Bethany Matos enjoys being a college dean and loves working with the Firebaugh community. “In many ways this is my dream job,” she said. “I not only get to plan for the future of the Firebaugh Center of West Hills College Coalinga, but to meet and get to know our students.” As the Dean of the Firebaugh Center, Matos has many responsibilities, including helping to create the schedule of classes, ensuring the new 40,000-squarefoot facility is well equipped and maintained and coordinating the efforts of all the faculty and staff who work at the center. “At times, it can be an exhausting job,” she said. Matos came to the center as its dean at the start of the 2020-21 academic year, in the middle of the COVID pandemic. Her office was in the old facility, but she was actively involved in checking on the new facility being built, as well as ensuring students working remotely could succeed. The new facility had been in the planning stages for more than a decade and by the time ground was broken much of the architectural work had been done, but there was still much to do in ensuring the interior of the campus was designed to serve students best. She was helped by Dr. Kristin Clark, who was recently promoted to be the chancellor of the West Hills Community College District. “Dr. Clark and I worked closely together,” Matos said. “As the exterior was being completed, we would walk with our hard hats inside the building, collaboratively deciding on the building’s finishing touches, including the best interior design for our students. “The building has a lot of windows and open space,” Matos said, “which is a real positive attribute, but we didn’t want students to feel isolated. We wanted an environment that would seem warm and friendly.” Matos came to the Firebaugh Center well prepared to lead it. She had worked for Chapman University (which later became Brandman University) for five years as the director of their campuses in Hanford and Lemoore. In 2019 she took the job as the Registrar and Director of Admissions and Records at the West Hills College Coalinga campus. “That was a very tough year,” she said. “All of us at the college had to figure out on the fly what our students needed to succeed during the COVID pandemic.” A year later, at the start of the 2020-21 academic year, Matos was named dean of the center as the new facility was being built, and one year after that she helped officiate at the grand opening of the facility. Matos is an alumna of West Hills College, having earned her A.A. degree at what was then the Lemoore Center and is now West Hills College Lemoore. She then transferred to Chapman University to earn her B.A. and later earned her master’s degree in organizational leadership with an emphasis in marriage and family counseling. She feels privileged to be the Dean of the Firebaugh Center. She appreciates the support she receives in running the center, managing the current staff and planning for the future. “What I appreciate most,” she said, “is the people in the community we serve. They have been so supportive of our college center. That’s why I want to do everything I can for everyone who comes to us for courses and services.” Matos sees the center in Firebaugh as the place anyone can come to with any question, not just about education. She likes the fact that the college facility also houses the Firebaugh branch of the Fresno Public Library, as well as an office of the county’s agricultural commissioner. “My feeling is that we should keep our door open to everyone for everything,” she said, “not just educational needs. If we can’t help them directly, we will do our best to connect them with other people in the community who can help them.” Matos plans to stay at the Firebaugh Center indefinitely. “I feel this center is my home and that I can be an important part of its future.”