Spotlight

William Cochran

'73, Cred. '74

Portrait of William Cochran

Community College Leader Looks at the Big Picture 

Written Winter 2005

Bill Cochran personifies the Aggie tradition of loyalty, enthusiasm for and pride in UC Davis. He also personifies the tradition of life-long, dedicated education leaders. As in many families, he followed in the path of his mother, an elementary methods instructor and college professor, who modeled the finest of the tradition and shared its realities.

Bill Cochran personifies the Aggie tradition of loyalty, enthusiasm for and pride in UC Davis. He also personifies the tradition of life-long, dedicated education leaders. As in many families, he followed in the path of his mother, an elementary methods instructor and college professor, who modeled the finest of the tradition and shared its realities.

Bill came to Davis to play football for “a great team and coach,” his passion still active today. He has been a successful teacher, coach, athletic director, principal, student teacher supervisor and community college administrator. Bill’s broad community volunteer involvement is constant, including serving as a Cal Aggie Alumni Association board director and member of the School’s Education Partners.

What was your greatest learning in early teaching?

The big “ah-ha” was finally understanding the internal workings of schools and districts — what you can and cannot do, how to work and get things done within the politics.

To be an effective leader, you need to see the big picture, see where you fit in.

What skills are required to be a leader in education?

Number one is the need to see the big picture, where you fit in, to see beyond your own position. Number two is to be ready for the politics, be patient and have the ability to adjust. Number three is to be ready and able to work with people in and outside of education.

What is one of your greatest accomplishments?

When I was principal of Porterville High School, we were able to make a “tough” school from which students wanted to leave into a “school of choice.” It took five years, teamwork and a lot of changes. In fact, the business academy we started was presented a Golden Bell Award by the California School Boards Association.

What challenge do you see for community colleges?

The community college mission is huge. No other higher education institution has the breadth of mission that community colleges do. We need to prepare more faculty with graduate degrees to teach, especially to the wide spectrum of student interests and abilities that come to community colleges.

With all of the issues in education, why did you stay?

I found out I had the ability to be effective, to make changes and work with other partners. At the end of the day, the institution is in better shape — that keeps me going. The test of success is seeing that positive changes you may have initiated are still in place and thriving in the long term. I feel fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to give back to the profession, to encourage others. It’s the intangibles.

Dr. Cochran is Vice President of Academic Affairs, Shasta College.

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