Tag Archives: Levan Center

A Whirlwind Week at Bakersfield College

Good morning Bakersfield.  It is Saturday, March 19, 2016….. A good day to be a Renegade.

And why not….this week BC had a lot to celebrate.

Let’s begin with Paula Parks being named Educator of the Year by NAACP at their annual gala event held Friday (March 18th) night.  What a beautiful smile Paula!

Paula Parks receiving the Educator of the Year award March 18 2016

Paula Parks receiving the Educator of the Year award at NAACP

 

NAACP March 18 2016

BC at NAACP March 18 2016

Thank you Karen Goh for these pictures.  Karen is one of Bakersfield’s true gems.  I first met Karen at an event shortly after I came back from Oregon, in January 2013.  I remember that first encounter, how genuine and caring she was. Since that time I can’t tell you how many college and community events Karen has supported – she gives the gift of time to many individuals and organizations.  We are lucky to have her in this community.

Earlier in the day on Friday, in Sacramento, BC was present in full force at the ASCCC Academic Academy with presentations by Janet Fulks as well as Nicky Damania and Grace Comisso.

Janet Fulks Academic Academy March 18 2016

Janet Fulks

Here is Janet’s program description:

Bakersfield College Addressing Equity by Making it Happen (MIH) and Guided Pathways Bakersfield College (BC) has been addressing StudentSuccess, Equity and Student Support by transforming basic skills and carefully designing student pathways to address our 84% underprepared student population. BC began by addressing high school transition and placement through multiple measures, an intervention resulting in remarkable equity outcomes and course success. High School to College transition was recreated through onsite outreach to high school students and staff as well as extended summer orientation. BC equity and SSSP dollars scaled up supplemental instruction and the Writing Center with outstanding results addressing achievement gaps. But this transformation is complete only when the outcomes lead to clearly designed program pathways with completion coaches guiding the students along the way. This interactive breakout will provide an opportunity to examine your college¹s ability to redesign placement, basic skills, program pathways and academic support services to help maximize student success.

 

 

Nicky Damania and Grace Comisso 2 March 18 2016

Nicky Damania and Grace Comisso

Program description for the talk by Dr. Nicky Damania and Grace Comisso:

Each faculty and staff member has a different tolerance for the variety of behaviors they encounter in the classroom or on campus. Whether it is dealing with academic integrity, social anxiety, classroom disruption, or potential threat, with the aid of the right team, we can help support these students to a positive academic success.

In this session, the co-chairs of Bakersfield College Students of Concern Team will share reporting structures, case management methodologies, and methods of addressing various students of concern. They will define behaviors and review the importance of implementing an early alert process, discussing reported students at SOC meeting, follow up services, and behavioral interventions. At Bakersfield College, the SOC Team is a collaboration with Student Life, Counseling, Student Health & Wellness, Financial Aid, DSPS, Human Resources, and Public Safety.

3.14_Sonya_WOTY

President Sonya Christian Assemblyman Rudy Salas

Earlier in the week as part of the Women’s Legislative Caucus annual recognition event,  Assembly member Rudy Salas recognized the good work at Bakersfield College and named me “Woman of the Year” for the 32nd Assembly District.

Rudy Salas quietly moves mountains for this community, in so many ways.  He has been a champion for issues related to disabilities. On Wednesday, he testified at the Assembly Subcommittee on Health and Human Services to request needed state funding for Independent Living Centers.

Earlier this year, Salas played an integral role in securing increased statewide funding for the Department of Developmental Services Regional Centers, and the programs and services they provide such as the Bakersfield ARC (BARC). Those efforts ultimately secured $307 million for developmental disability services. In addition to the ILC funding budget request, Salas has introduced AB 2565, which will amend an outdated code section of the law to allow each of the state’s ILCs to receive state base funding.

Assembly member Salas, thank you for all that you do for our community!

Btw, did you know that Trustee Kay Meek was named Woman of the Year 25 years ago by Assemblyman Trice Harvey? I tried to find an image of this historic moment but alas, social media was not discovered then.  So here is a picture of Trice Harvey when he was recognized as the donor of the year by Houchin Blood Bank and then enjoy the two pictures of Kay Meek — Kay then and Kay now.

Trice-Harvey

Picture from the web of the late Trice Harvey

Kay Meek

Kay Meek then.  Picture found on the web

Kay Meet Vet Fest 2016

Kay Meek now.  BC’s Vet Fest 2015

The Navajo Creation Story:

Zolbrod_4

Dr. Jack Hernandez, Dr. Paul Zolbrod, Rae Ann Kumelos. Photo by Karla Young

Midweek, on Wednesday, March 16th the Levan Center hosted a captivating discussion on the book Diné bahane’, The Navajo Creation Story by Dr. Paul Zolbrod. Dr. Zolbrod went on a twelve-year ethnopoetic quest to translate the Diné bahane’, the Navajo Creation Story, into English.

He explained his journey by reciting inserts from his book, and showing a documentary video clip. He described the theme as – “Men and Women Must Get Along Harmoniously”. The audience was truly fascinated by Dr. Zolbrod’s excellent description of his experience, and knowledge of oral tradition.

Special thank you to Dr. Paul Zolbrod for sharing his wisdom and love of Navajo culture, and to Dr. Jack Hernandez of the Levan Center and Dr. Rae Ann Kumelos of the English Department.

Women’s History and More

The Levan Center hosted a panel and discussion for Women’s History Month as part of the “Women’s History And More” (WHAM) initiative.

Professor of History & WHAM Committee Chairwoman, Ann Wiederrecht, organized and moderated the event,  “BC, Violence and Women: Policies, Perspectives, and Issues.”
The event presented an opportunity to educate staff, students, and the public more generally, working to reduce acts of violence against women. Bakersfield College faculty and staff participated in a presentation and discussion about issues, policies, procedures and perspectives facing women on BC’s Campus.

BC Professor of Criminology, Patricia Smith, explained criminal aspects, beginning with an explanation of the Clery Act, so those attending had an understanding of the legal definitions of domestic violence, stalking, and other terms.

Director of Student Life, Dr. Nicky Damania, localized the discussion by illustrating key points concerning safety for women on our campus, providing an overview of Title IX, how to access information, and protecting oneself from voyeurism.

Chief of Public Safety, Christopher Counts, provided detailed information about Bakersfield College for the more than seventy attendees, including the history of violence on our campus, and how to report crimes. Chief Counts  also addressed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)  and Title IX. He informed attendees about counselors are available, and what responsibilities he and his team have on campus, their training as well as the services they offer — including the ways in which “women’s voices” inform the Public Safety perspective.

Grace Commiso, counselor, emphasized the ideas behind Rape Aggression Defense (RAD), as well as the importance of self-defense in general, concluding with a demonstration of RAD.

Tobacco stand down March 2016The event culminated with questions and answers, moderated by Professor Wiederrect. Professor Wiederrect has lead the WHAM committee for more than ten years, and we are grateful for her leadership.

1Day Stand

On Wednesday, March 16, Bakersfield College took part in a 1DAY Stand Against Tobacco to encourage students who use tobacco to quit for the day.  Thank you Cindy Collier! BC’s Student Health and Wellness Center has been extremely active this year.  You can find them on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bcshwc/?pnref=story

MAry Jo Pasek March 19 2016

Mary Jo Pasek

Speaking of Facebook, I must do a shout out to Mary Jo Pasek who tirelessly connects with our community.  She is everywhere…in person, on social media….always promoting goodwill and fellowship…promoting collaboration and partnerships.  MJ, you rock!

 

Allied Health

The Nursing and Allied Health Department hosted their second Health Careers Connection Fair.

There were 23 healthcare vendors who participated to give Bakersfield College Nursing and Allied Health Students an opportunity to explore careers and higher education opportunities.

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The event was held from 9am-1pm, on a beautiful day outside of the Huddle. Over 150 students took advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

Special thanks to Stephanie Baltazar (Job Developer), Dominica Rivera (CTE Advisor), Antonio Alfaro (CTE Advisor), Anita Karr (Department Assistant III), Dinorah Castro (Allied Health Advisor), Pam Gomez (CTE Advisor) and Manny De Los Santos (Media Services) for their help in putting on a great event for our students!

Bob Hawks, Director of Workforce Development, provided the funding for the event.

And check out the amazing video Manny De Los Santos took with Bakersfield College’s drone!

Blood Bank

And then on March 15th I received this great email from Stephanie Gibbons, Accounting Manager of Houchin Blood Bank.

Stephanie Gibbons

Stephanie Gibbons

Hello Everyone,

…..

The results are life saving with 304 registered donors and 199 actual units collected.  For the two day event we had 135 donors who made this blood drive their first donation.  Yeah!!  All students were asked to sign in and 203, identified themselves as Hispanic descent . This information was gathered at the SGA desk, for the purpose of the Cesar Chavez Blood Drive Challenge.  Thank you to everyone who signed in.

Thank you to the SGA team ( Nicky, Clayton, Arisve and Danyel) for all your marketing efforts and help with organizing the blood drive. Everyone did a stellar job.   It was a team effort and I enjoyed being a part of it.

Mary Jo, thank you for your guidance and help with the logistics of this drive, I really appreciated everything you did behind the scenes to help make these two days a success.

Each of our donors received a pizza coupon from Rusty’s Pizza, fresh apple slices, donated by McDonald’s and a vintage t-shirt. SGA group made sure all the donors had plenty of food.  Each donor was offered a freshly prepared hot dog to start the donation process. No one left hungry. Thank you to Cindy Hicks, Jim Darling and SGA for making the students feel special with your very generous donations.

Our mission is a simple one.  Maintain a healthy blood supply for our Community.  This annual event remains a key part of this mission and we thank you for your continued support.  We truly value this partnership and what it represents to Houchin and Kern County.

See you in 2017!!!

 

It is a good time to be at BC!

Faculty Accomplishments: BC Stars Shine

Good morning Bakersfield.  It is Saturday, March 12, 2016…..A good day to be a Renegade!

Alexx Dominguez and Sonya Christian March 10 2016

With Alex Dominguez

What a hectic week at BC.  Just on one day, March 10th, we had the Board of Trustees for their monthly board meeting on campus, the Houchin Blood Bank drive hosted by SGA on campus, and had a group of 74 Highland High School seniors visiting who completed their Abbreviated Student Ed Plans (ASEPs) on campus.  I was happy to hear Stewart Hathaway, Academic Senate President of Porterville College, do a shout-out to Steve Watkin and our Outreach department.   The day actually started early morning with Corny Rodriguez and me presenting our Facilities Master Plan, in light of a potential bond for the November 2016 ballot, to the newly formed Government Relations Committee (GRC) of the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (KCHC).  Most of the members of this group are up and coming young professionals who have already established themselves as leaders in this community.  They are very enthusiastic about Bakersfield College and as Corny and I were leaving we snagged this photo with Alex Dominguez, past SGA president and a member of the GRC.  Jay Tamsi, President of the KCHC is a wonderful partner!   Jennifer Marden commented to me at the end of the day as I was rushing off to Sacramento for the IEPI advisory committee meeting: “Just another normal day at BC”.

Clayton Fowler March 10 2016

Clayton Fowler and team at the Houchin Blood Bank Drive. March 10, 2016

Victor Diaz with Highland  Students March 10 2016

Victor Diaz in action. Outreach Department bringing 74 Highland High Scots to campus

It was wonderful having our Board members on campus along with colleagues from Porterville and Cerro Coso.  Danielle Hillard and Jennifer Marden did an exceptional job planning the day.  We changed the venue from the Indoor Theater to the Gym–lunch was in the Huddle and the Board Meeting on the Mezzanine overlooking the floor of the gym.  Josh Ottum, our new faculty member in music who is launching the Applied and Commercial Music Program and his student Omar performed for the Board. Manny Mourtzanos and John Gerhold were walking around being proud of Josh and the music program at BC.

Josh Ottum and Omar March 10 2016

Josh Ottum and his student Omar

It was wonderful seeing Ron Frolich who sits on the Ag advisory committee and is a strong supporter of BC and BC’s Ag program.  I remember decades ago when I was a rookie Dean and Ag was assigned to me.  It was Bill Kelly and folks like Ron Frolich who taught me about the Ag program and Ag in the Central Valley in California.

Billie Barnes Sonya Christian Ron Frolich March 10 2016

Bill Barnes, Sonya Christian, Ron Frolich

Chef Sabella and team did a phenomenal job and Kristin Rabe and I were commenting that we were so happy after devouring the Cous Cous and Quinoa salad.  I think Kristin actually used the word “euphoric”.  And of course, Todd Coston and Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg are always thrilled when we have great vegetarian options available.  Ramon Puga and the facilities crew did an outstanding job.  Thank you!

We had individual Board members briefly tour five of the capital projects that are listed on the proposed bond list–Math Science; Health, PE and Athletics; Student Services neighborhood; Agriculture; and the Veterans Center.  During their Board reports each Board member was complimentary about their tour, and impressed with the faculty and staff.  I enjoyed Trustee Storch‘s comments about his Math Science tour as well as his visit to the Veterans Center.  He played with the STEM umbrella and rearranged the sequence to consider what it would be like with the following arrangement: Math Science Engineering and Technology, or “MSET”.  And then Trustee Corkins jumped in by introducing an “A” for Agriculture — STEAM rather than STEM.  Trustee Meek was very supportive of having a robust Veterans Program.  She highlighted the statewide Guided Pathways summit hosted by BC and acknowledged the presentation by President Jill Board.  Finally she remarked positively on the Arvin Forum that was held the same evening as the Summit.  Trustee Agbalog was very complimentary about his tour, and commended both president Rosa Carlson and Jill Board and the achievements of their students.  Trustee Wright reflected on how much of a positive impact the colleges have on their students as well as on the employees.  He said a very heartfelt “thank you” to all of the faculty and staff at all three colleges.  Trustee Beebe was very appreciative to everyone for their work.  Trustee Carter was also appreciative and acknowledged individuals by name for their wonderful work. Thank you Trustees! 

Three presidents 2 March 10 2016

President Jill Board, President Sonya Christian, President Rosa Carlson

Now, let me take a moment to focus on BC.  There are few blogs I enjoy writing more than those highlighting the amazing accomplishments of BC’s incredible team of educators.  Every time I turn around, I’m finding out about another award, another fabulous achievement, or another incredible event or work produced by a member of our super-talented Renegade family.

Jennifer Garrett

Jennifer Garrett

Jennifer Garrett

BC’s very own director of Choral Activities, Dr. Jennifer Garrett has been honored as the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Collegiate Educator Award, as bestowed by the Kern County Music Educators Association.

In less than three years as a full-time faculty in the Performing Arts Department, Dr. Garrett has built upon the tradition of excellence laid by Dr. Ron Kean, and under the leadership of Performing Arts Faculty Chair Dr. John Gerhold, is propelling the BC choral programs into a prominent spotlight at regional, national, and international venues.

Last summer, Jennifer completed a successful performance tour of Italy with BC’s Chamber Singers and she’s entertaining similar invitations to tour Australia in 2018.  Jennifer very clearly told me where I would be spending June 2018–in Sydney Australia, enjoying our students performing at the Sydney Opera House.  You should mark your calendars as well.  As a member of the BC entourage during that summer tour of Italy, I got a first-hand, front-row view of Jennifer’s incredible dedication to her craft and love of music, as well as her commitment to her students’ success.

Award

Jennifer accepting her 2016 Outstanding Collegiate Educator Award

Of course, no volume of words can ever do the talent of Jennifer’s singers their true justice, so to experience the full scope of her ensemble, check out these samples of recordings by the BC Chamber Singers under Jennifer’s expert direction:

Dr. Garrett’s award is a testament to her amazing talents — and it was only a matter of time before the whole of Kern County knew about them.  Congratulations, Jennifer!  I am so glad you are at BC.

Gina Herrera

Art adjunct professor Gina Herrera was selected to be a featured artist at the Los Angeles Art Association’s The Foolish Game. She was honored by having 2 of her sculptures displayed in the show.

She has also been chosen for 2 fully-funded summer residencies this summer. One will be at Hambidge in Rabun Gap, Georgia, and one is Ox-Bow in Saugatuck, Michigan.

David Koeth was chosen as one of the “Driven by Art” artists for the Bakersfield Museum of Art.  Chicago had the cows, New York had big apples, Lake Tahoe had bears, Sedona had javalinas; Bakersfield has old trucks. David will be painting a fiberglass truck that will be a public art piece.  I can’t wait to see this piece of work.

Delta Kappa Gamma

The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International was organized in 1929.  Its mission statement is that DKG Society International promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education.  The Alpha Alpha Chapter in Bakersfield was organized in 1939.  Over the years many members and DKG leaders have been BC faculty and/or administrators.

They include Grace V. Bird, Margaret (Peg) Levinson, Ruth Maguire, Dorothy Albaugh, Jerry Ludeke, Janet W. Tarjan, Hillary Neumeister, Lynne Hall, Gayle Richardson, Mary Jo Anhalt, and many more.

Dr  Mitchell w-Delta Kappa Gamma leaders

Gayle Richardson and Janet Tarjan, guests BC faculty Valerie Robinson and Pat Smith, and BC Future Teachers Club alumni and CSUB alumni and current teachers Jennifer Garcia (2nd grade) and Tayci Stallings (6th grade), and current BC students and guests Samaria De alba and Maria Holland were among the attendees at an exciting Women’s Networking Open House at the Dezember Reading Room in the CSUB library in February.  Dr. Horace Mitchell, President of CSUB, welcomed everyone and shared stories of commitment to the success of women professional educators at CSUB.

Dr  Deb

Dr. Debby Rosenthal

Debby Rosenthal, our new Chemist presented recently at the Instructional Design Institute held by the State-wide Academic Senate.  Her talk titled Utilizing Technology to Enhance Time-on-task and Critical thinking Skills was well received.  Here is a brief description of her presentation:

Electronic classroom management systems assist in developing “flipped” classrooms or variations of the concept. Pre-chapter quizzes can cover rote terminology and embed videos for concepts that demand mental visualization. When students attend class and encounter the information a second time, lectures and activities are more productive and their confidence is enhanced. Ultimately, the goal is for students to form a deliberate habit of covering material (in all their courses) before it is presented in the classroom.

When attempting to solve higher-level, multi-stop problems, any mental concept that must be addressed is considered a step and often overlooked when teaching. Pre-chapter quizzes can be used to break down problems into questions that instructors naturally ask themselves in order to solve advanced problems.

One objective of the presentations is to encourage instructors to use technology for lower-level instruction to increase time students are exposed to their subject. Instructors will also be asked to be cognitively aware of their own critical thinking skills and model a series of  mental questioning that can introduced to students using technology.

Kimberly Bligh Terence young Feb 2016Kimberly Bligh and a BC team attended the ATD Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  Kimberly took time out of her schedule to drive from Atlanta to Conyers to spend time with Terence Young, one of our student athletes who got seriously injured playing football for us last term.  Jeff Chudy and Sandi Taylor have been supporting Terence all these months and he is now back in San Diego for his second surgery as a result of his football injury.  I am so proud of all these individuals who go out of their way to support our students.  You inspire me!

Oliver Rosales:  Among a “murderer’s row” of incredible educators, no one at BC throws more of himself and his passions into his work than BC Associate Professor of History Oliver Rosales.  And when that passion lands his work — and BC — front and center of a nationally-televised broadcast…well, that demands some recognition.

In celebration of last fall’s 40th anniversary of the seminal Delano Grape Strike, Oliver coordinated a series of on-campus events and observances of that 1965 occurrence that’s not only one of the Central Valley’s watershed moments of the past century, but one of the most important workers’ rights events in U.S. history.

rosales1

Oliver Rosales

The specter of what happened in Delano 40 years ago still looms large — so when Oliver brought a fleet of nationally-renowned scholars for a Delano Grape Strike symposium, C-SPAN decided to air that discussion live.

Held in conjunction with our friends at CSU Bakersfield, the symposium drew more than 350 attendees and was viewed nationwide on C-SPAN.  Lorraine Agtang, who participated in the 1965 Delano Grape Strike as a member of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, joined a panel discussion on the strike and its legacy.  The discussion also branched deeper into the formative days of the Farm Workers Movement.

It was a fantastic event that you can still watch on the C-SPAN website.  Fantastic work, Oliver!

Grape-strike

 

Reggie Williams: As with Oliver’s symposium, it’s truly exceptional when work generated right here on our campus can stand on a national stage and be rightfully recognized for its brilliance.

Reggie Williams

Reggie Williams

I wrote here on the blog last October about BC Philosophy Professor Reggie Williams’ thought-provoking talk at the Levan Center about race, wealth and inheritance.  Well, now the rest of America will get a chance to hear his enlightened presentation when Reggie delivers his work at next month’s National Council for Black Studies Conference in Charlotte, NC.

The conference is among the most high-profile of annual events furthering the development of Black/Africana Studies as a respected academic discipline.

Reggie presents his findings collected in pursuit of the central reasons behind America’s overwhelming Black/White wealth gap.  As Reggie discovered, while income disparity does play a role in the gap in wealth disbursement along racial lines, it is much more closely tied to 200-plus years of laws and practices surrounding inheritance in America.

Philosophy…and more

Staying with Reggie and his co-workers in BC’s standout Philosophy Department, I received a great email from Moya bragging about her colleagues.  She says:

I am so proud of my department, and I have to share with you how great they are! Just because I am so vain and humility has its limits.

Here are some highlights of BC’s active Philosophy department:

Reggie Williams and Rene Trujillo are continuing the monthly Gadfly Café sponsored by the Levan Center where faculty, staff, students and the community gather to discuss how relevant issues affect our lives.

Anne Poetker is coordinating the Philosophy Department’s Student Colloquium, where, supported by the rest of the philosophy faculty, students submit papers and read them for the experience of being professional academics and to potentially win a $500 scholarship.

Moya Arthur is leading a book group for faculty and staff reading Jared Diamond’s latest book, Until Yesterday in anticipation of Jared Diamond’s lecture at BC (which is coming up on Apr. 6).

It’s always fantastic when faculty members like Moya reach out about the great work happening in their corner of our BC universe.  First, it’s a perfect way to help keep me up to speed on everything going on on our bustling campus at any given time. There are just too many plates spinning every day to stay intimately involved with each one of them, so I’m a huge fan of the updates!

But more than that, emails like this come to me all the time — and they serve as an inspiring glimpse at the day-to-day quality work happening at BC.  From Philosophy to Biology, from Nursing to Agriculture, from Art to Engineering, every single department at BC is home to its own collection of daily work engaging both students and the broader Kern County community in the pursuit of academic or social enlightenment.

Student colloquia and book groups may not “grab headlines” like a county award or a national television broadcast or presentation audience — but those types of activities are the lifeblood of what make BC so vital, day in and day out.

Across the board, the abundant heart exhibited everyday by the faculty and staff who serve this campus and our students is an inspiration to me.  I couldn’t ask for a better band of colleagues.  We are….BC!

BC Faculty the very best. Reggie Williams in action.

Halloween 2015, Saturday.  Watching the USC-Cal game.  SC leading 24-7.  Great interception and then touchdown by Adoree Jackson. Fight On!

Well, let’s talk BC now.  I know I always say this and I probably sound like a broken record, but…we’ve just got the most amazing faculty here at BC.

I was reminded again of the collective brilliance our instructors bring to their classrooms and their students every day as I listened to Professor Reggie Williams’ talk on race, wealth and inheritance earlier this month at the Levan Center.

Reggie Williams cropped

Reggie Williams

First, I was so happy to walk in to the Levan Center and see a fabulous turnout of students and community members packing the house for Reggie’s talk.  Seeing all those men and women ready to dive into such a high-minded topic just reinforced for me how critical it is for BC to provide these kinds of seminars and discussions.  Especially with such a high percentage of first generation students, I’m so proud BC continues to offer venues for just this type of intellectual engagement.  If not here, then where?  Thank you Norm Levan!

Dr. Norman Levan

Dr. Norman Levan

But I know our community wouldn’t turn out for these events if they didn’t feel confident they’d be hearing from unquestionable experts.  And you’ll find no one anywhere with a deeper reservoir of knowledge coupled with a skill for grounding heavily academic topics than Reggie.

Reggie’s talk tackled the reasons behind the overwhelming wealth gap between Black and White Americans — and the numbers are stark. After appraising the value of a family’s home, stocks and other significant assets and liabilities, U.S. Federal Reserve data shows the median white household was worth $141,900 in 2013, while the median black household was worth just $11,000.

As if those figures weren’t alarming enough, it’s an even more troubling situation when you look at recent trends, which show black household median wealth dropped a stunning 34 percent between 2010 and 2013.  Meanwhile, white households saw their wealth actually rise slightly over that same period.

So, what’s going on here?  I learned from Reggie, the first thing everyone needs to understand is the difference between income and wealth.  While the U.S. has spent the past half-century trying by various means to address income disparity, there’s been little action in closing our nation’s wealth gap – and it can have a more devastating impact than many realize.

While a person’s income hopely grows throughout their life, wealth traditionally grows generationally, built incrementally as it’s handed down to each succeeding generation.

But Reggie asks, what happens when you factor in 246 years of slavery in America, effectively disallowing most Blacks from owning anything of significant value for generation after generation?  And what happens when that period is followed by another century of sharecropping and Black Codes, upholding many severe restrictions on Black ownership or their ability to work for themselves or amass personal wealth?  What happens is nothing good for African-American families trying to provide for themselves and their descendants.

It was a fascinating discussion that was only made more enjoyable by the wonderful engagement of the BC students in attendance.  I can’t tell you how proud I was of the insightful questions, well-studied perspectives and eye-opening opinions our students brought to the issue. Their participation made an already stellar presentation from Reggie that much more rewarding. Thank you Jack Hernandez for planning such wonderful programs for the Levan Center.

I am so happy to be back at BC!

Levan Center: St. John’s Lecture. Greg Schneider and The Brothers Karamazov

Full Moon April 2 2015 early morning

My brief Spring Break trip to Hawaii has confirmed that spring breaks are a necessity for sanity and this year, I’m taking full advantage of it.  Here is the full moon over the pacific at 4:00 a.m. Hawaii time on April 2nd.  I am out on the balcony of my room catching up on some of reading and social media…reflecting on difficulties facing a few of our colleagues who are dealing with medical issues related to themselves or loved ones.  These are by far the most difficult times one faces on life.  So here is some Hawaiian warmth, love and well wishes coming your way.

Last week, Jack Hernandez invited Dr. Greg Schneider to BC for the annual St. John’s Levan lecture. I had a crazy day and at 7:00 p.m., walking into the Levan Center, I felt exhausted with the weight of the world on my shoulders. However, the lecture had me captivated the entire time….Schneider’s words elevated me so much so that when I was driving back I felt uplifted.

Greg Schneider, to me, was pretty hardcore; his piece was meticulous with deep-dive analysis and thorough, insightful evaluation that reflects a top-notch mind.

Schneider-Karamazov-1

Dr. Greg Schneider

A faculty member at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Schneider delivered a fascinating interpretation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic novel “The Brothers Karamazov.”

Most who know the Russian master’s final work are already familiar with the deep philosophical themes of God and morality at play in the story of murdered patriarch Fyodor Karamazov and his three extremely different sons.  But Schneider’s intriguing take delved into the connection between the mind and body of the novel’s characters, showcasing how physical moments in the book inform and explain the intellectual ideas at the heart of the story.

Schneider-Karamazov-5I loved the way he examined how a bow, or a kiss, or a character laying on the ground speaks to concepts like mutual responsibility or spiritual vs. atheistic arguments in the 135-year-old story.

Studying great works of the past has special value when you look at it through the prism of our 21st century world, illuminating how universal themes resonate through time to a modern audience.

As Schneider beautifully expounded on Doestoyevsky’s realm of murder and moral ambiguity, it wasn’t a long walk to connect his thoughts with some of the dangers and crises, both domestic and international, darkening our world today.

Schneider-Karamazov-2

Tom and Pauline Larwood with other attendees at the Levan lecture

It’s in moments like those, applying elements of long-forgotten answers to some of our most perplexing modern-day questions, that academia is uniquely engaging, a kind of archaeology, unearthing treasures of the past for the enrichment and betterment of today and future generations.

And isn’t that what education is all about, anyway? I was sorry my mentee Mariaha wasn’t there there to experience this brilliant Levan lecture.  Dr. Norm Levan’s gift is so meaningful to the communities of Bakersfield, Arvin, Lamont, Wasco, McFarland, Shafter, and Delano.  It is our obligation at BC to expose our own minds and the minds of our students and community to first-rate scholarship and thought shared by the likes of Schneider.

Thank you, Dr. Schneider, Levan Center director Dr. Jack Hernandez and most of all, thank you Norm Levan. Here’s to you for making this a possibility at Bakersfield College.

Dr. Doolittle’s Heaven and the Levan Center

Anne Benvenuti

Anne Benvenuti

It’s impossible to fully explain what an exquisite treasure Bakersfield College’s Levan Center for the Humanities has become. Since opening in 2010, the Center has consistently featured a variety of speakers and presentations that run the gamut of academic disciplines.

But the true crowning achievement of a Levan Center event is that you can often walk into a given presentation knowing virtually nothing about the topic, only to leave enthralled and excited about a field or an idea or a personality that you never would have guessed could or would so capture your imagination.

IMG_4373Case in point – what if we could talk to the animals? And what if they’ve actually been talking to us all along?

Anne Benvenuti, who regaled the Levan Center audience on Feb. 23, believes the great divide often put between humans and the rest of Earth’s creatures isn’t nearly as great as many think. In fact, the professor, clinical psychologist and Episcopal priest says changing how we think and relate to animals would take a profound step toward changing all life on the planet for the better.

Reading from her new book “Spirit Unleashed: Reimagining Human-Animal Relations,” Benvenuti recounted her encounter with a dehydrated bat she found during a hike. First taking the animal for dead, she quickly realized the still breathing bat’s plight when it brought its tiny hands to its dry tongue, all but begging for water.

IMG_4393After quenching the animal’s thirst in a nearby creek, the apparently grateful creature swam away – but the brief intersection of their two lives left Benvenuti further convinced in the power of silent communication.

“Love one little thing and you love the entire universe that holds it,” Benvenuti writes. “As well as the essence from which it pours forth, and the pulse that beats in it, and the breath that heaves it, and the awareness that connects it. Save one little thing and you save your soul entire.”

IMG_4395During her hour-long discussion “Dr. Doolittle’s Heaven,” Benvenuti outlined some of the contemporary research establishing language as a common pervasive system across the animal kingdom and attempted to tear down the remaining perceived barriers separating humans from the rest of the planet’s animal life.

Benvenuti advocates new definitions of soul and spirituality that not only encompass all the vast variety of life on Earth, but the adoption of a type of natural spirituality that will forever bind that life together.

Heady stuff…but exactly the kind of stuff the Levan Center was created to showcase.

Moments like Anne’s soul-enriching talk are a constant reminder to me to recognize and appreciate the vision of Dr. Norman Levan in funding the center’s creation.

Dr. Levan left us last year, but as I watched this woman speak and saw the engagement in her audience, all held in rapt attention, I knew that somewhere, he was very pleased.