Ashanti Hands, Ed.D., an equity-focused leader with a deep commitment to diversity,
access and student success, has been named president of San Diego Mesa College, San
Diego’s largest community college.
Since 2016, Dr. Hands has served as vice president of Student Services at Mesa College.
She joined the college in 2008 where she has held positions as dean of Student Affairs,
acting dean of Student Development and Matriculation, and acting vice president of
As a member of Mesa College’s executive management team, Dr. Hands has provided leadership
for the college-wide initiative to become the leading college of equity and excellence.
The college is widely recognized for its adoption of data-informed decision-making
to ensure equitable outcomes. Prior to joining Mesa College, she served as dean of
Student Affairs at the University of California, San Diego.
“Dr. Hands is exactly the type of dynamic leader needed to take Mesa College to the
next level of community engagement and success,” said San Diego Community College
District (SDCCD) Chancellor Carlos O. Cortez. “With her familiarity with the district
and college, she will be able to help Mesa accomplish its student-focused, equity-minded
SDCCD Board of Trustees President Maria Nieto Senour, said, “Dr. Hands exemplifies
the type of student-focused leader we need to continue the outstanding work being
done at San Diego Mesa College. She has played a key role in the college’s diversity,
equity and inclusion initiatives and we are thrilled to have her as Mesa’s next president.”
Dr. Hands earned a doctorate of education in educational leadership from San Diego
State University. She also has a master of arts in education with an emphasis in multi-cultural
counseling from SDSU and a bachelor of arts in sociology from the University of California,
“I am humbled to be selected for the presidency of the very college I have called
home for more than 14 years,” Dr. Hands said. “The ability to live my purpose of creating
conditions that matter for students to succeed at a college so deeply committed to
equity and excellence brings me immense joy. I am excited to continue the great work
we have started at Mesa College and look forward to the bold, courageous, equity-minded
ways we will show up for our students, each other, our district and community.”
Dr. Hands assumes leadership of a college that serves 30,000 students per year, making
it one of the largest community colleges in California. The college offers nearly
200 associate degree and certificate programs and is one of 15 California community
colleges offering a four-year baccalaureate degree. A fully accredited, comprehensive
community college, Mesa College ranks as San Diego’s top transfer institution, and
a Military Friendly School, serving more than 3,500 veterans and their families.
Mesa College, designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution, has been particularly
successful in serving students of color, in part due to several federal grants it
has won. Most recently, the Department of Education (DOE) awarded Mesa College an
Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (ANAPISI) grant,
which is a multipronged, evidence-based effort designed to reduce equity gaps and
increase the academic success, retention, graduation, and transfer rates of Asian
American and Native American Pacific Islander (APIA) and low-income students.
Dr. Hands’ selection follows a national search for a successor to Mesa College President
Pam Luster, who is retiring June 30. Dr. Hands’ contract is scheduled to be ratified
at the June 9 SDCCD Board of Trustees meeting. She will begin her new role on July
Dr. Hands is married to her Inglewood High School classmate, Ronnie Hands, and resides
in Chula Vista, Calif. She is the proud mother of two young adult children.
As one of the largest of California’s 73 community college districts, the San Diego
Community College District serves approximately 100,000 students annually through
three two-year colleges and the San Diego College of Continuing Education. San Diego
City College, San Diego Mesa College, and San Diego Miramar College, offer associate
degrees and certificates in occupational programs that prepare students for transfer
to four-year colleges and entry-level jobs. Mesa College also offers a bachelor’s
degree in Health Information Management. The San Diego College of Continuing Education
offers noncredit adult education at seven campuses throughout San Diego.