Education

In pitch for Miami Dade College president, Padrón’s VP flexes institutional know-how

From left, Dr. Bryan Stewart, Medical Campus, Lenore Rodicio, executive vice president and provost, and Miami Dade College President Eduardo J. Padrón attend the ceremony opening the new Center for Learning, Innovation, and Simulation at the MDC Medical campus on July 16, 2019.
From left, Dr. Bryan Stewart, Medical Campus, Lenore Rodicio, executive vice president and provost, and Miami Dade College President Eduardo J. Padrón attend the ceremony opening the new Center for Learning, Innovation, and Simulation at the MDC Medical campus on July 16, 2019. pportal@miamiherald.com

The sole internal candidate vying to replace outgoing Miami Dade College President Eduardo J. Padrón flexed her institutional knowledge Tuesday, drawing on her 17-year career at the college to set herself apart from the other three finalists.

Lenore Rodicio also aimed to set herself apart from Padrón, who is leaving behind a storied, nearly half-century-long career.

The college’s executive vice president and provost said if she were president, she would honor the institution’s “story” while bringing her own approach to leading the largest undergraduate college or university in the country.

“The role of the president of Miami Dade College requires knowledge of our community, knowledge of our students, knowledge of our faculty and staff,” Rodicio said in her opening remarks. “I will be your institution’s storyteller.”

Paul Broadie, president of Gateway Community College and Housatonic Community College in Connecticut, also presented Tuesday.

Rodicio, who was the last presenter of the four finalists, honed in on her Miami upbringing in Little Havana, as well as her successes in establishing relationships within the community for employment opportunities and grant funding.

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She also focused on how to build revenue-generating programs to ensure the college’s future financial success and scholarship opportunities for low-income students. Rodicio has been personally involved in bringing in grant dollars from the community, she said.

“It’s one of the key roles of the president,” she said. “To be out there, and to tell the story to bring those dollars in.”

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Rodicio Miami Dade College

The “storytelling,” she says, extends out of Miami and into Tallahassee too. As someone regularly called to testify in front of committees and work on bill language with legislative staff, Rodicio said she knows what it takes to communicate with state leaders on the college’s behalf.

“We need to communicate that the work that we’re doing is done not in self-service, but in service to our students,” she said.

Rodicio started her career at the college in 2002 as an adjunct chemistry professor and has since held positions as department chair and dean of academic affairs. She has held her current position as vice president and provost since 2016.

“People asked me why I want to be president of this institution. For me, it’s not a job. It’s not about a promotion,” she said through tears in her closing remarks. “To me, this institution is a vocation and a calling. Being the president of this institution would be a fulfillment of that calling. I look forward to the opportunity and the challenge.“

She was the only candidate to get a standing ovation after her presentation.

Rodicio was the last candidate to appear in front of the community during the two-day interview process Monday and Tuesday. The MDC Board of Trustees will interview all four candidates again Wednesday before holding a vote that evening.

Diverging from Rodicio’s tactic of differentiating herself from the outgoing president, Broadie largely focused on following in the footsteps of Padrón, whom he calls “an icon.”

When asked what kind of research he’s done to learn about the urban college — a far cry from his current career in Connecticut — he said he would sit down with Padrón for mentorship and help to shape his goals for MDC.

“I would stand on Dr. Padrón’s shoulders and take us to the next level,” he said. “Dr. Padrón changed the landscape of higher education. He provided the road map for everyone to follow.”

Before his presentation, Broadie toured the Wolfson Campus and had breakfast with the Board of Trustees at Versailles.

On Monday, Divina Grossman, president and chief academic officer of the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, gave a presentation and toured the North Campus. Reagan Romali, currently the superintendent-president at Long Beach Community College District in California, sipped a cafe con leche at Versailles before she toured the Wolfson Campus and gave a public presentation. Both candidates mentioned their goals to build on what Padrón had established at the college.

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Trustee Nicole Washington, the newest appointment to the board, said the candidates should strike a balance between respect and admiration for Padrón’s progress but also know that “change is on the horizon.”

She said she still has an open mind, and is mainly looking for the person who best fits the job description. She looks forward to Wednesday’s daylong interviews, she said.

“I always want to know more,” she said.

Reagan Romali, one of four finalists to replace Eduardo J. Padron as president of Miami Dade College, stuck to her story about how she invited leaders of three gangs into her office and encouraged them to enroll at Truman College

Samantha J. Gross is a politics and policy reporter for the Miami Herald. Before she moved to the Sunshine State, she covered breaking news at the Boston Globe and the Dallas Morning News.
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