Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Trustee Paulina Gonzalez Brito addresses the crowd at Berkeley City College’s 50th anniversary celebration. The event featured a block party along with a groundbreaking ceremony for the college’s new Milvia Street building. (Photo: Marcus Creel/PCCD)
‘We’re still rising’: BCC celebrates 50th anniversary
College throws block party and breaks ground on new building
Sam O'Neil, Associate Editor • May 6, 2024
Student Trustee Natasha Masand believes her voice has the power to impact the PCCD community.
Student Trustee Natasha Masand finds her voice
Isabelly Sabô Barbosa, Social Media Editor • March 19, 2024
PCCDs classified employees pose for a pic at the first-ever professional development day for classified professionals. PCCD Chancellor Tammeil Gilkerson reflected on the event in her report to the Board of Trustees. (Source: PCCD)
Peralta’s leadership search, CCC public safety earmark, and “rumors” discussed at 4/9 meeting of PCCD Trustees
Desmond Meagley, Staff Writer • April 24, 2024
College of Alameda jazz professor Glen Pearson demonstrates his musical talent on his classroom piano. Hes one of the newest members of the Count Basie Orchestra, a historic 18-piece jazz ensemble that took home a Grammy this year.
The humble Grammy-winning pianist leading CoA’s music program
Desmond Meagley, Staff Writer • March 4, 2024

Finalists for Laney VP of Student Services share plans for student success

Deadline for community feedback shortened to Thursday at noon

The Peralta Community College District (PCCD) is looking for a new person to lead the Student Services department at Laney College. Public forums for the three finalists for the position of Vice President of Student Services were held Monday.

The three finalists are Lily Espinoza, who is the current Assistant Director of the CREST internship program at UC Santa Cruz, as well Heather French, the Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students at UC Merced and Blas Guerrero, a former Dean of Admissions at Samuel Merritt University.

The new VP will oversee a number of departments underneath the Student Services umbrella, including the Welcome Center, Financial Aid, Counseling, Admissions & Records and Student Accessibility Services. The candidate will be responsible for facilitating “student success,” according to the position’s job description, as well as facilitating professional development for student services staff, academics and classified personnel.

According to Laney College President Rudy Besikof, the college hopes to extend an offer to the selected candidate in “roughly ten days.” If the candidate accepts, the appointment must be approved by the PCCD Board of Trustees, per Administrative Procedure 7122

PCCD initially announced Monday evening via email that the feedback forms should be submitted “no later than close of business on Friday, April 12th.” However, an email announcement on Tuesday stated that feedback forums are due Thursday at noon.


Lily Espinoza. Source: PR Newswire

Lily Espinoza has spent 20 years working in student services across multiple colleges. She has already interviewed “at least three times” for the Vice President of Student Services position. “My eye has always been on working in administration at a community college,” she told forum attendees.

Espinoza holds multiple post-graduate degrees ranging from a Master’s in Student Personnel Administration from Columbia University to a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Cal State Fullerton. She says her pathway has led her to hold a swath of positions in education, from “classified staff […] to being the dean” at numerous colleges.

If selected for the role, Espinoza said she would prioritize bringing new voices into leadership to avoid burn-out and “limited representation” in governance. She emphasized taking an “inventory” of leadership and asking questions such as, ”Are there term limits? Is there a rotation? Are people being scaffolded into the leadership pipeline?”

Forum attendees asked multiple questions related to classified employees, who staff a majority of the positions in the Student Services department. Espinoza plans to center classified employee morale and professional development with her leadership.

To improve student services and student outcomes, Espinoza encouraged implementation of a “holistic approach” to addressing the needs of the student body. “Are we providing that holistic support from before that student becomes a learning community member,” she asked, “all the way through alumni and […] once they get that first job?”

Espinoza acknowledged the multiple job changes on her resume, which includes positions held for time periods as short as six months and as long as five years. She attributes this budget cuts causing interruptions in her career, as well as having been a single mother. “You sometimes take positions that are really a sacrifice of your own professional growth,” she said.

Now that her son is an adult, she said, “I would love to stay at a place for 5 to 10 years. That’s really what I’m looking for.”


Heather French. Courtesy: PCCD

Heather French focused on how her previous experiences in various roles would help her to understand different aspects of the role of VPSS. She touched briefly on some of her background, starting off with her childhood in Maine, and her undergraduate degree that she received from Bradford College in Human Studies. She moved to California in 2001, shortly before attaining her Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Humboldt State University. She also holds an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership. 

When asked how she would collaborate with the student associated body, French responded, “The student association is one of the key areas that I would look to for getting a pulse of what the concerns are for students, what are the key student needs or issues that they feel need to be addressed.”

French referenced her time working with student housing and residential life as a strong basis for determining student needs and organizing student activities. She shared that her higher education career started in that field, and that she has built up a portfolio of work related to student services

French presented what she calls her “Five-Pronged Approach” to improving student services and student outcomes, which included a student-oriented focus, support for professional staff, collaborative leadership, striving for excellence, and working through a lens of equity, justice, and diversity.


Blas Guerrero. Courtesy: PCCD

Blas Guerrero has a long history working in higher education in Northern California. This includes his roles as Dean of Student Development at Los Medanos College, Director of Strategic Diversity Recruitment Initiatives and Transfers Programs at UC Davis, and Dean of Admissions at Samuel Merritt University. He also taught at the UC level and retired from the UC System after 25 years of service. According to his LinkedIn, Guerrero is currently working as Vice President of Educational Partnerships, Services and Programs for Amistad Associates, a management consulting firm. 

Guerrero was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and was raised in Ventura County by his single immigrant mother. He received a BA in Psychology from UC San Diego, as well as a masters degree in Educational Leadership and Administration and PhD in education from UC Berkeley in 2000. 

During the forum, Guerrero reflected on his first professional job working in education at Laney College in which he directed a professional development program geared towards high school students who were underperforming in math and the sciences.

To improve student services and student outcomes, Guerrero emphasized the importance of building student social safety nets and learning communities, connecting students to resources, building student confidence in their learning abilities, and engaging with high schools, continuation schools, and community organizations.

“Student services doesn’t begin here on campus,” Guerrero said. “[It] begins out in the community.”

Guerrero stated, if selected as Vice President of Student Services, “I ain’t going anywhere. You got my word on it.”


Lily Espinoza: Forum | Feedback | LinkedIn

Heather French: Forum | Feedback | LinkedIn

Blas Guerrerro: Forum | Feedback | LinkedIn

About the Contributors
Romi Bales
Romi Bales, Staff Writer.
Romi Bales (they/them) is a Bay Area transplant, originally from San Diego. They are a first-year staff writer with The Citizen and have worked as an editor and Editor in Chief for several academic publications including Humble Pie Literary Magazine, The Production Online Newspaper, and Inscribe Writing and Visual Anthology. They received a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Writing and Literature from the California College of the Arts in 2020. In their free time, Romi enjoys reading and writing queer fiction novels, researching Irish culture, and memorizing information about sustainable farming practices.
Desmond Meagley
Desmond Meagley, Staff Writer
Desmond Meagley (any/all) got hir start in journalism at the YR Media newsroom (formerly known as Youth Radio) in 2015, writing about public health, education, and gender until hir departure in 2019. Hir work has appeared in The SF Chronicle, The Daily Cal, Teen Vogue, KQED, KCBS and more. Xe has also been honored with awards from The Society of Professional Journalists NorCal, Public Radio News Directors Inc., and The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (of which Desmond is a proud member.) Through hir work at The Citizen Desmond hopes to tell compelling stories about students, as well as to increase transparency and student participation throughout the Peralta Community College District. When outside of class, xe is usually drawing, cooking, or herding their numerous household pets.
Lylah Schmedel-Permanna
Lylah Schmedel-Permanna, Managing Editor
Lylah Schmedel-Permanna is a Bay Area native and graduate from the University of California-Davis where she received her bachelor’s degree in Socio-Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis on political structures. She is returning back to the community college system after having attended Las Positas College, where she was student body president in 2019. Lylah also has a strong background working in employment law and police misconduct law. She is passionate about uplifting voices in the Bay Area which has sparked her interest in becoming a journalist.
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