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Chaparral 2019-2020: 28.2 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 (ssomo@glendale.edu; jgamberg@glendale.edu)
 

Joining us for this issue are Ellen Oppenberg in DSPS and Nahal Ghodousi in Counseling.

Nahal

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

Ellen

I was hired in 1991 as a part time Learning Disabilities Specialist. I am rapidly approaching my 30th year here.

Currently I am a Learning Specialist (full time) and have taken on many other roles as well: Outreach Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator and Treasurer of the Food For Thought Pantry (Verdugo Campus and Garfield Campus); I also coordinate the DSPS Adult Re-Entry Support Group, DSPS Emergency Funds; Co-Coordinate the Student Services Sunshine Fund and Student Services Scholarship Committee.

Nahal

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

Ellen

In DSPS we have an extremely talented team and offer one of the most comprehensive programs in the state. From our state of the art High Tech Center to the IAC’s best tutoring practices and academic accommodations to Adaptive PE’s creative programs to our counseling team. One of our specialists is even in the community offering lip reading workshops. We are everywhere and always current with new advances for students facing academic challenges due to their disability.

I especially love it when a faculty or staff member seeks us out and refers a student they are concerned about or want advice on how to more effectively work with a student.

Nahal

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? 

Ellen

Our campus has transformed over the years into a powerhouse of mega ideas. We offer so much to every student who walks on our campus. It is truly amazing to see how far we have come. I believe that there is much more to come and it feels almost like a sky’s the limit excitement has taken us all over. New programs are being created, new funding sources are emerging.

The changes are a lot to keep up with but I believe it is important that all staff and faculty be current so that they can empower their students and point them in the right direction for helpful campus resources. The worst thing that I see is when a student has been forwarded from one office to another and they slowly back away from getting help because they can’t be directed to the correct office or personnel in the first place.

Reflection on the Conversation

Ellen

It was a wonderful experience connecting with Nahal during this Chapparal assignment. We have always admired each other's work but never really got the chance to tell each other that before. Student Services is filled with extremely caring professionals who bring a special spark to the campus. Nahal is an outstanding example of a student centered individual who loves her job and whose dedication to helping students is boundless. GCC is very lucky to have her.

Ellen

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

Nahal

I have been fortunate enough to be a member of the GCC family for about seven years now. I first began my journey with GCC as a counseling intern within Student Services. Once I completed my internship I was offered an adjunct position as a transfer counselor supporting our students who hope to transfer and obtain a Bachelor’s Degree. A few years later I was hired as a full-time counselor and wear multiple hats within this role. I am currently housed in the Transfer Center where I have continued to support both our transfer and Scholars students. I also aided in the implementation our online counseling program where we provide virtual counseling services to students. I teach Student Development courses, which are focused on teaching students strategies on academic and career success. Aside from my hands on work with students, I am the Student Services Representative on the Academic Senate.

Ellen

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

Nahal

Our students face a myriad of complex academic and personal issues. As counseling faculty, we help identify those challenges and provide strategies and resources to deal with them effectively. We are trained to help identify those difficulties in the educational arena and support students in discovering the solutions to aid in their overall success. We offer a number of resources to help students develop skills, explore careers, and craft personalized plans that lead to a dream career. Our counseling faculty must engage in frequent professional development activities to stay current with labor market trends.

One of our main roles is advocating for our students. Policies surrounding education are continuously changing both on the micro and macro level. The members in our division are constantly engaging in conversations with universities that may have implemented policies that limit access for our students. Also, members in our division advocate for students through shared governance such as Academic Senate.

Ellen

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?

Nahal

I am proud to be part of an institution where we are focused on creating an environment that is so student centered. Although our responsibilities differ, the end goals are similar: to transform students into lifelong learners and critical thinkers who will actively shape a better future for generations to follow. Student success isn’t the sole purview of just one person or department. It is a shared responsibility across our institution. I believe the key to this is through partnerships and collaborations. I have had the privilege of collaborating with a few other departments on campus and have witnessed how these relationships have benefited my students. Our division welcomes faculty and staff to provide informational presentations on various topics at our monthly informational sessions.

Many people on campus may have limited knowledge of the scope of services our department offers. I would be thrilled if faculty and staff stopped by the third floor of Sierra Vista to see us facilitate a workshop, ask about our services, or just introduce themselves. Our office doors are always open.

Reflection on the Conversation

Nahal

It was interesting to speak to Ellen who has been with GCC for 30 years and learn about how her role has evolved. I intently listened to how she assisted with numerous services on campus and how much she helped those areas grow. Although we are both members of the same division, I do not get a chance to learn about the fantastic things she is doing on our campus. It is truly remarkable to learn about all the students she is serving through her role in the Food Pantry. Ellen is one of the most passionate and eloquent people I have met and I am so grateful for this experience so that we got to know each other better.

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