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Q&A with Palomar Governing Board Candidate Judy Patacsil

Editors Note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. It is not verbatim.

SAN MARCOS — Palomar College Governing Board Candidate Judy Patacsil said she will increase student enrollment by expanding outreach to local high school students, in an interview with The Telescope on Sept. 19.

Candidate Patacsil is running against Frank Xu, another candidate from Area 1 of the college district. The district runs from Rancho Bernardo to Mountain Ranch. This district is one of three that are up for re-election for the 5-member board. The results could change the majority and direction of the board. The election will be on Nov. 8, 2022, after ballots go out on Oct. 8, 2022.

Candidate Patacsil has been working in the community college setting for about 30 years as a counselor and educator. She has also implemented programs to aid students personally and educationally. Her husband and son inspire her the most with their continuous support. Patacsil said she would boost enrollment with more outreach.

Here is the interview the Telescope staff conducted with Judy Patacsil.

The Telescope: Tell us a little bit about yourself and also the last book that you read.

Judy Patacsil: Okay, I’ll start with the last book that I read. The book is called “Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life,” by Cleo Wade. I was born and raised here in San Diego, lived here all my life. I grew up in southeast San Diego and lived there until I went to high school in National City; Sweetwater High School then went on to community college and went to Southwestern College. I graduated from Southwestern. Went on and transferred to San Diego State, I got my bachelor’s there and got my master’s there, and went on to get another graduate degree in psychology and a doctorate in psychology. So I’m very passionate about higher education because I see education as a tool for empowerment of communities, individuals, and families. In terms of I guess a little bit about the book that I read, the book is a book of poems that really focuses on self-affirmations and community building, and really to make sure individuals and communities practice self-care.

Governing Board Candidate Judy Patascil laughs before an interview with The Telescope staff in September 2022
Governing Board Candidate Judy Patascil interviews with The Telescope staff in September 2022. Photo: Ryan Marlowe/The Telescope

The Telescope: Who are your influences right now?

Judy Patacsil: My current influences are my family. That’s my husband and my son. My son doesn’t live with me anymore, but I actually raised him pretty much on my own from age two onwards, as a single parent. So, my son is very much an influence on who I am and who I’ve been. I recently got married about seven years ago, so my husband is also definitely one of my influences. He helps me and is very supportive. He is a retired educator. My son actually also works in education; he works with Special Ed kids and so that’s an inspiration. My son likes to surf and so he’s just gotten me into being more, I mean surfing is a form of calmness and taking care of his mental health and well-being. And so that has influenced me. As I mentioned, my husband is a retired educator, he’s a retired principal who worked in the K-12 elementary, middle school, and high school. So those are close influences, people who influenced me in terms of my family.

I am the youngest of five siblings. Both my parents have passed away, but my parents, even though they are no longer with us, are a source of inspiration. My parents migrated here, my father in the 1920s, and then my mom after World War Two in the early 1950s. The struggles that they went through raising a family here are definitely a source of inspiration for me. As I mentioned, I grew up in southeast San Diego, that’s where my parents were allowed to buy property because of redlining. So the difficulties that they experience to make a better life for me have definitely been a source of inspiration for me.

In terms of big names, there’s lots, but I think in terms of my work with social justice and equity and diversity, Martin Luther King definitely has been an influence. I remember as an undergraduate in the social psychology class having to do a presentation and a speech and that was what my speech was about. His “I have a Dream” speech, and so he has been a source of inspiration. Sonia Sotomayor on the Supreme Court has also been a source of influence for me as well.

My professional mentors have been a source of influence and still to this day, I’ve been connected with them. They are retired now, but I’m working on a community project with them right now. One was with a counselor that worked at San Diego State who is retired but works with two community colleges. And then my professor from Southwestern College. I still work with them on projects and we’re currently working on an exhibit that’s going to be in the Chula Vista library down South, so they have been influences as well.

The Telescope: And why are you running for the Palomar governing board?

Judy Patacsil: I’m running because I definitely believe in higher education. And as I mentioned, I believe higher education is a tool of empowerment for families, for communities, for individuals. I am a Community College graduate and I’m actually also a tenured faculty member. I am a tenured professor at San Diego Miramar College. I started my career almost 30 years ago at Miramar College as an academic counselor. I also started teaching Ethnic Studies, a Filipino Studies course in 1996. I’ve taught it off and on since then. I currently teach it right now. It’s the only course at my college that meets the CSU GE Ethnic Studies graduation requirement that we currently have at my college.

I have benefited from community college. I have been a product of the community college, and I have worked in the community college system. So I believe in the positive impact of what community college is done from a student perspective, from a professional perspective, and even from a parent perspective because my son went to community college, graduated, and got his degree in Social Behavioral Studies and now works with Special Ed kids. So I believe in what higher education can do, and the mission of community college is open access, so you don’t have to wait to get into a university. You can come to the community college first if you are fresh out of high school. It’s a promise program. It’s free tuition, so being able to provide what community colleges do provide to the communities is something that I definitely believe in.

When I first started at Mira Mar College, our Governing Board was going through some changes with trustees. One of my professors and my mentor who has also been a source of inspiration, she’s the president of the San Diego Community College Board of trustees, her name is Dr. Marìa Nieto Senour, so she was on the board when I got my position. And I thought representation matters and having someone at that seat. Even though she didn’t have any particular direct role in me getting the position, she was someone that influenced me. She was the professor in my master’s in counseling program. At that time, a seed was planted, which was almost 30 years ago. Soon after, the union said, “I heard you were interested in running, do you wanna run?” And I said, “Not right now, I have a young child to raise. Maybe at a later time.” So, I feel like now is a good time to run.

The Telescope: What skills and experiences will make you a good governing board leader?

Judy Patacsil: First and foremost, I’m deeply committed to students. I have worked with students, hundreds of students, maybe even thousands, over the years. I’m deeply committed to students and I believe that I’m very well qualified to serve on the board. I have the education. I have the experience and a track record of excellence in higher education. I have worked at San Diego State University prior to coming to San Diego Miramar College. I also have worked at the University of San Diego as an adjunct professor, teaching future counselors and teaching educators, and I also did a small stint at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. I have both community college experience, years of that, and also some university experience.

Currently, I am the faculty equity coordinator. Even though I started my career in academic counseling, one of the things I did at San Diego State was I worked in counseling and psychological services. I do also have a license to practice. It’s not an active license, but I’m the one who started our mental health counseling program at Miramar College. Because I came in with that license, that’s what I did at San Diego State prior to coming there and so when community colleges decided to tend to the needs that students have at the community college level, then I was tasked to start the program.

So I have first-hand experience of not only being a student, but also what students’ needs are both in the student services perspective, but also in the classroom. Because I’ve not only taught Filipino studies, I’ve also taught counseling classes, and I’ve taught psychology classes. And then last year I was appointed as the first faculty equity coordinator at my college after the murder of George Floyd. I also chair one of our committees, called the IDEA Committee. It’s an acronym for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Anti-Racism. After the murder of George Floyd, we took a stand and said our campus really needs to make sure we meet the needs of our students and break down barriers that can interrupt students’ progress and student success. And we called for a faculty equity position that got passed, and I had to apply, and I was appointed.

So I believe I know firsthand about community college needs, students’ needs, faculty needs, classified professionals as well as administrators. I have not gone down that line of administration because I love being a faculty member. I love the student contact. I love the freedom that we have as faculty and as well as the flexibility that we have. But I have excellent working relationships with students, with the faculty classified as well as administrators.

The Telescope: So it sounds like you’re really heavily involved in the San Diego Miramar College? So why Palomar? What made you want to come for this position here?

Judy Patacsil: Well because I live in this district. So even before the redistricting, I was noticing I was getting Palomar Board of Trustees election guides. Two of my former students who work here as faculty actually encouraged me to think about running. They knew I wanted to run. And I said, “Well, I was thinking about doing that when I retire,” and they said, “We really need someone who has your background to run now.” Running for public service is definitely a calling, and I felt a sense of calling to run for this position right now, knowing what my opponent stands for and knowing what I stand for, and knowing what impact that can have at Palomar College. I wanted to stand up, to take the call, so to speak.

I know that Palomar College is the only college in San Diego County that had, its courses in the ethnic studies graduation requirement, that everything got accepted. At my college district, only two classes were accepted: Chicano studies, and my class, Filipino studies. The Black studies courses, we’re working on developing a Native American/Indigenous studies course. You guys have that here, so that excites me. I have also worked with (Palomar President) Dr. Starr Lacey-Rivera. She worked with me at Miramar College and she worked in our district before coming here. So I believe she’s an excellent leader. Being able to work in a system that would support someone who is very student-centered, a good communicator, and a good administrator is really important.

I’ve known about Palomar over the years. I’ve connected with Palomar in different ways. I believe in what Palomar has to offer. When I used to do academic counseling, the closest college besides our sister campus that has nursing, for example, we share students. Sometimes they come to Miramar and sometimes they come to Palomar or they go to both. I remember when I was doing the academic advising, the fact that you guys have such great career technology, and educational programs like nursing. We don’t have that at my college. I have advised students back in those days to come to Palomar because you do have a program like nursing we do share some similar career transfer education majors like public safety and things like that. But, that’s why Palomar. I’m looking forward to serving here, serving Palomar College.

The Telescope: What resources would you bring from there to help improve students here?

Judy Patacsil: There are, I guess, a number of things. In terms of Asian American studies or even Filipino studies, you don’t have it here, so that can be something that I can help work to implement. I know you do have mental health counseling. I used to know the director, the former Health services director because she also worked at Miramar. One of the things that I implemented at Miramar was a behavioral intervention team and I’m sure they probably have something similar. So I know that one of the questions is about having prior experience at Palomar. And I actually attended a training here, on intervention teams. So I’ve been here. I’ve helped to do cultural festivals here and helped to get some of the performers. So being able to just implement some of the things; I instituted a behavioral intervention team at Miramar, making sure that something like that is here. I think that being able to work in partnership with campus police, for example, it’s really important for the behavioral intervention team to do that. So that would be something that I would look at.

As a governing board member, a lot of what we do is policy and procedures. We don’t actually get into the deep dive per se, but being able to take an assessment of what is offered here and look further and be able to do that. I know what Miramar College doesn’t have that you guys have is a Middle College and so being able to have that was going to be one of my answers in terms of how we increase enrollment.

Other things that I’m thinking that I would bring up, I know that you do have a diversity committee. That’s one of the things that I started last year was called the JEDI Council, and JEDI is an acronym for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. And we do have connections, Palomar College has representation, so maybe having Palomar having more of an active role. That council is a regional council, so all community colleges in San Diego county are a part of that collaboration. Because we share students across our region, being able to work in more collaborative ways I think, versus competitive ways, is really important, because we share students, so being able to support our students to get through and navigate the systems would be really important.

The Telescope: Can you please tell us one thing that you like about Palomar and one thing that you would change?

Judy Patacsil: I think the faculty, including instructional faculty, library faculty, and the Student Services faculty are very excellent in their disciplines as well as classified staff. They’re caring, committed professionals. I think that’s one thing, who works here and the students, are things that I like about Palomar.

One thing that I would change is that there was someone whose son came here and she said it was so difficult for him to register and the system was very difficult to register and that he almost gave up. She said it was really, really hard and that’s something that we need to work on. So I would look into that, and see what we have in our district that could help. But I think given that first-hand Information so to speak or that first-hand feedback of what to change at Palomar College. If you can’t even get enrolled or get registered; access that is one of the biggest things that California Community College system says that we need to make sure that we address. And if we can’t even get in, then that’s definitely something I would change.

The Telescope: Can you tell us about some of your short-term and long-term goals both professionally and personally?

Judy Patacsil: Okay, I’ll start with Palomar. So my first is to get elected, for a short term. Part of what I’ve already said is just to make sure I’m keenly aware of what the students’ needs are and how to ensure student success. Making sure that things are in place from a policy procedure perspective to make sure that things are in place.

In terms of long-term for Palomar, I know that we just passed with flying colors on the accreditation process. Accreditation comes up every four years, so making sure that the college maintains accreditation. I know that now the college is also very fiscally sound and financially on stable ground. Prior to the pandemic, there were deficits so now there’s not a deficit, so making sure that that’s in place. I think first and foremost is to increase enrollment in all of the colleges but definitely, you know as a board of trustees, making sure that we have increased enrollment in the immediacy, but also long term.

Some of my personal goals are, I’m looking at retirement in a couple of years or maybe sooner if I win. Winning might move that up. So that’s a personal goal, to be able to focus on this role in a more intentional way without having also my full-time work. I’ve been endorsed by Mark Evilsizer, the incumbent who’s in this position and I know he’s retired because I asked him “what made you retire after 20 years?” I like gradually going into retirement and being able to retire in a way that I could still be of service to my community. And then the longer-term goals? When I do fully retire is to travel. I love traveling. I’ve been to all continents except for Antarctica so that’s my bucket list.

Telescope: If you get elected. Where do you want to see Palomar in four years and how do you plan on getting us there?

Judy Patascsil: I know that Palomar has a strong record of excellence in supporting diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism, and also accessibility. But I want Palomar to be on the map, so to speak. From what I’ve heard from faculty, there have been efforts in that direction. I think there are also gains that can be made. In terms of how I would get there, and also in terms of four years, making sure that enrollment is increased so the community can benefit from the programs that we offer. So how to get there is, as a governing board member, is to make sure I pass policies and procedures that will make sure that that happens. But how I would get there as well is to connect with the students to find out what their needs are. The college will have to have that track record and some of the other things that I talked about, accreditation to be fiscally sound, making sure that will all still be in place four years from now, and being able to make decisions and policies that fall in line with that direction.

Telescope: You talk a lot about accessibility for Palomar. Do you think Palomar should provide on-campus housing, and if you do, how would You do that?

Judy Patascsil: My understanding is that Palomar just received a grant of $821,000 to explore that option. I have worked with students who were home insecure or students who do not have a home and so that is a big barrier for student success, that if you can’t have a place to study or have a place to connect with the internet or have a place to sleep, that’s a barrier. So, I think looking at the student housing at community college and with some of the directions with housing being so expensive in California and in San Diego County, if we can have a win-win situation for our students and for the community that we serve, I think that that could be the plus.

Telescope: And how often do you visit this campus and interact with staff and students?

Judy Patascsil: I’ve been here a few times, I’ve done a training here and I have mentored students. They’re not my students anymore, they’re full-tenured people now. So I haven’t been here a whole lot, but I have come to community events here. I’ve done trainings here and come to festivals here. I go to college, a college setting every day and I interact with students and faculty, and staff on a very regular basis. I think it is important for the board of trustees to be visible, so as to be on campus, in the community in which we serve. I think that would be important.

Telescope: Well, eventually boosting enrollment is another goal. How do you plan on doing that?

Judy Patascsil: In San Diego Community College District we have a new chancellor, Carlos Cortez, who was in his first year, and one of the things that he did was some really deep dive strategic planning as a district. So looking at the strategic planning of what Palomar College has done so that we can look at that, the student enrollment. What are some ways that we can increase student enrollment? If we’re able to do some strategic planning along those ways.

I think also what’s important is to make sure that the community knows what Palomar College has to offer, like the Middle College, for example, for high school students to be able to take college-level classes, that would increase enrollment while they’re still in high school, but also the promise program, making sure that our feeder high schools know that they can come here for free. Making sure that the community knows the great benefits that Palomar has; that a community college has. So, making sure that there’s targeted outreach, especially to reach disproportionately impacted communities where they may not think about education because they don’t think that they afford it, or they don’t think it’s for them, o they might think that they don’t belong, but letting the community know that they belong.

You know, research shows that a sense of belonging is one of the factors for student success. One of the things we did when I was at academic counseling is that we did a counselor breakfast to let the high school counselors in our feeder schools know what we have to offer and to encourage them to think about community college as an option. It is a great option. You’re taught by professors, you’re not taught by graduate students, which often you are in your first two years of university. Just letting them know of the excellent opportunities for education that Palomar has. I would make sure that that happens.

Telescope: Is there anything else that you should know about you? 

Judy Patascsil: I think my vision involves supporting the students and making sure that students have the access and the success to meet their educational, their career, and their personal goals. I’m deeply committed to students, so my vision involves supporting the students. But again, in supporting the leadership, the faculty, and the classified to help students meet their educational goals. As a Community College professor and educator, I know the importance of board members being in a collaborative, not a combative place in space as a governing board member. Having that first-hand knowledge, I think that’s really important and is something that I could be of service to and have a strong, positive impact on the college. Personally, professionally, and educationally, I humbly request for your endorsement.

Editor’s Note: In a previous draft of this story there were minor errors left in the transcribed interview. These mistakes have been rectified. The Telescope regrets the error.

Image Sources

  • Judy Patacsil 2022: Ryan Marlowe/The Telescope | All Rights Reserved
  • Judy Patacil: Ryan Marlowe/The Telescope | All Rights Reserved

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