San Diego Mesa College President Rita Cepeda to Address Hechinger Institute Fellows

Dr. Rita M. Cepeda, President of San Diego Mesa College, is among a group of experts that will address  15 journalists and Fellows selected to attend the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media’s "Covering America, Covering Community Colleges'' Fellowship Conference. The conference, held September 14 to 17 at Columbia University in New York City, is presented by the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media.

 The "Covering America, Covering Community Colleges'' Fellowship promotes quality in-depth media coverage of education issues related to community colleges. Fifteen journalists are selected each year to travel to the Teachers College campus. During the residency they study these important institutions that struggle with high expectations in their communities and states, and yet receive little media attention.

This year’s group of journalists was selected from a competitive field of more than 40 applicants. Six will receive a $7,500 stipend each to complete a major reporting project on community colleges; nine Associates are also named. All 15 will attend the conference in New York City, where they will meet with experts, discuss their projects with other journalists, conduct research and visit local colleges.

Dr. Cepeda will participate in a panel of community college presidents and lead discussion on workforce issues. She will also work directly with three Fellows who are doing major projects looking at immigration issues, and another specializing in workforce issues.

The six Fellows and their projects are:

  • Kathleen Carroll, The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record, "Workforce development and New Jersey's community colleges."
  • Robert Chaney, The (Missoula, Mont.) Missoulian, "Tribal community colleges in Montana."
  • Aaron Glantz, The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, "Role of community colleges in transitioning Iraq veterans."
  • Lygia Navarro, Latino USA,'' National Public Radio, "Divisions over open-door policies for undocumented immigrants at community colleges."  
  • Tom Marshall, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, "The role of community colleges in serving the educational needs of refugees and asylum-seekers."
  • Encarnacion Pyle, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, "Growth and expansion of Ohio community colleges."

Nine additional journalists selected as Associate Fellows proposed projects ranging from a training program for Inupiaqs in Alaska to a series of editorials about community colleges and workforce preparation, technical education and teacher quality.

The nine Associate Fellows are LaRaye Brown, The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger; Camille Esch, Washington Monthly magazine; Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times;  Laura McCandlish, The (Baltimore) Sun; Colby Sledge,  The (Nashville) Tennessean; Amy Dalrymple, The (Fargo N.D.) Forum; Catalina Garcia, Univision 14 in San Francisco; Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, Alaska Public Radio Network; and Amy Rolph, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, named for former New York Times education editor Fred Hechinger, is part of Teachers College, Columbia University. Its mission is to promote fair, accurate and insightful coverage of education. For more information, please see:

Dr. Rita M. Cepeda has served since July 2005 as president of San Diego Mesa College, and is its first Latina president. She began her career in the community colleges in 1980 and has served as a college president for the past ten years.  A naturalized citizen, Dr. Cepeda came to the United States when she was 11, learning English as a second language. A product of the California public school system, Dr. Cepeda earned a bachelor's degree in communications disorders and a master's degree in clinical psychology from California State University Long Beach.  Dr. Cepeda went on to earn a doctorate of education from the University of Southern California. Her professional affiliations include: Board Member, California Basic Skills Initiative, and the Community College Advisory Committee on Legislation, the Intersegmental Coordinating Council and the Latina Leadership Network of the California Community Colleges. President Cepeda sits on numerous community boards and committees, including San Diego United Way, the San Diego Dropout Task Force, the San Diego Youth Services Council, San Diego Workforce Partnership and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Regional Economic Prosperity Strategy Committee.