SMC In Focus

Bragging Rights: April 2021

Students discovering their potential in STEM. The Language and Culture Exchange Program is *back*. A film professor wins an international screenwriting competition.

  • Art professor Robin Mitchell's online-only exhibition of painted self-portraits is featured on the Craig Krull Gallery website. Check them out!

  • Film production faculty lead, Salvador Carrasco, is a winner of the 2021 Nostosinternational screenwriting competition. The award consists of attending a month-long writers' retreat in Italy this fall. Colombian writer Juan Gabriel Vásquez—“considered the literary heir of Gabriel García Márquez”, Salvador writes—gave pro bono the rights to one of his celebrated works to Carrasco, who is turning it into a feature script that he hopes to direct during an upcoming sabbatical. 

  • Senior Enrollment Services Specialist Michael Dammer has completed coursework for his graduate program, in California State University, Long Beach’s Master’s in Public Administration “Juggling work and school for the last two years was not easy, proud to have finished with a 4.0 cumulative GPA,” Michael wrote. “[I’ve] never responded to one of these but I told myself I would once I finished my last course.” Glad you did, Michael—and congratulations!

  • Nursing instructor Laila Moosa has earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with honors. Dr. Moosa's doctoral studies include performing an evidenced-based direct practice improvement project (DPI) to reduce patients’ length of stay in a Southern California “The results of the study were clinically and statistically significant by reducing the length of stay from 3.5 days to 1.2 days among patients admitted with observation status in the hospital,” Laila wrote. “The DPI project demonstrated the core values of SMC’S mission that include knowledge, intellectual inquiry, research-based planning, evaluation, global awareness, and sustainability in improving patients' health outcomes.” Congrats, Laila!

  • With the support of their colleagues in the Modern Languages Dept., ESL instructors Marianne Borgardt and Janine Poreba have brought the Language and Culture Exchange Program (LCE) back to life in an online setting. The LCE is a unique opportunity for SMC students to form partnerships with native speakers of the languages and cultures they are studying. Each language and culture in a partnership is valued equally. “Student response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic,” Marianne and Janine wrote. “Over 50 students have joined since the program launched on March 1, 2021!”  Interested SMC students can still self-enroll using this self-enrollment link; help spread the word!

  • Counselor Benny Blaydes reports that he set up the Lisa Davis and Jeanette Blaydes Scholarship in Feb 2021 for African America/Black Students transferring to USC/UCLA. Read more about the scholarship here.

  • Music/piano instructor Greg Schreiner has performed and produced a show called Hollywood Revisited for many years. The pandemic put a crashing halt to that, but a scheduled performance at the Annenberg Theatre in Palm Springs, in conjunction with Modernism Week, found new life online.  The show was taped in a local theatre in Hollywood.

  • Nervous to take a half-day exam with a 50 percent pass/fail rate, Cheryl WardSMCFoundation’s Director of Development, earned her CFRE (Certified Fundraising Executive) credential. She qualified to sit for the exam based on funds raised, years in the profession, and professional development completed. The exam covers skills, ethics, legal requirements, and best practices related to donor acquisition and stewardship, nonprofit marketing, fundraising analytics, strategic planning, budgeting, major gifts, estate gifts, and capital campaigns. Congrats, Cheryl!

  • Scott Silverman, Dean of Noncredit & External Programs (Interim), recently served as one of the guest editors on NASPA’s Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, on Volume 58, Issue 2, the Special Issue on Health and Wellbeing. This Special Issue, crafted, edited and published during a global pandemic, was “ironic timing,” writes Scott, “However the papers submitted by professionals from various institutions will improve efforts to promote student and staff health and wellbeing.”

  • Life Science Department Chair Alexandra Tower writes, “I don’t have a long story to tell, other than that we have worked really hard to bring science to students in their homes. We have provided kits for Nutrition 8 (Food Science), Anatomy 1 & 2, Science 10 and pictured here, is the setup for Bio21. For students who are not able to pick up, we ship – even to overseas locations! The students are extremely excited to get the opportunity to do hands-on projects. Computer simulations are just not the same. For the Fall semester, we’re looking to expand to Microbiology 1 and Botany 1, as well.” This may not be a long story, but it is certainly a noteworthy one. Congrats to Alexandra and everyone at SMC who made this possible for our students.

  • Earth Science Adjunct Professor Kim O'Cain self-published her debut novel, Gap Year Project, about a privileged high school grad who unexpectedly finds herself in a remote forest for a year of community service and must learn to overcome unimaginable fears, colliding dreams, and unlikely friendships.Kim's book was selected for the ReDesign Schools Louisiana April community book club.

  • Spanish professor Alejandro Lee has lots of brags! Here they are: One, Alejandro, together with Cristina Moon (Chabot College), Nancy Meléndez Ballesteros (Mount St. Mary’s University-Los Angeles, Santa Monica College, College of the Canyons) and ADA compliance officer, Nicolás Crisosto (Los Angeles Community College District) completed their OER Entrada Libre: Second-Year Spanish Grammar Manual in summer 2020. Two, Alejandro was invited to join the Advanced Placement World Languages Academic Advisory Committee to the College Board, from March to December 2020. Three, Alejandro represented community colleges at the “Latino Heritage Panel”. The webinar was organized and moderated by María Carreira, National Heritage Language Resource Center at UCLA on 10th October, 2020. Four, Alejandro was elected “Community College Representative” for the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP), 2020-23. Five, Alejandro was invited to be an editorial board member of “Plurilingual & Pluriculturales: A Newsletter on Critical Language Education,” Dec. 2020. Six, Alejandro was an invited speaker, he gave a presentation titled: “Identidades en contacto”, at Pitzer College, also in October. (Professor Lee also has some student brags, which you can read in the section following these brags!).

In addition to these individual/department-focused brags above, SMC in Focus is so pleased to present these brags of student achievements sent in by colleagues. Proud to be SMC! (NOTE: Students’ brags have not been edited to preserve their voice).

From Heather Bennett, History Professor:

“I would like to brag about one of my students. His name is Nathan Martins (S1790070) he was recently published in this journal (his article / editorial is the last one). He is currently applying to attend a seminar at Princeton over the summer titled The James Madison Seminar on the Principles of American Politics. His star is rising.”

From Jamey Anderson, Chemistry Professor:

“I have a student, since transferred to UCLA, who wrote up and is presenting a short ‘poster’ to the American Chemical Society conference in April, based on research she did with me at SMC in 2019.”

From Nicola Vruwink, Graphic Design/Interaction Design:

"Here are a couple brags of students THRIVING despite all the hurdles of 2020-21."

Brag #1: Graphic Design Student Maribel Hernandez, Student in my GD 18 Graphic Design Applications and Typography 1 Courses | Summer 2020 Chosen for the Snap Academy Internship.

Maribel wrote: In Summer of 2020, I was selected to be part of the Snap Design Academy, where I gained insightful knowledge from various LA Artists, while being part of the Snapchat culture and learning from executives on career development and so much more! I have since applied this knowledge to all my projects, which have allowed me to grow as an upcoming graphic designer. Being part of the Snap Design Academy, not only gave me the opportunity to learn from other talented designers, but also allowed me to become part of a larger network. As an alumni of the program, we are given special opportunities throughout the year, such as working on larger projects for Snap Inc. Recently, I was selected to come on board to help in designing the 2021 Snap Diversity Annual Report. I have been able to work closely not only with the Diversity team, but with Snap’s agency team, who have generously provided me with one-on-one mentorship. Being able to have this real-life experience has allowed me to understand the layout design process in working with a major company and very much eye-opening. It is unbelievable to think that I began my graphic design journey last year at the start of the pandemic, but have grown so much in such a short time period!

Brag #2: From Heidi Neilson, Student in Nicola’s GD 31 Graphic Design Studio Course (excerpt from an email sent to Nicola): I wanted to send a "thank you" for your profound impact on my career already.  On the last day of class, I sent a cold email pitch to a local business for whom I wanted to paint a mural.  I used your teachings throughout: In the design itself, for my mockup creation process, and in communicating the process and included value in my pitch. 

The clients loved it immediately, and I was at work on site within 5 days.   My assistants and I wrapped up painting 2 weeks later, and I've been filled with gratitude for your influence. I didn't end up enrolling in any spring semester courses, because we were just greenlit on a big project for the same client that will keep my little team and I busy for the next couple months. Amazing.  Here's what we made! It's in a super high traffic spot, on Lincoln Blvd just south of the 10 freeway exit... what an opportunity! (Image in slideshow above).

From Jing Liu, GIS/Geography Professor:

“[My student] Faylenn began the GIS Certification program at SMC in the hopes of improving her job prospects in the environmental science and GIS professional world. She was pleasantly surprised that this program provides her with that and so much more. Halfway through the certificate program Covid-19 hit, and her GIS courses became a beacon of light in a world of chaos. [My] virtual Friday GIS “happy hours'' provided the networking and presentation opportunities she needed to land two GIS internships. As an intern for LA Waterkeeper, she worked on the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Watch Team and was responsible for collecting and mapping MPA fishing violations in Santa Monica Bay both out in the field and from her home. As an intern for the City of Santa Monica, she assisted the lead GIS Analyst in updates of the City’s online portal and created maps in collaboration with the Community Development and Public Works departments. She is now working full-time on the Apple Maps team as a GIS Specialist through the contracting firm Apex Systems and hopes to continue working to improve community interaction with the environment.”

From Alejandro Lee, Spanish Professor:

Professor Alejandro Lee is delighted to announce that his student, Omar Vargas, had poems published in the inaugural issue of Palabras con alas: A Latinx Creative Journal: “Parte de un momento,” “Passing by,” “A ‘hunnid’ love song,” “The Tinted Car,” “Block Mentality,” “The Block,” “A walk through of a needle,” and “An overdose of regret.”  “¡Enhorabuena, Omar!” Lee writes. Also, Alejandro is proud to report that his student, Thalia Ornelas, is the first recipient of the “Dr. Domingo J. Carreira Pérez Scholarship for Latino Excellence”. Congratulations, Thalia!   Well deserved! (March 2021). 

From Roman Ferede, Chemistry Professor:

“Four of our students from the STEM, Black Collegians and Adelante programs attended all three days of the ‘Ninth Annual Conference to Increase Diversity in Mathematical Modeling and Public Health’ online conference. . . my daughter, Tigist Menkir who is doing her PhD in mathematical modeling in infectious disease at Harvard was the main organizer. . . one student, Laphatrada Richards, was part of the group that won first prize in the final completion and another student, Ana Fuentes, was part of a group that was a runner up. Below are the testimonials I received from the four students about what the conference meant to them.”

Laphatrada Richards:
My experience at the Midas conference was a fantastic opportunity for me. I have never thought that I could join and be part of the Harvard Infectious disease modeling conference. Also, as English is my second language and it is my first year at the SMC (after graduating from high school for over ten years back in Thailand), I don’t have confidence and never think I have the ability to attend the conference. What if I don’t understand what they are saying? What if I can’t help the team? That was my fear to apply to the summit at first. However, my STEM counselor, Belen, encouraged me to apply. She said she believed in me, and it is an excellent opportunity. So, I did, and I am glad I listened to her and overcame my nerves. My major is Computer Science, and I never think about going into public health. After the conference experience, I realized there are many things I can do with my CS degree, and I am interested in healthcare. Many people who shared their experiences came from different backgrounds, and I can see myself get in that position one day. Working with incredible people and finding the best solution or prevention in diseases is fascinating. I learned a lot about how new diseases spread out worldwide and what people should do to prevent or reduce the mortality of the COVID-19 crisis. At the conference, I got to know other students interested in learning new things and connecting with them. I also earned my communication skills and confidence, and I engaged in lively high-level discussions at the conference. I love listening to the debate, and many great ideas of professors were shared.

Moreover, in my team project, everyone in the team was amazing to help me as I had many questions and felt like I was behind. My mentor, Madikay, was patient about explanations and didn’t mind if I asked him to go over the discussion again. I had a little bit of experience with coding for this conference, making me want to go deeper in this field. I enjoyed sharing my opinion with the team, and I put my nerves down. I got the best experience for my first public health modeling conference. Lastly, I want to thank all of the people who provide the organization and support young generations to have hands-on experience in public health and mathematical modeling. I can’t say enough how many benefits I obtained knowledge from this amazing event. I will never fear and hesitate to apply or look for another great opportunity like this in the future again. 

Ana Fuentes:
I learned about the MIDAS Diversity Conference through an email I received from the Adelante Program and quickly grew excited to see all the interesting topics that would be covered. The three-day conference surpassed any expectations I had. I was able to meet and learn from experts in Public Health who spoke about fascinating ways to understand problems that were impacting public health and how to analyze them through mathematical models. There were many topics seen in the sessions that I had never heard of previously but were presented in a really engaging way for anyone who was willing to learn. Knowing the complex work behind the study of epidemics opened my eyes to all different applications of mathematics in the real world. We were also tasked to work in teams and propose a solution to a problem using the information we had previously learned about. This was a wonderful experience, as I, along with my teammates received amazing insight from our group mentor and had to think of creative ways to distribute COVID-19 vaccines with mathematical modeling in mind as well as considering different social factors that were involved. Having the opportunity to attend this conference was truly encouraging, it allowed me to discover different career paths and ways to approach public health issues I have never previously considered.

Talia Avila:
As a career changer who is back at SMC to take prerequisites for graduate programs in Biostatistics and Epidemiology, I was really happy to find an opportunity that was open to both undergraduates and students who have finished completed undergrad. This was my first time attending a heavily quantitative conference - and as someone who really enjoys math and its applications, I was really excited about that. I felt very welcomed from the start. I appreciated the fact that the MIDAS team hosted technology office hours every morning. It was my first time fully using R for programming, so it was great to connect with the team and make sure I was ready to go for the workshops. The workshops themselves were really interesting. I appreciated the opportunity to learn from world class faculty in a small, interactive setting. I got to practice 'nowcasting' - a technique that addresses some of the shortcomings of forecasting in rapidly changing situations. Even though I was a bit intimidated by all of the coding and software-related tasks, the team and professors made each activity so accessible and fun! I really enjoyed coding to visualize different versions of the SIR model and analyzing changes with my peers. I would encourage anyone interested in mathematical modeling or public health to attend this conference. You don't need a strong background in math; you just need to be curious and eager to learn. The team, the professors, and the graduate students are all there to support you. They also take into consideration your background and place you in workshops based on this. I liked this because I was placed in sessions that introduced me to core concepts before diving into more complex activities. 

From Jennifer Hernandez:
My experience participating in this year’s MIDAS Diversity Conference has indeed been a great experience as an undergraduate college student. This opportunity is open to any student who is interested in learning about Infectious Disease Modeling. There are great benefits to this Conference since it involves different factors such as coding and research. Though having prior experience in research, I have learned so much about a topic that I can potentially pursue as a career. This workshop mainly focuses on learning how to create SIR models and working in groups with other peers to create a project related to the topic. What I enjoyed most about this Conference is hearing different presentations from panelists about their research and experiences. Being able to participate and work with other students from different places has really given me more insight and experience that I can use in the future. Learning about a topic such as Transmission Modeling and learning how to implicate these exercises and models to current and future diseases in order to measure and prevent them was very knowledgeable for me as I continue to pursue my Biology major. Overall I am looking forward to being part of a great program such as the MIDAS Conference.

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