H-SAN LUIS OBISPO

Oct 11, 2011 10:10 PM by Ariel Wesler

Three candidates remain for next Cuesta College President

Students, faculty, and staff at Cuesta college in San Luis Obispo heard from the three finalists, vying to become the school's next president. Each candidate had 50 minutes to introduce themselves, talk about three challenges facing the school, and answer written questions from the audience.

The three finalists are Ed Knudson, Dr. Willard Lewallen, and the current interim president Dr. Gilbert Stork. All of them have extensive backgrounds in higher education. However, one of the most pressing issues for the college right now is whether the probation of its accreditation will be lifted in January.

Cuesta's search for a new leader is down to three possible candidates. Ed Knudson comes from Bakersfield and has been part of the California Community College System since 1993, serving in various positions, including president. With an unclear budget picture, he pushed the importance of planning a few years ahead.

"Then the college begins to respond to the changes in Sacramento, instead of react," Knudson said.

He also stressed building a stronger relationship with the surrounding community to get its support.

"Don't merely report what we're doing, but ask the question, 'What is it that you need, and how can we help meet those needs?'" Knudson said.

Dr. Willard Lewallen is currently the president of West Hills College in the Central Valley. He brings 32 years of experience in higher education.

"Maybe we need to cross-train some folks so their not doing this little things we described in the job description," Lewallen said.

He promised transparency, no matter whether the news was good or bad, especially for students.

"Sometimes, they are the last to know about what we're doing with the budget and ultimately, it all impacts them in terms of their ability to get classes," Lewallen said.

"I think the candidates are interesting. They have some good depth in their backgrounds," said Karen Reyes, an adjunct faculty member at Cuesta.

Dr. Gilbert Stork has more than 40 years at Cuesta College.

"My love for this institution and and my passion for its mission is my motivation for seeking this position," Stork said. "Look at the progress we have made since last year, and we will be reaffirmed."

The new president is expected to be announced at the Board of Trustees meeting on December 7.

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