New president brings familiar face to 2021

Rudy Besikof poses for a picture on Friday, December 11th during a Zoom interview with The Citizen. Photo by Leticia Luna/The Citizen.

January 12, 2021

By Leticia Luna, Staff Writer

“I’m so fortunate to be this college’s president,” Laney College President Rudy Besikof said, expressing his appreciation to Laney College. 

Besikof has been acting as interim president since the transition from Tammeil Gilkerson this summer, and was officially voted in as president by the Peralta Board of Trustees in November 2020. 

“[I have] incredible passion for community college,” Besikof said, expressing admiration for the opportunities it gives, not only to students but also professionals. At community colleges there are no “locked doors” he said, accounting for the growth in his own career.

Originally from Colorado, Besikof double majored in English and French before acquiring his master’s in applied linguistics at the University of Colorado. He proudly added that he is the second person to have graduated in the program. In California, Besikof pursued a PhD in educational leadership and administration at University of California, Los Angeles. 

Besikof began teaching in 1989. “I have always been interested in education. It kind of went hand in hand with my love of learning about languages and culture,” Besikof said. He has taught both English and ESOL in Colorado and California and also abroad in France and Japan. 

“I came into community college as a faculty member and got opportunities to have leadership roles and do a variety of different things,” Besikof said.

When asked about Laney College, Besikof said that his “time at Laney has been great” and that he is “very excited” about the opportunity to be Laney’s president. He added that he admires the “total organizational commitment” and students’ involvement in the campus community. Besikof highlighted the participation and representativity of students on committee meetings as well. “That doesn’t happen everywhere,” Besikof said. 

He believes that Laney faculty, administrators and staff members have a “great commitment” to the college and students. “We want to see them succeed,” Besikof said. 

From day one at Laney, Besikof noted “that passion is really stronger than so many other things that we have” and it is something that made him stay at Laney. “[That passion] led me to decide that I wanted to apply to be president.”

Besikof said that Laney’s major challenge right now is to keep students and employees safe, and to provide additional support to assist student learning. He explained that it is important to ensure that students are not just getting into class but are also following their pathways, registering for classes this upcoming spring semester and that the college is creating a safe environment for on-campus labs. 

When asked about his hopes and expectations during his time as Laney College president, Besikof said, “I want a lot of people at graduation.”

“I want to see people fulfill their dreams and get their degrees or certificates [to] translate into a job opportunity or a promotion,” he said. “I also hope and dream for them that they get their jobs, or they take that next step and go to that four-year college that they want to go to.” 

Besikof added that it is important that more students follow the four-year college pathway and expressed a desire of having former and current students advocate and encourage new ones to come to Laney College.

Besikof praised that Laney “welcomes an environment of diversity” and added that “everyone who comes to Laney makes it a better place.” 

As a final note, Besikof wanted to make sure that students know about the opportunities that Laney College is providing to help address students’ necessities, both educational and financial, in these difficult times. 

He points out the food distribution that’s been happening in the campus and the student services offered through programs such as: Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS) – a program that provides academic and overall services to help students; Puente – award-winning program that focus on improving college-going rates for underrepresented students; Umoja – program that aims to increase the success, persistence and graduation rates for the African American college community; and the Asian Pacific American Student Success (APASS) program designed to support the Asian American and Pacific Islander community at Peralta.

“Laney is not just about taking a class, it’s about becoming part of a community and being supported,” Besikof affirmed. “We are here to support you.”