The Foothill-De Anza Community College District's Board of Trustees voted unanimously at a meeting on Jan. 9 to select Whalen to lead Foothill. District Chancellor Judy Miner recommended Whalen to the board from a pool of three finalists. Whalen is set to start work at the end of March.
In her role at Las Positas in Livermore, Whalen oversees all instructional programs, according to a press release from Foothill. She is also the vice president of the California Community Colleges Chief Instructional Officers Association.
Whalen will take over from Interim President Bernadine Chuck Fong, who has been running the community college since the board removed former president Thuy Nguyen in October 2021.
Prior to Las Positas, Whalen worked from 2005 to 2019 at City College of San Francisco, ultimately serving as associate vice chancellor of instruction, enrollment management and instructional support services. Her undergraduate degree was in sociopolitical communication at Missouri State University. She has a master's in rhetoric and public address from Florida State University, where she then received her doctorate in speech communication.
Citing Whalen's current full-time employment at Las Positas, a Foothill College spokesperson said that her availability was currently limited. She wasn't made available for an interview before this news organization's deadline.
At last week's board meeting, Whalen told the trustees that she and her family were excited for her to start her new job. In coming to Foothill College, Whalen said that she is motivated by working to close the opportunity gap, according to Foothill's release.
"I feel a profound connection to the college's recognition that many students, even in pockets of affluence and innovation, do not easily experience socio-economic mobility," Whalen said in the release.
Whalen was one of three finalists selected by a committee of administrators, faculty, staff and students who conducted a national search. The other two finalists were Gregory Anderson and Lisa Cooper Wilkins.
In her new role, Whalen will be paid $20,796.57 per month, for a total annual salary of roughly $250,000, according to her employment contract. The contract runs from March 31 through June 30, 2024, with the option for the board to renew it. Whalen will also receive additional payment to cover costs for her automobile, cellphone and "in-county business-related activities," the contract states.
In the last two years, Foothill College has experienced upheaval in its leadership. The district's board voted unanimously to not renew former president Nguyen's contract at an October 2021 meeting, following a no confidence vote by the academic senate. Nguyen was put on academic leave for the remainder of that school year.
The decision caused controversy with some saying Nguyen's ouster represented institutional bias in removing a leader of color who had focused on racial equity work, while others said that she ignored input from faculty members and lacked necessary leadership skills. Nguyen asked to be reinstated in April 2022, but the board declined to take action.
When Nguyen was placed on leave, Fong came out of retirement to serve as interim president. She previously led Foothill from 1994 until 2006.