Maria A. Spencer was named Interim Dean of Educational Success at Merritt College in October 2017 under the Adult Education Block Grant. In that role, she assists in developing pathways for Adult Ed students and community members to move into higher education with a clear pathway towards a career. She also leads the development of noncredit/certificate programs for the college.
Prior to that, she served as Student Personal Services Specialist, where she spearheaded outreach and recruitment for all four campuses, establishing the foundation for many of the events Peralta represents. Before that, she served as Financial Aid Supervisor at Merritt.
Maria was born and raised in Oakland where she graduated from Oakland Technical High School and then Berkeley City College where she earned an AA in Sociology and Behavioral Science. While attending BCC, she was instrumental in developing the first training program for Student Ambassadors with Victor Flint, and then she transferred to the University of California, Davis, where she obtained a BA in Sociology Law and Society and minored in Native American Studies. She then went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Psychology with an Emphasis in Mediation and Conflict Resolution with the University of the Rockies and currently is in the process of writing her dissertation to obtain her Doctorate in Education and Organizational Leadership at Brandman University by 2018.
Throughout her career, Maria has more than 40 years of work experience in the Oakland, San Francisco Bay Area in workforce development and with non-profit, government and corporate institutions. Her expertise is in developing collaborative partnerships; mediation and conflict resolution; and planning, organizing and trouble-shooting program challenges.
Her expertise in conflict resolution is specifically in cultural conflict and diversity issues. She has a high level of training in cultural sensitivity and has assisting major hospitals with building internal and external partnerships through educating administrative staff on cultural sensitivity.
Maria has represented the Peralta Community College District in a variety of capacities. In 2016 she was chosen to be part of the Peralta Chancellor’s Management Development Leadership Academy which provides mentoring to new academy members and assists with special projects as directed by the Chancellor.
Two years ago, Maria represented PCCD in the City of Dumagute, Phillippines as a delegate and a member of the Sister City Association of Alameda, California. She is currently working toward the creation of a study abroad program with the Philippines—the first for Peralta—and will be working with the Peralta International Students Department in the near future.
Active in the community, Maria administered the Partnership Grant Program, disseminating $1 million dollars in funding to non-profit programs under Alameda County Social Services. She developed the RFP application and screened hundreds of applications working directly with county counsel and provided technical support for compliance purposes.
Maria has worked for a number of non-profit institutions primarily focusing on Native Americans working with the Friendship House of American Indians in San Francisco as a Youth Prevention Coordinator. She implemented the Circle of Strength Healthy Nations Initiative Drug and Alcohol Program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation encompassing seven counties.
Maria has worked with United Indian Nations Inc. and now is a community partner with Merritt. She was the Community Planner Development Specialist where she created and implemented the Community Mobilization Project, providing technical assistance in the area of community planning, capacity building, and collaborative building. This led to the opening of the first American Indian Public Charter School where she was interim principal.
Maria was also hired as a professional consultant by Former Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco as a professional consultant to develop and assist with San Francisco’s Children’s Service Plan. In addition to sitting on numerous boards and committees, such as the Educational Advisory Committee for the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, The American Indian Advisory Commitee, and the Alameda Sister City Association.
Among Maria’s awards for her accomplishments include the President’s Excellence Award in 2017 from Dr. Marie-Elaine Burns for outstanding contributions to the mission of Merritt College, its faculty, staff, students, and the community.
She also holds several “firsts” for the District. She was the first cohort member of Student Ambassadors at Berkeley City College, the first cohort member of the Chancellor’s Management Development Leadership Academy, and, now, the first-ever Associate Dean of Educational Success at Merritt College.