CCA finalist Stephanie Fujii says colleges must bend to student needs

Stephanie Fujii, finalist for position of president at Community College of Aurora

AURORA | Community College of Aurora presidential finalist Stephanie Fujii answered community questions Wednesday in the third and final virtual public forum with the candidates for the role. 

Fujii, who is currently the vice president of academic affairs at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, is also a presidential finalist at Arapahoe Community College. Candidates are not limited to applying for roles at multiple colleges in the Colorado Community College System, as openings at more than one at a time are rare. If both colleges identify her as their top choice, Colorado Community College Chancellor Joe Garcia will make the final decision.

In the forum, Fujii discussed the importance of making workforce development and industry partnerships a priority, and the necessity of being student-focused.

Growing up, Fujii said she wasn’t sure if she was “college material.” She did decide to go to college, but said that she didn’t understand the environment or the vocabulary of higher education even though everyone around her seemed to expect her to.

“We make all kinds of assumptions about students,” she said.

To support students, Fujii said it’s important to meet them where they are and to work with them to identify what success looks like for them.

Colleges need to focus on “what’s in the best interests of our students, and not what’s most convenient for us,” she said.

In response to a question about what potential changes she would make as president, Fujii said the first thing she’d do would be to meet with current staff and faculty and learn more about how CCA currently operates.

She said she would want to build more connections with the local community and industry, and help fundraise for the college and increase its enrollment. 

Responding to a question about faculty turnover, she said that she is a supporter of investing in professional development for faculty and staff so they feel supported in their roles.

She spoke about her work at Scottsdale, which is a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and said that she would be committed to helping CCA continue its diversity work.

“Racism exists, I don’t want to spend time arguing about it,” she said.

If the college already acknowledges that, the next step is identifying how to break down barriers. She said that having data is important in helping identify what specifically supports different demographics of students needs.

Fujii thanked the attendees and said it would be an honor to serve and lead the college if chosen.

The other two candidates, Michelle Schutt and Mordecai Brownlee, addressed the community earlier in the week. A final selection will be made by Colorado Community College System Chancellor Joe Garcia sometime in early May

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