Power Lunch: President of West Valley College
By Vanessa Palencia
A few years ago, I made the choice to attend Saratoga’s West Valley College. I chose it primarily because of its beautiful campus and small size. During my time there, I met some wonderful people, including my DESP counselor, Ross Smith, who helped me soar through with flying colors. Unfortunately, my shyness limited me to the people I interacted with, and I easily overlooked one of the most prominent figures at West Valley College: the president.
When you think of any prestigious faculty member of a college or university, it’s easy to think arrogant, callous, and detached, but WVC President Bradley Davis is far from any of those things. But, without quality one-on-one time with him, it can be near impossible to understand the kind of heart and dedication he pours into the college and the community to enrich the students’ and faculty’s lives and experience. So you can imagine the excitement I felt when I had the opportunity to meet him during a BBQ at West Valley years after I had attended. We connected through a mutual friend and before we knew it, we were discussing the creation and expansion of Polarity Magazine. As a budding entrepreneur and a West Valley alumni, Mr. Davis was willing to give me his time to help contribute to Polarity’s growing success. We discussed meeting over lunch for an interview, so I scheduled a meeting with his Senior Executive Assistant Ms. Gloria Gutierrez.
We met at Coup de Thai, a modern and upscale Thai restaurant in Downtown Los Gatos. I was definitely nervous as I waited for one of the most prestigious gentlemen in the Saratoga community. But all that nervousness was for naught because President Davis is one of the most endearing people you’ll ever encounter.
With his salt and pepper hair, brilliant smile, and the most polished shoes you’ll ever see, Bradley Davis is always prepared to represent his college and community. After a brief introduction and casual conversation, we ordered our food: the Sassy Tiger Rolls and Garlic Noodles for the starter and Mango Mongo Beef, Salmon Samurai, and Koor Kling dishes for our main entrees. I could tell that Mr. Davis was very much a foodie in the way that his eyes glazed over the menu with hunger, which is something that I’m sure many students can relate to.
When our plates of food arrived I started by asking what inspired him to take on the role of WVC president. Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “As a college administrator, I wanted to stay close to the student experience.” This position allowed him to work from the inside to make sure that the college has the best to offer its students and be creative about it. By doing this, he was able to have his feet in two ponds, that of faculty and student life. As a result, this type of immersion allowed Bradley to structure and oversee the College Promise, which grants qualified students one year of free tuition, which is one of many accomplishments that prove that his heart is in the right place.
At one point, he mentioned that he sometimes works up to 72 hours in a week. With the average American working roughly 40 hours per week, the overage that he puts in had me convinced that he was pulling some magic trick to make everything happen. As it turns out, his magic trick is Gloria. Both Gloria and Mr. Davis had previously worked together at San Jose State and because they made such a fantastic team, Mr. Davis ensured that Gloria was right by his side when he took on the role as WVC President. She is the reason why Mr. Davis is able to keep such a tight schedule without going insane. In the midst of juggling the roles of father, husband, and friend on top of his presidential duties, President Davis somehow manages to keep a good head on his shoulders, and he says he owes it to his Senior Executive Assistant, Gloria, for managing his work schedule.
Naturally, I wanted to know if he had any tips or tricks to help other people that are dealing with stress. Half expecting a conventional answer, such as deep breathing or yoga, I was surprised to find out that his favorite de-stressor is a nice, hot bath. “My daughter just recently introduced me to bath bombs...so I drop a few in and pick up a good book and just start reading. It really makes all the difference.” Does this mean that we now have an excuse to buy bath bombs? I think so. But it isn’t just bath bombs that help WVC’s president unwind. Small weekend getaways and time set aside for family and personal time also help. “You have to set your priorities straight,” he says, “my family always comes first.”
That’s one aspect of Bradley Davis that really stood out to me. Just as much as he was a family man, always making sure that his family is well taken care of, he is steadfast in that his students and staff at West Valley College are taken care of as well. From joking about how he loves his wife in beanies, lighting up while talking about WVC events, to showing concern for my own family’s move across the country, and all his formed relationships with students and faculty, Mr. Davis clearly wears his heart out on his sleeve, and I know that West Valley is incredibly honored to have him.
As our interview came to a close, I was in awe of the characteristics President Davis exhibited. His ability to answer my questions while meticulously licking his plate clean and maintaining his suit and personage during our lunch demonstrated how casually relatable he can be. Meanwhile, I had to cover the sweet chili sauce stain on my dress with my notes to keep my dignity. The way he spoke about students and how he thrives off of learning from them makes him perfect for this position. Fortunately for all current and future West Valley College students, he doesn’t see himself leaving soon. “There’s still so much to be done, and I want to be able to see them all through,” he admitted. “I really want to make sure that the college has the stability to survive the turbulent times and be the best college that it can be...I want to see us move to a point where the community grant, which I developed last year, evolves to a point when we have free tuition for anyone that wants to come to the college.” As a writer, we like to say that a writer’s work is never done, and Bradley agrees, “my work is never done,” he says, “there’s always something we can be doing to serve the college and the students better. Education is not something that has a fixed end point.” I completely agree. I learned so much from my time with him and I know that I will continue to learn everyday.
While every WVC student may not have the chance to spend that kind of quality time that I was privileged to have, he did leave behind some words of wisdom for those looking for guidance to live a more prosperous life: “Always continue to grow every single day. Ask yourself, ‘what do I want to do next?’ Find some way to develop yourself to keep you young and healthy.” And for current students who might be struggling academically: “Meet with faculty and staff outside of class! They are there to help you. Sitting with them outside chatting on a bench or grabbing a cup of coffee with them, you get to learn so much. It’s almost a whole credit outside of class with an expert.” So whether you end up choosing West Valley College as your second home or have already claimed it as such, I hope that by getting a glimpse as to the kind of person that President Davis is gives you much more pride in attending the college and immersing yourself in the surrounding community.