December 30, 2020
By Leticia Luna, Staff Writer
“I want to be accessible! I will try as much as I possibly can to do that because it is important to me to understand what’s on the hearts and minds of those that I serve,” Nathaniel Jones III, the new president of the College of Alameda, said in a Zoom interview with The Citizen.
Jones, a University of Maryland mechanical engineer graduate who has an MBA in business from Loyola University Maryland, and PhD in health policy also from University of Maryland, defines his educational background as “eclectic.”
“I continue to develop my understanding of the complex world in which we live in and work,” Jones said.
“So, when I felt that I didn’t have sufficient knowledge or experience in an area, I sought to improve my level of competency in those areas and that largely took the form of additional education, to become, sufficiently informed.”
Jones, who enjoys playing tennis and teaching Sunday school in his free time, has interesting professional career experience. He has worked in higher education for around 20 years but has also worked in hospital administration for roughly 13. His experiences in higher education, both in public and private institutions, vary from research projects to administrative roles and teaching – which he said he often took on two of those roles at a time. As a professor, he had a faculty appointment at Dartmouth College.
“My area of scholarly expertise is health policy and health economics,” Jones said. His teaching experience has mostly been at the graduate level. “Either at the PhD, or master’s in like, master’s of public health or master’s in healthcare administration,” Jones explained. Jones admited, though, that his teaching is not “sufficiently entertaining” to teach undergrad students.
When asked about the College of Alameda’s assets, Jones highlighted the strong and devoted faculty
“From what I’ve seen, you have a really, really good group of faculty, who are very strong, committed to academic excellence, and are really, really, concerned about, and passionate about supporting the students,” Jones said.
Jones believes this is an ideal starting point for student success and said that the diversity of the college community sets the College of Alameda apart. “[There] is generally a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, making all students, irrespective of background, feel welcomed and included in the college community.”
For his hopes and expectations, Jones expresses desire to continue the success that the college already has produced and hopes to continue the work.
“I really want to build on the progress and success that the college [of Alameda] has enjoyed over the past 50 years — but take it to a higher level,” Jones said, recollecting COA’s recent 50 year anniversary.
As for COA’s biggest challenges, Jones said he is most concerned with enrollment numbers declining, not only at COA but district-wide.
“Obviously, one of the large challenges, is the fact that not just at COA but the district at large, the enrollment has been declining,” he added “Given the fact that primarily the resources coming to the college and to the district is predicated upon FTES (full-time student) or enrollment, that becomes a very important thing to get a handle on.”
Jones indicates a desire to work as a unit with college administration and faculty to best understand the declining enrollment and work towards a “thoughtful and effective way” to strategize and deal with the issue.
Jones explained that he does not have an established plan for his time at COA, “I dare not suggest changes without first understanding,” Jones said.
Instead, he wishes to gain an understanding of what’s adequate and faulty at the campus and collectively work together to set a common vision that all of COA can embrace. “That’s [the] future state that we’re working towards and it was co-developed,” Jones said.
Jones remembers that during his hiring process he was questioned about his time commitment to the role and asked to reinforce his statement and understanding of leadership. He expressed that what is important is the development of a vision that is integral to the campus itself, independent of the person in charge, that creates an institutionalized goal with the larger community that sets the future of the institution to not depend solely on the vision of a particular leadership.
Jones started his one-year contract with the College of Alameda on December 4th, 2020 and is set to face some challenging times with education during a worldwide pandemic and the accreditation process of the Peralta Community College District. Despite these hurdles, Jones appears enthusiastic to work with COA and the Peralta community.
“I’m interested in hearing from you all,” Jones said.
“My objective is essentially listen, learn, then lead.”