The inside of Superintendent-President Erika Endrijonas’ office is adorned by all things USC. Throw pillows with the university logo emblazoned on them sit neatly on dark blue chairs while USC coasters are scattered on a large, round table in front of her desk. Maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say her entire office is filled with USC memorabilia but the university does hold a special place in her heart – it’s where she earned her Master’s and Ph.D. in History. Though this tidbit about her educational journey doesn’t seem important, it’s helped Dr. Endrijonas become a better leader.
“It’s more about the mindset of being a historian,” said Endrijonas. “I want [to know] the context of how a decision got made because often times it is the context that helps guide what the right direction is to go forward.”
Going forward for Endrijonas sometimes means taking a step back and being mindful of her role as the new Superintendent-President at Pasadena City College (PCC). This includes understanding that her job is to facilitate the work that has to be done and manage her own emotions.
As a leader, Endrijonas deals with interpersonal conflicts on a daily basis and maintains that in order to help others, she has to feel comfortable in her own skin and remember not to take everything personally. These beliefs stem from 25 years of experience in leadership positions.
“It takes time and experience,” said Endrijonas. “It’s about expecting the unexpected and being flexible about the best laid plans.”
While it may seem like her daily life is a bit chaotic, Endrijonas manages her time well by meeting with faculty and administration to further understand the resources students are in need of and how to better serve PCC at large. One administrator that meets with Endrijonas on a daily basis is Vice President of Student Services, Dr. Cynthia Olivo.
“I believe Dr. Endrijonas has a down to earth leadership and has used that, for example, to create office hours for faculty and students,” said Olivo. “I think that signifies how approachable she wants to be for the campus community but it also [encourages] me to know that my leader understands all the work I do with student services here at PCC.”
Back in the early stages of her career, Endrijonas worked at a small college in New Hampshire called Granite State College, with adults that were 25 years and older by following cradle to grave advising.
In the context of education, this meant that Endrijonas was in charge of multiple facets of students’ educational career at Granite State College such as recruiting students, evaluating their transcripts, advising them into their majors, giving them career counseling and graduating them out of the college. Think of it as a kind of educational life cycle.
This approach with non-traditional students in addition to her former experience working in several community colleges in California reminds Olivo that when it comes to advocating for student services, Endrijonas is willing to listen and take her ideas into consideration.
“Endrijonas’ leadership at PCC is about learning about the institution, listening to others and observing the campus community,” said Olivo. “I appreciate that she pays attention to details because it makes me want to share ideas on how to problem solve college-wide issues facing our students.”
Though Endrijonas is working at the highest level at PCC, she insists that her title shouldn’t intimidate students on campus from approaching her or even setting up appointments to talk about their experience and voice any concerns they may be having about resources or classes.
As of right now, students can email her assistant to set up an appointment or even drop by the designated office hours Endrijonas holds each month. For Associated Students’ Trustee, Zeinab Raad, meeting with Endrijonas several times has been a pleasurable experience.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know [Dr. Endrijonas],” said Raad. “She wants the best for students and is willing to do whatever it takes to show up for us.”
There is still a long way to go in terms of providing educational services that don’t deter students from achieving higher education, but as long Endrijonas is Superintendent-President, work will always get done.
“My vision is that [PCC] will be a leader when it comes to closing equity achievement gaps because that is one of the biggest challenges in our state,” said Endrijonas. “I want PCC to be the college who figures that out.”
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