Celebrating 40 Years of Excellence


Cuyamaca College is located in the San Diego County community of Rancho San Diego on 165 beautiful acres that at one time was a part of the Old Monte Vista Ranch. Along with its sister campus, Grossmont College, it is part of the award-winning Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.


The college’s name, linked to the area’s Native-American roots, comes from the Kumeyaay phrase “Ekwiiyemak,” which has been translated to mean “behind the clouds,” “above the rains,” and “the place where the rain comes from the heavens.”


The campus site was acquired by the district’s Board of Trustees in September 1972 and the college officially opened six years later. Today, Cuyamaca College offers more than 140 degrees and certificates, serves nearly 10,000 students, and is a significant contributor to the regional workforce and economy.


Notable Moments


  • April 16, 1977:


    An official groundbreaking ceremony is held for the new Cuyamaca College campus in Rancho San Diego.

    Official groundbreaking
  • July 1, 1977:


    Wallace F. Cohen, Ed.D., becomes the founding president of Cuyamaca College, which still has no buildings, no staff, no faculty, and no students. Cohen will spend a year putting together a small administrative staff and, with their help, select new faculty and staff for the various departments, prepare curriculum, and hold meetings with college architects and contractors. 

Wallace Cohen



  • August, 1978:


    Cuyamaca College opens with a fall enrollment of 1,947 students.
    Newspaper article


  • May 30, 1979:


    Cuyamaca College holds its first Commencement with a graduating class of 38 students.
First graduating class
  • First commencement location.
First commencement location


  • Fall, 1981:


    Student enrollment reaches 3,098 as Cuyamaca College for the first time enjoys a fully-functioning Campus Activities Office with nearly a dozen clubs. More than 20 students participate in the newly formed Student Government.

First student clubs

Outdoor student activity


June 20, 1984:


Samuel M. Ciccati, Ph.D., becomes Cuyamaca College’s second president. He would serve as president of the rapidly growing campus through July 1, 1993.

Newspaper article President Ciccati
President Cicatti


  • The highly successful Cuyamaca College Now program is developed. This program brings late-blooming high school students from traditionally underrepresented groups to the campus to work on their study skills and enroll in English and math courses.


  •  August, 1988: College enrollment reaches 3,600 in the fall.
Newspaper article on increased enrollment
  • Cuyamaca unveils its master plan for the campus.
Cuyamaca 1988 master plan



  • The Cuyamaca College Learning Resource Center opens in the fall of 1989. The 30,000-square-foot, glass enclosed building with a distinctive architectural design becomes an often-photographed campus icon. An official dedication ceremony is held on February 3, 1990.

LRC announced



  • Growth continues at Cuyamaca as plans get underway to build an indoor and outdoor physical education facility and preliminary planning is in progress for the addition of a sciences and engineering building, as well as a student services building.

Announcement of physical education building


PE Facility rendering


  • The Heritage of the Americas Museum holds its groundbreaking ceremony in the spring of 1992. The museum would hold its grand opening on January 23, 1993.

 Heritage of the Americas Museum Groundbreaking


  • Sherrill L. Amador, Ph.D., begins her tenure as president of Cuyamaca College on March 1, 1994. 
Dr. Sherill Amador
  • Cuyamaca College’s Ornamental Horticulture Department holds its first annual Spring Garden Festival, an event that recently celebrated its 25th


    anniversary and now attracts well more than 5,000 people.

First Spring Garden Festival


  • In the fall of 1995, Cuyamaca College dedicates its new 20.3-acre physical education wing, which includes a fitness center, gymnasium, tennis and volleyball courts, soccer and ball fields, and an Olympic-size track.
New sports track
Sports complex photo
  • Rancho San Diego Parkway opens as the college’s new main entrance. Cuyamaca College officially changes its address from 2950 Jamacha Road to 900 Rancho San Diego Parkway.
rsd parkway opening


  • Enrollment reaches nearly 6,000 students for the first week of the fall semester.


  • The Water Conservation Garden opens on nearly six acres through a Joint Powers Agreement between Cuyamaca College and area water districts. The garden is meant to showcase water conservation through a series of beautifully themed areas, such as a native plant garden and a vegetable garden, as well as how-to displays such as mulch and irrigation exhibits. The Garden also features a native butterfly museum that is open in the spring and summer.
The Water Garden opening

Water Garden opening


  • Enrollment reaches 7,227, topping the 7,000 mark for the first time.
  • The Cuyamaca College Library receives one of only two state grants for the “Library Remote Access for Distance Learners Demonstration Project.” The $300,000 in funding is for two years. The program is meant to provide distance learners with access to library reference services.


  • Cuyamaca College continues to expand with the opening of a new Student Services One-Stop Center in June, the Child Development and Math learning centers opening in the fall, and the Cuyamaca College Foundation receiving its largest gift to date, a 1-acre site appraised at more than $100,000. The gift from George and Pat Anderson is designated to benefit the Ornamental Horticulture program.
New One Stop Building

Child Development Center

OH Donation


  • Geraldine M. Perri, Ph.D., begins her tenure as Cuyamaca College president on January 7, 2002. The same year, voters approved Proposition R, a $207 million bond measure that transforms the campus with the construction of three new buildings, along with other facilities and capital improvement projects throughout the district.
Geraldine M. Perri, Ph.D
  • The Cuyamaca College Child Development Center held its Grand Opening Ceremony on May 23.
CDC Grand Opening
  • The American Bar Association grants approval to the Cuyamaca College Paralegal Program, one of only two such programs in the county to secure American Bar Association approval.


  • Cuyamaca College gets a new mascot: the Cuyamaca College Coyote "Kudapaw."
Cuyamaca Coyote
  • Unhealthy air quality and other impacts from the deadly Cedar Fire, which claimed 15 lives and burned nearly 275,000 acres in October and November, forces the closure of the campus for one week.


  • “United in Memory” 9/11 Victims’ Memorial Quilt is placed on display at Cuyamaca College, drawing a record 10,000 visitors to see the display from March 25 through March 28.
9/11 Memorial Quilt
  • More than 200 parking spaces are created in a new lot off Rancho San Diego Parkway across from the One-Stop Student Services Center.
New parking spaces


  • Construction begins on three major Proposition R projects: the science and technology center (now the Wendell Cutting Center), the communication arts building, and the student center. A renovated and expanded automotive technology center, the college’s first major Proposition R project to be completed, is dedicated.
Construction project

New Construction
More construction
  • A technology time capsule is placed with items of college history and more in the floor of the now Wendell Cutting Center.
2005 Time Capsule


  • The Office of Institutional Advancement is established, beginning an era of unprecedented grant development and success.
  • Cuyamaca College’s newly resurfaced track is dedicated in the fall of 2006. The project was funded through Proposition R, the Cuyamaca College Foundation, and the state.
Track resurfacing dedication

New track dedication


  • Cuyamaca College celebrates its highest enrollment ever – 8,364 students, and the Cuyamaca College Foundation grosses more than $110,000 at its annual Foundation Celebration “Starlights of the Southwest.” 
  • The science and technology building (now the Wendell Cutting Center) officially opens during a “Magic of Science and Technology from Gigabytes to Biotech” extravaganza held in April.
Science and Technology Center
  •  Nearly 600 people are on hand at the October grand opening of the Cuyamaca College Student Center.
Student Center Grand Opening

Student Center Dedication

  • Cuyamaca College is closed for four days in late October due to nearby wildfires, the largest of which is the Witch Creek Fire that burned nearly 200,000 acres. A portion of the campus houses a Local Assistance Center in collaboration with the County of San Diego. Services include providing emergency housing vouchers, clothing, water, food for animals, and permits for rebuilding. All of this took place during an accreditation site team visit.
Emergency Center


  • The Communication Arts Center opens. The inaugural concert series at the new center kicks off with “The Art of the Piano: Three Generations – Three Artists – Three Concerts” on March 28 with a jazz piano concert by prodigy Chase Morrin. Chase is the son of counselor Cindy Morrin.
Comm Center Dedication

Comm Arts Dedication

Comm Arts Building

  • Cuyamaca College on February 14 dedicates its new Honor Court, which was funded through a donation from George and Pat Anderson to recognize teaching excellence. The donation came as part of the Anderson’s larger gift to the Ornamental Horticulture Program in 2001, with the stipulation that $10,000 from the sale of land benefiting the Ornamental Horticulture Program be set aside to establish the Honor Court.
Honor Court Dedication

  • The Science and Technology Center’s name is changed to the Wendell Cutting Center in December of 2008, marking the first time a building in the district is named after an individual. Cutting was a Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District trustee from 2002 until his death in 2006 who was a proponent of advancing science and technology education at Cuyamaca College.

Wendell Cutting Center Dedication

  • Construction of the Business/Computer and Information Sciences building commences.
Business and Tech Center begins construction


  • Cuyamaca College hosts the annual State of the County address in February.
State of the County Address

  • The Ornamental Horticulture Program hosts its inaugural Sustainable Urban Landscape Conference.

Sustainable Urban Landscape Conference.

  • The “Cuyamaca Link” is established, a matriculation program for schools within the Grossmont Union High School District.


  • Cuyamaca College’s Business/Computer and Information Sciences building opens.
• Cuyamaca College’s Business/Computer and Information Sciences building opens


  • Mark J. Zacovic, Ph.D., is appointed Cuyamaca College president. Dr. Zacovic’s career spanned three decades in the California Community Colleges system before he retired as Cuyamaca College president on June 30, 2015.
Dr Mark Zacovic sign

Mark Zacovic reception

  • Proposition R’s major construction at Cuyamaca College draws to a close with the expansion of the Learning Resource Center.


  • East County voters once again show their support for the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District in approving Proposition V, a $398-million bond measure that paves the way for Cuyamaca to address continuing facility, infrastructure, and technology needs.


  • An Intergenerational Garden is established next to the Cuyamaca College Child Development Center, where senior volunteers affectionately nicknamed “Garden Grannies” help children plant and harvest vegetables.
Intergenerational Garden


  • Julianna Barnes, Ed.D., is named Cuyamaca College president in October 2015. Barnes had previously served at Cuyamaca as vice president of Student Services.
Welcome Dr Barnes

President Barnes

  • Cuyamaca College joins a national consortium dedicated to improving student success among men of color in community colleges. The National Consortium on College Men of Color, a project of the Minority Male Community College Collaborative, also known as M2C3, provides opportunities for member campuses to exchange ideas through webinars, discussion boards, and a working group meeting held annually in San Diego.



  • Cuyamaca College is awarded a five-year federal grant totaling nearly $6 million to boost the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates who transfer to the California State University and University of California systems. Among the grant’s highlights is the creation of a summer boot camp for first-generation and academically at-risk STEM majors to build study skills, strengthen basic competencies, and provide hands-on research activities and mentoring.
STEM Center

  • Cuyamaca also secured a five-year, $2.6 million federal grant that enables the college to boost efforts aimed at guiding Hispanic students to secure their degrees and certificates. Among the programs funded through the grant is the new Pathway Academy.
Pathway Academy
  • Cuyamaca College launches an associate degree program in Kumeyaay Studies, becoming among the first community colleges in California to offer a degree program focusing on the language, culture, and history of a specific Native-American tribe.
Kumeyaay Studies Program


  • The first cohort of students earning a bachelor’s degree through a partnership between Cuyamaca College and Point Loma Nazarene University secured their diplomas at a December 16 commencement – just 15 months after the affiliation was launched.

Cuyamaca PLNU signing

Cuyamaca PLNU Graduate


  • East County benefactor and arts patron Sam Ersan, a vice chair at the San Diego Symphony, underwrites a new series of concerts at Cuyamaca College featuring renowned international musicians who have impressed audiences as far away as the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow. The ECHO Chamber Music Series (ECHO is an acronym for the East County Harmonics Organization) begins February 17.

ECHO Chamber Series

  • Former Cuyamaca College President Dr. Sam Ciccati creates a $1-million endowment that will be funded over 10 years for scholarships and student assistance at Cuyamaca College. In recognition of the donation, the performing arts center is renamed the Samuel M. Ciccati Performing Arts Center and the theater is called the Samuel M. Ciccati Theatre. The $1 million gift is the largest received by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. 
  • The Cuyamaca College Center for Water Studies opens with a new Field Operations Skills Yard in January and a renovated water and wastewater technology building in August. The Center for Water Studies is the focal point in efforts to train the next generation of water and wastewater industry workers.
FOSY Dedication

  • Cuyamaca College on June 4 dedicates a new half-acre vineyard that is part of a groundbreaking Viticulture Apprenticeship Program to meet a growing demand for skilled workers in the region’s booming wine making industry. The Viticulture Apprenticeship Program was the only one of its kind in California when it launched in the fall of 2016.
Vineyard Ribbon Cutting

  • Eight hundred graduates earn a total of almost 1,300 degrees and certificates at Cuyamaca College’s June 6 Commencement. President Julianna Barnes noted that Cuyamaca’s first graduating class numbered fewer than 40.
2018 Graduation