As a student new to Seattle Central College (SCC), I was truly honored to have the opportunity to interview interim President Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange.
Dr. Lange is originally from Southern California and attended school there. She described the area she grew up in as an endless suburb and explained how California lacked the sense of community she was looking for.
She moved here in the late 1980’s to attend graduate school at the University of Washington. The first few months were challenging; adjusting to a new city was difficult so she became involved in the community. “One of the reasons why I stayed,” she admitted, was the great people she met through community involvement and volunteer work. Dr. Lange worked her way through school, and despite many struggles, kept her vision of graduation in sight. Those experiences stayed with her and help her identify with the issues students face at SCC. They have also engrained in her work the importance of access to education. Dr. Lange’s initial dedication evolved to become her lifelong commitment.
In our conversation we spoke about the challenges that SCC has faced, and ways in which the administration is working to overcome them. We discussed several things: the legacy of SCC she inherited, the future of our college and what the community is doing to keep up with the changing demographics. She also commented about the college’s name change, “I’m sure it didn’t signify that the school is no longer committed to community.” As Seattle grows and changes, we have to make sure that certain people in our community don’t get left behind. SCC is still an open access community college with a commitment to providing a space for students who are traditionally underserved, while adapting to and incorporating new student demographics. The makeup of the student population is changing as the city changes. Many students who traditionally comprised the majority of SCC’s student body are moving out of the city because they cannot afford to live here. Maintaining and building on the school’s legacy of social justice education, equity and inclusion is essential to a thriving community. One of the greatest things about this school, she said, is the diversity of people and the ability to provide education to any type of student.
Our school’s budget is directly tied to student enrollment and retention rates, which are currently low. To address this issue, Dr. Lange would like to focus on the school’s resources to ensure that students who are currently enrolled have the support they need to graduate successfully. SCC is also looking to expand certain applied bachelor’s degree programs, such as nursing, to provide students with even more opportunities to meet the demands of the current economy. This is an advantage for the college considering most universities are accepting fewer students every year.
Dr. Lange seems exceptionally interested in the student experience. She mentioned how impressed she was that two Associated Student Council members were international students, demonstrating their commitment to bettering their learning environment. She also made positive re- marks about Student Leadership’s involvement in the community. She believes that shared life experiences, cultural exchange and learning about each other enrich everyone’s learning experience. She also talked about how our school reflects our city’s diversity.
Many companies located in Washington are multinational corporations with locations around the world. This creates global job opportunities for students and community members alike. Her goal, if hired beyond the interim phase, is to leverage those opportunities to build on the framework of this great school, give back to the community and improve Seattle.
“This is a time of great change for the city and the college and we sit right here in the middle of it,” she said with enthusiasm. After 28 years in Seattle, Dr. Lange still loves the city where she found the community she was looking for. Her hard work and commitment to her goals helped build the exact community she wanted to be a part of. Perhaps she can bring her personal legacy to SCC by continuing her commitment to community and catapulting the college into the future.
By Joshua Byrd