Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D.

San Diego Continuing Education

In 2015, Carlos O. Turner Cortez, Ph.D. was named President of the largest noncredit adult educational institution in the nation. San Diego Continuing Education (SDCE) has served San Diego since 1914 and has an annual enrollment of more than 45,000 students.

President Turner Cortez is a longtime educational leader with a strong commitment to social justice. As an educator with Teach For America he witnessed the injustice inside classrooms and saw first-hand hardships in urban communities. It was during some of these earliest years in his career that he recognized many vital needs lacking in educational process and where he discovered his true passion in leadership—specifically in leading fellow administrators through inspiration and action. He motivates and encourages educational leaders and community partners to work together on innovative approaches and programs that make the future better for students. His hope is to identify a need in urban communities and to take action that results in positive change.

Prior to his current position, President Turner Cortez served as Director of Education Extension at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and as the Acting Vice President of Instruction and Dean of Academic Pathways at Berkeley City College (BCC).His educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in History and Sociology from Georgetown University; a Master’s degree in Race and Gender Politics from New York University; and a Doctorate degree in Education Policy and Administration from the University of Southern California.

His leadership now with SDCE has resulted in new programming that reaches opportunity youth in San Diego, a significant increase in hiring new faculty, staff and administrators. He has also co-authored a 2017 award-winning project, The Past, Present and Future of Noncredit Education in California Community Colleges. Substantial research outlined in the report was honored with the Mertes Award, for Excellence in Community College Research by the Association of California Community College Administrators. The findings in the research aim to inform state enhancements in support of noncredit program growth.

Impacting Change

President Turner Cortez serves on a number of boards and meets regularly with influencers and decision-makers in San Diego to impact change in the community.

  • Board of Directors, Goodwill Industries, 2019-Present
  • Board of Directors, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, 2018-Present
  • Board of Directors, The Trevor Project: 2017-Present
  • Board of Directors, San Diego Workforce Partnership Workforce Development Board, 2016-Present
  • Board of Advisors, Jackie Robinson YMCA, 2017-Present
  • Board, Thrive Public Schools Foundation Board: 2016-Present
  • Advisory Board, Teach for America San Diego, 2016-2018
  • Board of Directors, International Cottages, House of Puerto Rico, 2016-2018
  • California Community College Chancellor’s Office, EEO and Diversity Advisory Committee, 2015-2016
  • CEO Member Group, San Diego/Imperial County Community College Association (SDICCCA), 2015-Present
  • Board of Directors, San Diego Continuing Education Foundation, 2015-Present
  • Board of Directors, San Diego Community College District Auxiliary, 2015-Present
  • Advisory Committee on Legislation, Community College League of California. 2014-Present


  • Association of Community and Continuing Education (ACCE) Excellence in Continuing Education, 2018
  • League for Innovation in Community Colleges 2018 Innovation of the Year Award
  • The RP Group Research and Planning Project Award, 2018
  • Association of California Community College Administrators (ACCCA) Mertes Award for Research, 2017
  • 79th District, Assembly Member Shirley Distinguished Male Leader Award, 2017

President's Blog

  • SDCE Graduates

    Latino and Hispanic American Heritage Month has been recognized and honored throughout the United States since the 60s and the observance became law in 1988—nearly three decades ago. At San Diego...

  • a mother with two boys

    The celebration of Black History Month dates back to 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States (US) and February was designated in 1976 as Black...

  • Two students standing in front of a Black History Month display

    The celebration of Black History Month dates back to 1915, half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States (US) and February was designated in 1976 as Black...

  • President Cortez presenting to administrators and faculty.

    The California Community College system is the largest in the nation with 2.1 million students attending 113 colleges. Each of these organizations participated in the California Community College...

President's Speaking Engagements

President Cortez speaking at podium
  • California Labor Federation, 2019 Building Workforce Partnerships Conference-March 2019
  • 2019 Ireland International Conference on Education
  • 2019 The Council for the Study of Community Colleges
  • 2019 Association for Community and Continuing Education
  • 2019 The League for Innovation in the Community College
  • 2018 Live Well San Diego, Live Well Advance Conference, San Diego, California
  • San Diego Workforce Partnership's 2018 Opportunity Summit, San Diego, California
  • 2018 CIES - Comparative and International Education, Mexico City, Mexico
  • 2018 HACU - Hispanic Associate of Colleges and Universities, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 2018 Open Education Conference, Niagara Falls, New York
  • 2018 ACCT - Association of Community College Trustees, New York New York
  • 2018 CCLC - Community College League of California, Mission Hills, California
  • 2018 LICE - London International Conference on Education, London, United Kingdom
  • The New World of Noncredit, Building and Expanding Programs in Community Colleges, San Diego, California
  • 2017 International Education Conference, Hawaii
  • Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, San Diego, California
  • Association of California Community College Administrators, Anaheim, California
  • Flip the Script: 53,000 Reasons to Change the Story of San Diego's Opportunity Youth, San Diego, California
  • Building Bridges and Programs: Developing and Sustaining a Culture of Noncredit, Sacramento
  • 2017 ATINER - Athens Institute for Education and Research, Athens, Greece

President in the News