By Janet Jacobs
Corsicana Daily Sun
On Friday afternoon, Dr. Barbara Kavalier, currently President of San Jose City College in San Jose, Calif., was the third presidential finalist to speak at Navarro College.
Although she was the finalist who came from the farthest away, Kavalier made it clear her roots are in Texas, and that she would be honored to get the job as president at Navarro.
“Although I love my job at San Jose, California is not Texas, and I’m a native Texan,” she said.
Prior to her presidency in San Jose, Kavalier held the positions of Interim President and Vice-President of Student Services at San Diego Mesa College in San Diego, Calif. She received an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree from Mountain View College in Texas; a Bachelor of Science in Education and English from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth; a Master of Arts in Business and Human Relations from Amberton University in Texas; and a Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.
Among her accomplishments, Kavalier pointed to the recent success of San Jose in coming off state sanctions, which it had been on since 2004; programs she initiated at Mesa and San Jose in working with veterans, and first-time college students, and improving morale for faculty and staff.
“There’s so much potential here,” she said, referring to the work of current President Richard Sanchez and the board, which have put the college on a sound footing financially, and in creating partnerships in the career technical programs, such as the John Deere program.
Kavalier said she didn’t want to go to a college with a lot of problems, and she praised the solid foundations already at Navarro.
She called herself a “transformational leader,” someone who helps to implement change in a considerate and thoughtful manner by getting people engaged.
“I don’t believe in micro-managing, but I do believe in accountability,” she said.
Her mission as the school’s leader is to create an atmosphere where the staff is excited to come to work, she said.
“If you want to make great things happen it’s all about developing a cohesive team,” she said.
Several times, Kavalier had the audience of about 65 people laughing, at jokes about her fondness for the Collin Street Bakery’s cherry icebox cookies, for example.
Kavalier dodged a couple of questions about allowing guns on campus, and whether or not to have a dress codes for students and staff, saying those weren’t her decisions to make. In the first instance, she said she would defer to the board, and in the second case, she said it would be something the college community needed to have a conversation about.
She praised the college’s athletics program as a great way to improve recruitment and to help students stay engaged, and although she said she hadn’t overseen student housing before, she did say she admired it. San Jose is building a dorm now, she said.
“There’s something special and magical about having campus housing,” she said. It builds community, Kavalier said.
On the subject of finances, Kavalier admitted to enjoying working with numbers.
“I love dealing with budgets,” Kavalier said. Her financial management experience dated back to her work a dean at Mountain View Community College where she was responsible for knowing where every penny was. To help her in her work with college finances, she obtained a master’s degree in business administration.
“I have a lot of experience (in finance),” she said. “I take it pretty seriously.”
Kavalier was originally scheduled to speak at a forum on Thursday, but it was canceled because of a bomb threat. Kavalier praised the president and board for making the decision to shut down the campus Thursday, saying that student and staff security were a priority.
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