Santa Barbara City College’s interim superintendent/president Dr. Kindred Murillo starts her year-long contract Tuesday with motivation to help the college through the transition period.
“There’s been a few turbulent years at the college. In the lifecycle of the college, I think it is time for Santa Barbara to get through those years,” she told the News-Press. “I think I can help them calm down and really get into the system of governance.”
She can see herself staying an additional year or two if the school deems it necessary, but she currently does not intend to apply for the permanent superintendent/president position.
“I don’t believe I would be the most effective person eight years from now. I would like to help the college move through this time and find someone who can dedicate five to eight years here,” she said.
Dr. Murillo has worked in California’s community colleges for over 24 years, and she loves it. She served as the superintendent/president in two districts, spanning 13 years.
But she’s in a stage in life now where she’d rather develop someone else as a leader.
“I think my job is training my replacement, and I love doing that. I hope that they’re going to want to grow,” she said. “If I can do that, I think I will have served the college well.”
She has more in mind than filling a spot for a year.
The college’s governance has been criticized in recent years as board meetings make headlines.
In early 2019, discussions over the Pledge of Allegiance made national news, and community members criticized trustees’ actions when a public commenter used a racial slur.
This year, the board met multiple times to consider a COVID-19 vaccination mandate, at odds with the Academic Senate who later gave some trustees a vote of no confidence.
Dr. Murillo describes the role of superintendent/president as a “bridge between the college and the board.”
Her key to bridging the hired staff and elected officials: listening.
As soon as she was selected for the position, she began meeting with trustees and faculty to hear their concerns.
She feels welcomed by the Board of Trustees and is optimistic that it will be a successful partnership, and she has a shared commitment with faculty to strive for equity.
“The faculty there, they’re good at what they do, and they care about students. One of the things I like is that they’ve been voicing their opinions about equity,” she said. “That’s something I’m really excited to work with them on.”
She hopes to steer the college toward hiring staff that better reflect the diversity of the student population. She says hiring managers should screen people in, not out.
She also believes in using workshops to educate staff on microaggressions and other issues that make campus less welcoming.
“We have to recognize that higher education institutions are the product of structural racism, and we have to go in and do work in policies and procedures to make sure our policies are equitable,” she said.
She thinks the unrestricted $20 million donation from MacKenzie Scott would be best used to bridge equity gaps and spur student success.
The staff will be planning what to do with the donation in the next few months. The gift was the largest in the college’s history.
Dr. Murillo worked as the chief business official at three community college districts and helped SBCC through a successful facilities bond program. She is ready to thoughtfully budget through the uncertainty of the pandemic.
Community colleges don’t receive funding from the government until “six months after we close our books,” Dr. Murillo said.
The school recently received a Title V grant of $3 million to expand its service.
Dr. Murillo has a lot of work planned for the next 12 months, her first contract in an interim position.
Former superintendent/president Dr. Utpal K. Goswami resigned July 12 during a special meeting of the Board of Trustees.