Permanent Buildings and Long-Term Growth
2000 began under new leadership. Frank Quiambao succeeded Dr. Wong as president, and would be at the helm until August of 2005. His greatest legacy perhaps, was the introduction of Online Classes at West. Online education, still a relatively new approach, would become an on-going distinguishing strength for the college.
The transition from temporary to permanent buildings continued during the first few years of the 21st century. In 2000, the State-funded Humanities and Fine Arts buildings were dedicated. A year later, the on-campus Child Development Center providing affordable childcare, opened to West’s youngest students.
PROP A & AA FUND COLLEGE TRANSFORMATION: Much grander building would be made possible by voters passing Proposition A in 2001 and Proposition AA two years later. This gave the nine colleges in the LACCD nearly $1.25 billion and then $980 million in construction bonds. By 2012, WLAC had used its share realize a two-building Math and Science complex, multi-story General Classrooms and Student Services buildings joined by an attractive courtyard, and a parking structure topped by a solar panel farm. Several additional projects and renovations were still planned as of 2015. Unfortunately, some projects in the original plan would not be realized due to long construction delays, cost over-runs, and concessions made to neighbors regarding construction noise and dust. None-the-less, the college was wonderfully transformed.
A new Integrated Master Plan was developed in 2003 that projected the college would grow at 4 percent per year for the next 20 years. That would put enrollment at nearly 19,000 students by 2022. At first, it seemed West might soar past the projection as enrollment increased by 8 percent from 2000 to 2003. However, a mid-year budget cut saw the 2002-03 school year end with a deficit of more than $1 million. And an unexpected stall in the rate of enrollment growth led to more financial concerns. Because the college’s annual allocations are tied to the enrollment level, West was forced to cut expenditures in order to balance the budget in 2003-04. The following year, the State increased the cost per unit by nearly 50 percent, from $18 to $26. Class offerings were down and fees were up. This undoubtedly contributed to another dip in the enrollment rate, and a dip in the budget again left the college on the short end.
And yet, West would turn things around again. In August 2005, Dr. Doris Givens was named Interim President. That Fall, the college led the District in increase in enrollment, with more than 8,200 students.
PRESIDENT MARK ROCHA REBRANDS COLLEGE: In 2006, Dr. Mark W. Rocha took the presidential helm. His legacy includes not just a physically transformed college, but also the rebranding of it. Dr. Rocha wanted the spotlight turned up on “West,” the quiet college hidden in the hills of Culver City. He reallocated significant budget dollars to marketing, oversaw development of a new college logo, seal and mascot and coined the college’s slogan “Go West. Go Far.” He is also credited with helping to create more harmony and teamwork in the faculty/staff culture, a problem area that had been noted in an earlier accreditation evaluation.
Under his watch, the Math & Science building, the parking structure and the plaza between them opened, the athletic field was upgraded and plans were drawn for the stands and concession area. The PE building walls facing the field were branded along with a windscreen surrounding the field. “Go West. Go Far.” banners were added to college light poles and an initial batch of large directional signs were installed (the sign project did not have sufficient funds to be completed until 2014). He also led the development of plans for a performing arts center, athletics complex, and an additional classrooms and administrative building which were ultimately scrapped due to changed priorities and insufficient funds.
NEW PROGRAMS – ACT & MPTP: New academic programs were also launched. West’s Accelerated College Transfer (ACT) program, an updated version of the PACE program, was recognized in 2007 by the Campaign for College Opportunity. ACT focused on working adults, runs 8-week sessions year round and allows students to complete the courses needed to transfer to a State university in less than two years, while still holding down a job.
Another new arrival was the Motion Picture Television Production (MPTP) program which has been praised by PBS and the LA Times. The program was the brain child of Kevin Considine who founded Hollywood Cinema Productions Resources (“Hollywood CPR”) which operated on the college’s old Aviation Technology property near the Los Angeles Airport. MPTP students receive technical training for skilled trade positions and leave West ready to work as grips; and in stagecraft, set dressing, costume manufacturing, lighting and other union positions.
In 2008, Congresswoman Diane E. Watson was honored at West for her part in making it possible for the Hollywood CRP program to become part of the for-credit curriculum at West by securing two grants totaling $2.5 million to drive job training for trades in the entertainment industry. Watson, at the time the Chair of the House of Representatives’ Congressional Entertainment Industry Caucus and a graduate of Los Angeles City College, praised West’s outstanding program, “I am so impressed by the program,” she said. “These young people are training for the kinds of jobs that will make them economically independent throughout their lives.”
During the same period, Sony Pictures Television in partnership with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation, provided a paid summer internship to 4 to 6 West students each year allowing them to rotate through the business and creative areas of the company. Sony President Steve Mosko came each year to personally share his story with students and encourage them to apply for and make the best of the opportunity.
Also in 2008, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block made a historic visit to the college and made it clear to students: “We’re here to recruit you.” Block, the first UCLA chancellor to visit West, took part in a half-day of activities at the college, meeting with students and administrators. “Transfer students are a big part of our community,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll see some of you walking around our campus in a few years.”
HAPPY 40TH ANNIVERSARY!: As 2008 came to a close, West began celebrating its 40th anniversary – and there was plenty to celebrate. The celebration began with a major change. After being “Oilers” for nearly four decades, the students and athletes of West Los Angeles College voted to change the name to “Wildcats,” an animal that was once native to the surrounding hills. As part of rebranding, the belief was that Oilers no longer was consistent with the values of a community that was concerned about environmental issues.
Not only had the college again seen a tremendous increase in enrollment in recent years, but in 2008 after a 21-year absence due to funding problems, West once again had men’s baseball. Women’s volleyball had returned after a 6-year absence, and for the first time, a women’s soccer team was added as well.
The grand 40th celebration was held in March 2009 in front ofthe newly opened parking structure. College president Dr. Rocha and L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas drove up the new paved walk way featuring a large panel installation chronicling West history in a branded college bus to greet students and employees decked out in their grooviest 1969 attire.
Also in 2009 the first group of Aerospace Structures and Composites students completed a new certificate program. The program was the result of a partnership with Northrop Grumman, which prepared students for a career in aerospace mechanics starting at $30,000 with great upward potential. Outstanding students were granted interviews with the company and several were hired.
As the decade drew to a close, the Math & Science buildings opened and the college celebrated its remarkable transformation at a gala fundraiser held on the newly refurbished athletic field. The event raised $108,325 and would be disbursed by the West Foundation in grants to various programs throughout the college.
Forty years later, this is not your father’s community college.
This is an edited excerpt from “West Los Angeles College 1960s through 2010s”