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Carvajal named Bainbridge College president

Richard Carvajal, the educator named Wednesday as president of Bainbridge College beginning next year, said he’s looking forward to coming to Bainbridge.

Carvajal said in a phone interview Thursday that he and his wife, Cheryl, saw an amazing area and people when they visited in September.

“We saw a college that was very committed to excellence, both academically and in its service,” Carvajal said. “We really loved the area, particularly the area of Bainbridge.”

He also said he and his wife were looking for a place with a strong connection between the community and college, and they found it in Bainbridge and BC.

“The people were amazing, and that was special,” Carvajal said. “The folks we met deeply cared about the institution. It was their college. That’s not something you find everywhere.”

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) named Carvajal, vice president for student success services at Cascadia Community College in Bothell, Wash., to succeed retiring President Tom Wilkerson. Wilkerson has served as president of the college since 2005.

“Dr. Carvajal’s career demonstrates his dedication to student success,” USG Chief Operating Officer Robert Watts said in a news release. “We are looking forward to the contribution he will make to Bainbridge College and the University System of Georgia.”

Regent Doreen Stiles Poitevint, chairman of the Special Regents’ Committee for the presidential search at Bainbridge College, said in the release that Carvajal’s “history of leadership in higher education is impressive. The committee is extremely confident in his ability and readiness to lead Bainbridge College.”

Tonya Strickland, the chairman of the college’s search committee that was responsible for narrowing down the applicants to its top five and having them visit Bainbridge, said she couldn’t be more pleased with the decision of the Regents to hire Carvajal.

“We are confident that he will make an outstanding contribution to the college and the community. While we will dearly miss Tom Wilkerson, we know that the seven-month-long search process has resulted in strong leadership for our future. Dr. Carvajal is a great fit for Bainbridge College, and we look forward to his energy and direction with the new year,” Strickland said in a prepared statement.

Carvajal will assume his post on Jan. 1, 2011, according to Watts.

Special concerns

Carvajal said two of his concerns are finding space for the increasing number of students and the college becoming more active in economic development.

The issue of space has been a growing problem that Wilkerson has addressed since he’s arrived at the college five years ago and that Carvajal will have to continue to contend with.

“Space is a very real concern, and we need to find creative solutions very quickly,” Carvajal said. He said those creative solutions need to be looked at in concert with private and local partnerships in Bainbridge and Blakely, where the BC Early County Site is located.

Bainbridge College’s enrollment is presently 3,736 students, which is a 5 percent increase from last fall’s 3,558 students. The incoming freshman class was 585 students. in which 97 percent were on some type of financial aid, said Richard Messersmith, interim director of financial aid at Bainbridge College.

Projections Wilkerson cites say there will be 8,000 BC students in 2020, more than doubling the number of students in less than 10 years.

Carvajal said the college will take an active role in economic development.

“The college needs to be a player,” said Carvajal who said he welcomes the idea of partnering the college with a prospect wanting to bring jobs into the area.

While Carvajal was at Independence Community College, he said three welding companies were looking to relocate when he and the college intervened and the companies instead hired newly-trained employees and increased their workforce.

The same could be said for Cessna Aircraft Company, which was looking to leave the Independence, Kan., area but instead stayed and added 450 jobs after the college worked with the company in training prospective employees.

Carvajal said the same needs to be true if Corrections Corporation of America is awarded a contract to build a prison in Bainbridge—that the college will work with CCA in providing a trained workforce.

As for the college adding an athletic program and on-campus housing—which had been a topic of discussion during the rounds of interviews in August and September—Carvajal said he didn’t want to make any commitments other than finding out if those two issues would benefit the college and the community.

He said it’s necessary to remember that Bainbridge College started as a community college, and it needs to keep an eye on the needs of the community as the college evolves.

Carvajal’s background

Prior to his appointment at Cascadia Community College, Carvajal served as dean of student services at Independence Community College, a college of more than 1,100 students in Independence, Kan., from 2003 to 2006. Before that, he was the associate dean of student services at Coker College in Hartsville, S.C., from 1997 to 2003. He also served as an executive officer of the Washington State Student Services Commission.

Carvajal holds a Ph.D. in Educational Administration with emphasis in higher education conferred in 2005 by The University of South Carolina in Columbia, a Master of Science in College Student Personnel Administration earned in 1995 from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication/Sociology earned in 1993 and conferred by East Central University in Ada, Okla.

He said his love of college football will fit in well in Bainbridge, but his favorite team is the University of Southern California Trojans, because he was born in Los Angeles, Calif., and is a third generation southern Californian. He said he also loves to play golf.

His wife, Cheryl, is his college sweetheart, and she is a community college professor of English and a writer. They have two children, Crystal, 9, and Brandon, 6.