As a biology graduate student at Michigan’s Wayne State University, Bill Bonaudi EdD ’93 took a teaching job at a local community college to make additional income.
“That’s when I discovered that I really, really loved to teach, and community college gave me the opportunity to not only teach but also plan what I was going to teach,” he recalled. “The emphasis of community college is teaching — not research plus teaching — so there was continual engagement with students and feedback on your effectiveness or lack thereof.”
Bonaudi, who recently retired, said that while he loved being president of Big Bend Community College in Washington State for 17 years, the best job he ever had was as a teacher in a community college classroom.
“The dynamics and interchange in a classroom where a youngster who is 16 is sitting next to a 40-year-old with two jobs and a retired 65-year-old is really fascinating, and any time you see that light go on, it’s the greatest reward.”
Bonaudi recently joined The Academy, the leadership-giving society at the USC Rossier School of Education, because he supports the school’s focus on preparing great teachers and education leaders who are having an impact on students around the country.
“As more graduates become superintendents and college presidents around the nation, Rossier will continue to spread its positive influence a very wide distance,” said Bonaudi, who added that he appreciates the school’s increasing focus on preparing community college administrators and instructors to educate diverse populations with differing challenges.
After his first community college position in Michigan, Bonaudi said he and his family wanted to return to the west. He took a post in Reno, Nev., where discrepancies in access to higher education revealed themselves immediately.
“I saw a contrast there between higher education opportunities compared to Michigan, where there had easily been nine different doctoral-granting institutions within driving distance from me.”
While he was successful in the classroom, Bonaudi saw ways that the administration could better support the work he and other teachers were doing, so he began to take on administrative roles in addition to teaching. At Truckee Meadows Community College, he moved from science department chair in 1973 to dean of instruction in 1990.
Bonaudi learned of the EdD program at USC, which had a cohort in Sacramento, Calif., and he began to attend classes on the weekends while spending the summers on the Los Angeles campus. He was particularly impressed with one professor, the late Patrick Rooney EdD ’59.
“He was brilliant in understanding the administrative challenges of community colleges, and he had great insights,” Bonaudi said.
He credits his preparation in the doctoral program with helping him to solve critical problems of practice as a community college leader.
“It gave me a channel for inquiry, and I was able to implement technology as a way of reaching out to students at a great distance from the college in both Nevada and, later, Big Bend.”
When asked about the future of education, Bonaudi said that the success of community colleges and their students relies on better collaboration between K-12 and two-year college administrators — something he hopes to see more of in the future. And he feels strongly that the institutions he has served for nearly 40 years have only increased in importance to society and the workforce.
“I have said before that community colleges are for some a first choice, for others a second chance, and for everyone an opportunity for lifelong learning.”