When you ask Keith Curry, Ed.D. ’11 what he is most proud of as CEO of the Compton Community College District, he gets up from his chair and motions for you to follow him. The path leads from his office in El Camino College Compton Center’s 1950s-era administration building to the Library-Student Success Center.
Curry beams with pride as he enters the sun-filled, two-story, modern glass structure that houses a computer lab, a library and study rooms. The facility opened in March after a seven-year delay due to construction issues and legal matters.
“I want to give people hope,” he says. “You can be from Compton and be a success. Every student can be successful with the right academic and support services. I want students to feel special and at home.”
Upgrading the school’s aging infrastructure has been a priority of his since Curry was appointed interim CEO in 2011. That’s why completion of the new Library-Student Success Center was such an achievement.
“The name says it all,” he notes. “The Student Success Center is the place to go if students want to be successful.” Tutoring, supplemental instruction and library resources are available to all, whether they’re pursuing classes, programs, certificates or A.A./A.S. degrees.
As CEO, Curry manages the college’s $32 million annual budget; establishes its policies, goals and benchmarks; oversees senior personnel; and functions as an administrative team builder. He also determines the direction of the campus while setting the tone of the institutional culture.
Curry recently led a campaign to pass a $100 million facilities bond. In November, Measure C was approved by 78 percent of voters in Compton, Lynwood, Paramount and Willowbrook, as well as portions of Athens, Bellflower, Carson, Downey, Lakewood, Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez and South Gate.
It will allow the Compton Community College District to upgrade classrooms, labs, infrastructure and instructional equipment while also making much-needed health and safety repairs and energy efficiency improvements.
“We would never have seen the passage of Measure C without the completion of the Student Success Center,” Curry says. “It gave people confidence in supporting the measure.”
The CEO earned a bachelor’s degree in American studies from UC Santa Cruz and an Ed.D. in educational administration from UC Irvine and UCLA – a joint program that was phased out in 2007 as UCI chose to focus on its Ph.D. in education program.
Despite his lofty title, Curry is very hands-on. During a tour of the campus, he’s regularly stopped by students and staff members. He takes note of their questions and concerns and resolves to follow up.
“My role is to be a leader and not get caught up in politics,” he says.
The Compton Community College District has had a tumultuous past. In 2006, Compton Community College lost its accreditation because of financial troubles and administrative corruption. It continues to operate – as El Camino College Compton Center – under a partnership with El Camino College. Curry was named CEO in 2013 to get the campus back on track.
His leadership is also evident at UCI’s School of Education and the Center for Educational Partnerships. He’s giving back to his alma mater with the creation of a scholarship for doctoral students in education who have demonstrated academic excellence and unusual perseverance. He is also working with UCI’s Early Academic Outreach Program in the Center for Educational Partnerships to establish a scholarship for students attending high school in the Compton Unified School District and enrolling at UCI in the fall of 2015.
The inaugural 2012 Keith Curry Scholarship was awarded to Andrea Cons, who currently teaches in UCI’s academic English/ESL program. In 2013 the scholarship went to Alma Zaragoza-Petty, a first-generation high school and college graduate. The most recent recipient is Ph.D. candidate Huy Chung, a former middle school teacher in downtown Los Angeles.
“Keith Curry has been a wonderful, longtime supporter of UCI’s School of Education,” says Dean Deborah Vandell. “The faculty and students in the school consider Keith to be an important resource for the practitioner perspective, and all of us are inspired by his generosity and commitment to paying it forward for the next generation.”