By March 26, 2016 Read More →

InterView – Dr. Jill Stearns

InterView – MJC: Growing and Creating Opportunity
Dr. Jill Stearns
By Chris Murphy

Modesto is a college town. Yes it’s true. Modesto Junior College is one of the early locations of the Community College system. 61 Students were on the JC Campus in 1921 and today there are over 19,000. MJC was the place that set George Lucas on a path of higher education where he studied anthropology. Other notables include, Dot Jones, Ray Lankford, Jeff Moorad, Lindsay Pearce, Jeremy Renner and others.

There are some amazing things happening at the campus, and under the leadership of MJC President Dr. Jill Stearns, the planning and organization of her team and their focus on student success and access is setting MJC up for a bright future.

One of the most exciting projects is that MJC will be offering a 4 year program starting fall 2016. This pilot baccalaureate degree is a Bachelors of Respiratory Care that will be offered in the new state of the art Glacier Hall on the West Campus. This trend of being able to get a 4-year degree from our own local college could be a game changer for both MJC and Modesto. MJC is rich in sports, arts, academics and is a leading school for ag science. Let’s learn more about MJC and about Dr. Jill Stearns.

Jill brings with her experience, leadership and a commitment to get things done. She has a Ph.D in Community College Leadership, Walden University, an M.S. in Instructional Technology, National University – San Diego, CA and a B.S. in Business Administration, California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo, CA. We wanted to find out what drives her to make MJC great.

ModestoView: Why is MJC so valuable to a city like Modesto?
Jill Stearns: MJC provides access to higher education for everyone. Through our dual enrollment programs, we have students earning college credit while in high school. In some cases we even have junior high school students successfully completing courses. We also have students that come to college late in life; fulfilling their dream of a degree after retiring from a successful career.

MV: How important is the link between local business and the MJC programs?
JS: Our connection with local employers is critical to ensure that our programs prepare students for today’s workforce. Each of our career technical education programs has an advisory committee comprised of local business owners and representatives that guide our program development and revision.

MV: There have been so many new projects and buildings established with the Measure E funds, what are some of the biggest accomplishments?
JS: We are thrilled with the community support of Measure E that provided the opportunity to build new instructional spaces that will serve our community for many generations. The construction of the Ag Pavilion, Science Community Center, and Glacier Hall have forever changed the landscape of our West Campus and brought new opportunity for learning. I’m also very thankful for and proud of the renovation of our facilities that has been possible through Measure E. The Library & Learning Resource Center, Performing and Media Arts Center, Founders Hall, and Center for Advanced Technologies have benefited from massive renovation. Many more projects have focused on the infrastructure, mechanical systems, roads, and walkways that are not nearly as exciting, but important elements of the physical campus.

MV: What do you think is the biggest misconception about MJC?
JS: The one that is shared by all community colleges –that we should not be the preferred choice of well-prepared students.

MV: How can MJC make a more successful transition to a 4 –year university for many students?
JS: Much has been accomplished in this area over the last several years. MJC has developed more than 20 associate degrees for transfer that align specifically with the CSU system allowing a student to complete an associate’s degree, then bachelor’s degree in 120 units. MJC is also working closely with CSU Stanislaus to develop guided pathways for students seeking transfer between our institutions.

MV: How excited are you about the Bachelors in Respiratory Science degree and do you think you will expand your 4-year offerings?
JS: Being selected as one of the 15 pilot baccalaureate degree programs in California is a great vote of confidence in the outstanding work of the team at MJC. The fifteen colleges are working collaboratively to ensure success of the programs as a first step toward broader implementation of bachelor’s degree programs in community colleges.

MV: ModestoView is very supportive of the arts, video, music, radio and journalism; is there a chance that these offerings will return to the MJC Campus?
JS: MJC has a strong, vibrant, and varied arts program. Students can study dance, voice, instrumental music, guitar, digital music, theater, painting, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, and photography. While there is not a radio program or a journalism program at this time, MJC is keeping an eye on the changing world of mass communication and the types of courses that would prepare students to pursue careers in this arena.

MV: How have you enjoyed becoming a part of the Modesto community?
JS: This is an incredibly warm and welcoming community, one that is proud of MJC!

MV: How should Modesto and the community do a better job connecting with MJC.
JS: We’d love to see you on campus. Come take a class or enroll in a community education course. Our event calendar is on the homepage at and there is something for everyone!

MV Describe your perfect Modesto day?
JS: I like nothing better than a four-mile run on a hot summer evening!

MV: Beatles or Stones?
JS: While traveling for work, I was privileged to experience the Stones 50th Anniversary Exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Learn more about Modesto Junior College and all of the exciting program for advancement and opportunity at



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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.