AVANZA Engagement Center


We are excited for our students!

A prime objective of the Proyecto Exito grant is to develop a student center:

“Establishment of a Student Engagement Center which will focus on integrating the Latino student experience into the Mesa College culture. Additionally, an innovative Student Navigators program will be housed in the Student Engagement Center, allowing peer-to-peer interactions and mentoring to take place. This Center will offer creative programming focused on leadership development, socio-cultural experience, and academic support. It will promote Latino culture and explore Latino identity and self-awareness and provide a space where family members learn how they can support their student. Existing programs such as Puente will use this center, and the Chicano Studies faculty will frequent the Center, creating a central location for Latino student support.”

The development of this type of center takes the entire campus community.  The space had already been identified from the old academic skill center on the 2nd floor of the Student Services Building. A work group needed to be pulled together to develop a shared vision of the center.  In October of 2016 we kicked off this endeavor with an open forum to engage campus community.  Faculty, staff and administrators discussed ideas and the various needs the center will be able to meet for our students.

AVANZA furn 5The work group began meeting to review themes for the center, including clarifying the purpose of the center, who would use it, what are the needs, furniture and technology, look and feel, and what should be its name.  Feedback was also provided from students in the Puente program who went through a visioning process of a student center.  In December of 2016 we followed up with a student forum to solicit more input from students and to have further dialogue on an official name for the center.

Through the guidance of the work group, plans have progressedAVANZA workshopwith numerous meetings and discussions surrounding the layout of the center, which will allow multiple activities, meetings, and workshops to take place at once.  This center will provide a place for students to support and connect with each other.  Additionally, they will be able toAVANZA engagement connect with faculty and staff to receive additional help as needed.  These things will be possible by dividing the space into areas that will serve different functions, for example:  workshop and engagement areas, in addition to quiet study areas.

It is our goal that this will be a “safe space” for our students to be who they are, express themselves, and be affirmed for their accomplishments.  Decorations will be colorful and symbolic of the diverse Latino cultures and countries.  Not only would this be a safe space for Hispanic expression, but an educational space to open up this beautiful world for those who may not be aware; an inclusive space where students will be able to share their stories, inspire and empower one another.  Versatile furniture and wireless connectivity will further enhance student’s ability to engage the center’s resources no matter what their individual needs may be.

AVANZA furn 3AVANZA furn 1AVANZA furn 2

Additionally, we are planning to extend the center for some family engagement.  Hosting workshops, and informational meet and greets, where families can get a taste of campus life and support.  Discussions continue to involve ways of increasing student access to counselors, financial aid, outreach, and peer navigators & mentors.

The remodeling of an existing community college building, that involves structural changes, must go through a process at the state level that can take 6-8 months.  Instead of operating in its current state during this time, we have decided to implement the conversion of the space into two phases.  First phase:  all the furniture and equipment so that the center can function as it is intended to; the second phase is the physical construction once approved by the state.  This construction will consist of the division of the space by a movable partition, re-carpeting and painting.  The goal is to be completed by the beginning of the spring semester, 2018.

Beyond the purpose, programing, and remodeling of the center; the name and its identity has been a robust process with strong campus conversations with faculty, students, staff and administrators.  At the beginning of April, the center work group forwarded two names to the executive team, and the name AVANZA Engagement Center was approved!  The name, a cognate of the Spanish word for advance, was chosen as it represents concepts such as forward thinking, movement, and coolness as reasons for student support.

We would like to thank everyone who has, and will continue to participate in the process as we build the AVANZA Engagement Center!!

Campus Conexiones

The LatinX Alliance in partnership with the HSI Title V and Title III grants and the Peer Navigation/CRUISE program are honored to present the special series “Campus Conexiones”. Campus Conexiones is an intimate, talk-show formatted event in which LatinX campus faculty, staff and administrators discuss their personal journeys and offer an opportunity for students to connect with them. Through connecting the students and employees in the LatinX campus community we hope to create bonds that strengthen the support network for students that is so vital for LatinX student success.

The first Campus Conexiones was held on February 22nd with Manny Bautista, faculty in Exercise Science. Manny’s unique journey of growing up in TexCampus Conexiones flyeras, heading out on his own, the struggles of being a first-generation student and becoming a faculty member and working for Team USA in the Olympics was inspiring for students.

In March, Maria-Jose Zeledon Perez, part-time faculty in the Communication Studies department will share her journey from Costa Rica to San Diego and her passion for equity and inclusion in higher education. Join us on March 23rd from 11:30-12:30 in I4-203 to meet Maria. Everyone is invited!

For future events and speakers go to the Mesa Home Page and search: “Campus Conexiones”


Spring 2017

Making its official debut in April 2016, the LOFT (Learning Opportunities for Transformation) is Mesa’s home for professional learning for all employees.  Located on the 4th floor of the LRC, this fabulous center hosts a variety of professional learning activities throughout each semester.  Additionally, you will find that the LOFT offers multiple quiet and cozy work and meeting spaces.  Whether looking for a comfortable place to grade papers, or meet with colleagues to discuss upcoming projects, the LOFT can accommodate you.Todd Williamson, LOFT spring 17

Our newest LOFT member is Instructional Leaning Technician, Todd Williamson.  He provides direct support in the LOFT for Blackboard, Canvas, Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe Suite, screen-casting and Video Applications, publisher educational platforms, etc.  Get to know Todd for your “go-to” support and his overall cool, calm and helpful demeanor.

Katie Palacios LOFT spring 2017Katie Palacios is our creative LOFT Instructional Designer.  She is always ready to support staff and faculty in whatever way they need.  Be that through technology, teaching tools, or how to engage students in online learning forums, Katie is available to share information.  She is currently developing Mesa’s YouTube channel in an effort to increase resources and make digital resources available for staff and faculty; increasing their ability to engage and support students in their success.  Additionally, Katie offers a variety of workshops in the LOFT, including:  Lynda.com, Active Learning Circuit Training, and more.  If you are looking for a fun and engaging opportunity to learn and connect with your peers, schedule Katie’s Workshops.

Ms. Eva Parrill our Senior Clerical Assistant is readily Eva Parrill, LOFT Spring 2017available to get you or your function set up in the LOFT.  Eva organizes and schedules the calendar for workshops, professional learning, and events in the LOFT, and also disseminates announcements and reminders for the events as they come up.  Additionally, she supports the Flex process.  If you’re interested in scheduling a meeting, training, or event, please see Eva.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the LOFT, please come on by.  Sometimes, there’s even cake.

You can find upcoming events at this link:


Classroom Tutors


The Classroom Tutoring (CT) pilot program, coordinated by Mariam Kushkaki, is expanding into seven disciplines for the spring semester. Outcomes from the first year of the pilot show promise. In 2015 CT’s were available in two disciplines (Math & English). We have since moved into various other disciplines with positive results.  Research revealed that overall retention and success rates were highest for those who attended CT sessions, particularly those who attended more than nine sessions, (94%).  This pattern only increased in the Spring and Summer 2016 semesters enabling us to increase availability to five disciplines.  Each semester we have experienced increased success within the program.  In the Spring of 2017 we will have 20 CT’s; available in the following disciplines:

·         ANTH 102 ·         GEOL 100
·         ASTR 101 ·         MATH 92
·         BIOL 107 ·         MATH 96
·         CHEM 100 ·         MATH 104
·         CHEM 152 ·         MATH 116
·         GEOG 101 ·         MATH 119

The complete outcome reports may be found here:

Classroom Tutoring Student Demographics and Outcomes – Fall 2015

Classroom Tutoring Student Demographics and Outcomes – Spring and Summer 2016


We hosted our first ever Winter CRUISE, January 10-12, and Saturday 31463006383_a238cdd509_oCRUISE, January 14, 2017, and they were a SUCCESS!!!! The CRUISE (Creating Rich Unique Intellectual Student Experiences), our engagement and support network to first time students, reached out to our local early graduates, first time students, and international students to provide them with all the introductory support they need to succeed. We had 95 students participate in the Winter CRUISE, and an additional 55 students for the Saturday CRUISE.

In addition to the usual overviews from Counseling, Math, and English, students pa31458964543_718a6aa13b_orticipated in a Financial Literacy/Decision-making Workshop with the support of California Coast Credit Union. Students engaged in “A Bite of Reality” activity where they were given personas and asked to make financial decisions for their personal transportation, housing, and living expenses.  Students were tempted to purchase expensive sports cars, concert/event tickets, and high end clothing to test their knowledge of financially sound decision making.

For the Saturday CRUISE we initiated a Student Panel made up of Peer Navigators, Classroom Tutors, Outreach Ambassadors, and returning CRUISE Participants. We called this: “First Day at Mesa”, and began with the Panel sharing their personal experiences with the students of their First Day on campus.  After hearing briefly from the panel members, a Q & A was opened up.  We were so impressed, not only by the rich dialogue that ensued, but most especially by the genuine questions that were presented for this discussion.

Fashioned after the speed dating concept, CRUISE offered a “Mee31433470134_40e4422654_ot & Greet” workshop.  Fourteen programs across the campus hosted information booths.  Participants traveled in small groups from booth to booth every four minutes for short interactions.  While at each booth participants were given a glimpse of what each program offered and how they could further support each students move toward success.

Our Student Success Specialist Agustin Rivera, Jr., along with Project Assistant, Alexi Balaguer, and the team of Peer Navigators, worked diligently for weeks in preparation, and produced a smooth CRUISE. Check out some more of the photos here:

2017 Winter CRUISE


The CRUISE (Creating Rich Unique Intellectual Student Experience) pilot program, coordinated by Student Success Specialist Agustin Rivera, Jr., includes multiple components geared toward supporting students.  Beginning in Summer 2015, CRUISE was developed as an outreach and support network to first time students.  Participants attend a multi-day event that includes a tour of the campus, opportunities to meet other students and faculty, and tools for navigating success in an academic program.31896767910_3e8a7173f4_o

As part of the program, Participants are connected to a Peer Navigator (student mentor). These Peer Navigators serve as an on-going source of support and guidance for students:  alerting them to upcoming events, hosting workshops, and providing encouragement.  We currently have 16 Peer Navigators serving approximately 400 students.

31458958423_5e7702b47d_o1The goals for the CRUISE Program include: increasing student connection to campus, persistence, and academic performance. On the whole, all participants tended to have better academic outcomes; specifically they had higher rates of persistence and c31458945963_bcab846bd6_oourse success.  Additionally, participants who practiced more frequent two-way contacts were associated with higher levels of performance.  Some highlights include:


Fall 2015 First-Time Student CRUISE Participant and Comparison Group Outcomes



Fall 2015 Fall 2015 – Spring 2016 Persistence Rate
Retention Rate Success Rate Term GPA
CRUISE Participant 90% 76% 2.66 93%
Not Participant 88% 66% 2.35 72%

Spring 2016 CRUISE Participants and Comparison Group Outcomes



Spring 2016
Retention Rate Success Rate Term GPA
CRUISE Participant 92% 72% 2.44
Not Participant 87% 68% 2.33

Fall 2015 Summer First-Time Student CRUISE Participant Outcomes by Two-Way Contacts

# Two-Way Contacts Fall 2015 Fall 2015 – Spring 2016 Persistence Rate
Retention Rate Success Rate Term GPA
0-1 88% 67% 2.36 93%
2-4 89% 74% 2.70 96%
5-7 90% 80% 2.78 91%
>=8 93% 83% 2.85 92%
Total 90% 76% 2.66 93%

Link to the full report can be found here:

2015 Summer CRUISE Student Outcomes

Sustainability Week

A Sustainability Summit held at Mesa College on Friday, October 23rd wrapped up a week of events geared to raise awareness and interest in food security, water resources, and climate change.

Students at the Garden Party (Tues 10/20)
Students at the Garden Party (Tues 10/20)

Mesa College has been working to increase the number of Hispanic students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and as a result has created a SEEDS Scholars Program. SEEDS is an acronym for “STEM Engagement for Enrichment of Diverse Students.” SEEDS co-sponsored Sustainability Week with the Mesa Foundation, the Mesa Humanities Institute, and ASG.

 Cross-Disciplinary Dialogues (ARTF 113 and SPAN 101 students, WED 10/21)
Cross-Disciplinary Dialogues (ARTF 113 and SPAN 101 students, WED 10/21)

Reaching out to local high schools, partner universities at SDSU and UCSD, and community partners is key to the success of the SEEDS program. The attendees of the summit consisted of approximately 120 high school students and 40 Mesa College students and community organizations including Feeding America, the San Diego Food Bank, Revolution Landscape, Dean’s Greens, and the County of San Diego Solid Waste Planning & Recycling Department. Prof. Leticia López (Spanish) and Prof. Waverly Ray (Geography) are SEEDS Program Co-Coordinators. One of the goals of the summit was to show how so many disciplines are linked to sustainability, such as geography, agriculture, economics, and geographic information system (GIS).

Film Festival (Thur 10/22)
Film Festival (Thur 10/22)

Although there are endless connections to sustainability, the topics of the summit were chosen because they have so many applications across a wide array of STEM and non-STEM disciplines.

Hoover HS students at the Sustainability Summit (Fri 10/23)
Hoover High students at the Sustainability Summit (Fri 10/23)

Mesa College President Pamela Luster emphasized at the event that “food security is a big deal.” There are many students who struggle with hunger and accessibility to healthy food. “Sustainability isn’t just about protecting Mother Earth. It’s also about sustaining our communities and economic vitality.” Each semester 20 new students are accepted into the SEEDS Program with funding from a $290,000, four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Anyone interested in applying to join the SEEDS Scholars Program should contact the project directors or visit sdmesa.edu/seeds for more information.