The Pasadena Area Community College District (PACCD) seeks a Superintendent/President with the qualifications, demonstrated professional capabilities, and personal qualities that, in effective combination, will enable him or her to lead the College in successfully addressing the challenges and pursuing the opportunities outlined above.

The Superintendent/President is the chief executive officer of the District and the College and reports to a seven-member Board of Trustees elected by community residents of their respective geographical areas. The Superintendent/President is the administrative leader of the District and, therefore, is responsible for overseeing the operations of the entire District. These responsibilities include planning, assessment, budget, supervision of academic programs and administrative and student services, and the evaluation of key administrative personnel to make certain the institution is meeting the educational needs of the students and community. The Superintendent/President represents the District to community groups; business and industry; local public elementary and high school districts; federal, state, county and city agencies; public and private colleges and universities; and potential donors to the Foundation.

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Meet the Candidates

Close Carlos Cortez, who most recently served as chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, has more than 18 years’ experience as a college administrator – including 13 as a chief executive. He has worked at public, private, and charter schools in Washington, D.C., Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, Berkeley, and San Diego, and has been on the faculty at John Hopkins University, National University, New York University, and UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego. Throughout his career, Dr. Cortez has elected to work primarily with underserved, ethnically diverse student populations from systemically marginalized communities.

Prior to his appointment as PCC’s interim superintendent/president, José A. Gómez served as executive vice president, provost (the university’s chief academic officer), and chief operating officer at California State University, Los Angeles. At Cal State LA, Dr. Gómez was instrumental in strategic efforts to enhance student success, elevate fundraising, and deepen engagement with the region through partnerships with government and industry. Dr. Gómez led major initiatives to expand opportunities for students at Cal State LA, including Cal State LA’s downtown campus; the Prison Graduation Initiative, California’s first bachelor’s degree program taught in state prison; and Cal State LA BioSpace, a regional incubator promoting inclusive entrepreneurship. He also established a partnership with the Los Angeles Football Club to renovate the university’s stadium field and construct a professional soccer training and operations facility on campus. As an educator, Dr. Gómez has taught courses at Chaffey College, Mt. San Antonio College, Cal State LA, and USC. He previously served as higher education adviser to the president pro tem of the California Senate, executive director of the California Educational Facilities Authority, and held senior positions in the California Department of Justice and the State Treasurer’s Office. Dr. Gómez is a Pasadena resident, and his experience as a first-generation college student, raised in the San Gabriel Valley, has inspired his three-decade career in education and government. He received Cal Poly Pomona’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2019.

Close Thuy Thi Nguyen is currently a partner at the law firm of Garcia Hernández Sawhney, providing legal advice to community colleges, serving as general counsel to the African American California Community College Trustees and Administrators (Black Caucus), and serving as commission counsel to the Oakland Police Commission. In 2016, Nguyen became the first Vietnamese American college president in the country, serving over five years as president of Foothill College. Nguyen was general counsel to the Peralta Community College District (a four-college district) for more than eleven years since 2003. From January to June 2015, she took leave from Peralta CCD to serve as interim president and chief executive officer of the Community College League of California. Nguyen then served as interim general counsel for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office from July 2015 to June 2016. Nguyen was an adjunct instructor teaching education law at CSU East Bay. Nguyen has served on many boards, including the American Council on Education (ACE) in Washington D.C. She is currently board chair of Cal LAW Pathways and board member of Cal Medicine Coalition – both organizations she co-founded to diversify the legal and medical professions. Nguyen earned her Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Yale University and Juris Doctor from UCLA School of Law. Nguyen is a Paul and Daisy Soros for New Americans Fellow. A refugee from Vietnam, Nguyen was one of 38 individuals honored in 2017 as part of Carnegie Corporation’s “Great Immigrants” tribute in The New York Times.
Close Dr. Lena Tran currently serves as the president of Columbia College in California, bringing with her over 27 years of experience dedicated to serving and inspiring students from diverse backgrounds. She is deeply committed to offering a rich array of educational opportunities for personal growth and career advancement, fostering a community of inquisitive, creative, and thoughtful lifelong learners. During her tenure, she successfully cultivated partnerships with industry leaders such as Apple CAL FIRE, Fresno Workforce Connection, Microsoft, MIT, and UC Berkeley, leading to the development of innovative dual enrollment, transfer, and workforce pathways in coding, artificial intelligence, fire and forestry, and healthcare. Additionally, Dr. Tran has served in the role of manager and director for student affairs, outreach, and residence life. Dr. Tran has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including an Aspen Rising President Fellowship, Stanford University Educational Leadership Initiative Award, and John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Award. Furthermore, she was an honoree of the Fulbright Scholar College Administrators Seminar to Russia and has been named among the “100 Women of Influence in Silicon Valley.” The Silicon Valley Business Journal also recognized Dr. Tran as one of its “40 Under 40” rising stars in Silicon Valley. Dr. Tran strives to cultivate and preserve a culture of acceptance, celebration, and connectedness. We can grow and learn better together with the collective sum of the individual differences, life experiences, knowledge, self-expression, and talent.