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Chaparral 2014-2015: 23.6 Innovative Ideas and Projects

Innovative Ideas and Projects at GCC (May 2015)

Innovative Ideas and Projects at GCC

by Isabelle Saber

Coordinator of Planning, Program Review, and Accreditation

Image of Isabelle Saber

A few weeks ago, I sent one of the dreaded mass emails to the campus community to inquire about the pathways used by various faculty and staff to propose and receive approval for innovative ideas.  The inquiry was motivated by a question posed in the new accreditation standards but it turned out to yield a greater rate of response than we could possibly include in the Self-Evaluation effort.  Although the totality of the various projects could not be included in our report, I felt that the information needed to be shared with you all in a different format.

In the last few years, we have heard and read about programs such as the highly successful Robotics Academy.  More recently, the newly revised Equity Plan and SSSP funding have facilitated endeavors directed at bridging achievement gaps among various student groups.  However, in reading the reports forwarded in response to my inquiry, I realized that I had been unaware of many other wonderful efforts currently underway on our campus. Below is a sampling of projects that were reported; in order to convey the authenticity of, and deep passion for, their effort, the authors’ texts are copied in their original form and are unaltered.

I hope you will enjoy reading about all the fantastic efforts put forward by our faculty and staff to help our students.

Mark Maier:
1. Helping students transfer basic math skills to principles of economics courses. I co-wrote a National Science Foundation grant, "The Math You Need, When You Need It: Modular Student Resources to Promote Successful Integration of Quantitative Concepts in Introductory Economics Courses"  awarded August 2013 for $247,000. I submitted the proposal for approval using the College's grant approval process.

2. Introducing Team-Based Learning in social science courses. Collaborating with two adjunct history instructors we have experimented with the formal structure of Team-Based Learning (see The Social Science Division has provided support through purchase of IF-AT "scratcher" forms needed for this pedagogy.

3. I wrote a new simulation software for the Principles of Macroeconomics courses. Supported by GAUSS to pay a GCC student to write the necessary code and funded in fall 2014. Used by students in spring 2015. See

Edgar Nandkishore:
I wanted to share the following idea, for your consideration, that I suggested to the Business Division Chair (Linda Serra) and it was implemented after she had approved it.

For the Advertising class that I have been teaching at GC, I wanted to provide a more "hands on", learning experience to the participants who take that class (BusAd 166 Advertising).

I suggested that I would like to invite an existing business, preferably from the Glendale area, to permit the class to use their business as a client to develop an advertising campaign for their business, and for their marketing use.

The client is invited to address the class towards the beginning of the semester. At this session, the client covers their marketing and advertising objectives and plans.  The class, which is divided into groups, then works on designing an advertising campaign during the entire semester. Each group works on designing different advertising ideas based on their group's creativity and the client's requirements. The elements of the group's assignment are that each group comes up with a suggested Advertising Plan, a TV advertisement, a Radio ad, and a Billboard Ad. Each group presents its suggested ads to the client towards the end of the semester. The client gives each group feedback on each group’s ad campaign ideas after the actual campaign presentations. At the conclusion of the presentations, the client presents each participant a certificate that states that the named student worked on an actual advertising campaign for the client. This certificate is signed by the client, the Chair of the Business Division, and me.

A representative of the class then presents a certificate to the guest client, thanking them for providing the learning activity and all the time that the client had spent assisting them, and being available to answer their questions, and arranging visits to their specific facilities.

Emily Fernandez:
I was able to create two Contextualized Teaching and Learning classes for English.  One was an English 104 class that focused on climate change.  I attended workshops put on by Jan Swinton, Francien Rohrbacher, and Piper Rooney regarding CTL in 2012.  I was well supported and offered a stipend to create an innovative class, and I met with Professor Darren Leaver and Professor Mike Reed to make sure I understood the complexity of the issue.  This semester the CTL English 104 class is going on a field trip to JPL thanks to a suggestion by Jan Swinton. Also, I created a CTE/CTL English 101 class for students interested in becoming firefighters. I was offered a stipend to create the class. I met with the Verdugo Fire Academy instructors to find out what types of reading and writing assignments would best serve this group of students. I watched firefighters in the VFA train and graduate. This semester I am  teaching the class with much success and hope it continues to attract students and improve. I am also the coordinator and recruiter for CTL this semester and was given an ancillary stipend for the work. I'm hoping to help more teachers create CTL classes.

Asmik Oganesyan:
I started an advanced organic chemistry research program in the summer of 2010 as an independent study project on a volunteer basis. After three rounds of the program, Title V has offered support to expand the program. Since then, I have written several grant proposals to Title V which resulted in over $300K of equipment and supplies for the organic chemistry lab. Because of this invaluable funding, our organic chemistry labs are now equipped with the latest technology that students in both teaching and research labs are being trained on. This allows us to prepare a great workforce in scientific fields. Ever since I started the program, 64 students have been trained. 95% of the students ended up obtaining highly competitive research lab assistant positions in four-year universities. Our students have presented their original work at local, regional, and national meetings and received recognition for their results.

Maria Shufeldt
The campus community garden at the south end of the lower parking structure was an idea I conceived and implemented with the eventual recommendation to Administration of the Environmental Affairs Governance Committee. Staff and students (primarily from the Environmental Club) provided labor, design, and materials. Funds for building were acquired through a college Foundation Grant in the amount of $5,000. I conceived and wrote the proposal. The proposal grant required a recommendation from an administrator. I chose Kristin Bruno for her position at the time in Vocational Education, as well as her personal interest in gardening. In the original proposal (which I have a copy of) the project was to be opened to the entire campus, and to have access to the Veterans' and Nursing students. Gardening is widely used as a mental health intervention with veterans' populations and various patients, and is one of my specialty areas of interest and expertise. As yet, this has yet to be achieved as a potential use. Right now, the garden is under the management of students. I am no longer actively involved as I am trying to establish a therapeutic garden in the community at a domestic violence shelter, hopefully.

It is worth noting that prior to the design and build being done by a core group of campus volunteers, I solicited designs from outside landscape architects, materials funding from outside businesspeople (notably Anawalt Lumber up on Verdugo Road, and technical advice from outside community gardening groups, including the founder of the Monterey Gardens, Alek Bartrousouf, a former GCC student. Collaboration with these entities did not seem to be the way the core group at GCC was leaning. My point is: there was (and is) plenty of outside support for a project like this. At any rate, it was a successful project, though not as well utilized by the entire campus community as it probably could be.

Mike Reed:
While I can't remember the exact dates at the moment, I think our creation of the Environmental Affairs Committee happened about four years ago. Time flies, though, so this might be from as early as 2009. I can't remember, frankly.

Anyway, Paul Mayer, Merilee Ahaus, and I, along with a few others, really pushed for this and we did it through the governance process. An informal group of faculty and staff eventually went to Admin Affairs and had our reps put forward a motion for the creation of the committee. We wrote the mission statement and talked to Frankie and Admin Affairs sent it along and up the chain.  Of course the various committee's involved passed it all along the way and now we have a standing committee.

Jan Young:
After being on the Assessment Committee for 8 years and  chairing the Basic Skills Committee for 6 years, it seemed apparent that our future students were not aware of the significance of the assessment test.  GCC  has  piloted a pre-assessment Math class now for 5 semesters through Title V that is targeted to incoming students (high school and noncredit students). For the past two semesters, we have added a counseling component to help incoming students with their questions. From 30 students the first semester, we currently have 96 students taking the Saturday class this spring. Additionally, in order to educate students as to what "an assessment" test is, Basic Skills worked with Title V to develop an assessment video that would educate students about the importance of preparing for the assessment test.

The pre-assessment pilot was a collaborative effort of noncredit, credit, counseling, and outreach all in an effort to educate our students.  And, with the success of the assessment video, Counseling is now commissioning multiple videos to familiarize students with student services.

Shelley Thai:
I started a research program (if it can even be called that at this early stage) in the Biology Division about 2 years ago.  The experience is in the form of a class setting. Started as Biology 049-Independent Studies in summer 2013. I only offer this class during the intersession due to time and space limitations. I then developed it into a new course, Biology 298-Undergraduate Research in Microbiology and Molecular Biology, which was approved by the Chancellor's Office and was offered last winter 2015 for the first time.  It will be offered again this summer.

The goal of the program is to give our students the hands-on experience in microbiology and molecular biology research while working collaboratively in a laboratory setting on various projects. It allows the student to practice and apply various scientific techniques and methods and concepts learned in biology. The project is searching for genes that are involved in motility and expression of a substance that helps a particular type of bacterium attach to substrates. Thus far, the students have screened over 4800 mutants and identified over 48 genes involved in these processes. One of the genes identified happens to be of great interest to the project collaborator, Dr. Michelle Lum. She is the Associate Professor of Biology at Loyola Marymount University (LMU)and has helped me develop the course for GCC. She gives guess lectures and comes to help the students identify the mutants. Some of the advance students even go to LMU to perform some complex experiments.

In any case, Michelle and I decided to continue our research with this gene and submitted a proposal for the Research for Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) NSF grant this January. We proposed that some of the molecular and microbiology work can be performed by my advance students at GCC and LMU. It is a very competitive grant; chances that we'll get it is slim, but it doesn't hurt to try!

Success of this class and experience thus far:
1. the students learn valuable information that they can't obtain through reading textbooks and manuals
2. increase student's analytical and problem solving skills and reading comprehension skills as they have to read at least 6 peer-reviewed scientific research articles and present the material
3. learn to use PowerPoint to create a science research poster
4. increase oral and written communication skills through interacting with collaborative work with other students, presentations and attending undergraduate research conferences. Thus far, the students have attending the following conferences to present their work:  Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research, Southern California American Society for Microbiology,  and the West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference. We are usually the only community college represented at the last two conferences.
5. have their abstracts published
6. students who have transferred to the UCs reported that the course/experience has helped them gain a better understanding of biology and chemistry and has helped them to do better in these courses at the university.

The GAUSS grant funded the development of the course and the college institutionalized the Bio 298 course (either in fall of 2014 or winter 2015). As for pathway utilized, I mainly wrote proposals to the GAUSS grant coordinators (Tom and Cathy) to support the purchase of supplies, equipment, and my time to develop the course for the last two years. I then wrote a course outline for Bio 298 and worked with Maria, Sara, and Kathy to get it approved by C&I and then the Chancellor's Office. I also wrote proposals to the GCC Foundation and ASGCC to fund more equipment.

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