Good morning Bakersfield. It is Saturday, May 20, 2017…one week after graduation and a phenomenal week to be a Renegade.
The 2016-2017 Academic Year ended on a wonderfully high note. There were so many important and inspiring events during the last few weeks of the semester, but everything culminated in Bakersfield Colleges 103rd Commencement Ceremony. Here is the slideshow of images from the evening:
So proud of Somaly Boles who graduated with her associates degree. Seriously smart, incredibly talented, a calm personality, no drama, and so beautiful. The entire Executive Office was so excited. Here are some photos with Somaly.
This year we thought we would try a new approach to all of the pre-commencement celebrations. We have the Chicano-Latino, African American, Veterans, and Delano pre-commencement celebrations. So let’s take a looks at two of the four celebrations. I will have the Veterans and the Delano celebrations in my next blog.
African American Pre-Commencement
Our African-American graduates were specially recognized in the Indoor Theater at the African-American Pre-Commencement Ceremony on Friday afternoon. This event started with beautiful music, as the audience sang along to James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” After the opening prayer by Pastor Prince Charles, Outreach Director Steve Watkin offered some words of encouragement, asking students to do their part to “help us continue to be proud of you.” Financial Aid Director Jennifer Achan introduced keynote speaker Brenda Lewis, assistant superintendent of instruction for the Kern High School District. Lewis told her story of growing up with 11 siblings in poverty to become one of Kern County’s first black high school administrators. She urged the students to carry themselves with honesty, integrity and ethics and to help others who struggle along the way.
“You must continue preparing to succeed,” she said. “Be the one who clears the way for others to succeed.”
Graduating student speaker Sharita Knowles told a powerful story about how she went back to school after having children, worked full time at a hospital every night to support her family while she went to classes during the day, and how members of the BC family such as Janet Fulks, Steve Watkin and student peer mentors helped her get a job at the Welcome Center so that she could see her kids at night. “I thought I had a plan,” Knowles said, “but if our plans don’t line up with God’s plan, then they’re not really plans at all.
“At BC, a whole new world opened up—experiences that I’d never known I’d experience,” said Knowles, who the other students affectionately refer to as “Momma Bear”. “Coming to school here was a huge sacrifice…but it was all worth it.”
The Chicano and African-American Pre-Commencements are living demonstrations of the truism that education is the great equalizer in our society. Regardless of the racial, socioeconomic or other struggles that define your past, an education at BC offers the opportunity to overcome those obstacles and build a new legacy for yourself and your family.
Chicano Latino Pre-Commencement
The Chicano/Latino Pre-Commencement Celebration took place at the Outdoor Theater
on Friday and began with a traditional dance ceremony as family members gathered. Women dressed in ornate costumes moved in beautiful syncopation to the trance-inducing rhythm of two young boys drumming between ferns on the Outdoor Theater stage. One woman burned incense in a wooden bowl to accompany the ritual, spreading good intentions throughout the theater and invoking the spirits of the ancestors.
Victor Diaz served as master of ceremony, leading the crowd to a bilingual chant of “WE ARE BC” before introducing Dean of Instruction Cornelio Rodriguez, who’s been organizing the Chicano/Latino Pre-Commencement at BC since 1994.
Rodriguez said how grateful he was for everyone who helped organize the event and was awestruck at how it has grown to become one of the most anticipated events of the year. As an expression of that gratitude, he presented Diaz with the sash used 24 years ago at the first Chicano/Latino celebration.
The keynote speaker for the Pre-Commencement was television journalist Christina Lopez, who spoke about her struggles as the child of farm workers who became a first-generation college graduate at the height of the economic recession, and how she overcame her obstacles to succeed a TV reporter in Bakersfield and a documentarian chronicling the life of civil rights leader Dolores Huerta. Lopez offered an important message for other first-generation graduates.
“Never lose sight of dreams that propel you to a future filled with purpose,” she said. “Don’t just dream, but dream bigger for yourself, your community and your family.”
After Lopez spoke, each student got the opportunity to take the stage and thank all of the parents, teachers, friends and family that encouraged them to get through college. On days like this, I’m so proud of all our faculty and campus leaders who change the lives of people in our community every day and create opportunities for upward mobility to our Latino community.
Remember… Somos BC!
Back to the 103rd Commencement
Here are some more photos of the incredible evening
The four readers: Prof. Jennifer Johnson, Dean Corny Rodriguez, Prof. Paul Beckworth, Prof. Cynthia Quntanilla
Thank you Trustee Kyle Carter and Trustee Romeo Agbalog for attending the 103rd commencement. It is always a treat to have our trustees at college events.
BC SGA President Matthew Frazer, thank you for a fabulous year. I will miss you!
The platform party for the 103rd commencement.
Standing: Trustee Romeo Agbalog, Vice President Zav Dadabhoy, SGA President Matthew Frazer, Academic Senate President Steve Holmes, Trustee Kyle Carter, Prof. Bernie Scanlon, Vice President Don Chrusciel, General Counsel Chris Hine, Prof. Paul Beckworth, Prof. Corny Rodriguez
Sitting: Vice President Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg, President Sonya Christian, Prof. Jennifer Johnson, Prof. Cynthia Quintanilla
Nicky Damania and Michelle Pena
Bernie Scanlon and Chris Hine
Matthew Frazer and Steven Holmes
Full gallery of photos are available at
Commencement Day was incredible. I have a team of people to thank, especially Jennifer Marden, Tracy Hall, Kristin Rabe, Lesley Bonds, and Chris Glaser. So many roles, so many volunteers, so many names to mention. From our ushers, to Francis Mayer, our emcee to our name readers, and photographers. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The 2017 Commencement Committee included:
Jennifer Marden Serratt
More behind the scenes photos
The day before commencement with the Dream Team — Tracy Hall, Jennifer Marden, Kristin Rabe, Lesley Bonds, Chris Glaser
In June 2015, I contacted Lesley [Bonds] inquiring if a classified member could be a mentor and she said she “would love to get me connected with a group of mentees”. Well, she certainly “hooked me up”! When she said “group”, I was not anticipating TEN (10) students!! However, it turns out that most needed occasional directional information and only a select few fell under my wing. Although one student is struggling, I am there to offer guidance and encouragement; another student changed her major and is moving right along. I’m most excited to share that Andres Abundis (photo attached) was able to graduate with a major in Business Administration with his Associate in Science Degree for transfer to Cal State Long Beach with a 3.44; Dean’s list for Spring 2016/Fall 2016.
Along the way there were many times he wanted to drop a class or needed assistance with just a quick edit of an essay and I was there to lend a hand. Together, we worked on his resume, attended BC football games, and he even went to the hockey game with my boys. I am glad to say he is and always will be a longtime friend of the family.
Thank you Lesley for this amazing opportunity; both Andres and I have grown so much from this experience!”
Umoja End of the Year Gathering
Thank you Paula Parks for leading this work!
The event was definitely one of celebrating our students. I was sitting next to a fabulous woman Sharon Randall, who is a community mentor for the ASTEP program. A retired Biology teacher, Sharon was so enthusiastic about the program.
The star mentor was none other than our June Charles.
This is what Kimberly Bligh tweeted
Tyler Johnican from Umoja is heading to China
After the Umoja program Zav, Nan and I were talking in the parking lot just telling stories about what a great year this was for BC. And then Jackie Lau joined us and we were talking about Measure J. Jackie was a constant at 1675 Chester Avenue the headquarters for the campaign. Phone banking, precinct walking….. Thank you Jackie!
That same evening, the evening of May 18th, there were three events happening on campus — Softball Hall of Fame dinner, the ASTEP-Umoja celebration, and the Landscape meeting. I was rushing back to campus after briefly attending the pre-Stemposium dinner event at Luigis organized by Cheryl Scott of Kern Economic Development Corpporation (KEDC). More on the Stemposium in next week’s blog.
I was so delighted to see Kanoe Bandy, Athletic Director at Taft College at the event with her husband Don Bandy who was being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
And in the Fireside Room Lindsay Ono was there with the Kern County California Landscape Contractors Association. Here is a video posted on Prof. Ono’s Facbook page. So proud of BC faculty and out curriculum.
The last three years, BC has had a summer institute right after graduation. The summer institute is a professional development event for faculty and staff and the focus has been on improving our student success rates as it relates to students completing a certificate or degree.
Here are some photos that Janet Fulks sent me.
Health Sciences Metamajor
Catch all for students who are undecided
Behavioral Science Metamajor
Arts and Humanities
Odella Johnson’s Retirement
Hard to beleive that so many of the colleagues I started with at BC are retiring. On Friday, May 19th, we recognized Odella Johnson at the Four Points Sheraton. BC colleagues were there in full force in addition to the Alapha Kappa Alpha sorority group and the Links group.
Here is Odella with her AKA sisters
It was a treat hearing all the wonderful Odella Stories. I am here in this picture with two women who spoke at the retirement. Rhonda Williams, President of The Links and Michelle Fambrough, President of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
It was wonderful seeing Jackie Fisher there looking so well and so strong.
And here I am with woman of the evening, Odella Johnson
Here is a 13-ish minute video of Odella on Equity TV
Celebrating Olivia Garcia
Celebrating History Professor Olivia Garcia‘s recognition as Garden Pathways’ “Women with a Heart for Bakersfield” award. Congratulations, Olivia!! Pictured here with Dean Mourtzanos and History Professors Jason Stratton, Paul Beckworth, and Matthew Garrett.
Our fabulous mayor, Karen Goh
‘Labor of Love’ from inmate education
Chelsea Esquibias from the Inmate Education Program in Delano sent me another uplifting story from the program:
Jesse Perez, 38 years old, is housed at Kern Valley State Prison, B Yard, Level 4 Main Line. He has been incarcerated since he was 12 years old and was convicted as an adult at 16. He has sued CDCR twice and won due to his 20 years in solitary. Today in speech class, he gave a speech about dreams and creating an unofficial partnership with prison officials for social change and continued rehabilitative programs.
After his speech, he passed out a sample form letter (click here to see the letter) to students to send to elected officials and others. He wants everyone to know how thankful they are for the college program and the rehabilitative steps being taken.
Here is a snippet:
“So, as prisoners in an active general population setting, and in proactive acknowledgement of the tentative nature of the current favorable reality, we’d be of service to ourselves if we embrace fully the idea of an unofficial partnership with prison officials. A partnership geared towards making the current rehabilitative trends a permanent fixture in prison life.”
Adding to this, Jesse’s letter was forwarded directly to Governor Brown!
Thank you for your continued support to Bakersfield College. I am honored to serve these students and assist them as they achieve their goals. Thank you for your belief in us.
Retired BC Professor gets Lifetime Achievement Award
Celebrating the heritage of BC is important and exciting. I love hear about accolades given to our past teachers and staff. This week I heard of Helen Gordon’s recognition, her are here words about her time during and after BC:
I taught English and study skills at Bakersfield College for 21 years, retiring from the classroom in 1995. While an English professor at BC, I also served the Bakersfield Californian editorial board as a citizen representative for one year. Keeping in touch with BC, I received the Levan Faculty Colloquium award in 2011 for my research into Shakespeare, “Sleuthing the Shakespeare Mysteries.”
I also contributed a poem to the new journal begun by Jack Hernandez that year.
I had moved to Santa Barbara in 1995 to bring my husband (Rev. Clifton B. Gordon) for assisted living care. To help supplement our retirement income, I took a job at UC Santa Barbara for 5 years as an editor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. I really enjoyed helping graduate students polish their papers for publication in prestigious journals or conference proceedings.
After my husband’s death in 2004, I turned again to scholarly and creative writing. I also trademarked a word game, “Anagrabber” which I field-tested for 5 years and am now beginning to market with the help of two grownup grandsons.
I worked closely with Jerry Ludeke developing the Learning Center which now bears her name.
You can view the full press release here:
BC again hosted “Law Day” for pre-law students to get an idea of what they’re in for when they move on to Law School. Most of the panelists are either judges or lawyers, but offer encouraging advice to BC students who want to explore the field.
Here is the article from The Rip about Law Day: http://www.therip.com/news/2017/05/02/bc-hosts-law-day-on-campus-for-students/
I covered this event more in depth in my May 7th blog but when I saw the article in The Rip, I wanted to highlight it again. Here is the link to my blog post
How Do BC Staff Prep for Events?
On Wednesday, May 24, 2017, Bakersfield College will host the second annual guided pathways summit, Leadership Matters: Reimagining Leadership to Sustain Transformative Change to Advance Student Success & Equity. When BC prepares for an event of this magnitude, we go all out.
Chris Glaser has gathered a group of ushers and event staff to help with our summit check-in and crowd control. But putting all of the pieces of an event together is an intense process!
See that document Tracy Hall is holding? That’s a complete diagram breakdown of the crowd flow for the event check-in. Our ushers will know exactly where to be, what to say, and who to go to for help.
I was also introduced to Slack. Slack’s slogans are “where work happens” and “team communication for the 21st century” and that couldn’t be closer to the truth! It’s this neat collaboration software for your computer and mobile device and it’s been taking off with our teams!
And how is our team prepping the details for Leadership Matters? By sending ideas, comments of encouragement, files, photos, updated files, and more ideas, all within Slack. It’s very fast-paced and super engaging, but you know what? That is how BC rolls!
The Ralph Bailey Show
Mike Turnipseed asked me to sit in for him on his weekly spot on the Ralph Bailey show. We discussed the Kern Promise, Measure J, and the Industrial Automation Baccalaureate Program. Ralph had me laughing and I had so much fun being on the show.
Thanks for the time Ralph!
Theresa McAllister post’s picture of Wasco High Students at Summer Bridge
Thank you Vice Presidents for a fabulous 2016-2017. I could not have done it without you! Selfies by Zav!
Superhero behind the scenes
Blanca Blanco had the night shift on Thursday evening and we had three programs on campus. Thank you Blanca for all that you do.
What a week!
And then there is Neo who has turned my life upside down. Last night he ripped a strip of carpet.
And here he is sleeping peacefully like a little angel
And then there is the ball
That’s all for now.
Until next time.
With much Renegade Pride and Collegiality.
the luckiest and happiest college president ever