Just who is Dr. Sunita V. Cooke?

Xavier Green

Xavier Green

GROSSMONT COLLEGE– She was born in Lucknow, India, and her family moved to the United States when she was five years old. At that time, the Indian government had a policy that allowed people leaving the country to take only $8 per person. So her family of five landed in New York City with $40 to their name.

Verghese family members came with one suitcase each and over the years due to the opportunity afforded to them, all three children in the family were able to fully participate in education and become productive, American citizens. truly living the American dream!

Grossmont's Sunny Cooke

In recalling her life story, Dr. Sunita Cooke, president of Grossmont College, continued:

“My formative years were spent in rural Pennsylvania. I spent 7th through 12th grades in a community that had not been exposed to those from other countries or backgrounds. Growing up in that environment helped me appreciate the ‘aloneness’ that exists when you feel like you are ‘different’ or don’t belong. That drove me to excel in school and in other ways to overcome that feeling of being an outsider. It was a great motivator.”

As a result of that exposure, Dr. Cooke said she developed a greater appreciation and understanding of diversity, different perspectives and backgrounds.

“I fundamentally think that diverse backgrounds and perspectives add a richness and depth to our discussions and decision-making,” she said. “Exposure to different belief systems broadens us as individuals, as organizations and as a culture.”

She added “I am also very proud of the fact that during these difficult budget times, our college continues to invest in cultural and artistic programming from around the world to broaden the experience
of our students as we help them develop into enlightened leaders and global citizens. This is a very important part of the college’s mission.”

Cooke said that wrestling college budget problems has been her greatest challenge in the three years she has been at Grossmont.

“We have to make the best choices we can with our limited resources and ensure the most impact for our students and our community,” she said.
“We do that by developing good plans, ensuring inclusive and collaborative dialogue about decision making and then implementing and assessing our plans to see where we can do even better.”

Asked in an email interview what she considered to be her major accomplishments, she responded:

“Everything we have accomplished as a college, we have done together and the credit goes to many, many people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make it happen and make it look fabulous!” She cited such highlights as the construction of the “fabulous” new Health and Science complex;  being named in a Union-Tribune poll as San Diego’s Best Local College/University; and the planning of Grossmont College’s 50th anniversary which will take place the 2011-2012 semester.

Of Grossmont, she enthused: “It is an awesome college known for its exceptional faculty and staff and its focus on academic rigor and excellence.

“Every day I am told by someone in our community about what a difference this college made in his/her life. You can’t beat that. When I’m out in the community singing the praises of our college, someone often tells a better, more personal story than I can and that’s priceless!”

On a more personal note, the college president confided that she loves “to spend time with my family and dog outdoors. “We like to hike, run, swim, bike, ski, travel, etcetera. I love to cook for other people, read and I do a bit of knitting.”

Green is a student in Media Comm 132