By Juan Calvillo
Dr. Michelle Cheang has been named the new dean of continuing education and workforce development at East Los Angeles Colleges South Gate campus.
The Public Information Office said that the previous dean, Ming Huei-Lam, took over a vacant position in Academic Affairs at the ELAC main campus.
Cheang was one of three candidates nominated by a selection committee, comprised of faculty and staff, and ELAC President Marvin Martinez made the final choice.
Martinez cited Cheang’s time as a dean in Career Technical Education and her time working at Los Angeles Trade Tech as major reasons for being chosen for the position.
“She came with a strong CTE background and experience. She definitely has the academic credentials, from the bachelors to the masters to the doctorate. So that’s always good,” Martinez said.
Cheang said one of the things she really liked about taking the position was the chance to see everything that the campus has to offer, and being only one of two active deans on site at the South Gate campus allows her to do just that.
She said that one of her duties is to expand what the school is doing to increase the number of students enrolled at South Gate campus.
Cheang said that to help build the school community it is important to have the surrounding South Gate community know that the school is there to help them.
Cheang is of Chinese/Mexican descent; raised in Calexico, Mexicali on the border of Baja California. Cheang started at UC San Diego, then moved to Cal State Northridge where she received her doctorate in Community College Leadership.
She said that her passion became working with local communities and for a time worked in the non-profit sector before working in the community college system.
Her background influenced her decision to work with students that are sometimes pushed to the side in the scholastic system.
These students ranged from at risk students to dropouts.
Cheang said that coming from LA Trade Tech is an asset to doing her new job as dean at the South Gate Campus.
Her work with multiple groups, departments and diverse staff gave her a perspective that put culture at the forefront.
“For me, culture is important. Each institution is different. They all have their own quirks,” Cheang said.
Her idea is to know not only the faculty and staff, but the students and the needs of her new home and community at South Gate.
“What’s that saying? Culture trumps strategy,” Cheang said.
As the new dean of CEWD one of her goals is to continue the work that her predecessor started.
One of those tasks is to prepare for the move from the current building that is the South Gate Campus to a brand new building.
She mentioned that the move will potentially double the size of the campus and allow for more students.
Staff is taking into consideration the move and thinking about what other programs can be added to the curriculum.
They are taking ideas from a survey that was conducted at the South Gate Campus in which student body and faculty participated.
The survey consisted of ideas they wanted to see implemented to improve the campus.
“I’m not coming in creating something that doesn’t make sense. If the students don’t care for it, then what’s the point?” Cheang said.
“We want to bring cool, innovative stuff that is going to be interesting to students so they can get good jobs.”
One such program that seems to be forthcoming is part of the Administration of Justice program, the Fire Technology, which Cheang said will be at the campus in the Fall. Cheang stressed that the South Gate Campus is trying to make students feel like they are really at a college, and that the move will help facilitate that.
She said the staff and faculty are trying to figure out how to convey that the South Gate campus can be a primary pick, not a secondary one.
“How can we really have that South Gate pride? That South Gate pride of ‘we want to go to South Gate and that is our school’,” Cheang said of her and the rest of the staff’s thought process.
She said that having permanent faculty on site and making all the services available that main campuses have would really hammer this idea home.
Bringing a more diverse set of programs and also making the campus feel welcoming and primary are what Cheang has set to do.
She said in doing this, she is getting all the support possible from the main campus team for her to achieve the desired effect.
“I don’t let the hierarchy or the titles or the silos interrupt the work. For me it’s about what makes sense for the students. Right? If it makes sense for the students, we need to overcome any, either perceived or real, boundaries or obstacles,” Cheang said.