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Pacesetter of the Year

The Pacesetter of the Year Award recognizes a community college president or CEO who has demonstrated special leadership and support in marketing and public relations. It is awarded annually in each of NCMPR's seven districts, and district recipients automatically become a nominee for the national award, which is presented at the national conference.


2017 National
Pacesetter of the Year

Dr. Dianne Van Hook
Santa Clarita Community College District-College of the Canyons
Santa Clarita, California

When Dr. Dianne Van Hook arrived at College of the Canyons (COC) almost 29 years ago, it was a sleepy college with a single campus. Today, the college is a dynamic two-campus college recognized for innovation and service to students, and that reflects the credo of its leader – “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Having served as CEO of the Santa Clarita Community College District since 1988, Dr. Van Hook is the district’s longest-serving CEO and the longest currently serving community college CEO in California. She has served for nearly two-thirds of the college’s life, and the impact of Dr. Van Hook’s long-term leadership of COC has been remarkable.

During her tenure, enrollment has grown from 5,000 students annually to more than 32,000. The college has added 100 degree and certificate programs to its lineup. The annual budget has grown from $8 million to $234 million. The college’s scholarship endowment is up to $1.8 million. And grant revenue totaled $15.9 million in 2016-17, a huge increase from the modest annual sum of $100,000 when she started.

Also under Dr. Van Hook’s leadership:

  • COC was awarded a $24.5 million grant from the California Community Colleges to lead the Institutional Effectiveness Partnership Initiative, which helps colleges improve fiscal and operational effectiveness and promotes student success.
  • In 2015, COC received the Student Success Award from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office for implementing the “Accelerate Your Dreams to Reality” project. With Dr. Van Hook’s support, college faculty implemented two classes that nearly triple students’ chances of completing college-level courses. The project benefits more than 5,000 students annually and has resulted in one of the most robust offerings of accelerated math and English courses across California.
  • COC recently was ranked second in California for the completion rate of college-prepared students and achieved the highest student transfer rate of any two-year college in Los Angeles County. In 2016, it was also named one of the nation’s best colleges for adult learners by Washington Monthly magazine.
  • Dr. Van Hook’s ability to generate community support for the college has been demonstrated time and again. Local voters passed three bond measures within 15 years totaling $470 million that generated resources for construction and modernization at the college’s two campuses, along with $56.2 million in matching state funds.
  • She also rallied community support for two capital campaigns that generated more than $4 million for two signature facilities: The University Center, named in honor of Dr. Van Hook, and The College of the Canyons Institute for Culinary Education, which opened in 2015.

Dr. Van Hook’s community leadership is widely recognized. She was selected “Newsmaker of the Year” by the local press club and was named to the local newspaper’s list of the “Top 51 Most Influential People” in the community. She topped the list again in 2015, edging out the mayor and local members of the state legislature.

As a community college graduate, Dr. Van Hook understands the community college mission more than most and remains committed to creating educational opportunities for everyone. She has served on more than 35 statewide higher education commissions and boards.

For the nearly three decades that Dr. Van Hook has presided at COC, she has indeed proven that, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

Past National Pacesetters


Thanks to Our Awards of Excellence Sponsor!

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