Eloy Ortiz Oakley’s parents didn’t go to college, but today the UCI graduate (BA ‘96, MBA ‘99) leads the largest higher education system in the country. As chancellor of the California Community Colleges, Oakley oversees 116 campuses across the state that educate 2.1 million students, while he also serves on the University of California Board of Regents. Oakley’s story demonstrates the capacity of UCI — and the California Community Colleges system — to elevate first generation college students to remarkable heights. In this interview with UCI’s Aaron Orlowski, Oakley discusses his journey to UCI, the challenges the California Community Colleges faced in navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and the opportunities for using technology to increase college access for students. Plus, he shares tips for first generation students navigating their own college journeys.
UCI is the #1 university doing the most for the American Dream, according to the New York Times’ College Access Index, and has been designated a Hispanic Serving Institution.