Congratulations talented faculty and staff

Good morning Bakersfield.  It is Saturday, May 13th….the day after BC’s 103rd commencement.  What a glorious week to be a Renegade.

In January, the halls of BC filled with students as the new semester began… A semester that will forever change the lives of our 1400 plus graduates who were invited to walk on the commencement stage yesterday evening.

There is so much to talk about and so much to share about the Commencement festivities yesterday. I’ll be recapping the individual events next weekend, but for now –


Have you checked out the Waterfall in Bakersfield?  I did..on May 3rd when a friend told me about it.

Check out Lois Henry’s brief fun description of the Waterfall in Bakersfield at



Closing Day

What an incredible, record breaking and history setting year for Bakersfield College. We saw a record setting increase in student numbers, improved student outcomes, created efficiency saving time and money for students and taxpayers, broadened outreach to Kern County Residents, particularly in rural Kern, engaged with our community, educational sector, business, and industry, and continued to develop innovative programs that benefit our students.

Closing Day is all about celebrating people.  Here are some of them

Shirley Trembley Award Recipient: Reggie Williams

Reggie Williams recipient of the Shirley Trembley Award May 12 2017


The Margaret Levinson Award Recipient: Kimberly Bligh

Kimberly Bligh Margaret Levinson Award Recipient May 12 2017

Levan Faculty Colloquim Recipient: Rafael Espericueta

Rafael Espericueta Levan Faculty Colloquim May 12 2017.png


Each year, at Closing Day, I recognize groups or individuals with The Presidents Leadership Award. This year, the 10 recipients were:

I. Public Safety:


On call 24/7, 365 days a year, and under the guidance and leadership of Chief Chris Counts, our Public Safety officers and department has put forth commendable effort to keep our campus safe and welcoming.

Thank you for your caring service to our community. As an open campus, with thousands of visitors and students, it is you our campus officers who deal with the issues and providing assistance to those in need.

Thank you for putting forth the effort to make BC an environment that not only reaches out, but also provides a safe and caring community. I am delighted to award the President’s Leadership Award to the Public Safety team!

Chris Counts, Christina Vazquez, Freddie Rodriguez, Felix Ramirez, Marcos Sifuentes, Mason Blair, Blanca Blanco, Vincente Costa, Robert Fore, Raymond Grant,
Jason Mattheus, Matthew Rodriguez, Carlos Rios

II. Financial Aid

17closingday14Tenacity!  Eye on details!  Relentless focus on improving systems!  Challenging the status quo!

These are some of the characteristics I think of when I see a whole department reinventing itself and championing “systems” changes to ensure student success. And this is exactly what I think of when I hear what our Financial Aid Department has achieved this year!

For the first time in my memory, we did not have any delay in awarding Financial Aid, and disbursing awards on time.  Our Financial Aid team, under the direction of Jennifer Achan, has re-invented itself by sheer hard work, and a focus on examining processes internally and externally!

They have been relentless in challenging inefficiencies, and have focused on putting student success first!  And more importantly they have sought out innovative technologies and applications to improve how they work.  I am delighted to present the President’s Leadership Award to the Financial Aid team!


Jennifer Achan, Mark “Adam” Llanes, Adriana Vega, Connie Garza-Singh, 
Donica Delarose, Gina Hunter, Heather Skibinski, Pita Montes, Rebecca Bumpous               Roberta Ayala, Valerie Mackey, Victoria Koiyan, Walter Rivas, Lucy Perez-Dykes
Evette Lara, Claudio Felix, Grace Saenz, Jesus Cardenas

III. Inmate Education

Inmate Education 2017 President's Leadership Awards

“Teaching inside is a labor of love.”  These words are from Bryan Hirayama’s blog on his experience teaching in prison.

The ‘labor of love’ also applies to those who started and developed the Bakersfield College Inmate Scholars Program.

In 2 short years, BC has taken a leading role in the state. Our dedicated team has been asked to present at state-wide conferences, provide training, and we are one of 7 California programs to receive a grant for our innovative and effective approach to teaching incarcerated students.

The rigor and the academic standards are maintained in these college level courses. Our program faculty and administrators go the extra mile.

That might mean using paper and pen to answer student questions over the weekend because students don’t have access to email or telephones.

Or it might mean providing additional transfer materials so a student can answer their daughter’s questions about college classes.

In a recent post Bryan said, “It is no different teaching inside. One measurable but significant call of teaching behind the wall is shouldering hope.”

Chelsea Esquibias, Rich McCrow, Patricia Smith, Bryan Hirayama, 
Douglas Grimsley, David Moton, Yuki Takeuchi Chan

IV. Dual Enrollment Program


Dual Enrollment President's Leadership Award.pngIt takes vision, leadership, persistence and thinking to move from an idea to a college practice.

BC’s early model of dual enrollment was at a Delano Charter School and, now Wonderful Academy.

Just this past year and a half, we have built on the long standing articulation agreements and CTE program pathways to schedule courses that prepare students for college and careers. This year, general education courses were piloted.

We are well on the way to address the significantly low degree attainment and unemployment rates in our rural communities.

All these indicators pointed to the need for post-secondary education and training. We knew we could not afford to wait until students enrolled at one of BC’s college locations. We knew we had to strengthen our partnerships with high school districts in order to make a positive change for Kern County.

Building connections between two very different systems has its challenges and growing pains. Bringing together college and high school faculty is time intensive but critical to the success of dual enrolled students.

But, for the sake of our students, making the effort and improving what we are doing is exactly where we need to be.

This year 69% of dual enrolled students live in rural communities and 85% are students of color. Dual enrollment is about access and equity. It is about improving the statistics of Kern County.

Cindy Collier, Corny Rodriguez, Klint Rigby, Anna Laven, Rich McCrow, Raquel Lopez


The MESA Program is vital to our first student generation and assists students who are declared in STEM transfer majors that are economically and educationally disadvantaged.

MESA, under the leadership of Connie Gonzales, leverages a $75,000 State grant with three times that amount in donations from local business, industry and other private philanthropic groups.

Students have access to dedicated tutoring support, guidance and resources to develop habits that keep them on the pathway to success, resulting in historical success rates 10% higher than the total BC student population.

Just last month, MESA ran a successful STEM Pre-Health Conference in collaboration with UCLA to direct 150 future STEM students to BC and beyond.

MESA is housed in the AERA STEM Success Center, which was opened last fall using a major financial donation from AERA Energy. This valuable resource center for students, led by Yadira Guerrero, is funded through a STEM grant.

MESA and STEM May 12 2017


I promise you that if you swing by anytime you will find the center alive with support for all STEM students through assistants and mentors, who help other students succeed in challenging courses.

Together, Connie and Yadira and the MESA and STEM team have made BC the place to succeed in Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering . I am delighted to present this team The President’s Leadership Award!


Connie Gonzales, Yadira Guerrero, Cynthia Quintanilla, Tiffani Alvidrez, 
Mark Osea, Patrick Aderhod, Kenward Vaughan, Wayne Cooper, 
Dan Kimball, Joe Saldivar, Kim Newton, Regina Hukill, Dillion Giblin                                Josh Lewis, Donna Starr, Becky Head

VI. Summer Bridge

Summer is almost here – and it’s a critical time in the academic success for recent high school graduates planning to attend BC in the fall.

This is the time when new students can get started on their pathways to success at BC, but it takes the determination, coordination and hard work of BC faculty, staff, student mentors and leaders like Kimberly Bligh and the Summer Bridge team.


Together, their efforts have created the BC Summer Bridge program – an intensive orientation program with hands-on activities covering academic and student services, campus tour, registration processes, and financial aid.

  • In 2013, the Summer Bridge program was only one section with 35 students over one week.
  • In 2014, this was increased to 145 students, and in 2015, over 400 students.
  • Funding from a Title V grant and Kimberly Bligh’s leadership, last year, supported nearly 1,000 students, who were 5% more successful in their fall courses than those not attending Summer Bridge.

With new sessions and expansion to Delano, the participation goal is simply… every new BC student!


Kimberly Bligh, Lesley Bonds, Isabel Castaneda, Matthew Garrett, 
Marcelyn Allen, Alexandra Dalllara, Faith Bradham, Jessica Wojtysiak
Paul Beckworth, Stephen Tavoni, Andrew Haney, Teresa McAllister
Don Brady, Jennifer Peters, Sarah Baron, Ximena Da Silva, Nigie Shi,
Eddie Rangel, Sondra Keckley, Jonathan Shultz

VII. Measure J. Writers Bureau

Higher education is a pursuit; one that follows visions and dreams to make tomorrows story better than today’s.

With the support of our community and because of the phenomenal efforts of a dedicated group of individuals who helped broadcast BC’s unique story, we gained the support of over 65% of voters for YES ON J.


Our stories were everywhere.

They were authentic and vibrant. They brought to life our outstanding history and long tradition of excellence. They shared experiences and whispers from within the classrooms and the hallways.

Thank you for sharing your talent and thank you for sharing your stories.

Your words, community voices, and opinions have brought life to the conversation that has propelled Bakersfield College into the next era.  Thank you.

Andrea Thorson, Talita Pruett, Neely Hatridge, Gloria Dumler, Krista Moreland, Nick Strobel, Oliver Rosales, Patricia Smith, Paula Parks, Sarah Baron, Tom Moran, Janet Tarjan, Debbie Rosenthal

VIII. Measure J Campus Leaders

The Measure J journey started a year in advance and included much more than just 12 months of intense work. A team of campus leaders rallied behind this work, often not even knowing what the work needed to be… building it as we moved forward, one step at a time – creating that step as we took it.

The work took courage, time, patience, and grace from many individuals who came together during non-school and non-work time, volunteer hours, evenings, weekends, early mornings, lunchtime meetings, whatever it took – these campus leaders were there.


The work was initially broken up into two phases.

The first was the educational campaign… Together, we shared our vision for A Better BC through presentations, conversations, and sharing our ideas with anyone who would listen.

And then when the board took action in July 2016, we moved to the political campaign – Yes on J.  As educators, who know nothing about political campaigns, except our Political Science faculty, we rolled up our sleeves, locked arms, and engaged with the hard work.

1675 Chester Avenue became a home away from home. It was a refuge of sharing our vision, engaging with folks on the phone in English and Spanish, eating pizzas, exhausted, planning walking precincts…. And then…. November 8th happened.

Our hard work gave life to our vision… a vision that now will be a reality.  And as I began to identify those who worked so tirelessly, I know many were missed… but here is a glimpse of the mosaic of faces that have made measure J a reality.

Somaly Boles, Tarina Perry, Shannon Musser, Kate Pluta, Nicky Damania,                     Richard McCrow, Cornelio Rodriguez, Steven Holmes, Zav Dababhoy                              Todd Coston, Liz Rozell, Sandi Taylor, Tom Gelder, Nan Gomez-Heiteberg
Mary Jo Pasek, Lesley Bonds, Steven Watkin, Sue Vaughn, Isabel Stierle                      Sarah Baro, Nick Strobel, Sondra Keckley, Tina Johnson, Jennifer Marden Serratt, 
Chris Glaser, Stephen Waller, Manny Mourtzanos, Andrea Thorson, Bill Potter, Jackie Lau, Paul Beckworth, Michelle Pena

Check out this 5-minute video that Manny de Los Santos put together of some Measure J photos.

IX. Jerry Ludeke, Bob Allison, and Jack Hernandez

It’s hard to imagine a world without archives, without scholarship, and without lifelong learning.

On the BC campus, we uniquely rely on these three important components to enrich our working and learning environment.

Jerry Ludeke Bob Allison Jack Hernandez May 12 2017.png

Our archives give us a comprehensive and vital understanding of our past, as we work towards building a better future…. the detailed extent to which Jerry Ludeke preserves our history is usually only found at prestigious universities and not so much in community colleges.  The Bakersfield Californian accurately called Jerry Ludeke a “True Bakersfield College Treasure.”

The lifelong learning offered at The Levan Institue, under the direction of Bob Allison is a gift for our neighbors, community, and Renegade alumni.  Bob Allison has served this college as a chemistry faculty, a senior administrator, president and now the caretaker of lifelong learning opportunities for our community.  Bob Allison opened up his home to me as a rookie faculty and mentored me on the enrollment management and budgets when I was a rookie dean and has done so for many many of us at BC.

The lectures and programs offered at the Levan Center, led by Jack Hernandez, brings a unique opportunity to deepen the learning environment for our faculty, staff and students and to elevate our core value of learning.

The Levan Center through its scholarly and rigorous treatment of the humanities, arts, letters and sciences does just that.  And it is a bright shining light of excellence due to the leadership of Jack Hernandez.

X. Mary Jo Pasek

You will frequently see Mary Jo speeding around campus in her golf cart, making friends wherever she goes and serving as BC’s goodwill ambassador to students and visitors alike.

In her role as Events and Scheduling Manager, Mary Jo is involved in all outside events that come to campus and she was instrumental in bringing the Condors and their WinterFest to Memorial Stadium.

She works closely with our maintenance, media relations and food service staffs to make sure every event has the right venue, the right equipment and the perfect menu to make it a success.

Sonya Christian Mary Jo Pasek May 12 2017

She knows everybody in town and is a fountain of information when you need to know who to call, who to ask, or who to invite.

She is a true Midwestern treasure… Minnesota born and bred…and a treasure to Bakersfield College.

Between her stints at the District and her time at BC Mary Jo has spent 10 years making “a better BC” and today, I’m delighted to honor her as a recipient of The Presidents Leadership Award.

Here are some photos from the morning.

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Thank you to the Closing Day Team: Monika Scott, Dylan Wang, Kristin Rabe, Manuel De Los Santos, Kevin Ganger, Francis Mayer, Jennifer Marden Serratt, and our Ushers led by Chris Glaser, Kristina Whitmore, Bernadette Martinez, Heather Skibinski, Walter Rivas, Cecilia Lopez, and Tarina Perry. And I can’t forget, Emmanuel Limaco who led our stretch break.


What a great selfie of the three VPs



Wounded Heroes Event

BC was represented at “An Evening with American Heroes” last Friday evening.  The Wounded Heroes Fund is a local service organization for those veterans and their families affected by the war on terror with a focus on facilitating a healthy transition to civilian life through support and appreciation. The beautiful evening underneath the big trees was a perfect setting for a great meal, catered by Cafe Med, with community members supporting this important organization.  The highlight of the night was a panel of three Army special forces operators discussing their missions and their passions.  On stage was SGT. Major Jeremy Morton, Master SGT., (Ret) Jason Beardsley, and SGT First Class Joe Drullard.  Paul Beckworth told me, it was Sgt. Major Jeremy Morton who helped plan and execute the capture of Saddam Hussein. Bakersfield College veterans attended this important fundraiser as a part of, and in support of our local veteran community.  

Mayor Goh, Angelica Perez (Army), Jahnea Palfrey (Navy), Bernadette Martinez (Air Force) Paul Beckworth

Paul Beckworth, Mayor Goh, Angelica Perez (Army), Jahnea Palfrey (Navy), Bernadette Martinez (Air Force)


Women’s Empowerment Summit

Last Saturday marked the second annual Women’s Empowerment Summit which brings knowledge, resources and networking to all who attend. There was a wonderful line-up of some amazing and talented women throughout the county and state.  In today’s world, we are striving for equality and inclusion for everyone, and it is with this in mind that the women at the conference shared statistics, studies, and hope. It is estimated that women today earn 86 cents to every dollar a man is paid for the same job with the same experience and so we are left asking ourselves what is it that we can do to level the playing field? This is especially pertinent when we think about the fact that 1.5 million businesses in California alone are owned and run by women.


Through the various speeches shared a story of importance… a story of being that role model for others to emulate whatever field you are passionately pursuing. There were speakers from Latina Leaders of Kern County, Associate State Director for AARP, Executive Director for the Kern Literacy Council and also a stirring presentation from Melissa Abad, Research Associate for the Clayman Institute. The morning began with refreshments while those in attendance networked with others, then the women sat together, shoulder to shoulder and listened intently as each speaker shared with us with wisdom in their field of expertise.

IMG_5623The first speaker of the day was none-other than Executive Vice President of Instruction at our own Bakersfield College, Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg. She shared, “I started in 1966 as an educator, teaching three year olds, but I was always curious and my curiosity is what put me in positions that opened doors instead of simply watching life by the sidelines. Appreciate people who have taught you things that maybe were painful but they are all part of your story, you can become your own author to your story of life. The best thing about working for BC is being able to transform so many lives but also working for and with so many wonderful women’. These words resonated with me, as she closed by simply stating, “It’s never too late to write your story.”

As all of the other wonderful speakers presented, these words continued to stay at the forefront as each one demonstrated how they had in fact written their own story and how they strived and continue to strive each and every day to make it the best story possible. Lisa Baca posted photos on Facebook! 

Levan Humanities Review

The Norman Levan Center for the Humanities just released the fifth volume of the “Levan Humanities Review”, an annual journal of essays, poetry and cultural criticism submitted by contributors in and out of BC. Contributors submit their work to Levan Center director Jack Hernandez for publication, and he curates and edits the entries throughout the year.

In the current issue of the Levan Humanities Review, Writing Center tutor Susan Abbassi wrote an essay on the cultural importance of the hijab and the struggles many Muslim women in the Western world face when they choose to continue incorporating it into their spiritual practice. Philosophy professor, Anna Poetker’s piece documented the obstacles that many undocumented Latino college students face in achieving their educational goals, while commercial music professor Joshua Ottum wrote about the percussive, industrial sounds of Kern River oilfields and its influence on our music and culture. Cal State Bakersfield professor Tim Vivian even contributed a review of Wendell Berry’s book “Roots to the Earth” and a poem titled “To One Who Coughed in Darkness”.

To find out more about the latest issue of the “Levan Humanities Review,” including David M. Kernanen’s explanation of humanism and Miriam Raub Vivian’s essay on Roman architecture, you can read Volume 5, Issue 1 online right now.

To order a paper version of the journal, please check the Amazon page at:

U.S./Mexican Muralism

The Bakersfield College Art Department was excited to have a guest lecture from UCLA PhD candidate Kaelyn D. Rodriguez on campus. She was here share all about U.S./Mexican Muralism: Visualizing the Past, Present, and Future of Chicanx Murals. She expressed the reason behind the word Chicanx and its importance. In a world were inclusion in vital to us as a society, by saying or labeling things as Chicanx, you are taking the gender and or sex out of the equation. No longer do they say Chicano or Chicana or Latina or Latino which designates to only certain gender and sexes, by using the word Chicanx, you are now including all!

Mexican Muralism flyerHer excitement beamed as she went through the history of Chicanx Murals and then brought the audience up to today. She engaged all in attendance to share with her in discussion about murals that represent different time eras and events throughout history. Social Realism was one of her main themes throughout the discussion for the day, focusing on its true meaning of being true to yourself and representing yourself accurately, it’s about what’s happening in life now and how that affects you. With each of the pieces of artwork that she shared, she asked the students what caught their attention. She wanted to know their interpretation of what they saw, how it spoke to them, what it was that they noticed is. This entire discussion was actually Ms. Rodrigues Thesis paper at UCLA and she was thrilled at the opportunity to share it will all those in attendance to engage with the students in a riveting back and forth of thoughts, feelings, and interpretations of Murals and artwork represented through time in the Chicanx society.

Bill Potter’s Ride

Todd Coston showed me this fantastic pic of Bill Potter. I had to share. What do you think?!


End of Year Celebration in my backyard

Since 2013 when I started as president, I have held a traditional end of year celebration for the leadership of BC and the District Office in my backyard.  Here are some photos from the May 2nd event.  Thank you Krista Moreland, John Hart, Tracy Hall, Jennifer Marden and Chris Glaser for helping me with this event. It was wonderful have Chancellor Tom Burke, Vice Chancellor John Means, and Vice Chancellor Gary Moser join us.

Exec Team Enf of year potluck May 2 2017

Don Chrisciel, Zav Dadabhoy, Sonya Christian, Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg







Girls just wanna have fun 🙂




Here are the party planners.

Party Planners May 2 2017

Tracy Hall, Sonya Christian, John Hart, Krista Moreland, Jennifer Marden

So if you are wondering why I have been tardy with my blog posts, I can only ask you to look at the picture below.  Can you guess his name?  Post the name as a comment on my blog.  If you don’t get it right, I will then give you clues until next Saturday.

Sonya-and-Neo-May-13-2017-at-Comanche-Gas-Station v2




That’s all for now.  

Until next time.

With much Renegade Pride and Collegiality.  

sonya —
the luckiest and happiest college president ever

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15 thoughts on “Congratulations talented faculty and staff

  1. Sarah Baron May 13, 2017 at 9:44 pm Reply

    1) Renegade or Rennie for short
    2) BC
    Leave a hint 🙂 Dogs are the best Such a cute puppy.

  2. Corny May 13, 2017 at 9:48 pm Reply


  3. Craig May 13, 2017 at 10:18 pm Reply

    Sandy? Gader?

  4. SonyaChristian May 14, 2017 at 7:08 am Reply

    🙂 I love the names suggested. Should have asked first before I named him. Renegade and Gader….. nice…. But alas that is not his name.

    Here is the first clue: Name of the lead male character in a move.

  5. Dr. Zav Dadabhoy May 14, 2017 at 8:51 am Reply


  6. Janet Fulks May 14, 2017 at 9:44 am Reply

    Rocky Balboa or Obi-Wan??

    • SonyaChristian May 14, 2017 at 12:14 pm Reply

      lol…… Obi-Wan would have been a good guess……I will put out my second clue on tuesday.

      • Sarah Baron May 14, 2017 at 12:25 pm

        Okay we need a hint on genre for the movie…year too lol

        How about Marley from Marley and Me?

      • Sarah Baron May 14, 2017 at 12:26 pm

        Tuesday it is!!!!

  7. Teresa McAllister May 14, 2017 at 1:08 pm Reply

    Neo ?

    • SonyaChristian May 14, 2017 at 5:01 pm Reply

      And the winner is……Teresa McAllister. His name is Neo…..The One. From my favorite movie The Matrix.

      • Teresa McAllister May 14, 2017 at 10:13 pm

        Yay:) He’s a cutie! Love The Matrix series.

  8. Janet Fulks May 14, 2017 at 6:54 pm Reply

    I love it, but you must be careful of his moves 😉

  9. Sarah Baron May 14, 2017 at 7:05 pm Reply

    Awesome love the Matrix Neo!

  10. Heidi Allison May 16, 2017 at 8:51 pm Reply

    My guess is his name is Renegade

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