Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Chaparral 2020-2021: 29.2 Reaching Across: Building Bridges with Colleagues

Reaching Across: Building Bridges with Colleagues

by Julie Gamberg and Sandy Somo

In this column, employees of Glendale College with different roles engage in dialogue about their departments/divisions, as well as thoughts about a more student-centered campus. Partners are given the same three questions to ask one another, and the option of additional questions and/or taking a selfie together. If you are interested in participating in this dialogue, please feel free to email Sandy Somo or Julie Gamberg.

David Viar, Superintendent/President and Alexandra Evans
Joining us for this issue are David Viar, Superintendent/President and Alexandra Evans, Student Equity Counselor

Alexandra

How long have you been at GCC, and what do you do here?

David

I have been serving GCC since July 2013. My title is superintendent/president – the legal title for single college community college district CEOs in California. As superintendent I am responsible for leadership, support, oversight, and direction for the legal entity of Glendale Community College District – one of 72 community college districts in California governed by a local elected board of trustees. As president, I am responsible for the college as the chief educational administrator.

Alexandra

What do you wish people knew about your department or division that you think they might not totally understand?

David

My office consists of myself, Debra Kallas, executive assistant to the superintendent and board and Rosa Buford, administrative assistant III, confidential. However, I officially also have direct supervision of the governance office coordinator, the chief of police, the executive director of the Glendale College Foundation, and the vice presidents of administrative services, instructional services, student services and human resources. In addition, I spend significant time providing support and guidance to the five-member elected governing board and connecting with the community, including the Glendale College Foundation community members, City of Glendale city manager and city council, the Glendale Unified School District superintendent and school board, and non-profits such as the Glendale Latino Association, the Glendale Y, the Fire Foundation, Rotary, the Police Foundation, the Glendale Library, Arts and Culture Trust, the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, and the Armenian American Museum Patrons.

Alexandra

When you think about our movement toward a more student-centered campus, how can the rest of the campus be more supportive of your department/division? 

David

I could not expect more support for my office than I receive regarding the college’s focus on student access, diversity, and inclusion at the Verdugo Campus, the Garfield Campus and the Professional Development Center. The various college constituencies’ leaders (Academic Senate, Guild, CSEA, and ASGCC) I work with through the College Executive Committee and the Mini-cabinet, and the college administrative leaders I work with through the Administrative Executive Committee and College Cabinet, regularly ask key questions about how our decisions will impact student success and think how best to foster collaboration throughout the college to assure student success. I observe regularly how well they carry that focus to the members of the groups with whom they work and represent. I see every day our students’ hopes being acted on by our faculty, administrators, and classified staff who are focused on helping all our students achieve their informed educational goals.

Alexandra

Bonus Question: What personal characteristics contributed to your desire to pursue a career as superintendent/president?

David

With apologies, Alexandra, I will reword the question since I never really pursued a career as a superintendent/president. As I finished college, I thought I would go into business, so I gained admittance to Indiana University’s MBA program. The Vietnam draft ended that plan. Three years later, as I finished my time in the Army, I decided to pursue a law degree because I thought the degree would open opportunities for many professional careers – law, education, business, government, politics. You could fairly say, I was not on a “guided pathway.”

As fate would have it, the first job offer I received after law school and passing the bar was as a government relations staffer for an association of community colleges in my home state of Illinois. I fell in love with community colleges and started my pursuit of advancing, advocating, and supporting community colleges and our extraordinary and essential mission.

The personal characteristics that may have contributed to my getting to this position are: love of education (mother and father were teachers), focus on achieving (first-born and only boy in the family), dedication, perseverance, patience, being analytical, and enjoyment of working with people to facilitate and achieve results (learned from my father, a successful coach).

David

How long have you been at GCC, and what do you do here?

Alexandra

I have been at GCC for three years in the capacity of Academic Counselor. I started in August 2017, on a one-year contract with Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) as a Counselor. After that, I transitioned to Adjunct Counseling within the General Counseling department before accepting my current position as an adjunct Student Equity Counselor. As a Student Equity Counselor, I provide academic counseling, personal support, and help students with career and major exploration throughout their educational journey. I work directly with students in our Student Equity Learning Communities: Black Scholars, La Comunidad, and Guardian Scholars. In collaboration with the Student Equity team, I plan and facilitate student-centered events/workshops, group meetings, and university tours. I teach Student Development courses, conduct New Student Advising orientations, and facilitate workshops for the Early College Acceptance Program (ECAP). I am also the co-advisor for the Black Student Union (BSU).

David

What do you wish people knew about your department or division that you think they might not totally understand?

Alexandra

Working as a counselor is a mind, body, and soul commitment. We use our brain to counsel, educate and problem solve, and our hearts to provide empathy, compassion and care to serve as containers for the energy (mood, emotions, attitudes) that is brought into every appointment with students. In addition, counselors are like the GCC catalog, in human form. Counselors are responsible for having knowledge of division requirements, campus updates, forms and petitions, degree and certificate requirements and changes, and whatever spontaneous personal questions that arise to help students navigate through their journeys to attain their academic and career goals.

In Student Equity, we believe in and expect success from every single one of our students. We have created a safe/brave space for students to develop a sense of belonging on our campus through counselor connections and events/workshops specifically to increase student engagement and provide networking opportunities with other students. We provide services to increase students’ exposure to transfer opportunities through our Northern California, Southern California, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), and local university tours. We also provide basic needs services (meal cards, TAP cards, parking permits, etc.) to minimize barriers that affect their ability to perform at their highest potential.

We are a Student Equity family! Many of our students continue in the learning communities each semester, which allows us to witness their growth and accomplishments throughout their educational experiences. At the end of each academic year, we acknowledge our graduating and transferring students and celebrate our students for completing another year.

David

When you think about our movement toward a more student-centered campus, how can the rest of the campus be more supportive of your department/division?

Alexandra

To support the Student Equity Learning Communities, faculty and staff can educate themselves on the multiple components of the Student Equity program and refer students to the Student Equity office. We welcome you to participate in our events and meet the Student Equity team. Ask your students about their experiences in our program and get student feedback regarding how your department can collaborate to meet their needs. We have over 500 students in our program. Divisions can be intentional about creating opportunities to engage with our students and work with Student Equity counselors to create a “wrap around” way to support student success, such as co-facilitating campus events with Student Equity, conducting needs assessment surveys, facilitating workshops specifically for our students, and more.

We are always open to suggestions and feedback to help us continue to excel. Remember to inform students about the Black Student Union and proactively address the concerns of systemic racism and anti-Black racism on campus and remotely, as detailed in the BSU demands. Pay attention to your biases and intentionally ensure that your classroom, curriculum, language, and mind are decolonized!

David

Bonus Question: When did you decide to work in community colleges and what was your primary reason?

Alexandra

My journey has not been linear. My master’s degree is in Clinical Psychology and when I moved to Los Angeles in 2009, my goal was to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. I quickly learned that California licensure is much different than Illinois licensure. Instead of pursuing licensure, I accepted employment at the State of California Department of Rehabilitation as a Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and served in that position for 8 ½ years. The position was honorable and I was able to contribute to helping individuals with disabilities attain their academic and career goals, but I desired more. I wanted to see more “wins” and progress for my clients and started exploring more goal-oriented counseling opportunities. When I learned about academic counseling, I found that it was in alignment with my personal mission to use counseling to empower people to attain their goals, leading a better quality of life. Although I appreciate my journey and believe that my experience created a diverse skill set, if I had pursued connecting with a counselor earlier in my college experience, I would have understood my options. I knew that I wanted to help individuals make informed decisions regarding choosing a major and career.

Many people tried to discourage my pursuit of academic counseling because it is difficult to find employment in community colleges unless you have a connection. I did not have a connection, but the idea of working as an academic counselor felt right in my spirit, so I added it to my vision board in 2016. I continued to apply and found the contract position at GCC. When completing my cover letter, I tried a different approach. I met the minimum requirements and added how my experience outside of the academic world would benefit GCC. I got the interview and the rest is history. I left a position where I was knowledgeable, well-respected, and had the ultimate job security, to pursue an opportunity more in alignment with my personal mission and personality. I am so glad I did!

Glendale Community College | 1500 North Verdugo Road, Glendale, California 91208 | Tel: 818.240.1000 | 
GCC Home  © 2020 - Glendale Community College. All Rights Reserved. | POLICE 

chat loading...