By Anne Krueger
The 10-year era of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District with Chancellor Cindy L. Miles at the helm will soon draw to a close.
With what she described as “mixed feelings,” Miles announced today that she will retire at the end of the year. Her retirement contract, which went before the Governing Board on Feb. 19, called for Miles to remain until the end of the year to allow time for a successor to be selected.
“I’m a believer in listening to the rhythm of one’s soul — and, after 30 years of teaching and leading in community colleges, there’s a calling impossible to ignore that’s pulling me in a new direction,” Miles said. She adds that her primary goal has been to clear the way for the college and district communities to “make amazing things happen for students.”
“And that’s been happening, again and again,” Miles said.
She regards as high points of her tenure the accomplishments of colleagues: passing a $398 million bond measure for new, modern facilities; rejuvenating both campuses in the wake of a devastating recession; tripling grant dollars; and setting records for scholarships, as well as landmark numbers of degrees and certificates awarded. More than 5,500 degrees and certificates were awarded at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges in 2018, a 140 percent increase from 10 years ago.
During the decade that Miles served as chancellor, the two-college district in eastern San Diego County has been nationally recognized for removing barriers to student success and eradicating longstanding equity gaps that have impeded students of color in their college pursuits.
“I’m so proud of everything that the district has achieved in the past 10 years. It’s been a pleasure to work with the amazing faculty, staff and administrators who are dedicated to our students,” Miles said. “I know we are making a difference in the lives of our 30,000 students each year.”
Veteran Governing Board trustee Bill Garrett, who served as board president for nearly the entirety of Miles’ tenure, praised the chancellor for leading innovations such as the East County Education Alliance, a partnership with the Grossmont Union High School District, to ensure a smooth path for students between high school, college and a career. The partnership, which began in 2014, was selected for a national Innovation of the Year Award from the League for Innovation in the Community College.
As the result of new state funding, the Alliance in fall 2018 began offering the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College Promise, which provides a year of free enrollment at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges for first-time college students who are attending full-time. With the promise of additional state funding in the 2019-20 state budget, a second year of free enrollment is expected to be offered.
The prestige of the two campuses has climbed during the Miles era.
Cuyamaca College received the 2018 John W. Rice Diversity & Equity Award from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office for its groundbreaking program that eliminated remedial math and English classes and dramatically increased the number of students, including traditionally underrepresented students, who complete those classes and go on to complete their education goals. Grossmont College was recognized as a Champion of Higher Education in 2018 for its work to significantly increase the number of students earning an Associate Degree for Transfer, an associate degree that guarantees transfer to the California State University institution.
In a personal note to colleagues, Miles praised the campus and district communities for cultivating a climate of civility, something she talks about often, sometimes even jokingly as a Texan raised to always speak kindly of others, but to also cut down to size an inflated ego when it was warranted — but never in harsh tones.
“When you hear my people say, ‘bless your heart,’ it’s Texan-speak for ‘isn’t that special,’” she says with a chuckle.
Her trademark warmth and caring has impacted lives.
One classified professional credits the chancellor for inspiring her to go back to school to acquire the college degree she had always dismissed as a pipe dream.
“She took a genuine interest in me and took the time to ask me about my goals,” said Dawn Heuft, who worked for several years across the hall from Miles as an administrative assistant in the Business Services office. “She encouraged me and inspired me to get my bachelor’s in web design and development and I am now working as an interim instructional design technology specialist for Grossmont College. I love this job and I will be forever grateful to Dr. Miles for her kindness and mentoring.”
For Miles, who joined the district in March 2009, it is all about the golden rule.
“I’m encouraged that all our stakeholder groups — our board, administrators, faculty, classified professionals, unions, and senates — increasingly exhibit concern for what’s best for our students rather than for themselves,” she said. “And, it is this collective, reflective focus that makes this work worth doing, despite relentless demands and change.”
Miles has played an influential role in state and national community college organizations. She has served on committees and task forces for the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Council on Education, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, the Community College League of California, and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
Before arriving at the district, she served as founding president of the Hialeah campus at Miami Dade College. Miles previously served as vice president/chief operating officer of the League for Innovation in the Community College and as a faculty member, researcher, grants developer, program director, and senior administrator at community colleges in Texas and Colorado. Prior to her work in higher education, Miles served more than a decade in the allied health field as a medical technologist.
Miles received her doctorate in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin; a master’s degree in secondary and higher education from Texas A&M University-Commerce; and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Texas at Austin.
— Anne Krueger is communications and public information director for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.