Kelly Underwood said she wasn’t actively searching for a new job, but as the head of recruitment at Allan Hancock College it was her job to know what was out there.

So, when the position of Associate Vice President of Human Resources became available at Merced College, Underwood made some inquiries.

“I did some research,” Underwood said. “I talked to a friend of mine, who is president at another community college, and asked him what he thought of Chris Vitelli. He told me he’s one of the top three community college presidents in the state.

“I decided working with someone like that was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Kelly Fowler heard similar things during her tenure at Clovis Community College. The new Vice President of Instruction had been instrumental in helping Clovis become the 114th campus in the California Community College system and was contemplating her next step. When a position in Merced’s leadership came available, it was an easy decision to make a change.    

“I’ve known (President Vitelli) since he was Dean of Instruction at Columbia College and have always thought highly of him,” Fowler said. “The Valley is a small place and the college community is even smaller. I’ve heard many good things about the work he’s been doing at Merced College and am excited to now be a part of that.

“I think what really sold it for me was the school motto. ‘Students are our focus and we are known by their success.’ That’s something I truly believe.”

Underwood and Fowler were approved by the Merced College Board of Trustees last month and started their new positions on Monday, July 2.   

Underwood joins Merced College after having served as the Director of Human Resources at Allan Hancock. She has seven years combined experience as a chief negotiator as well as experience as an employee association leader and president. Underwood has also served as an administrator, classified staff coordinator and adjunct faculty member. 

Fowler served as the Vice President of Instruction and Student Services, as well as the Accreditation Liaison Officer at Clovis. She has more than 20 years of experience in instructional and student services administrative roles in higher education, including several years as a mathematics faculty member.

“We are very excited and fortunate to add both Kellys to the Merced College team,” Vitelli said. “Kelly Underwood has a strong understanding and track record of organizational development, transformational leadership and shared governance. She shows passion in her work as an HR executive and will be an excellent leader in this important administrative role for the District. 

“Kelly Fowler is a highly skilled leader and a strong communicator. She is known for her collaborative style, innovative problem solving, enthusiasm and dedication to diversity.  She has been instrumental in progressively leading a team to create and implement First Year Experience, Guided Pathways, K-12 partnerships and Dual Enrollment programs at Clovis Community College, while also successfully overseeing instructional and student services professional development programs, student equity and many other successful initiatives.”