Since May 1, Jeff Marsee has served as president of San Joaquin Delta College. He has inherited a school fighting against budget cuts and a board in the middle of rehabilitating its image.
Marsee was meeting members of the community Tuesday evening at Lodi Memorial Hospital when he consented to an interview with the News-Sentinel.
Q: How close is Lodi to getting a satellite campus?
A: Right now, we are reviewing our facilities master plan. We have about $60 million left from our Measure L bond funds that was originally $250 million. I've recommended we hire a consultant to guide us as we do our final expenditure estimates for the Lodi project.
Right now, what courses and programs will be offered is more important to me than choosing a site, but the goal is still to build a satellite campus in Lodi.
Q: Is the original Victor Road location still a consideration?
A: No. That location is no longer being considered. We're still not sure of a location for a potential Lodi campus because we're looking at a smaller footprint than the original vision. I'm thinking about a 20-acre campus near public transportation that offers general education classes and college-transfer credits.
We also want to look to local high schools to use as shared facilities. We could use existing facilities at the high schools — like garages their for diesel welding classes — to supplement our enrollment. We could use them on the evenings, weekends and off-months when the school isn't (in session).
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing Delta College?
A: Like all public entities right now, we are trying to hold our infrastructure together. Second, we need to identify our critical core of classes and services. We have to define what benefits our students and offer the programs accordingly. We need to be training people for careers and offering them classes that will help them transfer to a four-year university.
It's unfortunate that Stockton is a port city and we offer no program for ports management. Our wastewater management program is not as strong as it should be, but we offer it because we know there is a need for it.
Q: How can traditional colleges compete with all the options for online education?
A: Studies consistently show that half of college students take at least one course online. Brick-and-mortar colleges like Delta also offer online courses, and it's part of our mission to connect small communities to educational opportunities.
But we still want to offer physical locations like a satellite campus in Lodi with support facilities. We know people work two jobs, and the price of gas factors into their ability to drive to Stockton to take classes. Ideally, we can offer them classes they need in their community and supplement it with online options.
Q: Are there hard feelings between you and the Delta Board of Trustees over their rejection of your appointment of Matt Wetstein as the college's vice president for business?
A: It's natural for a board to question a recommendation, and I looked at their questions as a request to expand the search rather than a barrier. I feel comments attributed to me at the meeting were taken out of context.
The board was asking a question about replacing Wetstein's existing role (dean of planning and research) if he were accepted, and I said I didn't want to make a decision on one position based on trying to fill another. I cautioned that it could be seen as micromanaging, something that plagued the previous board. Others at the table agreed with me, and I wasn't accusing anybody of micromanaging.
Q: The board has been widely criticized for its oversight of the Measure L funds, and the college almost lost accreditation in 2008; how does the board rebuild its image?
A: Simply put: It's going to take trust between the board and the new president. It will also take time to repair the image. The board brought me in, and it's my job to manage the organization and create a comfort level for the community. We have to provide the services the community wants and needs, and the trust will come.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.