Campus Conexiones-Spring ’18 Finale

Juan-1On April 26th, 2018, we hosted our final Campus Conexiones Speaker Series for the spring semester.  Our spotlight guest was Professor Juan Bernal.  In addition to being an engaging math professor here at Mesa College, Professor Bernal is a member of our Hispanic Serving Institution, Title V Grant team.  As our course re-designer for math, Professor Bernal, in collaboration with Professor Kelly Spoon, designed the Mathletics Program, which piloted in the summer of 2017 (year 3 of the grant).  Now being held in the summer, and winter, with an evening program being offered this summer, Professor Bernal and Professor Spoon, along with other math faculty, continue to facilitate the program as well as coordinate weekly follow-up workshops throughout the semester.

Juan-3We were thrilled to end the semester with a standing room only crowd.  The turn-out for this event was amazing, and many of the audience could relate to Juan’s struggles and resilience to overcome.  It’s always refreshing to discover that we are not alone in the obstacles life throws our way, and Juan was quite transparent in the trials he faced to achieve what he has today.  He shared about making decisions that weren’t necessarily the ones he wanted to make, but they were the best choices for him at that time in his life.  His willingness to sacrifice revealed his commitment to a successful future.

Juan-6When asked why he chose to specialize in Math, Juan revealed his passion to make a difference in a field that is discriminated against.  He expressed that even though it was a more difficult path to follow, he discovered that he loved math and he wasn’t going to let anyone take that away from him or discourage him.  Juan admitted that he could work anywhere with his degree; at UCSD, SDSU, in data analysis at any high end corporation, but that is not what it is about for him.  He believes that community college is the best place for him to effect change in the lives of students while redeveloping the way math is taught.  His commitment is evident in his continued dedication to introduce new methods of teaching math with affective domains.  We are so glad that he has chosen Mesa to do so.


Finally, when invited to share his message to students, this is what he had to say:

“Keep going. Shoot for the moon, even if you only get a star, shoot for it. Education is very strong, and you are not alone, you can do it.   We all go through life, if you can surpass this, you can surpass anything. If you don’t believe in yourself, I believe in you.”

Remember the support that is here for you.


Service Learning

While most people in the world understand exactly what it is to volunteer or participate in volunteer work from a very early age, very few really know what “Service Learning” is.  In fact, it is often mistaken for good ole “volunteering.”  So allow us to start by defining Service Learning for you:

“Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities.” (Learn and Serve America National Service Learning Clearinghouse)

Service Learning is different from volunteering because Service Learning is a teaching method that incorporates community based activities into the curricula.  Unlike volunteers, service learning students are required to connect service experiences to course content through reading, writing, and dialogue.

Service Learning is one of the many programs that the Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Title V Grant office has been working to implement and grow at Mesa College.  Last semester (fall 2017), English Professor Jill Moreno-Ikari piloted service learning projects in her English 101 class, requiring her students to complete a service learning project for her class.  This semester she has invited all of her students to complete a service learning project, making it optional.  Unofficial data from the two semesters will be compared in order to research the student success and experience for both methods: mandatory vs. optional.  Although it is a small focus group at this point, we are concentrating efforts to expand the program.  It is our hope and our goal to establish relationships with local businesses and organizations to offer service learning courses across all disciplines at Mesa.  Additionally, we hope that it will qualify as an Honor’s Contract in the future.  Watch for the launch of our web page under the Career Services page.

Since the project is being piloted in an English course, students are required to write about their experiences.  In early April, during a “Writer’s Showcase” in Professor Moreno-Ikari’s class, I was able to talk to a few students who are choosing to participate in service learning this semester.  Here are some of the things they had to say:

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Some of you may recall our piece last year on the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institution Educators (AHSIE) Best Practices Conference that was held in Las Vegas.  This year, the conference was held in Chicago, and we had another fabulous team attend to represent San Diego Mesa College.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, the AHSIE organization exists to support the work of the nation’s Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) as they seek to provide quality, relevant educational opportunities to the large and growing numbers of underserved populations, particularly Hispanic students.  This annual national conference is used as a forum to disseminate “best practices” for improving educational outcomes for students.

To accomplish the responsibilities of the grant and ensure the use of best practices at San Diego Mesa College, it is important for our staff to identify appropriate conferences to attend that will support in grant activities and institutionalization.  AHSIE is a perfect opportunity for the members of our team to be educated in current best practices within HSI as well as share our implementationsAHSIE-4 Ikuko and collaborate with other HSI professionals.  This year we were able to send a full team with members from the Title III, STEM Conexiones, and the Title V, Proyecto Éxito Grant Programs.  Two of our Title V members were able to present on projects they have been instrumental in establishing as part of the grant team.

Professor Juan Bernal, Math Course Redesign and Designer of Mathletics, presented “Mathletics:  Filling in the Gaps through Active Learning and Affective Domain.”  For this presentation Professor Bernal was able to share the creation and piloting of a summer and a winter Mathletics this academic year.  Mathletics is a four day student interactive workshop designed to establish math related networks for students, build student self-confidence in math courses, and increase student success in all levels of math courses.  When asked about the highlight of the conference for Professor Bernal, here is what he had to say:

AHSIE-6 Juan“The most valuable thing I obtained from the conference was the discussions with other faculty members.  These conversations were the highlight.  During my presentation, I had a discussion with other math faculty on how to improve the Mathletics program and obtain data that will ensure its effectiveness.  That was so rewarding because it will further solidify the foundation in which Mathletics was built upon and expand our ability to meet student needs.”

Dr. Mariam Kushkaki, Classroom Tutoring Co-coordinator, presented, “On Our Way toward Equity and Excellence: San Diego Mesa College’s Classroom Tutoring Program.”  This session highlighted the Classroom Tutoring Program, its history, current challenges, and best practices over the life of the program.  Dr. Kushkaki described an amazing collaboration experience turning the presentation into a conversation that engaged questions, suggestions, and utilization of best practices from everyone in the session.  She described this as an opportunity for information to flow in both directions resulting in concrete suggestions for programmatic improvement across campuses.  Dr. Kushkaki offers powerful insight when asked what the highlight of the conference was for her:

“Seeing how many Hispanic/Latinx AHSIE-5 Mariamstudents were participating.  It was heartening to know that this conference doesn’t exist in a vacuum—it’s not just instructors and administrators who are shaping the ways we support our students.  The students themselves are taking an active role in the education system.”

Mesa Scholarships 2018

Every year San Diego Mesa College offers more than $200,000 in scholarships to Mesa students.  This year we just wanted to take a moment to highlight a few magnificent students who have contributed to our Classroom Tutoring and Peer Navigator Programs, and acknowledge their efforts to assist Proyecto Exito in reaching their grant objectives.

Let us start with our Classroom Tutoring Program.  Part of the grant objectives for this program include increasing the student success rate (earning a C or better) for specific courses, and increasing the placement levels of students for other courses.  Our classroom tutors are instrumental to these objectives with their dedicated support to assisting students in understanding the material for their courses and succeeding in their specific course objectives.  We love the opportunity to display how they model success, and receiving scholarships is one way they achieve that.  Three of our classroom tutors are recognized SEEDS scholars, and one of them, Hy Truong, was also recognized for two other scholarships.


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Next we have our Peer Navigator Program.  For anyone unfamiliar, our Peer Navigators (PNs) are mentors to incoming students; committing to their student success for their first academic year on campus.  A few of the things that the PNs provide are: peer-to-peer support, monthly informational workshops, and movie or game nights to promote self-care and a balanced lifestyle.  Their commitment to sharing their experience for the benefit of other new students assists with another grant objective in increasing the percentage of participants who indicate feeling a strong connection to the campus and their peers.  Three of our Peer Navigators are receiving scholarships this year.


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CT’s Efforts to Enhance Student Experiences

Once again, our Classroom Tutors (CTs) are embracing opportunities to go above and beyond for our students’ experiences.  Of course, it is not just our CTs doing this, but all tutors here at Mesa College.  As the Classroom Tutoring Program becomes institutionalized through the Mesa Tutoring and Computing Center (MT2C) it is awesome to behold how our CTs are growing professionally with additional training and opportunities for expansion of the program.  The MT2C hosts “All Tutor Training” days three times each semester to offer tips, tricks, and best practices that will enhance all of our tutors ability to connect with and support our students.  While these training began as optional for the classroom tutors, they are now mandatory training for all tutors; however, the tutors bring new material all of the time, eager to share what has worked for each of them, that may also work for their fellow tutors.  This increasing collaboration promises to increase the effectiveness of classroom tutoring by enhancing the experience for the students utilizing these programs and erasing the stigma that once kept them from the service.

Approximately five years ago, 3CSN’s Learning Assistance Project, (a community of practice focused on raising the professional profile of post-secondary tutoring), produced an annual conference “Tutor Expo,” by and for tutors and other educators to showcase effective practices in tutoring, supplemental instruction, and a wide variety of learning assistance programs and services within the community colleges of California.  In 2016, under the direction and guidance of Mark Manasse, Mesa’s Instructional Learning Assistance Coordinator, Mesa tutors began attending this important conference for professional learning.  This year’s Tutor Expo will be taking place in Orange County at Santiago Canyon College, and a few of our gifted classroom tutors will be facilitating training sessions.

Classroom Tutors Jose Rojo and Ramzy Oncy, have teamed up to facilitate a training session on “A Growth Mindset.”  This session will focus on how students can be stagnated by a fixed mindset that traps them on a path of uncertainty or self-doubt.  However, adopting a growth mindset will allow students to overcome mistaken beliefs of limits on their abilities and expand their capacity and understanding across any variety of disciplines.

Classroom Tutor Cole McDaniel has paired with Writing Center Instructional Assistant Nicholas Crumpton (Niko) to facilitate “Johari Mountain Training.”  The Johari Mountain framework combines the knowledge categorization of the Johari Window with the timeline progression of the Zone of Proximal Development to create a model for comfortably guiding tutoring sessions in the realm of the uncomfortable. At the top of the mountain is the discovery zone, where tutor and tutee or teacher and student are interchangeable roles that help each other reach new heights.

Winter Mathletics 2018


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President Luster revisiting the ‘Basics!’

This winter, we piloted our second round of Mathletics to further support students as they go into their next math course. With the passing of AB 705, we felt that it was necessary to support those students who were in the gateway courses (e.g. Math 104, 116, and 119) as well as our pre-transfer students. In all, 38 students showed up to our 4 day program, varying from Beginning Algebra all the way to Applied Calculus. Our program this winter was a bit different; we cut down the 6 hour daily event (from summer) to a 4 hour daily event and reduced the amount of time allocated for speakers. We maintained the same structure for our process however: the first 30 minutes was an icebreaker or guest speaker followed by 90 minutes of math stations where each station had a specific topic.

Winter Mathletics 2018-4After a brief lunch break, we reconvened to continue our ALEKS program remediation. The students expressed some strong feelings, providing us with great feedback about our programs.  We caught up to Catherine Cannock from HSI Title III, who was able to conduct some interviews with students that participated in the Winter Mathletics.  She was able to share with us her perspective from Mathletics.  She described an atmosphere of high energy, collaboration, and inclusion.  When speaking to the students, she was told time and again how comfortable everyone felt regardless of their level of Math.  Sounds like the very values of Mesa College in action: Excellence and Equity.  We wrapped up by asking Catherine one of her own questions:  What was the best part of Mathletics for her?  This is what she had to say:

“I think the best thing about Mathletics is the team work and camaraderie that gets built between faculty, staff, and students.  You get a really good feeling, and actually, this is why students utilize the STEM Center.  Hands down, all I get (from students) all day, and MathleticsWinter Mathletics 2018-2 provided the same atmosphere for them.  It’s because when you come and you feel accepted and feel like you’re a part of something bigger and you’re working together to continue your growth, I think that was probably the best; the energy and the fact that you could tell that all of our students were engaged, and all of the faculty were engaged, and all of the staff were engaged, and really working together to kind of level out the playing field.” ~CC

Something new that we implemented this semester was that for our four days, our general topics across the board were expressions, equations, and graphing. The fourth day, however, we gave students practice exams. As this installment of Mathletics came to an end, we informed students that we would be offering weekly workshops:

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Please note our location change:  Workshops are being held in MS201.  We apologize for any inconvenience.  Hope to see you there!

Our goal for Summer Mathletics 2018 is to open the program up to all students at all class levels and obtain 80 participants.  The more we are able to grow this program, the greater the network for students in need of support for all levels of math.  If you participated in either of the prior Mathletics Programs, we invite you to share your suggestions with us.  If you just happen to be reading this and hearing about Mathletics for the first time, we would love to hear your ideas, too.  Reach out to Professor Juan U. Bernal:

What’s Happening in AVANZA?

So glad you asked:

AVANZA furn-4Pardon any mess or inconvenient closures of the center this semester!  Honestly, it is all with you, our students, in mind.  As some of you may recall, AVANZA has been a work in progress and it was always the plan to develop a student friendly space to meet your needs.  We’ve been updating the technology and now we are updating the physical space.  “Out with the old, and in with the new,”AVANZA furn-1 as they say.  We just received new furniture and in the coming months there will be some construction to complete the project.  As you can already see, we will have an amazing workshop room for our Campus Conexiones Speakers, Peer Navigator Workshops, and various other events.  As for the rest of the center, we have consciously opened up the space to allow for fabulous natural light and versatility for you to make yourself comfortable.  Be sure to take advantage of the suggestion box to let us know how else we can improve your AVANZA Center experience.

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We have a tentative schedule for the construction of the space below.  It is our goal to complete the AVANZA Center make-over by the end of the summer so that we will be fully functional and open for the fall semester.  We truly appreciate your patience, understanding, and flexibility.  If you haven’t done so already, please come by and check us out.

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