Gregory Smith named chancellor at the SDCCD

December 14, 2023 | San Diego Community College District

Gregory Smith, who has served as acting chancellor of the San Diego Community College District since March, has been selected by the SDCCD Board of Trustees as the district’s new permanent chancellor.

Portrait photo of Gregory Smith wearing a black jacket and a blue shirt and tie
Gregory Smith, the new SDCCD chancellor (SDCCD photo).

Smith’s appointment is pending final approval of his employment contract, to be considered at the next Board of Trustees meeting on January 25, 2024. He is set to become the district’s seventh chancellor in its 50-year history.

“Chancellor-Designate Smith has extensive executive-level experience as well as strong familiarity with the challenges facing California’s community colleges,” said SDCCD Board President Bernie Rhinerson. “The Board of Trustees sincerely appreciates all who participated in the search process, which included input from district stakeholders and the community.”

As chancellor, Smith will be responsible for a $1 billion annual budget and all operations for a district that is the largest provider of workforce training and education in the region. The chancellor oversees San Diego City, Mesa, Miramar and Continuing Education colleges; assures that the district is administered in accordance with policies adopted by the Board of Trustees, as well as state and federal regulations; and maintains a close working relationship with the community, K-12 and local higher-education systems, and local, state and federal officials.

“I am deeply grateful to the selection committee, district community, and Board of Trustees for the opportunity to serve California’s premier community college district,” said Smith. “Our mission, vision, and values drive my commitment to service. I look forward to expanding access, belonging, and success for our diverse student communities in this new role.”

Smith has nearly 20 years of public sector service experience, beginning with the U.S. Department of Labor in 2004, where he enforced equal employment opportunity and affirmative action regulations in progressive leadership roles. A former California community college student and first-generation college graduate, Smith joined the community college system professionally in 2016 at Shasta College in Northern California, where he served as director of Human Resources, associate vice president of Human Resources and interim vice president of Administrative Services. Smith joined the SDCCD in 2020 as vice chancellor of People, Culture, and Technology Services (formerly Human Resources).

Throughout his career, Smith has worked to reframe how public, private and nonprofit organizations operate to ensure diverse communities have meaningful access, achieve equitable success, and experience authentic belonging. He has gained a statewide reputation as a key contributor on numerous workgroups that have produced actionable policy and practice innovations to expand diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and anti-racism in teaching, learning, service delivery and employment. He has led initiatives to redesign resource and budget allocation models to ensure equitable investments in and outcomes for diverse communities.

Smith began his collegiate education at Cerro Coso Community College in Kern County. He went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and English Literature at Arizona State University and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California.

“Chancellor-Designate Smith’s qualifications and experience will ensure the district continues its progress toward growing student enrollment, maintaining the district’s fiscal health and ensuring it is meeting local workforce needs while helping our region close equity gaps,” Rhinerson said. “Since arriving at the district, he has demonstrated remarkable leadership including playing a key role in helping us ensure continuity of operations during and after the COVID pandemic. He has a compelling vision for bringing our district and colleges together around our commitment to student success.”

Smith’s appointment comes following a national search after the district’s previous chancellor, Carlos O. Cortez, resigned in May. Smith will transition from his current role to become chancellor immediately after the Board of Trustees approves his employment contract on January 25, 2024.


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