Dr. Marsha Gable embodies the best of California’s community colleges. “I care about our students,” said the Grossmont College Vice President of Student Services. “I care about their success; I care about their future.”
That commitment permeates Grossmont College’s Student Services and what Dr. Gable often refers to as “Team Awesomeness.” As Vice President, Dr. Gable oversees the division’s administration, planning and fiscal management and led the college’s successful efforts at pivoting to remote services during the pandemic. Her impact can also be seen on myriad equity-focused initiatives such as Umoja, Puente, Via Rapida and the First Year Experience programs for students from underserved communities.
Her journey to becoming among the more respected higher education leaders in the region is not unlike those of community college students across the state.
Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Dr. Gable is the youngest of five children, a fact she notes has contributed to her learning how to be a good listener. “When you’re the youngest sibling, you really don’t have much of a choice but to listen,” she quipped. Among the more profound lessons of her youth, however, came when she opted to enroll at a newly opened, predominantly white high school – nearly two hours away by bus – near the outskirts of town, rather than the urban and much older campus near her home where fights were a daily occurrence.
She regretted her decision almost immediately.
“A counselor basically told me that I should not even focus on going to college, but I might be more interested in going to the Skills Center so I could learn how to use a cash register and work in a store,” Dr. Gable said. “When I got to the Skills Center, it was all students of color. The message was clear: You’re not college material, we’re not going to waste our time.”
Making matters worse, the walk from school to the bus stop was often greeted by racist taunts from fellow students and passersby. Her initial experience at a four-year university was only minimally better. “I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t know what I was doing,” said Dr. Gable, who later enrolled at and earned an associate degree in marketing from a local community college before spending several years working in retail management in New York City and Riverside County, California.
A chance experience as a speaker at a high school career day changed her future.
“I was doing a workshop on resume writing and interviewing and I realized how much I liked it, working with students helping them find their path.” That led to classes at Mt. San Jacinto College and further lessons in how a community college can transform lives. “The help that I received when I was at Mt. San Jacinto had a profound impact. The Transfer Center and the Counseling Center was so supportive. The faculty was engaged. They all cared about your success and what you wanted to do.”
Dr. Gable transferred to California State University, San Marcos, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in social sciences and her master’s degree in sociological practice. She later went on to earn her doctorate in educational leadership from San Diego State University.
Prior to her post at Grossmont College, Dr. Gable served as Dean of Counseling Services and Admissions and Records at Cuyamaca College; Associate Dean of Student Services EOPS/CARE at Santa Ana College; and Associate Director of University Outreach at Cal State San Marcos. She also served as an adjunct instructor at San Diego State University, MiraCosta and Mt. San Jacinto colleges, and CSU San Marcos. In 2019, she was named Interim President at San Diego Miramar College, a position she held at Grossmont College from November of 2020 through June of 2021.
“My vision for Grossmont College is that we look at students holistically, that they are always at the center of what we do, and that we put up absolutely no barrier that would prohibit them from achieving what they came here to achieve.”