New president Melanie Dixon excited to lead the ARC community

Dixon’s theme as president is “hope, healing and handling business”


Matthew Battershell

New American River College President Melanie Dixon inherited the position during a difficult time, but says she is excited to get started, and ready to bring the college community back together soon. (Photo courtesy of Melanie Dixon)

Heather Amberson, Managing Editor

On Jan. 1, Melanie Dixon began her role as the new President of American River College. Dixon inherited the position during a difficult time, as the world was dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Even though she took over during a pandemic, Dixon says she is excited to be the college’s new president. 

During the Zoom interview, when asked if there is anything that she’s looking forward to, Dixon smiled and said she was looking forward to being able to join the family and connect with everyone. 

“The first thing and foremost thing that I’m excited about is people coming back together. Students, staff, faculty coming back together, me having the opportunity to blend with the family,” Dixon said. “I’ve been in this remote space, kind of an abstraction, and now I get to bond with people and develop what I hope are really strong relationships with our students and faculty. That is the thing that keeps me going every day through some of this tough stuff.” 

Dixon said that she has a theme that she has for her first semester and beyond as president. 

“Kind of a theme that we had when I came in as a part of spring convocation was this notion of hope, healing and handling business,” Dixon said. 

Initially, Dixon’s main goal was to listen and understand people. 

“My goal for this semester was to listen and learn where we are, understand the sense of pain, frustration, anxiety and sometimes anger about where we are and how fast we are moving to a reopening, and just the environment, the sense of isolation,” Dixon said. 

Dixon said at that same time, there were real things happening with the continued implementation of the online learning environment. 

“Home bases are now a part of our colleges and that was being implemented in the online environment. Services were being moved from on-ground to the online environment,” Dixon said. “And then of course our faculty that have worked incredibly hard to put classes online that traditionally haven’t been there.”

Dixon says these things, along with a few others, were her focus.

“Supporting those processes where I can and creating spaces and resources where I have the ability to do that as well, so that was really my focus,” Dixon said. “No drastic transformational change, things that were already in the works when I arrived, really trying to nurture those and see those through, to remove some of the pressure on employees and of course our students.” 

Dixon said that it was challenging to take a leadership role during the pandemic, especially since she is a first-time president, but she also says that knew what she was getting into. 

“Part of my reason for applying for this position is because I felt like I have compassion, I have the ability to be a good listener, I have the ability to be action-oriented and secure resources,” Dixon said. “Those are the things that colleges and students need right now as we deal with what’s on our plate, but also as we come out of this because it is going to take a little time to get back to whatever, air quotes, normal is.” 

Scott Crow, ARC’s communications and public information officer, sees some of those same qualities in Dixon. 

“She is the perfect leader for the college during a challenging time, someone who has not only incredible background and expertise but also boundless energy,” Crow said in an email to the Current. “She brings a deep sense of compassion, empathy and understanding to all her work and it is powerful to see. You can’t help but be encouraged and inspired by her.” 

One of the biggest things that Dixon has been a part of so far has been the decision to make the fall semester be in a hybrid format. 

“The most critical rationale for that is that we have a schedule to post. Our students have an expectation of when that schedule is going to be posted, and financial aid, their work schedules that they have on-campus or off-campus, are reliant on what that schedule will look like,” Dixon said. “Because life happens around our students’ school schedules. And equally important is our employees, ‘what is my schedule going to be’ and ‘what is my life going to look like.’” 

Dixon said that being able to answer some of the questions and bring a sense of predictability and normalcy was important. 

Dixon also said that the scheduled date was the driving force to make complex decisions in a short amount of time in order to not impact students. 

Something that Dixon is excited about is the development of the student design team that will be able to help elevate the students’ voice along with the leadership position students. Dixon says that the design team is a rich group of students with different backgrounds. 

Dixon says she can’t wait to get back to campus. 

“It’s going to be a glorious time and I can’t wait to make it a party and a celebration to bring our campus back,” Dixon said. “Bring us back strong and connected and supportive in ways that maybe we weren’t before, we’ll find out. You all will be able to tell me that, as the newbie on the block.”