When Sandra L. Kurtinitis graduated from college in 1967, the first place that offered her a job was Prince George's Community College.
"I thought I'd keep the job for a few years until I could get a job at a real college," Kurtinitis said. "Then I realized it was a real college."
Kurtinitis' unexpected foray into community colleges has lasted almost 30 years. She spent nearly 20 at Prince George's Community College as an English professor and administrator before moving onto Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Mass., where she has been for the past decade, and most recently served as president.
She was named chancellor of the Community College of Baltimore County last week.
Colleagues and state officials say that Kurtinitis is well-suited to lead CCBC, Maryland's largest community college, because she is familiar with Maryland's community college scene and has experience running a school with multiple campuses. CCBC has three campuses; Quinsigamond has two.
"She sounds like an ideal candidate for the position," said Barbara Ash, research director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges, which oversees the state's 16 community colleges.
Kurtinitis signed a three-year contract worth $190,000 annually.
Quinsigamond officials said they did their best to keep Kurtinitis and are sorry to see her go. "[She] brought together a faculty and staff that have raised and will continue to raise the level and quality of higher education on this campus," Robert Gauthier, chairman of the school's board of trustees, said in a statement.
Kurtinitis said she was attracted to the CCBC job because she wanted to return to Maryland and was envious of the school's financial resources. CCBC's operating budget this year is nearly $145 million, about three times Quinsigamond's budget.
"I'm looking forward to coming back to a state where the value of higher education is recognized and funded properly," Kurtinitis said.
She received a master's degree in British literature from the University of Maryland, College Park and her doctorate from George Washington University.
Kurtinitis is unsure what, if any, changes she will make when she takes office this month. She said would spend the first several months meeting with administrators and faculty. "I'd like to get to know the campus well," she said. "The campus is a far more important place than the executive office."
After a tumultuous period in the late 1990s, when an academic consultant said the school was in "near chaos," CCBC has made progress recently.
In 1998, about 11 percent of students transferred to a four-year college after two years and 18.8 percent transferred after three. According to the most recent data, those percentages have climbed to 11.8 and 20 percent.
But Kurtinitis will probably have to deal with capacity issues, Ash said. State officials are predicting a growing student population for CCBC.