Superintendent/President, Gavilan College
A Success Story from PFC to DBA
Steve Kinsella, a former Marine and a long-time CPA and auditor, has taken a unique path to his current position as president of Gavilan College, but he wouldn't have it any other way. He entered the Marine Corps directly out of high school; college was never even a consideration. Based on testing conducted during boot camp, he was routed to a bookkeeping Military Occupational Specialty. According to Steve, it made sense, considering that during high school he had excelled in bookkeeping courses and he enjoyed the work. That fateful decision would become the foundation of a long academic and professional career connecting the fields of accounting and auditing.
After boot camp, Steve went to accounting school to prepare for his assignment and earned his first three units of college credit. Upon being stationed in Hawaii, he began taking classes to earn a college degree, eventually studying at Hawaii Pacific University, where he earned his B.A. As will happen with military personnel, Steve bounced around quite a bit after Hawaii, but made one important stop in Quantico, Virginia, where he earned his MBA and sought out an opportunity to become an instructor at a local community college.
Eventually, Steve and his family settled at Camp Pendleton, where Steve was able to prepare and sit for the CPA exam and licensure in California. While waiting for approval by the board, questions about how his military career would translate to the CPA license prompted him to resign his rank after thirteen years of service to pursue opportunities as a civilian. Steve knew that it was time for him to move on to other experiences. Nonetheless he continued his connection to the Marine Corps as a reservist.
While in the Marine Corps Reserves Steve was assigned a new MOS. After serving for ten years as an auditor, he became a combat engineer in a bulk-fuel unit where he readily admits his expertise was limited, but his leadership skills helped him identify those in his unit who were experts. The bulk-fuel unit was essentially the gas station for advance troops in remote areas. As things began to heat up for the first Gulf War in 1990, Steve and his unit were pulled from reserve status to active duty and deployed in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for five months. As commander for his unit, he spent six months of active duty in a role that was more in line with the Marine Corps career he‘d imagined as a youth.
When he returned to the quiet life in Southern California, he heard that the Los Angeles Community College District was looking for an auditor. Steve was ready to make the transition.
After years of serving as the Los Angeles Community College district‘s auditor and making recommendations for improvements, Steve knew his next step would be to go to a position at a community college where he could both recommend and implement his ideas. He became the chief business officer at Gavilan Community College, serving as the dean of business services from July 1996 to January 1999. The move to Morgan Hill put him within driving distance of the one doctoral program that he sought. In the summer of 1999, Steve enrolled as a DBA student at Golden Gate University.
Dr. Kinsella continued his relationship with GGU as an instructor of fund accounting and of governmental and nonprofit accounting from 2000 to 2006. More recently, he has served as a member of the GGU Board of Trustees since December 2009.
In the midst of his academic pursuits and teaching duties, Steve went on to even greater responsibilities as the vice president for business services at Monterey Peninsula College, and vice chancellor for business services for the West Valley-Mission Community College District. In January 2003, the trustees of Gavilan College selected Steve as the president knowing that tough times were ahead for the state and the community college system.
For Steve it was a natural fit to pick up the reins of leadership for the campus. As he explains, the board made a significant commitment to a conservative and responsible resource-management plan during the positive years of the late 1990s. As the dean for business services, Steve had led in developing the fiscal policies that would help guide Gavilan through potential lean years. It is never easy to develop a culture of fiscal management when things are good, but Steve‘s leadership set into motion a set of guidelines that have enabled the college to survive some of the significant challenges facing other community colleges in the Bay Area.
In addition to his responsibilities at Gavilan and GGU, Dr. Kinsella has also been appointed to a three-year term for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. This key role in the region puts him front and center in the conversation about the challenges faced by today‘s community colleges.
Dr. Steve Kinsella is a tribute to Golden Gate University‘s mission and the success of its alumni. He is a leader in the best sense of the word: a man who has excelled academically and professionally from his earliest days as a Marine Corps private first class. His vision for a successful community college in a time of turmoil and restricted resources has changed the role of Gavilan College in southern Santa Clara and San Benito counties. His confidence and bearing reflect his years of training as a Marine. His smile and warmth, as he speaks about the students of Gavilan College, point to his commitment as an educator and administrator.