A Commitment to Access and Meeting Needs
Godfrey Gibbison joined Cal State San Marcos as the new dean of Extended Learning and Global Programs on Jan. 18. Most recently, he served as the interim dean of the Graduate School at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
Born and raised in Jamaica, Gibbison is a first-generation college graduate. He earned a bachelor’s in economics from the University of the West Indies, a master’s in Agricultural Economics from Iowa State University and a Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech.
His career in education has included numerous faculty and administrative roles, including dean of the School of Professional Studies at the College of Charleston and director of the School of Economic Development at Georgia Southern University.
Gibbison is a Fulbright Scholar and co-author of the book “Crime and Development: The Jamaican Experience.”
Question: How does access to education change the trajectory for an individual?
GG: Education has multiple generational impacts. I was the first person in my entire family who went to college. But the generations in my family after me who have gone on to a college education — and graduate degrees — has been extraordinary. Among my nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, I have a high school principal, a well-regarded journalist in Jamaica, a pharmacy tech, a medical doctor and so on. I met that grandniece four years ago and she said to me, “I’m a doctor because once you went to university my mom would never let up on me. She would always say, ‘Godfrey did it; everybody can do it.’ ”
Q: What about the impact of education on the community?
GG: If you look at the broader society, there are so many decisions that require an educated populace — issues that affect the day-to-day lives of people. You need to be able to think critically about them, evaluate them and make the conscious decision to participate. We know that economic development is directly linked to the quality of the labor force. When you have an educated talent pool, companies perform better, are more profitable and hire more people. The cycle is an upward spiral.
Q: You earned your Ph.D. a little over 20 years ago. How do you continue to feed your curiosity?
GG: I’ve been involved in leadership development over the last few years and I’m a big reader. Right now, I’m also trying to learn Portuguese. My husband, David, and I went to Portugal a couple of years ago, and we absolutely fell in love with everything about the place. We want to retire there, so I thought I would take the challenge and start to learn some Portuguese.
Q: What is your favorite way to unwind or reduce stress?
GG: I like to run and when I run, I solve problems. In college, I used to do mathematical proofs in my head while I was running. Sometimes I would stop and beg somebody for a piece of paper because I wanted to write the proof down before I forgot. I also like to garden. In South Carolina, I would have a couple of boxes with different vegetables and all kinds of plants. There’s something about the smell of soil that I find very relaxing.
Q: San Diego has unique outdoor pursuit within an hour or two in any direction. Are you a beach person, a desert person or a mountain person?
GG: I’m definitely a mountain person and David is a beach person through and through. I grew up 3,000 feet above sea level in rural Jamaica. In fact, my one confession is that even though the sunshine is great, I do love a good rainy day because where I grew up, it rains every day. And when it rains, the temperature drops by 20 degrees so I can tolerate a good chill.
Q: Let’s bring this full circle to CSUSM. Your career has taken you from Jamaica to South Carolina, with stops in Iowa, Virginia, Georgia and more. At what point during the interview process with CSUSM did you know that you and CSUSM would be a good fit?
GG: When I started to look around at the community college network, I realized that the community college tuition is fairly low in California. When I saw that, I knew the state is serious about education. I also got the sense that the staff members in Extended Learning are really serious about their jobs and that CSUSM is serving the community in a significant way. And I thought, “I want to be part of that.” I care about access, I care about meeting the community’s needs, and I care about helping students have better opportunities in their community.
Q: What do you want the San Diego and CSUSM communities to know about you as you get started in your new position?
GG: I am here to work with all kinds of people to meet the community’s needs and to serve our students. In a sense, we were all put into the same circumstances as our students during the pandemic. We had to manage children and pets and aging parents and our jobs all together at home. That’s what our students do all the time. Let’s use this crisis as a way to ask, “Can we recast some of the ways we think about education to make sure more people have access?” Let’s have that conversation and not just move on from the pandemic. Let’s create something new when this is over.
For more information on the programs available through CSUSM Extended Learning, please visit csusm.edu/el.
Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist
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