The Profiler: College of Alameda President Joi Lin Blake

The Profiler: College of Alameda President Joi Lin Blake

Dave Boitano
Joi Lin Blake

Contributed photo.

Joi Lin Blake knows the potential that can be unlocked by obtaining an education. She has spent her professional life helping those who need a hand obtaining the academic knowledge and training needed for success.

And the newest president of College of Alameda has a clear understanding of the mission of the state’s community colleges.

“To provide access for citizens to experience the American Dream. And to enjoy the promise of education and economic prosperity in the region,” she said in an interview this week. “Like I told my staff when I started, we are stewards of the promise and we have a responsibility to deliver on it.”

She was appointed to her current post last December.

Blake, 57, grew up in a military family; her father was a sergeant in the Air Force. The family moved around a lot, which gave Blake a unique perspective. But it was hard to develop the kind of long-lasting relationships common to kids who stay in one place, she said.

While America was experiencing the civil rights movement, Blake and her family were experiencing another kind of discrimination: Hostility from Japanese citizens on the island of Okinawa, where he dad was stationed.

“We lived in Japan and they hated Americans, so the protests down the street were 'Yankee, go home,’" she said. “It wasn’t because we were black, but that we were Americans.”

Blake brings an extensive resume to the College of Alameda job - one that includes work as a counselor and instructor in the San Diego Unified School District, a dean’s post and academic senate president in the Southwestern Community College District in Southern California, a stint as vice president of student services at Skyline College in San Bruno and another as dean of student development and matriculation at San Diego Mesa College. Blake earned a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in health science and Spanish and both a masters in vocational rehabilitation and a doctorate in education from San Diego State.

She also brings her enthusiasm for community colleges to the Alameda campus where 6,700 students pursue career technical training or basic classes needed to transfer to a four-year college or university.

With 52 full-time and more than 200 part-time instructors, College of Alameda offers its students academic classes for transfer to four-year institutions and a host of career technical courses in everything from forklift certification to clothing design and marketing.

Helping students develop financial literacy - and specifically, knowledge about how to handle money throughout their school career - is important, Blake said. She said a lot of students are not aware that they qualify for food stamps or public assistance that can help them pay bills.

“Students drop out because their car broke down or they did not have enough money to get glasses,” she said. “But you can show them what resources are available."

Blake said she wants to set up a financial literacy center on the campus.

With the cost of a four-year education at the University of California approaching $100,000 including room and board, spending the first two undergraduate years at a community college where tuition is $46 per unit could be considered a more financially feasible option for many prospective students.

Students in professional programs can improve their skills to rise to better paying supervisory jobs; some of the college's certificate programs, especially in health related fields can help workers earn between $50,000 and $60,000 annually, Blake said.

Other students attend classes on the campus just to learn basic skills like English so they can help their children with their homework, she added.

Many College of Alameda students come from low-income backgrounds, and Blake said she hopes to develop a system where all students who graduate from the Island’s high schools can be guaranteed one year of community college free. A similar program exists at Ventura College in Southern California.

Despite their contribution to education, community colleges don’t often get the kind of recognition they should for helping people achieve their goal of a four-year degree or a successful career.

“You don’t hear about it because we are a pass-through,” she said. “People forget that they went to a community college. They identify with what they get to. That’s the sad part because we don’t get a lot of credit for what we do.”

But the atmosphere of a community college is conducive to learning no matter what paths students take, according to Blake.

“The beauty is its affordable and its open access,” she said. “It’s a more intimate community where students have access to faculty and there is a high level of accountability in terms of working with students monitoring their programs."

Comments

Submitted by Bill2 (not verified) on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

Japanese did not "hate" Americans. They hated the American soldiers who were assaulting young Japanese women and who had little regard for Japanese traditions. (This comment has been edited to reflect our commenting standards.)