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PCC announces top candidates for college presidency, forums set at each campus
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College’s search for its next president has been narrowed to three finalists.
Candidates under consideration are Rassoul Dastmozd of Saint Paul, Minn., Mark Mitsui of Washington, D.C., and Melinda Nish of Bonita, Calif. They were selected from a group of six semi-finalists who had been culled from an applicant pool of more than 50 from around the globe. A college presidential search advisory committee made up of staff, faculty, a student, community members, and representatives from PCC’s Board of Directors and Foundation Board led the selection process. Finalists were selected on the basis of their qualifications stated in their resumes or curricula vitae, and on their performance during the interview process with the committee.
“Our committee had an extraordinarily talented and strong group of candidates to consider, and we greatly appreciate the time, dedication and input of the committee members throughout this process,” said Gene Pitts, vice chair of PCC’s Board of Directors (Zone 6 – Yamhill County and Beaverton) and co-chair of the presidential search advisory committee.
Added PCC Board Director Kali Thorne Ladd (Zone 2 – Parts of Columbia County and Northeast Portland), who served as co-chair with Pitts, “Each of the three finalists is highly qualified and has ample community college experience. We are very excited to welcome them to PCC next week to meet with faculty, staff, students and the community at large.”
The college will hold forums with the finalists the week of May 23 to enable the public and college community to meet and ask questions of each of the candidates. PCC’s Board of Directors will conduct finalist interviews.
Details about the president finalist forums to be held May 23-27 can be found on the college’s president search Web page.
The announcement of PCC’s next president is anticipated to take place in late June. The new president will replace Jeremy Brown, who left PCC in May 2015. Since Brown’s departure, Sylvia Kelley, PCC’s executive vice president, has served as interim president.
Following is background information on each of the finalists:
Dastmozd is the president/CEO of Saint Paul College in Saint Paul, Minn., one of 31 independently accredited institutions in Minnesota’s colleges and universities system and also the most diverse and fastest-growing comprehensive college in the state.
Since arriving in 2011, Dastmozd has led Saint Paul College, which has a total enrollment of 12,000 students, to national recognition as the No. 1 community college in the U.S. as ranked by Washington Monthly magazine. He was honored with the 2016 H.E.R.B.I.E. Award by the Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce for giving back to the community and for fostering strategic partnerships with local public, private and nonprofit organizations. The college also was named an Outstanding Business Success by the chamber. Additionally, Dastmozd received the 2016 Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction by Phi Theta Kappa and the 2016 Minnesota Business Magazine (Real) Power of 50 award.
Dastmozd has experience in strategic planning, accreditation and accountability initiatives, recently completing and operationalizing a strategic plan and vision for Saint Paul College. He has guided the college to meeting and exceeding statewide completion benchmarks in the areas of student success, diversity, number of certificates/degrees awarded, efficient use of resources, stewardship of facilities and fiscal management, and development of new resources. He has served on several regional and national boards including the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) Diversity Commission, AACC Master Mentor for MentorLink, NSF National Visiting Team, CyberWatch West and Minnesota Philanthropy, to name a few.
He has a Pacific Northwest connection: Before joining Saint Paul, Dastmozd was Clark College’s vice president of instruction and workforce education for five years. Prior to Clark College, he was the dean of the Applied Technologies Division for Eastern Iowa Community College District, Scott Community College, from 1999 to 2006.
Dastmozd has a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Technology from Southwest State University in Minnesota, a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Drake University in Iowa, and a doctorate in Education & Human Resources from Colorado State University.
Since 2013, Mitsui has served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges within the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education for the U.S. Department of Education. In this role he works to advance the community college agenda of the President and Secretary of Education by partnering with the White House, Education Department divisions and federal agencies and national stakeholders.
Prior to working in Washington D.C., Mitsui was the president of North Seattle College in Washington state from 2010 to 2013. While there, Mitsui successfully navigated the community college, which serves nearly 7,000 students, through the worst budget reduction the state had experienced in 30 years. During the college’s 2013 accreditation review, he was commended for his strong leadership, inclusive strategic planning and transparency in decision-making. While guiding North Seattle, Mitsui was effective in his efforts to garner a variety of grants, was the founding chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Association of Colleges and Universities, was a member of the National Asian/Pacific Islander Council of AACC, and in 2013 was honored with the Rhonda Quash Coates Award for contributions to the Multicultural Student Services Directors Council of Washington state.
Before arriving to North Seattle College, Mitsui served as the vice president of student services at South Seattle College, from 2006 to 2010.
Mitsui holds a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Western Washington University, a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Washington, and is working on his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, also at the University of Washington.
Nish is the superintendent/president of Southwestern Community College District in Chula Vista, Calif., which serves more than 20,000 students annually. She oversees five administrative divisions that operate student services, academic affairs, business and finance, technology and employee services.
Among Nish’s many accomplishments since arriving to Southwestern in 2012 is the realignment of the $389 million Prop R construction plan with new education and facilities master plans, as well as the establishment of MOUs with three Mexican higher education institutions to launch cooperative programs. She was elected to serve as president of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association for 2012-2013, which was followed by her election as the Region 11 representative for the California Community College Association for the 2015-2018 term. In this capacity she is charged with articulating positions on issues facing the state’s community colleges.
Nish lent her leadership expertise to chair a site visit to Skyline College (San Bruno, Calif.) in 2013 on behalf of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. This year she is slated to again chair a site visit, this time to Palau Community College in Koror, Palau.
Prior to Southwestern, Nish was vice president of instruction for Orange Coast College, part of the Coast Community College District in Costa Mesa, Calif., for six years. In 2015, she was honored with the Small Business Administration (SBA) District Director’s Special Appreciation Award and won Woman of the Year recognition from the California State Assembly 80th District in 2014.
Nish holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Utah. She earned a doctorate in Leadership and Change from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif., and was awarded an advanced degree from the Institut Universitaire de Hautes Études Internationales in Geneva, Switzerland.