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MBEP Member Spotlight: Gavilan College Celebrates Past, Looks Forward

It’s been 100 years since Gavilan College was founded as San Benito County Junior College. Much has changed in a century, including its name, a move from Hollister to Gilroy, growth in student enrollment and programs, satellite sites in Hollister and Morgan Hill and an aviation technology site in San Martin. Two years ago, the first phase of the Coyote Valley Center in San Jose opened as home to the South Bay Public Safety Training Consortium police and fire academies. Land has been purchased and planning is underway for the first phase of a San Benito County campus at Fairview corners.

Gavilan College’s legacy was celebrated this fall when the college hosted “Gavilan Through The Decades,” a nostalgic gala celebrating each decade of Gavilan’s history.

But Gavilan is also looking forward, fueled by the passage of Measure X in November 2018. Funding from that $248 million bond measure will allow Gavilan to repair and upgrade facilities from leaky roofs and faulty electrical systems, upgrade and add classrooms, expand veterans’ services, and create up-to-date STEM and research environments. And throughout that growth, the college is adapting to the needs of those it serves.

“We are listening very acutely to the needs of our students,” says Gavilan College Superintendent/President Kathleen A. Rose, who has spent the past year engaging with students in a year-long outreach focused on “Student Voices.” This fall, she hosted a “Coffee & Conversation” series with students, and is preparing for a series of high school forums that will take place next spring. “Students are at the center of this,” says Rose.

Last year, Gavilan finalized its Facilities Master Plan, which supports the Educational Master Plan developed in 2017 and serves as a guide focusing on the facilities required to respond to anticipated growth across its 2,700-square-mile district. The first of five key facilities projects outlined is construction of the San Benito Center.

“With the passage of Measure X a year ago,” says Rose, “we want the communities we serve to continually be engaged in the work of this district and the growth of this district.”

Rose has also worked to build upon opportunities for partnerships with universities, industries, and organizations, including MBEP. “We’re very happy with our membership with MBEP,” said Rose. “Our interest in our membership with MBEP is for us to be a stronger economic partner in the region.”

Next April, Gavilan will host its first-ever Economic Symposium, opening up critical conversations about quality of life and how education helps drive that, says Rose. “I think community college is where those conversations need to happen,” she says.

“Our centennial is truly about celebrating history, where Gavilan will be going, but it’s also about having conversations about where we are at the present day and the challenges for our students, including housing and food insecurity.”

This fall, Gavilan launched a new career education pathway with the opening of its HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) Center, and interest in its aircraft maintenance program has seen an uptick in enrollment, bolstered by strong partnerships with San Jose International Airport, United and Alaska Airlines. A construction management program will launch next spring. A wide range of distance education programs also makes college accessible, and the California Promise which allows first-time students to attend tuition-free, is opening new doors.

“The sky’s really the limit, literally and figuratively, in community college education,” says Rose.  “It’s such an exciting time to be working in higher education. It’s really a privilege to do this work because it works.”

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