Distinguished Service Award
’92 (Communication Studies), MA ’95 (Intercultural Communication and Public Policy)
President, Cañada College, San Mateo County Community College District
By Cynthia Hubert
From their “college on the hill” in Redwood City, Jamillah Moore’s students can glimpse Stanford University, a shining symbol of opportunity.
Moore is president of Cañada College, a public community college in the heart of Silicon Valley that serves students seeking to build better futures for themselves and their families.
“We are three freeway exits up from Stanford,” Moore said. “It’s a wonderful backdrop for our students. We transform lives here.”
Moore, who holds two degrees from Sacramento State, is the recipient of a Distinguished Service Award from the University’s Alumni Association.
“Sac State prepared me for life. I had so many mentors. I learned how to be a good student, a good citizen and most importantly a good human being.”
A native Californian, Moore grew up in “a family of strong women” led by her mother, Velma Lee Moore, a nurse who raised six girls on her own.
“Everything I do I dedicate to my mom,” said Moore, who also holds a doctorate in International and Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco. “We didn’t grow up with a lot, but her support and her tough love taught me to navigate that reality and to deal with whatever life brought my way.”
Moore, the first in her immediate family to attend college, lived on campus at Sac State and worked as a resident assistant. She took advantage of resources for underserved students, including the Educational Opportunity Program. She learned how to manage her time, studies and finances.
“Sac State prepared me for life,” she said. “I had so many mentors. I learned how to be a good student, a good citizen and most importantly a good human being.”
Moore originally dreamed of being a television journalist, but veered from that path after an internship at the State Capitol and later as a member of the California Senate Fellows program. She boarded a bus each day from Sac State to the statehouse, where she met power brokers and saw public policymakers working together to serve their constituents.
She later worked as a legislative staffer and consultant to the Senate Select Committee on Higher Education Admissions and Outreach, writing policy and advocating for students.
During her time at the Capitol, Moore became known for her skills in tackling difficult issues within education, and for her passion and commitment to students.
Soon, the California Community Colleges system recruited her for a vice chancellor position. Later, when Compton College faced an accreditation crisis, Moore’s name again surfaced. She became the school’s interim superintendent president, helping it through financial difficulties.
Moore served in a variety of other leadership positions within the community college system before becoming Cañada’s leader four years ago.
One of her tasks has been to implement its facilities master plan, which allowed the college to open a new Science and Technology building. Another point of pride is the college’s Working Adults Program, through which older students can obtain their associate degrees.
Moore co-chairs a Basic Needs Task Force for the San Mateo County Community College District and volunteers weekly at a drive-through local food bank, where she distributes boxes of goods to hungry people, some of them Cañada College students.
“I never imagined that we would see a time when students are sleeping in cars and don’t have enough food,” she said. “But it’s a reality.”
Moore’s upbringing and her experience at Sac State, both as a graduate and as an adjunct professor, taught her that “you should always give back.”
“My leadership is grounded in the belief that, as educators, we must engage our whole selves to bring about transformational teaching and learning opportunities for students,” she said. “I have worked to honor that which my ancestors have taught me: build community, build authentic connections, and build capacity in people to love and fight for justice.
“It was the CSU system that prepared me for college, to do research, and later to teach,” said Moore. “My experience at Sacramento State made me fall in love with the CSU.”
Each year since 1972, the Sacramento State Alumni Association has honored accomplished alumni and friends of the University with the Distinguished Alumni Awards (DAA). This year’s honorees were recognized during a virtual ceremony on Oct. 15. For more information, visit the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Awards page.