Three classified staffers have been honored by the Governing Board as this year’s picks for an employee excellence award lauding behind-the-scenes workers key to Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges and the East County college district.
Grossmont College Administrative Assistant Janet Carter, Cuyamaca College Administrative Assistant Cheryl Alvarez, and District Instructional Design Technology Specialist Debbi Smith each received trophies and plaudits as the 2014 recipients of the Chancellor/Classified Senate Award.
“Our colleges and the district are indeed fortunate to have such excellent workers serving students and our community,” Chancellor Cindy L. Miles said. “Their contributions are valued beyond measure.”
Classified Senate President Yvette Macy said the awardees are dedicated to the universal mission of student success.
“The recipients clearly are deserving of such a prestigious award for the above and beyond they exhibit for this institution,” she said.
In addition to an engraved trophy, the non-instructional classified employees were awarded Barnes & Noble gift certificates and a lunch with Miles and Bill Garrett, president of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.
Gareth Davies-Morris, chair of Grossmont College’s Visual Arts & Humanities Department, nominated Carter for the award, describing her as an “incredibly efficient, hard-working woman who keeps the division’s wheels greased.”
Davies-Morris added that Carter’s remarkable organizational skills contribute to faculty morale and the college’s mission of student success. In addition to her efficiency and knack for details, Carter’s patience and pleasant demeanor have helped on stressful occasions, such as the time a full-time faculty member reduced her hours in the middle of the semester and three instructors had to be hired in a hurry.
“In situations where some might be prone to drama, she keeps a level head and an even keel,” Davies-Morris said.
As a liaison to the California School Employees Association, a member of numerous job screening committees, and a regular volunteer at graduation ceremonies, Carter has contributed much to the campus community. During her off-hours, she is active in a homeless ministry outreach program.
Carter was a certified court reporter and instructor in Illinois, whose previous career took her to Nigeria where she taught for two years before coming to Grossmont College in 2008. Along with working at the community college, she is finishing her associate degree in Behavioral Sciences.
“I consider it a great honor to receive the award,” she said. “The Arts, Languages and Communication division is full of wonderful faculty and staff members.”
Describing her administrative assistant as an “adroit professional of unlimited potential,” Kate Alder, dean of Career Technical Education at Cuyamaca College, said Alvarez was the first to come to mind when she heard about the employee award.
“Cheryl’s can-do attitude encourages everyone. She has an exceptional ability to anticipate other’s needs,” Alder said.
When faced with the challenge of setting up a new division office, Alvarez responded with her usual quiet efficiency, turning an empty office into a “well-oiled administrative machine,” Alder added.
Involved in numerous campus committees, Alvarez also is quick to help with setting up campus-wide activities, including the annual college and career fair, “Got Plans?,” which draws thousands of students and parents from the Grossmont Union High School District.
First hired in 1998 as a part-time clerical assistant, Alvarez describes her years at Cuyamaca College as rewarding and an unparalleled learning opportunity.
“I feel humbled and blessed to have received this award,” she said. “We’re a great team here, and no individual could have won this without the efforts of the whole. As my supervisor frequently says, ‘no one of us is as good as all of us.’ ”
An associate of arts graduate in General Education from Grossmont College, Alvarez is a strong believer in lifelong learning and continues to take classes at both Cuyamaca and Grossmont.
Called the “dream employee” by supervisor and Information Systems director Brian Nath, Smith is a repeat winner of the award recognizing the contributions of classified staff. In 1997, she earned the award as a technician running the Grossmont College computer lab at the East County Career Center near downtown El Cajon. Her introduction to the college came in 1990 as a student learning programming in the computer training center. After earning her Associate in Science with honors in 1991, she transferred to San Diego State University, where she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in vocational education in 2005.
Hired as a part-time programming tutor by Grossmont College in 1993, she began working in the district’s Information Systems office as a network specialist in 2004 before being promoted to her current position in 2011. Her duties include assisting the colleges with the instructional use of the college websites and providing tech support to Blackboard, a software program used for online instruction.
Nath said Smith’s patience, technical expertise and ability to explain technology in lay language have led to her being the go-to person for training workshops for faculty, staff and administrators on numerous tech programs. She is also a key member of the taskforce guiding the redesign of the college websites, which will be going online Dec. 18.
“Debbi has a calming effect on people stressed by technology, and I often hear positive comments from faculty and vendors because of her patience, ability to discern use-related issues and her positive attitude,” Nath said.
Smith credits her office coworkers for pitching in to help with the toughest tech problems.
“Nobody gets to a place like this alone,” she said. “I am grateful to the many mentors over the years who gave me encouragement and passed on their knowledge, and for my family who had dinner waiting when I was tired or needed to work late.”