Nicole Jones once thought about becoming an attorney. For the thousands of students she has impacted at Cuyamaca College over the past years, it’s a good thing she changed her mind.
Hired as a full-time counselor in 2008, Jones since last fall has been serving as the Interim Dean of Counseling Services at the Rancho San Diego campus, a position responsible for overseeing not only the Counseling Department, but also high school and community relations, the Student Success & Support Program (SSSP), Assessment, Veterans, the First Year Experience, Transfer, Career, CalWORKS, Disability Support Programs & Services (DSPS), and Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS).
“The great thing about Cuyamaca College is that students come first,” Jones said. “It always comes back to the students and how we can best serve our students so they can be successful.”
Born in Chicago and raised in San Diego, Jones attended Long Beach State University to earn a degree in criminal justice after graduating from Madison High School in 1990. Before going to law school, she wanted to get some work experience and landed a counseling job at Bayview Community Development Corporation, a faith-based San Diego nonprofit group. She soon realized she had found her calling as a counselor and secured her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at San Diego State University.
Her first community college post came through an internship at San Diego Miramar College via the San Diego & Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association. Robert Garber, who recently served as Cuyamaca College’s acting president, was at Miramar at the time and hired her for the post.
“My initial impression when I first met Nicole years ago suggested that she was a person with the potential to grow and become a leader in our community college system, and what I’ve seen since then has only served to validate that impression, and that’s evidenced by the work she has done and is doing every day,” Garber said.
After serving as a counselor at both Mesa and Miramar colleges, Jones came to Cuyamaca College.
“Counselors look at the whole student, explore their goals, where they are in their life cycle, what challenges they bring with them when they walk through the door,” she said. “And you have to be an expert in transfer, career and degree planning when you’re a counselor at the community college level if you’re going to help a student find their path.”