Fall Semester Monthly Update – October 2023

Welcome to the first edition of my monthly newsletter for the 2023-2024 academic year. The weekly email was well received, and I am hoping the monthly format will reduce redundancy. I am eager to share with you the exciting events and activities that mark the beginning of this promising academic year. With each passing day, our college community continues to evolve and grow. I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of this remarkable journey with all of you as I enter my 3rd year of service. Here’s a recap of highlights from the past month.

Campus Engagement

Start of the Semester Activities

  • Participated in Comet Welcome Days. The event is always an excellent opportunity for students to learn about all the wonderful services, resources, and programs we offer. Thank you to Pippa Pierce and all the Palomar programs and organizations that participated and created a welcoming atmosphere for our new and returning students.
  • Participated in Plenary. It was a great experience to host the event in person. We are already planning in what ways we can make it event even better! A special thank you to Matt Grills and Luis Guerrero for their leadership and thank you to all those who made the event a success. I also appreciate the participation of Trustees Roberto Rodriguez, Cassandra Schaeg, and Dr. Judy Patacsil.
  • Welcomed and introduced Dr. Frank Harris III, who spoke on the necessity of taking Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into account as community college educators.

Special Events

  • Attended the Business Administration Department Social. It was my first time attending this event and it did not disappoint! The Business Administration Department provided an opportunity for students to network with other students and faculty and classified professionals while showcasing their current offerings. A note of gratitude to Mary Cassoni, Department Chair of Business Administration, for inviting me to the event.
  • Participated, along with Trustees Roberto Rodriguez and Cassandra Schaeg, as volunteer “patients” for our brand-new nursing students. I cannot say enough about our fantastic nursing program, students, faculty, staff, and supportive trustees. I also was able to participate in our Nursing Accreditation process with the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). We await official positive results in the upcoming months. Thank you to all in the Nursing department who put in long hours to prepare so thoroughly for the accreditation visit and thank you to Julie Van Houten for her leadership!
  • Provided remarks at the Cariño Dream Village Grand Opening. The Cariño Dream Village is now home to Puente, UMOJA, and a new program that supports undocumented, DACA, and mixed-status students. Here is the link to a video to the event: Cariño Dream Village Promo on Vimeo. Thank you to Dr. Leslie Salas for her leadership and also a heartfelt appreciation to all who made this space possible.
  • Attended the Palomar celebration of California Native American Day on September 21st at the San Marcos Student Union Quad. This event was in conjunction with MiraCosta College and CSU San Marcos. The presentations and scheduled events were fantastic. Thank you to the support of the Ethnic Studies department and the leadership of Professors Diana Ortiz and Seth San Juan. Your leadership was evident, and the positive impact of the event was notable.
  • Attended the Service-Learning Fair. The Service-Learning program provides active, service-focused, community-based, learning opportunities for our students. It was wonderful to see so many community partners engaging with our students. Thank you to Dr. Angela Kong and Gina Wilson for organizing the successful event that allowed our students to become involved with our community partners.
  • Attended the opening reception of the Faculty RIPE Art Exhibition at the Boehm Gallery. I make it a point to attend this event because I always leave with a deep sense of appreciation for our talented faculty. Thank you, Ryan Bulis for your continued commitment to making this event a success.
  • Attended the New Student Transfer Orientation. Brittany Wong and PJ DeMaris always make sure students feel motivated to reach their academic goals. Every aspect of the well-attended event was perfect. Congratulations on another extremely successful event.
  • Attended the Beam Signing and Topping Off Ceremony for our brand-new football and softball stadiums. We are happy to have reached this milestone on our way to opening the new stadiums in 2024. Thank you to Dennis Astl and Dan Lynds for facilitating the event and thank you to Trustees Jacqueline Kaiser and Cassandra Schaeg for your participation.
  • Attended the Meet and Greet Welcome Event for our new Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Student Services, Nick Mata. His personable-constructive approach is already making an impact.
  • Attended the Farewell Gathering for Dr. Shauna Moriarty-Bennett, former Director of the Disability Resource Center. Her presence will be missed, but we are thankful for her years of service and the lasting impression she leaves on the program, the people she impacted, and the college. Thank you for your years of service.

Standing Meetings

  • Participated in standing governance meetings (College Council, Executive Cabinet) and constituent group leadership meetings (Faculty Senate, PFF,CCE, AA/CAST).
  • Participated in standing-equity focused meetings with members of the Asian Pacific Alliance in Higher Education (APAHE) and met with our Black/African American Community Advisory Council.
  • Hosted leaders from the Palomar College Retirees’ Association (PACRA) for our semiannual meeting. I always enjoy meeting with PACRA members because I leave our meetings with a clear understanding of Palomar’s incredible history. I am thankful that these Comets continue to be part of this great institution’s present. We were able to discuss specific action items and set goals for the academic year.

Board Meetings

  • Attended the September Regular Governing Board meeting and the Special Governing Board Workshop. I continue to encourage all employee to participate in these meetings. Meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month in LRC 438. The Open Session component of the meetings start at approximately 5:00 p.m.

Community Engagement

Local Representation: Educational Partners

  • Chaired the monthly San Diego and Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association (SDICCCA) meeting. This year, Board President Roberto Rodriguez and I are serving as the Chairs for all respective Trustees and CEOs in SDICCCA. SDICCCA is formed by the 10 regional community colleges and meets regularly to discuss items of mutual interest. It is an honor for Palomar College to serve in these leadership roles over the next year.
  • Attended, along with several Palomar representatives and Trustees Jacqueline Kaiser and Cassandra Schaeg, the CSUSM Report to the Community event. This year Palomar College, along with MiraCosta College and MSJC, were honored as Outstanding Community Partners. We are grateful to CSUSM President, Ellen Neufeldt, for this distinction.
  • Attended, along with Assistant Superintendent/Vice Presidents Nick Mata and Dr. Tina Recalde, the Leadership Reception event hosted by CSUSM. Along with representatives from MiraCosta College, we discussed our institutional unified goals and vision for the 2023-2024 academic year.
  • Met with National University representatives to discuss our current partnerships and potential expansion.
  • Presented at the San Diego American Association for Women in Community College’s (SDAAWCC) Supporting Women in Higher Education Conference. Thank you, Dr. Angela Kong, for encouraging me to present at the conference and for your leadership in planning the event.
  • Attended A Step Beyond’s 3rd Annual Fundraising Benefit. Palomar is proud to support this outstanding local educational partner, and I am equally honored to serve on the board. Thank you to our Palomar College Foundation members and Trustees Cassandra Schaeg and Roberto Rodriguez who attended.

Local Representation: Community Partners

  • Participated in the Velocity Vista Chamber Podcast hosted by Vista Chamber of Commerce CEO, Rachel Whitley Beld. It always feels great to share the wonderful opportunities Palomar has to offer our community.
  • Served as the opening keynote speaker at the 2nd Annual MANA de North County San Diego Conference. There were over 300 community participants, and it served as a great outreach opportunity for Palomar. MANA is a national organization that aims to empower Latinas through Education, leadership development, and community service. A special note of gratitude to Palomar’s Claribel Zorrilla and Diane Studinka who made sure the event ran perfectly.
  • Attended the Promise2Kids Dream On Concert Gala, a fundraising event for foster youth. As the Chair of SDICCCA and Palomar’s Superintendent/President, I was proud to support this worthy event. Promises2Kids provides current and former foster youth in San Diego County with the tools, opportunities, and guidance necessary to address the circumstances that brought them into the foster care system. It supports four critical programs: Polinsky Children’s Center, Camp Connect, Guardian Scholars and Foster Funds.
  • Spoke at the San Marcos Chamber of Commerce Community Connect event. This is a weekly public gathering designed to highlight local voices and engage the community in dialogue. I appreciated the community leaders that showed up and asked insightful questions.
  • Attended the opening of the San Marcos Kaiser Permanente new hospital representing Palomar College and our health programs.
  • Attended the San Marcos Meet Your Elected Officials event.
  • Met with the San Diego County Taxpayers Association to explore potential educational opportunities.

Statewide Representation

  • Attended California Community College’s Apprenticeship Pathways Demonstration Project in Sacramento. The project aims to award college credit for “on-the-job” training through their apprenticeship programs. I am excited that Palomar was invited to participate because of our success metrics in this area. Thank You to Associate Dean Nichol Roe and Dean Susan Wyche for their leadership in this area. Your hard work garnered the attention of our State Chancellor, Sonya Christian, and our statewide peers.
  • Presented during the statewide CCCOLEGAS webinar. I was able to discuss Palomar’s status as a Hispanic Serving Institution and shared ways to support this designation in ways that are concrete and action oriented.
  • Completed my yearlong UC Davis Wheelhouse Institute on Leadership. The Wheelhouse Fellowship is by invitation only, and the mission is to resource California Community College CEOs with the information and research needed to support thriving institutions. I am excited to have successfully completed the fellowship, and I am looking forward to leveraging the research focused approach to support our enrollment growth and increased student success outcomes.
  • Hosted the Association of California Community College Administrators (ACCCA) Mentor Program’s Fall Retreat at Palomar. I shared with the up-and-coming community college leaders my path to Presidency and discussed the areas of professional development that I found to be most impactful in this position.
  • Completed my service as Vice Chair for an Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) accreditation site visit. Although this is a weighty responsibility and represents a lot of work, the knowledge and experience I gain to benefit Palomar is priceless.

National Representation

  • Attended and presented Palomar College at the National Community College Hispanic Council (NCCHC) Leadership Symposium. Thank you, to our Assistant Superintendent/Vice President Nick Mata and Dean Leslie Salas who also attended the conference representing Palomar. A special congratulations to Nick Mata who was selected as one of the 24 NCCHC’s Fellow from around the nation!

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) 

  • Palomar has a new Permanent Chief Diversity Officer! We are proud to welcome Dr. Nicole Belisle. Dr. Belisle worked at San Diego State University and held positions of increasing responsibility. She started as a graduate student, and moved onto become an equity analyst, a professor, and served as an Associate Chief Diversity Officer. I am very excited for Dr. Belisle to join Palomar and continue the good work. Her email is nbelisle@palomar.edu. Once again, thank you to Carmelino Cruz, for his service in this role for over a year.
  • Palomar has done a great job celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15). I would like to thank everyone in the Ethnic Studies Department, Office of Student Equity, and the Association of Latinos and Allies for Student Success (ALASS), for organizing so many affirming positive events to celebrate this important historical month. It is not too late to participate. Please check out the remaining events and activities.
  • The Transforming Hispanic Serving Institutions for Equity and Justice Book Club met multiple times this month to further examine Palomar’s HSI identity, through the lens of Dr. Gina Ann Garcia’s latest book. The guided discussions are led by Dr. Cynthia Cordova and Carmelino Cruz, engaging faculty, staff, and students to critically examine and connect the material to structures within the Palomar community.

Educational and Facilities Vision Plan Update:

  • We are close to completing our Vision Plan 2035. Last Fall, the College Council formed the Educational and Facilities Vision Plan Taskforce to lead the development of the plan. The Task Force has met for over a year gathering feedback from our community, developing planning assumptions, goals, and objectives, setting enrollment targets, identifying themes for the Education Centers, and identifying facility needs. This project has involved various campus and community stakeholders and took into consideration over 71 listening sessions and countless planning meetings. The This past Friday, College Council voted to move the draft forward for the first read of our Governing Board.

Comets of the Month:

  • This month we have three Comets of the Month. The first is Facilities Director Chris Miller for adeptly dealing with the several power outages our campus experienced at the start of the semester. He and the entire facilities team did an amazing job identifying the cause of the outage and quickly moved to address the problem. So much took place behind the scenes that I wanted to make sure to highlight his incredible leadership publicly.
  • Our next Comet of the Month is Nieves Suarez for her outstanding work in completing Palomar’s Annual Security Report. This is a critical document for the district, and she always does this work thoroughly, accurately, and timely.
  • Thank you to Ann Jensen for her work with organizing the food trucks while we switch food vendors. We are expecting a 2–3-week transition between vendors, and her work has been critical to making sure our students and employees have access to food during the transition. We will begin gathering campus input for future food service at all our locations later this year.

Have a great upcoming October! Go Comets!

Pictures of the various events are posted at:
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