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Southwestern College Honors Vets in Annual Ceremony

Veterans Ceremony GIF
Members of the San Diego 82nd Airborne Association Color Guard carry in the American Flag.

Southwestern students, faculty and employees gathered for the annual Veterans’ Day ceremony Thursday.

Held in the new venue of the Performing Arts Center Black Box theater because of the inclement weather, the enthusiasm was not dampened. For the first time, two students each received $500 scholarships from the San Diego 82nd Airborne Association. Army Maj. Luis Lopez presented the checks to student veterans Ruben Ramos and Kortney Baecker.

Speakers included Navy veteran Marc Colcleaser, who is the executive assistant to Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez, and former Southwestern College Governing Board Member and retired Army Sgt. Nick Aguilar.

Former Southwestern College Governing Board Member Nick Aguilar speaking at podium.
Former Southwestern College Governing Board Member and retired Army Sgt. Nick Aguilar served as keynote speaker at this year’s Veterans’ Day Ceremony.

The Southwestern College Concert Choir, Chamber Singers and Jazz Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of Prof. Tracy Burklund, performed “I Lift My Lamp,” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Spring Semester 2023 Student Vaccine and Mask Guidelines

Students walking and talking near Math & Science Building
Students heading to classes and hanging out at the Math & Science building.

When Southwestern College spring semester 2023 begins on Jan. 3, students will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination for in-person classes and services and masks will be optional indoors and outdoors, with a few exceptions outlined below.

Southwestern College leadership finalized the new guidelines this week after receiving extensive feedback from employee constituency groups and county medical health experts.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we are working diligently to normalize our operations,” said Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez. “We have improved our online services and will continue expanding opportunities to meet students’ educational needs, both in-person and online.”

Vaccine Mandate Ended

When the four-week January intersession begins Jan. 3, and continuing when the full spring semester begins Jan. 30, students will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination to attend in-person classes or access in-person services. We still highly recommend that students and community members receive the vaccine and new booster for their personal health protection. The college will work with local health providers to promote access to the vaccine, the bivalent booster and flu shots. For information on community vaccination sites, head to the San Diego County Vaccination Schedule webpage.

All managers and classified employees will now be in their offices five days a week, beginning Jan. 3. In addition to in-person support, we will continue to offer many of our student services virtually through our Cranium Cafe and Virtual Lobbies. We are currently updating our Help Center webpage to outline how to continue to access all of our student services.

Spring registration begins Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. To apply and register, head to www.swccd.edu/spring.

Face Masks Optional (Mostly)

Students’ use of face masks indoors and outdoors will be a personal and optional decision. There are a couple exceptions, however. Students accessing Student Health Services in building 62A-106 (next to Math & Science building), will still be required to wear masks indoors while accessing services.

Individual faculty members may also require masks in their in-person classes. Faculty must include that requirement in their class syllabus to alert students. Instances of students not complying with this requirement will be treated as a student code of conduct issue, following the process outlined in Administrative Procedure 5520.

Students enrolled in health-related courses where masks are required in professional settings will also continue to be required to wear masks in their classes.

Thank You for Your Resilience

This has been a challenging time for all of us, yet our Southwestern College students have been resilient and persevered to accomplish their educational goals. We will continue to find ways to meet students’ needs and support you on your journeys.

Southwestern College Receives Ambulance from AMR

EMTs, paramedics, Otay Mesa and college leadership cut ribbon in front of new ambulance donation.
Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez, Dean Silvia Cornejo, Governing Board Member Roberto Alcantar and AMR leaders cut ribbon on donated ambulance.

Representatives from AMR cut the ribbon and handed over the keys to a fully-equipped ambulance to Southwestern College’s EMT/paramedic program Wednesday. The van-style ambulance will serve as a hands-on educational resource and recruitment tool for new students interested in the field of emergency medicine.

“We are extremely grateful to AMR for this very generous gift,” said Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Mark Sanchez, “AMR has long been a great partner in our effort to produce top-notch EMTs and paramedics for the San Diego region, especially the South County. Their commitment to partnering with Southwestern College in educating the next generation of our workforce is truly valued.”

The ambulance, which is wrapped in an eye-catching design created by graphic arts students at Southwestern College, features an EKG monitor and defibrillator, an IV kit, a stretcher, a trauma kit to treat broken bones and stop bleeding and an airway kit to facilitate proper ventilation.

“Southwestern College has one of the oldest and largest training programs in the county,” said Claudia Rempel, government and community affairs and operations manager for AMR. “We’re pleased to once again be able to support their efforts to recruit and train the next generation of emergency medical professionals.”

Wednesday’s donation ceremony was the 20th anniversary of AMR’s first donation of a simulation ambulance to the college. At the time, it was the only simulation ambulance of its kind in the western United States, Rempel said. It is permanently mounted within one of the program’s classrooms.

Hands-On Training Makes a Difference

Program graduate Maria Mora, who is now employed as an EMT with AMR, said the hands-on resources were critical for her education.

“My favorite days in the program were the simulation days,” said Mora, who is also aspiring to be a physician’s assistant. “Loading and unloading the gurney and using the other equipment on the rigs were critical to my success.”

Mora is the kind of diverse student the program and AMR are looking to recruit.

“With this new ambulance, we’ll be able to take our training program to the next level,” said Jason Hums, director of the college’s paramedic and EMT programs. “And it will be especially useful as a recruiting tool as we seek to increase diversity in the field of emergency medical services to better represent the communities we serve.”

Governing Board President Roberto Alcantar agreed.

“Resources like this bring equity to our community,” Alcantar said. “In some of our communities, people are fearful of calling 911. With resources like this, we are teaching our students how to better serve our community.”

AMR has also provided financial incentives to a diverse student population with their Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship Program. Each year, the company offers 10 $1,000 scholarships, which can be used by students to offset the cost of tuition, and for books and uniforms.

All African Diaspora Education Summit in Ghana

attendees to diaspora conference in Ghana
The Southwestern College group attending the All African Diaspora Education Summit in Ghana reported life-changing experiences. Bottom row L-R: Brenna Leon Sandeford, Learning Communities Hub coordinator; Jordan Bear, student; Dr. Shaunte Griffith-Jackson, MSE professor; Ronnie Hands, director of student development; Mistura Adelekan, student.
Top row L-R: Louis Wright, UMOJA Learning Communities coordinator; Janelle Williams Melendrez, executive officer of Equity & Engagement; Ursula Morris Williams, interim supervisor, Admissions & Records; Laura Brooks, Language, Literature & Humanities professor.

A recent trip to Ghana provided a new perspective on Africa for San Diego County community college educators and students and ignited a push to highlight the important role that the continent and its people have made to the world.

“It was the experience of a lifetime,” said Michael Whyte, a San Diego City College student who was part of the group that attended the 2022 All African Diaspora Education Summit in Ghana. “It makes you look at everything differently. It puts everything in perspective.”

The summit was held at the University of Cape Coast, September 19-24, and representatives attended from all the community college districts in San Diego County–Grossmont-Cuyamaca, MiraCosta, Palomar, San Diego and Southwestern.

Ricky Shabazz, president of San Diego City College, said the summit grew out of previous trips to Africa sponsored by the African-American Male Education Network & Development organization (A2MEND), a statewide group of Black male community college administrators and faculty members. He said more than 300 people attended the Ghana conference, predominantly from California community colleges, but also from around the nation and the world.

Shabazz shared that a key goal of the conference was to discuss how to bring an African-centered education to the United States, setting aside an outdated view of a primitive culture. He hopes to develop partnerships with African universities so that students here can study abroad, and African students can study at San Diego’s community colleges.

“We need to define an education that tells the story from the lens of Africa,” said Shabazz. “Very often we get a colonized view of education that allows European groups to take credit for things like mathematics and physics and medicine, which has its origins in places like Ghana.”

For many of the participants, the most memorable event of the trip was a visit to the Cape Coast Castle and the Cape Coast Dungeons, where as many as 1,000 slaves were held at a time before being loaded onto ships and sold into bondage.

Sunita V. Cooke, superintendent/president of MiraCosta College, said the trip was a powerful reminder of the oppression that slaves suffered.

“The dehumanization of enslaved people and a history that begins with slavery denies the incredibly long and rich history of the African people,” said Cooke.

SWC conference attendees posing outside Kaum National Park.
During a break at the Diaspora conference, Southwestern College attendees hike in Kakum National Park. Bottom row L-R: Ursula Morris Williams, Jordan Bear, Brenna Leon Sandeford, Ronnie Hands. Top row L-R: Louis Wright, Dr. Shaunte Griffith-Jackson, Janelle Williams Melendrez, Dr. Jamal Gwathney.

Southwestern College Administrator Able to Fill in Gaps

Another notable event was a reception at a village in which the participants were welcomed home to Africa. Ronnie Hands, director of student development and health services at Southwestern College, said the ceremony changed his perspective on his identity as an African-American.

“Many African-Americans are detached from Africa. Many of us have filled in the gaps in our history and our everyday life,” shared Hands. “To feel welcome is an incredible feeling for many African-Americans.”

Carmelino Cruz, acting chief diversity officer at Palomar College, said the visit made him think more deeply about the challenges that Black people face.

“Even though I’m not white, I haven’t felt like a minority. I haven’t felt out of place. Now I do,” he said. “I can’t say I know what my African-American brothers and sisters feel, but it helps me to put it into perspective.”

Sam Rigby, who works with a program that aids former foster youth at Grossmont College, said that adding an African lens to education will better serve Black students.

“I’m excited and eager to learn how to incorporate what we learned and apply that to our A2MEND Charter and my everyday approach to serving students on our campus,” he said.

Whyte said the visit to Ghana made him appreciate the opportunities he has for his life here.

“It’s never too late. The sky is the limit. I don’t want to hear ‘I can’t do that,’” he said. “The people in Ghana are making things happen out of nothing.”

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.