out  https://www.smc.edu/news/coronavirus/resources/roadmap-to-recovery.php to learn more about the COVID Response, recovery and lessons learned.

Do you support adding more four-year programs, and what programs might those be?

Our current four-year program, Interaction Design, provides a substantial savings from attending a UC or Cal State, and is going well. Students are exposed to a wide range of opportunities in the field leading to finding positions, starting businesses, and making career changes. I do support adding more programs, which involves the State Chancellor’s office. In the first rounds of program proposals, it was preferred that programs did not duplicate those available at four-year public schools. For community colleges it makes sense that we focus on initiatives that lead more directly to jobs and career opportunities. The medical field is one area for new bachelor’s degrees as there are existing fields requiring higher levels of training. The shortage in registered nurses could be addressed by allowing colleges providing AA degrees to provide Bachelor of Nursing degrees. As new areas of study are introduced, I expect some will call for introductory and more advanced training. An example can be found in a report from Los Angeles Regional Consortium focused on the ocean economy or blue economy noting it currently provides “660,000 direct jobs and over 143 billion in economic output in the state” and that “the expansion of existing workforce needs to include new jobs, training and educational opportunities spanning a wide range of skills and knowledge.” The report further suggests that a blue economy skillset could be acquired at community colleges. 

How big of a priority for you is local enrollment? What about other programs that benefit Santa Monica (and Malibu) specifically? 

Our communities and the Trustees share this priority. We routinely receive updates and did at a recent board meeting. Updates included Young Collegians, which is a successful summer program serving first generation and underrepresented college students. The campus also served SMMUSD students this past summer through Concurrent Enrollment, more with Dual Enrollment, and through Pico Partnership — a program between the City of Santa Monica and the college that helps to “meet the needs of under-resourced youth living in close proximity to the college.” We are involved with our neighbor, John Adams Middle School, contributing toward the athletic field and the new auditorium. Approximately 300 students from Olympic High are attending school on the SMC campus due to District temporary school closures. We have priority enrollment including for the SMC Promise, which provides free tuition/fees, free Chromebooks, and book vouchers for eligible full-time students coming from high school. There is an embedded counselor at SAMO and Olympic Highs. Information on the programs that are available to Santa Monica and Malibu students is on the SMC website.

Do you support the new SMC bond? Why or why not?

I do support the bond. The funds will be used to replace and upgrade outmoded labs and classrooms. It will provide technology for virtual learning, such as Hy-flex classrooms. It will assist with replacing the Malibu High auditorium. Importantly, plans include providing housing for homeless and qualified low-income students (qualified is defined by the Education Code and approximately 6,600 students could meet this qualification). The location will be at the Bundy Campus. We have many requests from community leaders and members of the public to provide housing for our students. With a planning grant from the state, we are studying this and are excited by the varied possibilities. I am a board member of Students4Students Shelter founded by UCLA students. Our first shelter is here in Santa Monica. Now, our programs include a network of shelters, started by students at varied UC campuses and USC, with new colleges joining regularly. The need is great. By providing housing we will be helping students complete their education leading to careers and financial security. 

Where would you like to see the College in 10 years?

According to a 2021 survey of District voters, 56% of Santa Monica and Malibu residents have taken classes at SMC. A study by the State Chancellor’s office notes that “SMC leads the state in local participation, a measure of how well a community college serves its local residents.” In 10 years, I hope we have surpassed these numbers. I want to see the Bundy site housing a vibrant community of students participating in activities and studying. I would like to see: a successful result to the student equity plan and the achievement gap closed, programs on the cutting-edge training students for their future, amazing graduates, Emeritus Program going strong with funding, a balanced budget with financial security — there is so much more to wish for, but I’ll stop with this last wish — No. 1 in transfer to UCLA and the UCs for 41 continuous years.