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Southwestern College Dedicates Institutional Technology Building

officials at the Institutional Technology Building ribbon cutting
Members of Southwestern College’s Institutional Technology team join Governing Board Member Roberto Alcantar and Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez for the official ribbon cutting dedication of the new building.

In a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday, Southwestern College leaders and partners dedicated the college’s newest building funded by Proposition R.

The 16,000-square-foot building will be the heartbeat of the college’s technology, bringing together the college’s information technology infrastructure and its related technology operations support.

“To me, our new building means ‘unity,'” said Institutional Technology Director Michael Davis. “Some IT team members were scattered in different offices across the Chula Vista campus. Now we’re under one roof and able to collaborate more effectively.”

The dedication of the building was meaningful in more ways than one. While it centralized all college institutional technology needs, its construction also allowed the demolition of the old building. That demolition will make way for a new instructional building that will also serve as the college’s new University Center at the front of the Chula Vista campus.

“Our University Center will create access to students who want to pursue four-year degrees that meet today’s workforce needs and are aligned with their personal and career goals,” said Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez.

Construction for the IT building cost $25.6 million and was funded by Proposition R, the $389 million bond measure approved by South County voters in 2008.

Southwestern College Awarded More than $6.8M National Science Foundation Grants

Students and faculty demonstrate the drone and technology
Ignacio Yanez-O’Hara (L), teaching assistant in drone technology and applications, demonstrates drone systems with students Fernando Camarena and Cynthia Marron.

Southwestern College has been awarded more than $6.8 million in grants from the National Science Foundation that, together, will help Southwestern College’s students enter the fields of STEM and drone technology, create transfer partnerships with top universities, improve equity and success rates in mathematics, create advanced certificate training for veterans and award scholarships to low-income students.

The six National Science Foundation grants are:

  • Mentored Pathways from Community College to Graduate School and Chemistry Careers ($3,230,840)
  • Math Persistence Through Inquiry and Equity ($1,016,000)
  • ALRISE Alliance – Accelerating Latino Representation in STEM Education ($667,000)
  • Advanced Technical Education, drone applications ($649,956)
  • Advanced Technical Education, veteran training ($273,591)
  • Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics ($1,032,315)

“These grants from the National Science Foundation show the caliber of STEM excellence at Southwestern College and the tremendous research and work being conducted by our faculty,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez. “These grants will create more pathways for our students to career opportunities in the region, STEM professionals of color, train future equity-minded professors, strengthen our transfer pathways and provide tremendous opportunities for the entire South County region of San Diego.”

Creating Career Opportunities

The Advanced Technical Education grant awards Southwestern College more than $600,000 to the School of Math, Science and Engineering with the mission to strengthen the educational opportunities and career pathways in drone technology and applications for Southwestern College students. The grant will help prepare students to enter the growing drone industry in the region and help meet the demand for trained drone pilots and operators.

“It’s always important for Southwestern College to stay a leader in programs and cutting-edge fields,” said Professor of Geographical Sciences Ken Yanow. “We are the principal center of higher education in South Bay, and we serve thousands of students. Drone technology, and its related applications, is a growing and rapidly changing field. In order for SWC to offer this type of program for our community, acquiring these types of grants is extraordinarily important.”

These types of National Science Foundation grants help support students like Fernando Camarena, Cynthia Marron and Ignacio Yanez-O’Hara. Each one of them enrolled in the Continuing Education department’s free drone technology certificate and now work as teaching assistants for the college’s drone technology program, co-taught by Yanow and Photography Professor Micajah Truitt.

“If you want to fly a drone, this program is a very good idea because they’ll teach you to do it right,” said Yanez-O’Hara, who is a small business owner and realtor who enrolled in the class to take drone photographs of his properties. “I wanted to do more continuing education and I wanted to learn new skills. I’m a realtor and drones are the present so I wanted to learn more and do my own drone commercial photography.”

Southwestern College’s Continuing Education department helps support the region’s workforce through free or low-cost career training. Camarena, Marron and Yanez-O’Hara each finished the drone certification program with their Federal Aviation Administration remote pilot certification, which allows them to fly the drones commercially and in some restricted zones.

“I have been flying drones for many years and I decided to take it to the next step and to take this more seriously,” said Camarena, a retired UPS driver who is now studying drone applications in agriculture, specifically Mexican farming. “Using drones in farming, farmers can first of all save money and help monitor their crops, but it can also help save the environment. Using drones instead of aircrafts means chemicals from airplanes won’t pollute the crops, our food, or nearby water.”

The grant will be used to develop new curriculum, purchase new equipment, professional development and help provide stipends for more student works and teaching assistants. Marron enrolled in the program to join her husband’s small business as a contractor who inspects power lines with drones for electricity companies in California. After a semester, Marron finished the program, which consists of two classes, and got her 107 certification.

“Ken and Micajah both love what they do and you can see the passion in their teaching,” she said. “They make you excited about what you are doing. Now as a teaching assistant, I get to help the next group of students and I get to continue to learn.”

Strengthening STEM Pathways

Students and faculty outline research shown at American Chemical Society conference
Professors David Hecht and Alexandra Hofler (left) with students from the Mentored Pathways Program Errys Frondarina and Christina Vialva (right) presenting research at the American Chemical Society’s spring conference.

Southwestern College’s Mentored Pathway Program provides a supported pathway for STEM students in the region to transfer to a four-year, explore graduate programs and enter STEM careers. Students in the program receive scholarships, personalized mentoring by Southwestern College faculty and workshops designed to enhance their STEM experience.

Professor of Chemistry David Hecht is the principal investigator for the Mentored Pathways from Community College to Graduate School and Chemistry Careers. The grant awarded more than $3.2 million to support the Mentored Pathways Program’s third year at Southwestern College and will continue to support scholarships and research internships for Southwestern College students.

“As of this semester, we have awarded approximately $800,000 in scholarships to over 100 students,” Hecht said. “Thirty three students have been selected for highly competitive research internships, and 38 students have transferred to various institutions, including San Diego State University, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley.”

The Mentored Pathways program is currently accepting applications through Nov. 30. Apply at https://tinyurl.com/mentoredpathways.

Closing Equity Gaps

The National Science Foundation awarded $667,000 to the School of Math, Science and Engineering through a sub-award with Arizona State University for the ALRISE Alliance – Accelerating Latino Representation in STEM Education grant. Mourad Mjahed, MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) Program director and principal investigator, said the grant will directly benefit students through internships, project-based learning and career pathways.

Another grant closing equity gaps is the  Math Persistence Through Inquiry and Equity (mPIE) that aims to improve persistence in gateway math classes through equity-based teaching practices. The grant of more than $1 million will be used to conduct educational research in math gateway classes (classes that prepare you for advanced STEM classes) and provide professional development to math instructors with the goal of improving student persistence and success rates.

Alexandra Hofler, chemistry professor, is one of the principal investigators and said the mPIE program will provide faculty with the tools to upgrade their teaching practices, creating more dynamic and equitable classrooms.

“Teaching chemistry at different schools across the county, I have seen first-hand the disparity in grades, retention and transfer rate due to socio-economic differences,” Hofler said. “STEM courses are already notorious for their difficulty. The additional barriers many of our students face means we are losing talented students every day.”

The remaining two grants will be used to provide career training to veterans and help them receive advanced certifications in the electronics manufacturing sector and will help fund scholarships for engineering students in the School of Math, Science and Engineering.

Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee Seeks to Fill Four Vacancies

glyphs grace the panels of the new Institutional Technology buildling
The Institutional Technology building will be dedicated in a grand opening celebration on Sept. 20.

Southwestern College is seeking applications for four vacancies on the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee—three community openings and a student opening.
The deadline to apply is Friday, Oct. 28.

Members of the committee are responsible for informing the public and the college’s Governing Board about the expenditure of bond proceeds for Propositions R and Z, review expenditures to ensure they are in alignment with voter-approved projects and providing an annual report summarizing the committee’s proceedings and activities.

The vacancies available are:
• Business Representative (2-year term)
• Senior Representative (2-year term)
• Foundation/Advisory Representative (2-year term)
• Student representative (1-year term)

The current Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee meets quarterly, with occasional interim meetings to discuss certain topics or make site visits.

Interested individuals are asked to fill out the committee’s application—available at http://www.swccd.edu/CBOC. All applications must be emailed no later than 5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 28. They must be emailed to Carmen Cortez in the office of Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Business & Financial Affairs, ccortez@swccd.edu.

All applications will be reviewed by college staff for a recommendation to the college superintendent/president. Applicants may also be asked to conduct an interview as part of the process. Final approval will be made by the Southwestern College Governing Board at the Nov. 14 meeting.

Since 2018, Southwestern College has completed construction on nearly $400 million in building projects. This year, the college will open the Institutional Technology building. Its construction allows for the demolition of its former building and, in its place, construction of Instructional Building One/University Center.

Your Guide to the Fall 2022 Semester

Graphic that says "Welcome Fall 2022"

We are just days away from the start of the fall 2022 semester. This semester, we will have half of our classes in person and half online. So whether you’re joining us on campus or virtually when classes begin on Aug. 22, use this guide to help you get started for the fall semester.


Double-Check Your Schedule

Before classes begin on Monday, take some time to double-check your class schedule. You may have already picked your classes a month or so ago, however, last-minute things may have changed like a room number or an instructor.

You can access your schedule on MySWC under the “WebAdvisor for Students” tab. Click on “Academic Profile” then “Class Schedule.”


Classes Are Still Available

Graphic that says "Online and In-Person Classes."

You have until this Monday, Aug. 22 to register for classes through MySWC, so you can spend the weekend looking for that one last class you need or checking to see if a class you wanted might have room.

Remember to check your schedule to see if it says a location like Chula Vista or National City or if it says “online.”


Actively Check Your MySWC Email

A graphic of the MySWC portal. Graphic displays a phone with a screenshot of the portal and text that says "My SWC – Your Portal to Southwestern College" and a link to my.swccd.edu.

Now more than ever, it is imperative that students actively check their MySWC email to learn more about in-person and online classes as well as important updates to the spring semester. Classes that are online should become activated on Canvas by the first day of classes.


Don’t Forget Your Masks

Reminder that our current health guidelines state that masks are required indoors at all campus buildings and facilities. View our full health and safety guidelines at SWC Returns.


New Chula Vista Map Available

The Chula Vista campus has a newly updated map to showcase our new buildings and certain closed-off sections. Take some time to review the new map before you come to campus next week.


Get help in person or online

Graphic that says "Virtual C

We know the start of the new semester comes with a bunch of questions, you can visit us in person or visit our virtual Welcome Center to get help with admissions, registration, counseling, financial aid and more.

Visionary Writer and Alumnus J. Michael Straczynski to Deliver Opening Day Keynote Speech

J. Michael Straczynski speaks at Southwestern College Foundation's 2019 Jaguar Awards.
J. Michael Straczynski speaks at Southwestern College Foundation’s 2019 Jaguar Awards.

Southwestern College alumnus and visionary writer J. Michael Straczynski will deliver the keynote speech at Southwestern College’s 2022 Opening Day. 

Straczynski is a Southwestern College alumnus, mentored by Professor Emeritus Bill Virchis, who created the groundbreaking science-fiction series “Babylon 5,” co-created the Netflix series “Sense8,” wrote a legendary run on “The Amazing Spider-Man” and wrote the screenplays for “Changeling” and Marvel Studios’ “Thor.” 

Straczynski was invited by Erica Johnson, foundation development coordinator, because of his tremendous impact on popular culture and his embodiment of Southwestern College’s impact on student success. 

“J. Michael Straczynski’s story is the epitome of what Southwestern College is about,” Johnson said. “As a young man who struggled in every way imaginable, the experiences and relationships at Southwestern played a key role in supporting him to grow his confidence, reach his potential, and make incredible contributions to the current zeitgeist. Having him as our Opening Day keynote speaker is an amazing opportunity for college employees to see a living, breathing example of how the work we do is deeply important in the lives of students, and that there is a ripple effect of good in both our immediate community and far beyond.”

This will be one of Straczynski’s many returns to Southwestern College. Most recently Straczynski returned to Southwestern College in 2019 to receive the Southwestern College Foundation’s Jaguar Award. In addition to his contributions to popular culture, Straczynski was awarded the Jaguar Award for his altruism toward Southwestern College programs and students, including supporting the Jag Kitchen Food Pantry and The Southwestern College Sun. 

Opening Day is a districtwide day of professional development, training and workshops for Southwestern College employees. Opening Day is not open to the public. 

Southwestern College Holding First Trustee Area Elections

Southwestern College will hold its first trustee-area elections this November for three newly established trustee election districts. On Nov. 8, voters in areas one, four and five will be able to vote for a board member to represent their respective districts.

Southwestern College’s Governing Board currently has an “at-large” election system, which means voters of the district’s entire service area elect members of the Governing Board. Transitioning to “trustee-area elections” means that voters who live in one of five districts will choose from board member candidates who also live in that area.

View the final trustee area map and a breakdown of each area’s communities on Southwestern College’s trustee election website. 

“By transitioning to trustee area elections, we are making representation on our governing board more reflective of our community by ensuring that there is representation from all areas of the district,” said Governing Board President Roberto Alcantar. “By establishing smaller districts candidates will need fewer resources to run, so hopefully this will encourage more community members to consider running for office and make elected office more attainable to a broader and diverse set of folks.”

The Southwestern College Governing Board voted in April 2019 to transition from at-large elections to trustee-area elections. Southwestern College contracted with Redistricting Partners to shape the Governing Board’s election areas into five distinct districts within Southwestern College’s service area, which includes the cities of Chula Vista, National City, Imperial Beach, Coronado, San Diego as well as many unincorporated communities. 

The final maps were approved in March in a unanimous vote from the Southwestern College Governing Board.

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 one, four or five 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.

Individuals interested in becoming a candidate for the Nov. 8, 2022 election must file with the San Diego Registrar of Voters between July 18 and Aug. 12. 

Successful Apprenticeship Readiness Program Expands to Southwestern College

Recent graduates of the construction apprenticeship program join local leaders at press conference.
Recent graduates of the construction apprenticeship readiness program join Southwestern College officials and partners from the construction trades at recent news conference.

Southwestern College will partner with the San Diego County Building & Construction Trades Council and the San Diego Workforce Partnership to expand its High Road Construction Apprenticeship Readiness Program to Southwestern College this fall semester.

This free program will prepare students for rewarding, well-paying careers in the construction industry. From its inception, the program has focused on opening opportunities for under-represented populations to enter apprenticeship programs and secure well-paying union construction jobs.

Students, especially those from non-traditional backgrounds, are encouraged to apply when the program begins this fall. More information will be announced as the application process becomes available.

“We’ve long worked to build programs that help our students thrive outside of traditional academic setting—and the Apprenticeship Readiness Program is exactly the kind of training that gives students real opportunity,” said Southwestern College Governing Board President Roberto Alcantar at a press conference announcing the partnership on Thursday.

Joining Southwestern College leaders to announce the partnership were local leaders representing the various trades and students who have successfully completed the readiness program.

“There are millions of jobs in the skilled trades, but millions of workers have never seen themselves in these jobs because they’ve never seen someone like them in these jobs,” said Carol Kim, business manager of the San Diego Building & Construction Trades. “Southwestern serves a diverse student population—nearly 90 percent students of color. On behalf of the member unions of the San Diego Building & Construction Trades, we can’t wait to welcome your students into rewarding careers as union workers.”

The 12-week program has successfully placed 97 percent of graduates into construction careers, including local union apprenticeships. More than 10,000 skilled workers are needed in coming years to meet the demand of construction projects in San Diego County.

Abigail Casteñeda was one of those successful graduates who found her way to the program during COVID. She said she had to quit her job and wanted a new opportunity to do something more fulfilling.

“Women are supported,” said Casteñeda, who is a member of IBEW Local 569.  “We have a sisterhood at the union. We all get together and talk about different things. I’m very happy.”

The program’s expansion to Southwestern College will help prepare more students for rewarding union careers in the skilled trades and meet local industry needs.

“Thanks to the partners who make this program possible, we’re able to offer this valuable experience at no cost to our students—meaning that our students can earn valuable experience and certifications they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford,” said Myesha Jackson, director of Continuing Education at Southwestern College.

Information on how to enroll in the Southwestern College program will be posted on the college’s Continuing Education webpage.

The Southwestern College Sun Wins Top National Awards

Southwestern College Sun journalists Camila Gonzalez, left, and Nicolette Monique Luna, right, with civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.

The Society of Professional Journalists has awarded the Southwestern College Sun two of its most prestigious awards, the first-ever Corbin Gwaltney Award—named in honor of the founder of The Chronicle of Higher Education—and the National Collegiate Newspaper of the Year. The Gwaltney Award includes a $5,000 cash prize.

The Sun, and its sister publication, El Sol Magazine, also racked up additional Society of Professional Journalists awards, including individual student awards for in-depth reporting and feature, column and sports writing. 

The Sun and El Sol were awarded for their work produced during the 2021 calendar year and included the team of top editors Julia Woock, Xiomara Villarreal-Gerardo, Camila Gonzalez and Nicolette Luna. 

“This championship is a tribute to the four young women who led the program in 2021 during a crisis and found a way to excel,” said Dr. Max Branscomb, adviser to the Sun and El Sol. “Julia, Xiomara, Camila and Nikki were remarkable because they managed everything remotely, without our lab, technology and equipment. It was frustrating and exhausting, but they were smart, creative and determined. They found a way to excel and inspired others to excel, too.”

The Sun competed in categories alongside other large schools including Harvard, UCLA, Columbia, Missouri, USC, Princeton and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State, among hundreds of others.

The Sun was also recently awarded Collegiate Newspaper of the Year by the National Newspaper Association. 

The judge’s comments were: “I wish I could give this entry First Place for (collegiate) general excellence and then submit it to the professional general excellence category because it is that good. The number of in-depth stories about not just college issues but community issues is incredible. So well done. Excellent! Simply excellent.”

County’s First Microenterprise Home Kitchen is Southwestern SBDC Client

Tres Fuegos Cocina owner and Southwestern College SBDC client Diana Tapiz is interviewed for TV news after she became San Diego County’s first microenterprise home kitchen operation (MEHKO).

The title of San Diego County’s first official microenterprise home kitchen operation (MEHKO) went to Diana Tapiz, owner of Tres Fuegos Cocina and client of the Small Business Development Center hosted at Southwestern College.

Southwestern College is home to the San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network lead center as well as the network’s South San Diego SBDC. Tapiz worked with one of the SBDC’s business advisors, Marisa Castaneda, to help launch, sustain and grow her small business.

Thank you so much for being there with us on such a monumental day for our business,” Tapiz said when Castaneda filmed Tapiz gaining her business’ MEHKO status. “The SBDC has played a huge role in our success.”

Tapiz described how she achieved the restaurant she dreamed of inside her home. She added how she’s grateful for the many SBDC resources available to her and to the county’s MEHKO program, which helped her launch her recipes to a larger audience. And she noted the MEHKO process is good for small business owners and good for San Diego.

Tapiz calls herself the “humbled business owner” of Tres Fuegos Cocina, and she happily shares how the SBDC helped her grow her business in many ways.

“It established goals for me to follow,” she said. “Going into the food business, I had no idea where to begin. I had no idea where to start. It was an amazing choice that I called (SBDC).”

A friend had told her about the SBDC, and Tapiz said she was lucky and grateful to meet Castaneda, who guided her through the process. 

Tres Fuegos started as a home-based business, but eventually expanded to work out of a commissary kitchen for a while. All the while Tapiz considered how best to handle the restaurant business and current environment.

“We wanted to see what people thought of our food, and it just boomed,” Tapiz said.

Tapiz has worked with her advisor, attended SBDC workshops and training series, gone through educational curricula, as well as managed the roller coaster of the pandemic — from business plans to relief funding.

“Don’t hesitate, call them,” Tapiz said of the SBDC. “They will help you. They will guide you. And they will give you a map for you to follow. I would have taken a longer time figuring that map out if I would not have come to you. And you’ve given me this beautiful map.”

Visit SDVISBDC.org to sign up for the San Diego & Imperial SBDC’s no-cost small business services including one-on-one advising, training workshops and resources. Plus learn about the college’s Center for Business Advancement, including the Women’s Business Center and small business government contracting support.

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.