SMC Appoints Jennifer Merlic New Vice President of Academic Affairs

As Chief Instructional Officer, She will Lead Santa Monica College’s Instructional Programs and Services

Santa Monica College named Dr. Jennifer Merlic as its new Vice President of Academic Affairs. She began working at SMC as a full-time chemistry professor in 1991 and progressed to several leadership roles including Director of Academic Computing, Chair of the Physical Science department, and most recently, Dean of Instructional Services. Dr. Merlic holds a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Science in Physical Chemistry from Princeton University. Photo Credit: Andrew Boone.

Santa Monica College’s new Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Jennifer Merlic, in her office on the SMC main campus. Photo Credit: Andrew Boone.

September 5, 2018

SANTA MONICA, CA—Santa Monica College (SMC) announced the appointment of Dr. Jennifer Merlic as the college’s new Vice President of Academic Affairs, effective today. The SMC Board of Trustees unanimously approved Dr. Merlic’s appointment—following a recommendation made by SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery—at their Sept. 4 meeting. The role of SMC’s chief instructional officer was left vacant after former VP of Academic Affairs Dr. Georgia Lorenz became the third president of Seminole State College of Florida in August.

Under the direction of Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, Dr. Merlic will provide leadership and oversight for SMC’s instructional programs and services. Her portfolio encompasses online and traditional “on-ground” academic programs, degrees, and certificates (both transfer and career education); noncredit instruction including the Emeritus Program for older adults; and not-for-college-credit professional development, personal enrichment, and workforce training offerings through the SMC Office of Workforce & Economic Development. She will also oversee academic support services such as the college library, tutoring, and computer labs.

“Dr. Merlic’s leadership experience is truly expansive and has prepared her to advance Santa Monica College’s mission of open access and a superior teaching-learning experience, with a clear focus on ensuring the success of every SMC student,” said Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery. “Over two decades, she displayed outstanding leadership skills in roles as a professor and faculty leader/administrator, which led to vital advancements for SMC: in STEM, the creation of a more efficient technology structure, and a first-ever baccalaureate program in interaction design. She has also helped guide SMC’s efforts in redesigning the student experience, to reduce the equity gap.”

Dr. Jeffery added “the attention to detail and a deep knowledge of SMC’s core mission which Dr. Jennifer Merlic has already displayed and the collaborative relationships she has cultivated will help inspire and set new directions for the college.”

Dr. Jennifer Merlic first began working at SMC as a full-time chemistry professor in 1991. In subsequent years, she progressed to leadership roles as Director of Academic Computing, Director of Tech Training & Research, Chair of the SMC Physical Science department, and Chair of the Academic Senate Department Chairs Committee. In 2014, she was appointed Dean of Instructional Services, overseeing 23 instructional departments and their chairs (with over 1,100 full-time and part-time faculty reporting). Her responsibilities included developing SMC’s annual academic plan of more than 7,500 classes (15 percent of which are delivered online).

While she was Dean of Instructional Services, Dr. Merlic authored the proposal for SMC’s Bachelor of Science degree in Interaction Design. In January 2015, SMC was selected by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors to be among the first 15 community colleges in the state to offer a four-year degree. Dr. Merlic provided administrative leadership in the implementation of the degree program; the first cohort graduated this June.

Dr. Merlic’s achievements in previous leadership roles included helping create SMC’s STEM Science and Research Initiative —in partnership with UCLA—supported by a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of Hispanic and low-income students transferring to four-year STEM programs. She also helped develop a streamlined, online “program review” process for the college’s departments and operational areas; served as the project co-director for the statewide Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT); and directed the “Virtual Office Hours” project, which was SMC’s first online supplement to traditional office hours. Dr. Merlic also supervised the development and implementation of online and live training as training director for the California Virtual Campus Professional Development Center, a partnership between El Camino College and SMC, funded by a $2.4 million state grant.

As a professor, Dr. Merlic taught general chemistry and introductory chemistry courses, in addition to developing and updating chemistry curriculum from 1991 to 2014. She was previously also a visiting professor of chemistry at UCLA. She has co-authored articles in several leading scientific journals, covering a variety of topics related to laser spectroscopy – the use of lasers to study the structure and behavior of molecules.

Dr. Merlic holds a Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Science in Physical Chemistry from Princeton University; she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Smith College (she graduated Cum Laude with High Honors in Chemistry). An avid hiker and animal lover, Dr. Merlic and her husband Craig A. Merlic—who is a Professor of Chemistry at UCLA— have two sons, Kyle and Aidan.

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About Santa Monica College

Santa Monica College is a California Community College accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). For 27 consecutive years, SMC has been California’s leading transfer college to UCLAUC Berkeley, and other University of California campuses. The college also tops in transfers to the University of Southern California, and Loyola Marymount University. More than 110 career training degrees and certificates at SMC—in fields ranging from the traditional (Accounting, Early Childhood Education, Nursing) to the emerging (Interaction Design, Sustainable Technologies, Technical Theatre)—offer professional preparation for students interested in directly entering the job market, transferring to a four-year school, or upgrading specific skills. SMC provides news and cultural enrichment through its radio station KCRW (89.9 FM), the Broad Stage at the SMC Performing Arts Center and lifelong learning through distinctive programs such as its Emeritus College for older adults.