Volume X, Issue 3 | June 12, 2024

Bragging Rights: June 2024

An instructional tutor finishes what she started 15 years ago. A payroll specialist honors her late, beloved mother. The SMC Rotaract Club wins several honors. A Music instructor performs taiko at Walt Disney Music Hall.

SMC In Focus


  • Fifteen years have passed since Jessica E. Pi'ilani Thomas, now an Instructional Tutor with SMC's Writing & Humanities Center, first began working towards her Early Childhood Education degree—at SMC! However, her degree was put on hiatus when she married, moved to London, and started an editorial and marketing job at Bloomsbury Publishing. When Jessica returned to the States, she was hired as an SMC writing tutor while she earned her Master's in Teaching with a specialization in TESOL from USC's Rossier School of Education. During that time, Jessica realized that she had only one more class to complete in order to earn her ECE certificate as an Associate Teacher. She decided that she wanted to see that through, and, happily, she recently completed her last ECE class and will be graduating this semester. Alongside her job at SMC, Jessica now oversees toddler care for St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Santa Monica. Jessica now hopes to see more ECE students at the Writing Center for specialized assistance with their courses! (What a terrific SMC success story!)

  • Payroll Specialist Rhonda Robinson honored her beloved mother who passed away from cancer by appearing on “Let’s Make a Deal” in late May. Rhonda won a trip to Toronto, Canada for six nights and $1500 in cash.

  • Journalism professor and Corsair faculty advisor Sharyn Obsatz is pleased to report the continuing success of SMC journalism alum! Ryanne Mena, a former Corsair editor who transferred to (and graduated from) Cal State University, Northridge, was selected for a prestigious investigative journalism internship with the data team at ProPublica; the fellowship was granted by the Ida B. Wells Society. Proud to be SMC!

  • SMC Music instructor and percussionist Megumi Smith performed a solo at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Tuesday, April 23. A solo Japanese Taiko piece she composed, titled "Sakura," was performed by Megumi as part of LA Phil's YOLA Spring concert. “For most of the audience, this was their first opportunity to see and hear Japanese taiko, and it absolutely made a strong impact on the entire audience,” Megumi wrote.

  • Psychology professor Dorothy Chin was invited by the Michael D. Eisner College of Education at California State University, Northridge, to present on April 24th. Part of the Social Justice Dialogue series, her talk was entitled "Race-Based Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress: Implications for Education and Counseling." It was, Dorothy wrote, “an honor and inspiration for her to participate in this dialogue with so many thoughtful and dedicated CSUN faculty.”

  • The poetry of English and Emeritus faculty member, Carol V. Davis, is being used in the choreography of Los Angeles-based dance company Donna Sternberg and Dancers. The theme of this recent dance work centers on Ancestral Voices. Working with scientists, therapists and Davis’ poetry, Sternberg explores generational trauma. The work in progress is being performed at the Skirball Cultural Center this month. In 2025, the work will be performed in its final version.

  • Student Judicial Affairs Specialist Lisa Burns is leaving SMC after 18 ½ years, to “join the esteemed rank of retiree”! Lisa has worked in many departments including Academic Senate, Admissions and Records, Cashier’s Office, The Center for Environmental and Urban Studies, spending most of her career in Student Judicial Affairs.  While working full-time at SMC Lisa earned an A.S. in Behavioral Sciences, and a B.S. in Marriage and Family Studies, as well as being certified as a Family Life Educator.  Lisa has enjoyed her time at SMC and made many lifelong friendships. We hope you enjoy your well-deserved retirement, Lisa!

  • Emeritus professor and filmmaker Sheila Laffey hosted a screening of Singing Back the Buffalo with Indigenous Canadian filmmaker Tasha Hubbard as part of her Emeritus (ThArt) class on May 29. She recruited Bill Selby, former SMC Professor, as a guest on FacingFuture.TV on You Tube for which she is Program Consultant.   Bill’s presentation, “Can We Predict the Weather?” received 5K views in two days. Sheila also worked at Esalen Institute in a four-day workshop on Nature Therapy/Mindfulness in May. Sheila taught in SMC’s Communications and Film Department for 21 years.

  • English Professor Mario René Padilla's new book, Young Ultraista: the early writing of Jorge Luis Borges,is now officially available on Amazon. It has been published by ATOPON BOOKS. The work is a critical/lyrical study of Jorge Luis Borges's juvenilia published in Spanish magazines when he was 19 to 23 years of age. Creative writers will also find interesting the exploration of the writer's shift from writing poetry to prose fiction.

  • Art History Professor Erika Hirugami, MA. MAAB., was recently featured in UCLA Magazine’s Spring Issue. The article—read: “Building a Portfolio of Hope”—highlights Hirugami’s accomplishments, her academic journey, and the two organizations she founded: CuratorLoveUNDOC+Collective. Hirugami’s work empowers immigrants, migrants, and undocreatives to thrive. Her work focuses on celebrating the members of the undoc+ (formerly or currently undocumented) community and their aesthetic achievements. 

  • Spanish professor Alejandro Lee has several brags, as usual: Along with Eric Kean (Western Washington University), Alejandro presented “Formative Essay Feedback with AI” at the Pacific Northwest for Languages Council (PNCFL) hosted by the University of Washington, Seattle on March 22, 2024.

  • Along with Hugo Díaz-Rodil (American River College and Sierra College), Sarah Harmon (Cañada College), and Cristina Moon (Chabot College), Alejandro is completing Tarea Libre 2, an open educational resource that contains homework for second-year Spanish, will be officially launched in late summer. They presented a preview, “Continuing the Path to Zero in Spanish OER: Tarea Libre 2,” for the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges Open Educational Resources Initiative (ASCCC OERI) on May 3, 2024.  

  • And finally, with his colleagues Hugo Díaz-Rodil, and Cristina Moon, Alejandro delivered “From Textbook to Homework: A Collaborative Journey in Developing Our Spanish OER Projects with LibreTexts “ at the Florida OER Summit: Innovations and Trends, on May 24, 2024.

  • Accounting professor and SMC Rotaract Club co-advisor Enrique Lopez is pleased to report an extremely noteworthy brag: The SMC Rotaract Club was awarded the following recognitions:

    • Rotaract Club of the Year - SMC Rotaract Club (there are seven university student clubs in our district)
    • Most Involved Rotaractor - Devan Cotton (SMC Rotaract Club Student Board Member)
    • Rookie of the Year -Charles Claverie (SMC Rotaract Club Student Board Member)
    • Rotaract of the Year- Doris Huang (SMC Rotaract Club Student Board Member)

SMC Rotaract Club is a student-led club (advised by Enrique and counselor Jenna Gausman) that provides students networking opportunities with diverse business professionals and personal development workshops.  Members also participate in local community service projects including areas of food insecurity, youth mental health and environment.

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