Dr. Linda Oubré will become Whittier College’s 15th president, taking office July 1, 2018, college officials announced this week.
Oubré will take the reins from Dr. Sharon D. Herzberger, who will retire on June 30 after serving as president for 13 years. She will be the first person of color to serve as president in Whittier’s 131-year history.
“I am honored to have been selected the next president of Whittier College,” Oubré said. “Whittier’s rigorous liberal arts curriculum and its dedication to student outcomes are some of the factors that I’m looking forward to being a part of. As a Hispanic- and minority-serving institution, the college’s diverse student body, as well as the diversity of its faculty, is truly a model for the nation, and I cannot wait to meet everyone.”
She is also looking forward to meeting and engaging with the college’s “strong alumni body,” she added, “whose passion for this institution is evident.”
Oubré said that the values Whittier holds dear through its Quaker heritage – “social justice, friendship, respect for the individual and the importance of listening” – align with her own values. Moreover, being able to serve as the first president of color brings her honor, as more than 65 percent of Whittier’s students are students of color.
“As a first-generation college student and a woman of color, I have lived the experience of so many of Whittier’s students who have to work hard for a college education,” Oubré said.
Telling the story of her grandparents who never finished elementary school but who went on to become labor and civil rights activists, she said they taught her and her younger siblings and cousins to strive for an education.
“I know that they are smiling down on me with much pride that their granddaughter has been named president of one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation,” she said.
Whittier began its search for a new leader last July. The announcement of Oubré as president came only a day before the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) at the University of Pennsylvania issued a report on the wide gender disparity among MSI presidents. The report offered several strategies for mentoring and supporting women to become institutional leaders.
Remarkably, Dr. Marybeth Gasman, director of CMSI, was Oubré’s mentor. Gasman said her appointment as president gives her hope that more women of color will become presidents going forward.
Jim Brown, chair of the Whittier Board of Trustees, said the board is “thrilled” to welcome Oubré to campus this summer.
“Linda is a dynamic academic leader and accomplished business executive with 30-plus years of experience in higher education and industry,” Brown wrote in a message to the Poet community. “Her background as an innovative educator and successful entrepreneur uniquely positions her to expand the college’s resources while enhancing the undergraduate experience for Whittier’s diverse student body.”
The incoming president currently serves as the dean of the College of Business (COB) at San Francisco State University. Since 2012, she has led faculty and staff in serving more than 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students in the college.
Under Oubré’s leadership, the COB launched its Career Development Center; established a new MBA for executives and a Biotech MBA; and developed non-degree executive education programs, conferences and symposiums.
In addition to a fundraising increase of nearly 300 percent as a result of Oubré’s engagement with external partners and donors, the COB also had the largest improvement in graduation rates at SFSU last year.
Further, Oubré’s passion for student success, access and opportunity enabled her to work collaboratively with faculty to implement a strategic plan and curriculum review process that benefitted underrepresented students of color.
Before joining SFSU, the Los Angeles native served as executive director of corporate relations and business development and chief diversity officer in the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis. She previously held faculty positions as a business instructor and lecturer at UC Davis, San Diego State University, Northwestern University and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Within the industry, Oubré’s experience is vast. She has launched more than 20 new ventures, served as president and CEO of the consulting firm LSO Ventures and served in corporate leadership roles at places such as the Los Angeles Times, the Walt Disney Company and Tri Com Ventures. As a co-founder, president and chief operating officer of BriteSmile, the company’s revenue grew to more than $50 million in only four years.
Brown added that Oubré’s professional network will be a “vital asset” to expanding the college’s reach in the region and beyond.
Oubré holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles, an M.B.A. from Harvard University and an Ed.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been recognized for her business achievements and influence by many, including the San Francisco Business Times and the San Francisco chapter of the Council of 100 Black Women, where she was awarded the Trailblazer Award.
Oubré said one of her overarching goals upon taking office is to bring in the needed resources to support faculty efforts to “innovate the curriculum” and, ultimately, influence successful student outcomes.
Herzberger, Whittier’s outgoing president, called Oubré’s appointment a “remarkable choice.”
“The Poet community and I will warmly welcome her to campus, and I am confident she has all the qualities the college needs to continue to grow,” Herzberger said. “I’ve always said that being president of Whittier is the best job in the world, and I’m sure Linda will soon discover that.”
Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.