Category Archives: Campus News

Columbia College Child Development Tea Party Fundraiser

The Columbia College Child Development Department and the Child Development Future Educators Club invite you to the 3rd annual Tea Party Fundraiser.  The festive family-friendly event will be held on Friday, March 15, 2019, from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. in the Maple Building.  Students, former students, staff and faculty will serve up treats and a variety of teas to support students and student teachers in the child development field.  Funds go toward fingerprinting for students applying for teaching permits, a scholarship through the Columbia College Foundation, and student activities.

Please see our website  for more information and to purchase tickets.  Tickets are $25.00 for adults and $10.00 for children.  We hope to see you there!


For more information, contact:

Kelly Thomas, Child Care Center Manager

PH: (209) 588-5024


Come and Eat Our Homework!

 This spring, Columbia College culinary students invite the public to “come and eat their homework” at the Cellar Bistro, located on the first level of the Manzanita Building. The Cellar Bistro will be open Wednesday evenings starting at 5:00 p.m. from January 30 to April 24, 2019.  The menu will offer international cuisine specials, NY steak, pan roasted chicken breast, salmon filet, and a vegetarian option. Dinner is by reservation only, please contact the Cellar Bistro at (209) 588-5300.

Columbia College’s Symphony of the Sierra on December 15th

Columbia College will be presenting the Symphony of the Sierra Winter Concert at 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 15, 2018. The concert will be held in the Dogwood Forum at Columbia College. The repertoire provides a wonderful introduction to orchestral music for children, while being complex enough to satisfy the seasoned classical ear.

The orchestra is delighted to be performing Leroy Anderson’s The Waltzing Cat and his perennial favorite, Sleigh Bells, as well as Ralph Vaughn William’s and Winter Wonderland to celebrate the coming winter holidays.  Selections from Antonin Dvorak’s American Suite, Albert Ketelbey’s Bells Across the Meadow, and Johan Halvorsen’s Entry of the Boyards round out the program.


This free event is open to the public and family friendly.


For more information, contact:

Mic Harper

PH: 209) 770-1258


Columbia College Fire and Hospitality Programs Receive Re-Accreditation

The Career Technical Education Division at Columbia College would like to congratulate the Fire Technology and Hospitality Management programs on their recent re-accreditations through their respective oversight bodies.

The California State Fire Marshal’s Office has re-accredited the Columbia College Fire Technology Program as a Regional Training Program (ARTP) in the State Fire Training System (SFT) for a period of five years. The accreditation team visited the campus and related training facilities in July of this year, and were able to review course records, training equipment, and instructional technology that supports ongoing testing and certification for students in the program in compliance with SFT and National Fire Protection Association standards.

The Columbia College Fire Technology Program is aligned with the 2013 Fire Fighter 1 curriculum and taught by registered Instructors.  Unique to Columbia College is a fully-functioning fire station staffed by students in the program that respond to emergency calls both on- and off-campus, in a cooperative effort between Columbia College, CAL FIRE, and Tuolumne County Fire Department. Columbia College also works with the Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties Chiefs Associations, Tuolumne County and Mother Lode Interagency Training Officers Associations, the United States Forest Service, CAL FIRE, and other local agencies to inform the direction of curriculum and program development through semi-annual Advisory Committee meetings.

The Site Evaluation Team noted that Columbia College “recognizes the unique training opportunities provided students given their surroundings and understands the importance of fostering interagency partnerships. Columbia College has a strong focus on recruitment and development as exemplified in its pre-apprenticeship program preparing grade school-age students for entrance into a formal academy setting through instruction, job shadowing/ride-alongs, support and information services, and hands-on learning.”

The American Culinary Federation (ACF) Education Foundation’s Accrediting Commission has also accredited the Columbia College Hospitality Management Program until June 2022 for the following programs:

  •             Associate Degree in Hospitality Management – Culinary Arts
  •             Associate Degree in Hospitality Management – Baking and Pastry Arts
  •             Certificate of Achievement – Culinary Arts
  •             Certificate of Achievement – Baking and Pastry Arts

Accreditation through the ACF includes a thorough review of curriculum, especially lab student learning outcomes, as well as faculty training, professional development, teaching facilities, and community partnerships. The Hospitality Management Program at Columbia College opened its brand-new facilities in the fall of 2017, built with local Measure E bond funds. Program instructors meet regularly with local businesses to give input on the direction of program and curriculum development and connect graduates with employers.

Dr. Klaus Tenbergen, Dean of Career Technical Education and Economic Development, says:

“I couldn’t be more proud of the dedicated faculty who devote so much of their time and energy to making our educational offerings so relevant and timely. Chief Shane Warner, Captain Andrew Van Hoogmoed (Fire Science) Chef’s Don Dickinson and Marcus Whisenant (Hospitality Management) are to be congratulated for their hard work and efforts. We know our employers and stakeholders place a high value on these re-accreditations; it’s very nice to get this external validation as well.”

“Columbia College is committed to bringing world-class programs to the Mother Lode Region, particularly to the residents of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties”, remarked Columbia College President, Dr. Santanu Bandyopadhyay. “The reaffirmation of accreditation for these two programs demonstrate the quest for excellence of our faculty, staff and administrators. The programs prepare students in well-paying jobs in the respective fields”.


For more information, contact:

Dr. Klaus Tenbergen

Dean of Career Technical Education & Economic Development

Office: 209.588.5142

Columbia College Celebrates 50 Years with Community Gatherings

Columbia College celebrated its 50th Anniversary Year with a set of campus gatherings that drew hundreds of community members and visitors over the weekend.

Festivities kicked off Friday evening with a dedication of the Brady-Wise Family Plaza, renamed to honor community benefactors Don Brady, Millie Brady Wise and John Wise for their decades of support for education at Columbia College. More than 120 guests attended the reception hosted by the Columbia College Foundation to acknowledge a $2 million endowment gift received last year from the Wise Family Charitable Trust. Honored guests included Don and Millie Brady’s daughter, Margaret Brady Hunter, and her family from North Carolina, and John Wise’s daughter, Lynne Jerome, of Tuolumne.

The anniversary celebrations continued Saturday with a community picnic on campus. Hundreds of local families and guests, including many former students and staff, came out to enjoy beautiful weather, free food provided by a variety of local vendors, campus tours, demonstrations and displays.

“I was overwhelmed to see the deep and strong connection between Columbia College and the community”, noted Santanu Bandyopadhyay, President of Columbia College. “The number of alumni and retirees who visited the campus and shared their stories about the history of the College is a reflection of the continued involvement of the community. The Oral History Project was highly appreciated by all. The faculty, staff, administrators and students participated enthusiastically in celebrating the 50th Anniversary. My heartfelt thanks goes out to all who made the celebrations a great success”

Columbia College 50th Anniversary Celebration

On Saturday, September 29th, from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Community members of all ages are invited to a free community picnic in celebration of the College’s 50th Anniversary.  This family-friendly event will feature free food, music, campus tours, a “Then & Now” exhibit, and more.

Columbia College was established in 1968, in Sonora, CA pursuant to the action by the district electorate to expand the former Modesto Junior College District into the Yosemite Community College District. This created one of the largest community college districts in the state geographically, encompassing 4,000 square miles from San Joaquin Valley and the coast range on the west to the Sierra Nevada on the east. All of Tuolumne and Stanislaus Counties and parts of San Joaquin, Merced, Calaveras and Santa Clara counties come under the service area of the College.

The College serves over 4,000 students every semester. The broad range of courses or programs offered by the College cater to diverse needs of the students. Whether one is seeking a degree or vocational certificate, planning to transfer to a four-year institution, improving occupational skills or simply pursuing self-enrichment, there is something for everyone here. For more information about the programs and services, please visit

For additional information about the picnic, please call 209.588-5115.


Free Tuition Increases Interest in Columbia College

Article written by Alex MacLean

The Union Democrat

Columbia College believes it’s on track to increase full-time enrollment of June high school this fall due to a new program that pays tuition for the first year.

About 120 students who graduated from high school this spring in Tuolumne County or Angels Camp have enrolled for the fall semester, according to Amy Nilson, the college’s director of development.

Nilson said between 75 and 80 percent will get their first year free thanks to a new fee-waiver from the state, while the rest are expected to qualify for free tuition through the Columbia College Promise program.

The numbers at this point give Nilson and others involved with the program optimism that they will at least meet their goal of getting 25 percent of all graduating seniors from schools in Tuolumne County and Angels Camp enrolled in the fall.

“We’re hearing from parents and counselors that this has really been an encouragement to them and helping to make college seem doable,” Nilson said. “We’re really looking to encourage them to start right out of high school at building their skills or preparing for transfer.”

Eligible students must have graduated in the spring from a high school in Tuolumne County or the Bret Harte Union High School District based in Angels Camp, because those are the schools that lie within the boundaries of Columbia College.

When the Columbia College Foundation conceived of the program, it used the percentage of graduating seniors from local schools in 2015 who had enrolled full time at the college that fall as a benchmark for improvement.

There were 711 graduating seniors in 2015 who graduated from a school within the college’s footprint, and 114 of those enrolled for a full-time schedule at the college that fall, which was about 16 percent.

A full-time schedule is considered 12 units per semester, though the Promise program offers to cover up to a total of 30 units between two semesters.

Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools Margie Bulkin, who serves on the foundation’s Board of Directors and as chairwoman of the Columbia College Promise committee, said there were about 485 seniors who graduated in the county this year.

Nilson said the school is still working to get the number of graduating seniors this year from the Bret Harte Union High School District for tracking purposes.

The total number of incoming freshmen enrolled at the school for the fall was not immediately available, but Nilson said that number is expected to increase between now and the enrollment deadline a week before the semester begins on Aug. 27.

“It’s just not precise at this point,” she said.

A full year of study at the college typically costs between $1,200 and $1,500 for tuition, as well as an additional roughly $1,700 for books and other related fees and costs. The Promise program cover tuition only.

About one in five students enrolled at public high schools in Tuolumne County take classes and necessary requirements to make them eligible to be accepted at a four-year university after graduation, but Bulkin estimated the cost of tuition is a barrier for about 75 percent of the county’s population.

“For a lot of people in our community, the option of going to state university is a challenge, least of which is capability and most of which is financial,” Bulkin said. “We wanted to promote this concept that you can get to college and we will remove that barrier to open the door for an opportunity at a two-year degree or transfer to a four-year university.”

Bulkin said statistics show students are more likely to graduate in four years if they start at a junior college and transfer to a university. She added that studies also show that they’re more likely to finish if they enroll full time, which is why that’s a requirement of students who receive free tuition through the Columbia College Promise program.

There will also be a counselor to provide specialized guidance and support for students in the program.

“We are investing in their success not just financially, but we’ll also have a support system at the college,” Bulkin said. “The college is really interested in increasing their two-year completion rate.”

The program is funded entirely through grants and donations from the community.

Nilson said the foundation was about $65,000 away from raising the $270,000 it estimated is needed to cover the number of eligible students over the next three years.

A more than $2 million endowment gift was also bestowed upon the college from the Wise Family Charitable Trust in September to provide support for the Promise initiative as well as a mini-grant program.

Last month, the Sonora Area Foundation provided a $20,000 grant to support the Columbia College Promise program as well as a mini-grant program.

Sonora Area Foundation representatives presented the $20,000 check to outgoing College President Angela Fairchilds at a reception on May 24 in honor of her retirement at the end of this month.

Fairchilds will be replaced in mid-July by Santanu Bandyopadhyay, who most recently served as executive vice president of educational programs and student services at Cypress College near Long Beach.

Half of the $20,000 grant comes from a number of funds at the Sonora Area Foundation, including the Black Oak Casino Resort Community Fund, Comazzi Family Fund, Comcast Community Fund, McMillen Jacobs Associates Community Fund, Boyd Family Fund, Geer Family Fund, Reb and Susan Silay Fund, and the Sonora Sunrise Rotary.

All of the funds were matched by a $10,000 donation that came from an anonymous donor.