Category Archives: Student Services

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.


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.



My Corner of GCC

The Challenge was thrown out to name names in this week’s 6 X 6 Blog and I’ll have to say I have a lot of names.  I’ll start with Diane whose kind greeting always makes me feel welcome as I get my daily Coke Cola fix.  Then there’s Richard, along with a team of talented co-workers, who spends his days making sure that our grounds look Ahhh-mazing!  He’s not much for chitchat but he always has a smile when you say hi.  Oh and how about the countless Student Workers who have graced us with their dedication and hard work! Those like Brianna, Tiffany, Amy, and Theresa who especially shine up my surroundings every day.  Who hasn’t seen Chris?!  He motors all over campus advocating for our military men and women.  He even shaved his head for them! Then there’s those I watch working tirelessly to bring our students opportunities outside of campus like Laura and Anthony who daily assist students seeking jobs.

This is just my little corner of campus and I know Glendale Community College has a wealth of people all over campus that make a difference.  These individuals bring warmth, beauty, and care to all to those they encounter.  I am inspired by them, their dedication to the work they do, and the excellent services they give encourages me to do my very best.



I don’t know about you but when I transitioned from high school to college I was not ready.  Funny thing is when I talked to my dad about it he also indicated that his experience was the same.  Both of us bombed out of courses that first semester and had to recover.  However he was quicker than me as he went on to get his degree in a few years and I took…20!  I was a retention/persistence nightmare student.  I never saw an advisor, declared all sorts of majors, went to several colleges, and took a WIDE variety of courses.  Now I advise new first year students, Waahahaha!

I am sure it is easy to see why I can identify with the new student.  When a student walks onto our campus for the first time it is at that very moment life changes drastically. So much is coming at them that even something as common as setting a password becomes foreign.  We expect them to instantly understand, even know, common used words, processes, and requirements.  I don’t know about you but I only know what I LEARN and I learn faster if someone takes the time to teach me.  FYI, letting a student struggle to figure all this out is NOT student empowerment, that’s just laziness on our part. Going the extra mile will help our students go further down their educational path.

Each time we engage a student we have the opportunity to share in a learning experience.  It is in these sorts of engagements that we can create change in our students’ lives, change in our campus, and change in our community.  We need to understand that change takes time and it is our job to be patient.  Each of us have the POWER to stimulate change in those we encounter by simply taking the time to share our knowledge.

I think Spiderman says it best…



Which way is Change?

Wechange_sign1 have all experienced change: change in our surroundings, change in circumstances, change in thinking, change in appearance and change in attitude.

I’ve never quite fully understood how some people can easily embrace change and can adjust their lives while others get shaken up or experience meltdowns. Change can be actively chosen and created by self, part of nature or brought about by others without our permission or control. Even when we actively make a decision for a change, we may find out it was harder than expected and not so much fun to muddle through.

For me, significant changes in my life included marrying, giving birth to children, balancing college and raising children at the same time, experiencing empty nest syndrome, starting new jobs, sudden death of a love one, adjusting to a spouse retiring, and moving across country and leaving a home and friends of 25 years.  All of these events made my life different than the day or weeks or years before.

Change occurs during my job here at GCC, I experience change on a daily basis. Every day is different. Different students and situations are the springboards for different types of actions and conversations. It isn’t necessarily affecting my personal lifestyle but sometimes it could affect a change in my attitude, both positive and negative.

Our DRS office will be experiencing a significant change in location soon. In fact, there are several offices that are experiencing a change of location. While some staff may not be happy about the changes, others are excited for stability and a place they can call home.

So how can we best handle changes in our lives that throw us off balance and rattle our nerves? We can go in the direction to pray for peace, understanding, or healing of the spirit and mind. Begin to look for the silver lining in our change. Carol Dweck, the Stanford University psychologist and author of the Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, discusses 4 steps for someone to get out of a (words italicize are my own)    Fixed mindset (Woe is me, nothing will change, I’m no good) to a Growth mindset (yes this might be bad but what will I learn from this change/challenge? What can I do better? ).

Step 1: Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice.” (I call it the negative and defeated voices)

Step 2: Recognize that you have a choice. (I get to decide what to listen to and believe about myself or circumstances. I get an opportunity to change the way I think and believe about my situation or myself)

Step 3: Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice (My change or situation may not look good but I will learn to find positive things about it)

Step 4. Take the growth mindset action. (Whenever negative, defeat thoughts and actions occur, identify it for what it is and then translate those to positive thoughts, speech and action)

I would encourage you to learn more by going to


The Energy Enigma

It’s a weird thing about energy. It’s hard to capture. At the end of a hard day at work, it can completely evade us. On most Friday evenings, I think it gets buried in the sofa cushions with all of our lost articles.

We have all learned that energy cannot be created or destroyed. So where does it go when we are searching for it the most? Maybe there is a different formula for the type of energy we are all looking for?

Would you believe me if I told you that energy could be created by expending energy?  i.e. Energy begets energy. It seems counter intuitive, doesn’t it. How can I create energy if I don’t have any?

Personal example: Today I came home from work after eight hours of interviews, which consisted of sitting in a chair for most of the day. My energy meter was hovering around “empty,”  in the red zone. I had 20 minutes of free time before going to pick up the children.

I had a choice: I could melt into the sofa for a 20-minute nap (sounds delicious); or I could put on my running shoes and go run around the local park. I’m not much of a runner, but the weather was so nice and the park looked so inviting. I opted for the run.

Miracle of miracles! My energy meter was back in the green zone, and I was back in action and singing songs with the kids in the van. My brief exercise session also gave me the energy to write this blog before the Friday night deadline and fully engage with my online classes for the evening.

When you repeat this type of behavior on a regular basis, you come to rely on a brief exercise session to get your energy back on track. In fact, a brief exercise session can function just like a cup of coffee in the morning, but the benefits are far greater and last a lot longer.

There are hundreds of personal testimonials and research studies to be found on this topic.  Here is just one such post that I enjoyed reading.

If you are up for a challenge, try replacing your morning coffee with an apple and a brisk walk. I guarantee you that your energy meter will soar! (I triple dog dare you to write a blog about your experiences.)

Photo “borrowed” from Dr. Alisa Cooper.

p.s. I know you have an apple in your office if you have been keeping up with your Write 6×6 blogs!  :O)



Knowing their Stories

Sometimes we don’t really know or understand the barriers to learning that some individuals experience in school. We might look at the ease of our own ability to organize our time, our belongings, our ability to read, write, study, type, make everyday decisions, socialize and converse among other people. We might tend to look on others and wonder why they don’t try harder, why they are in college, or wonder whether they will ever amount to anything.

Here are a small portion of students’ stories from my personal experience: (Names have been changed)

Amy volunteered to sit on a panel with other students with disabilities to share experiences with faculty and staff during a brown bag event. She began sharing when she was diagnosed with a learning disability during grade school and moved into talking about her high school experiences. All of a sudden she began to cry and ran out of the room. She shared with me later that as she was sharing with our group, the emotions and pain she experienced in K-12 began surfacing and her emotions got the best of her. She began to remember the childhood ridicule and how instructors would be impatient with her telling her to try harder. I hugged her and thanked her for her courage to share and that even in her reaction to cry and flee spoke volumes to the listeners.

Brad was the male lacrosse player who was diagnosed with ADHD. He confined in me that the school partying scene and expectations of the team camaraderie was getting to him and not a good contributor to focusing on academics. He decided to transfer back to his hometown college and commute from home.

Kert was a football player with a learning disability that cried in my office when we were discussing his academic standing and his learning struggles for that semester. What seemed so easy in high school was now so overwhelming to him transitioning to a residential college. The rigors of practice, workouts and games along with his reading difficulties was just so overwhelming.

Timothy was the veteran returning to civilian life only to return with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Wanting to move forward and obtain a college degree, he was hampered at times with the lingering memories of wartime experiences. He needed to sit at the back of the classroom so no one would be in the back of him. That really wasn’t good for his focusing to sit so far back but he needed to feel safe in the room full of strangers. He used to have a great memory and could retain information, but now this is more difficult and it makes test taking troublesome.

Carl had ADHD, anxiety and Asperger Syndrome. He needed to be in a separate room to take tests so that he could pace when dictating his responses to test questions. For long exams we would split the test in ½ so he could take a break and returned to complete the exam.

There are countless ongoing stories of students such like those mentioned above that seek higher education and we, as faculty and staff, have the challenge and the privilege to journey with them as they explore and move mountains to achieve their goals.

PS: Meeting with Carl often left me feeling really stupid. His passions were Shakespearean literature, the Beatles and an avid movie buff. Every time we met, he would quiz me on films or literature. Even the Beatle questions left me stumped since I had no idea what years each song was produced. I even grew up listening to the Beatles. I should have known the answers!


Where’s the Medicine?

no cookies

I promise that I am not being motivated by ice cream and chocolate chip cookies but here I am again at the end of week three of Write 6×6 and it’s time to share the wonderful exercise opportunities we have right here on our campus. Where’s the medicine?

GCC is in the running to receive national recognition for Exercise is Medicine on Campus. As part of the EIM-OC initiative, we are tasked to ensure that qualified fitness professionals are available on our campus to serve the needs of our community, which includes employees, students, and the general public.

We meet that need in two ways:

  1. We Train the Fitness Professionals!
  2. We Have Outstanding Staff and Facilities!

We Train the Professionals

Since 1983 we have prepared students to become certified fitness professionals in our Exercise Science and Personal Training programs. Our students gain the knowledge, skills and abilities to design and implement exercise programs and can immediately enter the workforce as Personal Trainers.  Many choose to transfer to university and finish programs in Exercise and Wellness, Kinesiology, Physical Therapy, Athletic Training, and Dietetics, just to name a few.

In collaboration with the Food and Nutrition Department, we share the Exercise Science and Nutrition Club, where our students can combine their knowledge and skills to help promote fitness and health on campus and in the community. A recent scavenger hunt activity drew more than 100 excited participants, sending them running to all corners of the campus hunting for clues and enjoying the excitement of the competition.

We Have Outstanding Staff and Facilities:

We hire only the most qualified, certified fitness professionals who share their expertise with employees, students and the local community.

The Fitness Centers on the Main and North campus offer state of-the-art cardiovascular and strength training equipment and a myriad of free fitness classes including yoga, cycling, lap swimming, and boot camp style sessions.

The biggest difference that sets the GCC Fitness Center apart from its competition is its professional staff and exceptional customer service. A family-friendly location, we offer personal training, nutrition consulting, blood pressure and body composition checks, massage, incentive programs, great prizes, locker facilities and a towel service. There is always a degreed and certified instructor available to answer questions and assist with exercise programming.

Special discounts are available for veterans, high school students, nursing/EMT/firefighters, student athletes/dancers and students enrolled in the Exercise Science and Personal Training programs.

Our Sports Performance Lab, located in the LSA building, offers clinical fitness screenings and evaluations for faculty, staff, students and the community. Triathletes and sports professionals can take advantage of VO2max testing, blood lactate assessment, body composition, flexibility and strength analysis.

The Adapted Fitness Center designs fitness programs for individuals with disabilities and meets a very critical need in our community. Participants receive individualized attention and enjoy the benefits of exercise using specialized equipment with the help of highly trained staff.

Our Senior Fitness program draws a great deal of interest from the local community and accepts health insurance benefits such as SilverSneakers, Prime, Flex, Cigna Medicare and Silver & Fit. The classes are designed specifically for the senior population and cater to all levels of fitness.

The line-up of Physical Activity (PED) classes for college credit includes swimming, water exercise, line dancing, hiking, camping, Pilates, Tai Chi, Zumba, yoga…you name it, we have it. We also offer mind/body, wellness and recreation classes. Aromatherapy is one of our very popular wellness classes.

Spring 2015 Events for the Health-Minded

This year, we have collaborated with the Nursing Department on the Community Health and Wellness Fair, which will take place outside the Life Sciences Building on March 25th, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. and March 27th, 1 – 7 p.m. We plan to promote Exercise is Medicine and launch a 50-mile walking incentive program during the month of April using a fitness tracking app developed at GCC. Participants will receive pedometers and completers will be entered in a grand prize drawing.

May is Exercise is Medicine Month.  We plan to offer lunchtime fitness activities throughout the first week in May. Test your kickboxing skills, or try our yoga or Zumba! Stay tuned for more details on EIM Week!



EDU 250 – More than what I thought!

In my ongoing journey of professional development to increase my knowledge and skills as an academic advisor I am currently in the process of working on the  Foundations of Student Services Certificate Program.  As part of the program I was required to take EDU 250 – Teaching and Learning in the Community College.  As an academic advisor I was tenaciously focused on delving into my craft and learning all I could about ADVISING students, so this class really wasn’t at the  top of my list.  As is goes, it has been the class which I was disinclined to take that has been the most useful! Little did I know that EDU 250 would provide me with some of the most essential skills I needed to serve students and help my team as we built the Gaucho 101 Program.

With the EDU 250 course under my belt I acquired a critical understanding of the many characteristics a community college student might have and the challenges some those characteristics bring.  I have a new respect for our students and what it has taken for many of them to simply walk onto the campus.  From the 1st Generation Student to the young parent who is balancing home, work, and school it is vital that each get advisement that suits their individual needs.

Then after examining the different learning styles of a student that awareness impressed upon me how important it is to build programs which incorporate different learning styles.  I now deeply understand that just talking at a student might not serve their needs and how vital it is to include visual and tactile moments of learning when possible.  Admittedly it takes time to add such elements to an advisement session but it gives the student more opportunity to truly learn.

What really rocked my advisor world was learning about course planning and design, as it gave me a good action plan for both advising students and building programs.    I have endeavored to make these four elements of course design part of my every interaction with students and to do my best to bring them into any program our team designs.

  • Knowing the aim, goals and objectives for the student
  • Finding clear ways to present the subject matter
  • Include learning activities
  • Evaluating

Beyond giving our instructors a solid foundation the EDU 250 course offers valuable knowledge at the heart of Student Services.  I highly encourage anyone who advises students or works on student programming to enroll!!