Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. AAPI Heritage Month is observed annually to recognize the countless contributions Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have made to American history, society, and culture. Palomar has a full schedule of events planned thanks to our amazing Asian Pacific Alliance in Higher Education (APAHE) members. There will be virtual sessions throughout the month to engage with AAPI history, activism, and identities. Here is a link to view the upcoming events planned.

National Autism Acceptance Month
April is National Autism Acceptance Month. In 2021, the Autism Society changed the word awareness to acceptance in the title to challenge the perception of autism being an illness. Autism Acceptance Month emphasizes the need to empower autistic people to live fully and is designed to highlight the importance of fostering inclusivity in communities. This year’s “Celebrate Differences” campaign is meant to make communities more aware of autism and educate people on the signs and characteristics of the autism spectrum. Here’s a link to the Autism Society’s website to learn more.

Important Registration Update
We have postponed our summer and fall registration by one week in order to provide clarity for our students regarding facial covering requirements and vaccination mandates. A notification was distributed to all students explaining priority registration will begin on May 9 and open registration will take place on May 16. If you have any questions, please contact the Office of the Vice President of Student Services, Dr. Vikash Lakhani at  Please have students reach out to

Campus Engagement Highlights
Media Days Event
The virtual Media Days event occurred this past week (April 25-28). It had a great line-up with a focus on Media Studies industry professionals who shared their stories and offered real-world industry advice. Thank you to all the presenters and the Media Studies Department for organizing another great lineup of events. I was moved by hearing the story of one of our former students, Jennesh Agagas, who is now an Associate Producer for Fox News in New York.​​ She expressed, that if it were not for Palomar College’s Media Studies department, she would not be fulfilling her professional dreams.

Media Studies Department Tour
I would also like to thank the entire Media Studies department for the fantastic tour I received on Friday. It was extremely informative, and I learned a great deal about the wide-range of course offerings we provide to our students. I also had some wonderfully unique experiences like getting a chance to see the first Telescope student newspaper (1947), picking up copies of our Impact magazine, learning that our radio station aired for the first time in 1956, and seeing the huge collection of awards our radio station (KKSM AM 1320) and PCTV have won over the years. I left extremely impressed that our students have access to such a wide range of opportunities that well prepare them for the industry! Thank you: Amy Caterina (Photography), Scott Klinger (Photography), Erin Hiro (Journalism), Wendy Nelson (Communications), Scott Richison (Digital Broadcast Arts), Lisa Cecere (Cinema), Candace Rose (Cinema), Zeb Navarro (KKSM), Jim Odom (Manager of ETV and KKSM), Justin Smiley (Dean), Ben King (Media Studies Staff), Niko Holt (Student Worker), and Emma Mings (Student Worker).

Palomar College Retirees’ Association (PACRA) Meeting
I again met with PACRA leadership this week. They each shared about their history at Palomar, and we discussed how to best partner in the future. Our retirees are critical members of our Palomar community, and we want to make sure to keep the lines of communication open between us. I was also able to, once again, express my compliments for the amazing annual luncheon meeting they held last week. A very special thank you to the organizers of last week’s event and this week’s meeting: June Rady, Bob Larson, Judy Dolan, Tom Humphrey, Jayne Conway, John Erickson, Becky McCluskey, and Cynthia Poole. Thank you for all you do on behalf of our retirees.

Palomar College Foundation
Thank you to Stacy Rungaitis and her amazing Foundation team who hosted another great Board of Directors meeting where I was able to present campus updates and our plans for the immediate future. It is always wonderful to spend time with these phenomenal community leaders who do so much on behalf of our Palomar community.

Community Engagement Highlights
Kiwanis Club of Lake San Marcos Meeting
The Kiwanis Club of Lake San Marcos invited me to speak at their meeting last week. I spoke about my vision for the future of Palomar College and my experiences during my first year as Superintendent/President. I look forward to future collaborations with the club.

Leading the Future: Community Reception to Benefit A Step Beyond
I attended the, A Step Beyond (ASB) benefit event at the California Center for the Arts Escondido. ASB is a creative development organization that serves youth and their families living at, or below, the poverty line. They provide free after-school dance classes, academic support, and social services. Vice President of Student Services, Dr. Lakhani, and I enjoyed learning more about this wonderful organization and how they are positively impacting our community.

SDICCCA Annual Dinner
San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association (SDICCCA) hosted a dinner for Trustees and CEOs. The featured speaker was Chancellor Emerita, Constance M. Carroll who focused her presentation on the benefits and opportunities of community colleges pursuing the ability to offer baccalaureate degrees. Thank you to Trustee Kartik Raju, Trustee Roberto Rodriguez, and PIO Julie Lanthier Bandy for joining me in representing Palomar College.

CCLC Annual Trustees Conference
The Community College League of California (CCLC) held their Annual Trustees Conference this past Friday – Sunday in Dana Point. Trustee Kartik Raju, Trustee Norma Miyamoto, Trustee Roberto Rodriguez, Trustee Mark Evilsizer, Executive Assistance Kelly Miller, and Director Michelle Barton and I received invaluable training that will benefit the District. This event always represents a great opportunity to interact with other CEO’s and trustees from across the state.

Black Student Success Week
This year’s statewide Black Student Success Week was outstanding! The theme, A Vision for Black Student Success: Creating a New Landscape to Succeed, was timely and poignant. It focused on the current state of Black students in our community college system, and it explored new approaches to ensure the success of Black students. This is the third time the State Chancellor’s Office, has hosted this event and every time I walk away with a renewed sense of commitment. I highly encourage taking the opportunity to participate in the future. I am excited to see this type of programming on a statewide level, and I hope we can infuse this type of programming into our Palomar culture on an ongoing basis.

Tarde de Familia
I want to give a huge congratulations to all the organizers of this year’s Tarde de Familia event. It was a huge success! I enjoyed listening to the inspiring words of speaker, and ECELS faculty member, Martha Cortes-Rodriguez who told us about her educational journey. I was also able to share a bit about my own story in hopes of inspiring students and parents to further their education. The program also included awarding student scholarships and honoring Dr. Jack Kahn for his years of support for the program. The first hour of the event was dynamic and consisted of a resource fair, excellent food, and entertainment. I am convinced this event will have a long-lasting impact for all those who were able to attend. Thank you: Ruth Barnaba, Dr. Nancy Browne, Dr. Sabrina Menchaca, and Eduardo Aguilar for your leadership! I would also like to thank ALASS members, volunteers, and the departments who participated to make this event a success. I was extremely impressed to see the numerous classified professionals, faculty members, and administrators who came out to support the event- including Vice President David Montoya and Trustee Christina Garcia. Thank you all!

New Role
Please join me in welcoming Kimberlee Ahinger to the Superintendent/President’s Office. Kimberlee will share her talent as a part-time Executive Assistant while Michelle LaVigueur is on leave. You likely know Kimberlee for her contributions as the Senior Administrative Assistant for the Palomar College Student Health Center. She will be continuing her work with the Student Health Center, while ensuring the many initiatives of the Superintendent/President’s Office are prioritized and accomplished. Kimberlee has been with Palomar College for 3.5 years and her work exemplifies a steadfast commitment to the success of our students and institution. I am very appreciative of Kimberlee’s willingness to share her time and talent in this important role. Thank you, Kimberlee!

Upcoming Events
75th Anniversary Employee Luncheon and Presidential Installation (May 4)
Don’t Forget to RSVP for the 75th celebration luncheon at the clock tower this upcoming Wednesday, May 4. You can still RSVP here. I look forward to celebrating with everyone.

California Community Colleges Mental Health Action Week (May 2-5)
The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office is presenting a series of webinar sessions this week to support Mental Health Action Week. You can register for the sessions by clicking on the links below. The Board of Governor’s established Mental Health Action Week to strengthen trauma-informed care expertise across the system, improve our classroom climates and campus culture, remove structural barriers, and advocate for additional resources to meet the diverse mental health service needs of California community college students and employees.

  • Monday, May 2 | Introduction to Mental Health
    The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office invites you to the 2022 Mental Health Action Week virtual kick-off event. Join us in a discussion with system-wide leaders on current topics. 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Register Here
  • Tuesday, May 3 | Reap the Rewards by Creating a Self-Care Culture
    Dr. Gloria Morrow will highlight the importance of self-care and downtime. She will guide the audience to develop a self-care and wellness vision plan, including three practical self-care strategies and how to get started. Self-care is for everyone. 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Register Here
  • Wednesday, May 4 | The Social Determinants of Educational Success: Centered in Mental Health
    This webinar will introduce a framework of social determinants of educational success that highlights the three key social determinants that directly impact student success.  A roadmap will be presented to embrace this paradigm shift by laying out strategies that identify key levers, maximize flexibility for local planning and decision-making, and create enabling conditions to support the re-envisioning of a student-centered support ecosystem. 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Register Here
  • Thursday, May 5 | Trauma Informed Care: An Essential Tool for Colleges. Most often, it is non-clinical staff and faculty that have regular and ongoing contact with students experiencing mental health conditions. Join Dr. Kristin Dempsey in this introductory discussion of trauma-informed approaches and practices. Audiences will learn strategies for engaging in trauma-informed approaches to support post-traumatic growth and resiliency. You will gain knowledge on how to integrate trauma-informed principles and practices into the college culture. 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Register Here

Queer Pride at Palomar (May 11)
I am attaching a flyer for the upcoming Queer Pride event at Palomar College that will take place Wednesday, May 11 from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. in front of the Student Union. The Pride Center Committee to Combat Hate (PC3H) will hold an “opening ceremony” where the Progressive Pride flag will be unveiled to the campus community. A “festival” atmosphere around the unveiling of the flag is planned. It is the goal of the committee to show support for our LGBTQIA+ community at Palomar College. If your department would like to participate, please contact Dr. Abbie Cory or Dylan Davison This is a wonderful opportunity to promote your department and to create an atmosphere of inclusivity for our students. Please consider participating.

Comets of the Week
Seven Palomar archaeology students and their instructors Betsy Pain and Jim Eighmey attended this year’s Society of California Archaeology Conference in Visalia, California. Four of the students presented posters on their original research from artifacts excavated at the Rancho Peñasquitos Adobe in San Diego. One of our students, Kimberly Algya, won Best Student Poster, competing with undergraduate and graduate students from many of the California State and UC colleges. The posters will be on display at the library. Congratulations Kimberly!

Have a great upcoming week. Go Comets!

For pictures of the various events, follow:
Twitter: @palomardrstar
Instagram: @palomardrstar