By Deborah Manning
Los Angeles Mission College’s Ludi Villegas-Vidal, Dean of Student Services and Diana Bonilla, Professor of Counseling recently graduated from the National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC) 2016 Leadership Fellows Program. They are also participating in a yearlong mentorship that is a major component of the NCCHC program.
NCCHC President Maria Harper Marinick presented framed certificates to 22 Hispanic community college officials from around the nation including Ms.Villegas-Vidal and Ms. Bonilla at a brief ceremony that celebrated the completion of their intensive study program. After the ceremony, the graduates participated in the NCCHC Leadership Symposium. The ceremony and symposium were held in Costa Mesa, California.
The NCCHC Leadership Symposium is a captivating event that is attended nationwide by luminaries in the educational field and a huge number of NCCHC alumni. Los Angeles Community College Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez, PhD, spoke to the audience of over two hundred professionals in higher education about the significance of the NCCHC and expressed his heartfelt congratulations to the graduates.
Chancellor Rodriguez recognized Ms. Villegas-Vidal and Ms. Bonilla in the audience and praised them for their participation in the program, and also Dr. Christopher Villa, EdD, Vice President of Student Services for his attendance at the symposium. Chancellor Rodriguez stated his desire for the other LACCD colleges to apply to next year’s program.
Last March, Los Angeles Mission College President Monte Perez, PhD, and Vice President Villa, EdD, supported Ms. Villegas-Vidal’s and Ms. Bonilla’s applications to the NCCHC program. One of the application requirements for the NCCHS involved each candidate writing a paper about their educational philosophy. Notification e-mails from NCCHC arrived in early May; Ms. Villegas-Vidal and Ms. Bonilla were thrilled to be accepted into the acclaimed program.
Prior to the symposium, Ms. Villegas-Vidal and Ms. Bonilla attended workshops provided by the NCCHC 2016 Leadership Fellows Program. The program also included group project presentations that challenged the fellows to apply a different leadership theory to a hypothetical problem involving stakeholders and budget issues. The fellows, who were from various states in the country, collaborated on the projects during the summer and early fall by way of phone, e-mail, and Skype.
On the second day of the NCCHC program, the groups gave their presentations, some of which were highly creative with one group presenting a skit and others visual displays. The fellows learned from one another about the various methods that one could approach leadership and the subsequent outcomes.
Ms. Villegas-Vidal said that Dr. Ted Martinez, Executive Director of the NCCHC, volunteered his time and expertise to coordinate the leadership program that was hosted by the University of San Diego School of Leadership and Education Sciences.
One of the outstanding highlights of the program is the mentorship provided by state chancellors, college presidents, and vice presidents. Dr. Martinez connected mentors to fellows early in the summer with the agreement of the mentors and fellows working together until June 2017.
Ms. Villegas-Vidal, who began her career as an academic counselor when Mission College was established on its permanent campus 25 years ago, is the senior-most dean at Mission College with eight years of experience. Ms. Villegas-Vidal believes the NCCHC program is the best staff development program she has ever experienced.
“The program is very structured,” Ms. Villegas-Vidal said. “We were asked to shut off our cellphones and completely concentrate our attention on the workshops. For eight hours a day, we were bombarded with inspiring information and always wanting to hear more as each new speaker entered the room.”
Ms. Villegas-Vidal was impressed by the high caliber of the speakers, many of whom have authored books on leadership. She said one common thread she noticed about the speakers was their humility. None had big egos. Moreover, she stressed that the highly sought after speakers, volunteered to participate in the NCCHC program.
“Many of the speakers expressed in their presentations that it is imperative to give back to your community as they acknowledged there were many people who supported them throughout their careers,” Ms. Villegas-Vidal said. “One of the workshop speakers told the fellows that no one can whistle a symphony, it takes a whole orchestra to play it.”
Ms. Villegas-Vidal recalled some of the main points in the workshop by Dr. Terry O’Banion: Always be interested in learning more. Be humble no matter what position you achieve in your career. In leadership positions, you will make mistakes. Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them. Involve people in the shared governance process and keep in mind that there will always be people who are not happy with your decisions. He emphasized that “Decisions should always be made in the interest of the students.”
After the first day of the workshops, Ms. Villegas-Vidal said that she and Ms. Bonilla happened to encounter and then decided to socialize with some of the other fellows and presenters, including Dr. Reyes Quezada who is a professor at the University of San Diego. During one of the conversations, Dr. Quezada and Ms. Villegas-Vidal discovered that each shared a rare experience last January 6, 2016. They each walked through the Holy Doors at the Vatican that lead to St. Peter’s Cathedral where they participated in the mass as the Pope led the service. In his workshop presentation the next day, Dr. Quezada told the fellows the value of enriching one another’s lives with the art of conversation and sharing one’s experiences as he had with Ms. Villegas-Vidal.
Diana Bonilla has been a counselor at Mission College for 10 years, including two years as a department chair for the Counseling Department. She is currently the Employee Assistant Program (EAP) representative for Mission, one of the California Community Colleges Success Network (3CSN) representatives for the Los Angeles area, and a mentor for the LACCD Project Match program. She has worked on the Achieving the Dream program including being one of the originators of Mission’s Fall Kickoff. During the NCCHC program and symposium, she said she enjoyed the camaraderie of meeting and engaging new colleagues.
Ms. Bonilla said, “The leadership program was an uplifting experience and especially having the opportunity of listening to and learning from the speakers who were brilliant in their presentations, so generous and dedicated to helping us.”
In particular, she recalled a book, The Four Agreements written by Don Miguel Ruiz that was discussed at one of the workshops. The four agreements are as follows: Be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.
Ms. Bonilla said that she went to college with Dr. Ruiz’s son. She said she recalled that Dr. Ruiz wrote the book when his son and she were in college.
“Now my experience of being on the other side of education, I see the impact this book has made on humanity,” Ms. Bonilla stated.
One of the most poignant take-aways Ms. Bonilla said she experienced at the NCCHC program was the workshop on cultural proficiency by Dr. Reyes-Quezada.
“This is such a great moment in time to bring this to the forefront of education to become culturally proficient. It begins by having a willingness to learn about other people’s culture, belief systems, and values. But more importantly to be self-reflective which cultivates self-awareness about our own cultural biases so that we can reach proficiency as Dr. Reyes-Quezada explained at the workshop,” Ms. Bonilla stated.
Ms. Bonilla said she was deeply impacted by Dr. Reyes-Quezada’s presentation and inspired to get training on Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (CRTL). She recently attended an introduction to CRTL workshop at Pierce College with ten other LAMC faculty and staff. Her goal is to become a trainer of CRTL and to bring this awareness to Mission.