Grossmont College art history professor Marion de Koning, and Administration of Justice instructor Shaun Donelson; Cuyamaca College English instructor Lauren Halsted and math instructor Terrie Nichols; and the district’s director of Campus and Parking Services Nicole Conklin will be presented with the John and Suanne Roueche Excellence Awards March 12 at a conference in San Francisco that drew community college representatives from across the nation.
The award is from the League for Innovation in the Community College, an international consortium of community colleges and their districts, and 160 corporate partners. Recipients are honored at special events at the League’s Innovations conference each spring.
The award, which was launched in 2012, is named after the president of the Roueche Graduate Center at National American University, and his wife, a senior lecturer in the department of Educational Administration at the University of Texas at Austin from 2000-2012. The two academic scholars – authors of dozens of books and hundreds of articles about community college leadership -- have partnered with the League for Innovation on numerous community college initiatives in the past 38 years.
“The inventive spirit and vision of the League for Innovation is reflected in this superlative team of community college leaders whose dedication and resourcefulness have contributed hugely to the success of our students and colleges,” said Cindy L. Miles, chancellor of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, and former chief operating officer for the League.
Marion de Koning
An art historian and a Grossmont College instructor for 18 years, Marion de Koning’s credentials as an art scholar are as impressive as her multilingual abilities. The Netherlands native emigrated to the United States in the mid-‘80s, earning her associate degree from Palomar College, her bachelor’s and master’s in art history from San Diego State University and her doctorate, also in art history, from the University of Southern California.
|Marion de Koning|
The Phi Beta Kappa member speaks English, Dutch, French, German and conversational Spanish.
De Koning, who received a Distinguished Faculty Award last fall at Grossmont College, is credited for her efforts to develop an associate degree for transfer in art history at Grossmont and is also lauded for her service as an honor society advisor, Study Abroad coordinator, Academic Senate officer, and her extensive committee work.
Now serving as chair of the Visual Arts and Humanities Department, de Koning’s career as an educator began in 1975 as an elementary school teacher in her native country and as a cultural guide for Study Abroad programs in Europe. Although she has a master’s degree from a teacher’s college in the Netherlands, she started her U.S. education as a community college student to gain writing proficiency.
The multifaceted lives and challenges faced by community college students continue to motivate her as an educator, said de Koning, who in 2010 received Grossmont College’s Excellence in Teaching Award.
“The impact I am able to have on them as an educator, in addition to the support of my colleagues and the strength of the arts program, are what have kept me here,” she said.
With 31 years in law enforcement, including 22 with the San Diego Police Department, Grossmont College Administration of Justice instructor Shaun Donelson engages his students and Police Academy cadets with real-world scenarios that are both thought-provoking and challenging.
During his career with the San Diego Police Department, Donelson received a dozen citations for exceptional service and performance as a police officer, detective, sergeant and training coordinator. He continues to receive plaudits in his second career at Grossmont, where he was lauded last fall with the adjunct Distinguished Faculty Award. A community college alum, he began as an instructor’s assistant at Grossmont College 25 years ago, eventually becoming the lead instructor for the police academy and later expanding his role as an adjunct AOJ faculty member.
Three years ago, Donelson began teaching an introductory AOJ course in the Freshman Academy, a Grossmont College program that provides mentoring, counseling and academic support to first-year students. In addition to learning the Freshman Academy’s unique approach to collaborative teaching, Donelson also took the time to do outreach to high schools students in underserved communities.
“I find Grossmont College to be a very nurturing, supportive and pleasing environment for both staff and students,” Donelson said. “My priority is my students and helping them understand that, with effort, they can accomplish anything.”
Cuyamaca College math instructor Terrie Nichols’ teaching innovations since her hiring in 1995 have set many remedial students on an accelerated path to successfully complete college-level math. The state awarded the college a $1.5 million Basic Skills Student Outcomes Transformation Grant a year ago, the result of a grant-writing effort led by Nichols. She was also instrumental in the award of a nearly $2.6 million grant to Cuyamaca College funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program.
“I have been on an unyielding quest to implement accelerated learning in math, English, and ESL at Cuyamaca,” she said last fall when she and English instructor Lauren Halsted were announced as co-winners of the Outstanding Faculty Member Award. “Before Cuyamaca College launched this effort to successfully get basic-skills students into college-level classes, the old approach to remediation frustrated many students because of the extra time it took for them to make any progress. Adopting new approaches like concurrent learning that allows students to enroll in college-level and remedial classes at the same time has proven to be a game-changer.”
Nichols is a passionate community college advocate because she experienced its life-changing effect firsthand. She said it’s because of Cuyamaca College that she is where she is today.
Divorced with two young boys and pregnant with her third, Nichols returned to school in her late 20s, enrolling at Cuyamaca College. With no job skills, she viewed Cuyamaca as an opportunity to improve her lot in life. The move proved transformational.
“A counselor placed me into an English class and an elementary algebra class that first semester,” she said. “While watching the instructor prove the quadratic formula in that basic skills math class, I fell in love with math and decided right then and there that I wanted to be a math teacher – and more specifically a math teacher at Cuyamaca College.”
So intent was Nichols on attaining her goal that after earning her bachelor’s and master’s in pure mathematics from San Diego State University, she took a job as a secretary, biding her time until a Cuyamaca teaching position became available.
“I refused to apply for a teaching job at another college,” she said. She was hired as a math professor in fall 1995.
Hired as an adjunct faculty member in 2005, English instructor Lauren Halsted became full-time in 2008, melding teaching with service on numerous committees.
Like Nichols in the math department, Halsted has been at the forefront of Cuyamaca’s accelerated learning initiatives since 2011. Her doctoral research, which showed that students were frustrated with traditional approaches to developmental education, sparked her interest in accelerated learning. Over the years, she has helped shepherd English acceleration by writing curricula, teaching the new classes, and leading training efforts in the English department.
Aspiring to become a writer and teacher, the Orange County native earned her bachelor’s in English from UC Santa Barbara and after a three-year writing stint at a surfing magazine and the Tahoe Daily Tribune, she returned to school for a master’s in English literature from San Francisco State University.
She moved to San Diego in 2005, becoming an adjunct instructor at several community colleges.
“I quickly fell in love with Cuyamaca because of the people here—our students and the faculty, staff, and administrative team,” said Halsted, who in 2011 earned her doctorate in education from San Diego State University’s Community College Leadership program. “It truly feels like a family here, and I am honored to work with such amazing people every day.”
As the Campus and Parking Services (CAPS) director since 2014, Nicole Conklin oversees the department at the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District that provides parking enforcement and services including safety escorts, room unlocks/locks, and lost-and-found at Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges.
Conklin, who worked as a planner for the city of Binghamton and an assistant director of capital projects at Binghamton University before her current job, sees her primary responsibility as ensuring that students and employees are safe and that visitors feel welcome to attend college events.
In the short time the Binghamton University alumna has been with the college district, Conklin has accomplished much, including developing innovative training for CAPS and other employees; implementing new technology to improve customer service; launching the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Council; improving auditing procedures to ensure compliance with state laws and regulations relating to parking enforcement; working with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department to improve campus safety; developing a Building Marshal Program to assist people during emergencies, and overseeing campus signage and parking lot improvements while reducing costs by bringing work in-house.
The 14 CAPS employees she supervises have been busy as well. In the past year, their work has included locking and unlocking the doors to more than 2,100 rooms, keeping track of more than 2,100 lost and found items, providing more than 850 safety escorts and jumping batteries for more than 280 vehicles. They’ve even had to handle or rescue more than 50 animals – everything from dogs to snakes to birds.
Conklin said she is grateful for the recognition of the Roueche Award, but the efficient operation of her department is a team effort.
“I am very fortunate to be part of such an incredible team of people,” she said. “They inspire me every day to become more innovative and successful. I could not be more proud to work at GCCCD.”