Gone Far. Still Going.
Now in its fifth decade, West Los Angeles College is flourishing with aspiring students, outstanding faculty, a beautiful campus with modern buildings – and advanced technology.
So advanced, that many of the students aren’t even coming to class – in the traditional sense.
LEADERS IN ONLINE EDUCATION: As of 2014, West has one of the largest and most recognized online education programs within the California Community College (CCC) system. Twenty-five percent of the college’s instruction is provided completely online. Many other classes are “hybrids” meaning the course is a mixture of classroom-based and online instruction. The quality of the online program, led by Academic Dean Eric Ichon, was noted in the West’s accreditation re-affirmation. In fact, West is unusual in that the success rate of students in online classes is almost identical to that in classroom-based courses. At most colleges, the online success rate is lower.
West’s experience will help shape how online classes will be offered throughout the California Community Colleges. The college was one of only 24 selected to work on the development of an online education portal.
NEW MODERN CLASSROOMS: For students who prefer seeing theteacher face-to-face, there was more good news. In 2012, the $19 million, four-story, bond-funded General Classroom building opened, housing classes for English and communications, social and behavioral science, liberal arts and other classes.
The nearly 50,000 square foot glass and chrome structure provides WiFi-enabled “smart classrooms,” allowing greater integration of technology into teaching. The building is certified “Gold” under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard, recognized as an indication of environmental responsibility and energy efficiency.
Soon after, facing the new classrooms building, the Student Services Building, another LEEDcertified 4-story building of glass and chrome accents, opened as well. The building is home to Admissions, Financial Aid, Counseling, the Bookstore, and the college’s first food venue since the cafeteria closed in 1986. To mark the occasion, the college held a Demolition Party with college president Dr. Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh taking a sledge hammer to “temporary” buildings which had housed many of the Student Services since 1969.
A DECADE ON THE RUN: While the 2010s brought many Wildcatvictories, they were especially good for the Track & Field teams. The momentum began in 2008. From there through 2014, the running Wildcats placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the competitive Western State Conference and took several individual State titles as well.
- 2008: TRACK & FIELD TOOK 1ST & 3RD AT WSC. LADIES TOOK 2ND AT STATE
The women’s track team won the 2008 Western State Conference Championship. West men finished 3rd out of 13. And, for the first time in the college’s history, West women earned 2nd place team at State.
- 2009: WOMEN TAKE 2ND AT WSC & 3RD AT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHAMPIONSHIPS
The lady Wildcats took 2nd place team at the Western State Conference Meet. They also took 1st in both hurdle and relay events, the long jump and triple jump. The men captured 1st place in the 440m, 200m and 4×400 relay. Their 4×400 time was the 5th fastest in the state (3:17.43). Seven Wildcats advanced to the State Championships where the ladies took 1st place in the 4×400 and 2nd place in the 4×100. The team took 3rd overall at State.
- 2010: 1ST, 2ND & 3RD MEDALS EARNED AT STATE
The 2010 season ended with West as the 10th place CA State Championship team. High points included
the Wildcats taking 1st place in the ladies triple jump, the women’s 4×100 relay team finished in 2nd place, the men’s 4×400 relay placed 3rd, and the men’s 4×100 relay team finished in 4th.
- 2011: 1ST WSC CHAMPIONSHIP FOR MEN & WOMEN IN SAME YEAR
For the first time in West’s history, both the women’s and men’s track & field teams won the Western State Conference titles. This was a second consecutive victory for the ladies and the third in the last four years.
- 2012: 2ND & 4TH CONSECUTIVE WSC TITLES
For the second consecutive year for the men and the fourth consecutive year for the women, the Wildcats took the Western State Conference Championship. The ladies won State titles in the women’s 800 meter and high jump. Other notable State finishes for West included 3rd place in the men’s 800 meter race; 4th place in the women’s 100 meters; and 5th place in the men’s 100 meters and 4×100 relay.
- 2014: TWO STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS, 2ND PLACE TEAM AT WSC
Five student-athletes, including two who earned State Champion titles, were named to the United States Community College Track Coaches Association (USCCTCA) All-American team for Community Colleges. Earlier in the season, the Wildcats men and women squads finished 2nd place in the competitive Western State Conference.
Other Athletic News
In 2008, Coach Marguet Miller joined West as head coach.
Under his leadership, student-athletes were accomplished on an off the field. In 2009, 13 of the 18 football sophomores transferred to universities. In 2011, 22 received opportunities to transfer and continue their athletic careers.
- WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
The WSC So. Division named Wildcat Shannon Austin its MVP. Additionally, coach Colleen Matsuhara was named Conference Coach of the Year.
Coach Colleen Matsuhara was honored by the WNBA for her contributions to the sport including having served as a Assistant Coach with the Los Angeles Sparks and Assistant Coach at UCLA, USC, and Notre Dame among others. She was also Assistant Coach for the USA Gold Medal-winning 1987 Pan American. While at West, she was named 2009 Western State Conference South Division Coach of the year.
Recent grads Kesley Kondo and Gabriel Asakura pitched for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic in Panama City, Panama. Asakura went on to pitch professionally in California,Alaska and Brazil.
- OLYMPIANS TRAIN AT WEST
Carmelita Jeter and Jason Richardson trained for the 2012 Olympicsat West. Richardson went on to win the Silver in the 110 hurdles. Jeter, one of the fastest women in the world at the time, set a new world record and earned three medals.
In 2013, track legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee along with Gold Medalists Allyson Felix and Dawn Harper shared their stories of struggle and growth at a workshop for lady Wildcats.
LEADERSHIP CHANGES: Dr. Rocha, who had overseen the opening of the Parking Structure, Math Science Complex, and the walkway between the two as well as a gala fundraiser and notable growth in the student body, accepted the position of Superintendent / President of Pasadena City College in 2010. While credited with significantly changing the physical appearance of the college and righting a faculty/staff culture that had become dysfunctional, he also brought relations with Culver City and the college’s immediate neighbors to a low.
Betsy Regalado, West Vice President of Student Services became the Acting President for one month followed by Interim President, Dr. Rose Marie Joyce who had retired from the presidency at Rio Hondo Community College in 2007. Dr. Joyce helped the college navigate out of trouble with the construction bond project and reassess what could be achieved with its remaining funds. She also, effectively, began rebuilding relationships with Culver City.
In August 2011, Dr. Nabil Abu-Ghazaleh was selected as West’s permanent president. Abu-Ghazaleh was the former Vice-Chancellor of Educational Services and Technology in the Coast Community College District, and had served at Pierce College (also part of LACCD) as the Vice President of Academic Affairs. Dr. Abu-Ghazaleh is Palestinian by way of Jordan and earned a B.S. and M.S. in Engineering Sciences from UC San Diego, an M.A. in Higher Education from UCLA, and an Ed.D. from California State University, Fullerton.
Under his leadership from Fall 2011 to Summer 2015, the college created its new 2014 –2020 Educational Masterplan, a document aligned with West’s vision, mission and values as well as Accreditation Standards. The document was also a guiding reference for the development of updated Technology and Facilities plans and for once again revisiting the best use of the remaining construction bond funds.
Dr. Abu-Ghazaleh is credited with significantly improving relationships with Culver City and the immediate neighbors as well as reopening the college as a resource to the greater community. Notable examples include STEAM Nation which brought 2,000 LAUSD students to experience fun hands-on science exhibits on a college campus; the relocation of the Culver City Fireworks Show to West bringing with it 10,000 guests; Congresswoman Karen Bass’ “Obama-Care” outreach event; and the swearing in ceremony of Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.
ROADS, BUSES & A BACHELOR’S DEGREE: Access to the transformed campus was improved by the 2011 opening of the hard-fought for road, College Boulevard, which provides a second entrance to the college at Jefferson Blvd. It was hoped to relieve some of the traffic on Overland. 2014 kicked off with the opening of the bus turnaround in front of the Physical Education buildings. The turnaround allows the Culver City Bus to drop students directly in front of Student Services and the General Classrooms buildings. The turnaround was a collaborative effort between the college and Culver City. It marked a significant positive turn in a relationship that had been strained in the previous decade by disagreements over college construction and noise associated with on-campus bus service.
Opening roads of far greater importance and impact, West received a $2.4 million grant to help increase academic success among African America students in 2011. The money was used to fund West’s LEARN (Leading & Energizing African American Students through Research and Knowledge) program established by a group of West faculty and staff who believed specifically targeted efforts could improve the college experience and success rate for African American students.
Two years later, West was the site of “A Dialogue with Black L.A.,” a forum on what the Los Angeles mayor’s agenda should be to service the Black community. Panel discussions featured prominent African American leaders and politicians followed by interviews with the two remaining 2013 mayoral candidates Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, the eventual winner.
West started 2015 in the news — local, state and national. In January 2015, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors announced that West was one of just 15 community colleges selected to offer a Bachelor’s degree in a specified field under CA State Senate Bill 850. For West, that field would be dental hygiene.
Also in early 2015, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, accompanied by Congresswoman Karen Bass, hosted a round-table at the college with a small group of students, faculty, administrators, and employers to promote the importance of community colleges and President Obama’s proposal to make the first two years free.
The transformation of the former movie studio lot continues to this day, as West embarks on the final phase of the major building program that began in 2001. Planned are an amphitheater behind the Fine Arts Theater, a sound stage facility for the film/television trades program, a welcome center in what is now Parking Lot #5, and renovations and improvements to several of the older buildings.
Now, more than 45 years after it first opened its doors, the number of original faculty and staff who were there on opening day are all but gone from campus. But it is not unusual to find 20, 25 or 30 year veterans. Other staff include former West students who have come back to help a new generation of students reach their dreams.
Still known as an intimate college, West currently has an enrollment of about 11,000. The education students receive are guided by the college’s mission to provide a transformative educational experience. This along with the opportunities and doors opened to students, make West Los Angeles College an outstanding place to begin the journey to future success.