Lemon Grove native Jessica Robinson has come full circle. The former student at Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego – about six miles away from where she was raised — and for the last four years the school’s vice president of student services, Robinson has been named Cuyamaca’s interim president.
Robinson, 44, will take over starting July 18 for Julianna Barnes, who accepted an offer to become Chancellor of the South Orange County Community College District.
Robinson’s annual salary, currently about $168,000, will jump to about $216,000 with the move to president.
“I am beyond honored to be selected for the interim position,” Robinson said. “I chose Cuyamaca College as my first choice for college at 17. It prepared me for my life and my career. I am excited to ensure our community has the same access and success I had.”
Robinson will serve as interim president of Cuyamaca through June 2023 until a new permanent president is appointed. The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District will launch a national search for a permanent president this fall.
Robinson is a 1995 graduate of Mount Miguel High, 1998 alum of Cuyamaca College and graduate of San Diego State University (2000 for her B.A. in social work, 2002 for her master’s in administrative social work and 2017 for her doctorate degree in educational leadership).
She said she is interested in becoming the permanent president of the school that serves about 8,000 students each semester.
“This is really a dream for me,” Robinson said. “I grew up in Lemon Grove as a first-generation college student. I loved my time at Mount Miguel and I learned a lot but I remember the feeling that college was not going to happen. There were times that I thought I was not built for college and now here I am helping build a college.”
Robinson said she is committed to making sure all students have access to college and can succeed at a time of great change in education and challenging economic times.
A first-generation Latina college student, Robinson says that her experiences as a student at Cuyamaca made a profound impact on her life and started her on a path to educational and professional success.
At Cuyamaca College, ‘The Sky Parted’
“Once I started at Cuyamaca, I really felt the sky parted and I thought, ‘This is it, this is what I’m supposed to do, this is where I’m supposed to be… to learn,’” Robinson said. “I really found myself at Cuyamaca. It changed everything.”
Before joining Cuyamaca in 2018, Robinson held a number of positions at SDSU, including assistant dean for Student Affairs and interim associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Health and Human Services.
Robinson has completed the prestigious Aspen Institute’s Rising Presidents Fellowship and the Community College League of California’s Aspiring CEO Program.
“Ensuring continuity of operations and high-quality programs and services at Cuyamaca College is critical,” said Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Chancellor Lynn Neault. “I am confident that Dr. Robinson will continue to move the college forward.”
Key projects at Cuyamaca include an effort to secure state approval of the college’s first-ever bachelor’s program in Water and Wastewater Technology, completion of a Student Services Building and finalization of a new strategic and facilities master plan.
Since January 2018, Robinson has helped lead efforts to increase educational equity at the school, ensuring that all students, regardless of background, take transferable courses in English, math and English as a Second Language. Cuyamaca College has received state and national recognition for its work in equity matters.
Robinson has also played a lead role in adapting student services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The school’s services and instruction had to shift remotely while it maintained access and confidentiality. Those same services continue to be offered remotely and in-person to better serves student needs. Cuyamaca has transitioned more than half of its courses back to in-person, allowing for more flexible learning options.
Robinson said she is focused on breaking down barriers to student success and giving support to students with whatever they need to succeed in college.
“My goal is that whatever a student’s vision is for themselves – whether it’s to earn a certificate, lifelong learning, or to transfer – that every single student has easy access to our college, and that they’re supported while they’re in and out of the classroom,” she said.
“It means they’re supported through financial aid, a scholarship, Counseling, and any sort of basic right in regard to food or housing security. It means we’re supporting them each step of the way to continue their education.”
Robinson said she believes everyone on campus has an important role to play in student success.
“We definitely have a student-centered culture of caring about our students,” she said. “We care that students choose us. We care that students are coming to us.”
INTERIM PRESIDENT: Jessica Robinson
HEADQUARTERS: Rancho San Diego
ANNUAL BUDGET: $56.6 million
CONTACT: (619) 660-4000
SOCIAL IMPACT: Cuyamaca College serves a diverse community of students and offers a variety of programs and events that celebrate equity and inclusion.
NOTABLE: Cuyamaca College offers 91 degree programs and 74 certificates.