by Marcia Walerstein-Sibony, Garfield Guild Steward
The new spring semester has brought about a complete changeover in our administrators and chairs. At the end of the fall semester, Deborah Kinley, previously Director of the Career Resource Center, was named Interim Dean, Continuing and Community Education, while Alice Mecom became Chair for the ESL Noncredit Division. Now the Interim Dean and the Acting Dean, Continuing and Community Education, Alfred Ramirez, as well as the chairs for Business and ESL, have all held their positions only since fall 2011.
After the very long winter break, a concerted effort was made to bring Garfield to the community and the community to the Garfield Campus. The brand new Mariposa Building with its large computer labs, extended areas for job placement, and convenient student services and lounges opened in the fall. Yet, surprisingly, enrollment did not substantially increase. It was determined that perhaps the local population just had not heard the word about all the opportunities afforded at Garfield. So an all-out effort was organized by Alfred Ramirez, Deborah Kinley, Jan Young, Alice Mecom, Kathy Seifert and many others to recruit more students to use our brand-new facilities.
Garfield campus should be able to serve many sections of the Glendale community, particularly those living in the southern area near Adams Square: the immigrants, the unemployed, those seeking job training certificates, GED or high school graduation and more. Yet for some reasons, none of which is confirmed to be the cause, enrollment did not increase, and there is still much room in some of the classes. In an effort to make the Garfield Campus more visible to the community, a grand Open House took place Wed. Feb. 21, just six days into the semester. The hoopla was intended to focus attention on all that Garfield can offer to the citizens of Glendale and surrounding areas.
Those staff who worked during winter vacation spent hours canvassing the neighborhood and relevant social centers with flyers about the event. Ads were placed in local papers. Students were given more flyers and encouraged to bring their families, neighbors and distant cousins. With gentle prodding, raffle gifts and refreshments were generously donated by many of the nearby merchants. Parking was arranged, as well as tours of the building and the chance to sit in on many classes. On-site registration was available and encouraged, since many felt the computer system was detrimental rather than instrumental to registration from off campus. The community room and patio housed several tables manned by faculty and staff, each offering information about the various programs, such as Lifelong Learning, ESL, Business, GED programs, and others.
How was it received? If one came down shortly after 10 a.m., when it opened, the place was mobbed. This, however, was break time for our own students, who had been invited to see what else is offered. Although this may not have been the target group, from conversations, it seems that for existing students, this open house was very beneficial. Many students signed up for a class in another area. For example, ESL students signed up for computer classes or recently added conversation classes.
Later on, it became much quieter, with just a few people wandering in. So, even if the response was not overwhelming, many new students were recruited. One of those who services the computer lab in the Business section estimated 30 new students were signed up. Others came to listen to a class, and then signed up. The open-ended enrollment, which is part of the noncredit program, permits this process without a deadline when a class has to close.
Perhaps the anticipation was just too much. After all, we are not a new version of an iPhone, just free classes at a time when community college tuition will have practically doubled in one year, and thousands of unemployed people are looking for job training that can actually lead to a job. Should we be satisfied with word-of-mouth communication about “Glendale’s best kept secret”?
To get another viewpoint, and to have our new Interim Associate Dean reflect on the responsibilities of her new position, I invited Deborah Kinley to comment on her new role, her perspective based on ten years’ experience here at Glendale, and her vision for the future of Garfield.
Deborah’s past position, as Director of the Career Resource Center, put her squarely on the border between the educational classes held at Garfield and the larger community, particularly that part with positions of employment. At the same time she was extremely active in developing our colorful, informative, and multi-lingual information brochures that all students receive, most in their native language.
Q: Your position at Garfield as Career Resource Director has always been as a sort of contact person for our students to the working community. How do you think this background will shape or influence your new role as Interim Associate Dean, Continuing and Community Education?
A: Because of my background of helping students I know a lot about our students here at Garfield. I will miss this aspect of my previous position, that is: working directly with the students. However, knowing our students helps me with the decisions I'll make because I am familiar with many of the various circumstances they bring to our school. Not only did I work with students, but I also worked with our faculty with respect to the students, such as students with special needs, where I interacted with their instructor to solve a challenge or issue, and helped coordinate our Continuing to Credit Campus tours of the credit/main campus. Elodia Collins will coordinate the tours from now on. My role now is looking at the big picture of the Garfield Campus and being able to guide and direct faculty and staff in ways that affect all of us here at Garfield. I'm still coming up on the curve, but I have never been busier and happier to interact with everyone as I have so far in my new role. There are little fires to put out and bigger ones, and I'm learning a lot. I feel the past ten years' experience here at Garfield has put me in a good place to understand the needs here and make some positive changes.
Q: You just finished planning and executing with other faculty and staff a grand Open House for the community and our current students to acquaint them with all we have to offer. This resulted in increased enrollment, although there still may be room for more. Are you planning other outreach programs, or will we be concentrating on the student body we have?
A: We are always thinking of ways to reach out to new students, as well as retain the students who are already here. We developed a new flyer which outlines all of our programs and services, we are updating our Welcome Packet that is given to our current students, and we have prepared infomercials for Gateways to Glendale College, the college's TV program. One of our academic counselors, Mohammad Taghdis, attends a monthly collaborative meeting sponsored by the Employment Development Department. This is a meeting where information is shared by all constituents, so the counselor gives information about our programs and services and then receives information about programs and services in the community. And many of our students are referred to Garfield because of these relationships.
Q: This is not a very pleasant time to be taking over an administrative position. Budget talks are only about cutbacks and lack of funds. What do you see as the biggest challenges to complete during these lean years ahead?
A: I'm a positive thinker, at least I like to believe that, and keeping morale up in these difficult times will be challenging. We still have PeopleSoft concerns, so keeping up with and improving the performance of this powerful program for faculty, staff and students is a big priority. We have great programs here, ESL and our Business divisions, and I'd like to have some input in getting more students.
Q: On the other hand, despite all the cutbacks, we have a brand new, high tech, LEEDS building (not without some technical complications, which have made registration far more complicated than it should have been). How can we best showcase Garfield and all that it can offer the community?
A: We are the best-kept secret in town! I think getting the word out to the community that we offer FREE classes is still our best selling point, and in addition to that, our instructors are very caring and responsive to our students. Our new building is gorgeous, but we still need to get more students. And our transfer rate to the credit campus has increased so that we are the largest feeder, so GCC as a whole needs to recognize us and tout the positives we offer, because all our boats will rise together as we stay afloat. The immediate community knows about us and donated lots of food and gifts for our Open House, so in telling the small businesses about our campus, we got the word out to the community, and the students felt appreciated as well. The bottom line is we must continue to get the word out to the community that we are here and serving the community.
Tell your friends and your students, especially if they are unemployed, shut out of credit computer classes, or want to learn English as a Second
Language. These classes are free! Read more about this!