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By: The Office of Strategy, Planning & Accountability (SPA)

 In 2012, ASU conducted a Preliminary Stakeholder Needs Assessment for GCC. One of the findings pointed out that there was a need for GCC STEM students to have practical experience in research through internship opportunities. In response to this need, the Office of Strategy, Planning & Accountability (SPA) established a formal internship opportunity with GCC’s psychology department. Each spring semester, psychology professors recommend a small number of high-performing students who have successfully completed (or in the process of completing) Introduction to Statistics (PSY230) and Research Methods (PSY290) and are interested in the internship. The research team then interviews them and makes a selection. The selected student works with the research team throughout the semester on specific projects.

SPA’s pioneering student intern Wendie, completed her internship in spring 2014. Following is Wendie’s feedback regarding her learning outcomes from her experience at SPA.

1) First and foremost, I learned that a successful research study takes not only teamwork within the office, but also teamwork from the organization, as well. I was working on one specific project all semester, which was the Gaucho Student Survey (GSS). The making of the survey had just started right before I began my internship and the making of the survey itself was continuing after I left. I never really understood how beneficial it is to have outside collaborators, until I went to SPA meetings to talk about this specific survey. It is so powerful to have different knowledgeable people work together because they may have ideas no one else thought of, they may catch a mistake we missed, or they would help us better word something for a person at the college level to understand. I have no doubt that the survey I helped with was successful due to the amount of team effort and work went into it. That is what makes anything successful: teamwork.

2) I learned an extensive amount about survey work. Phil, my director, showed me past survey studies that had been administered at GCC and this helped myself tremendously when brainstorming about the GSS. In addition, I had the opportunity to help Jay with an organizing a survey that was already going to be administered at all Maricopa Community Colleges. Survey studies take just as much work as any other research project and the results can be very powerful after finding the correct organizing, word choice, and main idea you are trying to find. This was my first quasi-experimental study I participated in and it was a great experience nonetheless.

3) I learned much more about SPSS. SPSS is program where data is entered and analyses can be performed. Since I was fresh out of my research methods class, I was still (and still am) learning all about SPSS. I was able, towards the end of my internship, to actually input data to get some practice. There are so many different types of tests a person can run in SPSS that it can be overwhelming. Thankfully, Phil explained everything thoroughly and efficiently to where I was able to run a few tests he wanted me to perform on data he already possessed. I was looking for significance within the analyses and recorded which results were significant and which were not. SPSS is something that has to be consistently practiced, but as I grow in my education, I will one day be just as good as everyone within the SPA team.

4) I learned how to successfully research past research articles. Before any research project can begin, you must have information backing up what exactly you want to research. There are multiple different articles out in the internet database and even books that is takes an extensive amount of time to do. When I first began with SPA, I began researching from day one until my very last day. You have to thoroughly read through everything to get an idea of what an article is about and if it will help in what you are trying to research now. There is never a limit on how much research that can be used within a research project. The more information, the better. I definitely learned that from the amount of hours I spent doing so. Not only do you have to successful research various articles, but everything must be cited correctly within a bibliography, as well. For myself personally, finding research is the hardest part of any project because this sets a foundation of where your specific project will go. The amount of research I did for SPA has helped me even within my schoolwork because with anything anyone does anymore, it needs research.

5) Most importantly to myself, I learned exactly what I want to do one day in the field of Psychology thanks to this internship. I have decided to become an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist and I hope to one-day work for a school system doing some form of research. This internship opportunity with SPA taught me a lot about how I want students to be successful in their studies, what exactly will draw them into college, and what will keep them in their studies. School is something I hold dear to my heart and working hands on with something that will be impactful for students is very satisfying. The SPA teams works very hard to get the results that the organization itself needs and I could tell how passionate each member of SPA is in regards to their studies. Each and every one of them including Phil, Alka, Jay, Eddie, Heather, and Lisa, has inspired me to follow along in their footsteps. I am not sure where I will end up in the future in regards to my future practice, but it will be very similar to what I have taken away from SPA. The internship in a whole was a wonderful experience that I will always be grateful for.

Our newest intern, Amiee, from the psychology department began her internship this semester with SPA and is hard at work with the research team! For more information, please email us at spa@gccaz.edu.

Sincere Thanks from an Adjunct


I have heard and read countless complaints about being an Adjunct Faculty member. I will admit, there are difficult aspects of being an adjunct – and let’s face it, we all know what those are.

Having served as an adjunct faculty member in a few different places, I must say that being at GCC is the best.

Here are some reasons why:

There are pleasant places to work while on campus. The work places I have used are open and set up to encourage collaboration and discussion among others. It helps me feel a sense of belonging.

The staff is very helpful, and will do whatever they can to help me accomplish what I want or need to do. This culture of going above the call of duty is the rule, not the exception here. It doesn’t matter to people whether I am adjunct or not – they just help where they can. I love how the staff has been so helpful in navigating the bureaucratic hoops one must jump through sometimes.

More seasoned members of the Residential faculty are generally available to advise and educate when asked. Emails are answered and phone calls are returned without delay – I’m often amazed at how quickly that happens. Questions one might expect to have a 1-2 day turnaround are often be addressed on the same day.

I feel like I’m an important contributor to the community here too. My advice is sought, my ideas are heard, and my opinions matter. My intellect is stimulated – and I learn new things at work all the time. This is a far cry from the second-class-citizen feeling that often accompanies being an adjunct.

The positive feelings and willingness to help I have experienced outside the classroom spills over into my classes as well. Students are the direct beneficiaries of this. I can be more available and am more willing to advocate for them when needed, because I am happy and comfortable in the environment.

Thank you GCC!

I Received a Rose for Valentine’s Day



On February 13th, I was sitting in my office and a young man walked by my window and then stopped at my door. I looked up from my computer and saw him standing there with a bunch of roses. “Oh, how pretty,” I commented. He walked in and gave me a rose. I thanked him and he left to continue his mission of giving out roses to the ladies in Testing Services.

I was touched and at that same time frustrated and mad at myself because I couldn’t remember his name. He is one of the DRS students we serve. I used to remember students’ names when I worked at a small private college but now I meet with several hundred students a year and the fact that being older also hinders my memory capacity. 🙂 I can’t keep all their names in my head.

For the next 45 minutes I was possessed with finding out the student’s name.  Why?  Because this student took the time to drop by my office and offer me a rose.  The least I could do is find out who he was and to thank him.

After identifying the student, I re-read my notes related to my meetings with him.  I realized that learning challenges he had during high school and college coupled with surviving a brain tumor has not hampered his spirit.
Although the limitations he experiences academically leaves him feeling useless at times. His friends from high school have abandoned him and he technically can’t work because of the medical benefits he receives. During our last conversation in November 2014 he shared that he is bored. He stays home so much and wants to do something. We brainstormed resources and volunteer opportunities to get him involved with other people and feel useful.

I directed him to Career Services for additional support. I am unsure whether he found a volunteer opportunity or not but one thing I am sure; he took the time to bring roses to the Disability and Testing Services building for Valentine’s Day and blessed my day!

Reflections on Literacy



One of my students’ favorite projects is the Shoebox Literacy Autobiography Project.  They collect at least five artifacts related to their personal literacy story and describe the artifacts via a short oral presentation in a small group setting.  They follow up with a short written reflection on what they learned and how they felt.  For children’s lit, students include at least one children’s book.  For CRE101, they include at least one book.

I model the process by sharing my own story of literacy and explain how literacy in our family has been passed down through modeling from the older siblings to the younger ones.  This photo is of my father’s family.  He’s the one in the short pants.  The older ones helped the younger ones be successful and go to college.  It was a group effort to help the members of this farm family rise out of poverty and achieve success.

Collins family

By sharing a bit about ourselves early in the semester (usually by week 4 or 5), students tell me they feel closer to their classmates and have a deeper understanding of  literacy in their day-to-day lives.  Here are a few comments that came in this week:

By then end of my presentation I realized that reading has been a big thing in my family. My mom’s parents encouraged her to read, not just for fun but for her own good.
Something that I learned from this experience was that we are all different in many ways but at the same time we shared some of the same sentimental items. One thing was that we all shared a picture of a love one and how they impacted our lives as literate human beings.
The interesting thing in this book is that it is written in two languages, English and Spanish. They learned a few words in Spanish. I still remember their happy faces when reading.
Even though not everyone is a big reader we’re all connected with literature one way or another.
I have always known that I am privileged to be able to say I am as educated and literate as I am, but telling other people about the process of how I got to this point of literacy in my life made me realize a few things about myself.

Coming out of the closet


I am a lesbian. That is certainly not a secret. When I arrived at GCC in 2002 I was president of the Gay and Lesbian employee organization for the district (now Equality Maricopa), and I immediately became co-advisor of the LGBT student group on campus. I was out to my fellow employees, but in class, I tended not to talk about my personal life.  Every once in a while, during the before class milling around, a student would ask me  something like “How does your husband feel about being married to a psychology professor?” I would respond with “I don’t have a husband, I have a wife, and she was a psychology major in college so I think she is OK with it.” Usually the student would apologize for asking, for reasons I don’t quite understand, and then we would move awkwardly forward with the class.

Then, a few years into my time at GCC, the psychology department lost a long time adjunct instructor who had been teaching our LGBT studies class. We searched for a replacement, but we were only able to find someone for one semester. Ultimately, I decided to teach the class. It was as a result of teaching that class that I learned how important being out of the closet could be to my students.

Many of the students who enroll in the LGBT studies class are looking for something. About half of them are straight allies looking to learn more about LGBT people. The other half are students who are themselves members of the LGBT community, and they want to know more about the environment at GCC for them, the laws that pertain to them, the social environment in Phoenix, and many other things.  I learned a lot about the importance of someone like me being out from these students. All of the students told me they had not had an LGBT instructor, and I knew that was probably not true, they just did not know that they had.

A couple of semesters ago, I was teaching an Introduction to Psychology class where a student asked me a question about my husband and I answered in the typical way, that I don’t have a husband, I have a wife, and then I shared the answer with them regarding my wife. During my office hour, one of the students in the class, who was presenting as male, came to my office and told me that he was transgender, but he was afraid to be out on campus or with his family. I listened, I told him what I knew about transitioning, but I mostly listened. I gave him contact information for a transgender activist I knew personally. I continued to check in with this student during the semester. As the semester ended, I was worried about him because I knew he was living his life in a way that was not consistent with who he was inside. I knew he was living in fear of his family finding out. I knew his being closeted was eating him up inside.

This past week, I ran into that transgender activist friend of mine. She told me that she had recently been in contact with one of my former students, and she told me the name. I was so happy to hear that now that student was presenting as female, the woman she really is, and was doing well. I would not have had the opportunity to get to know my student if I had not been out in my class.

We all have closets that we can come out of with our students when appropriate. Maybe we ourselves attended community college, or maybe we were first generation college students who had to learn to navigate academia and we made it through. Maybe we went to an elite university and we can dispel myths about what they are like. Maybe we worked two jobs putting ourselves through college and we can relate to their experience. Maybe we can just listen to them sometimes, and try to connect them with resources. Sometimes for students, just seeing that someone like them can be a college professor, or administrator, or professional, can help them see themselves achieving their goals.

I want to encourage my colleagues to consider coming out of their closets.

Let’s Talk Assignment Schedules


At first glance, nothing seems quite as boring to talk about than assignment scheduling, right?  But the way you set assignments up says a lot about your attitude toward your students and your philosophy of education.

For a time I taught online for a Midwestern university where the policy was that all assignments were due Sunday midnight – no exceptions, because the program appealed to working adults.

While I adhered to the Sunday-midnight rule (of course!), I was relieved to come to Glendale and have more flexibility in my assignment scheduling.  While the “one-night” rule is perhaps convenient for student schedules, in reality it doesn’t work very well for overall assignment scheduling or learning:

  • When all assignments are due one night a week, some assignments are sitting in the submission “queue” a day or two or three while other assignments are sitting there more or less days.
  • The same thing happens in reverse on Sunday midnight: I consider myself a good instructor, but I still can’t grade all assignments from all my classes instantaneously – or usually even all assignments from any ONE class in one day.
  • So again, some assignments sit longer than others in my “grading” queue.
  • Now think about what all these delays look like to the students, who ALSO don’t do all assignments instantaneously or at once – how long has it been since they submitted their first assignment until they get feedback and a grade on it?

In manufacturing and computing, this “do it all at once” phenomenon is called “batch” processing.

So what is the better solution?  The answer is to maintain a regular schedule for assignments, but spread it out and do a little at a time versus one big “batch” each week.  I set up a 2x assignment schedule for my three classes as an adjunct.  It looks something like this (note that assignments are due at midnight — a student preference, I asked):

Class A:  Assignments due Monday and Thursday midnight

Class B: Assignments due Tuesday and Friday midnight

Class C: Assignments due Wednesday and Sunday midnight

No assignments due on Saturday (instructor gets Sunday “off” – yeah!)

What does a 2x, spread-out schedule do?

  • Students still have a regular assignment date – but now it is “dates,” i.e. twice a week, a schedule they can count on and get into a rhythm with
  • Students get more timely feedback from the instructor
  • Students are less likely to struggle or be confused long
  • Students get feedback on work done before more assignments are due
  • Instructors grade a little bit each day versus one grading “marathon” once a week
    • And probably do a better job
  • Instructors know almost immediately if a particular assignment is problematic or confusing to students, and can adjust as needed and more quickly.
  • The instructor and students now have twice the “touch” points – times when they are communicating with one another, providing feedback and reactions and questions and responses (essential in any online class)

One other thing to note about assignment scheduling: When I have a hybrid or FTF class, I do NOT have any assignments due from that class the day class meets.  Why not?  Because I want students to focus on the lesson, be engaged in our (short) time together, and not be so concerned about that assignment or wiped out from an all-nighter the day before.  I also want to go over that assignment with them before they do it – they do better and I get more of what I am looking for – which makes my grading easier as well.

The amount of work you do as an instructor in a 1x  or 2x assignment schedule is ultimately the same – but by making assignments due twice a week, you will give your students more timely feedback and a much better chance to succeed – and most of them will appreciate it.

You might even like the “every day but Sunday” regular schedule better yourself.

Learning is hard work!


In “Enhancing Rigor in Developmental Education,” the Scaling Innovation team discusses productive struggle: “the ultimate goal of instructional activities that require productive struggle is for students to develop a healthy disposition toward uncertainty in their pursuit of skills and knowledge they will later revisit and apply in other contexts.”

My favorite story of the week exemplifies productive struggle.

Students were to read about critical thinking and define the 15 critical thinking terms used in the article. My goal is to have them start using the language of critical thinking. Not surprisingly, they returned with 15 dictionary definitions that did not mean much! My next goal was to get them to use the dictionary to learn all they could about the words (as opposed to just copying down definitions they didn’t understand.) They read through dictionary entries and found new synonyms, learned how to use the pronunciation symbols to figure out “how to say it right,” discussed etymologies and how knowing the word history helped them remember and understand how the word came to mean what it does, realized how knowing the part of speech helped them use it correctly in a sentence, and argued about the “appropriate definition for the context” in the article.  Sounds boring but they were engaged and admitted that maybe dictionary.com is not always the best option for really learning new words.

When we were finished, a  student said, “Teacher, when I came in here I thought I knew everything but now I know I knew nothing!” I asked her how that felt and she replied, “It feels great! There is SO much to know!”

Learning is hard

Getting students to work hard is hard work! From the grumbling gentlemen in RDG081 who refuse to justify their answers to critical reading students who can’t write in complete sentences, it takes me several weeks to get them to struggle productively but it is beginning to surface that they are learning and that it feels good!


Announcements on CANVAS



I have found utilizing the Announcement option on CANVAS has been an effective way to reach my students. After every class meeting, I create an announcement based off the date. I include what we covered in class (linking any power points and videos), along with posting the next class period’s homework.  If students are absent, I also link any recording sheets or articles they will need.

I have had many students provide feedback on the fact that I use this feature in a face-to face class. It helps them stay on track, especially since most of them all have smart phones. They do have a paper schedule, which we always go over in class, but this provides another type of support.

Another benefit is students do not have an excuse on not having their homework completed if being absent.  It is still due, absent or not.

It is also a great way of holding them accountable…..I refer them back to CANAVS and the date in question.



Exercise is Medicine for Stress


The people have spoken! According to the survey results from last week’s blog, the number one reason that GCC employees exercise is for…wait for it…relief from stress.

The stress relief gained from just one exercise session can last for 60-90 minutes! This is due to the release of endorphins – chemicals that act like pain killers!  According to WebMD, “…that feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.”

Just from reading some of the awesome Write 6×6 blogs, you get a sense of the anxiety and tension experienced by employees and students alike. You don’t have to read the blogs to know the amount of pressure we are all dealing with.


One of the most common stress responses felt by students is test-taking anxiety.  You know…that feeling when you have stayed up all night to cram for a big exam, and realize the next morning that absolutely nothing was committed to memory. The exam paper staring up at you. Panic sets in. Eyes dilate. Heart races. Breathing increases. Sweat beads begin to emerge, but nothing coming from the brain.

As employees we may feel similar tension related to deadlines, presentations, forging through “red tape,” miscommunications, personality conflicts, cultural differences, personal beliefs…the list is endless.

So grab your work buddy and take them for a brisk walk around our beautiful campus! Encourage your students to move more every chance you get! Be the role model and show people in a positively active way how you handle your stress!

Don’t think you have time to exercise? Watch this video, “23 and 1/2 Hours,” and I promise it will make an impact on your decision.

Next week I will tell you about all of the wonderful on-campus opportunities to move more and have fun doing it. If you can’t wait ’til then, come find an exercise professional on the west side of campus! We are here to serve you!

Results from the survey “My Benefits of Physical Activity.

More energy (have enough energy to play with the kids after work, stay productive after lunch, take care of the house on the weekend) 75%
Less chance of colds and flu 75%
Relief from stress 100%
Increased productivity (feel confident that I can accomplish all I want to do and invigorated when I get things done) 75%
Clean thinking (able to concentrate, sort things out clearly, and solve problems) 75%
Healthy and strong bones, joints, and muscles (lower my risk of injury, tackle heavier household chores, and try new activities) 75%
Increased vitality (feel alive and full of energy, like I can take on the world) 50%
Better quality of life (stay active in retirement, keep up with family and friends on vacation or around town, do things for myself) 50%
Stronger, healthier heart and lungs (climb stairs without huffing and puffing; become more active and less fatigued around town or on vacation) 75%
Better sleep 75%
Decreased feelings of depression or anxiety 75%
Improved physical fitness 75%
More effective weight control (be able to reduce or maintain weight) 50%
Reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes 50%
Brighter mental outlook (feel good about life, ready to take on the day, and confident that things will work out) 75%
Reduced risk of colon cancer 0%
Healthier and longer independent life (reduce my risk of disease and maintain my independence as I grow older) 75%
Improved self-esteem and self-image 75%



Feeling Disgruntled?


This week was extremely difficult for me.  I woke up Monday morning with a sore throat.  Tuesday and Wednesday I stayed home with what I presumed was the flu.  When I returned to work on Thursday, it was to find our office in crisis mode due to a water leak and seven rooms worth of classes needing to be relocated.

I have to admit that I was feeling disgruntled to have such a disruption and abundance of work dropped on me when I myself was just trying to survive the day and not keel over from being sick.  Nobody likes walking into an emergency, especially when they feel like they’re dying inside.  However, as the hours passed and the day was ending I felt a sense of accomplishment.  I was reminded that every day I’m here I’m making a difference in a student’s life.  Whether it’s on the forefront or behind the scenes, we make a difference to students.

When I applied to MCCCD it was because I wanted to be in education, not because I wanted “a job”.  I wanted to help students achieve a sense of fulfillment in obtaining their educational goals.  I may not be in front of them during classes, heck I’m not even in front of them during the registration process, but I know that I’m making a difference in their success.

So I guess my story is for those of you who are feeling “not as motivated” as usual, for those of us who are feeling a little down or disgruntled even.  Just remember that we’re here to make a difference and that everything we do should be done with pride, joy, and self-satisfaction because what we do matters.  It matters to the students who are out there making an effort to better themselves.

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