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Protecting Your Light with Dr. Mike Muñoz

Josie and the Podcast graphic for Mike Munoz's podcast episode titled Protecting Your Light.

A common theme I noticed throughout todays conversation with Mike Muñoz was a focus on breathing. Whether it was metaphorically taking a breather from doom scrolling, or literally stopping yourself for a quiet moment to feel your chest move up and down. Mike’s commitment to self preservation, his warm persona and dedication to his campus are a driving force behind his work. 

Dr. Mike Muñoz, Superintendent and President of Long Beach City College (LBCC), is a nationally recognized leader, passionate about closing the equity gap, creating inclusive environments, and driving innovation.

He joined me this episode to chat about the innovative strategies he is implementing at LBCC to foster a sense of belonging and support for students, and the role of social media in enhancing accessibility and engagement. Mike discusses on campus initiatives like ‘Paletas with the President,’ designed to connect with students while honoring his ethnicity, and his approach to addressing challenges faced by specific groups, such as students with dependents and those experiencing homelessness. 

He also emphasizes the importance of empathy, authenticity, and self-care in leadership, and highlights how sharing these values through social media can serve as a powerful platform for uplifting and connecting communities. 

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Josie and the Podcast is produced in partnership with University FM, a podcast agency dedicated to higher education. University FM works with leading colleges and universities to tell stories on campus that build branding, drive engagement, and connect communities. Reach out to team@university.fm to connect on podcast strategy, production, and growth. We look forward to talking with you!

Element451 is a proud sponsor of Josie and the Podcast. Element451 is an AI-powered, all-in-one student engagement platform, helping institutions create meaningful, personalized, and engaging interactions with students. Our platform harnesses the power of Artificial Intelligence to seamlessly tailor content for each individual, bridging the gap between broad outreach and personal touchpoints. Fueled by intelligent automation and deep data insights, teams are free to focus on what matters most — building real connections with students. Learn more at Element451.com. 

Notes from this Episode:

More About Dr. Mike Muñoz

As the Superintendent-President Dr. Mike Muñoz is the chief executive officer of the district and oversees the Long Beach City College (LBCC) administration. Nationally recognized as a transformational leader, Dr. Muñoz led LBCC since March 4, 2021. He is an expert in closing racial equity gaps for students of color, creating inclusive campus cultures for LGBTQIA+ students, and efficiently executing innovative change that makes LBCC a destination college for students from all backgrounds.

A first-generation college student, Dr. Muñoz is a product of the California Community College system, attending East Los Angeles College and Fullerton College before transferring to the University of California, Irvine, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Social Behavior. He received Master of Arts degree in Counseling and his Doctorate of Education with a specialization in Community College Leadership, from California State University, Long Beach. While attending college, he experienced both food and housing insecurity — all while caring for his daughter as a single father.

Dr. Muñoz has extensive experience teaching both at the undergraduate and graduate levels in counseling and higher education. He has taught master’s level courses at California State University, Long Beach, and USC, and doctoral level courses at California State University, Los Angeles. He’s currently serving as an Adjunct Professor of Higher Education at the USC Rossier School of Education teaching a leadership course focused on Community Colleges. Dr. Muñoz was recognized as an Outstanding Faculty Member in 2019 by USC’s Rossier Student Organization, and the 2018 Dr. Cynthia S. Johnson Award from CSULB for his contributions to higher education through exceptional student mentoring.

Connect with Dr. Mike Muñoz

[00:00:00] Josie: Josie and the Podcast is produced by the amazing team at University FM. They are the higher ed podcast agency, helping communicators build community, share research, and inspire discussion with stories that resonate.

Do you have a podcast idea? Or, stuck on how to pull it off and out into the world? They can get you moving in the right direction with strategy, production, and promotion. Start podcasting with ease. You can reach them for advice at university.fm. That link is in the show notes.

Hello, and welcome to Josie and the Podcast. What does it mean to lead in the digital space with heart and humanity? On my podcast, Josie and the Podcast, I spend time answering this question with heart, soul, and lots of substance. My goal is to share conversations that encourage you, empower you, and entertain you to rethink digital strategy for yourself and the organizations you support.

All right, let’s get to know today’s featured guest. Dr. Mike Muñoz, Superintendent and President of Long Beach City College, is a nationally recognized leader, passionate about closing the equity gap, creating inclusive environments, and driving innovation. A first-generation college student who faced food and housing insecurities as a single father, his journey fuels his dedication to supporting students from all backgrounds.

Prior to his leadership role at LBCC, he built a strong foundation in education, teaching at various universities and earning his doctorate in community college leadership. This leader’s whole heart is as big as his impact. This episode has all kinds of goodies with warmth, wisdom, and a double dose of authenticity.

You can follow us both on all the socials found in the show notes. The pod is on X, Threads, and Instagram. I’m @JosieAhlquist and Mike is @drmikemunoz on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Everything we talk about, resources, people, and posts is found on my website, josieahlquist.com/podcast. Enjoy!

Mike, welcome to Josie and the Podcast. I’m so excited for this conversation today.

[00:02:57] Mike: I’m really excited to be here and have the conversation.

[00:02:59] Josie: So, to get to know you, we’re going to dig into one of your bios on Instagram. And your bio says, “Superintendent-President at @lbcitycollege. Follow me on my leadership journey and learn about all the great things happening @lbcitycollege.” So, give us just a little bit more insight about all that goodness.

[00:03:22] Mike: Awesome. So, like many of us, I had, you know, a personal Instagram page. And when I became superintendent-president, I had to start to think about what my social media footprint would look like. And so, I actually decided to create a Dr. Mike Muñoz page. And then, you know, that was literally my first intro to my campus and, you know, my colleagues as the new superintendent president.

And so, that’s where I, kind of, landed. I didn’t want it to be too clunky, you know, just something very to the point, that this is really about my leadership journey and sharing that journey with others and promoting what I think is the best community college in the nation, Long Beach City College. And so, that’s, kind of, where my focus was when I launched the page.

[00:04:04] Josie: And you definitely have been documenting the journey with such vibrancy and your own spunk and getting to see your team, too. I feel like I know everything that y’all are up to between Instagram and LinkedIn. And we’ll dig into that in a minute.

To, kind of, visualize that, what is a recent post that you have shared on any platform? And tell us why you put it out there.

[00:04:31] Mike: I try to do one to two posts a week. So, that’s a personal kind of goal for myself. But I’m actually going to go back to a post that I really love towards the start of the fall semester. We implemented something called Paletas with the President. And it was the first week of the fall semester. It was warm. And, you know, we’ve really been talking about mattering and belonging at Long Beach City College and what that looks like for our students. And not just for students, but our faculty, staff, and administrators as well, because I think they’re an important part of this discussion.

And so, you know, myself and my executive team, we decided to block ourselves out for the first two days of the semester. And we went out and handed out paletas, which if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s, kind of, like, a Mexican popsicle, for lack of a better term. And, you know, it was amazing.

And so, we did a reel on Instagram, kind of, highlighting the experience of me interacting with students. And there was music. It was very upbeat. I got so much positive feedback from just the activity from students, but also from the community in terms of how… what I loved about it is I think it humanized us as an administrative team by putting ourselves out there with students and connecting with them, listening to them and understanding what their first week experience was like. But I also felt like I got to do it in a really authentic way, right. Like, I got to bring my own culture and flair. You know, I grew up eating paletas as a kid. I think it was one of my prouder posts.

[00:05:58] Josie: I love that and how personalized it was. And it also wasn’t a big pop and circumstance, either. It doesn’t need to be this big production. Like, you’re literally handing out popsicles and having meaningful conversations, that goes back to your goals of mattering and belonging. Love that.

Let’s talk about your early tech experiences. What was your first memory using any kind of technology?

[00:06:27] Mike: Oh, wow. Early memory of technology would probably be my Nintendo. And it was just like not a Nintendo 60. I mean, I’m of the generation when the Nintendo first came out, the first one, you know. So, Mike Tyson Punch Out and Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt, that was, kind of, the technology that I, I lived on, being a kid in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s during that transition. And so, I would say Nintendo was probably my first real techie. Although, I thought it was super advanced, I had a Teddy Ruxpin. And you’d put the tape in it, you’d lift the back. His back shirt would open up and you’d put the tape cassette in. And his eyes would move and his mouth would move, and he’d be talking along with the tape. And I thought that was, like, super advanced.

[00:07:17] Josie: Yeah, you are a lucky kid if you got one of those at my school. So, I would have been wanting to go to your house.

Around this time, as you think about influencers today, obviously, like, on Instagram or whatever, but what would have been a form of who was influencing you in your life around that time?

[00:07:38] Mike: My influencers, I think definitely one was my older brother. He was a DJ. And he was about eight years older than me.  And he had all the record crates. And, you know, as a DJ equipment, I used to beg to go out with him and I would carry his… they were like records in a milk crate. And I would, kind of, take them to places. And so, that was, you know, back when people still had vinyl records and you’re mixing and all of that stuff. So that was a huge influence for me.

I think in, like, equivalent to, like, a modern-day social media influencer, I would say Madonna was huge for me as a kid. I was obsessed with Madonna as a little boy, and I think that was obviously foreshadowing. But I was… I loved Madonna as a kid, and I thought she was so cool. And just how she, kind of, you know, she had her Pepsi commercial scandal and how she, kind of, did all these, you know, she was always at the forefront of using, like, media and marketing to, kind of, promote herself. And I always thought that was really, you know, as a young kid, I remember looking up to her. So, I would say, you know, on a micro level, my older brother had a lot of influence. And, kind of, on a societal macro level, I’d say, like, Madonna was one of those stars that, you know, had a lot of influence on me.

[00:08:44] Josie: Yeah. We weren’t allowed to watch MTV when we were little, but whenever we then could, like, some of Madonna’s videos just, like, captivated me.

[00:08:54] Mike: Well, I wasn’t allowed to, either. There was contraband in my house.

[00:08:57] Josie: Yeah, yeah.

[00:08:58] Mike: We weren’t allowed to watch. I grew up in a really religious household. So, Madonna was like the devil in my house. I wasn’t supposed to be a consumer of her art, but of course I always found ways-

[00:09:09] Josie: She found you.

[00:09:09] Mike: … to go around them. I was a rule-breaker from a very young age, so.

[00:09:14] Josie: Wow, you’re, you’re a pioneer. You’re influencing today. Let’s fast-forward to today, in the ways you approach authentically campus engagement, whether that’s being out on the quad to being on Instagram, so front-and-center–ready to connect with your community. You mentioned you’ve got some superpowers of a variety of different identities. If you want to talk about some of those and how that shows up and how you’ve chosen to be as a superintendent and president. And then we can get into how that works online, too.

[00:09:53] Mike: So, I think, for me, I very much lean into my identities and the intersection of my identities. They’re at the forefront of who I am. I don’t try to hide them. I think, you know, many of us, as we move through academia and higher education experience, and then eventually for those that chose careers in higher education, I think there was times where we probably felt that we had to hide parts of ourselves to feel like we could fit in. And I always resented that. I’m not good at faking it.

And so, it was always really important that I always said, like, if I’m going to work at an organization or if I’m going to take on a role, I need to be able to be my full self. And it doesn’t mean that I’m not professional or that I don’t find balance in, in different things, but at the same time, I need to be authentically me.

I’m very upfront with my identities. I’m Latino. I’m first-generation college. I’m queer. I’m a single father. And so, these are, like, the most salient parts of me. I mean, obviously, there’s, you know, I have gender and there’s other socially constructed identities that I belong to. But for me, those are the ones that I think are most salient and that intersect the most and shape who I am as a leader and how I want to lead.

And so, I make sure that I allow all my identities to show up. And so, when I think about how I want to show up, I’m not secretive of who I am and my experiences. I talk about how being Latino, first generation, really impacts the way I want to serve students. You know, these conversations around mattering and belonging, you know, I talk a lot about, when I was a single parent, I didn’t feel like I fit in because I was trying to raise a child and balance that with school or being queer or being gay, that, you know, I didn’t always feel like I could reveal who I was fully to people for fear that they would withdraw their love and support of me.

And so, when you, kind of, think of the complexities of our identities, sometimes what we carry with us into these spaces, you know, I think it’s really important, like I said, to be able to be your authentic self, because when you show up as your authentic self, it gives others permission to do the same. And that’s really what I’ve learned, is that it’s not really even about me; in the sense, it’s really about allowing your light to shine in a way that also encourages others to let their lights shine and feel empowered to do so.

[00:12:00] Josie: So, what does that look like behind the screen, whether if it’s doing this supportive student engagement work on campus, or I would not be surprised if you’re a mentor, probably, to many people that want to be a president? It sounds so simple when you say it.

[00:12:19] Mike: I think a lot of it starts with just starting with a deep breath.

[00:12:23] Josie: Mm-hmm.

[00:12:24] Mike: Oftentimes, I think, as human beings, we spend way too much time in our head and we overthink things. And what I have learned is I try not to overthink things. It was funny. So, I’m going to go off… not that I’m on script or anything, but I’m going to share with you. You know, I was prepping for today’s conversation, and my assistant and I, you know, she was going over some of the questions with me, the media influencer question.

And then I said, “Madonna.” That was, like, my first instinct, right? And she’s like, “Oh, you’re really going to say that?” And I was like, “Yeah, it’s the truth.” Like, she had a huge influence on me as a kid. She had people of color in her video. She was, like, one of the few artists that was inclusive. You know, she was very much an advocate for the LGBTQ community early on. And I knew, even though I wasn’t vocal about it, I knew internally I was gay, right? So, like, for me, she meant a lot. But yet, that might not be the right answer, right, to say something like that in a podcast as the president of this college. But I’m like, but that’s part of what it means to be authentic, is to not overthink things and to just show up as your authentic self.

And so, that’s what I tell folks, is take a deep breath and just let yourself be. And trying not to be too in your head. And that’s how I think we can show up, all of us, right? If, if everyone just, kind of, takes a deep breath, be focused in the moment, not overthink things and just, kind of, show up as our authentic self, I think we’re all better served that way.

And so, that’s, kind of, for me, what it looks like in its simplest form. In a leadership form, I think what it looks like is, you know, that consciousness about letting my identities be present when I’m making decisions. So, if we’re talking about matters and making policy-level decisions, asking not just how this impacts students, but how would this impact a single mom? How would this impact a queer student? How would this impact an undocumented student? So, really not, like, drilling down and really trying to situate ourselves in different student experiences and understanding that certain communities have very specific unique barriers that they face and not being afraid to talk about those barriers and find ways to support them in a meaningful way on their journey here at LBCC or any institution.

So, that’s, kind of, how I feel like it shows up for me as a leader.

[00:14:31] Josie: That ability to have empathy because you’ve literally walked in those shoes, in addition to how that could scale to all different types of identities and challenges, I think it also allows you to, kind of, have your ears and eyes open. And you have to do that in, in the work of community colleges, exceptionally, but your accessibility, whether you’re handing out popsicles or you’re on different platforms. What has been that value that people actually may not know if they were just to follow you, that you could share, whether if it’s a story or just an insight of putting yourself out there, whether it’s your identity or again, just being on the platforms has allowed you?

[00:15:18] Mike: I think my favorite part of being on these platforms has been making myself accessible to students and community members in ways that otherwise would be almost impossible to reach. And so, I can think of students that have reached out to me and say, “Hey, Dr. Mike, I’ve hit this roadblock in financial aid and I need help.” And I’m like, “Hey, I got you. I don’t even know this student, but I’m like, it’s going to take two weeks to get this problem solved, but I have access to president’s circle funds. I’m going to give you a $500 scholarship to get you through the next couple weeks until your financial aid kicks in.” Like, how else would a student be able to access me that way, right? Like, how otherwise would they be able to do that, you know, because there’s so many layers to get to the president of the college?

And so, I love that people will just direct-message me. There’s community members who will say, “Oh, you know, I feel so inspired. I really want to come back to school. I don’t know how.” I’m like, “Give me your cell phone number. I’ll have our best counselors call you.” And not to say, you know, that we have good counselors and bad counselors. All our counselors are amazing. But I’ll make sure I reach that one counselor that I know that might have more experience working with working adults than high school students, or that one counselor that, that student’s experience been systems impacted. You know, let’s connect you with our systems impacted program counselor.

So, I really try to personalize that the warm handoff, so it’s not just a “go to a website or call this number,” but it’s like, “Someone is going to reach out to you, who I believe would be a good fit to help you on your journey.” And I love being able to do that. It’s, I can’t even describe what it feels like. It’s probably my favorite thing about the job. And what keeps me going is when I can remove a barrier for a student and just clear a path for them—best part of the job.

[00:16:57] Josie: Yeah, that’s such a great example, too, that can happen in your DMs. That’s, literally, mission-driven work. Let’s talk a little bit about social strategy, because I get lots of leaders asking questions. How the heck do you have time? Also, what I love about your content, it’s you in action. We are seeing you on the stage, speaking with students. So, I know you, you have a long wingspan, but you’re not taking those photos. Like, tell us the nuts and bolts of the team around you to make this all happen.

[00:17:33] Mike: So, I am incredibly, incredibly appreciative to have such an amazing marketing and communications team. So, as you mentioned, it’s not just one person. I have a team of folks. So, when they attend something, you know, they’re conscious about getting a little bit of cellphone video footage. It’s easy to work from that type of footage. They’re conscientious about getting some photos. And then, like I said, we made a, kind of, commitment that we try to put out one to two videos a week or posts.

And so, it’s a mix. And this is what I love to share with folks, is there’s so many creative ways to achieve this. So, one of the things I did is, as I mentioned, I have my own personal Dr. Mike Muñoz page that is, you know, my page. But oftentimes, I merge my content with the college’s content as a collaborator on Instagram. And that collaborator feature has been a godsend because what it does is I don’t have to, you know, go and take content from the college and then try to reproduce it on my own page. I can just accept a collaborator request and it lives on both pages.

And so, that’s, really, I think, accelerated. Like, so if you start to look at posts, you see an acceleration of my content. And a lot of that, I think, has been through the collaborator feature.

But I also try not to rely solely on my internal team. So, I will try to do my own individual posts. So, pretty much LinkedIn is my collaborator. One of the things I realized with LinkedIn, and it was interesting, again, I started the LinkedIn around the same time I became president. I might have had the page, but I wasn’t really active on it. That’s where I have the most followers. I have over 7,000 followers on LinkedIn. And I think I only have a little over 1,000 on Instagram. And so, it’s interesting where you, kind of, find, I don’t want to say success, but synergy.

And so, LinkedIn is, kind of, my own content. But I think the collaborator feature has been really important. And then, you know, I just set myself a goal of, you know, one to two posts a week. And what’s crazy about it is, it doesn’t have to be anything. You know, again, I try not to be in my head. And it’s just a real quick, couple words, a couple of hashtags. It’s out of the queue.

And then the other thing that I have found that has worked is I, I initially started with photos. And then it went photos and videos. And now, I’m onto reels. I did my first reel a couple weeks ago on my own, and I’m like, “Okay, this isn’t that hard.” It’s like anything. It’s a practice. It’s the more you practice, the better you get at it.

[00:19:48] Josie: Absolutely, I would agree. And I think I saw a post on LinkedIn of you presenting with one of your team members to other community college leaders about social media. So, related to that, or just overall, what kind of guidance would you give, especially our colleagues at community colleges, whether if it’s their own personal accounts or the accounts for your institution, what you think is the ROI worth their time right now? You’ve mentioned reels. You’ve mentioned video, photos.

[00:20:20] Mike: I’ll start ROI and then I’ll, kind of, zoom out. So, zooming in, I think, again, the accessibility to students. I don’t think I could, maybe with one president of a college I attended, I don’t think I could ever meet many of our friends, right, or our senior leaders.

I walk around my campus and I get stopped by students. They’re like, “Oh, you’re the president. Can I take a selfie with you? Or can I talk to you about my experience.” Like, students actually know who I am, and I think, because of the social media presence that we have. And so, I think that’s the ROI right there.

And it’s not because I want to be known because of my ego or anything like that. It’s, really, I want to be accessible to students in case they need support. And so, I think that’s, really, the first part of the ROI.

I think, also, it allows you to promote your college in a way that I think can be cutting edge. It creates excitement and energy. Like, I think, we’ve seen a direct correlation with our Long Beach City College campaign and increased enrollments. I think we’re the only LA County Community College that has surpassed fall ‘19 enrollments. So, we are above pre-COVID levels in our enrollments. And I think a lot of it has to do with the presence that we have in social media and our videos and whatnot. So, I think there’s a huge ROI right there alone.

And then if you zoom out, kind of, on a macro level, I think it’s an opportunity for the institution to communicate what it values, what it cares about, what’s important to them. I think we live in a time where students want to feel, and people in general, want to feel connected. And it can help you do that.

I know that there’s so much conversation about how negative social media can be and the detriments of social media. And all those things are true when it’s not used for good. But when you use it for good, it can have wonderful impacts. And I think because we’re higher ed, we sit in spaces that it can be leveraged in a positive.

I think the other thing that I would say, and I wasn’t fully prepared to… I wouldn’t say prepared. Well, yeah, I’ll be honest, I don’t think I was really prepared for this, and nor did I anticipate it, was that when you become a senior leader, or you’re a president, or someone in those, kind of, top roles, you oftentimes find people look to you to be, kind of, a comforter. I call it the comforter in chief. Like, when something’s going on in the world or something’s happening on campus or it’s a milestone that you want to celebrate, I’ve noticed that when I acknowledge… So, for example, like, our trans community has experienced a lot of hate crimes and things lately, and so, you know, on Trans Day of Remembrance, I put out a statement in a post. And I had so many people stop me and say how much that meant to them.

And I think, sometimes, leaders are afraid to weigh in on some of these issues, you know, with all the conversations happening right now around DEI and whatnot. Some folks are, like, sitting in spaces of neutrality. But I think we have these platforms, and I think we can use them in a way that uplifts people. And, you know, as long as I’m in the seat, I’m going to try to use it in a way that uplifts people and makes people feel valued, seen, and heard.

[00:23:15] Josie: Values seen and heard, I just got goosebumps. We’ve talked about things, removing barriers, building bridges. And social media is one tool to do that, all in the effort to better support students. And whether if it’s some fun selfie or some big announcement, I’ve seen Long Beach City College come out with so many exciting announcements. But it’s not just for, like, “Oh, look at us.” It’s, like, no, it’s actually doing the work.

So, I wanted to talk about a couple of them because it also correlates back to your, even your identity, though, and wanting to remove barriers. So, your Student Parent Navigators Program, you received a grant to support student parents over two years. Some 2,000 student parents attend LBCC. Also coming from a parent, how did that journey for yourself help influence this program and what’s it been since you got that grant last year?

[00:24:17] Mike: Thank you for that question. So, as I mentioned that, you know, at the top, one of my most salient identities is being a single parent. And I was a parent through my entire college experience, both for undergrad, graduate school, my doctoral program. So, you know, you never really get to take that hat off.

You know, we talk about transfer experience for student parents and transfer shock and all that. Well, that compounds for student parents because they also have to deal with all the challenges of also being a parent. At the same time, we’re trying to balance school, work, and all the other demands.

And so, I think for us, it was really important to think about how we could do a better job of supporting student parents. Because it’s, kind of, I think, an invisible subgroup that oftentimes doesn’t get talked about. And so, we really elevated the student-parent voice on campus. We worked with some researchers from UCLA and USC to do a student-parent study.

When I first arrived at Long Beach City College as a vice president in 2018, I walked the halls of the student services building. And one of the first things I saw was these paper signs throughout the student services building with a stroller and a big bar through it saying, “No children allowed.” And I was, like, horrified. I was like, “What the heck?” And, you know, I took everything you need to not just go run up and start ripping signs off the wall.

But I knew, as a new vice president, that’s not an effective way to engage a campus that you’re just arriving. So, that’s why we started with the research and we had focus groups and surveys with student parents. And then we brought those student voices to the faculty and to the staff, and we had conversations about hearing from our student parents that they weren’t feeling like they were being fully supported. We then started having conversations of what we could do to create a more inclusive campus climate for them and their children.

And so, now, I’m proud to say, you know, we have this peer navigator program for student parents. We’re about to tear down our old student union and build a new student center, and inside the student center is going to be a family center. So, not in some bungalow on the edge of the outskirts of the campus, but in the heart of the campus in our student union, a family center will be included. You know, we’re building family housing in North Long Beach. We have our Boys and Girls Club on campus. So, now, we have free afterschool care from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. every day for our students with dependents.

And so, you know, we really transformed in a really short time what it means to better serve student parents. And it started by honoring their voices and centering our strategies and how they said they wanted to be better served.

[00:26:34] Josie: And a framework to follow, even though I would really want to tear those flyers down, also from a marketing perspective, but have the data, bring that evolution… and I mean, congrats on that future construction as well. Can’t wait to see the outcome.

Okay, another program that I found: safe parking on campus for homeless students. So, Long Beach City College, you also provide air mattresses, hygiene items, and helps them find stable and affordable housing. I’m based in Los Angeles, sister city to Long Beach. I wish I lived in Long Beach. I love it down there.

Tell us about the importance of really not just talking shop about basic needs, but actually how much action is needed, whether if it’s community colleges or our four-year institutions that need to do this kind of work.

[00:27:31] Mike: I appreciate the question. And I think, for me, I would say parking program is really rooted in just being immediately responsive to meeting where our students are at. And I’ve had people say, well, you want students living in their cars? I’m like, absolutely not. Like, that’s not the goal here. But it is a reality for many of our students. And as someone who has slept in their car, it’s scary. It doesn’t feel good. And so, we have an opportunity to open up our campus and then connect students with a safe place to park and then transition them, right? So, that’s the goal, is to get them transitioned into more sustainable forms of housing that allows us to, you know, work on that together with them and create a plan.

And so, we’re really proud of our safe parking program. And, like you said, it’s holistic. It’s not just, “Okay, let’s open up our parking structure, let you park, and then leave.” Like, we’re making sure you have food. We provide you with an air mattress. We help with laundry services.

And so, the idea is that it’s really about treating our students, all of our students, with dignity, the dignity that they deserve. I look at this issue as it’s very complex. It’s about being responsive on different levels. So, we have our safe parking program. Another option we have is the relationships that we have with providers, transitional housing providers, like, Raise the Bar and Showers of Hope and Hovenist and LA Room and Board, you know, so those service providers.

And then the piece that we’re working on is building student housing, affordable student housing. So, through the bold vision of our board of trustees, they’ve reprioritized some of our bond dollars to build affordable housing here on campus. So, we’re going to approximately about 300 beds. And then the North Long Beach project, because as we recognize the 300-bed complex, is really going to be designed in a way, because you’re trying to maximize the number of beds. That it’s not going to be conducive for students with dependents. And so, recognizing there’s an unmet need there, that’s why we’re partnering with the City of Long Beach to put some housing in our North Long Beach project that will have, roughly, about 30 units for students with dependents. 

There’s a lot happening. It’s not just one strategy. It’s not just safe parking and that’s it is safe parking. It’s transitional housing supports. It’s building for the future and having affordable housing options on campus. You know, we’re really looking at it holistically.

[00:29:47] Josie: Josie and the Podcast is also sponsored by Element451. And I want to make sure you know about the Engage Summit hosted by Element451, happening in Raleigh on June 25th and 26th. Session will focus on AI applications that are reshaping student outreach, enhancing staff productivity, and offering deep insights into ROI. This is not your typical conference. It’s a strategic summit where you’ll learn from the best about leveraging AI and digital strategies in higher ed marketing. Imagine two days filled with hands-on sessions, real success stories, and the chance to network with the top minds in the field. You’ll leave with practical, transformative takeaways as you learn how AI fosters a more personalized, effective approach from recruitment to student success.

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So many reasons why I affiliate with my colleagues and initiatives at community colleges because that was my first foray into higher education. But also, you are literally meeting students where they are and sometimes there’s some institution types that are wanting to turn students into who they want them to be.

and. building the lazy river. Well, no, I need a place to sleep tonight. It’s not as pretty on the brochure. but you’re very much doing the hard work, in order to actually get these students in and transform. So, kudos for that.

[00:32:12] Mike: Thank you.

[00:32:13] Josie: Every season I’ve been doing since the pandemic has had a theme. Last season’s was about wellness, which we need to keep talking about forever, especially the humans behind higher ed. But we are also now in this transitional time, where time just kept marching on, but sometimes our bodies, hearts, and minds are playing catch up. And in the midst of all of it, we have changed, and we’re transitioning, and we’re figuring out what that looks like in career and life. And so, I’ve asked guests, what’s your transition that would maybe be a good mile marker to discuss on the show? And for you, you’ve completed your third year as a college president.

[00:32:58] Mike: Yes. I think March 3rd will I’ll hit my three-year anniversary as president here at Long Beach City College.

[00:33:04] Josie: Wow. Well, congratulations.

[00:33:07] Mike: you.

[00:33:08] Josie: What have you learned about yourself? about just the journey and where you’re taking your next steps forward?

[00:33:16] Mike, you know, it’s so interesting. I’ve learned so much about myself in this role. And not to say that, I wasn’t learning in other roles. I really was, but. It’s a very unique role to serve as president. There is no other, pure job description on your campus. And when I first became president, I think the hardest thing was realizing that I couldn’t punt the issues, because they landed on my desk, you know, when you’re a vice president, you’d be, like, or even a dean, or, you know, you could always, kind of, if something was too complicated, you’re, like, well, that’s just somebody else to figure out and solve. And when you’re president, there really is nowhere else to pass that issue on to.

And so, I had to really do a lot of self-reflection and really think about, you know, what, kind of, leader do I want to be? and there’s a couple of things that I’ve learned, I think, first and foremost. be gentle with yourself. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I don’t want to let people down.

I don’t want to let students down. And so, I, had to learn to be more gentle with myself. I was really hard on myself in the very beginning. cause we were also in the middle of a pandemic and I felt the pressure of a pandemic. Not wanting to make any mistakes. And I realized, like, you’re going to make mistakes.

You’re not going to have all the answers. You’re not going to be able to solve every problem in one pass. And so, being gentle with myself was a lesson I learned. I think the other thing I learned also in these three years is don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. And what I mean by that is oftentimes people want the conditions to be perfect before we will act and change or do something differently.

And so, I had to really be okay with, things being a little messy and that’s okay, because it was really about, forward movement, right? And I think that goes back to the theme I said earlier, not spending too much time in my head, I’m a strategic thinker, obviously, and I care deeply and I try to think about things deeply, but also know when it’s time to, kind of, turn that voice off and say, okay, well, we’re going to move forward and we’re going to learn from it.

And if it works, great. And if it doesn’t, we’ll adapt and do better. And so, I think that was something else I learned. And then the other piece I feel, like, I learned apart from those other two themes was. Just, how important it is to care for people as a leader. we all went through some collective trauma coming out of the pandemic.

lot of presidents in the last few years in community colleges have been hired out of student services. So it was interesting when I first started my career over 20 years ago, the traditional path to the presidency in California community colleges was academic affairs.

And then the great recession hit. About 10 years into my career, and then CBOs were, kind of, the it path. And you start seeing a lot of chief business officers hired as presidents. And then the pandemic and the murders of George Floyd and all the, kind of, things that we’ve been seeing in the last few years, more student services folks are stepping into the role.

You know, my counseling skills and, kind of, just centering people in my decisions has really been, I think, a defining piece of my leadership. And what keeps me centered. And so, I think those are the three, kind of, big takeaways that I’ve learned in this last couple of years in the role.

[00:36:10] Josie: So, you also shared a theme of protecting our light in times of collective distress. What does that look like?

[00:36:21] Mike: You know, I see, and I, you could probably hear the big sign that I just let out, right? We’re living in some really hard times. I’m going to be honest with you. I have a lump in my throat. I’m trying not to, like, let myself fully go there, you know, we’ve experience the pandemic and, you know, I don’t want to become political or anything, but we live through a, political climate, you know, president ago, that was very challenging for a lot of our students in our communities that we serve.

And then we have another tough election coming up. You have the conflict of what’s happening in the Middle East with Israel and Palestine. I mean, there’s just so much suffering going on in the world right now, and it’s hard not to be consumed by it sometimes.

And so, I talk about what does it look, like, to protect our life? And I mean, it was a conversation I was having with my daughter, so we talked about, like, the yin and the yang of social media, right. And saying, like, you know, maybe you need to unfollow certain pages that are, you know, making you not feel good.

And it doesn’t mean we bury our heads in the sand and pretend, you know, instead in our comfort and privilege and, and not worry about what’s happening in the world, but how do we do it in a way where it doesn’t fully consume us, where you can still. Keep your values and be an advocate for communities and others that need people to lend their voice, to uplift them, but also at the same time, protect your own light, because, you know, there’s an old adage, you know, many of us are constantly filling other people’s cups, we’re in worlds where we’re filling other people’s cups, and you can’t fill other’s cup from an empty cup. And so, how do you protect your light? And so, things that I have done, is I will limit some of my content of what I will consume, you know, so I’ll only take in so much news per day.

And then I step away from, you know, I’m not on the 24-hour news cycle, and I’m very protective of that. I want to be informed. I want to be an informed citizen, right? But I also don’t want to go down rabbit holes that are not healthy for me. the other things that I try to do is do things that make me, feel at peace.

And so, I do a lot of indoor cycling. It’s called grid cycle. It’s, kind of, like, Peloton, but a group Peloton class. And I jokingly tell folks, it’s, like, the perfect amount of toxic positivity for my life, you know, cause I’m not, like, and they’re, like, You can do it. What do you want to leave on the floor? Yes, I can do it, you know, and it’s, it’s, but it’s, like, any further.

And I’d be, like, ew, gross, but, like, it’s right at the line, you know, and I love it. And so, I do that and that helps and helps my mental health. also, like, I think just being vulnerable with people, you know, when I allow myself to be vulnerable with others and say, yeah, you know, this is some scary stuff we’re living through.

We’re seeing, like, and again, I try not to be overly political. So, I’m going to reframe what I’m saying, but we’re seeing. Some crazy decisions with the Supreme Court and things that are happening about women’s rights and reproductive rights, like, I mean, I’m just sitting here and I’m just, like, Oh, Lord, what is going on?

I think, being able to talk about it with others and offer each other comfort, you know, not in an unproductive way, but in productive ways to say, you know, what, we’re all going through this together and, kind of, just, it’s okay to take a collective deep breath together because this is, it’s rough.

so those are some of the things that I do that I think has helped me and what I mean by, you know, protecting your life.

[00:39:21] Josie: Well, I appreciate you’ve mentioned the word breath three different times or more in our conversation and even something as simple as that, it can be go, go, go. And then we realize, Oh, I haven’t fully lifted my chest up and down. And what a difference that makes, physically, mentally, spiritually, that can be a first step or even a pausing moment.

And you are so very much an empathetic, leader and even defining it is as the light, I think is such a visual that, I know I relate with, I think a lot of people listening will as well. As we start to curve toward the end of our conversation, where can people find you to connect?

[00:40:09] Mike: So, definitely, you can find me on Instagram at And there’s no dot or anything, it’s just D R M I K E M U N O Z and I try to use the same handle. I’ll be honest, I don’t use X as much anymore for my own, kind of, reasons. I don’t want to get into it, but I just not, I can’t. So, I haven’t been active on X for a while, but I still, if I ever choose to reengage, you’ll find me on that.

site with that same handle. And then I’m really active on LinkedIn at Dr. Mike Nunez as well. And so, those are, kind of, the three platforms that I’m most active on. I do have a Facebook, but it’s more for family and people who know me personally. I don’t usually add or do public posts unless I know you. and then I have our college website as well as a college YouTube page where I think you can connect with me as well.

So I try to make myself accessible on all those platforms. So, I think that’s probably a good place to start.

[00:41:01] Josie: Great. And my last two questions, I always ask all my guests. This, this podcast is about the intersection of, technology, leadership, and how just to be a human being, in this day and age. So, if you knew your next post was going to be your last, what would you want it to be about?

[00:41:24] Mike: Wow. I think I would want it to be about self-love and self-compassion. I think that’s always ultimately, I don’t know if we, you know, we talk about self-care and a lot on social media, you’ll see all, and I’m not that I’m not, I’m, like, that’s such a millennial thing, right, like, self-care, you know, and it’s, and it’s not that I’m not about self-care and the bubble baths or the hikes or the mindful walking or whatever it is that you do.

But I also think self-compassion is really important, and that is, how you treat yourself in your mind, you know, the voice that you hear in your head, and how you speak about yourself, and how you treat yourself, and so I, like, to talk about self-compassion. I mean, giving ourselves grace, and love, and kindness, and support when we need it, and then I think that feeds into self-love, and so those are the things that I care a lot about, and I probably would spend some time posting about if that was my last post.

[00:42:17] Josie: Hmm. That’s beautiful. with the content that you are sharing, the platforms that you’re on. What is your why for leading online? What’s the deeper purpose of what you hope to impact from this world?

[00:42:32] Mike: I know it’s going to sound probably a little corny, but it’s humanity, like, I want to connect. you used the word to describe empathy, right? And so, like, I, you said, I sound empathetic at times, and I am, like, I really care about the human experience and the human condition.

to be able to use social media in a way where we can connect with each other, you know, it goes back to, is my presence on social media going to uplift you? Or is that interaction going to be draining and negative? And so, everything I try to do is uplifting. And don’t get me wrong, I have a snarky personality.

There’s a lot of snark that lives in me. But I make a conscious choice not to use social media to be snarky, you know, I try to use it in a way that, focuses on our shared humanity and connects us and uplifts one another. And that’s what it means for me and that’s part of the deeper why. I find a lot of meaning in that.

[00:43:26] Josie: Mike, thank you so much for your willingness to share your story, your identities, what you’re up to at Long Beach City College. I appreciate you so very much. you’re always very top of my list whether they’re community college leaders or not, I’m, like, go check out Mike’s stuff, because, you’re definitely leading in this space.

I love it.

[00:43:45] Mike: well, And I’m a big fan of yours as well. I think you’re a definite thought leader, in this space and also a thought partner because I think you really have helped, I think, our industry think differently about social media, content, production and all these great things that are ultimately, for the betterment of our campuses and our communities.

So, thank you for that as well.

[00:44:04] Josie: I appreciate that. Wow. Wow. Wow. What a wow, wonderful episode. I immediately got hungry talking about paletas. I love the simpleness of that example, but that it was so personalized to then going deeper about protecting your light in times of stress. There was just lots of wisdom and heart in this one. It is so darn inspiring to hear his story. The Latino, first generation, queer, single father, leader. At one point he said, if I am going to take on a role, I am going to be my full self. I need to be authentically me unique identity resonates so deeply, but it also takes some courage.

And so, I asked him, how the heck, though? That sounds actually, like, a big ask. And he boiled it down to something so simple as take a breath. And now we also talked a lot about Mike’s dedication to be accessible, whether if that’s online, getting out into the quad, creating a safe parking program, very, very remarkable.

And I think examples that no matter your institution type, you can take and run with. And his words on humanity. Our shared humanity and lifting up others in the way he approaches his work at LBCC. I hope you really are taking, especially in the, we are in the midst of March madness. And your semester quarter or, you know, a campus partner spring and higher ed can be intense.

we are on a sprinting March till the summer and to protect your light. In challenging times, take care of yourself, have some compassion, and again, we can always go back just to the breath. Thank you so, so very much, Dr. Mike Muñoz. I appreciated your time and your story. You can find more information about him and the work at LBCC in the show notes.

And remember, keep breathing, you belong, and shine that light. I’m sending you all. Lots of hugs.

[00:46:32] Josie: Thank you so, so much for checking out this episode of Josie and the Podcast. Are you subscribed yet? Are you sharing an episode with a friend and, or have you given me a review yet? OMG, that would be amazing. You can join the conversation online. Find me on all the socials and all the amazing guests that I brought on this season and the past.

You can find all those episodes quickly at josieahlquist.com/podcast. Now, as you think about your summer training, summer strategies, or even what your roadmap is going to be for the next academic year, I encourage you to check out the ways that I help campuses and executives through my digital strategy, consulting, and executive coaching, and my speaking programs, you know where to find me, josieahlquist.com.

Thank you so much to the sponsors of this show, University FM and Element451. I am sending y’all digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This has been Josie and the Podcast.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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