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Get to Know Folsom Lake College’s New President Whitney Yamamura

Oct 04, 2017 01:42PM ● Published by Style

I’m a fourth-generation Sacramentan,” Whitney Yamamura, Folsom Lake College’s new president, proudly declares. The statement has special significance for him: He’s a Japanese American whose great-grandparents first came to the U.S. as farmers. During World War II, his grandparents and great-grandparents survived Japanese internment camps. Despite these challenges, his family continued to work toward a better life for themselves and their descendants. And they succeeded: Yamamura is now the second Asian American president in the history of the Los Rios Community College District; he also serves on the board of directors for the Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce. 

Yet Yamamura remains modest about his accomplishments and credits much of his success to his parents who encouraged his intellectual curiosity. Although originally enrolling in college to become a stockbroker, he found himself drawn to the big-picture problem-solving of economics, and while completing his master’s in the subject, discovered his love for teaching. “There’s nothing like the lightbulbs that go off when students understand a difficult concept,” he enthuses. 

Yamamura has now worked in the district, in teaching and administrative roles, for nearly three decades. He remains a passionate advocate for the transformative power of higher education, especially for those who—like his own family—are willing to work hard to achieve the American dream. “We have to support students—especially those from historically underrepresented groups—so they can have the quality of life they want and strive for.” 


What advice would you give to your younger self?
Eat less and exercise more. 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Wasting time in traffic or in unproductive activities/meetings.

Are you high or low maintenance?
Low. I’m pretty easy-going, flexible about most things, and don’t have a lot of needs.

What are you most proud of?
Professionally, helping guide Cosumnes River College through the great recession with major budget cuts, building the Elk Grove Center from dirt to the first year, and building new career education programs while fostering a team of deans and maintaining relationships with faculty and staff leaders. 

Favorite humanitarian cause?
Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services.

Best words of wisdom you’ve received?
Discern between the important and the urgent; if you don’t, you may just get trapped in tending to the urgent.

What’s next?
Helping, guiding and facilitating Folsom Lake College to reach “the next level.”


Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Clancy


Guilty pleasure
V8—not the vegetable juice, but cars with a V8 engine

Local landmark
Tower Theatre


The Eagles, Journey 

Local nonprofit
Folsom Lake College Foundation

“We’ll always have Paris.”—Casablanca

By Amber Foster // Photos by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group

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