A vision for Miramar College
December 22, 2020 |
Amid COVID-19 pandemic, new President looks for innovative ways to achieve goals
San Diego Miramar College’s new President, P. Wesley Lundburg, Ph.D., couldn’t be happier. Not only is Dr. Lundburg back in his hometown, he’s also leading one of the fastest-growing campuses among the California Community Colleges — a campus where equity, social justice, and service to the community aren’t just slogans.
The outdoor enthusiast who grew up exploring the vast, then-undeveloped tracts of semi-wilderness around Black Mountain says Miramar College is at an important juncture of growth and managing that growth comes at a time when resources are very limited.
WE sat down with Dr. Lundburg to ask some questions and learn more about the longtime educator and Coast Guard veteran who came to Miramar on July 1 after five years as Executive Dean and CEO of the Ammerman Campus at Suffolk Community College on Long Island, New York.
Q. Who is Dr. P. Wesley Lundburg?
A. I’m driven by integrity and compassion. This has been the core of everything I do, including my professional life. I have always been keenly empathetic, and developed a strong desire to see everybody treated fairly at a very young age. It was the desire to make a difference in others’ lives that drew me into the community college branch of higher education — largely due to the fact that it was at a community college that I discovered a love of learning and growing. My desire to see fairness play out has formed me into an administrator who is focused on the mission of the college, and the importance of cultivating an environment of inclusion. Over time, I have also learned that doing so brings more smart people to the table, and the best outcomes always come from collective problem-solving and planning.
Q. How did you begin your journey into higher education and what was the defining moment that drove you to becoming a community college administrator?
A. My journey as an educator in higher education began at an Alaska Native organization, Cook Inlet Tribal Council. From there, I moved into a tenured English professorship, and then into academic administration. My defining moment for pursuing a career at community colleges was when I was a community college student. There, I discovered that I had a passion for learning, and knew that I wanted to be a part of others discovering in themselves an aptitude for higher learning. I was driven to go into administration because I wanted to see more change in how community colleges meet their collective mission, and I saw an administrative role as a way of having a positive social impact on a macro level.
Q. What are some of Miramar College’s biggest strengths?
A. Even in the short time I’ve been here, the answer that springs to mind is the faculty and classified professionals. These are the core of people who are in place to help students become prepared for the future. I am impressed not only with the strength of their credentials, but also their creativity and dedication to the mission of the college. These people are genuinely committed to and passionate about what they do — and it shows in every meeting I attend. Already, we’re charting a course for taking the college to its next levels. And that brings me to the next greatest strength: a collaborative spirit. Even with some rough spots in its past, Miramar is a college where faculty, administration, and staff work together toward mission fulfillment.
Q. How does COVID-19 impact your vision for the college?
A. Less than you would think. To me, the remote environment is a medium, not a controlling factor in what we do. We are focused on the same things, but we need to do them differently. Clearly, we need to plan for continued instructional delivery and providing services to students remotely, and that becomes a factor in any planning, but in terms of “vision” per se, COVID-19 is more in delivery planning than vision. That said, COVID-19 has likely had a permanent impact on everything we do. I anticipate a continued increased demand for online instruction, so part of my vision is to meet that need if it materializes. This includes more professional development and allocation of resources to support this change.
Q. What sort of opportunities does the COVID-19 pandemic present?
A. It presents an opportunity for us to examine why we are here. Crises always carry with them the necessity to hone in on specifics in terms of what you’re doing and why. So I am encouraging the Miramar community to look at the mission as we move forward, with an eye on how we fulfill that mission in a remote setting. What we do — why we’re here — doesn’t change because of the pandemic, but how we fulfill it likely does. This means we’re re-thinking what our goals are and how to get to them, as opposed to falling into routine.
Q. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
A. I served on a Coast Guard cutter in the Caribbean in the mid-1980s, and was on scene for the rescue and recovery efforts after space shuttle Challenger exploded in January 1986. My ship, USCGC Diligence, was one of the first responding units. We were in port at Port Canaveral, watching the launch from a few miles away, when the shuttle exploded. We were ordered to respond immediately and got underway with a skeletal crew. Over the next several days, we stood extended watches — in some cases up to 72 hours — while the on-board helicopter ferried the rest of the crew on board from shore, all while participating in the search-and-rescue efforts. When the cabin of the shuttle was located, we were on scene guarding the perimeter while the cabin was raised. This, among many other experiences I had while in the Coast Guard, instilled in me a sense of duty and service over and above my own personal needs.