Former econ professor making the most of her time as acting president
By David Rowe, Associate Editor
May 1, 2023
Diana Bajrami has less than a year to accomplish her ambitious goals for College of Alameda (CoA) as its acting president but she is not letting that slow her down.
Bajrami was named to the position in September 2022 when Nathaniel Jones, the previous CoA president, was made acting vice chancellor of finance and administration for the Peralta Community College District (PCCD).
In its initial announcement of the leadership change in September, the district described the shift in responsibilities as “temporary” with a duration of six months. According to Bajrami, her role as acting president has now been extended through March of next year.
While some administrators in her position might view their role as just a caretaker, Bajrami said she “doesn’t know how to do things halfway,” and describes herself as “a doer.”
“I want to make sure that we provide excellent services here for students, that CoA thrives because it’s a great college, that PCCD does well, and that I do the best I can,” Bajrami explained.
Bajrami was an economics professor at CoA for twenty years before being appointed as the acting president. She also served as the vice president of instruction for CoA starting in June of 2021, according to her LinkedIn profile.
For Bajrami, one of the attractions of working in an administrative position was the increased scale of influence it provides.
“In the classroom, you can only touch 40 students at a time,” Bajrami explained.
Bajrami emphasized the difference between her job as a professor and her administrative role as acting president, pointing out that she is now responsible for thousands of students.
“The change is really amplified and it’s scaled up,” Bajrami said.
In an email to The Citizen, Jones commended Bajrami for her work at CoA.
“Dr. Bajrami has done an excellent job,” Jones said. “She has collaborated with the campus community to increase CoA’s enrollments in a fiscally responsible manner, led the continued development of the Education Master Plan, and further advanced institutional priorities of DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility) and Guided Pathways implementation.”
Bajrami credits her personal background and life experiences for her leadership skills and empathy for students struggling to make ends meet.
Bajrami grew up in Albania. She describes her parents as “highly educated political dissidents” who were moved from Greece to southern Albania during World War II. Bajrami attended the University of Tirana in Albania where she earned a Master’s degree in economics. Upon graduation, she became an assistant professor and said she created the first social work school in Albania.
Bajrami accepted an exchange professor position at Sacramento State College in 1996 and arrived in the US with just $500 in her pocket. Her image of California was largely shaped by the TV show “Baywatch,” Bajrami said.
But rather than seeing David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson running along a beach, she found herself far from the ocean in sweltering 103 degree summer heat in a small rented room in Sacramento and relying on the bus for transportation.
Despite these challenges, Bajrami said she found some “great mentors, great colleagues that are good friends” in Sacramento and continues to teach a monthly advanced policy for social workers class at what is now called California State University, Sacramento.
Bajrami’s involvement with PCCD began in 2001 when she moved from Sacramento to Pleasant Hill and accepted a part-time teaching position at Laney College. She was subsequently offered a full-time faculty position at CoA teaching economics.
In her limited free time, Bajrami enjoys cycling, swimming, and spending time with her family and friends. Her son is currently studying neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in addition to pursuing a jazz studies degree at Peabody Institute.
When Jannett Jackson, Peralta’s interim chancellor, appointed Bajrami to the acting president of COA in September, she observed that “Dr. Bajrami has been a member of the Peralta family since 2001 in various faculty, shared governance leadership, and administrative roles.”
Bajrami says she looks forward to continuing her association with Peralta when her current role at CoA ends in March. Whatever new job she is assigned, it is a safe assumption she will not do it halfway.