Silicon Valley community colleges get new leadership
Lee Lambert, the new chancellor of Foothill-De Anza Community College District. He interviewed with district leaders in May. Photo courtesy of Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

    Foothill De Anza-Community College District has selected a new chancellor after a monthslong nationwide search.

    The school board announced its pick on Tuesday: Lee Lambert, a community college chancellor based in Arizona. Lambert starts this August, replacing chancellor Judy C. Miner who’s retiring. District stakeholders said they hope the new leader addresses the needs of both students and faculty.

    “I’m excited about this opportunity,” Lambert, 60, told San José Spotlight. “Foothill-De Anza has a long storied history of being one of the leading community colleges in the country and especially in California.”

    Lambert will leave his position as Pima Community College chancellor, where he has served since 2013. Prior to his current role, he was president of Shoreline Community College in Washington. His previous experiences include working as an adjunct professor, as well as an administrator in human resources and legal affairs.

    Lambert was himself a first-generation college student who interrupted his education to serve in the U.S. Army before returning to school. He has a liberal arts bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College in Washington and a Juris Doctor degree from Seattle University.

    Foothill-De Anza district officials said Lambert’s contract runs through June 2024, with an annual salary of $448,047. The district has two community colleges, De Anza College in Cupertino and Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.

    Foothill-De Anza Board President Patrick Ahrens said Lambert was selected out of four finalists in a process that started with interviews at the end of last year and culminated in forums open to the public this month. The other three finalists were San Jose City College President Rowena Tomaneng, San Mateo Community College District Executive Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Richard Storti and John Hopkins University Vice Provost Farouk Dey.

    “Dr. Lambert is a well known leader in higher education, advocacy and administration,” Ahrens told San José Spotlight. “He’s done incredible work at other community colleges that he’s worked at, and we’re looking forward to welcoming him to Silicon Valley.”

    Tim Shively, Foothill-De Anza Faculty Association president and De Anza College English professor, said the community will have to wait and see Lambert’s effectiveness as a leader. But the district should work to foster better relationships with staff, as well as address issues community college educators are facing, such as the region’s high cost of living, he added. Shively said he was on the initial chancellor search committee.

    “These days, to be able to purchase a house, for a new instructor it would just be impossible,” Shively told San José Spotlight. “We have people commuting in from the Central Valley, from Vallejo because they can’t afford to live anywhere near the college.”

    Shively said the COVID-19 pandemic also affected the number of new staff positions created and enrollment is still on the decline. Nearby community college districts, including West Valley-Mission Community College District, are turning to residents over 50 years old to bolster student population.

    Ahrens said he hopes to work with Lambert on tackling basic needs among students including addressing food and housing insecurity. San Jose leads major U.S. cities in youth homelessness while college students could lose access to state food benefits in June.

    “It’s really important to do our best to provide access and affordability in higher education for so many students,” Ahrens said.

    Lambert said he plans to immerse himself in the community to understand local issues and hear from different perspectives.

    “I’m able to to really think about what’s happening in the larger universe in terms of the economy, our society,” Lambert told San José Spotlight. “How do we anticipate those trends and how do we make sure we’re meeting the needs of our students in our community as a result of that?”

    Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

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