At the end of July, a former teenage mother, school dropout, food stamp recipient and resident of public housing will retire – after decades of nurturing, sacrifice, perseverance and courage – from Santa Rosa Junior College as Vice President of Academic Affairs. .
Dr. L. Jane Saldaña-Talley did not follow an easy or direct path to professional success and a rewarding retirement, but she managed to do so while raising her son, working full time, going through a divorce, by earning his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorates and becoming a full member of the SRJC community through his thoughtful leadership.
Born in Fresno, California, Saldaña-Talley was the eldest of five siblings. Her father worked in the auto parts industry and her mother became a high school math teacher and librarian after raising a boy and four girls, then returned to college in her 40s.
Saldaña-Talley entered college majoring in office administration, but later became pregnant. After the birth of her son, she didn’t know what to do and decided it made more sense to go to work to get her growing family out of their predicament than to stay in school.
“We were living in housing projects, we were on food stamps, and I just decided we needed the money,” Saldaña-Talley said.
So she left college and went to work in several administrative assistant jobs, progressing from clerk typist to executive assistant to employee relations assistant while passing her then-husband through undergraduate studies and a law school.
“My office administration skills were what paid the bills,” she said.
Saldaña-Talley continued to work, but the stress of supporting her family soon separated them.
She and her husband separated shortly after completing law school. It cost him a heavy toll. “I had invested so much in his success at the expense of mine. It took me a long time to recover financially and emotionally,” she said.
“I couldn’t figure out what I had to do, what I wanted to do,” she said.
So she followed her mother’s path and resumed her studies. “It was really important to me. Education was very important,” she said. Back at school, Saldaña-Talley changed majors a few times, but “was much more lucid about it. I wanted from my education,” she said.
Saldaña-Talley worked her way through college as a single mom to eventually graduate with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology from California State University, Fresno. “I spent many years in the K-12 system working in research, planning and evaluation,” she said. “I finally decided that I really wanted to get my doctorate. So I went back to school about 10 years after leaving school with my master’s degree.
After graduating doctoral program, Saldaña-Talley was ready to re-enter the workforce, but as an administrator. “I met a woman I used to work with, and she was like, ‘I don’t know if you’ve thought about [working in] community colleges or not, but you’d be great. And so I explored that,” she said.
Saldaña-Talley has worked at several community colleges in California and Arizona, holding teaching and administrative positions and overseeing college budgets, police, financial aid, and child care. She decided to move back to California after working as vice president of administrative services at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, Arizona. The first job she landed in her home country was as Vice President of SRJC’s Petaluma Campus in 2007.
Saldaña-Talley’s first challenge was to modernize the Petaluma campus to expand course offerings for students. “She convinced me that we needed to build more science labs there, and then we also created the Gateway to College program to attract high-risk high school students to college,” said the president of the SRJC, Dr. Frank Chong. “Jane has always been a strong supporter of the Petaluma campus.”
Saldaña-Talley’s tenure as vice president of academic affairs began at a critical time in SRJC history when the district abandoned a longstanding salary determination method called Rank 10 and decided to cut teachers’ salaries while increasing those of administrators. Faculty members boycotted centennial celebration events in protest.
Simultaneously, three days before the start of registration – and without consulting deans, department chairs, professors and students – the former vice president of academic affairs and senior vice president of finance cut the majority of classes from summer to offset a projected budget shortfall of $6.5 million.
The uproar from the campus community was immediate and intense. Students staged an early morning campus sit-in outside Bailey Hall the next day. The faculty groups have said they do not trust SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong and the two Vice Presidents. Dr Chong emailed the next day apologizing and suggesting the decision would be reversed.
Sarah Whylly, professor of philosophy, humanities and religious studies, pointed to the crisis in the working relationship between the district and the faculty. “After announcing that summer school was going to be canceled, just out of nowhere, it felt like the ground was being ripped out from under our feet,” Whylly said. “And then of course later the discovery that there were processes that weren’t even being followed that were part of the rules for that, I think a lot of teachers were angry and upset.”
The uproar caused Mary Kay Rudolph, the vice president of academic affairs involved in the decision, to quit her post months before retirement, and forced Dr. Chong to appoint Saldaña-Talley to take on the role after 12 years at Petaluma. .
“We had quite a major disruption in our leadership team, and we were at a very low point in terms of working relationships with our faculty,” Saldaña-Talley said. “And although I’ve been in college since 2007, stepping into the role of vice president of academic affairs and assistant superintendent has been a big step forward.”
Whylly, an All Faculties Association (AFA) negotiator and member of the Academic Senate, still remembers when Saldaña-Talley became vice president.
“One of the things she did right away that really impressed me was she came to meet with the faculty,” Whylly said. “I remember sitting in the AFA house with her and just talking about the issues we were facing and the challenges we were facing and how best to work together to meet those challenges.”
AFA president and philosophy professor Sean Martin, who regularly works with Saldaña-Talley in faculty negotiations and on college-wide committees, credited her for rebuilding the relationship. with the faculty.
“We don’t always agree on the issues, but she is very attentive and respectful of the tone and the discourse. We don’t always come to the same conclusions, but we can always count on her to respect the process. [of negotiations]”, said Martin.
Saldaña-Talley shared a similar sentiment. “There was a healing that needed to be done at that time,” she said. “We were also just starting to deal with the fiscal challenges that we had as a college, so 2019 was a year where I think we thought we were going to, kind of, get back together and start to do things together. But, the college announced an early retirement incentive program, and by the end of 2019, we had nearly 100 employees who retired and took the early retirement incentive.
She headed into 2020 having to replace all of those faculty positions, but faced another hurdle. “In March, I had conducted an in-person interview, and we had everyone else in line, and the pandemic landed on us and we closed. And I ended up hiring all the rest of these professors and doing all the rest of this virtual academic affairs reorganization work, and it was very complex and difficult.
Martin, President of the AFA praised Saldaña-Talley’s leadership at the start of the pandemic. “She deserves a lot of credit,” Martin said. “We all worked 70 hours a week on a regular basis, but if it hadn’t been for her [Saldaña-Talley’s] cooperative behavior or proactively reaching out to say, “Hey, can we work together?” It would not have been possible to go through it like we did. »
Dr. Chong was one of the first people to recognize Saldaña-Talley’s hard work, while announcing his retirement at a February board meeting.
“Jane’s leadership at SRJC has been pivotal in many of the advances we have made during her tenure,” Chong said. “His work has influenced the many great things SRJC has accomplished in recent years and will ensure that his legacy lives on well beyond his time with this college.”
Not only Saldana Talley helping faculty and management reconcile during her time at SRJC, but she did the same within her own family, mending a relationship with her ex-husband. “Remarkably, we are now friends and I see him often when I visit my son and grandchildren on the central coast.
Saldaña-Talley is excited about the next phase of JC’s story. “I feel like the work I’ve done since 2018 has really laid the groundwork for a pretty exciting future,” she said. “And what I’m really looking forward to is maybe in five years I can step back and look at college and say, ‘OK, what did you do on that occasion? “”
Looking at where she came from, Saldaña-Talley expressed a sense of pride. “I am grateful for the challenges I have overcome and I know that I am fully responsible for my success. It’s a very good feeling.