When Mike Perry, SJVC’s co-owner and CEO, drops in on a class, there is usually a hush at his sudden presence and the unexpected interruption of class work. But it does not stay quiet for long. The San Diego campus’ Dental Hygiene students were surprised at the sight of the top college executive standing in their classroom, three hundred miles away from his corporate office in Visalia.
“How is it going?” Mr. Perry asks, opening up the floor to some honest interaction. Nods and “good” meet his question. “Are we working you hard?” he follows up. Groans ripple the aisles, as the universal expression of students hard at work.
That is what college is all about: working hard to achieve something of value; something that will propel students toward a more successful future. Mike Perry explains. “You are working hard because it’s college. That is why we hang our degrees on the wall – and you will too, because you worked hard for it. Things that come easy to us in life; we don’t usually display them on the wall,” he says.
A few students jumped in at the opportunity to ask SJVC’s CEO a few questions. This is the part Mike Perry loves. “I’m there to get the real stuff, and the best way to find out how things are going is to walk in there and ask,” he says. “Their responses – and more importantly, the energy of the class – give me a sense of the satisfaction of the students, as well as the rigor of the program.”
“It’s great that Mr. Perry does that and gives students the opportunity they might not have, otherwise, to meet him,” says Danya Sanchez, Administrative Assistant/Registrar. “The students felt very comfortable talking with him and he seemed to really appreciate their questions and feedback.”
Many layers of systems and support separate owners and top executive staff from those whose education goals and successes they strive daily to serve. “I feel it is very important to bypass those layers to ask students directly how they are doing in their education,” says Perry. “It gives me a sense of everything from their morale to level of professionalism.”
His last question for the junior level DH class: “Are you getting your money’s worth?” He was rewarded with smiles, nods and a few whoops of affirmation.
“It was a nice interaction with the students; they were engaging and had good questions,” says Perry. “It made me proud to have them in our institution, and I thanked them for attending SJVC.”
“The students felt that he created a welcoming presence on campus,” says Danya. “It definitely created quite a buzz.”
A spontaneous photo-op found lots of smiles all around.