On a bright and sunny morning, more than 400 community members, staff, faculty and students gathered at the MiraCosta College Concert Hall for the inauguration of Dr. Sunita “Sunny” Cooke, MiraCosta College’s 6th permanent superintendent/president.
No person shone brighter that day than Dr. Cooke herself, who was accompanied by her husband of 29 years, Paul; their son, Dillon; and her sister, Vinita.
During her inaugural address, Dr. Cooke told how her family emigrated from Lucknow, India, to Dallas, Texas, in 1968 with only $40 in their pockets.
Turns out, her parents believed in a different life path than what India’s established caste system could offer.
“My parents believed all humans have certain basic rights and need things to thrive. Among those things are opportunity and hope. They looked at the United States as a country that provides for everyone and has the best education system in the world.”
Dr. Cooke eventually earned her doctorate in biology at Georgetown University and completed a postdoctoral training program in the molecular aspects of cell adhesion and metastasis at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Both her brother and sister also earned college degrees and have gone on to have fulfilling professional careers.
Dr. Cooke has more than 25 years of teaching and administrative experience, including as a biology professor; director of a biotechnology institute; dean of sciences, health and wellness; associate vice chancellor for workforce development; and president of Grossmont College, where she worked prior to joining MiraCosta College. In the summer, she continues to teach in the community college leadership doctoral program at San Diego State University.
Due to her personal, professional and exemplary educational experience, the Indian Government and the US State Department asked Dr. Cooke to be part of a delegation to introduce and implement the community college concept in India.
“It’s an amazing thing when your life’s experiences, all that you believe in and value, completely align with your life’s calling, and you have that remarkable opportunity to do what you were called to this earth to do, each and every single day,” said Dr. Cooke.
Recently, California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris appointed Dr. Cooke to head the 24-member Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation and a Strong Economy. Dr. Cooke and her team are charged with developing policies to prepare more students for existing high-value jobs and promoting job creation with workforce training in California.
“It is an honor working with the very knowledgeable members of the workforce task force, who represent our California community colleges, industry-based organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, workforce investment boards, and other community organizations to consider input from the field and make recommendations to improve our workforce training system,” said Dr. Cooke.
Though it has only been a few months since Dr. Cooke was appointed by the college district’s board of trustees as the new superintendent/president, her vision and effectiveness as a leader already shines through as MiraCosta College continues to build on its 80-year tradition of excellence.
"The board is very excited about working with Dr. Sunny Cooke and look forward to a long and prosperous relationship,” said Jeanne Shannon, Board of Trustees president. “Plus, she has the perfect name as she is like a ray of sunshine!"
To view the photos from the inauguration, please visit the official MiraCosta College Flickr album or watch the video of the entire event via our YouTube page.
Read Dr. Cooke's biography by visiting the MiraCosta College website.