Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Three from Grossmont & Cuyamaca colleges recognized for excellence


A trio of faculty and staff from Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges are among the first recipients of a national award recognizing outstanding community college teaching and leadership.
Grossmont College geology instructor Gary Jacobson and health science lab technician Pat Murray  and Cuyamaca College counselor Donna Hajj are recipients of the John and Suanne Roueche Excellence Awards presented at a community colleges conference this week in Dallas, Texas. The inaugural award is from the League for Innovation in the Community College, an international consortium of more than 800 community colleges.
The award is named after John Roueche, president of the Roueche Graduate Center at National American University, and his wife, Suanne Roueche, president of the Assistance League of Austin, a philanthropic, non-profit organization. The pair has partnered with the League for Innovation on numerous community college initiatives for 35 years.
“Our district’s recipients of this new award exemplify the forward-thinking philosophy that the League for Innovation embraces,” said Cindy L. Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, and former chief operating officer for the League. “Our colleges are able to better prepare students for the future because of the ingenuity and dedication of faculty and staff like these three honorees.”

Gary Jacobson

Jacobson, who began teaching at Grossmont College as an adjunct instructor in 1985 before becoming full-time in 1989, is described by colleagues as a master teacher whose resourcefulness earned him the Distinguished Faculty Award at Grossmont College for the 2012-13 academic year.
“Gary is a superior lecturer (and) is just as resourceful tutoring one-on-one, in person or online, as he is lecturing in front of a packed, ‘smart-wired’ classroom,” a fellow instructor wrote in nominating him for the faculty award.
Also known for her resourcefulness is Murray, the lab technician, who tells a story about the time she mixed baby formula and brown paint to mimic the contents of a colostomy bag for a nursing class learning patient care.
Pat Murray
“The next day, it had fermented and really smelled bad – the teacher liked it because it helped her teach students how to deal with the emotions they may feel and the embarrassment of patients in that situation,” Murray said. “Simulations are an important part of my work because they allow for a safe environment for students to learn and sometimes make mistakes – better here than in a hospital with real patients.”
Murray, who began at Grossmont College as a nursing department secretary in 1999, said she loves the challenge of her current job providing the technical support in the high-tech patient simulator labs used by students and faculty in the college’s allied health programs.
In 2012, Murray was one of five statewide named as Classified Employees of the Year, the top award recognizing non-teaching workers in California’s  112 community colleges.

Donna Hajj

Hajj, who has worked at Cuyamaca College since 1989, has played a key role in streamlining advising services to students, with initiatives including an online counseling system.
At a time of sharp budget cuts, the college has had to find ways to serve more students despite counseling and support-staff reductions. For Hajj, now chair of the counseling department, that’s meant tackling such projects as designing and programming tutorials for online class registration, including one in Arabic for the college’s sizable refugee population.
A familiar face on many campus committees, Hajj is currently heading the launch of an online orientation and advising program for new students. Complemented by computerized assessments to determine course- level readiness, the new system is designed to make the enrollment and registration process more efficient.  
In recognition of her efforts, the college’s Academic Senate last fall presented Hajj the Outstanding Faculty Member Award of 2012.
In a video shown at the League for Innovations conference featuring the Roueche Excellence Award winners, Hajj said her favorite time of year is commencement, when the cheering and applauding of graduates serve as a reminder of the life-changing impact of community colleges.
“When I hear the screaming and yells and the air horns of families and friends as their students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, I am really inspired,” she said. “It keeps me excited, motivated and energized about what I do. And it helps me really want to get better.”