When Darroch "Rocky" Young was named president of Pierce College in 1999, the big challenges were to boost enrollment and raise morale among faculty and staff.
Five years later, the Woodland Hills campus had nearly 3,600 new students, raising enrollment to about 17,000, and relations with the teaching staff were so improved that Young recently listed the faculty union chapter president as a job reference.
Such changes made the difference for Young, who two weeks ago was named the next chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District, which includes Pierce and eight other colleges.
"His ability to change that college around was very significant," district Board of Trustees President Kelly Candaele said. "It was really an indication of some unique leadership skills."
Young, 57, said he intends to apply some of those initiatives throughout the 122,000-student district when he starts his new job July 1.
He said he wants to increase enrollment by marketing all nine schools better, recruiting students more heavily, and lobbying Sacramento for funds to ensure that students are not shut out of classes because of overcrowding.
"I think we could easily [enroll] another 10,000 students," Young said in a recent interview. "We are not compulsory, so that means everybody who comes wants to be educated, and it's heartbreaking to see them get turned away."
The real goal of a community college is to educate the underprivileged, he said. "We're going to have to be part of the solution of the high school attrition rate. We're going to have to pick those people up, because it's not healthy for a society to have a large uneducated portion of their population," Young said, noting that enrollment of young men is particularly low.
Described by many as a behind-the-scenes, soft-spoken negotiator, Young left Pierce last year to become the Los Angeles district's interim senior vice chancellor. He and others lobbied for state funds that for the first time in years allow the Los Angeles district to fully cover the schools' operating costs for all the students who enroll.
Young said he also will seek to add vocational programs to compensate for shrinking course options at high schools.
"Some students don't want to go in a four-year academic direction. Sometimes they just want to go work," he said. "I don't see why community colleges can't step in and educate those students."
Tapping into the high school market is not new to Young. While he was Pierce president, the number of college-level courses taught in local high schools by Pierce instructors jumped from 10 to 80, said current President Thomas W. Oliver. That effort helped boost subsequent college enrollment because those students felt comfortable about Pierce, Oliver said.
To help improve Pierce's image, Young also created a marketing and public relations department that commissioned brochures and purchased radio and cable advertising.
"We demonstrated the academic experience they would get at Pierce was equal or better" than that at other schools, Young said.
Young also plans to beef up districtwide programs for freshmen in order to reduce dropout rates.
Young started teaching business at Santa Monica College in 1971 and rose to become director of planning and development in 1997. He left for Pierce after being passed up for the Santa Monica presidency.
At Santa Monica, he was key in getting what is known as the compressed schedule adopted in 1991. It shortens semesters by several weeks by making class sessions longer and allows for an intensified winter session that generates extra revenue for schools. Favored by working students, the calendar was adopted by many campuses across the state.
"It's very hard to move an institution, to change things ... but [Young] convinced the chancellor this was something we should do," said Randal Lawson, executive vice president of Santa Monica College.
Carl Friedlander, president of the Los Angeles district's faculty guild, recalled how Young's willingness to share information about district finances helped earn him the union's trust.
"We expect he will treat us fairly based on real understanding of the district's financial condition," Friedlander said. "He's fair."
One of Young's most important tasks will be to oversee the expenditure of $2.2 billion in bond money approved by voters to renovate 455 buildings and construct 44 over the next decade, experts say.
Already, there have been delays. A study done last March at the request of a citizens oversight committee found lengthy reviews of design plans had slowed some projects for up to a year. It also revealed that many construction plans were scaled back or delayed indefinitely because of soaring costs. Pierce College, whose construction plan Young helped create, announced it would put an estimated $15.8 million worth of projects on hold.
Young, whose first name reflects his Scottish ancestry, was born and raised in Los Angeles. The Thousand Oaks resident has two college-age sons -- one attends Pierce College -- and is married to Glendale Community College business writing professor Diane Young.
He graduated from UC Santa Barbara, where he studied psychology. He later earned a master's in business administration at UCLA.
Young said he had planned to go into the corporate world but discovered that he enjoyed teaching. "I found I was good at it ... that I could explain complex subjects in simple ways. I never really abandoned those skills," he said.