Dr. Joyce K. Elsner
Interim President of SMCC
Dr Joyce K Elsner came to South Mountain Community College in 2003 to serve as Vice President of Administrative Services. In July 2010, she was appointed Interim President as the college began its national search for a new permanent president.
Having come to the Maricopa County Community College District in 1978, Dr. Elsner served as Dean at Rio Salado Community College, Dean and Vice President of Administrative Services at Glendale Community College, and as Vice President of Administrative Services at South Mountain Community College.
Dr. Elsner earned her doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles, in Higher Education, Community Colleges. She received her Master of Science degree in Child Development from the University of Arizona, and her bachelor’s degree in Child Development from California State University, Long Beach, California.
Since 1987, Dr. Elsner has served as a Consultant-Evaluator and an Accreditation Chair for the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. Within the South Mountain Village area, she has served on the South Mountain Village Planning Committee (2005-2010), and as a Board Member for the South Mountain YMCA. In addition, she was the first female member of the Glendale Rotary Club, eventually serving as Club President.
Dr. Kenneth Atwater
Third President of SMCC
For the five years prior to becoming President, he served as Vice President for Student Services at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan. Dr. Atwater has served in community college leadership positions for the past 24 years.
Dr. Ken Atwater became President of South Mountain Community College on July 2, 2001.
For three years prior to his position at Kellogg, Dr. Atwater was Vice President and Dean of Students at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland. He has also been Vice President for Student Development Services at Midlands Technical College in Columbia, South Carolina; and Dean of Students at Catonsville Community College in Catonsville, Maryland.
At Jackson State Community College, in his native state of Tennessee, Dr. Atwater was Director of Counseling Services and Director of Student Activities.
Dr. Atwater earned his Ph.D. in Higher Education (with a focus on community colleges) from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, in 1989. He earned a Master of Science degree in Guidance and Counseling in 1978 and a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech and Theater, and also Sociology, in 1977, all from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky.
The President is a graduate of the prestigious Executive Leadership Institute of the League for Innovation for Community Colleges; and also is a graduate of the Institute for Leadership Effectiveness, University of Tennessee -- Knoxville.
Dr. Atwater has been elected to a three-year term on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Community Colleges, beginning July 2004.
He has served on the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors since August 2001 and the Valley of the Sun YMCA Board of Directors since July 2002. Also, he has served on the boards of the Southwestern Michigan Urban League, the Battle Creek Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Greater Battle Creek United Way, the American Association of Community College Commission on Research, and has been
South Mountain Community College serves more than 8,000 students each year at its main campus at 7050 S. 24th St. (just north of Baseline), as well as at the SMCC Guadalupe Center, the SMCC Ahwatukee Foothills Center, and locations throughout Laveen.
Dr. John A. Cordova
Second President of SMCC
In 1993, Dr. John A. Cordova took the reins as president of SMCC. Prior to becoming president of SMCC, he was founding president of Paradise Valley Community College, where he was president for six years. He has also served as Dean of Instructional Services at Phoenix College and Associate Dean of Instruction at Scottsdale Community College.
Early in his career, Dr. Cordova served as director of Bilingual Education in the Phoenix Union High School District, a teacher trainer at ASU with Teacher Corps Corrections, director of Pupil Personnel Specialists at the University of New Mexico, and a counselor at Phoenix College and at Phoenix Union High School.
Cordova is active in numerous professional organizations and boards, including the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges as an evaluator, former board member and executive committee member. He is treasurer of the Hispanic Educational Telecommunications System, and a member of the League for Innovation in the Community College National Advisory Committee for Expanding Leadership Diversity in Community Colleges. Also, he has been a member of the National Council of College Administrators, served as president of the Arizona Association of Chicano Educators (AACHE) and on the board and as secretary of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. He is also a member of the South Mountain YMCA Board of Directors, has been the Maricopa County Library District Citizens Advisory Committee chairperson, has served on the South Phoenix Revitalization Steering Committee, and been a board member of the Paradise Valley and South Mountain Chambers of Commerce.
Dr. Cordova, then Dean of Instruction at Phoenix College (a sister college within the district), was named provost of the Northeast Valley Education Center in January 1985, to be effective March 1985. Acting on the request from a number of Paradise Valley community organizations and individuals in November 1986, the District Governing Board officially changed the name of the Northeast Valley Education Center to Paradise Valley Community College Center preparatory to moving on site in March 1987.
Dr. Raul Cárdenas
Founding President of SMCC
Dr. Raul Cárdenas was appointed founding President for SMCC on October 1, 1978. In 1992, he was named president of Paradise Valley Community College and as a highly regarded leader, he served as chancellor for Maricopa County Colleges Governing Board from 1999-2000. During his 30 years in higher education, Cárdenas held a deep concern for Hispanic students and the high dropout rate amongst this demographic. By encouraging students to return to school and subsequently attend college, Cárdenas proved himself to be a visionary.
Born in the border town of Del Rio, Texas, Cárdenas’ first language was Spanish. His family moved to the US from Mexico when he was only a child and subsequently raised seven children. Cárdenas has always taught others that languages are an important piece of education. In 1960, Cárdenas began teaching in his native home of Del Rio. In 1971, he became assistant vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of California, Berkeley.
Known as the “Hands-on Visionary” of higher learning, Dr. Cárdenas emphasizes that all educational entities must work together in order to help students succeed. A quote from the story appears next to the chancellor on the cover of a magazine: “None of us is as smart as all of us.”