As Chabot College welcomes Dr. Jamal Cooks as its newest President, the Spectator Newspaper staff had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Cooks about his goals for the school and what he wants his legacy to be.
Originally from Oakland, California, Dr. Cooks has spent over 20 years in teaching and administration roles all over the Bay Area. Having had experience teaching K-12 and college students, his academic expertise didn’t go unnoticed when he became a candidate for President of Chabot College.
During his career, he has continued to create safe and supportive learning environments for students from all walks of life. At Chabot alone, Dr. Cooks has contributed to creating the Black Excellence Collective 10×10 Taskforce. This program provides resources such as tutoring, mental health support, financial literacy, and other helpful resources to support the success of Chabot’s Black student population.
Many more innovative initiatives are to come, according to Dr. Cooks. When speaking with reporter Mike Sykes from Spectator News, he talked more about some upcoming plans for the college.
“First, we have a five million dollar Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) grant. We’re an HSI, we’re about 43% Latinx, which makes a big difference … the STEM part is very important because we’re trying to encourage more students of color and lower-income students to go into the STEM fields.
Second, we’re going to have a student hub that’s going to be in the old bookstore building. We’re talking about providing a food pantry, mental health, counseling, and advising services. A space where students can relax.”
The commitment to putting students first is why many supported Dr. Cook’s transition from Vice President to President of the college. His tenacious determination to be actively involved in what Chabot College students are doing and listening to their needs is refreshing. As Dr. Cooks continues to meet with many student and community organizations, he never lets students forget that they are his priority.
One of the first things he said, when he sat down with The Spectator staff, was, “One of the reasons why I wanted to meet with you all is because I think that students are the lifeline of what we do and why we do it.”
He continued to say, “I love being around students. I mean, that’s why I do this. That’s why I’m meeting with student groups. That’s why I want to know from you all what’s working for you or what’s not working for you.”
While Dr. Cooks isn’t an unfamiliar face to Chabot, having been Vice President since 2021, leadership changes oftentimes raise concerns about what that change means for the community and culture. When asked about how he dealt with any concerns, obstacles, or pushback during his journey to the presidency, Dr. Cooks shared the things that were crucial in navigating this.
“The things I had to consider in this journey was making sure I was good at what I did. That I was good at my job. Secondly, I’ve tried to remain comfortable with being uncomfortable, meaning not getting complacent, but always being curious, always looking ahead, and trying to learn what is very important. The third component would be being able to build trust. Being able to trust everyone and stay committed to the goal of being able to help as many students as possible,” he recounts.
Dr. Cooks has proven to be a driven, trustworthy, and resilient advocate for students at Chabot College. While his presidency hopefully won’t be over any time soon, when asked what he wanted to be remembered for, his answer further proved why he was the perfect choice for the college.
“I would want to be remembered for being a president for the people. My decisions are very inclusive of students and [so] the people that work at Chabot feel good about [their] particular work environment. I also hopefully want to be remembered as someone who made changes, whether it’s structural or policy changes. The goal is always to be more efficient as a college and institution and to provide a great learning environment for students.”
While we are only a couple of months into his presidency, Dr. Jamal Cooks will surely leave an everlasting impression on Chabot. His legacy of providing safe, equal, and successful learning environments will hopefully live on for many years.