Jessica Robinson, vice president of Student Services at Cuyamaca College, is one of 40 educators across the nation to be selected by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program for a 10-month fellowship designed to prepare future community college presidents.
Robinson is one of two from San Diego County chosen for the 2021-22 class of the Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship. This round of the highly selective leadership program will begin in November, partnering participants with current and former community college presidents serving as mentors. Delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative at Stanford University, the fellows will learn strategies to lead internal change, improve student outcomes in and after college, and create strong external partnerships with K-12 schools, four-year colleges, employers, and other partners.
"We have selected these fellows because they share that commitment and are well positioned to become transformational leaders.” said Monica Clark, director of leadership initiatives at the College Excellence Program. Cuyamaca College President Julianna Barnes nominated Robinson for the fellowship, describing her as among the top 1 percent of leaders she has ever worked with in her more than 20 years with community colleges. She cited Robinson’s focus on social justice and equity as qualities that portend her excellence as a future college president.
"With equitable access and success as the north star, Jessica has taken student services to new heights,” said Barnes, who this year completed a similar fellowship for new college presidents at the Aspen Institute. “Jessica has proven to be a successful leader in the community colleges and has the characteristics needed to ultimately be a successful CEO.”
Robinson said she has devoted her career to attaining equitable success for community college students, a goal borne from her personal history as a first-generation college student and a Latina.
“This desire to develop possibilities for student success comes from my background, coupled with my passion for working with others to break down institutional barriers,” she said. “Acceptance into this prestigious program is both an honor and a privilege."
Robinson earned her associate degree from Cuyamaca College some 20 years ago, and went on to receive her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work and a doctorate in educational leadership, all from San Diego State University. She began as vice president at Cuyamaca College in 2018 after more than 15 years working at San Diego State University, last in a dual role as assistant dean for Student Affairs and interim associate dean for Academic Affairs.
Past honors and awards include the San Diego State University President’s Leadership Award for Faculty and Staff Excellence, being named a finalist for San Diego Magazine’s Women of the Year, and San Diego State’s Undergraduate and Graduate School of Social Work’s Student of the Year.
The Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship was created to respond to the growing need for a new generation of leaders in community college administration. Nationally, nearly 80 percent of sitting presidents plan to retire in the next decade. While the traditional pathway to the presidency has often excluded women and people of color, the incoming class of Aspen Rising Presidents Fellows is composed of 68 percent women and 70 percent people of color.