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Southwestern College Visits Universidad Autónoma de Baja California to Certify Academic Partnership

A Southwestern College delegation met with representatives from UABC at the university's Tijuana campus.
A Southwestern College delegation meets with representatives from UABC at the university’s Tijuana campus for a ceremonial signing to certify their partnership.

Southwestern College sent a delegation to visit Universidad Autónoma de Baja California’s (UABC) Tijuana campus on Thursday afternoon to sign a historic memorandum of understanding. The signing certified the collaboration and academic partnership between the two institutions of higher education. 

The partnership between both institutions will create academic opportunities for the region’s students, study abroad programs, and help support diversity and equity efforts at both institutions. The partnership will allow cohorts of low-income UABC students to attend Southwestern College and pay California in-state tuition rates. 

Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez called the historic partnership an incredible way to contribute to the academic, cultural, social and workforce development of the San Diego-Tijuana region.

“I believe this is the beginning of an amazing collaboration that will be a benefit to our binational communities,” Sanchez said. “This is significant in that our binational region represents a $250 billion dollar economy. Future jobs will require specialized skills usually obtained through a degree, certificate or credential. Therefore, for us to work together to educate our communities is critically important.”

Southwestern College’s delegation was welcomed by administrators from UABC and representatives from the City of Tijuana as well as UABC faculty, staff and students. Maestra Edith Montiel Ayala, vice president of UABC Tijuana, said the partnership with Southwestern College will allow both institutions to work together to create new opportunities for the region’s students.

Dr. Joel Pilco, director of binational and international programs, worked closely with UABC and its administrators to develop the partnership and visit and said it is a step forward to cultivating closer relations with our neighboring institutions along the border region. 

“This partnership expands our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in international education programs,” said Dr. Pilco “Southwestern College will work to create programs that link colleges and universities from both sides of the border, share knowledge, and build a workforce ready to meet the future’s demand.”

Southwestern College has been renewing its commitment to working with universities in Mexico, especially in the border region. Local economic reports indicate that the San Diego-Tijuana border region needs more investment in educational programs and opportunities for underserved students in California and Baja California. 

Southwestern College Clears $3.5 Million in Student Debt

A student walks through the Chula Vista campus with a jacaranda in bloom.

Southwestern College is clearing $3.5 million in student debt for more than 7,719 students using special federal grant money. 

Students who were enrolled from spring 2020 through spring 2022 will have all their outstanding tuition and related enrollment fees cleared. Holds for non-payment will be removed from this group of students’ accounts and students are encouraged to re-apply and register for the summer session and upcoming fall semester. 

Students looking to re-apply can apply at swccd.edu/apply and get help applying or registering with Southwestern College’s Outreach department and virtual lobby.

This is the second time Southwestern College has cleared student debt to help break down financial barriers students may have to their education. This past fall, Southwestern College cleared more than half a million dollars in student debt, bringing the total to more than $4 million in student debt discharge within the past year. 

“Southwestern College is transforming the way we support our students and their pathways to a higher education,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez. “Through this second round of debt discharge, we are working to remove the financial barriers students might have to a college education. We are creating a clear pathway to skill attainment for our students to ensure they are competitive for the quality jobs in San Diego County. Creating opportunities for our students to secure an amazing career and live a quality lifestyle is the Southwestern College mission.”

Southwestern College is clearing the student debt using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act), passed in March 2020. These funds are specifically tied to supporting students who have faced financial hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Southwestern College’s summer session has already begun, and a new batch of classes begins on June 13. The fall semester schedule is out now and students can browse upcoming online and in-person classes before priority registration begins on June 13. The fall semester begins on Aug. 22.

Southwestern College Mask Mandate Returns for Summer 2022

A student walks down the library stairs wearing a mask.

Southwestern College will reinstate its mask mandate for the 2022 summer session and the fall 2022 semester. Members of Southwestern College’s reopening committee looked at the rise in new local COVID-19 infection rates to reinstate the college’s mask mandate that was set to lift on June 6.

Masks will remain required in all indoor buildings and facilities at all Southwestern College campuses including the Higher Education Centers and the Crown Cove Aquatic Center.

Certain programs, such as performing arts and athletics, may be granted exemptions from wearing a mask. Vaccines remain required for Southwestern College students and employees and boosters are highly recommended for all. 

In the event new case infection rates experience a significant decline, Southwestern College may remove the face mask requirement in indoor spaces.  Southwestern College’s reopening committee will continue to review local case rates and update the district’s campus health guidelines based on current COVID-19 case metrics. In addition, Southwestern College has been working with local public health experts in obtaining input and feedback on our health and safety protocols.

According to local public health officials, wearing a mask and being fully vaccinated, including boosters, remain the best and safest ways to protect our community from COVID-19. Visit the San Diego County’s vaccine website to find a vaccine site near you.

Southwestern College Food Services to Accept SNAP/EBT Payments 

A student walks into the Tradewinds Cafe.
The Tradewinds Café on the Chula Vista campus.

Southwestern College will soon accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and EBT payments at its on-campus food services, Time Out Cafe and Tradewinds. Southwestern College will be the only college in the region to accept SNAP/EBT payments, formerly known as food stamps, for its district-run food services. 

The program will be rolled out over the summer with full implementation by the beginning of the fall 2022 semester. Students will be able to purchase food products using their SNAP/EBT benefits at the Time Out Cafe and Tradewinds and future district food services, like the cafeteria when it reopens. 

The process to accept SNAP/EBT payments was a two-year journey, led by Governing Board Member Leticia Cazares and Dr. Kelly Hall, assistant superintendent/vice president of business and financial affairs. 

“We have an obligation to do what we can to make sure all of our students have an affordable and nutritious meal when they come here to take classes,” Dr. Hall said. “It was an equity issue and I felt like we really need to make this work to help support our students.” 

Dr. Hall said student data showed that students were staying on campus an average of five to six hours a day.

“We all know that our students are not going to learn to their maximum potential if they’re hungry and they don’t have access to a nutritious meal,” Dr. Hall said. “For me, it was really important to be able to provide a nutritious and affordable meal because our students spend so much time on our campus. This is another way we can remove a roadblock to success that doesn’t need to be there.”

The SNAP/EBT system will be integrated into the college’s payment system, meaning that students will pay using their SNAP/EBT card in the exact same way as debit and or credit cards.

The district’s SNAP/EBT program is part of Southwestern College’s transformation of student services to include basic needs support, including SWC Cares, the Jag Kitchen, housing assistance, technology assistance and more. Students can learn more about basic needs services at the district’s SWC Cares website

SNAP is a government program that helps people buy food. It is the largest program working to fight hunger in America. For more information on SNAP and local food assistance programs, including how to apply, visit San Diego County’s website.

In-Person Commencement Returns to Southwestern College for Largest Ceremony Yet

A student participates in Commencement at DeVore Stadium.
A student participates in the 2019 Commencement, the last ceremony held in DeVore Stadium.
On May 27, Southwestern College will celebrate its graduates at its largest commencement ceremony yet. With in-person ceremonies on pause since the start of the pandemic, Southwestern College will hold two separate commencement ceremonies to make room for guests and celebrate the perseverance and hard work of more than 900 graduating students.
The Commencement ceremonies will take place at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Students and guests can view the 2022 commencement flyer for more information on on the ceremony, parking and more.
“The perseverance and hard work that we’ve witnessed from our students throughout the past two years is one we’re extremely proud of and happy to celebrate along with them,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez. “We look forward to seeing our graduates continue pursuing their educational journeys and launch their professional careers.”
During the ceremonies, Southwestern College will award two honorary degrees to Carmen Martinez, the last living founder of San Ysidro Health, and Manuel “Memo” Cavada, the legendary South Bay photographer.
Both ceremonies will also be live-streamed via Southwestern College’s YouTube channel here. For its two previous commencements, Southwestern College celebrated graduates and their families with a live stream and car parades.

Southwestern College Designated ‘Gold’ Military Friendly School

Student veteran Student veteran Michelle Odvina, US Navy, stands in the Veterans' Resource Center flag garden.
Student veteran Michelle Odvina, US Navy.

Southwestern College has again been designated a Military Friendly School for its service to student veterans and military-affiliated students. This year, for the first time ever, Southwestern College has been designated a “gold” award among large community colleges for 2022-2023 for exceeding the standards among Military Friendly Schools.

Methodology and criteria were determined and evaluated by an independent council of higher education and military professionals. The council reviewed the institution’s scores on student retention, graduation, job placement, degree advancement and financial aid for student veterans.

One of the veteran students served by Southwestern College is Michelle Odvina, who served in the U.S. Navy for five years and is one of the student workers in the Veterans Resource Center.

Odvina served as a hospital corpsman and worked in medical facilities, including trauma centers. During her time in the Navy, Odvina was selected as one of the top three corpsmen in her hospital when she was stationed in the Great Lakes. After her service, Odvina returned to her hometown to find her way after the Navy and pursue a career in nursing.

“Coming into civilian life, I was a little lost,” Odvina said. “Then I came to Southwestern College and I had never felt more supported. Right away, I was let know about all the resources available to me, and now as a work-study student in the Veterans’ Resource Center, I get to help other veterans who need that same support.”

Jonathan “JD” White said the special designation is thanks to the hard work of staff, students, faculty and administrators who work diligently to support veterans and military-affiliated students.

“Throughout the pandemic, Southwestern College was able to continue and expand our efforts bringing services and support to our students,” White said. “The dedication of our community to our veterans is a true testament to excellence in service.”

Southwestern College’s services for student veterans and military-affiliated students include dedicated student services through Veterans Services, specialized counselors, military benefits and financial aid professionals, and the Veterans Resource Center. Student veterans and military-affiliated students can learn more about Southwestern College’s veteran support and services at swccd.edu/veterans.


Southwestern College Updates Health Guidelines for Summer Session

An aerial shot of the Chula Vista campus.
Southwestern College’s Chula Vista campus core.

Due to the sharp decline of local COVID-19 infections in San Diego County, including Southwestern College’s service area, Southwestern College is updating health guidelines for the summer 2022 session. The updates were informed by the college’s reopening group after reviewing employee/student survey results, current federal/state/local guidelines, and case and vaccination metrics in the college’s service area.

Beginning June 6, the first day of summer session, masks will be strongly recommended, but no longer be required indoors. Students and employees will still be required to be fully vaccinated (two doses of Pfizer/Moderna, one dose of Johnson & Johnson) to access in-person learning and services. Booster shots will be highly recommended, not required. 

Current health guidelines, such as masks indoors, remain in place until the end of the spring semester.

According to local public health officials, wearing a mask and being fully vaccinated, including boosters, remain the best and safest way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19. Visit the San Diego County’s vaccine website to find a vaccine site near you. The college will continue to pursue partnerships to offer vaccines and boosters to students and employees.

Southwestern College leadership will continue to monitor local COVID-19 data and consult with local public health officials for the fall semester and beyond. If local case rates begin to surge, Southwestern College may reinstate previous health guidelines- including face masks in indoor spaces. 

Summer Health Guidelines

Graphic outlining Southwestern College's health guidelines for summer session. Mask and boosters will be highly recommended, not required.

Regular testing will no longer be required for students and employees who have an approved vaccine exemption with the district. Testing and additional health guidelines may be required for specialized programs, such as public health programs and athletics. Certain departments, such as Health Services, may still require masks.

Priority registration for summer 2022 will begin this Monday, April 25. Continuing students should check their registration date on MySWC. Open registration for the summer session begins May 6.

Although masks will no longer be required, masks are always welcome at all Southwestern College campuses and events. Southwestern College will continue to provide masks to students and employees. Upload of vaccination status and requests for exemption of vaccination remain in place.

Southwestern College Finalizes Election Districts

outline of the five nw voting districts
Southwestern College Trustees finalize maps for election districts throughout the college’s geographical region.

The Southwestern College Governing Board this week selected the final maps that will separate the college’s election areas into five distinct districts. The Board also selected the sequence in which the new district seats will be elected.

In a unanimous vote, the board selected Map B2 for the final election boundaries. Additionally the board unanimously approved trustee areas 1, 4 and 5 to be up for election in November, 2022. Trustee Areas 2 and 3 will be up for election in November, 2024.

“This is a huge step for us,” Governing Board President Roberto Alcantar said at the Monday meeting. “Community College trustee seats are launching pads for folks to go into bigger political careers. Making the seats more accessible where candidates no longer have to do massive campaigns will hopefully diversify our board. I’m proud for having made this happen.”

The final map selection was the result of work that began in August, 2021. Southwestern College students, employees and community members provided feedback all along the way through surveys and map preferences.

Four maps were examined based upon results of the 2020 Census. Each map was designed based upon the principles of districting: relatively equal size, compact, maintaining “communities of interest,” and following city/county/local government lines.

In the end, the governing board members chose a map that kept high school attendance areas as contiguous as possible, while meeting all the other key principles of districting principles.

The sequencing of seat elections was partially determined by terms that were currently expiring this year and in two years.

Trustees Don Dumas, Kirin Macapugay and Leticia Cazares’ at-large seats are up for election this year. They can choose to run to represent trustee areas 1, 4, or 5 if they live within area boundaries. Board President Roberto Alcantar and Trustee Griselda Delgado’s at-large seats are up for election in 2024. They can choose to run to represent one of the three trustee areas that are  open in 2022 or choose to serve the remainder of their term in an at-large capacity.

The final maps and sequencing must formally be approved by the California Community College Board of Governors. They are scheduled to meet on Monday, March 21


Demolition Begins on Mayan Hall

Demolition began on Mayan Hall on March 16. The venue has served as a hub for performing arts since its construction in 1969 and featured countless student performances and events. Mayan Hall was replaced with the new Performing Arts Center.

College Leaders Share Local and State Initiatives

SWC College President Dr. Mark Sanchez speaking with State Chancellor Eloy Oakley
Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez (L) discusses higher education priority questions with California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley.
Photo Credit: Mark R. Leopold

Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez and California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley teamed up recently to provide the community with a local and state higher education update.

In the first State of the District address made by Sanchez, the college president on Friday offered exciting highlights in academic and student programs that have persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic and he outlined expansions in other programs.

“Some of the most powerful images I have seen since re-opening are students and employees talking, laughing, engaging,” Sanchez told the audience at the Performing Arts Center and those watching the live-streamed version. “Our Jaguar community was ready to return. Everyone simply wanted the best in health and safety protocols.”

Over the course of the presentation, Sanchez discussed the college’s new programs in drone technology and cybersecurity, as well as highlighted the efforts of faculty to expand employer opportunities to connect with the district’s workforce development efforts.

Among the most rewarding highlights were the success stories of students at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility and others in the Restorative Justice program who have succeeded in earning degrees. Sanchez highlighted three graduates of the program: Maurice “Moe” Faulkner who graduated in 2019 with his Associate Degree for Transfer in business administration; Sean Khalifa, a 2021 graduate currently attending San Diego State University; and Jennifer Gomez, a 2020 graduate who graduated with her bachelor’s degree in political science from UC San Diego last fall.

Community Partnerships

Throughout his presentation, Sanchez highlighted the community partners who came together to assist students during the pandemic. The San Diego Food Bank distributed 1.2 million pounds of food during drive-through distributions at the college. The San Diego County Health Department, San Ysidro Health and Champions for Health provided, and continue to provide, community members with vaccines and boosters. District employees and departments, such as the Foundation and Food Services, distributed computers and food in the Jag Kitchen-To-Go to address technology gaps and food insecurity with students.

The district also continued its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion over the last two years by implementing specialized faculty training that advances equity, re-imagining College Police and seeking housing resources for students and staff.

Southwestern College applied for, and received, four planning grants totaling more than $600,000 to research the feasibility of building affordable, quality housing for students and staff at each of the college’s four campuses, Sanchez announced to the community.The college will begin recruiting stakeholders throughout the region to study living and learning hubs that will include cafeterias, child care and basic needs resources.

“Southwestern College being a partner in addressing a major societal issue–affordable, quality housing–is something that should make us very proud,” Sanchez said.

Housing would be a foundational step in two areas in which the college is wishing to expand–international and binational students and supporting current students.

A new full-time director of binational and international programs has already laid the groundwork with several Tijuana universities to allow cross-border student attendance. There are also plans to host a summit of university presidents on both sides of the border.

Group photos of Governing Board Members, Dr. Sanchez and Chancellor Oakley
Local and state leaders gather after State of the District presentation. (L-R) Governing Board Member Don Dumas, Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez, Governing Board Member Leticia Cazares, State Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley and Governing Board President Roberto Alcantar.
Photo Credit: Mark R. Leopold

Before introducing Chancellor Oakley, Sanchez wrapped up his comments with discussion of a new $600 million bond measure for the November 2022 ballot. Propositions R and Z have been successful in funding major construction projects at three of the college’s campuses. A new bond would expand these projects to include an expansion of the San Ysidro campus and help fund student and employee housing.

When Chancellor Oakley addressed the audience, he outlined three major priorities for community colleges and state legislators.

The first was increasing the funding available to community college students in Cal Grants. While enrollment in California community colleges far exceeds that in the University of California and California State University systems, community college students receive a fraction of the available Cal Grant funding.

Priority two was increasing diversity throughout the employee ranks of community colleges.

“I want diversity among faculty, staff and administrators so students see themselves in the classrooms, offices and hallways of all our community colleges,” Oakley said.

Finally, Oakley said he hoped to see more funding and resources to help colleges adopt new schedules and teaching methods that meet students’ changing needs.