San Juan College President Honored during Women’s History Month

3/31/2022

Dr. Toni Hopper Pendergrass re-established her roots here, when she returned home and joined San Juan College as president in July 2012. In the meantime, she has increased the number of graduates by 143 percent and continued to advance student success while shouldering a pesky pandemic. By Donna K. Hewett. This story is sponsored by CMIT Solutions and ServiceMaster Restoration Specialists

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Most women who are history makers equip in power and encourage not only women, but men in the community to believe they can achieve. This March, we'd like to honor Dr. Toni Hopper Pendergrass, President of San Juan College for the previous 10 years, for continuing to advance student success community partnerships and local economic development. You're watching the local news network brought to you by CMIT Solutions and ServiceMaster's Restore. I am Deborah Uroda. Pendergrass finished her master's degree at the New Mexico State University. She holds a doctorate in education administration with a specialization in community college leadership from the University of Texas at Austin. During her first five years of her presidency, Pendergrass, an Aztec native, worked closely with the faculty and staff to increase the number of graduates at San Juan College by 143%. Today having shoulder the pandemic's challenges, she focuses on rebuilding her student population.

The pandemic, we lost 18% of our enrollment, during the pandemic, but we're starting to, we're hopeful that we'll be able to regain. But that's really a national trend. Especially among native American populations, they lost about 30% that some schools did during the pandemic, just in that demographic. So a lot of institutions have lost enrollment but we're all working really hard to regain it. So like this semester, we're 5% up in headcount.

The college has about 7,000 students per semester. It's ranked number two in the nation for rewarding associates degrees to native Americans. Because many students travel a long distance to attend classes, the new dormitory currently under construction will be more than welcomed

Something we're really excited about, our student housing and we partnered with Dekker/Perich/Sabatini Architects and Jane's Corporation to build the facility. And we think it will be completed this summer and we're planning a grand opening. But it's 150 beds in this first phase that we're really excited about, that will be available to our students. And students can sign up, we'll be releasing that probably at the end of this month, in March, where it's first come first serve of those individuals that are interested in living in our student housing. But we've done a lot of research over the years, with different surveys with our students and a large proportion of our students indicated that they would live in housing if it was available. And we know that a lot of our students commute long distances and we think this will help with housing and food and security for our students.

Pendergrass recently initiated redo in '22, a program to help students whose classes were interrupted by COVID 19.

We allowed anyone that earned a non passing grade in the fall to take the course again in the spring, if they completed a waiver that indicated that their grades were influenced in some manner by the pandemic, and then we're paying for those courses that they're redoing. So we're excited about it. We had several students that took advantage of that opportunity.

Pendergrass says community partnerships are how she achieves her long-term vision for San Juan College.

Helping our community and helping students finish what they start and be successful in their own lives. We want them to, not just graduate, but to get a really good job and be happy. And we want to be one of the best community colleges in the nation.

To learn more about Pendergrass and San Juan College, visit sanjuancollege.edu. Thanks for watching this edition of the local news network. I'm Deborah Uroda.

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