She hopes to encourage a new generation of union members
As a professor of linguistics, Lynette Nyaggah is likely to call on her academic background in her new role as the 29th president of the Community College Association.
“I think linguistics is a different way of thinking where you try to see patterns in language,” Nyaggah said, “and if you see the patterns in language you can look around and see patterns in behavior. It’s helpful in figuring out a way to work with people rather than imposing your way of thinking over someone else.”
Family of teachers
But Nyaggah brings more than that to the organization. Hailing from a family of teachers and union supporters – her grandmother was a teacher in Oakland while her late father was a math instructor first in high school and then at the College of San Mateo until he was 85 – Nyaggah has taught everything from bilingual kindergarten in Long Beach to English composition at Cal State Fullerton to ESL and linguistics courses at Rio Hondo College, where she has taught since 1987.
Along the way, she learned all about issues facing part-time faculty while commuting between Lafayette Elementary School in Long Beach and Cerritos College.
“I remember I’d stop for dinner and then take a nap in my car at the South Street Mall in between,” she said. It would be four years before she would be hired full-time.
Tragedy hits home
During those years, she raised a family with her husband Mougo Nyaggah, a history professor at Cal State Fullerton. This March, tragedy hit home when Mougo died unexpectedly following a seizure, just three weeks after her father’s death.
A professor of history, Mougo Nyaggah was also active in the faculty union and had been president of the California Faculty Association Fullerton chapter since 2007.
“Losing my husband was a terrible blow,” she said, her voice cracking. “It did slow me down, but it did not stop me. I was determined to go forward. I made a decision quite a while ago about what I needed to do and had been encouraged by my family and by many friends and colleagues. I wasn’t going to quit. Because the goal didn’t go away.”
Nyaggah, in fact, found comfort in attending the CTA State Council in April. Since then, the challenge of leading CCA has motivated her through her grief.
With the expected retirement of legions of baby boomers, Nyaggah is concerned about reaching out to a new generation of faculty and finding ways to make involvement in the union more accessible to them. At the same time, she’d like to see the union become more involved in the community “to make ourselves more visible.” She pointed to efforts in San Bernardino where leaders in the K-12 and community college chapters have sponsored community picnics.
Connecting to community
“Our members are already in the community and they are already connected,” she said. “This would be a great way to advance our goals.”
Nyaggah will also be looking for ways to strengthen the relationship between CCA and the California Teachers Association by consulting with CCA members to better understand what they want from CTA, and then working with CTA officers to build a stronger connection.
“We are all both CCA and CTA, and we should feel that we are always working toward the same goal,” she said.