Pamila Fisher, Ed.D.

Dr. Fisher is a graduate of Modesto Junior College and was an educator for over 33 years. She was the Chancellor of the Yosemite Community College District for 12 years before her retirement. She also served as the Interim Chancellor of City College of San Francisco while the college was on Show Cause status for accreditation issues related to governance, fiscal and organizational issues. She currently is involved professionally working with governing boards, presidents and chancellors, and future leaders.

Dr. Fisher has been a consultant for the Association of Community College Trustees for 15 years, conducting more than 60 CEO searches and more than 100 governing board retreats.  Due to her many years as a search consultant, she even has been asked several times to return and facilitate a second search for a college that she assisted many years previously.

Dr. Fisher has written articles for the Trustee Quarterly, is one of several coauthors of the new edition of Trusteeship in Community Colleges: A Guide for Effective Governance, is a frequent presenter at the ACCT Congress and in national webinar and virtual conferences for community college leaders.

Dr. Fisher’s work also includes facilitating leadership academies that promote equity and professional development at all levels throughout the college. She enjoys working closely with governing boards, chief executive officers, faculty, staff and student leaders and effectively practices consensus building.

Dr. Fisher has served in national and state leadership positions including Chair of the Board of Directors of AACC, President of the American Association of Women in Community Colleges, and President of the California Association of Community Colleges. She founded and for the last 35 years has directed the Asilomar Leadership Skills Seminar, a California program which boasts 2,300 alums and has helped produce community college presidents, vice-presidents, deans and more.

Dr. Fisher’s service and commitment has been recognized through various honors including the American Council on Education’s Inclusive Network Award, ACCT’s national “Diversity Award”, ACCT’s regional “Equity Award”, NAACP’s “Woman of Courage Award”, the Latina Leadership Network’s “Honorary Madrina Award”, the California State Board of Governors’ “John Rice Diversity Award”, AAWCC’s “Woman of the Year” and “President of the Year” awards, and ACCT’s Pacific Region CEO of the Year award.

Spotlight Questions

1. Who was your earliest professional influence?

I married a community college counselor who was 17 years older than me when I was not quite 19. I was a student secretary at the Modesto Junior College Counseling Center. I always tell friends it may seem risqué but you have to remember it was 1965. Charlie taught me so much about history, sociology and social issues. He became my strongest supporter and advocate and encouraged me to develop my skills and talents, all the way through my doctorate. He also taught me to navigate and survive campus politics. He introduced me to the writings of Betty Friedan and there were times as I grew and matured that he said that was a mistake!

2. What are you most proud of personally and professionally?

Personally, family has always been a priority to me and so I did my best to be a caring and attentive daughter, mother, and grandma. My career decisions were influenced by my reluctance to move away from my family for decades, and later to retire early and move to a new state to be near the next generations.

Professionally, I never dreamed I would become a college chancellor. But my commitment always was to help people, especially the underdogs, become all they could become. I hope I did that in my various educator roles, from elementary school teacher to higher education leader. What I am most proud of is being a founder (with three other women) of the Asilomar Leadership Skills Seminar in 1984 while still a faculty leader. I have remained the Director of this weeklong intensive leadership program for women in California's community colleges ever since. This year we celebrate our 40th Anniversary and have more than 2,300 alums. Many of them have gone on to become directors, deans, vice presidents, presidents, and chancellors.

3. What is your favorite pastime or hobby?

I love being in nature, whether it is mountains, ocean, or desert, and have been a camper for most of my life. Traveling and camping made it easy to pursue my interest in Native American history and culture. I now have an extensive collection of baskets, pottery, and jewelry that I have purchased directly from artists throughout the country. My special affinity is for the history, people, and geography of the southwest, and now spend as much time as I can in southern Arizona and Central New Mexico.

4. If not Higher Ed, what?

I think if I had been born a generation later, I would have become a lawyer and been an advocate for social justice causes. Ruth Ginsberg is one of my heroines. As a young woman teen, the choices were pretty much secretary, nursing, or teaching.

5. What was the best piece of advice you have received?

My mother taught me to "Do what is right."

My husband taught me to be politically savvy.

A mentor taught me to "Know the difference between principle and preference."

6. What is your favorite drink?

Unfortunately, it is Diet Pepsi. I have periodically given it up but with the new research emerging, I think I finally may be done with it for good. I have only had a couple in the last year and they didn't taste as good as I remembered. So, now my drink of choice is ice water with lemon or if it is very cold out, hot herbal tea.

7. What is your favorite cuisine?

Easiest question of all! Mexican, and the more authentic, the better. There are excellent options in the Tucson area. But the best of all is found in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There, the blend of the food and cultures of the Pueblo Natives, Spanish, Mexican, and early American peoples has resulted in exquisite tasty local dishes that are different from anywhere else.

8. What is your favorite movie?

Nostalgic: The Big Chill and Dirty Dancing

Sentimental: Terms of Endearment, Southern Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes

9. Fun fact?

In what seems like another life, I climbed several 14,000' peaks, rode dirt motorcycles, and had my private pilot license.

Pamila Fisher