The most important role of a community college, or any college, is preparing students for success in their careers and post-college lives.
This requires a coordinated effort by every member of the faculty and staff, and Earic Peters is the man who oversees and organizes those efforts.
As the vice president of student services, Peters plays an integral role in ensuring the programs and events at Pierce College are effective in helping students achieve success in their time on campus and beyond. The experiences he has from his youth, his own time in community college and as the associate dean of students at Occidental College have shaped his approach to student involvement and education.
“When I was in junior high school and in high school, I lived in South L.A., and I was bussed from South L.A. to junior high school,” Peters said. “I was picked up early in the morning, and took the bus all the way to Brentwood.”
Peters said that despite that lengthy commute, the junior high in Brentwood, and later the high school in Pacific Palisades, gave him a better opportunity for success later on, and taught him to be self-sufficient.
You never know what students’ stories are when they first walk up to the counter. You don’t know the story behind the student.”
“There is a benefit to going to schools out in those areas,” he said. “It was very beneficial for me to do that and see a different aspect of resources.”
His mother was often at work during the early morning hours, so it was important that he was able to handle his daily routine fairly independently.
“My mother worked graveyard shift, two jobs. She was a janitor. A union leader also, in that teamster’s union back then. She worked as a janitor and she cleaned houses on the side,” he said. “And so oftentimes I had to get myself up, get myself dressed, and at that time she was typically walking in the door from the graveyard shift as I’m getting ready to leave.”
After high school, Peters attended community college and said he can identify with students who want to further themselves with a college education, but may be unsure what they want to focus their lives on.
“I went to Santa Monica Community College. I went there for two years, and I transferred over to Azusa Pacific University. And I always tell the story, I say I changed my major five times, like many other students who don’t know exactly what you want to major in, have no clue,” Peters said. “And luckily and fortunately, I didn’t mess up too bad.”
Peters is a strong believer in the idea that community college is a place where students can turn their lives around, no matter what they’ve been through.
“I think we all have challenges in our lives so there’s nothing different in my story than any other story of every student that walks in, like I told my staff in [admissions and records] when I met with them,” he said. “I said you never know what students’ stories are when they first walk up to the counter. You don’t know the story behind that student. You don’t know if they’re a survivor of domestic violence, you don’t know if they’re a survivor of sexual assault, you don’t know if they’re a refugee, you don’t know anything about their lives or their stories.”
Peters played basketball in high school and college, and said that throughout his life he has found that student athletics can provide a supportive community for those who may need a sense of belonging.
“[Basketball] helped me transition on and get my degree, and transfer and graduate. It was really a vital part of who I am, and the lessons it taught me to be successful,” Peters said. “I think the other part was it allowed me to create a support group of athletes who were very successful academically. And to watch and then model that example of being a scholar athlete.”
Peters said that if students balance academics and athletics, the combination can have a positive impact on their educations and futures, and can turn students into role models in the process.
“I think sometimes we forget that we have athletes here that are both exceptional on the court and in the classroom,” he said. “And we need to be able to help them model that behavior for other athletes.”
His role as head of student services sees him working hand-in-hand with faculty members to organize events and improve student involvement. Crystal Kiekel, director of the Center for Academic Success, said he’s played an integral role in several events her department championed, including a Tutor Expo held at Pierce.
“We had a conference for tutors, by tutors,” Kiekel said. “And we had tutors from really all over Southern California coming together to discuss tutoring techniques, learning about tutoring strategies and just sharing their strengths. And he was a particularly positive advocate for that project here on campus. He helped get through a lot of the administrative processes that can get fairly cumbersome. And without his intervention and his assistance that might not have happened.”
Kiekel said that his position at the junction between the administration and faculty has made many of the campus’ events possible.
“There are a lot of things that might not have happened around here if he was not there to help us get through some of the administrative processes and lend his support and explain what’s going on with these projects to the president. He’s our conduit to senior staff,” she said. “He’s just been a wonderful advocate in that way.”
According to Kiekel, an event last week intended to raise a discussion about cultural responsiveness and involvement had been organized, but did not have a speaker. Peters reached out to a person he knows and made all the arrangements for them to come to the event and speak on the issue.
“He was absolutely instrumental in putting that together,” Kiekel said.
Peters was also a key figure in the success of the May 1 Town Hall event, organized by associate professor of political science Denise Robb.
“I’ve been working with Earic on the Town Hall. He’s the reason it got greenlighted,” Robb said. “He really took it and ran with it.”
Robb and Peters met every two weeks in the months leading up to the event, and she said his enthusiasm and involvement were critical in its success.
“He gets excited about the campus and the students’ success. That just doesn’t happen very often, and I can relate to that,” Robb said. “He’s got that energy.”
Robb’s words were echoed by Kiekel, who said Peters’ personality is a huge part of his effectiveness as a leader in student success.
“He’s just a really, really, really pleasant person to work with. Well informed in the areas of student success. Great vision, but also just a really gregarious, welcoming person, which is really nice,” Kiekel said. “It’s a great quality for anybody to have, and it’s a wonderful quality for an administrator to have.”
UPDATE: “Earic Peters” should be written as “Earic Dixon-Peters.”