The Rodriguez Presidency, 2016-2021

At San Bernardino Valley College, 2016 was a banner year filled with new beginnings. In July, the college welcomed its 14th president, Diana Z. Rodriguez. A first-generation community college student herself, Rodriguez came to SBVC after spending four years as Vice President of Student Services and Vice President of Academic Services at Las Positas College in Livermore, California.

One of President Rodriguez's first actions at SBVC was launching the SBVC Cares campaign, which encouraged faculty, administrators, and classified professionals to work together to assist at-risk students. This initiative increased retention, improved student success, and boosted graduation rates, leading to the Class of 2017 being, at the time, the largest class in SBVC's history.

Diana Z. Rodriguez, SBVC's 14th President


The Kinesiology and Athletics Complex opened in August 2016


In August, the new Kinesiology and Athletics Complex opened for students, replacing the Snyder Gym and Women's Gym. This state-of-the-art building covers 108,509 square feet, and is home to two gyms, basketball courts, a weight room, a locker room, classrooms, and study spaces. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Aug. 26, and hundreds of people came out to explore the space.

This new complex was the perfect place to host the SBVC Foundation's 90th Anniversary Gala on Oct. 14. The event was a smashing success, with hundreds of alumni, dignitaries, and philanthropists coming together for a night of food, fun, and fundraising. Actress Lindsay Wagner, a former adjunct professor in SBVC's Radio, Television, and Film Department, served as guest emcee. More than $135,000 was raised for student scholarships, in addition to a $25,000 donation from Kitchell/BRJ and Associates and $300,000 from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians for the Valley-Bound Commitment program.

The year ended on a high note, with President Rodriguez leading the first Day of Service, a volunteer community outreach event held to inform local residents about the benefits offered by SBVC. The inaugural Day of Service was held on Dec. 17, with SBVC students and staff members knocking on doors in San Bernardino, Colton, Rialto, and Highland to share information about the college and upcoming programs. By targeting these areas, the SBVC teams reached "potential students in our own neighborhoods who may not know about the amazing educational and career opportunities available for them just a few blocks away," President Rodriguez said.

One way of setting students up for success is ensuring that their basic needs are met. In November 2017, the Valley 360 Resource Center opened its doors, providing enrolled students with free food, hygiene products, and baby items. The pantry was launched through a collaboration with Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino and Feeding America Riverside-San Bernardino, and thanks to generous donations from SBVC students, faculty, staff, and administrators and community members, Valley 360 was quickly able to expand its services to also offer fresh produce and frozen meals.

At SBVC, students have always been encouraged to express themselves through art and the written word. Before he became famous for his work as a Native American rights activist, poet and musician John Trudell studied broadcasting at SBVC, arriving in San Bernardino in the late 1960s. In an interview with Inland Empire Community Newspapers in 2013, Trudell said the time he spent learning about radio and television production prepared him for his role as a spokesman during the occupation of Alcatraz Island in the 1970s. "I learned how to write and read the news in front of a live camera," he said. "I learned camera production. Sound and lighting. I learned everything at SBVC." 

Trudell died of cancer in 2015, and to commemorate his life and work, the first John Trudell Poetry Festival was held on campus Nov. 16, 2017. Guest poets came and interacted with students, who shared their own work and reflections on Trudell. His daughter, Sage Trudell, also was honored during the festival.

SBVC started 2018 off with a bang, becoming the first and only community college in San Bernardino County to offer a state-approved electronics technology certificate on a fast-track basis, with full-time students in the accelerated program completing their coursework in eight months rather than two years.

On March 7, labor and civil rights icon Dolores Huerta took the stage at SBVC during the special event, "Si Se Puede: A Dialogue with Dolores Huerta." She spoke about immigration, women's rights, politics, and education, and encouraged the audience to stand up for social justice; stay optimistic, even during setbacks; and vote. "You've got to take the power ... to dismantle systems of oppression," she said. "It's great to march. It's great to protest. But if you don't take it to the polls, if you don't vote, nothing changes."

The SBVC Foundation switched things up in December, holding Taste & Tour, a brand new event to raise funds for scholarships and educational programs. Taste & Tour took nearly 200 guests on a culinary journey around campus, where they were able to try food and drinks, watch interactive presentations from different departments, and enjoy music from The Brass Brothers, a band featuring SBVC alums. The event was a hit, and raised $21,000.

Dolores Huerta at the Si Se Puede: A Dialogue with Dolores Huerta event held in the SBVC Auditorium


On the field, SBVC athletes won multiple accolades, with the women's soccer team finishing the season with 19 wins — the second-highest win total in SBVC history — and reaching the state final four. Karen Jacobs scored 18 goals and ended her two-year SBVC career with a historic 72 points scored (26 goals and 20 assists). 

The football team took home the conference championship, and quarterback Armando Herrera set school records for career passing, with 377 completions; 691 attempts; 5,431 yards; and 60 touchdowns. He also holds the single-season record of 3,262 yards passing and 44 touchdown passes. As a whole, the team set the school record for most points scored by both teams in a game, after defeating Santa Ana 80-48.

Men's Cross Country Coach James Ratigan was named Coach of the Year by the California Community College Cross Country and Track and Field Coaches Association. It was another bright spot for SBVC's cross country teams, following All-American runner Alyssa Benavides becoming SBVC's first female athlete to finish in the top 12 at the state championships.

In January 2020, a MLK Dream Rally was held in front of the Shout Your Dreams Megaphone.


At SBVC, students have long been encouraged to live by the campus theme "Shout Your Dreams." This idea became a reality in February 2019, when the Welding Department created a 9-foot megaphone sculpture of the same name. The fabricated metal megaphone was designed and built by five welding students, and dedicated in memory of the late welding advisor Dan Comisky. The students submitted an essay to the WeldItForward student competition, and were the highest placing team in California. They received $6,000 worth of equipment and supplies to build the statue, which stands on a platform in the campus courtyard.

Throughout the Rodriguez presidency, SBVC received major grants from several companies, including Edison International and SoCal Gas, which awarded the college its first Environmental Champions Grant in 2018. This funding was used to expand the college's training in electric and hybrid engine repair, while the $50,000 Edison International grant went toward the purchasing of equipment for clean energy electric vehicle technician training. "We are expanding every year and are grateful for Edison International's continued support," Diesel instructor Berchman "Kenny" Melancon said. "Our goal is to ensure our students are educated with the most current technology, so when they enter the job market, they are an asset wherever they decide to go."

2020 was a transformative year for SBVC, as the campus community grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic. In March, classes shifted online, and 13,000 faculty and students quickly learned how to teach and learn virtually. While athletic games and on-campus events were canceled, SBVC still made sure to mark the momentous occasion of graduation, and on May 22 held its first-ever virtual Commencement ceremony. 

In her livestreamed remarks to graduates, President Rodriguez praised them for demonstrating "outstanding resilience and perseverance that will be recorded in our college's history books for future generations to look up to and admire." The Admissions and Records Office later distributed diplomas to graduates during a drive-thru event, and many of the masked recipients arrived in decorated vehicles and wore caps and gowns.

The college received funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and was able to distribute $3,366,282 in direct student aid. An additional $3,366,281 was earmarked for institutional aid, which went toward purchasing anti-viral cleaning and sanitation supplies, personal protective equipment for students and employees, laptops, online learning subscriptions, and internet hot spots. SBVC was also awarded $431,833 in minority-serving institution support, with this funding used to offer students access to Care Solace, a web-based mental health care resource.

The pandemic did not stop SBVC from moving forward with new initiatives and celebrations. To strengthen anti-racism efforts, the college's Curriculum Committee adjusted its review process so all curriculum is viewed through a culturally responsive and equitable lens. The Radio, Television, and Film program changed its name to Film, Television, and Media to better reflect the program's offerings, and this coincided with the launch of the Institute of Media Arts. Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS) marked its 50th anniversary on campus, and SBVC partnered with the Uniquely Abled Project to offer training on computer numerically controlled (CNC) equipment and job placement services for young adults on the autism spectrum. 

After five years at the helm of SBVC, President Rodriguez stepped into a new role, becoming the San Bernardino Community College District's 15th Chancellor. She assumed her new duties on Aug. 1, 2021, and Vice President of Student Services Dr. Scott Thayer was appointed as interim president.

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