Golden West College didn’t have to look too far in its search for a new president.
Meridith Randall, who has been serving as interim president of the community college since last April, was appointed to the permanent position by Coast Community College District on Jan. 17.
“I am thankful to the board and energized to lead this college into the future,” Randall told the Business Journal.
Golden West serves nearly 11,000 enrollees each semester, including close to 3,000 full-time students.
Areas of focus at the community college include criminal justice, nursing, cosmetology and automotive technology.
The Huntington Beach school is one of three community colleges in the Coast Community College District, the others are Costa Mesa’s Orange Coast College and Coastline College in Fountain Valley.
Randall’s appointment as interim president came after the resignation of the former president, Tim McGrath, who resigned after receiving a no-confidence vote from the community college’s Academic Senate due to his handling of public safety incidents, according to a report in the Orange County Coast College student paper Coast Report.
Randall counts nearly 30 years of experience in higher education, including 17 years as chief instruction officer in the California Community College system.
Randall says one of her first goals as president is to establish more connections between the school and the surrounding community.
“As interim president, I was hesitant to build community connections that might then be passed onto someone else,” Randall said.
Golden West has partnered with California State University, San Bernardino to offer a concurrent enrollment program allowing Golden West students to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) while earning their Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) at Golden West.
Students enrolled in this program can complete their ADN in six semesters as full-time students and go on to complete their BSN degrees with an additional six months of coursework at CSUSB, according to school officials.
The school is also seeking to connect with the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce and Black Chamber of Commerce to help serve its diverse student population.
Randall first joined Golden West as vice president of instruction in 2020.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, master’s degree from Cornell University and Juris Doctor degree from New York University School of Law.
Randall says she has always wanted to be an English professor but took a “left turn” to become a lawyer before eventually pursuing a career in higher education in her 30s.
“You know the saying: If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life and I’ve worked very few days in my life,” Randall said.
Golden West recently opened its new language arts complex to the public last October.
The three-story, 65,000-square-foot building was built for $55 million and financed by state funding. It features 30 new classrooms, four group study rooms and a student resource center.
The old humanities and adjacent health sciences buildings were demolished to make way for the new project.
“We’re slowly shifting to buildings built within the last 10 years, so the campus is becoming more modern,” Randall said.
Golden West aims to prepare its students for success and find jobs after graduating through two types of tuition-free classes.
The first are non-credit classes geared toward trade jobs in the automotive, security and elderly care industries.
The college also offers dual enrollment, including books and other materials, at no cost for high school students looking to gain college credits.
Every year, Golden West receives funding from the state to support students’ basic needs. Part of the funding goes to the school’s food pantry where students can shop for free groceries.
In the spring, students who are enrolled in at least six units can apply on a first-come first-serve basis to receive $2,000 to help offset the cost of rent and childcare.
“Part of my job is making sure parents and prospective students know about all of these opportunities,” Randall said.
Golden West says it has a 90% transfer rate with many students transferring to California State University, Long Beach, California State University, Fullerton and University of California, Irvine after two years.