Soukup leaves chamber for college position

Dr. Darin Soukup, who has served as the executive director of the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce for the past three years, has been named the new director of the Oakhurst Community College Center.

Soukup fills the position previously held by Vikki Piper who is transferring to Clovis Community College as a full time Economics instructor after overseeing the Oakhurst campus for 10 years.

Soukup’s appointment was made official July 7 with the unanimous vote of the seven-member State Community College District Board of Trustees. Soukup spent a ‘transition’ day with Piper July 8.

“Although we are sorry to see Darin leave to pursue this new and exciting opportunity, the chamber organization continues to be in very good hands,” said chamber president, and chair of the executive search committee Dan Rule. “We have a strong, active board of directors that are committed to our organization’s goals of supporting and advocating for our business membership. I have full confidence in them to insure a smooth and seamless transition.”

Chamber president-elect Don Eaves sees the transition period as a time for the chamber to build upon it’s strong foundation.

“It is crucial that we take this as an opportunity to take the chamber to the next level and build upon the strong foundation that the board of directors has built with Darin,” said Eaves. “We have a great team in place and will be giving careful consideration to how we move forward as an organization, as well as identifying the best candidate to be the voice and advocate for our membership and business community.”

Through the month of July, Soukup will be available on a limited basis to work with the chamber search committee, board of directors, and staff during this transition.

“The last three years with the chamber has been an amazing journey,” Soukup said. “It truly has been my privilege to work alongside our dedicated chamber staff, board of directors, business leaders, and community members. Really, it is the people and this community that has made my experience at the chamber so rewarding.”

“Dr. Soukup brings a wealth of experience and a solid track record of community involvement that will serve us extremely well,” said Dr. John Fitzer, vice president of the Madera and Oakhurst Community College Center. “He has a strong background in developing and leading initiatives that will benefit our students and service areas.”

Although he has an impressive résumé - former teacher, adjunct professor, researcher, business associate, and scientific consultant with a Ph.D in geophysics and Bachelor of Science degree in physics - Soukup and his wife Brooke, moved to Oakhurst from San Clemente in 2009.

Almost immediately upon his arrival to Oakhurst, Soukup began volunteering with the chamber. He was later hired as its administrative assistant and then promoted to operations manager in late 2011, before being named the executive director in May, 2012.

The Oakhurst Center is under the umbrella of the State Center Community College District that Fresno City College, Reedley Community College, Clovis Community College, and the Oakhurst, and Madera Center’s are a part of.

After a six year process, Clovis Community College just recently attained its initial accreditation to expand to full college status. The campus opened in 2007 as Willow International Center. The school has a current enrollment of 6,200 student, and with full accreditation, the school will receive about $1.3 million from the state than it does now.

Piper had numerous accomplishments

“It was an incredibly hard decision to leave Oakhurst, but I have wanted to return to teaching full-time,” Piper said. “This year an Economics position became available, and they don’t come up very often.”

Piper points to a number of accomplishments under her leadership in Oakhurst including:

“I like to think I have made things better for our students in Oakhurst,’ Piper said.

Piper said in the short-term, the school will be adding a Certificate in Hospitality, will expand the Natural Resource course offerings, and bring back the degree in Criminology.

Piper said in the future she would like to see the campus continue to grow, add programs, and “hopefully get a two-story permanent building to house classrooms, student services, and conference rooms.”

“It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve the community of Oakhurst,” Piper said. “I will truly miss seeing our students on a daily basis. While I will be teaching at Clovis Community College, I will still be an active and contributing member of the Oakhurst community. I have really enjoyed working with the faculty and staff at the Oakhurst College Center, Dr. Chin, dean of instruction, Dr. Fitzer, VP of Madera / Oakhurst, and Dr. Sandra Caldwell, president of Reedley College. I am highly confident that I am leaving the Oakhurst College Center in good hands with Darin Soukup.”

UC wants more undergrad enrollment

The University of California is attempting to increase the number of undergraduates it admits from the state’s community colleges by making the transfer to a UC school both simpler and speedier, UC President Janet Napolitano said Tuesday to the Associated Press.

Napolitano said the system has created uniform transfer “pathways” for 10 of its most popular majors: anthropology, biochemistry, biology, cell biology, chemistry, economics, mathematics, molecular biology, physics and sociology.

The roadmaps list the three to five classes students at California’s 112 community colleges would have to complete in their chosen field to be ready to enter the university as juniors, and then earn their degrees in two years.

The university plans to do the same for another 11 majors before the end of the year.

Transfer students make up about 30 percent of the new undergraduates the university system enrolls each year. As part of a budget deal Napolitano negotiated with Gov. Jerry Brown, she has committed to getting the proportion up to one transfer student for every two freshmen at eight of UC’s nine undergraduates campuses by fall 2017.

Jacob Jackson, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, said only three campuses — UC Davis, UCLA and UC San Diego — achieved that ratio last year. The rest would need to enroll anywhere from 500 to 950 more transfer students to get there, a task that could prove challenging based on current application and admissions trends, Jackson said.