A Sit Down With New FCC President, Robert Pimentel


Photo credit: Fresno City College

Long time community college administrator, former community college student, and first-generation college graduate Robert Pimentel has been Fresno City College’s new president since July 1.

He has been at FCC for four years, as the vice president of Educational Services and Institutional Effectiveness. Previously, he worked for 18 years in the West Hills Community College District.

When asked how he related to FCC students, he replied “Where do you start?”

Along with being a first-generation college graduate, Pimentel is also bilingual.

“I was born here, but at my house, my parents only spoke Spanish, so I was going back and forth,” he said.

Pimentel was born in Fresno, raised in Huron, and moved to Coalinga, where he started his higher education. After leaving West Hills College with an associate degree in Liberal Arts, he moved on to Fresno State and CSU Bakersfield. 

“I had smaller classes, I worked with my instructors a lot closer. So, to me it was a great experience and then when I got to the university, it was a piece of cake,” he said, referring to his time in community college.

Among the issues FCC students are facing this year, one of the main focuses is retention. According to Pimentel, the college loses nearly 50% of its students every semester.

“We have a goal of trying to retain at least 15% more of our students,” he said. “If we could keep people engaged then hopefully we could keep them going all the way through.”

Pimentel said the pandemic is one reason for low retention and enrollment, especially for men of color.

“Our men just disappeared during COVID, from all races, but it was more evident amongst Latino, Native American and Black males,” he said.

Before the pandemic, 44% of the student population was male, but it has dropped to 36%. State Center Community College District is particularly feeling this, with some campuses down to 25%, according to Pimentel.

“How many occupations are out there that are male dominated? If you don’t have males that are educated then it’s going to be even harder to fill those jobs. So it affects the regional economy over time,” Pimentel said.

Another priority are the economic problems facing students, one being food insecurity. About 2,000 students visited the Ram Pantry during the first week of the semester.

“Our institution is an educational institution and we want to keep it that way, but we do need to partner better with community organizations so that they could come and serve our students,” he said. “Without addressing the major barriers that we have on campus, we won’t have the graduation rates that we need.”

Housing insecurity is another issue, and the Housing Opportunities Promote Education (HOPE) program’s goal is to provide affordable housing to students who qualify for it. At a recent Academic Senate meeting, a plan to have new apartments built near Golden State and McKinley was mentioned.

“We’re trying to get 40 apartments there so that we could help some of our housing insecure students go into housing,” Pimentel said. “The district is also doing some research on what the needs are so that we could work with other builders to try to see if we could partner with somebody to build additional housing.”

Another of those economic issues is transportation. FAX bus passes were a part of Associated Student Body ID cards through the fall 2020 semester, and the district is working with city officials to bring those back.

“I don’t know how soon that will happen or if it will happen, because we have to negotiate prices with them,” Pimentel said. “There’s been two or three conversations with the director of transportation at the city of Fresno, so we are working on it.”

What Pimentel wants the campus community to know is he’s “here for students, and I’m going to do whatever is in my power to make sure that our students are successful here,” and wants to “make sure that we keep that North Star flashing black, because we want to make sure that we don’t leave behind any of our students.”