Southwestern College


May 31, 2016

Glorious Commencement

Many of us on campus are still basking in the glow of the many happy graduates and their families who attended Commencement Friday.

We had a record number of graduates, and we were able to celebrate all of them in a way that kept them engaged. More than 800 students walked across the stage. With additional readers taking turns in announcing graduate names, we honored our tradition of students selecting faculty and staff to present their diplomas, and still kept the ceremony flowing. Welcome to the new readers who assisted Counselor Ed Cosio: Assistant Professor Shaunte Griffith-Jackson, Counselor Erik Moberly and Professor Frank Paiano.

Congratulations to Student Development Director Brett Robertson and his team, along with all of those on the Commencement Committee for their months of planning. It was a memorable day for us all.

Graduates walk through the new arch as the Commencement ceremony begins.
Photo: Graduates walk through the new arch as the Commencement ceremony begins.

Governing Board President Nora E. Vargas address the graduates.
Photo: Governing Board President Nora E. Vargas address the graduates.

Summer Sessions Begin Next Week

We will be offering more than 400 class sections during two summer sessions this year. Sessions begin June 6 and June 13 and run through Aug. 4.

The college is offering dozens of the classes in English, Math and Science to help students complete the courses needed for transfer. The college is also offering math and reading Boot Camps to give students the opportunity to improve their skills and help them test into college-level courses when taking the college assessment tests.

Courses are offered during the day and in the evenings at the Chula Vista campus and at the Higher Education Centers in National City, Otay Mesa and San Ysidro. Many one-unit classes are offered at the Crown Cove Aquatic Center.

Students can search for classes, find out about all the important dates and get information about services and programs by going to this page on the website.

College for Kids

For our younger residents, the College for Kids program also kicks off June 13 and July 5. Now in its 42nd year, College for Kids offers two-week workshops in art, technology and science for students entering grades 5 through 9. Students can choose from such workshops as “The Art of Cartoon Caricature Sketch” and “Pottery Making” to “3D Modeling for Film & Video Games” and “Homes for the Homeless.”

Spots are still available, and more information on the workshops can be found here


May 2, 2016

Office Hours on Friday

I will hold my last Open Hours of the semester on Friday, May 6 from 9:30 – 11 a.m. These one-on-one, confidential meetings are open to faculty, staff, administrators and students.  Click on the link to schedule a time to meet with me on any topic of your choosing.

Jaguars Across the Country

Professors Henry Aronson and Abdulmalik Buul recently traveled with eight students from The Exponential Learning Academy (TELA) to visit Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Our students were joined by 81 students from other community colleges throughout California as part of the new Transfer Admission Guarantee program with Historically Black Colleges and Universities through the Chancellor’s Office.

It was a transforming experience for many of the students, our professors said. It was the first time several of the students had flown on an airplane, and they opened their eyes to many opportunities available to them. The students visited universities in four states, including Tuskegee University, Morehouse, Spellman, Fisk University and Alabama State University—where all eight students were automatically accepted!

The trip was funded in part by Student Equity funds and the Southwestern College Foundation. What a wonderful way of putting students first!

SWC TELA Students standing in front of the gates of Fisk University

SWC TELA Students standing in front of Alabama State University

Champion for our Dreamer Students

We wished a heartfelt farewell last week to Remedios Gómez Arnau, Mexican Consul General in San Diego. In one of her last official duties before transferring to North Carolina, Gómez Arnau spoke to our AB 540 students to encourage them to continue their studies.

Since 2013, Counsel General Gómez Arnau has helped facilitate $50,000 in IME Becas for our AB 540 students in the Adelante Estudiante program.  Each of the 25 students attending the Adelante Estudiante program this year will receive an $800 scholarship.

The scholarship, funded by the Institute for Mexicans Abroad, is an investment in the students to increase their opportunities and be the change in their small corner of the world, Gómez Arnau said.

Channel 8 and the San Diego Union-Tribune highlighted the program in their reports.

We presented a small token of our appreciation to the Counsel General, and thanked her for being a champion of Southwestern College students.

(L-R) Dr. Angelica Suarez, Consul General Remedios Gómez Arnau and I share a few words
(L-R) Dr. Angelica Suarez, Consul General Remedios Gómez Arnau and I share a few words

Consul General Remedios Gómez Arnau and EOPS Director Omar Orihuela listen to student stories.
Consul General Remedios Gómez Arnau and EOPS Director Omar Orihuela listen to student stories.

Future Jaguars on Campus

More than 600 seniors from high schools in the Sweetwater Union High School District learned about all the wonderful classes and co-curricular activities we offer at Southwestern College when they visited the Chula Vista campus April 19.

The day began with a rally in DeVore Stadium where students from each high school tried outcheering each other. For the rest of the morning, the students toured the campus, visited the Majors Pavilion to speak with faculty and attended classes. Other students attended the Festival of Nations, sponsored by the ASO, to see the many clubs and activities they can join once they arrive.

Several media outlets were on campus speaking to students about their experience, including La Prensa of San Diego. Thank you to Vice President Kathy Tyner, the deans, faculty, our students and classified professionals who made the day a great success and helped these future students feel welcome. 

Dr. Nish greets SUHSD Students at College Preview Day pep ralley

Every Southwestern College program was on display during College Preview Day. Sweetwater District students visited booths that interested them and talked to faculty who teach the courses.

Dancing into Southwestern College Classes

In a follow up recruiting effort, Dance Professors Dana Maue and Mary Jo Horvath hosted 90 dance students from Castle Park, Olympian and Bonita Vista high schools for a day of dance on April 25. The high school students were exposed to several forms of dance as they performed ballet with Professor Horvath and hip hop with Professor Maue. Then the students were treated to lunch and eight more dances from the spring Dance Expressions concert performed by our current students. This was great advertising for their program. Great job!

Students dancing in the SWC dance studio

Positive Income Tax Experiences

South County residents are $2 million richer, thanks to our students who helped them prepare their state and federal income tax returns. Through the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program and a partnership with South Bay Community Services, our students were specially trained to help qualifying residents file their taxes. This year 24 students accepted walk ins on six Fridays beginning in February and ending April 15. They filed 1,002 returns where residents received a total of $2,075,599 in returns and Earned Income Tax Credit.

The students’ work was highlighted in a Union-Tribune story. Thank you to Professor Maria E. Martinez-Sanabria, who has nurtured this program since last year. We are hoping to make it even bigger next year by opening sessions at our Higher Education Centers.


April 11, 2016

Debate Team National Champions

For the first time ever, Southwestern College debate team novice members Arantxa Calles and Francesca Beaird outscored teams from Cornell, UNLV, West Point and Vermont to capture second place in the Novice playoff debates at the CEDA national competition. Even before getting to the finals, these two first-year students had to debate against the best debaters from Dartmouth, Texas, West Point and SUNY.

Adding to the honors, the entire Southwestern College Jaguar debate team was the second winningest community college team in the United States, based upon the number of wins accumulated throughout the season.

Congratulations to Professor Jordan Mills and all the debate team members for your hard work and for building a new dynasty.

Arantxa Calles (L) and Francesca Beaird (R) were nearly unstoppable at the national CEDA competition
Photo: Arantxa Calles (L) and Francesca Beaird (R) were nearly unstoppable at the national CEDA competition.

The Sun Adds Awards

The Sun reporters and editors have defended their Pacesetter status at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges annual convention. The Pacesetter award is based upon points earned on student publications coming into the convention combined with on-the-spot competitions.

Additionally, the newspaper and its online version earned a Silver Medal from the Columbia University Student Press Association. Southwestern College was the only community college in the US to win one of the six silver medals.

Congratulations to Dr. Max Branscomb and our student journalists for continuing a tradition of excellence.

Living Her Dream

Soroptomist International of Coronado is helping nursing student Beverly C. Dominguez live her dream. Beverly is in her first year of the registered nurses program at Southwestern College, and completed her prerequisite coursework one class at a time…while raising six children. Life has been very challenging for Beverly, but the $5,000 scholarship will give her some “breathing room” to help her achieve her dream of becoming a nurse.

Graduating nursing student Zayra Quintero is also a winner of the Living Your Dream scholarship from the Soroptomist International of San Diego club. Zayra, who will graduate in May, was awarded $3,000.

We are grateful to the members of both Soroptomist clubs for their support of programs that empower women.

Governing Board Vice President Tim Nader congratulates Beverly Dominguez at the Soroptomist International of Coronado luncheon Saturday.
Photo: Governing Board Vice President Tim Nader congratulates Beverly Dominguez at the Soroptomist International of Coronado luncheon Saturday.

SODA Winners Shine

Student award season began early this year as we held the Student of Distinction Award ceremony last week. Each of the 20 SODA winners is inspiring and has already accomplished so much. We recognized students who are majoring in everything from nuclear and electrical engineering to the theater arts. Especially heartwarming this year were several students who have been so inspired by their faculty and counselors here that they want to return as professors and counselors.

Thanks to the hard work of Financial Aid Specialist Adrianne Chun, we were able to award scholarships to a total of 140 students—our largest number of recipients in many years. This also was the first year we awarded scholarships in the fall and spring for a total scholarship disbursement of nearly $140,000 this academic year.

The success of the scholarship recognition ceremony relies on many departments coming together. In the end, it was a beautiful and meaningful way to honor the achievement our students. Thank you to all our faculty, classified professionals and administrators for making it a special evening.

This year’s SODA Award winners
Photo: This year’s SODA Award winners.

Our Hard Work Is Recognized

Last week, we had our first visit by the members of the Institutional Effectiveness Partnership Initiative (IEPI) resource team, and I was proud that they were able to recognize the hard work each of us has done to improve Southwestern College.

The resource team spent all day Tuesday speaking with constituency groups to get a sense of our strengths and to understand the areas where we can improve.

It was a day filled with collegiality. While members asked probing questions, we recognized it as a way to build a foundation for systemic improvement.

At the end of the day, the resource team attended an open forum and provided a brief report where they highlighted many of our accomplishments. They ranged from observations of increased trust and transparency in the budget process to kudos to Academic Senate President Patricia Flores-Charter for her efforts in having President-Elect Andrew Rempt shadow her to ensure a smooth leadership transition.

The team recognized our strong committee structure and the large number of participants in shared governance, as well as the important efforts of those involved in CTE to ensure viable advisory committees and preparing reports for the Governing Board.

Overall, the team heard a consistent message among all those they spoke with. They saw the pride everybody had in sharing the highlights of their programs.

The next time they visit us—May 12—the team will be working with our employees to build a plan that helps us improve our processes for enrollment management and linking our budget to our priorities. When they leave, we’ll have the foundation of a plan that will help us receive additional funding from the Chancellor’s Office to implement the plan.

I look forward to seeing the best practices this collaboration will create.


March 7, 2016

Praising Teamwork

Our finance, payroll and IT colleagues showed true collaboration and problem-solving last week as they quickly addressed the payroll snafu.

As Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs Tim Flood explained in an all-staff email Wednesday, several external factors combined to cause the critical issue. Most notably, an update to the Ellucian software changed the deposit code sent to Wells Fargo, causing the bank to reject the file.

We continue to investigate why the automatic notification to us by Ellucian was not triggered, nor why Wells Fargo failed to contact anybody at the district prior to our payroll deposit date.

Those investigations, however, did not delay our colleagues in finance, payroll and IT in getting payroll posted by Tuesday. Understandably, there have been several questions raised, including whether this was a result of the college becoming financially independent and why the college banks with Wells Fargo.

Colleagues in our payroll and finance departments worked diligently for the 18 months prior to fiscal independent on July 1, 2015, and they continue taking on additional processes once performed by the San Diego County Office of Education. Throughout this time, they have met payroll requirements and timelines each time, including February payroll. I want to publicly thank each and every employee in finance and payroll for the many long hours they have invested into making this process as smooth as possible.

To answer the question on why the college is banking with Wells Fargo, and not using a credit union or other banking institution. Southwestern College inherited Wells Fargo from the San Diego County Office of Education when we took over our own finances. I want to encourage all employees to provide to payroll the documentation on the financial impact the delay in payroll had on your accounts.

I echo VP Flood’s sentiments, and thank all our employees for their patience and professionalism during this trying time. And thank you again to the team that pulled together to solve this problem so quickly.

Join Us Friday for Alumnifest

All of the community colleges in San Diego and Imperial counties are encouraging all alumni to attend a special San Diego Gulls hockey game Friday for the first ever Alumnifest. Tickets are only $10, and there will be a free tailgate before the game. Please join us and encourage your students—current and former—to attend as well. For more information, check out our story on the website. Hope to see you there.

Coffee Chat Friday at 11 a.m.

If your schedule allows, please join me for a coffee chat at 11 a.m. – noon in Student Union East this Friday, March 11.

Important Items on Governing Board Agenda

At tonight’s meeting, our Governing Board is welcoming a dialogue from our constituency groups to voice their concerns and ideas in assessing our institutional culture. Over the last several weeks, we have had painful conversations on race relations on campus. It has been a learning experience, and one that has touched very personal sentiments. The Governing Board will discuss hiring InPartnership Consulting, a firm that assesses, designs and delivers programs that foster inclusive environments in which leadership and teamwork can flourish.

Company principals Michael Bell and Mercedes Martin bring more than 40 years of combined training in helping organizations and individuals change fundamental behaviors in the workplace. They will spend the next several weeks doing a comprehensive assessment of our college culture and present their findings to the board and college leadership.

I look forward to their expertise in helping transform our institutional thinking and improving our cultural competence.

The Governing Board will also discuss moving forward with a public opinion poll for a new general obligation bond on the November, 2016 ballot.

As you may be aware, over the last two months, the Governing Board has been gathering information on the funds remaining under Proposition R and the outstanding facilities needs of the college.  VP Flood provided a very informative presentation that updated where our Proposition R funds have been allocated, a comprehensive survey of current maintenance needs and a potential timeline for securing a new general obligation bond.

Included in the discussion tonight is a way to fund the $60,000 needed to conduct the poll. The Governing Board requested information last month on whether this could be funded without general fund monies, and VP Flood has identified redevelopment funds to pay for the poll. We have made remarkable progress with Proposition R funds, and we are hopeful to continue that momentum.


February 2, 2016

Welcome to Spring 2016

The spring semester is in full swing after an inspiring Opening Day session.

Janelle Williams and the Opening Day Planning Subcommittee really embraced our We Cultivate theme by bringing speakers and workshop presenters that gave us all a lot to think about. Keynote speaker Maysoon Zayid moved many of us to tears—with laughter and stories that touched many deeply.

Thank you to the entire Professional Development team, our workshop presenters and behind-the-scenes staff members who made the campus sparkle. The Opening Day activities always bring me renewed energy to continue making our institution the best it can be for our students.

Open Seats Still Available

As you recall in my Opening Day presentation, we are hoping you encourage your students to take one or two additional classes. We still have many classes that are not near their capacity—especially at our Higher Education Centers.

Now is the time for students to take advantage of the class availability to finish their educational goals more quickly. You may also tell students that if they take 12 units or more, they will qualify for additional financial aid. Federal Pell grants and a new Full-Time Student Success grant can greatly help students pay for their classes. Send them to the Financial Aid webpage on the district website for all the information:

Ask Me Tables

Thank you to the students, faculty and staff who have taken time to staff the ASO’s “Ask Me” tables. Complete with an FAQ, copies of maps, important dates and deadlines and other information, those staffing the tables are able to answer many questions from students and help them feel connected as soon as they step onto campus.

Joining me today at the ASO Ask Me table are Student Development Director Brett Robertson, Acting Dean of Student Services Dr. Malia Flood and ASO President Melissa Rodriguez
Welcoming Students: Joining me today at the ASO Ask Me table are Student Development Director Brett Robertson, Acting Dean of Student Services Dr. Malia Flood and ASO President Melissa Rodriguez.

Advocating on Behalf of Our Students

Members of the Governing Board, ASO President and Student Trustee Melissa Rodriguez and I spent this past weekend talking to our local legislators about several of our legislative priorities. Through Trustee training and one-on-ones with our Assembly and Senate members, we were successful in sharing the good work of our college and in requesting long-term budget funding stability and improved college affordability.

Trustees Griselda Delgado and Tim Nader join Public Information & Government Relations Officer Lillian Leopold and me at our annual legislative visit to Sacramento.
Advocating for Southwestern: Trustees Griselda Delgado and Tim Nader join Public Information & Government Relations Officer Lillian Leopold and me at our annual legislative visit to Sacramento.

Governing Board President Nora Vargas, ASO President Melissa Rodriguez and I stopped by the Bear before meeting with legislators.
Presidents: Governing Board President Nora Vargas, ASO President Melissa Rodriguez and I stopped by the Bear before meeting with legislators.

Student Success Summit-Part Two

A little more than a year ago, all of our constituency groups came together to finalize the Governing Board’s Student Success Policy Agenda. We have accomplished much in that time.

Please join us tonight at 6 p.m. as we continue our work groups to move this important agenda forward. A light dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m.

Student Success Summit-Part Two

Welcoming Sweetwater Superintendent Dr. Karen Janney

Southwestern College is hosting a welcome reception for new Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Karen Janney. A product of Sweetwater schools, Dr. Janney served as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent before being named Superintendent last June. Since her appointment, Dr. Janney has worked to strengthen the relationship between Sweetwater and Southwestern College.

Please join us for the reception on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 4:30 p.m. in the Student Center. To RSVP, email

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Last updated: 6/28/2016 3:38:17 PM