I watch, with sheer joy, students perform in the arts and humanities, in athletics, in the sciences. You will often find me sitting in the stands at the gym or in the back row of the Levan Center or quietly observing from the gallery seated in the indoor theater.
Name: Dr. Sonya Christian
Birthplace: Quilon, Kerala, India
Title: President of Bakersfield College
How she got started: Dr. Christian maintains that her passion for education started at a very young age. “The Mount Carmel Convent, run by the Carmelite nuns who made sure that you visited the chapel in the morning, did your math and other homework assignments, made sure that you did not chew gum on the grounds of the campus, and told you in no uncertain terms if your writing was sloppy.” She went on to attend school at the University of Southern California and has made major improvements in many educational institutions during her career since graduating.
Her hero: Though Christian has rubbed elbows with the likes of Assemblyman Rudy Salas, her dad, Paul Christian, takes the prize in this case. He was known for his “kind heart and a big laugh, was never critical or judgmental about another person, and had a large vision for the community and made things happen.”
Career highlights: When you’re a trailblazer like Dr. Christian, you experience your fair share of highlights along the way. But she likes to define the peaks in terms of community engagement. The first grant she received was an Eisenhower grant which was awarded in Delano to promote STEM education. She’s also fostered community partnerships as President of Bakersfield College, and under her leadership, “BC became one of only fifteen California community colleges to offer a four-year degree—the Bachelor’s of Applied Science in Industrial Automation.”
Her favorite part of the industry: Considering she won the Woman of the Year Award through the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, you’d think that would top her list. But, on the contrary, her passion for the students she represents takes precedence. “I watch, with sheer joy, students perform in the arts and humanities, in athletics, in the sciences. You will often find me sitting in the stands at the gym or in the back row of the Levan Center or quietly observing from the gallery seated in the indoor theater.”
What she’d still like to accomplish: “It is time for the current leadership, with the help of the community, to upgrade the [Bakersfield College] campus and learning environments for the next fifty years.” She also seeks to streamline curriculum by launching “The Renegade Promise,” a pledge taken by all BC personnel to get students to graduate within two years. Lastly, she wants to take her ambitions of shaping policies and budgets for higher education to Sacramento—and we’re certain she will do that and more!