In February 2018, Santiago Canyon College (SCC) named Syed Rizvi the fourth Vice President for Student Services. Mr. Rizvi has served in a variety of high-level leadership roles at SCC. He was appointed associate dean of financial aid in May 2005 and subsequently promoted to associate dean of student support services in July 2012. In March 2015, he was promoted again, this time to dean of enrollment and support services, where he served until his current appointment. Prior to arriving at SCC, Mr. Rizvi was the director of campus solutions with National Education Loan Network in Jacksonville, Florida. Prior to that, he served as national debt management director with USA Funds Services, a subsidiary of Sallie Mae Corporation. He also directed financial aid offices on various California university campuses, including Cal State San Marcos and Rio Hondo Community College.
The editor sat down with Vice President Rizvi to discuss his first year on the job, new initiatives underway in the student services division, and the future of SCC.
What do you see as your primary role as Vice President of Student Services at SCC? My primary role is to make sure all areas of Student Services are serving students with the highest level of customer services and relevance to their needs. In my many former roles in both the public and private sectors, excellent customer service was always front and center, and I want that to reflect here as well. I also want to be a leader in identifying better ways of delivering current services and in discovering new initiatives, resources and partnerships that keep us at the forefront of change and growth. Under my leadership, for example, SCC has developed a robust, and still growing, international student program, which brings students from around the world to campus, provides much-needed financial augmentation for the college, and creates excellent cross-cultural enrichment opportunities for all students. Student Services recently implemented a text notification system with customizable messaging, depending on students’ needs. These and other initiatives keep us relevant to our students and community.
Any new program initiatives coming up that you would like to share? There is no short answer to that question; the number of new initiatives is head spinning! However, there are a few that I should highlight. The state legislature and California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office have mandated fundamental changes in how all community colleges, not just SCC, are funded, serve students, and track success and progress toward degrees and meaningful employment. For example, we are converting to a new college funding formula that will no longer base our state funding allotment solely on the number of full time equivalent students. Instead, 60 percent of funding will be based on enrollment, with 20 percent based on the number of low-income students and 20 percent on student success in graduating, transferring and getting living-wage jobs. Integrated with that is “Guided Pathways,” which will help students make better-informed decisions about educational paths they can choose to meet their academic and professional goals more quickly and cost effectively. Since fall 2018, we have implemented the College Promise Scholarship Program, which provides free tuition and in some cases other financial benefits to all first time, full time students. The student services division is a key campus partner in implementing all of these initiatives. It is, and will continue to be, a big challenge for us; we already give 110 percent to our students. I am confident though that we are absolutely up to the challenge.
In addition to your role as Vice President for Student Services, you are also the Director of the Office of College Advancement and Executive Director of the Santiago Canyon College Foundation. In your college advancement role, one responsibility is to develop a more robust alumni relations program. What roles would you like to see alumni playing at SCC? We definitely need to cultivate partnerships with our alumni more actively, so that they continue to feel connected to SCC long after they have graduated. This cultivation process actually should start well before they graduate; it should start from their first day as a new student. If they have a good experience at SCC and feel their experience here helped them advance their goals, they can become some of our most powerful allies as we continue our branding, outreach and fundraising efforts. However, in order for them to become those allies, we have to give them the positive experience and awareness while they are students, and then engage them after they leave SCC. To engage them as alumni, we have to communicate clearly to them what our goals are, what they as alumni bring to the table to help us reach those goals, and what they get in return beyond the personal reward of “giving back” or “paying it forward.” They should expect to see the value of their SCC degree rise over time. They should gain access to networking and mentoring opportunities. If they run a company, they should gain access to pipeline of skilled workers to fill internships or jobs. We want to take more time to reach out to all grads. We also want to interconnect recent grads better, especially the large cohorts who transfer to Cal State Fullerton or UC Irvine. They share the common experience of being both an SCC Hawk and a Titan or Anteater, and could benefit from the networking we could foster among them.
Looking ahead, what do you project SCC might look like in 2050, when it celebrates its 50th anniversary? SCC will continue to grow its program offerings to meet community needs. We also will develop more partnerships with the surrounding educational and business community. We will continue to increase our relevance to the local residential community as an educational and cultural resource. I am confident that a fifty-year old SCC will be an innovative and spirited hub for educational, social and cultural activity that will attract people of all ages and background to the campus.