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!


Reflection isn’t such a bad word

I really enjoyed this 6×6 writing experience of sharing my thoughts with others. I never blogged before. It gave me a time to reflect about the students I have worked with over the years and to give life to my experiences.

I remember back in the early 1990’s, during my last semester of college prior to student teaching, everything we did in our education block had to be reflected upon. We had to write reflections on our lesson plans or what we gleaned from a particular writing or how a classmate conducted her lesson…. I began to really hate the word “reflection.” One day, my instructor told us to reflect on all our reflections. That did it! I rebelled and didn’t do it!

Now 25 years later, I think I enjoy reflecting. Thanks for the opportunity.


Role Models Along the Way

I have thoroughly enjoyed the “6×6” challenge.  Writing these posts has challenged me to reflect in new and challenging ways.  Reading others’ posts has opened my eyes in an invigorating way.  I admire the creativity and insights of our family here at GCC, sharing their wisdom and sentiments in an open, thoughtful manner.

As I reflect on my final post, I thought I would share some of my role models that have helped me along my journey to GCC.  These are individuals who have impacted my life in many ways, both personally and professionally.

  • Mr. Regal, fourth grade teacher.  He was the coolest teacher; he made learning fun and made his classroom exciting.  He had that spark for teaching,  and that spark  made all of us at Schaeffer Elementary School want to come to school every day.  He taught me that laughter and joy are important part of work and life.
  • Mr. Sassaman, high school basketball and baseball coach.  He was a positive influence, showing me that hard work and discipline can lead to great success.  He was committed to helping all of the student-athletes and was passionate about our success.  He taught me that winning may not be everything, but practicing and playing the “right” way is.
  • Mr. Eicher, college advisor, Education Department, University of Richmond.  He was the wise sage, a retired school teacher and principal who helped me understand the value and role of public education in communities.  He helped me learn what it means to be a teacher and was instrumental in helping me get my first teaching job in Arlington, Va.
  • My mom.  She has worked hard for everything she has, and has always done so with compassion and care for others.  She always helps out those who need it, and has always been there to assist her family, friends, and neighbors, putting their needs ahead of her own.
  • My wife. She is one of the hardest working people I know.  She is dedicated to any organization where she works, and always does her job with tremendous professionalism and a positive attitude.  And, she does this while being an amazing mom to two great kids.  I admire her dedication and self-discipline to ‘get it all done.’
  • Finally – my kids.  They inspire me to be a better person.  They are such bright lights with big, open hearts.  I think I learn more from them then they learn from me. I do what I do to make them proud, because they make me proud each and every day

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.



Challenge (Happily) Accepted

What fires your passion for your field of interest and reminds you of your role at GCC?

My answer… the 6×6 Challenge. My passion is writing and unfortunately, is not closely related to my role as the Coordinator of Fiscal Services. Participating in the 6×6 Challenge brought my passion for writing and my role at GCC a little closer. Any time there is an opportunity to write – office process docs, communication to the campus from our office, Maricopa Priorities – I happily volunteer. Writing for the 6×6 Challenge allowed me to bring out my creative side and gain valuable insights about my role at GCC.


Life is Not a Multiple Choice Test

… well I suppose it can be, if you know what the choices are. In many cases, however, the available choices are not fed to you. There is no bubble sheet to fill in. It’s up to you to figure it out with no hints from a prompt.

Many of our younger students have been tested to death. One thing is for certain, they are comfortable with multiple choice options.

Last semester, I told my students that I was assigning a final project instead of a final exam. They begged me for a multiple choice test instead. To their credit, I had assigned a large number of projects throughout the semester, so I caved and wrote a final exam for them.

I do believe, however, that a degree means more than regurgitating facts. There are a number of other skills employers expect when they hire someone with a degree. I think these skills are learned through the college experience as a whole.

I came across this list of traits that we really cannot measure with tests today:

Whether or not we use multiple choice tests for factual knowledge, I believe the experience of going to college and completing practical application projects helps develop these characteristics.

Next time I work with a student who is frustrated, doesn’t like group projects, writing assignments,  or has roadblocks and other issues in the way – I will come back to this list, for no matter what a student’s major is, these skills come along with it. And we all get to contribute to that!




Too often those of us, removed from our undergraduate life, proffer “advice” to younger students in order to make their path less ominous, more satisfying. And while much of that kind of advice giving can be either insanely self-serving or inanely illuminating, I wonder, what advice would you give to yourself as a new student?

That question, with the gift of chronology and life lessons, can prove valuable indeed.
Here are a few that I would have posed to myself, had I had the sense and courage to do so:

1. Why are you in such and all-fired hurry to “finish” the degree? Can you not take the extra literature class and learn about the influence of Shakespeare on great American writers? What about the extra biology course that teaches you “green” before you ever knew it was a word? Take time to smell the curriculum.

2. Seek others and listen to their stories. We all know that storytelling is a mightily powerful tool, and to not engage in authentic storytelling is a HUGE missed learning opportunity.

3. Explore the world. Take the semester off and go to Europe. Better yet, enroll in a course that provides the benefit of adding depth to the transcript. Had I traveled abroad as a young student, my world would have been exponentially richer and more rewarding.

4. Acquire the thirst for learning. About everything. If social science is your affinity, discover the world of science and math; if learning about keeping your body fit is not your cup of tea, try a new genre like yoga or tai chi.

5. Find your confidence gene. As a shy freshman, I had no idea how to make friends, mingle in a crowd, or have a firm handshake. And while those may seem minor life skills, from my experience,they say so much about a person.

6. Know that you don’t know it all. This act of humility is also an act of curiosity. Faculty know more than just their content; they know many of the insights to navigating life.


The Students…

After reading Louise’ s post  (who was and continues to be one of my mentors for PAR ), I was thinking about who drives me the most…my students! I have had the pleasure of having some students take me for several reading classes in a row. Not only do these students drive me to give them my best, but I also learn so much from their own struggles, goals, and ambitions!

Here are a few…

Sadan: I had this student for RDG 071, 081, and 091. I have observed  her grow each semester in her language and reading skills! I wrote a letter of recommendation for her to get her first job as a cashier at Ross. She was so excited! She had been interviewing for the past six months. I worked with her this past summer and several other students in an informal book club. She was very dedicated in developing her language skills…Her excitement drove me to spend my own time working with her and those other students.

Cynthia: I had Cynthia my first semester as full time faculty in the Fall of 2013. At the time she was a 50 year old veteran and widow coming back to school.  For one of the assigned articles, the students had to write a response to someone who greatly impacted their life…she chose to write me a beautiful letter on how she was so nervous her first day, and felt too old and “dumb” to come back to school, but that I made her feel valued as a student by using  her life experiences as examples and connections. I keep this letter pinned up in my office as a reminder on the impact we have as instructors. I had Cynthia for RDG 081 and RDG 091. I watched her struggle with so many issues, that I was challenged to make each class period worth her time and effort for being here.


Hamad: This student started in the same class as Cynthia…I also had Hamad for RDG 071, 081 and 091. Hamad was a college professor in his own country. Having him in my classroom has been such a great experience! Yes, he started in such a low level of reading, but recognizing his competence and degree from his own country drove me to make sure my lessons reflected that ability… He recently just became a citizen of this country and was so proud the day he came into class. I now have his son in my RDG 091 class.

I am sure all of us have students like this that make it worth our while to get up every day and do what we do! These are just a few of mine:)