Tag Archives: Steve Watkin

#LightACandle: A Juneteenth Conversation

What a difficult, active week at the virtual Home of the Renegades as we continue to Shelter in Place and engage with a world coping with COVID-19, the recession, and the horrific public death of George Floyd.

The picture above is from a friend’s garden. These are the Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima). They bloom when the temperature gets above 90.

Renegade Baseball Pitcher Sends Caring Note To Bakersfield PD

Through social media and television we have seen many protests around the country, and our community has been no different. After one of this week’s protests in downtown Bakersfield, the Bakersfield Police Department shared a photo of a card that a ‘black teen’ had given one of the BPD officers earlier that evening.

We soon found out that ‘black teen’ was none other than one of our Renegade Baseball student athletes, PJ Roberts. PJ is a pitcher and has been on the team the last two years. While PJ did not share this card with the officer to be recognized publicly, we are beyond proud of his actions to bridge the gap at this critical point in time. Way to be the change you wish to see in the world, PJ! #StudentTeacher

Good morning Bakersfield
It is Saturday, June 6, 2020 – a great day to be a Renegade.

I’d like to start off this week with a video I saw from Trevor Noah, who hosts The Daily Show. In it, he talks about how different events are connected and knock into each other like dominoes, causing a great wave.

#LightACandle: A Juneteenth Celebration

On the heels of the recent death of George Floyd and mass unrest across the country, Bakersfield College will host a two week conversation and virtual celebration leading up to June 19 or “Juneteenth,” a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

Six days after Floyd’s murder, I penned a letter to the campus and community.  In part, I wrote: 

I believe that in the 50 years since King asked this question – What is it that America has failed to hear? We have made enormous progress that we can and should be proud of. But we need to hear what George Floyd’s Memorial Day death – and our national reactions to it – are saying. It is a long and painful history, which makes it harder to hear. It is a dark and confusing time, which makes it harder to see how to move forward. But as Bakersfield College Renegades, we owe it to our community, to our veterans, and we each owe it to George Floyd, to join together, listen with humility, and to bring light that can illuminate the way ahead.

In this spirit, I invite you to join Bakersfield College for a two-week series of Juneteenth conversations across multiple platforms to #LightACandle and #ShineALight on the gut wrenching and horrific experiences of our Black brothers and sisters as they go about their business contributing to the economic wellbeing of our community, volunteering to help the neediest in our society, enjoying a family stroll in the neighborhood park with their children. We invite you to listen, learn, engage, and make an action-oriented commitment to speak up, lean in and create an environment that values every human.  

Thank you to the leadership of the #LightACandle Juneteenth Planning Team: Steven Watkin, Paula Parks, Tommy Tunson, and Jennifer Achan.

BC Joins Prayer Walk

At Steven Watkin’s invitation, dozens of BC faculty and staff joined a peaceful community walk and prayer on Wednesday. 

Led by Pastor Oscar Anthony of St. Peter Restoration Community Christian Ministries, and Pastor Ignacio Valdez of New Hope Family Worship Center, with the support of networks such as Kern County Ministers Conference, Kern Leadership Alliance and CityServe, hundreds assembled to acknowledge the pain our community is in, while promoting promote reconciliation healing.

I was grateful to walk alongside Steve Watkin and our BC team in solidarity for #BlackLivesMatter.

#RealTalk on Race with Danny, Reggie, and Julian

On Thursday, June 4, BC launched the first of a series of #RealTalk on Race discussions, hosted by Danny Morrison Media.  Over 7000 views in just 3 days!

Danny, always a friend to BC and an ardent supporter of our African American Initiatives and Inmate Scholars program, kicked off the discussion with a reflection on the recent high-profile deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmed Arbery. I was struck by the weight of the dialogue as he recalled a long history of murders of Black men at the hands of those in power… the stories of Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and Emmett Till.

Reggie Bolton, BC professor of kinesiology, and Julian West, director of the Career Ladders Project, described their personal experiences coming to terms with race and racism as Black men. As I listened to Reggie, Julian, and Danny, I felt the enormity of the moment we are in as a nation and the responsibility we have as educators to shine light on these stories.  The words of these men – brilliant, courageous, kind hearted, and committed to our students – should strengthen our resolve to work for racial equity at BC and beyond.

The livestream also featured a video from Steve Watkin.

BC in the News: The Bakersfield Californian

The Bakersfield Californian published a great article on BC’s plans to shine light on the ways education can advance justice.  Thank you, Ema Sasic, for capturing not only our plans for the weeks ahead, but also the ways BC has been advancing educational equity for Black students through the remarkable work of our African American Initiatives team.  I enjoyed reading the highlights of our progress on increasing access and success for our students over the past five years:

  • Increased overall enrollment of Black students by 45% to more than 1,000 students
  • Increased first-time Black student enrollment by 72%
  • Increased Black student enrollment in Early College opportunities by 1,017%
  • Increased Black student completion of associate degrees by 223%

Umoja students share feelings on recent killings by police

Umoja Community students and faculty gathered virtually to discuss recent killings of African Americans by police. Over the past few weeks, the murders of Ahmad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have dominated the news. Repeated exposure to lynching is traumatizing.

Floyd’s murder, captured on video and widely circulated, has ignited pain and anger in the Black community and resulted in protests nationwide. The Umoja Community – a program designed for African-American students that includes coursework, mentoring, academic and cultural trips, and counseling support to keep students on track to graduate – routinely provides space for students to share and process their lived experiences.

Students said this latest incident feels different from other police murders captured on camera because of what the video shows: Floyd was handcuffed when he was pushed onto the pavement. You observe the officer rather nonchalantly with his hands in his pocket and with his knee on Floyd’s neck. Over 8 minutes and 46 seconds, you see Floyd plead for his life and call out “Mama,” then slowly lose consciousness and die. Three officers watch and the crowd shouts out that “he ain’t moving.” It seemed to students the most extreme example of police abuse and of an undeserved, agonizing death.

In addition, Floyd evokes Eric Garner’s words, “I can’t breathe” sixteen times. This painful revisit of the 2014 New York case is a reminder as one student put it that “the deaths keep increasing.” The police aren’t charged or convicted even with video evidence, which emboldens police, students explained, to continue to abuse their power. Black people are re-traumatized with each death, understanding that they are similarly at risk. One student said she felt “numb.” Another reported that she was at “the breaking point.”

Being in the middle of a pandemic and somewhat isolated, they noted, adds to their anxiety because they have fewer outlets while being constantly bombarded with videos of Floyd’s death and mass protests. Students are suffering from a double injury: fears for their basic physical safety from police as well as threats to their physical and mental health from COVID.

Said one student, “racism is our (constant) virus.”

Community Voices

I was happy to see in The Bakersfield Californian this week two pieces from BC faculty and staff lending perspective on how we move forward.

Lesley Bonds, BC’s Director of Student Success & Equity reflected on the significance of Juneteenth in the midst of mass unrest. She calls upon white people to learn to practice anti-racism. Read her suggestions for how people can practice anti-racism HERE.

An excerpt:

“Anti-racism is more than simply not acting racist. Anti-racism requires constant vigilance — an unlearning of our conditioned behaviors, beliefs and biases, and constant, intentional, new learning of the ways we can recognize and dismantle racism in ourselves, our community, our institutions, and the systems we navigate daily.”

Nick Strobel, Astronomy professor and Director of BC’s planetarium called upon us to reconcile the “story of American society” with the stories we are reading today in order to give meaning to the popular hashtag #WeAreAllInThisTogether. Read Nick’s piece HERE.

An excerpt:

“If American society is to survive, we all need to recognize that an alternate story, that has been told in word and deed for many, many decades at least, has grown more powerful than the shared story of opportunity and equal application of the law… Do we want that? Do we really believe that the shared story on which this nation was founded is not real and can never be real?”

BC launches free immigration clinics

Bakersfield College is partnering with the UFW Foundation to offer Immigration Clinics for BC students, faculty and staff. The next two Clinics are on Tuesday, June 9th, and Thursday, June 25th, from 9 AM to 6 PM. DACA renewals are being prioritized and Fee Assistance is available at this time.

You may email ab540@bakersfieldcollege.edu for instructions on setting appointments. The Immigration Clinics are held virtually on Zoom.

BC receives Job Corps Scholars Program funding

Bakersfield College has been named as one of twenty recipients to receive part of the $24 million Job Corps Scholars Program funding, provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

This national program serves Job Corps eligible youth by providing free tuition for their first year in the Job Corps Scholars program, career technical training, and intensive personal and career counseling services towards program completion.

Back to College

I wanted to share with you all a story from one of our student Renegades, Martha Lopez. She was left jobless when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, and decided to try out our Back to College program.

“I had just started a new job working at a Distribution Center when the Coronavirus hit. The entire center was shut down and everybody was left without a job, and we didn’t know for how long it was going to last. I started looking for a new job, but then I heard about the Back to College program on TV. I had been going to BC on and off for over several years and always struggled and felt like it was not for me, but I decided to give it one more try. From the start, the counselors helped me with Financial Aid and helped me find classes that were required for my major, and that were also interesting to me. The professors were all very clear from the beginning by telling us exactly what was required, and they were always there when we had questions. I had taken online classes before, but this time was a huge difference. Not only did I get As and Bs in all my classes, but I actually enjoyed them, especially Art which I was not expecting, and I’m excited to keep going in the summer and fall. At first I was only planning on getting my degree in Sociology at BC, but after talking to my counselors and professors, I’ve decided I want to actually transfer to CSUB and go on to become a Substance Abuse Counselor.”

Our Back to College program is still going strong with courses for this summer. Please check it out!

Fun Social Media

Our Admission & Records director, Jackie Lau, earned her Masters degree this year. The Admission & Records department shared a wonderful tribute on Facebook to celebrate her achievement.

The BC Library is sharing resources on racism. Check it out at https://bakersfieldcollege.libguides.com/blacklivesmatter.

Closing Week Videos

Before each day’s celebration, we shared a few videos from throughout the year – including this performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” performed by our BC choir, faculty, staff, and administration:

Student Affairs earned a President’s Leadership Award:

And incoming BCSGA Vice-President Emma McNellis shared her remarks:

Athletics

Coach Littlejohn Leading The Way Staying Fit During The Pandemic

Our newest Renegade Coach, Coach R. Todd Littlejohn of BC Football is leading the way in showing our campus how to stay fit during the pandemic. Here’s a picture of him doing hang cleans during his CrossFit workout this last week. Details for how the 2020 fall sports season is going to look are still being determined by the CCCAA, but one things for sure – Coach LJ will not be out of breath running up and down those sidelines coaching his team this fall!

Q&A With Sandi Taylor

The Renegade Rip ran an article where Editor-in-Chief Haley Duval interviewed retiring athletic director and softball coach Sandi Taylor.
Sandi talked about her greatest memories, proudest accomplishments, what she’ll miss, and what changes she saw during her time at BC. Thank you for the well-written article, Haley, and thank you for your years of service Sandi!

That’s all for now.
Until next time.
With much Renegade Pride and Collegiality.
sonya –
the luckiest and happiest college president ever

Closing the chapter of 2019

January 2016 2:35-minute video by Manny de Los Santos

Good morning, Bakersfield.
It is Saturday, December 28, 2019…My last blog entry for 2019. A great day to be a Renegade.

Take a look at the highlights from 2019. Each header is a link to a featured blog post from that month. So don’t forget to click on the header.

Sonya Christian
The Luckiest and Happiest College President

Happy New Year

Happy New Decade

January: Welcome to Spring ‘19

BC hit the ground running in the first month of 2019 with the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Campus Center and the first announcement about Early College. Food Services moved their operation over to the Gym Huddle area, and BC students opened a time capsule from 1955. We also launched an ITV pilot program for our Music B2 class at North High school, and our three Vice Presidents spoke with students at the first BCSGA Power Lunch of the year.

Some photos from January.

February: The Dawn of a New Era in Education

In February BC showed our love for students in rural Kern County with the historic launch of the Early College program in McFarland.

Congressman TJ Cox visited BC as part of his first trip home from Capitol Hill, and Paula Parks participated in a Black History Month panel hosted by the Chevron Black Employees Association. Legendary agricultural scientist and autism advocate Temple Grandin was our Distinguished Speaker for the month, and the Adult Education team brought a new learning center to Wasco.

Photos from February

March: Women Who Create Ripples In Our Community

We celebrated International Women’s Day with Senator Jean Fuller moderating a panel of women leaders throughout Kern County, which included Shannon Grove, Blanca Carvazos, Rosalina Rivera, and Cynthia Giumarra.

Women in Leadership with Trustees
Women in Leadership with Trustees

The Wonderful Ag Prep Renegades were the first Early College graduates in BC history, and KCCD Trustee Jack Connell toured our robotics and nursing facilities. The students in our LUPE and Project Conexiones groups reached out to students at BHS, and the CTE Team represented our campus at the Kern County Career Expo.

Tom Gelder, Christina Sistrunk of Aera Energy, and Sonya Christian
Tom Gelder, Christina Sistrunk of Aera Energy, and Sonya Christian

April: Spring is Heating Up at BC

BC’s award winning Drumline Crew

In April, I introduced Shannon Doherty at the Bakersfield Women’s Business Conference, which was chaired by BC’s Director of Community Relations, Norma Rojas-Mora. For the first time, dual enrollment students were included in our annual SGA Student Leadership Dinner, and the MEChA club hosted the second annual Jess Nieto Memorial Conference in honor of the late Chicano Studies pioneer. We also hosted the Business Pathway Career Expo in front of the library and celebrated our drumline winning a gold medal in the WGI World Championships.

Some photos from April

May: BC’s 105th Commencement

Everything we do at the home of the Renegades is for our students, and we celebrated a record-breaking graduation at Rabobank Arena. Before the main ceremony, we also had pre-Commencement celebrations for Delano Campus graduates, veterans, Early College, African-American students, LGBTQ, and the second graduating class of the Baccalaureate in Industrial Automation program.

More photos from my May blog posts

June: Summer Has Arrived!

Summer is supposed to be a time when the campus slows down, but that wasn’t the case for 2019, as our Dual Enrollment team led by Steve Watkin celebrated its Beautiful Bakersfield Award in Education. Pedro Ramirez presented on AB 40 at the Board of Governors meeting, Steve Flores recruited me for the Media Music Jam, and two of our students were selected as Student Wellness Ambassadors for the California Community College system’s Health and Wellness/Each Mind Matters program.

July: Recognition and Gratitude

Assemblyman Rudy Salas presented BC with a $1 million check for the second year in a row, making for $2 million brought in for BC students. BC was honored to receive the Student Success Award for our Guided Pathways at the John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award ceremony hosted by the Board of Governors. Our team joined community leaders at the State of the City Luncheon, and the Golden Empire Drum and Bugle Corps rehearsed all over campus.

Photos from July

August: BC Building Bridges

BC’s first group of Inmate Scholars graduates

We kicked off the 2019-20 academic year with an inspiring set of Opening Day and New Student Convocation events that featured a performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by the BC Chamber Singers.

Tom Rush and Michael Larson worked diligently to bring Industrial Automation classes to the Delano Campus, and BC hosted the Project Next Step Conference for new and continuing high school students. Later in the month, BC hosted a graduation ceremony for the first group of Inmate Scholars graduates.

More photos from my August blog posts

September: BC: Creating Partnerships to Better Kern

In September, we unveiled the BC Launch Pad located at the Weill Institute to support local entrepreneurs, small business owners, and inspired students. The center is a free hub of resources and support for all kinds of practical small businesses needed in Kern County.

Also in September, BC’s AB 540 Team attended the Catalyst Fund Convening in Long Beach, and the Rural Initiatives team updated the Board of Supervisors on the Game Changer grant which establish Early College pathways for Arvin High students.

Some photos from my September posts.

October: Live simply…so others can simply live

BC was honored to bring Arun Gandhi to Delano to speak to Early College students and the community. A video below was created by one of BC’s video students, Mario Esquer. Our second Distinguished Speaker for October was Erin Gruwell, an inspirational educator who founded the Freedom Writers’ Diary to help inner-city students see themselves reflected in the classroom. BC also hosted an important conversation about Valley Fever during a symposium by TJ Cox in the Indoor Theater, and the Early College program got special recognition at the Renegade football game against Golden West College.

Some photos from October.

November: BC: Advancing Education in our Community and State

Educational leaders from across the state convened at the downtown Bakersfield Marriott for the Intersegmental Pathways Symposium, engaging in important conversations about closing the gaps between K-12 education, community colleges and universities to bring 1.1 million new bachelor’s degree graduates to California. The sold out event featured 18 panelists, additional speakers, and our keynote guests Assemblymember Rudy Salas, California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Oakley, Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Newsome, Lande Ajose, and Chief Deputy to State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, Lupita Alcala.

Group of Intersegmental Pathways Symposium attendees
Sonya Christian, Lande Ajose, Eloy Oakley, Lupita Alcala, Rudy Salas, Mary Barlow

This blog entry also covers BC’s Veteran Services held a care package drop zone for the troops, and BC men’s soccer won its first ever conference championship.

December: Thank You For Voting Yes on J!

This month we cut the ribbon for the Vernon Valenzuela Veterans Resource Center, the first project funded by Measure J. I recapped this in full in the blog post so please check it out if you missed it earlier this month!

And BC’s Chamber Singers performed with the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra as part of the Home for the Holidays Concert… one of my favorite parts of the season.

Blog Bonus: Some All-Time Favs

When looking back at only one post a month from 2019, it sparked my interest to see what other gems I could discover as I flipped through the older pages of my blog. Let’s take a look at some of these all time favorites…

Working on my blog at the Marketplace in 2013

January 3, 2013: First Blog Post

When my blog first started, I didn’t have the slightest clue how it would turn out. Now, here we are about to be in January 2020 with a blog that features the activity and energy on the BC campus weekly. Thank you for following along on the Renegade journey.

January 9, 2013: Second Blog Post

Media Frenzy
Dr. Sonya Christian at her announcement press conference

My second ever blog post was titled “So… What’s it like being BC’s President?” Well, back then I said…

Being president of Bakersfield College is like being strapped to a rocket at the speed of light.

Sonya Christian, Jan. 9, 2013

I don’t think I can say that part has changed, but being the president of Bakersfield College is a joy and a gift as well. The commitment of BC’s faculty, the passion of our staff, and the overwhelming dedication by BC’s students make me the happiest and luckiest college president ever.

January 1, 2014: BC’s Centennial Gala

Celebrating BC’s 100th anniversary will live among my highlights at Bakersfield College. So many details went into making the evening one to remember. I fondly remember the many friends of BC who came out to support that evening, even Jean Fuller.

February 11, 2013: My first Sterling Silver

My first Sterling Silver was a fabulous evening showcasing the talent of BC’s culinary arts and agriculture students. Tom Moran took some great photos that night and I still love this one of Jerry Ludeke, Jack Hernandez, and me.

Sterling Silver
Jack Hernandez, Me, and Jerry Ludeke at Sterling Silver

November 12, 2016: Thank you Kern County

2016 was a yeah full of anticipation, “dreaming big” as mayor Harvey Hall asked us to do, and celebration. Kern County with a vote of 96,589 to 58,155, supported Measure J with 62.42%! Thank you for supporting KCCD and Bakersfield College with the necessary funding to renovate and update our facilities to serve students for the next 50 years.

It would not have been possible without countless volunteers who worked tirelessly on the campaign. Too many names to list individually but each and everyone of you knows who you are. Thank you thank you thank you.

A look back at Measure J

May 13, 2017 – Neo’s First Blog Appearance

Neo was a handful as a puppy… and who am I kidding? He still is! On May 13, 2017, Neo made his first appearance in my blog and I asked readers to guess his name. To my surprise, Theresa McAllister guessed it the very next day on May 14th in the comments.

Christmas Tree Recyling

With the holidays now in our rear view mirror, I wanted to remind everyone that they can come to BC to get their Christmas trees recycled.

Image courtesy of KBAK 29/58

Your Christmas pines are made of organic material that can be easily recycled …. so do your part for the planet and drop your Christmas tree off at the corner of University and Haley before January 17. For a list of all Christmas Tree recycling locations in Kern County, read Stacey Shepard’s article in the Bakersfield Californian.

Fun Photos from Social Media: BC’s TPAC Team

Kalina Hill posted this fun photo of the testing and placement team at BC wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Holiday Family Photos

Brandon Urry and his family

Engineer Systems & Industrial Technology Holiday Luncheon

Mary Webb made sure to share a photo from the department holiday luncheon.

Back row: Aubrey Priest, Klimt Rigby, Martin Perez
Front: Kathy Melson, Mary Webb, Jason Dixon, Lora Larkin.

Renegade Road

BC’s William Velasquez is a talented photographer who shared additional photos of the “Renegade Road” here at BC. He wrote:

Perhaps [these photos] will give you the sense of pride I experienced when I was there and to be part of the Renegade Family. GO Gades!!!

Swim Team Testimonial

While we’re all away for break, the student athletes for our spring sports are busy getting ready for their upcoming seasons. Ramon Carreido is a student worker in the Marketing and Public Relations Department who also competes on the Renegade swim team. Here is his testimonial about their intensive training regimen heading into the upcoming swim season.

Coach and Ramon Carriedo

Winter training has struck the Bakersfield College swim team. At the beginning of each day, we hit the weight room for about an hour before hopping into the pool for two hours of swimming in 45-degree weather. Don’t worry, the pool is heated. 🙂

Coach Moon is pushing us to be ready for the Western State Conference and California Community College Athletic Association championships. As a second-year swimmer, I’ve learned to “trust the process”, as Coach Moon often says. He is doing everything it takes to make us the best swimmers this school has ever seen, and he challenges us every day to push through set after set. These trainings are important to help develop the most important muscle of the body – the brain. A swimmer’s mental game is just as important, if not more important, than their physical talents.

On New Year’s Eve, we will push through the longest set of the year – the 100×100. After 100 laps of 100 meters, any competitive event will feel like a walk in the park. Preseason training is hard, but it is definitely worth it. When you see your results at the end of the season and compare them against your results at the beginning of the season, you can see how much the training pays off.

The swim team’s first meet is the WSC Preview on February 7 at Ventura College, and we hope to see Renegade fans in force at the Renegade pool for the annual meet at BC on April 4, 2020.

Next Level Renegade

Huge congratulations to Renegade Football’s Justin Harrington for signing to continue his academic and football career at the University of Oklahoma this last week. We couldn’t be more excited for Justin as he will be playing for the Sooners who have an excellent football program currently still in the hunt for the national championship this year. We will miss his contagiously positive attitude and big hits on the football field. Congrats again, Justin!

All-Tournament Player – Dasia Wandick

Our Renegade Women’s Basketball team played up at the Monterey Peninsula College Tournament just before Christmas and Sophomore forward Dasia Wandick was selected to the All-Tournament team. Dasia continues to be a leader in her sophomore year for Coach Dahl and we can’t wait to see how the rest of their season unfolds. Be sure to catch the Renegades in action this season – head to GoGades.com to keep up with their schedule.

Renegade Athletics updates from this past week

Let’s celebrate women

Good morning, Bakersfield.
It is Saturday, March 2, 2019… A great day to be a Renegade.

Women in Leadership

Five women sitting and talking

To celebrate the kickoff of Women’s History Month at Bakersfield College, yesterday I hosted a panel discussion on Women in Leadership.  California Senator Emeritus and Early College champion, Jean Fuller served as the guest moderator while four esteemed panelists shared their stories, accomplishments, challenges, and more. Thank you to guests Shannon Grove, Republican State Senator, 16th Senate District;  Blanca Cavazos, Taft Union High School District Superintendent; Cynthia Giumarra, Local Attorney and minister;  and Rosalina Rivera, Delano Union Elementary School District Superintendent for participating on the panel.

The fabulous Manny De Los Santos recorded the event and I hope to have many photos and videos for you in next week’s blog. Stay tuned!

One on One with Robert Price

On Wednesday afternoon, I enjoyed being a guest on One on One with Robert Price, @stubblebuzz . The Bakersfield Californian is a great resource for this community with engaged reporters, like Joseph Luiz who visits BC often and always ensures he has the right info to create the best report possible for the people in our community.

Thank you, Robert, for having me on the show to share with our community the latest on Measure J, BC Southwest, Early College, and education transforming the Central Valley.

Check it out: One on One with Robert Price: Guest Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian.

Bob Price, Sonya Christian, and Joseph Luiz
Robert Price, Sonya Christian, and Joseph Luiz

Behind the Scenes

One on One Behind the Scenes Video

Some fun pictures of behind the scenes. For more, visit the One-on-One photo gallery.

2019 Diversity Champion Award

Bakersfield College received the 2019 Diversity Champion Award from the California LAW Pathway for its excellence in building the Community College Pathway Program.  The awardees were chosen at the California LAW Board of Directors meeting in November and winners were announced to the to the California State Bar and the CPA Advisory Council. Deans Corny Rodriguez and Manny Mourtzanos, and Pre-Law Advisory Council Member Yinka Glover accepted the award on behalf of BC at the Omni Hotel on February 22, 2019.

Bakersfield College is honored to receive the award.  I would like to thank the California LAW Pathway for the recognition, as the Pathway to Law Program at BC was designed with innovation and creativity in mind in order to keep Bakersfield College Pathway Students engaged and inspired to achieve success in the law.  Congrats to our Pathway to Law program and to our amazing prelaw team including Corny Rodriguez, Christian Zoller, Edward Borgens, Charles Kim, Marilynn Sanchez Avila, and Pearl Urena! I would like to recognize Foothill College President Thuy Nguyen for her statewide leadership in establishing this program.

Finally thank you to the Pathways to Law advisory committee chaired by David Torres. Thank you David for your unwavering commitment to Bakersfield College and our students. Here is the list of the committee members — Adeyinka Glover, Steven Katz, Jeannie Kraybill, Courtney Lewis, Cynthia Loo, James Maddox, Rebecca Murillo, Bathany Peak, Brett Price, H.A.Sala, Robert Tafoya, David Torres (Chair), Alekxia Torres-Stallings.

Cal Law Diversity Champion Award
Manny Mourtzanos, Yinka Glover, Corny Rodriguez, and President Thuy Thi Nguyen with BC’s award

Celebrating Black History Month

In conjunction with the community organization Harlem and Beyond, Bakersfield College was honored to have Dr. James Chaffers, Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Michigan. Dr. chaffers was the Senior Design Juror for the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial statue in Washington, D.C. See the Bakersfield Californian Article: Bakersfield College celebrates Black History Month.

BC students and staff with Dr. James Chaffers

Gades Grub Grand Opening

Food Services celebrated the launch of the Gades Grub food trailer with a grand opening event in the Gym Huddle on Wednesday, February 27, 2019. The event featured a live DJ, free samples of some of the delicious food that Gades Grub has to offer, and other giveaway prizes. Students were eager to try some of the delectable options that will now be available to them from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Thursday.

BC at Startup Grind Global Conference

BC was represented by Professors Rudy Menjivar and Valerie Robinson at the Startup Grind’s Global Conference in Silicon Valley. This is for startups everywhere, especially the who’s who of the Silicon Valley startup scene. With more than 8,000 individuals, mostly entrepreneurs, venture capital investors, and professional service providers attending the two-day event, the conference provided an environment unlike anything else – a community coming together for invaluable education, connection, and inspiration.  The event had a roster of world-class speakers and thousands of entrepreneurs looking to build relationships, and it was great to see that BC was well represented.

Fox Theater Marquee
Fox Theater Marquee
Professor Rudy Menjivar and Professor Valerie Robinson
Professor Rudy Menjivar and Professor Valerie Robinson

Culture of Power

On Valentine’s Day, Daniel Rios, a Ph.D. student in Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego and a BC graduate, shared his passion for researching communities of color in East Bakersfield with BC students and staff. Rios presented research at A Culture of Power: Race, Youth, Labor and Sound in East Bakersfield, 1966-1974, in the Levan Center. The event was organized by commercial music professor Joshua Ottum as part of the Energizing Humanities in California’s San Joaquin Valley grant.

Daniel Rios talks about labor and music in East Bakersfield during the 1960s.
Daniel Rios talks about labor and music in East Bakersfield during the 1960s.

Rios’ presentation began with an overview of race and labor relations in Bakersfield in the early-to-mid 20th Century. Communities of color in Bakersfield were locked into low socioeconomic status via discriminatory housing practices that persisted until the 1970s and forced into low-level employment as farm, sanitation and domestic workers. In 1966 and 1972, black, Chicano and Latino sanitation workers in Bakersfield went on strike to fight for unionization and protest unhealthy working conditions and the dehumanizing way they were treated by white property owners. Protesters were met with heavy resistance by police and organizations such as the White Citizens Council.

Daniel Rios plays music from Kern County Soul and R&B artists from the 1960s.
Daniel Rios plays music from Kern County Soul and R&B artists from the 1960s.

At this same time, an often-overlooked music scene was booming around dance halls frequented by communities of color across East Bakersfield. While many music historians have documented the local country music scene known as the Bakersfield Sound, the contributions of doo-wop, soul and R&B groups are rarely discussed in academic circles. Groups from Kern County such as the Paradons, the Montereys, and Little Ray Jimenez were recording Billboard Top 40 hits while performing in local venues such as Salon Juarez and Fraternity Hall.

Billy Haynes from the Original Souls and Johnny Gomez from the Paradons perform in the Levan Center.
Billy Haynes from the Original Souls and Johnny Gomez from the Paradons perform in the Levan Center.

The majority of the groups, such as The Original Souls, were multicultural, composed of a mixture of Filipinos, Latinos and blacks. In 1969, the Original Souls beat out country and psychedelic rock bands to win a Battle of the Bands competition at Lake Ming attended by approximately 4,000 people.

Daniel Rios, Billy Haynes and Johnny Gomez answer audience questions in the Levan Center.
Daniel Rios, Billy Haynes and Johnny Gomez answer audience questions in the Levan Center.

After Rios’ presentation, Johnny Gomez of the Paradons and Original Souls bassist Billy Haynes, who went on to perform with Tina Turner and Lou Rawls, performed a few songs in the Levan Center and talked about their history in what is commonly referred to as the East Bakersfield Sound. “There was a lot of oppression in our town back then,” Haynes said. “We made people feel proud of our community.”

Thank you Daniel Rios for sharing his important research on the intersection of labor relations and music in Kern County, as well as Joshua Ottum and the Energizing Humanities cohort for organizing this event and Reggie Williams for the use of the Levan Center.

The Girl who Smiled Beads: Clementine Wamariya

Clementine Wamariya
Clementine Wamariya

On Thursday, Distinguished Speaker Clementine Wamariya gave several speeches in the Levan Center, sharing the powerful story of traveling through 9 different countries as a refugee to escape the Rwandan genocide.

Wamariya read from her memoir The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After, which was written during a major crossroads in her life. She was several years removed from the traumatic experience of fleeing the genocide with her sister at the age of 6, living in refugee camps and illegally crossing borders to seek freedom in the United States before being reunited with her parents on an episode of “Oprah”. In 2014, she had returned to Rwanda to attend an event in a soccer stadium where the history of Rwanda and the genocide was being re-enacted and memorialized, and she was so triggered by the memories that the re-enactment brought out that she had to immediately leave and fly back to the United States. She listened to Nina Simone’s cover of “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles on repeat and cried the whole way home, and the message of that song inspired her to write her memoir.

Clementine Wamariya speaks emotionally with hand gesture.
Clementine Wamariya speaks emotionally with hand gesture.

“I had lived opposite lives,” Wamariya said. “I had everything and nothing. I could stay anywhere in the world, but I didn’t have a home.” She continued, “I felt like that song was burning me, but I realized that if I could bear the sun, and my people could bear working in the sun, that it could be a source of strength.”

Wamariya spent five years researching her life and past with an investigative journalist to write “The Girl Who Smiled Beads,” which became a New York Times bestseller upon its release in 2018. The book talks about the lessons that she learned as a young child from her mother, a devout Catholic who imparted the value of sharing everything, never taking more than what you need, and having reverence for fruits, plants and the Earth. To this day, Wamariya likes to ask the question, “What fruit are you?” The answer reveals a lot about where someone comes from and how they view themselves, and driving through the farms of the Central Valley helped her relate to this area as a place of sharing, where fruits and vegetables are spread across the world.

When the genocide happened, Wamariya went to live with her grandparents and eventually ended up in a refugee camp, where people had to wait in line to eat corn and walk six hours for water. When she eventually decided to flee and cross the first of 8 borders to escape the horrors of war, she thought that she would have to jump over a chasm in the ground to get from one country to the other. Instead, time and distance passed and she didn’t even realize that she was in another country. Borders aren’t even real,” Wamariya said with tears in her eyes. “The Earth is the only thing that’s real, and everything else is made up.”

Clementine Wamariya smiles with hands on hips in front of the lectern.
Clementine Wamariya smiles with hands on hips in front of the lectern.

Wamariya pleaded for attendees of her presentations to be motivated by joy and not by fear, for when someone is motivated by joy, they realize that they don’t have to take someone else’s joy to experience it for themselves, and they’ll never believe that they have to take someone’s life to maintain their joy.

Since her appearance on “Oprah” in 2006, Wamariya has gone on to receive a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Comparative Literature from Yale University and serves on the boards of Women for Women International and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Thank you Olivia Garcia, History Professor, for coordinating Clementine Wamariya’s visit as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series, and to the Office of Student Life, the BC African-American Initiative Committee and the BC Women’s History and Awareness Month (WHAM) Committee. See more events for Women’s History Month.

Faculty Diversification Meeting

The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges held the Spring 2019 Hiring Regionals at Bakersfield College on Thursday, February 21, 2019. Faculty diversity is a critical component in the support of student success, and each California community college has a responsibility to develop a workforce that reflects the diversity of its community and is best prepared to serve the college’s specific student populations.  The event presented important considerations for faculty hiring, including ways to diversify and expand hiring pools and reshape search processes to focus on candidates who understand and are committed to our students.

Thank you Dr. Janet Fulks and Prof. Steven Holmes for bringing this statewide event to BC. Thank you Tarina Perry for coordinating the event with the graceful touch that is so you!

BC's Faculty Diversification Meeting
BC’s Faculty Diversification Meeting
Corny Rodriguez at the Faculty Diversification Meeting

See more photos in the ASCCC Faculty Diversity Regional @BC Gallery.

Question, Persuade, Refer

Eric Lord, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and adjunct instructor at CSUB, taught a program known as “Question, Persuade, Refer,” or QPR, which demonstrates how to recognize when someone may be suicidal, persuade them to seek help, and refer them to the proper authority that can save their life. Lord was invited to give the QPR presentation by the mental health interns at the Office of Student Life, who work closely with the Student Health and Wellness Center to assist students dealing with serious mental health issues.

Lord speaking to the crowd from the lectern.
Lord speaking to the crowd from the lectern.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses, and 31 percent of college students have considered committing suicide, Lord said. These are preventable deaths, and all it takes is the courage and empathy to ask the right questions when students are suffering, help them realize that there are people who love them and want them to succeed, and help them find the resources they need to get their lives back, whether it’s a mental health professional, or in more extreme cases of suicidal ideation, law enforcement.

Lord compared being suicidal to being locked in a house that is on fire, and suicide appears to be the only doorway to escape. “When somebody wants to die and not be around anymore, there’s a lot that leads them to that moment,” Lord said. “If we can use the power of our words and our relationship to folks, we can open up another door.” Suicidal ideation is related to a number of systemic issues, such as the loss of a job, the ending of a relationship or the death of a loved one, and some ways to recognize that someone may want to commit suicide include recently acquiring a gun, putting personal affairs in order, chronic drug and alcohol abuse, or saying things like “I just can’t go on” or “I won’t be around much longer”.

QPR Suicide Prevention Presented by Eric Lord, LCSW on a slide behind Lord.
QPR Suicide Prevention Presented by Eric Lord, LCSW on a slide behind Lord.

It’s important that when you recognize some of these symptoms, you talk to the person in a blunt and direct, yet caring way. Don’t be afraid to use words like “death”, “kill”, and “suicide.” In the moment that you ask the question, make eye contact with them and say, “Have you thought about killing yourself?” or “Are you going to commit suicide?” Never phrase the question as, “You’re not going to commit suicide, are you?” because it makes the other person feel like you don’t actually care and they shouldn’t be honest with you.

When you find out that the person in question may want to end their life, persuade them that it’s not the answer and show them that you and others care and want them to live. Get other people in the individual’s life involved, such as family, friends, doctors, or clergy members. Then, refer them to a group such as BC’s Students of Concern Team or a mental health professional and follow up with them via a personal visit or phone call to establish a connection and ensure that they won’t be punished for seeking help. If you think that they won’t receive help and they’re going to follow through, contact Public Safety or law enforcement. You can find more information about suicide prevention from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and share their number 1-800-273-8255.

Thank you to the Office of Student Life’s mental health team for inviting Eric Lord to campus for this important professional development opportunity. Thank you Dr. Nicky Damania.

BCSGA Power Lunch with Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg

Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg
Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg

When Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg enrolled in college as a sociology major, she had no idea that she would embark upon a journey that would lead to being elected on the Board of Trustees for the Kern Community College District. But at every stop along the way of her 35-year career in education – whether it was as an art professor, a preschool teacher, or one of BC’s longest-serving administrators – Nan’s faith in her ability to prioritize and solve problems propelled her to success in every new endeavor to which she applied herself.

Nan spoke to BC students and staff in the Levan Center about her journey in education and her plans for the Board of Trustees during Monday’s Power Lunch organized by the Legislative Affairs Department of BCSGA. All three Vice Presidents and I were in attendance to hear from a woman that inspired all of us so immensely and continues to inspire us today.

While she has accomplished many things during her career, Nan says that her students have kept her humble and put things into perspective. The first accomplishment Nan has been able to celebrate during her short stint on the Board of Trustees was the approval of BC’s new Southwest Center to be constructed on the CSUB campus. “The part that made it so sweet was that I knew how much work that was done to make it happen,” Nan said.

Liz Rozell speaking with Nan at the front table.
Liz Rozell speaking with Nan at the front table.

While she has attended many Board of Trustee meetings as a BC administrator, it is surreal for her to be sitting at the other side of table and balancing the concerns of students, constituents and instructors, as well as her fellow board members, she said. However, she feels up to the task of continuing to be aware of everything happening in Kern County education in order to position the District to best serve Area 1 of the KCCD. “It’s not the paperwork that makes you get up every day,” Nan said. “It’s knowing that you’re going to do something that helps someone out.” She said, “That feels like a big deal to me most days.”

I’d like to thank Mustapha Barraj and BCSGA for organizing Monday’s Power Lunch. I know we’ll be hearing a lot more from Nan in the future.

Sonya and Nan.
Sonya and Nan.
Sonya videoing Nan with her phone.
Thank you Earl Parsons for this photo
Nan speaking
Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg

Congratulations to Laura Luiz

The American Library Association (ALA) is recognizing BC reference librarian Laura Luiz for her outstanding contributions to student learning and community engagement with the BC Get Out The Vote program.

In a press release on Wednesday, ALA, in conjunction with the Association of College and Research Libraries, announced Luiz as the winner of the 2019 Community and Junior College Libraries Section EBSCO Community College Learning Resources Program Award, which includes a $750 award and a plaque that will be presented to Luiz at the ALA’s annual conference in Washington, DC.

Get Out the BC Vote was a campaign that helped BC students on the Panorama and Delano campus get registered to vote in the 2018 midterm elections. There were also workshops and online resources breaking down every candidate and initiative on the midterm ballot and helping students to properly discern fake news and disinformation.

ALA award chair Laura Mondt of Northern Essex Community College had effusive praise for Luiz and the Get Out the BC Vote campaign. “Laura Luiz’s efforts with Get Out The BC Vote allowed the library to connect with the Student Government Association to help students become informed voters and promote news literacy,” Mondt said.

Luiz and the library have plans to expand the Get Out the BC Vote program for the 2020 midterm and presidential elections.

Lincoln Dinner

I was fortunate to attend the Kern County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner on February 22, 2019, as the guest of Senator Jean Fuller. The featured keynote speaker was newly elected Congressman Dan Crenshaw who has an incredible story as a former Navy SEAL who lost his eye in an IED blast.

Last November, Dan also appeared on Saturday Night Live and bits of this skit were referenced last Friday evening. This is a “Must watch.”

It was great to see CSUB President, Lynnette Zelezny at the event, as well as KCCD Trustee Romeo Agbalog and his wife, Lilly. I unfortunately did not snap a picture of many of the community leaders who support education who were there — JP Lake, David Bynum, …..

STEM Truck

On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, representatives from the US Army visited the BC campus to show off various military robotics technologies to students in the Renegade Food Court area.

Both KGET and KERO featured the US Army STEM Truck in its afternoon broadcasts, and soldiers demonstrated all of the innovative technology the Army uses to save lives every day.

A simulation of the Search and Rescue Automation Hardware (SARAH) system is displayed inside the US Army STEM Truck.
A simulation of the Search and Rescue Automation Hardware (SARAH) system is displayed inside the US Army STEM Truck.
A cameraman from KERO gets ready to interview a US Army soldier on the air in front of the STEM truck parked in the Renegade Food Court area.
A cameraman from KERO gets ready to interview a US Army soldier on the air in front of the STEM truck parked in the Renegade Food Court area.

Inside the truck, students could participate in a simulation of the Army’s Search and Rescue Automation Hardware, also known as SARAH, which uses aerial and ground drones to locate missing persons. Students also had the opportunity to check a drone created by the iRobot company for remotely disarming explosives. Above the iRobot drone, there were videos demonstrating various robotic prototypes developed in conjunction with Boston Dynamics, including the infamous “Big Dog” robot and another robot that can jump up stairs and run 28.3 miles per hour, which is slightly faster than Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man.

An iRobot drone used to remotely disarm explosives is displayed inside the US Army STEM truck.
An iRobot drone used to remotely disarm explosives is displayed inside the US Army STEM truck.

Thank you to the Army for inspiring our students to pursue careers in STEM, as well as everyone who worked to make their visit possible.

Wendale Davis Foundation 11th Annual Leadership Conference

The Wendale Davis Foundation is an intervention, prevention, mentoring foundation with a mission to educate, motivate, and rehabilitate at-risk youth. On Friday, February 22, 2019, a series of workshops were held at BC with topics such as HIV/AIDS Awareness, Gang Intervention, Life/Coping Skills, and more. It’s a great day any time BC invites young people to campus to learn and embrace a healthy and successful future.

Steve Watkins claps to get the audience's attention
Steve Watkins claps to get the audience’s attention
A full auditorium listening to Wendale.
A full auditorium listening to Wendale.

Juvenile Justice Employers

The Criminal Justice, Public Health and the Career Education Department collaborated to host the first Juvenile Justice Employer Panel on February 27, 2019. The primary focus of this event was to inform students in the Public Safety Pathway, Public Health Science, Psychology and/or Sociology majors about the different career paths they can follow after completing their education. Each panelist discussed their role working on prevention and intervention with troubled youth and tools they use to reduce criminal behavior. With over 100 students and special guest, Ricardo De Hoyo a District Representative of Senator Melissa Hurtado, in attendance, employers answered questions related to educational background, past and current work experience and employer expectations.

A full audience for the panel with Juvenile Justice slide behind them.
From Left to Right: Pat Smith, Criminal Justice Professor, Dr. Dixie King from Transforming Local Communities, Liz Gonzalez from Bakersfield City School District, Sgt. Nicole Anderberg from BPD, Officer Joshua Deutinger from BPD, Deputy Bobby Sherrill from Kern County Probation Department, Leticia Limon from Kern County Superintendent of Schools and Nichol Ruiz from Kern County Behavioral Health & Recovery.

Dean and Adah Gay Reading Room Refurbishment

If you haven’t been in the Grace Van Dyke Bird Library recently, check out the refurbished Dean and Adah Gay Reading Room.  The Gay family created an endowment back in 2007 to help maintain the room but until recently the goals of this endowment were not fully realized. New chairs, lamps and plants have been added, plus additional electrical outlets to assist students in recharging their electronic devices.

BC staff with the Gay's in the Reading Room.
BC staff with the Gay’s in the Reading Room.

David and Catherine Gay, Andreas, Emily (Gay) and Eva Dauner joined Kirk and Stacey Russell (Library), and Heather Pennella, Tom Gelder and Dana Heins-Gelder (Foundation) to rededicate the space last Saturday evening, February 23, 2019.  The new furniture arrived last Friday just before noon and the students began enjoying it immediately.

Kirk and Stacy Russell in the Reading Room.

From Earth to the Universe Planetarium Show

Last week Dr. Nick Strobel held one of his amazing planetarium presentations called From Earth to the Universe.  Community Relations Manager Tamara Baker brought her parents to the event, excited to show off the beautiful William M Thomas Planetarium, which boasts the largest dome in all of the Central Valley!  Tamara said that Dr. Strobel delved into the evening stars, and showed attendees how to identify different constellations and how to find true north. Tamara said that she and her family cannot wait to go star gazing up at their cabin.  Thanks Dr. Strobel for always putting on such great and informational presentations for our local community!

Degree With a Guarantee

Near the end of last year, I participated in an interview with Gary Stern for an article focused on Degrees with a Guarantee at California Community Colleges. Check it out the Hispanic Outlook Article: Degree Guarantee.

Public Health Program in Case Study

Sarah Baron and BC’s Public Health Sciences program were featured in a case study published by the Community College Journal of Research and Practices. The report published on February 19, titled “Practical Lessons in Public Health Program Implementation: Perspectives from the Field,” was co-written by Baron and discusses the way BC’s program offers a health navigator certificate and a general transfer degree developed with support from the Society for Public Health Education. Our Public Health Sciences program is creating the next generation of advocates for healthy communities, and I’m confident that their work will make the San Joaquin Valley a happier, healthier places for thousands of people.