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Coast To Coast

Coast To Coast

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Melinda Nish, Pete the Pirate, and Georgie Monahan

Melinda Nish, Pete the Pirate, and Georgie Monahan

Passion. Energy. Brilliance. Vision. Integrity. Humor.

These are the words one Orange Coast College administrator used to describe Melinda Nish, who will leave her post after six years as vice president of Instruction to take the lead at Southwestern College as its new president/superintendent on January 3rd.

Faculty, administrators and staff agree. The consensus is that Nish will be sorely missed, and that Southwestern College, a community college with an enrollment of 20,000 in south San Diego County, is fortunate to have her as its top administrator.

“Melinda is a driver and has the ability to organize and manage complex situations with ease,” said OCC President Dennis Harkins, who met the dynamic vice president of Instruction on his first day on the job last year.

Kristin Clark, vice president of Student Services, said Nish is the “consummate leader” who understands people, is well-versed in state and federal regulations and accreditation, is a great communicator and is “not afraid to make difficult decisions.”

Clark praised Nish for playing a pivotal role in helping the college move off the ACCJC’s (Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges) warning status. As Vice President of Instruction, Nish established an organized shared governance process in the Instructional Wing.

“Most importantly for me,” Clark added, “she’s helped build a bridge between Instruction and Student Services.”

Rich Pagel, vice president of Administrative Services, called Nish a “great advocate” for the Instructional Wing. “It’s been a struggle for the last three years dealing with budget reductions,” he said. “Many of the deans are wearing two hats, and they’ve done it because she asked them to, without extra compensation.”

Nish “brought vision into the role of vice president of Instruction,” according to Kate Mueller, dean of Student Services. “She can not only see all of the details, but she simultaneously has her eye on the future, envisioning possibilities for our faculty and our students.”

Kevin Ballinger, one of the deans who wears two hats–Consumer and Health Sciences and Physical Education–said Nish is “the best vice president I have worked with, and I’ve been here for 26 years!”

Nish brought a “professional elevation” to the Instructional Wing and continually works with deans “to pull the best performance from them,” Ballinger said. “We deans are held accountable, as never before.”

He predicted that Nish will follow up on a myriad of details as she leaves campus. “I think she is getting out all her yellow pads–her notes–and trying to wrap up 100,000 issues. She really has raised the bar for whoever comes next!”

Joe Poshek, another dean who is responsible for two divisions–Visual and Performing Arts and the Library–said Nish has developed a “strong loyalty from her management team and helped to shape them into a cohesive group.” Mostly, he added, “I will miss her unique personality. There is only One Melinda, and she is impossible to duplicate.”

Faculty members who work with Nish agree that she is an extremely effective leader.

Faculty Senate President Vesna Marcina appreciates Nish’s focus on student success, especially when it comes to core curriculum. “These are difficult conversations to have, but we need to have them,” Marcina said. In the midst of a budget crisis, “we need to figure out ways to help students make academic process.”

Faculty member Georgie Monahan, who is also OCC’s Program Review coordinator, described Nish as a “successful collaborator” who is good at solving problems and uses facts and evidence to make decisions.

Joy Myers, coordinator of the Registered Dental Assisting Program, sees Nish as leader who is “very professional and very supportive of faculty. She always made herself available. We’re going to miss her.”

Jeanne Neil, an accounting instructor, was hired by Nish two years ago. “I’ve seen her at work, I’ve seen her in action,” Neil said. “She’s wonderful to work with. I’m sorry to see her go.”

Nish also wins kudos from her staff. Sheryl Area, administrative assistant to the vice president of Instruction, asked for a transfer to her current assignment. “I wanted to work with a dynamic leader.” Area, who has a Master’s degree in business, recently began teaching at OCC as a part-time instructor. Nish encouraged her. “She’s a great mentor and a good friend.”

Cathe Hutchison, senior staff assistant in the Office of Instruction, said Nish is the “best manager, hands down, that I’ve ever worked for. She is so positive and doesn’t micromanage.” Nish as an “amazing person” with a huge capacity to tackle projects, Hutchison said. “She’s usually 10 steps ahead of everybody else.”

Nish is a supervisor who “doe not treat her subordinates and different than her superiors,” she added. “It’s clear what’s expected, and she always backs you up.”

Harriet Ouellette, who worked with Nish for four years before she retired in 2009 after 23 years at Coast, said Nish ranked among the top 10% of her supervisors “and I had great bosses.”

Nish always treated her staff with “great respect,” Ouellette said, “and she always appreciated your work.”