Cindy L. Miles credits her mother for never letting her think that a woman’s dreams or aspirations should be limited by her gender. “She was a feminist before there was a word for it,” said Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.
|Cindy L. Miles, Ph. D.|
Chancellor, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District
Miles’ efforts on behalf of the college district since she became chancellor 3 ½ years ago were recognized Friday by the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce, which presented her with a Women in Leadership award for education. The award was presented at a chamber luncheon attended by more than 400 people at the Town & Country Hotel in Mission Valley.
“I see this award as recognition of all the incredible women who are working at the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District,” Miles said. “East County is a place that appreciates strong women and where their leadership is respected and honored.”
Previous recipients of the award from the college district include Grossmont College President Sunny Cooke; former Governing Board trustee Deanna Weeks; and Dana Quittner, a former associate vice chancellor for the district. Grossmont College English professor Sydney Brown was also nominated for the award this year.
Miles’ life and work took her across the country before she ended up in East County in March 2009. She grew up in Pasadena, Texas, a suburb of Houston, where her father worked for Shell Oil, but her mother put aside her career aspirations to raise three children. At age 50, Miles’ mother got her degree and became a social worker – and infused a belief in Miles that she could accomplish whatever she set her mind to.
Miles spent 12 years as a medical technologist before realizing her passion was for higher education. She earned her doctorate in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin, and worked in Phoenix, Denver and Miami before she was recruited for the job as chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.
Miles’ tenure as chancellor has been marked by some of the most challenging budget problems in the college district’s 50-year history. The district has seen a $16 million cut in funding from the state in the past four years, and has been forced to eliminate more than 1,600 class sections at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges. Thousands of students are on waiting lists for classes, and the district now has 150 fewer full-time employees than it did in 2008.
Miles has addressed these financial challenges by spearheading a transparent and frugal budgeting process that buffers the district’s finances and encourages district employees to seek grants for innovative programs. Under her guidance, the college district merged its two foundations for Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges a year ago into one strengthened foundation to raise money for programs and deserving students. Since then, the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges has established a core group of donors known as the Possibilities Roundtable, with more than 60 charter members who have pledged more than $100,000.
When she is off campus, Miles leads the effort for voter support of Proposition V, the district’s $398 million bond measure that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. If approved by 55 percent of East County voters, funds from Prop V will be used to upgrade aging and inadequate classrooms and infrastructure, create veteran’s resource centers at both colleges, as well as an East County Workforce Solutions Training Center.
During her service as chancellor, the college district has been selected to participate in several state and national initiatives. Grossmont-Cuyamaca was one of 12 college districts that participated in the California Leadership Alliance for Student Success (CLASS) project, focusing attention on leadership strategies and policies that demonstrate successful outcomes for community college students.
The college district was also one of eight institutions of higher learning – and the only community college – that was chosen to participate in a national American Council on Education initiative. As part of an effort to provide workforce training that meets industry needs, Cuyamaca College recently received two state grants – out of a total of nine awarded – that will train workers for green jobs.
Miles has also been a leader in local, state and national associations that work on behalf of community colleges. She is a member and past president of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association, a consortium of the nine community colleges serving students in San Diego and Imperial counties.
Currently, she serves as president of the Chief Executive Officers of the Community College League of California, a board that provides input to the state’s education leaders on key issues affecting community colleges statewide, and served on the search committee that recommended selection of California’s new community college chancellor. On the national scale, Miles serves on the executive committee of the American Association of Community Colleges and is an active member of the American Council on Education.
“This award really exemplifies the type of work that Cindy has done for the district,” said Bill Garrett, president of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Governing Board. “She’s an innovative, exceptional person who has brought vim, vigor and vitality to the district. I’m thrilled that the East County chamber has recognized her, not only for what she has done but for what we know she will continue to be doing.”