San Diego Mesa College President Rita M. Cepeda was selected as one of eight college and university presidents recognized by The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine and spotlighted in their Nov. 2009 “Hail to the Chiefs” issue.
“This annual issue spotlights highly regarded Hispanic presidents whose experience covers institutions large and small, public and private, two-and four-year, teaching and research-oriented institutions,” noted Suzanne Lopez-Isa, Managing Editor.
Dr. Cepeda is in her fifth year at the helm of Mesa College. Mesa is the largest of four colleges in the San Diego Community College District with an approximate enrollment of 24,000 students.
A Latina and naturalized citizen, Doctor Cepeda came to the United States when she was 11. She is a graduate of the California public school system, and holds a doctorate in Higher Education Administration, Policy Analysis and Research from the University of Southern California, a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology and a Bachelor's degree in Communications Disorders from California State University at Long Beach.
Dr. Cepeda began her career in community colleges in 1980 when she joined the State Chancellor's Office where she served for 18 years, serving the last eight years as vice chancellor for educational services and economic development. In 1991, the California Legislature recognized Cepeda for her outstanding work as an educator. She was the recipient of the National Institute of Education Fellowship for Minorities and Women in Higher Education. She is also the author and co-author of many policy documents and studies on a wide range of higher education topics including distance education, immigrant work force preparation, middle college high schools and adult education.
Dr. Cepeda serves on the Board of the American Association of Community Colleges, and numerous state and national educational organizations. Locally, she sits on the board of United Way of San Diego County, San Diego Workforce Partnership, the High School Drop Out Task Force, and the San Diego Youth Services Council.
In 2008, Dr. Cepeda was named one of the region’s “Women Who Mean Business” by the San Diego Business Journal. In March, Dr. Cepeda and San Diego Community College District Trustee Peter Zschiesche were recipients of the 2009 Visionary Award, presented by the San Diego Cesar E. Chavez Commemoration Committee.