On her fourth day as president of Clovis Community College, Lori Bennett was learning about what she called “the Clovis process and the Clovis way.”
“The work we do is exactly the same, but how we go about doing it is slightly different,” Bennett said. “I know what to do, but I have to say, ‘OK, how do I do it at this district or at this college?’ ”
Bennett officially took over for retiring president Deborah Ikeda on July 18. Before that, Bennett spent 20 years at Moorpark College in Ventura County as a teacher, dean and the vice president of student learning.
Although this is Bennett’s first stint as a college president, she inherits a familiar situation at Clovis Community College. Its enrollment, now around 7,000, is similar to when she first started at Moorpark. During her time at Moorpark, the college doubled in size and created dozens of new programs.
Now, Bennett is tasked with guiding the state’s newest community college out of the shadow of its first – Fresno City College – and to complete autonomy.
Clovis is on its way.
The first 150 graduates and successful transfers from the newly minted college moved on in the spring. Clovis already offers 29 associate degrees and 18 certificates, but Bennett believes her first priority is to add to both numbers.
“We’ve collected data from the local labor market and talked to employers,” Bennett said. “We’re looking to create curricula for positions those employers need.”
Bennett listed environmental/wastewater sciences, occupational therapy and electromechanical technology as three areas of need identified during the research.
As part of the State Center Community College District’s successful $485 million bond measure, Clovis will eventually get a new career/technical education building to house existing and new programs.
$70 millionThe planned cost of Clovis Community College’s new career/technical education building
The college recently created an athletic department – no easy feat considering it does not have a gym. The Clovis Crush now has a mascot (a bull).
The athletic department’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams just completed their first season last spring. A new soccer program, coached by former Olympian Chad McCarty, will debut in the fall. The women’s team will hold open camps at the college from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and the men will do the same from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Teams will then be finalized.
Bennett said the college’s 10-year facilities master plan calls for building a gym somewhere down the line.
For now, Bennett is getting to know Clovis. She already has been in contact with leaders at Clovis Unified School District, which figures to be the main feeder district into her new college, as well as Clovis city leaders. Like much of Clovis Unified, Clovis Community College is technically in Fresno, so Bennett also plans to introduce herself to Fresno education and city leaders.
But first, she needs a permanent place to live. She and her husband of 35 years, Kenn, are renting an apartment in Clovis until they can sell their home in Moorpark. Their three children – Michelle, Kristen and Michael – have all left the nest. Michelle graduated from UC Berkeley and works for the State Department. Kristen just earned her Ph.D. in earth science from Arizona State University, and Michael is in his last year as a computer science major at California State University, Channel Islands.
The move marks a return to the Valley for Bennett, who graduated from Highland High School in Bakersfield before attending the University of Southern California.
When asked about following Ikeda, who spent several decades in the district, Lori Bennett said she “had some big shoes to fill.”
“I am blessed to be here and follow an established president,” she said. “I feel some pressure, but it’s a happy kind of pressure.”