Category Archives: Administration

Find Your Passion

The above image shows the results from last week’s poll and has nothing to do with the content of this week’s blog.

Week 3 Blog – Find Your Passion

I have a problem with following directions. I am always looking for the road less traveled. Our theme this week is about professional development, and I want to get to the heart of the matter, but with a twist.

Let’s face it, we don’t love our jobs every day. We tell our students to find a career they are passionate about so that they will “love” their jobs. Well, we all know that is an unrealistic expectation.

In order to have ultimate job satisfaction, you have to be passionate about SOMETHING. You have to make time for the things that you love. If you are an artist, you should be drawing, painting or designing. But you don’t have to do it at work. You do have to make sure you take the time to do it at some point in the day!

Take a look around at your work colleagues. You can see who is bringing passion to work. It’s like the good life is flowing over into their otherwise ho-hum life.

Take me, for example. Louise likes her job, she has a passion for health and fitness and loves teaching. Her job can be overwhelming and repetitive at times. Her true passion is swimming. When she swims, she is able to be creative and excited about her job, constantly coming up with something new and fun to keep it from feeling overwhelming and repetitive.

When Louise does not take the time to swim, she is grumpy and overwhelmed. Her professional development is directly affected by whether or not she gets to swim (her true passion). There are other obvious health-related benefits from swimming that get her blood flowing and her brain working, but jogging on the treadmill does not have the same effect, because she is terrible at running (not her true passion).

So what does this have to do with professional development, you ask? Everything. The point of professional development is to get better at what you do, to stay current in your field of study, and to network with others on the same career path. You can’t do any of that without passion. Let your passion for your “thing” overflow into your work life and you will find that your professional development will take care of itself. You will find yourself seeking opportunities that you would have otherwise missed.

Here is your call to action for the week: “What are you passionate about and are you spending enough time doing what you love?”

p.s. My “actual” professional development consists of an annual conference with the American College of Sports Medicine, nutrition seminars, various  MCCCD FPG workshops, and my favorite: CTLE offerings throughout the year. I have immense appreciation for the work of the GCC CTLE crew of Meghan, Alisa, Mark and Cheryl. They are oozing with talent and I love to learn from them.  ls


Student Success and Financial Aid – Week #2

Count yourself lucky if you didn’t have to rely on Federal Financial Aid for your college education.  At GCC, approximately 60% of our students must battle this maze every year.  In my time as the Vice President of Student Affairs, I have heard many stories from students, learned to understand the secret language of federal financial aid, and offer suggestions on ways to improve our service to students.  For example, take the U.S. born student whose parents were undocumented immigrants from Mexico.  When our student was 13, the parents were deported back to Mexico, leaving our student to fend for himself. Fortunately, he had an older sister who could help but nothing can replace the care and guidance of parents.  I learned there is help for exactly this situation, it’s called a Dependency Override, and while complicated, it allowed the student access to federal financial aid.

Every semester, a process called Enrollment Cancellation begins 35 days before the start of the semester.  This is a District-wide process that drops students from their classes for non-payment.  It has a complicated long story, but suffice it to say, there is a lot of angst surrounding this process.

Last summer, GCC was preparing to drop approximately 7000 students for non-payment.  Luckily, we were able to push robocalls to these students, encouraging them to sign up for a payment plan.  We also learned that approximately 3500 students had a federal financial aid application on file but had not completed the steps for awarding.  We saw this as a call to action, an opportunity to reach out to these students and to try to push them through the maze of financial aid.  We coined the phrase “Financial Aid Friday” and on a hot Friday in July, we were able to reach over 300 students.  GCC gained a lot of attention from District Office that day and a representative was sent over to witness and participate in our big event.  As a result of our focus on student success and financial aid, the messaging that students received was streamlined and made easier to understand.

So, what has GCC done now that we understand the impact of the federal financial process on our students and their success?  We have streamlined the GCC Financial Aid department and have hired four part-time staff to focus solely and completely on getting students through the maze we call federal financial aid. We are also planning additional Financial Aid Fridays throughout the summer.  The biggest take away for me has been in seeing the positive impact of one-on-one attention to our students.  It is time consuming and costly but ultimately, worth the price if we can help one more student through the maze.


Helping Those in Need

I read with hilarity that our fearless 6×6 leader had to cut a workout short, at Orange Theory, of all places, in order to salvage Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from a melt down in her car of disastrous proportions.

I am devoting this post to help someone in need. So if this resonates with you, consider this a gift!

Fortunatley for me, I am lactose intolerant and I generally give up sweets for Lent anyway.  So, I am donating my ice cream prize from last week to anyone who is daring enough to share a time lapse video of themselves completing a 20-minute workout!

I am also taking a poll to see if our dedicated Write 6x6ers would prefer a whole-food snack as their award for completing their weekly challenge.  The results of this poll will be shared next week! Please choose your poison and submit!

People will generally eat what is put in front of them and a sweet reward is always welcome! But if you are trying to make a positive change in your eating habits, my guess is that you will appreciate having a reward that contributes to your health!

I was going to file this blog in the never-to-be-published archives, but have been egged on by our fearless moderator, as it seems that she might be up for the time-lapse video challenge. Who knew?

In the spirit of Valentine’s day, take care of your heart with healthy eating and exercise so you have the energy and strength to send your love to the world.




Trickle-Down Help

The theme this week is asking how I have helped someone. I could go on about all my amazing successful students, of course. (There is nothing more rewarding than mentoring students.) Instead, I want to highlight how I have been helped … and how hopefully that help has trickled down to the students.

Before I came to the community college, I taught science in a Montessori Elementary setting, and I also handled the tough behavior issues that went beyond the classroom. I felt pretty good about classroom control and helping students learn from their behavioral mistakes.

Funny thing though, Montessori Elementary classroom management techniques don’t always work in a community college setting – for a host of different reasons. I can no longer ask students to check their cell phones in at the door. Moving people’s seats during a lecture doesn’t go over very well. Students who misbehave cannot be sent to another classroom, and they don’t get detentions or “write ups.” They cannot be asked to write a reflective essay on their behavior. Adult students expect a certain amount of freedom – after all, they ARE adults!

I know I am not the only one who can spot a problem brewing. When we see this, we must decide how far to take it. I usually start by speaking to the student individually. I can suggest, cajole, offer, etc. to students who need help to visit the appropriate support service (counseling, testing center, library, writing center, etc.) – but sometimes those students just do not follow through. Then, when the student is not getting what he/she needs outside the classroom, it shows up in classroom etiquette and other disruptive behaviors. As soon as it becomes a distraction to the learning of the others in the class, we have options and support.

The Behavior Intervention Team, a committee through the Dean of Student Life has helped me handle a specific difficult situation and become a better teacher at the same time. I had a student that was significantly disruptive and I frankly was concerned for his mental health. I started by having an informal conversation with Dr. Trisha Lavigne (fellow faculty are amazing), and then I followed through by filing a report online. I wanted the record to be in the system, but it was only in there for informational purposes. It is important to track things like this, as if the student repeats the behavior for another instructor, we at least have a paper trail. After the initial report was filed, we decided to have someone call him and offer services to help him get on track. Trisha gave me some words to use when speaking to the student about it. He got agitated, and the next class period, his behavior was even worse. I knew I was going to have to speak to him again, this time about his grade and what he was going to need to do to remain enrolled in the class. This is where Lt. Nate Achtizger helped me. He sat in the classroom and assessed the situation, then he sat outside the conference room when I met with the student. His feedback helped me feel more safe when the student was around. In the end, the student ended up dropping the class, which was helpful for everyone else – and maybe for him, too. Whew! Dodged a bullet! All through this process, Dean Monica Castaneda was aware and ready to step in if I couldn’t handle it.

The bullet was not dodged for long, though. That same student enrolled for another one of my classes this semester. Again, Dean Castaneda spent time emailing and talking with me to be prepare before the semester even started. While we tried to get the student to get the services he needs, he has refused. He is, however, doing much better this time around. And so am I. I know I am supported – the team has my back. I have established a new rapport with the student, and maybe, if he continues to not be disruptive, I will be able to reach him. Maybe he will eventually follow through on getting the services he needs. Just maybe. I hope.

So to answer the question, “How have you helped someone,” I can say that the GCC community has helped me. And in turn, hopefully, I can return the favor.


Healthier, Happier and Smarter

Have you read Spark yet? It gave me goosebumps.

The book basically justified my persistence for the past 30 years in the field of Fitness and Wellness. Exercise is not just about getting fit, looking good, preventing heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and the like. It helps keep you smarter!

I finished this book on a plane flight to Dublin last summer, on my way to see my family, but more specifically, my ailing mother who is suffering from the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

The book highlighted many of the mental health issues we deal with, including Alzheimer’s, ADHD, stress, anxiety, depression and addiction. And guess what? Exercise outscores medication in every case. It may not replace it for every case, but it certainly is a great complement to treatment.

It turns out that exercise is like Miracle Gro to the brain. It promotes the production of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which causes neurons to grow! It was only discovered in 1990! Since then, neuroscientists have been studying it like crazy. Exercise lays down the foundation for our students to learn.

In his book, Ratey devotes an entire chapter to the “Learning Readiness PE” program in Naperville, Illinois. These high school students are outsmarting their Japanese and German counterparts on the TIMMS test! You can find out more in this video!

It is my intention to make a difference in the lives of our community college students, faculty, staff and administration by raising awareness about the importance of movement throughout the day.

Just yesterday, the following bill was passed in Senate (SB211). I read it excitedly to my students this morning! Positive change is finally happening at the national level!

“A program of physical activity (i) that consists of at least 20 minutes per day or an average of 100 minutes per week during the regular school year available to all students in grades kindergarten through five and (ii) with a goal of at least 150 minutes per week on average during the regular school year available to all students in grades six through 12. Such program may include any combination of (a) physical education classes, (b) extracurricular athletics, (c) recess, or (d) other programs and physical activities deemed appropriate by the local school board. Each local school board shall incorporate into its local wellness policy a goal for the implementation of implement such program during the regular school year.

…That the provisions of this act shall become effective beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.”

Elementary schools and high schools will finally see the benefits of more movement on the brains of the students. I hope we can continue this trend at the community college level. It is critical to the success of our students.

Source: Ratey, J. J. (2012). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Little Brown and Company.


Student Success Week 1

Well, the semester is off to a running start, just like every semester. Life in the Enrollment Center is back to a slow and steady stream of students, unlike the crazy rush that happens just before and after the start of any semester. A huge thank you to our colleagues and friends in the Enrollment Center, I often believe they are the unsung heroes on our campus. They work tirelessly to get our students processed and enrolled in classes. As a long-time member of the faculty, I never truly appreciated the amount of time, effort, and dedication of my colleagues in Student Affairs to get the student into my class. I was always just so happy to have a classroom full of students eager to learn mathematics…well, maybe not eager, but certainly willing to try for the semester. Of course, my greatest sense of accomplishment was always the student who would say at the end of the semester “You know, math isn’t so bad after all.” Mission Accomplished! I can retire with a sense of accomplishment. Now as a Vice President of Student Affairs, I see my mission in a whole new way. My goal is to encourage, inspire, and push my team in Student Affairs to do more, push harder, to think beyond the boundaries to find ways to serve our students to the best of our ability. Customer service is job #1 and how we serve our students is a reflection of GCC…so the goal is to help as many students as possible through the long lines, through the maze we call financial aid, and on a path that leads to a successful completion of their
goal. Truly, it takes a village to get our students from the Welcome Desk to the Classroom and across the stage at Commencement. Thank you for the amazing work you do, both in the classroom and out of the classroom, to push and inspire our students.


Money Matters?

I can’t help thinking that lately, money has become the focus in academia. As the state cuts all state funding from community colleges in Maricopa County Arizona, how do we continue to deliver the best two year school education in the United States? What do we do? The answer seems simple to me, we continue to carry out the mission of the college.
Here is the Glendale Community College mission (taken from our website):

Glendale Community College prepares students for further higher education, employment and advancement, and successful participation in a global society.

Let’s focus on that mission. Everyone at a college plays an educational role for our students, from the college president to the clerk typist, to the faculty member in the classroom, to the maintenance and operations people, to the student affairs staff. Everyone at the institution should be aware of the college mission, and keep that as the focus of everything that we do.
If we all do that, we can continue to deliver the best to out students despite the financial woes. We can continue to do what we do best!


Coming Soon…New Academic Advising Model

Exciting developments continue in Student Affairs…this time in Academic Advising.  If you have ever visited the Enrollment Center during peak registration times, you’ll agree that the place is jumping with activity…sometimes too much activity.  With a constant eye on improving processes we knew we had to find a better way to serve students.  Gaucho 101 serves as First Semester Advisors with the goal to serve new-to-college, degree-seeking students, this allows only continuing students to be served by Academic Advisors in the Enrollment Center.  At the same time, thanks to SPA, we have data that shows students will see multiple Academic Advisors in a very short time, sometimes as many as six advisors!  All of this adding to the number of students waiting in the Enrollment Center.

Other than adding to the volume of students in the Enrollment Center, seeing multiple advisors means that students have to introduce themselves multiple times, explain their goals multiple times, and possibly, receive multiple answers to their questions…all of this causing frustration for everyone.

So…the Academic Advisors have taken on this challenge and will be revamping their advisement model to include assigned-advisors for students!  I am very excited about their process and the enthusiasm with which they have accepted the challenge.  Special thanks to Melissa Turnbull, Interim Advisement Coordinator, for leading this challenge and guiding the Academic Advisors through program development.  We will all be excited about the final outcome.

Remember…Student Affairs is focused on helping students develop relationships and connections with staff, helping to ease the path through their college experience, leading to a walk across the stage at commencement.


SSI Team and Gaucho 101

SSI Team and Gaucho 101

When the District Office mandated the Student Success Initiatives for all new-to-college, transfer or degree seeking students, each college was given financial support and charged with implementing four requirements for the SSI cohorts of students:

  1. Placement Testing – students must enroll in the English, reading and math courses identified.
  2. Academic Advising
  3. New Student Orientation
  4. Enrollment into a college success course for all students who test into at least one developmental (below 100) course.

At GCC we created the SSI Steering Team and SSI Implementation Team, each made up of faculty and staff focused on creating something special. The team knew that full-time staff would be needed to accomplish the SSI requirements, so using the funds provided by the District Office, the SSI Team was created:

Angie Wisniewski (Center, Coordinator), Mari Licking (Right, Student Services Specialist) and Danny Chavez (Left, Student Services Specialist).



The SSI Team serves as First-Semester Advisors for the SSI Cohort, and along the way, develop strong relationships with students. Working very closely with our SPA Team (Strategy, Planning and Accountability), the group was able to track how well we were doing with meeting the SSI mandates.

Like any good program with a focus on improving results and impact, the SSI Implementation and SSI Team redeveloped their strategies and approach to the program to create Gaucho 101, lead by our SSI Team.

Gaucho 101 is an interactive, self-paced, online advisement workshop.  Students are provided with information to guide them through the enrollment process, empowering students to self-enroll with staff on hand to answer all of their questions and ensure that appropriate courses are selected…it’s like Group Advising on steroids.

Gaucho 101 was implemented Spring 2014 and served approximately 1800 students in the Fall 2014 SSI Cohort, approximately 50% of the cohort.  The SSI Team was able to enroll 96% of their students in the New Student Orientation and 76% into the College Success Course, CPD 150.

Gaucho 101 was temporarily located in a testing room in the Testing & Disability Services (TDS) building.  This made for a smooth transition as students completed their placement test they were immediately handed over to Gaucho 101.

But again, like any good program with a focus on improving results and impact, the SSI Implementation Team was not satisfied with seeing only 50% of the SSI cohort…the goal is at least 90% to experience Gaucho 101!

To accomplish this huge goal, the team worked very closely with our Admissions and Records team to smooth the admissions process, with Testing Services for a smooth hand-off…and most importantly…the SSI Team will be permanently located in the Testing & Disability Services building by the end of May 2015.

With so much emphasis on student success, retention and completion, we cannot forget that student success begins with relationships…connections to faculty and staff, at all levels, so students know that their success is our success.  Gaucho 101 helps to create those relationships with students. I’m confident that Gaucho 101 will continue to evolve and continue to make a positive impact on our students.


Student Affairs has HEART

Student Affairs has HEART.

We Help to Empower people to Achieve and Reach their goals to Transform their life.

This is the new mission statement for GCC Student Affairs.  Last fall as the Student Affairs managers were developing our Tier II Strategic Plan, we thought a good place to start was with our Mission and Vision statements.  We wanted to stay true to our culture and philosophy and not get lost in too much rhetoric…we wanted to be able to live our mission.  We brainstormed who we are and what we care about…you’ll notice that the mission statement does not mention “students” exclusively…our goal is to impact students and our staff…which is why we chose the word “people” for our mission statement.

Special thanks to our Marketing Team and graphic designers for their patience and creativity as they provided us with nine different designs to represent our mission statement.