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Santa Monica College President to Retire

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 5, 2015 -- After a nine-year-tenure that included some of hardest economic times in decades for Santa Monica College, Dr. Chui L. Tsang has announced he will retire as the college’s president.

Tsang -- who instituted programs to further his vision of the college as a training ground for global citizens -- announced his decision in an email to SMC’s 1,939 employees on Tuesday night. His retirement is effective at the end of term in June.

“I’ve been at this job a long time and we’ve made significant progress,” Tsang said in an interview. “We’re at a very good place. Now it’s time for someone with new vision and energy.”

The college has about 33,000 students and 1,400 professors. About 100 full-time tenure track faculty were added during Tsang’s time at SMC, the college’s communications office said.

Tsang said that during his time he took particular pride in both the college’s service to students and in its student body, which ranges from those who enter with a clear mission of what they want to achieve and those who are “still searching,” he said.
Some come with successful backgrounds already; others do not, he said. “But we don’t judge them on their past but on what they can do.”

“They get access to opportunities they otherwise could not have dreamt of,” Tsang said. “On top of that, they get a high standard of education and they can get it at a cost that is very nominal.”

One of the highlights of his tenure, he said, was the recent highly coveted selection of SMC to be among 15 community colleges in a pilot project that will offer a bachelor’s degree in Interaction Design.

 “We created a more complete pathway for students” to  the high-paying, high-tech jobs of the future, he said. “That is a major step.” Tsang said he hopes the college will be able to expand the number of fields of study that offer bachelor’s degrees.

Tsang presided over Santa Monica College during some its rockiest finance times since Proposition 13 slashed property taxes and caused cuts throughout California governments in the mid-1970s. His tenure came amidst the Great Recession, and the spiraling down of assistance from the state and other sources of funding.

A special report compiled by the district for the summer of 2012, for instance, reported serious cuts in class offerings, and had the district at one point having to scrap entire programs.

With the economy in California, as well as elsewhere, on the upward swing, the financial picture for SMC is far better now, Tsang said.

Still, he said, the college is instituting ways to shore up its finances so it can better weather what the inevitable tougher times that come with being reliant on the state of California for so much of its funding.

SMC’s Board of Trustees appointed Tsang President of Santa Monica College in December 2005.

Tsang is himself a former community college student went on to graduate with a doctorate in linguistics from Stanford University. Among his other accomplishments is pioneering a “global citizenship vision” at SMC in its curriculum, studying abroad and extra-curricular activities.

He said he is not sure yet what he will do next.

“I want to slow down and reflect,” he said. “There are a number of things I am interested in and I want to decide what I want to pursue.”

Tsang was recognized by the Carnegie Corporation of New York as one of America’s “100 great immigrants” in 2014. Others earning the recognitions included Nobel Laureate Roger Guillemin, author Deepak Chopra, Vogue Editor Anna Wintour and actor and former SMC alumnus Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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