Meet City College’s New Trustees

Aliya Chisti (left) and Alan Wong (right) speak on their campaign runs for the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees on election night November 3rd, 2020.
San Francisco, California. November 3, 2020. (Melvin Wong/Etc. Magazine)

By Colton Webster


City College’s newest Trustees Alan Wong and Aliya Chisti were sworn into office this January. The two go over their goals for what they’d like to see for their first year and beyond.

Both have a career history of public service, with Wong helping to secure a decade of Free City and expanding City College into the Sunset District as Education Policy Advisor to San Francisco Supervisor Gordon Mar, and Chisti as a senior analyst at the Free City program. They each cited the budget as one of their highest priorities.


Trustee Alan Wong


Wong wants to require mandatory monthly budget updates at every board meeting. The board is already adding this into the agenda but Wong wants to cement it, with a “standalone item on the agenda where we get updated at every single meeting, so we aren’t caught by surprise like with the 300 classes that got cut,” he said.

Alan Wong, candidate for the CCSF College Board, stands for a portrait in front of the Science Building on campus. San Francisco, California. September 20, 2020. (Kevin Kelleher/Etc.Magazine)

“I don’t think it’s fair to anybody if we find out all of a sudden that there’s a 13 million dollar hole because we weren’t monitoring it closely enough,” Wong added.


City College has had to cut courses due to a budget deficit, leading the college to draft a new multi-year budget plan.


Wong said that City College has hired an auditor for the budget, a move that happened shortly after the election cycle and with which he credits ex-board members Ivy Lee and Alex Randolph.


“Going forward we need to always be looking into what’s long term and sustainable for the college. I’m committed as part of the budget committee to push for that,” Wong said.


The multi-year budget plan that the Board of Trustees drafted before the election is a good plan, but one that needs improvement, Wong said. “It’s not perfect and it’s a work in progress.”


Wong also has ideas to increase the job pipelines, by promoting partnership with employers and workforce nonprofits to make City College a “one stop shop for enrollment education and employment of students.”


He is looking into “whether we can rent out existing City College space that is underutilized so we’re generating some revenue” and suggested allowing workforce development nonprofits to occupy the space to help students find employment.


Wong said another of his goals is closing the achievement gap.He intends to increase partnerships with the San Francisco Unified School District by making high school dual enrollment programs more widely available to students in the district.


Doing so would give students at underperforming schools the same opportunity to pursue higher education as students at statistically higher performing schools..


Dual enrollment, or concurrent, programs offer courses that high school students can take to earn credit at City College and their respective high schools.


Some of the current dual enrollment courses include calculus, American Sign Language, college success, and ethnic studies for students attending Lincoln High School.


Wong believes that dual enrollment programs, by providing students with college credit without the fees and standardized testing of AP classes, “can build a pipeline for future high school students into City College.”


Trustee Aliya Chisti


The most pressing short term goal for Trustee Aliya Chisti, and the board as a whole is identifying the next permanent chancellor, while making sure that the board is “engaging the community” during the selection process, she said.

Aliya Chisti, a candidate for the CCSF College Board, sits for a portrait before going out canvassing in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. San Francisco, California. October 5, 2020. (Emily Trinh/Etc.Magazine)

The board plans to create a committee that will include members of the community, students, and teachers to get input for the upcoming chancellor.


After her first month in office, Chisti’s main goal is to just listen and learn as much as she can. “I want to ultimately shape policy, but I think it’s important to understand the lay of the land [by] engaging with different constituency groups and getting acquainted,” she said.


Chisti has also expressed interest in growing the City College Foundation, whose goal is to “provide financial support for the students and programs of City College.”


She proposed  “identifying dollars through philanthropy so that those funds can be used to ultimately support students’ basic needs.” She said that this money could be used to provide gift cards and emergency grants for students once the pandemic subsides.


The foundation is not currently “as robust as it should be,” Chisti said. “I think it’s something that needs greater focus and attention.”


Another of Chisti’s goals is bolstering the college’s workforce development program, specifically the CityBuild program in partnership with San Francisco’s Office of Workforce Development.


“The key is going to be really partnering with the city around their workforce development strategy as we get into recovery efforts [from the pandemic] and I think that City College is going to play a big role,” she said. CityBuild is a vocational program that provides individuals with training and a job in a local union.


Chisti said that she wants to be a part of “Fostering a more cohesive environment … students, teachers, administrators, the board, in making sure that we’re all advocating for our college.”


Chisti said that she wants to see greater discussion around racial equity at the college, including more frequent reporting and data.


“Are students of color graduating? Are they having difficulty navigating student resources? Do they have spaces on campus?” Chisti asked. She said she would like more frequent reports with disaggregated data for students, to help address these questions.


Additionally, she would like to see reports regarding Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money and also the dissemination of laptops and food cards, specifically data involving race and ethnicity of those that received that aid.


  • Disclaimer: This story was updated to include Alan Wong’s qualifications and experience as Education Policy Advisor.
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