New state chancellor named

Christian set to lead June 1


Carrie Tan

Chancellor-Select Dr. Sonya Christian, center, surrounded by Board of Governors President Amy Costa, left, and Board of Governors Vice President Hildegarde Aguinaldo, right.

Aliyah Ramirez, Staff Writer

After a nationwide search over the past seven months, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors announced on Feb. 23 the unanimous selection of Kern Community College Chancellor Sonya Christian as the upcoming permanent chancellor.

Christian is set to begin her duties on June 1, replacing Chancellor Eloy Ortiz, after he stepped down in August from leading the community college system for six years. She will guide the largest and most diverse public higher education system; the California Community Colleges is the most extensive system of higher education in the nation, comprising 116 colleges and assisting 1.8 million students a year.  

When Christian began in 2015, she started as a commission member but grew her roles across many educational boards. She led a $150 million state investment for guided pathways and framework throughout the college system. 

In July 2021, Christian became the sixth chancellor of the Kern Community College District, from her experience in higher education working in subjects of mathematics, science, engineering and health. 

“She understands what is needed to deliver on record levels of higher education investment to make real improvements to the lived reality of our students,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “I look forward to continuing to partner with Dr. Christian to ensure our community colleges are engines of equity and opportunity.”

For Interim Chancellor of the Contra Costa Community College District Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, worked with Christian on several statewide committees and was “happy to hear of her selection.” To expand educational resources, both are a part of the District’s Partnership Resource Team where teams across the state provide technical assistance. The efforts are shared with Christian’s District to promote their efforts in creating cohesive data strategy and policy through the Institutional Effectiveness Partnership Institute.

Christian grew her skill set by completing multiple degrees with a bachelor of science degree from the University of Kerala in India; a master of science in applied mathematics from the University of Southern California; and a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles. 

A long-time leader for the California Community College System, Christian has worked on policies across the state and is a commissioner of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. She collaborated with world languages and cultures faculty member Laurie Huffman to do accreditation for the Guam Community College. Huffman described their final report submitted as “perfect,” and seeing her skills when working together, she believed “she was the best choice.” 

“Her patience, expertise, knowledge, inclusivity and progressive way of working with everyone makes her one of the most capable leaders I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the years,” said Huffman.

With the new chancellor chosen, the recent appointment is set to make history. Christian will become the first woman and first person of South Asian heritage to be appointed to this position.

“I am honored to be selected to lead the most important system of higher education in the country and grateful to the Board of Governors for their confidence,” said Christian.

For more than 30 years, Christian has actively participated in state and national programs for equality and quality agendas centered around students in higher education. Given her new position, her focus will be on advancing student success and closing achievement and equity gaps, while strengthening the organizational effectiveness of students, faculty and staff. 

“We continue to face many challenges, but I truly believe our greatest challenges enable us to do our greatest work,” said Christian. “We are called to design the most vibrant, resilient, and effective learning environment ever. We are called to do this work at scale, not eventually, but now. And we will work with a shared vision that keeps students first.”