After 35 years of dedicated service and unwavering commitment to the Chabot College community, President Susan Sperling has announced her retirement this Spring Semester 2023. Her departure marks the end of an era characterized by educational innovation, inclusivity, and tireless advocacy for the needs of California community college students. As we bid farewell to President Sperling, it is essential to reflect on her impactful tenure and the positive changes she has spearheaded during her time at Chabot.
President Sperling’s journey at Chabot began with a sense of competition and uncertainty. She vividly remembers her first day on campus in 1987, when she was interviewed for a faculty position. The job market for educators, especially in social sciences, was challenging, adding to the competitive atmosphere. Despite initial skepticism from the then-college president, President Sperling successfully secured the position in anthropology, “I did get the job. I began to teach. I began to appreciate what Chabot was, the heart that Chabot had, the excellent staff and faculty.”
Over the years, Chabot College has experienced remarkable evolution under President Sperling’s leadership. The institution has become more diverse and inclusive, both in terms of its student body and its staff. When President Sperling arrived, there were few women teachers or leaders in administrative roles. The college was predominantly white and male. Recognizing the importance of diversity, she championed efforts to hire individuals from diverse backgrounds, “Excellence is not just found in one gender or one ethnicity, it’s found in people from diverse backgrounds and that is an important part of what we do as community educators.”
President Sperling’s tenure has been marked by her unwavering dedication to equity and social justice. She strongly believes in the power of education to uplift marginalized communities, working tirelessly to ensure that Chabot College remains an entryway to higher education for all. “I recognize the critical role played by students, faculty, and staff as educators, advocating for their perspectives and expertise in shaping policies and decisions that best serve the needs of California community college students.”
However, President Sperling also acknowledges the challenges that lie ahead for Chabot College and community colleges across the state. She highlights a disconnect between the knowledge and experiences of educators, and community college students with the prevailing beliefs of think tanks, lobbyists, and legislators. “This disconnect poses a significant threat to the future of community colleges and the students they serve. I think this disconnect is a very, very problematic thing for the future of this precious resource for all of the people of the California community colleges, which have been the entryway to higher education for marginalized communities, for our working-class people, and for first-generation students.”
As President Sperling prepares to pass the torch to her successor, she offers invaluable advice for a smooth transition and continued success at Chabot College. She emphasizes the need for leaders to understand that their work is a collective effort involving students, staff, and faculty. Decision-making should be inclusive and guided by the highest aspirations and goals of the college community. President Sperling also highlights the importance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of controversy, underscoring the necessity of unwavering dedication to student equity and success.
Chabot- Las Positas Community College District (CLPCCD) Chancellor Ronald P. Gerhard shared his thoughts on President Sperling’s retirement, “President Sperling’s retirement elicits feelings of pause and reflection. I have had the honor to work with President Sperling for the past 5 and 1/2 years in various capacities.”
Ronald continues, “There is also a sense of celebration in recognition of her storied career. Personally, I am excited for her and for the next chapter of adventures that awaits her and her family. Professionally, she has been a force of stability and leadership during her 36-year career at Chabot. Having served as a faculty member, union leader, dean, and president, her leadership has helped create and elevate many of Chabot’s signature programs. I would be hard-pressed to think of any part of Chabot where President Sperling has not left her indelible mark.”
When asked how she hopes the college community will remember her contributions, President Sperling emphasizes her commitment to composure, respect for students’ brilliance, shared governance, and the dignity of all labor. Her leadership has been rooted in a deep sense of equity and social justice, leaving an indelible mark on Chabot College.
As President Sperling’s last day at Chabot College approaches, the campus community is planning farewell celebrations. However, for President Sperling, the most anticipated event is a long walk around the campus, where she can appreciate every moment and reminisce about the meaningful interactions she had with students under the shade of trees and in the classrooms, “It has been as much my home as it has been my workplace.”
As Chabot College moves forward, it will carry President Sperling’s legacy, remaining a place where students, faculty, and staff continue to work together to create a brighter future for the community and beyond.