Thoughts on the City College shooting from a former Express editor

Originally published Sept. 4, 2015 by

Photo courtesy Sac City Express.

Photo courtesy Sac City Express.

As I walked across campus today on my way from the parking garage to the cafeteria to get a bite to eat before my math class, something happened that I had never experienced in all the times I’d walked that very same path. I was stricken with the sadness of the major change that occurred less than 24 hours ago.

When the person who shot and killed a City College student took it into his own hands to get revenge or to prove a point or to do whatever it was he wished to accomplish, he probably didn’t realize the multitude of people he would affect in the coming minutes, hours, days, months and years.

As I walked around campus, there was a somber calmness in the air. Something just felt different. It didn’t help that today is Friday and very few people are on campus on Fridays, especially preceding a three-day weekend. I couldn’t tell if it was all in my head or if the people around me felt as down and depressed as I did about this situation.

I had trouble glancing in the direction of the area of campus where the altercation took place. I had trouble focusing in class. It’s going to be a long time before the wounds heal for those of us in my situation, but I mourn for the people close to the victims. They are faced with a lifetime of grief and sorrow, and all because of a senseless act of anger that happened to involve a weapon. My wounds will heal in the next couple of weeks, but for some people affected by this, theirs may never heal.

I’m going to avoid getting political because I want to focus my attention on the victims and their families. I also want to focus my attention on the friends, professors and acquaintances of the young man who lost his life as well as the other man who is lying in a hospital bed right now. However, I will say this: the gun violence has to stop. It is far too easy for people who don’t know how to be responsible with a weapon to get a hold of these things and this type of behavior happens far too often.

That’s all I’m going to say on that front, but I urge everyone reading this to do whatever they can to help change the gun laws in this country.

When I left campus, I walked out of the back door of the business building. This is only a few hundred feet from the crime scene. I shouldn’t even have to call it that.

As I turned in the direction of the parking structure, my back to the area where the shooting took place, it was as if a dark cloud hovered directly over the college grounds. Sacramento City College is a place of learning. It’s a place where people take refuge from the world outside and work to better themselves in hopes of one day securing a long-lasting and fulfilling career.

But on Thursday, it became another site where an argument among four people turned into something much worse. Even though this seems to be an isolated situation and not a random act of violence, it’s tough to walk the halls of the campus without feeling a sense of fear.

I have every confidence that the men and women of the Sacramento Police Department and/or the men and women of the Los Rios Police Department will apprehend the suspect and bring justice for the victims.

I applaud the efforts of my former colleagues on the Sac City Express, of which I was recently in charge, and I commend them for being fearless as they took to the campus and covered a difficult situation in the most sensitive and thorough way possible. If I were still on the paper, I would have been right there with them. It’s comforting to know that the newspaper is in good hands.

I also thank the student-journalists of American River College who worked diligently to cover the story as well. And of course, I thank the professional publications for their efforts in covering the story. Lastly, I thank the men and women on the police force, medical team and the men and women of City College who all worked quickly and efficiently in making sure no one else was harmed.

In closing, I’d just like to say that my thoughts and condolences go out to the family and friends of the victims of yesterday’s tragic incident. I hope we can use this experience to make the campus safer, find even better ways to respond if this type of thing ever occurs again (let’s hope it doesn’t) and, perhaps most importantly, I hope this continues to encourage folks to fight for change when it comes to gun control.

I always like to try and find the best in situations, and if nothing more comes out of this tragedy, I hope more Sacramentans will feel inspired to push for a better America.

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Meet Gideon

City College’s Aeronautics program uses Boeing 727 as learning tool

Originally published May 5, 2015 in Mainline magazine’s spring 2015 issue

Photo by Evan E. Duran.

Photo by Evan E. Duran.

On an unusually warm afternoon in February, students in the City College Aeronautics program trickle into the college’s hangar, located at McClellan Park Airfield — the former McClellan Air Force base — and begin tackling various activities, including rebuilding small plane engines.

Later, some students will work with City College’s Boeing 727 Gideon, located at the Sacramento Aerospace Museum, a part of McClellan Park Airfield.

As the sun glares down on the airfield, a few students open the hangar door — almost as large as the end of the hangar itself — letting in a large beam of sunlight.

Throughout the hangar sit approximately 12 small planes, a helicopter, which is painted burgundy with “City College Aeronautics Dept.” written in white letters on one side, diagnostic equipment and engines varying in size and shape.

In the classrooms that line the perimeter of the building, students prepare for upcoming certification testing after punching in for the evening.

According to Aeronautics adjunct assistant Professor Dan Madden, the program, which is one of City College’s vocational offerings, requires students to accumulate a set number of hours during their coursework.

At the end of the approximately two-year program, students must pass a test — consisting of verbal, written and hands-on components — to become FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)-certified. This, along with the accumulated work experience, verified by the clocked hours, allows students who complete the program to begin working entry-level positions in the field.

“In the industry right now, a lot of veterans are retiring — both for pilots and mechanics — and there will be a lot of openings for jobs coming in the next few years,” says Madden. “The airlines will be hurting for people, too.”

For students, being able to work on actual planes in a real work-like setting is an invaluable tool.

“It’s nice that everything that’s here has been donated,” says City College Aeronautics student Doug Stricker. “It says something about the school that people want to support it.”

Madden says he has worked for City College for about a year and that it was the donation of a Boeing 727 jet by FedEx on Feb. 22, 2013, that inspired him to pursue teaching.

Photo by Evan E. Duran.

Photo by Evan E. Duran.

After working on planes as a mechanic for about three years and working as a flight engineer and flying planes for about 16 years, Madden says the birth of his twins made him rethink his career because he wanted to be at home with his children.

“I was sitting at home on one of my days off and I saw the news when the 727 [was delivered], and I called up Phil Cypret (the department chair at the time) and I said, ‘Hey, you need an instructor? I’m pretty familiar with the plane,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, come on down,’ ” Madden recalls.

According to the Sac City Express, the Boeing 727 is named Gideon after the son of a member of the FedEx Memphis flight crew, as is the tradition for FedEx when it comes to naming its planes.

Madden explains that having the plane is great for students, but says it would be nice if the plane was still sitting behind the City College hangar, where it resided after its final flight, so they could start the engines and teach students the process of getting all the systems up and running.

He says he’d also like to be able to work on the engines, but because of the high costs of storing the plane, safety concerns and because of things like the high cost of fueling the plane, they are not able to do that.

“I can sit them down, but you know it’s not the real thing when you don’t do it,” says Madden. “You can simulate all day, but [actually] seeing it is a big difference.”

Across from the hangar is another building where later in the evening, students will attend lecture classes and work on book assignments.

In the biggest classroom of the hangar, groups and individuals — each in various stages of the program — are busy working on, among other projects, putting engines back together. The room consists of Madden’s class, where students are working on turbine engines, and another advanced class.

Being careful not to disturb students as they complete their tasks, Madden explains the purpose of some of the parts sitting on the work benches.

“They’re working on a turbine engine,” says Madden. “This is called a cam, the ignitor fuel happens in this. You can see where it got burned right here. That’s where you do your combustion with the fuel and air.”

Behind the hangar — just outside the large open door — Madden points out a finished version of the same engine his students have been working on, then he leads members of his class down to the Aerospace Museum to take a look inside Gideon.

According to City College Advanced Technology division Dean Donnetta Webb, the City College Aeronautics program has a rich history, not only on campus, but in the Sacramento area.

A Boeing 727 donated by FedEx in 2013 to the Sacramento City College aeronautics program is stationed at McClellan Park Airfield. Photo by Evan E. Duran.

A Boeing 727 donated by FedEx in 2013 to the Sacramento City College aeronautics program is stationed at McClellan Park Airfield. Photo by Evan E. Duran.

Webb says the program started in 1932 when aeronautical engineer Hilton F. Lusk — the namesake of the Lusk Center on campus — wanted to teach courses at Sacramento Junior College (the name of City College at the time). The college utilized the Sacramento Executive Airport to train students.

Webb explains that during World War II, City College’s aeronautics program was instrumental in working with military bases in the area in training many of the pilots who would fly in the war as well as the men and women who maintained the airplanes. The program also played a big role in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Today, City College’s aeronautics department averages about 130 students per semester, is the only one in the Los Rios district and is one of only 37 college aeronautics programs in the country certified by the FAA to offer air traffic control courses, according to Webb.

In fact, Webb says City College is one of only two colleges in California to offer these types of courses. Furthermore, City College is the only school in California to offer dispatcher certificates.

Webb also points out that the department offers more than just aeronautics.

“We have actually two distinct aspects to our aeronautics department,” Webb explains.

Photo by Evan E. Duran.

Photo by Evan E. Duran.

She clarifies that the term “aeronautics” refers to airplanes and power plants, meaning mechanical and maintenance. She says students who complete courses in this aspect of the field can work in jobs for airlines as airplane mechanics, but that the training can lend itself to other jobs because it teaches students about electronics, general engine repair, hydraulics and more.

“In the aviation side, which has to do with anything having to do with actual flight rather than the maintenance, we have our flight simulators [at McClellan]” says Webb.

Since the aviation program at City College is designed as a vocational program, Webb says, upon completion, students can jump right into a career in their field.

“Students who finish the air traffic control program are eligible to be interviewed by the FAA to go to the academy and to go forward into their on-the-job intern training as FAA employees,” says Webb. “For dispatch, you’ll find that the FAA will send out examiners who will examine students at the end of the course. It includes a knowledge examination with paper and pencil, and then there’s a practical exam where they have to prepare a plane for flight.”

Webb touts the success of the program.

“We had 24 students in the class this past summer,” says Webb, who explains the dispatch program is only offered in the summer. “We had 24 who [tested] for the knowledge and practical, and all 24 of them passed.”

Lastly, the department offers flight technology courses, which Webb says include all of the other basics that someone would need to become a pilot, air traffic controller or dispatcher.

Ben Bolin and John Stagg work on a turbine engine. Photo by Evan E. Duran.

Ben Bolin and John Stagg work on a turbine engine. Photo by Evan E. Duran.

Aeronautics Department Chair Larry Johnson and Professor Scott Miller teach several of these courses. Miller says in addition to traditional lecture and book studies, students in his courses work in a lab where they are able to experience air traffic control radar simulators and aircraft simulators, among other things.

Still, Miller says three or four of his courses utilize Gideon on a regular basis.

“[Having the 727 jet has] really brought a lot of the courses to life,” says Miller. “For example, in the aerodynamics course, we talk about how jet aircraft wings have a lot of moving [parts], and it’s one thing to show a PowerPoint presentation with pictures or maybe even look at a YouTube video, but to be able to actually look at it in 3D, on the actual level, makes it that much more valuable to the students. We’ve definitely seen an improvement in the retention of that information.”

Like any department at City College, aeronautics gets a great deal of equipment and supplies donated or paid for by grants. Webb says that level of support is essential to the program.

“One of the things that you’ll find is that they work on [the equipment], and by the time you’ve taken it apart and put it back together two or three times, it starts to wear out, so we’re always constantly looking [and] people do give us donations,” says Webb. “We’re getting ready to buy some additional equipment. We have grants, so we’re working on that.”

Sacramento Aerospace Museum. Photo by Evan E. Duran.

Sacramento Aerospace Museum. Photo by Evan E. Duran.

Donations like the FedEx Boeing 727 airplane are certainly a helpful tool for students and instructors in the aeronautics program at City College, but according to Webb, one thing is for sure. It’s the long-lasting impressions that make the efforts of the aeronautics department at City College a success.

“It’s amazing how many people know about Sac City aeronautics,” says Webb. “I didn’t know it when I came here. I will go on a plane some place [and someone will ask me], ‘Where are you going?’, ‘What do you do?’ and [I’ll say] I work at Sac City and [they’ll say], ‘Oh, I used to go to Sac City. I was in the aeronautics department.’ It’s amazing how many people [know about us].”

On what seems like just a tiny slice of the massive McClellan Park Airfield sits the Sacramento Aerospace Museum. The building is surrounded by several planes and helicopters — everything from crop dusters to military air vehicles — and among them sits Gideon.

Without a tree in sight, the massive 727 Boeing jet that delivered packages around the world in its previous life is now used for exploration and learning. Not only do the students of City College’s aeronautics program get to enjoy taking a walk through Gideon for the purposes of learning about the airplane, but it also serves as a centerpiece for museum-goers.

As students walk up into Gideon’s insides — a hollowed-out cargo area, void of seats, that was once used to house large shipments — Madden explains that the orange, cylindrical units to the right are the “black boxes” always talked about after plane crashes.

In the flight deck, two students scurry into the pilot and flight engineer seats as Madden sits behind them. He shows the students what many of the gizmos, gadgets and gears do as he explains the process of turning on the hydraulics system.

It’s at this moment that having the plane as a learning tool, as opposed to just reading about this information in books, truly comes to life for these students.

“To be able to see and touch and test everything on it is a huge advantage over simply reading about it,” says Lance Bickford, the aeronautics student sitting in the pilot’s seat who says he hopes to be a pilot one day. “It feels great to learn so much about the operations of aircraft. I think that our class will have an advantage over our competition in that we also know how to operate large aircraft, not just fix them.”

Though the plane is not able to be fully powered up, Madden instructs another student to turn on the jet’s Auxiliary Power Unit, sort of like one would in a car if listening to the radio without turning on the engine.

Instructor Dan Madden shows student Teresa Olguin how to start the APU system of the Boeing 727 at McClellan Park Airfield.

Instructor Dan Madden shows student Teresa Olguin how to start the APU system of the Boeing 727 at McClellan Park Airfield. Photo by Evan E. Duran.

“[This] was the first time I was personally able to turn on the 727’s APU system,” says City College aeronautics student Teresa Olguin, who says she hopes to become a commercial pilot in the future. “The last time I was in the flight deck I was sitting in the co-pilot’s seat and able to turn on some of the switches that a copilot would turn on and to run a fire check through all the engines. I feel like I am getting invaluable hands-on experience in addition to book learning.”

For students in the program, having instructors who actually worked in the field and can give real life accounts and information about the various aspects students are learning is an important part of the process.

“Dan Madden is a great professor,” says Bickford. “I feel like I can ask him anything about that 727 and he’ll be able to not just tell me about it, but show it to me, tell me how to change it out for a new one, and tell me the strengths and weaknesses of certain parts. I feel as though he genuinely cares about my future.”

It’s also vital to have learning tools like Gideon.

“The plane is definitely helpful to the program,” says Olguin. “As a mechanic you are not the one who is flying the plane, but you are the one who is fixing the plane that is potentially carrying hundreds of people. By having the plane as a study tool we are able to see how our work directly affects the plane and the pilot. This also helps make us much more aware of our job and the seriousness of it.”

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From students to staff: Coming full circle

Alumni explain their journeys back to City College

Originally published in the Dec. 9, 2014 print edition of the Sac City Express

Photo by Emily Foley

Photo by Emily Foley

For many, attending community college is a means to earn a degree in order to gain employment. For others, the “community” in community college means working with teachers who truly care about the future of their students in an effort to better themselves.

Not only did City College English professor and department chair Joshua Roberts experience the latter scenario, he decided to become one of those teachers. A self-described poor student leading up to his graduation from Kennedy High School, Roberts began attending City College in 1991.

“I was a horrible student in high school,” says Roberts. “[It wasn’t] because I wasn’t sharp enough, I was just a bad student. When I came here, I was pretty clueless as to what I wanted to do. I kind of took classes on and off for about five years, just enough to still be in school but not really.”

It was at that point that Roberts decided he wanted to become a teacher.

“It was the instructors here that really helped me learn how to be a student and focus myself and go after the things that I wanted,” says Roberts, who shares with his students that he attended City College and went through similar struggles as a way to help them feel like he knows what they’re going through. “I wanted to be able to give back and be able to help others the way people had helped me.”

After spending two years at City College on a quest for “academic renewal,” Roberts, who became a straight-A student, transferred to Sac State to pursue his career. He graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in English in May of 2001, and by September, he began a two-year internship teaching at Kennedy High School to earn his teaching credential through Sac State.

Roberts says he enjoyed being a student and wanted to earn more money, so he got his Master’s degree from Sac State in order to teach at the college level. After working at City College part time for a while beginning in 2005, a full-time position opened up and he got the job after the first interview.

Roberts, who also plays in a cover band and writes songs when he isn’t working, says he decided to teach at City College because it was such an important part of his journey. He adds that, aside from teaching high school, he has never considered working anywhere else.

However, Roberts says he may want to go into administration one day, but that his biggest enjoyment comes from getting through to struggling students.

“My passion and my love is in the classroom,” says Roberts. “As a teacher…you’re really working and pouring yourself into another person, so when you’re able to [help] the student who needs that and the student responds to that in a positive way, there’s just very few things that are more rewarding.”

Please click the jump to see the second portion of this feature article, which was a Q&A (compiled by Daniel Wilson) with other former students who now work for City College.

Continue reading

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Preserving the past

As its centennial approaches, City College honors its past

Originally published December 8, 2014 in Mainline magazine’s fall 2014 issue

With City College’s 100th birthday just over a year away, Mainline decided to highlight some of the ways the college preserves its history so that today’s campus community will know about where the college has been since its modest beginnings in 1916, as well as where the college is going in the 21st century.

Time capsules hold the wonders of the past


City College’s time capsules on the grounds of the campus. Photo by Penelope Kahn.

City College’s time capsules are located between Rodda North and South under the main walkway and in front of the Learning Resource Center. Ann Love, public services assistant in the SCC Foundation office, is responsible for collecting items for the capsules, which date back to 1927, a year after Sacramento Junior College opened to students at its current location.

“A lot of people don’t know that they’re buried under there,” says Love, who explained that she inherited the job of collecting time capsule items after a previous staff member retired.

Love says that the time capsule boxes are about the size of a shirt box. They are made of copper to
keep the elements from destroying the contents.

The main item in each capsule is a scroll signed by all of that year’s graduates. In recent years, Love said, the graduating students have also been adding comments or stories.

According to Love, in 2001, commemorative issues of The Sacramento Bee and other publications with stories about the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack were placed into the time capsules.

Other examples include news clippings about the election of President Obama, commemorative items such as key chains and other objects from campus events, items from the Student Associated Council, letters from the college president, budget and economy information from the time period, T-shirts, flash drives, discs and more.

Once all of the items are collected, they are put into an envelope, which is then sent to operations. From there, Operations Technician Karen Chewning is responsible for preparing the capsule for burial.

When Love began curating the time capsules, she recalls that she didn’t really know what types of objects to collect.

“I went online and researched what other people put in their time capsules, and it’s all the same,” says Love. “I try to go out to the community and get items with prices on them.”

Love and Chewning also shared that during World War II, because the government was preserving metals for the war, three capsules (1943-1945) were covered only in cement and those capsules have cement plaques instead of the brass ones on other years. It’s a mystery how — or if — those capsules have weathered the decades.

“Opening a case like that, we don’t know what the air might do to them,” says Love. “There may be nothing there.”

Currently, Love is looking at the possibility of opening the first capsule in 2016 to mark the college’s 100th birthday, though traditionally time capsules are opened after 100 years. Since the college was moved to its current location from its original site at Sacramento High, there are no 100-year old capsules.

“If they decide to open the 1927 one in 2016 for the 100-year anniversary, I imagine they’ll try to do a ceremonial type thing,” says Love.

Special Collections archive highlights campus history

Sac City History

Special Collections Librarian Caroline Harker shows off an old photo of City College. Photo by Penelope Kahn.

Students who venture up to the third floor of the Learning Resource Center might  notice a little room behind a door and windows straight from yesteryear.

Th at room is City College’s Special Collections archive, overseen by Special Collections Librarian Caroline Harker. According to Harker, not only is City College the only campus in the district with an archive collection, the door and windows were part of the original library building before it was torn down in July 1996 following a lengthy legal battle and replaced with the current LRC in October 1998.

The tables, chairs and bookshelves in the archive were also from the original library. Harker says the tables and
chairs were created by shop students in the 1930s or ‘40s.

“Because it was so historical, some people didn’t want [the old library building] torn down, but what I’m finding through the tapes is that people went through the old library and it was very leaky, it didn’t have the updated electrical for computers and things like that,” says Harker. “It would have been very expensive to upgrade the historical building, so they did eventually tear it down and built this beautiful [LRC] building.”

Harker explains that the archive houses all sorts of items from the nearly 100-year history of the college. Some of the items that can be viewed by visitors include photos dating back to the college’s construction; issues of the Express newspaper (originally called the Blotter and then the Pony Express), the Pioneer yearbook and Susurrus, the current literary journal; various Panther statues and memorabilia; a ball signed by longtime physical education Professor Jan High; plaques given to deans, and scrapbooks from ‘50s and ‘60s sororities, among many other historical items.

Currently underway is the conversion of all of the past Express newspapers for microfiche, Harker says. They are also being digitized so they can eventually be viewed by any student via the library’s computer system. This will ensure that students can enjoy these historical documents without damaging the original copies. This project will eventually  include the yearbooks and other student publications as well.

In addition, Harker is tirelessly working to manually convert the archive’s VHS collection to DVD.

She says this process is very labor-intensive and takes a lot of time, but she hopes to have the project completed by the 100-year anniversary.

“It’s a little bit challenging for me,” says Harker. “When I have volunteers, it’s a little bit helpful, but it’s still  challenging because I only work Thursdays and some Saturdays.”

She has also been working with the campus nursing department on donations of historical items to the archives.

“Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, the [nurses] would stay on campus,” says Harker. “They worked really hard, so it was a little less of a commuter college back then, had their studies here at school, and then they went out to do their hospital work.”

Harker explained that some of the more popular archive collections among students are the yearbooks and photos. One of the displays in the Special Collections room was set up by the previous archivist Pat Zuccaro, who retired in 2012 after serving as the Special Collections librarian since 1997.

Sac City History

Various items from the Sacramento City College Archives located on the 3rd floor of the Learning Resource Center. Photo by Penelope Kahn.

“I never touched it because it’s so beautiful. I think she did a nice job showing the historical items [and pictures] from the school,” Harker says.

Harker, who uses an Excel spreadsheet to inventory and easily locate all of the items in the Special Collections room, says that most students are interested in finding information about their parents or other family members who attended the college.

“I had [a student] who came in the other day asking about his grandfather, who had sadly passed away, but [the student] wanted to see his grandfather,” says Harker. “[His grandfather] had played, I think, basketball.”

For Harker, working as City College’s Special Collections librarian is a very satisfying experience because she gets to share the college’s deep history with students every day.

“[Students] are kind of more curious because this room isn’t open all the time, and they see it and there’s a display outside,” she says. “So a lot of times I have curious students, and I’m obviously really proud to show them and talk to them about the history of the school.”

Telling City College’s history in 100 everyday objects

Sac City History

A vintage camera in the Sacramento City College Archives located on the 3rd floor of the Learning Resource Center. Photo by Penelope Kahn.

In 2010 the BBC began a series of radio segments, books and online materials for the British Museum called “A History of the World in 100 Objects.” In the years since, BBC’s series has inspired several similar publications.

In 2012 Th e New York Times found 50 objects that defined the history of New York City, and in 2013 the Sacramento News & Review collected 25 objects that retold the history of the Sacramento area.

Now, City College anthropology professor and department head William Doonan is working on compiling 100 objects that tell the history of City College. He says he hopes to have the project completed in time for the  school’s 100-year anniversary in 2016. Doonan was inspired by the previous history compilations and says there are a couple of reasons why he feels it’s the perfect way to create a historical snapshot of the campus.

“The purpose of the project is partially to commemorate our history at our centennial, which is appropriate, but I’m also doing it in conjunction with the development office,” says Doonan. “They’re the ones that do scholarships and stuff, and they’re the ones who work with alumni, and they’re the ones that are doing a lot of public relations for
the college.”

Doonan’s project was also inspired by the 90th anniversary history project, which was compiled by several college faculty and staff members, as well as volunteers, in 2006. He says he wanted to do something to compliment that publication, but wanted to do it from an archaeological standpoint.

“Like any history, it will be incomplete,” says Doonan. “There’s no history that has everybody’s story in it, right? I know how people feel left out, so that’s why the more people that can contribute to the project, the better. So ideally it works best if we can get as much input as possible.”

According to Doonan, he and the development office are still trying to work out the details of how to distribute the 100 objects publication when it is complete, but one idea is to sell it and use the money for a scholarship fund to give back to students.

Doonan says he is working this semester to get input and collect objects for the project from various administrators, faculty, staff and departments, including Harker in Special Collections.

“It’s going way slower than I had hoped,” says Doonan. “I’ve sent out emails, I’ve sent out flyers to administrators, to faculty, to students. I’ve talked about it in all of my [six] classes.”

Doonan had hoped to have the collection done by the end of this semester so he could write it next semester, but he’s hoping now to have the collection done by the end of the spring 2015.

When the project is complete, Doonan says the publication will be focused mainly on the objects themselves.

“I don’t intend there to be a lot of writing in it because I think when people start picking something up if there’s something cool, you’re like, ‘Wow, what the hell is that?’” says Doonan. “There’s some great stuff around here, and if you just have a little bit of information about each one, [that’s sufficient].”

Doonan says that while some people don’t put a lot of emphasis on objects or physical items, they’re important and can tell a lot about a culture.

“I think that people think archaeology is all like past stuff , but it’s not — objects tell a different story,” says Doonan. “We’re attached to our objects in ways that are not often talked about. You know, go around campus now. Walk around the quad now versus walking around the quad 15 years ago. Everybody’s attached to a physical object because everybody’s busy staring at their phones right now. And that’s a way in which we are relating to physical things in a way that distracts us from other parts of the world.”

Doonan says that the objects humans use and value on a daily basis can tell a lot more about a society’s history than often realized.

“For good or for bad, the objects have meaning for us, and I think that’s an important story to tell,” says Doonan.

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City College Enrollment rules change

New requirements impact students’ priority registration status

Originally published in the Oct. 8, 2014 print edition of the Sac City Express

City College students speak to faculty in the Rodda Hall North building about registration and other important information. Photo By Emily Foley.

City College students speak to faculty in the Rodda Hall North building about registration and other important information. Photo By Emily Foley.

Community college has traditionally been a place of exploration and discovery when it comes to students finding what they want to do with their lives, but in today’s world that traditional institution is quickly changing because of new policies and rules coming down from government and district officials, including the loss of priority registration for some students.

Those policy changes can make getting a quality education, finishing one’s degree or transferring to an upper-division campus more difficult for some students. This is the case for Gavin Fielder, president of the City College Clubs and Events Board and mechanical engineering major.

According to City College Associate Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Debra Luff—in compliance with the Student Success Act of 2012 (SB 1456)—any student who is on academic or progress probation level two (and has too many W’s or a GPA lower than 2.0) or who has completed a total of 90 units within the Los Rios district will now lose priority registration and be switched to open enrollment.

In addition, first-time college students who enrolled in February 2014 or later are now required to complete a three-step process—which includes participating in an online orientation via D2L, taking assessment tests for placement into English and mathematics, and meeting with a counselor to create an individual student education plan (iSEP)—to qualify for priority registration.

These students will continue to be required to work their way up through priority levels, said Admissions and Records Supervisor Kim Goff, but unless they complete all three steps, they will not be eligible for priority registration.

Students pursuing high-unit majors can appeal each semester to keep priority registration, which is what Fielder said he had to do. He also had to set up an iSEP to show that he is on track to completing his educational goals in a timely manner.

“I’m definitely not a normal student,” said Fielder. “I’ve actually changed my major five times. I didn’t really come in knowing what I wanted to do. I kind of fooled around a lot. In addition to all the classes took before that weren’t really relevant [to my current major], I now have a lot of units to go.”

Luff said that students affected by these changes will be notified via their Los Rios email accounts. She added that the college is working to make sure everyone is aware of the new policies.

“[We’re] following up with phone call and emails and trying to get it in Facebook and all those social media avenues that we have,” said Luff.

There are a few other rules when it comes to the 90-unit cap priority registration policy, but according to Goff, there are several options for students who find themselves in this situation.

Any classes below the 100 level are not counted as part of the 90 units completed, Goff said. If a student is one semester away from graduating or transferring, he or she can appeal to keep priority registration. If student is on academic or progress probation, he or she will have to petition and show that progress is being made toward bringing up his or her GPA.

Goff said that this policy change is about helping new students approach college in a way that will help them meet their educational goals faster and more efficiently.

“It’s really about being successful and getting students to their goals,” said Goff. “There really aren’t that many students, district wide, who are over 90 units. We have some community members who are just taking one class, [such as] a P.E. class, and so the enrollment priority isn’t that important to them. There aren’t really a lot of students that fall into that category.”

However, when it comes to students who have not yet completed all three Steps to Success requirements, Goff says that number is much higher.

Goff said there are 3,500 new students this year and of those, approximately 1,400 haven’t completed all three steps. If they don’t complete the process by Nov. 1, those students will lose priority registration this semester for spring classes.

Though Goff said there are only a few hundred students across the district that fall into the 90 unit or more category who are also not close to transfer or graduation and who are not in high unit majors, she said that some students will be left to network for themselves when it comes to getting into classes they need.

“People are going to be stuck,” Goff said. “It’s not a widespread issue, but, of course, to the person who that happens to, it’s a really important issue. That’s the time when being an experienced student pays off when you can advocate for yourself and talk to instructors and email instructors and [try to get those classes].”

Paulina Chordas, communications major, who said she thinks the 90-unit cap will affect her, said this new policy is something that shouldn’t apply to long-time students.

“I changed my major from animal science to communications, so obviously a lot of things didn’t overlap,” said Chordas. “I still have a lot of things to get done before I transfer. I think [the unit cap policy] is kind of dumb considering that we’re so close to getting there. If we didn’t have a chance to do the [three-step process] when we started here, then you shouldn’t have that rule apply to us.”

These new policies not only have a direct effect on students who will have trouble enrolling in required classes, but also for Fielder, it has completely changed the way community college operates.

“I think they’re missing the point entirely: Community college isn’t about milling out students for transfer,” said Fielder. “It’s here for everyone, and it’s supposed to be open access, [but] they’re completely shooting that in the foot.”

Luff said that it comes down to a change in the role community colleges play in the educational process.

“It’s a cultural shift—it really is, for community college,” said Luff. “People need to plan to go to community college just as you would a UC or a private university, and that’s the message we would like to get out. There are steps that they need to go through as part of that planning and we’re trying to lay it out so that it makes it really convenient.”

But for Fielder, it’s not about changing one’s outlook as much as it is about the struggle between government regulations and what’s best for students, faculty and staff.

“I sit on a lot of different committees and there’s a lot of different opinions going around, but I think a lot of the faculty here want it to be open access, and they want it to be free and open to students, so I think our institution is not completely leaning toward this being a two-year transfer institution,” said Fielder. “That’s obviously the direction of the federal government and the regulations coming down from above, but that’s not necessarily our feeling on it.”

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District-wide parking fee increase

Daily parking fees double; more increases expected in 2015

Originally published in the Sept. 9, 2014 print edition of the Sac City Express

Sign Language major, Elizabeth says "It's not fair," about the increase price for parking at City College. Photo by Emily Foley.

Sign Language major, Elizabeth says “It’s not fair,” about the increase price for parking at City College. Photo by Emily Foley.

Los Rios students who drive to campus and pay to park in the student parking areas were greeted with a fee increase over the summer as the Los Rios Community College District raised the daily parking permit fee from $1 to $2 at all four campuses.

The increase took effect July 1 and will be accompanied by increases to monthly passes beginning next year. According to district Associate Vice Chancellor of Communications and Media Relations Mitchel Benson, the decision to raise the fees was made at a May 14 district Board of Trustees meeting.

City College Business Services Supervisor Robert Heidt said this is the first increase to parking fees since 1997, when the daily fee went from 75 cents to $1.

“Historically, Los Rios has been very prudent with increases to optional fees, including student parking permits,” said Heidt.

Benson explained that the main reason for the increase was to help maintain the parking structures and lots. Benson said there are more parking structures throughout the district and more to maintain than ever before.

“The increase was imposed because of the fact that the associated cost of operating and maintaining campus parking has increased dramatically since ’97, and there hasn’t been an increase to go along with that in that time frame,” said Benson. “So it was determined that an increase was needed.”

City College student Brandon Treadwell, business major, said he understands the importance of maintaining parking facilities, but he questioned the timing of the increase.

“Well, we have to keep the structures in good condition, but, on the other hand, it’s a brand new structure, so it’s kind of odd that we’re having to increase now instead of when they were first building it,” said Treadwell.

Benson pointed out that in addition to maintaining painted traffic lines, pavement and the daily operation of the parking areas, the parking fees also support campus police employees.

“The money goes to the folks who monitor the parking lots,” said Benson. “It’s for the folks who look out for student safety. It cannot be used for anything else.”

According to Benson, starting in January, semester parking passes for automobiles and motorcycles, which are recognized across all four campuses, will also increase in price by $5.

Semester automobile passes will increase from $30 to $35 and motorcycle passes from $15 to $20. Students who qualify for the BOG fee waiver will continue to receive a discount on rates for the passes. In June, summer passes will increase from $15 to $20 for automobiles and from $8 to $10 for motorcycles.

In comparison, according to Sac State’s official website, parking fees are currently $165 for an automobile per semester and $41 for motorcycles. In the summer, Sac State students pay $110 for automobiles and $28 for motorcycles. Weekly passes run $11 and daily passes are $6.

City College student Edgar Lozano, architecture major, said that he doesn’t think an increase in parking fees is fair to students.

“I think that it’s not okay for them to raise the fees because people have a hard time already paying for parking,” said Lozano. “It’s not fair that people have to pay more. I thought $1 was expensive already. I’m going to think twice to drive my car. I’m going to take light rail.”

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New building on schedule for completion

Student Services, photography, journalism building to debut summer 2015

Originally published in the May 6, 2014 print edition of the Sac City Express

City College's new Student Services building nears completion and is set to open in 2015. Photo by Gabrielle Smith | Staff Photographer |

City College’s new Student Services building nears completion and is set to open in 2015. Photo by Gabrielle Smith | Staff Photographer |

In June 2013, a vintage City College building, known to students as the Student Services and Administration of Justice building, was torn down and a construction project to create a new student services building began.

According to City College Vice President of Administrative Services Robert Martinelli, the new two-story building, which will include 16,000 square feet of usable space, doubles the space of the original building, and is on schedule to meet its February 2015 completion goal, partly thanks to California’s recent dry weather.

“To California’s chagrin, we’ve had a very dry winter, so [the construction crew] didn’t use many weather days at all during the course of the winter,” said Martinelli. “We’re still working on our plan to move into the building, but basically, it’ll be ready for summer of 2015 in terms of a semester.”

The new building will house Student Services on the first floor and the top floor will be the new home of the photography and journalism departments, according to Martinelli.

In addition to the new building’s construction, the Lusk building is also undergoing a construction phase, also due to be completed in 2015. Following that, a revision, which Martinelli says is currently in design, to Rodda Hall North will be the next project.

“Rodda Hall’s third floor currently houses photography and electronics,” said Martinelli. “So when journalism and photography go to the new building, electronics is going to Lusk 11. Then we’ll be able to get in and do the Rodda North project.”

The next projects on tap, according to Martinelli, are renovations of the Mohr Hall and Lillard Hall buildings. But Martinelli said these projects are held up because of a lack of funding.

“Those projects are dependent upon 50 percent, roughly, funding from the state,” said Martinelli. “Because of the budget crisis, the state hasn’t had a facility bond measure for several years. The next opportunity will be the fall of 2016.”

Martinelli said pending whether a measure for funding passes in 2016 or not, these projects would need to be reevaluated.

“What it would likely mean is we pull local money up to the Mohr project and fully fund that with local bond money,” said Martinelli. “That puts those later projects in kind of a precarious position. That’s the action point that we’re waiting on, the state bond and what is going to happen.”

The next phase of the project, following Mohr and Lillard’s facelifts, which are both scheduled regardless of where funding will come from, would be to expand the West Sacramento and Davis outreach centers, Martinelli said.

For now, the focus is on the new student services building. Vice President of Student Services Michael Poindexter said that before the building began construction, student, faculty and staff opinions were taken into consideration in an effort to make an easier, more streamlined process for new and existing City College students.

From this feedback, the college began looking at how to best combine the offices into a space that would make them more easily navigable.

“The building is being built based on information we received from students and pulling those pieces together to make sure that we have a welcoming front door for students that will be entering into the institution,” said Poindexter. “We’re really looking at the first floor of that building being the front door to the institution.”

Poindexter added that he feels the building’s design will cut down on student confusion and large crowds, especially during the first few weeks of the semesters and that overall, the new setup will provide better “customer service” to the students.

“I’m excited about it,” said Poindexter. “We’re going to have more of a welcoming feeling. We want a feeling as close as we can get, like a feeling when you walk into the Apple store. We’re going to have people available to talk with you as you enter into the building. There will be a reception area that students can stop in before getting into a line.”

Photography Professor Paul Estabrook got a chance to take an inside tour of the new building recently and said he’s excited to move into the new space soon.

Estabrook said in terms of construction, the best part is the openness of the building.

“The building is just great,” said Estabrook. “One thing across the board that people are going to be really excited about, it has a completely different feel than any other building on campus because when you walk in the front door, you can look up into photo journalism and [see examples of ] photography. Then on the second floor, you get this really unique perspective of the first floor, plus the campus because that whole front area is just glass.”

Estabrook shared Poindexter’s sentiments that the new building will be welcoming for students.

“It’s very warm, very inviting,” said Estabrook. “It seems like it’s going to be busting with activity. I wish it was done, ya know? I think journalism especially is looking forward to this because they’ve been in a temporary [building]. They’ve been camping out behind the baseball field for way too many years now.”

Additional reporting by Will Ownbey.

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Retiring class of 2014 bids farewell

Outgoing faculty and staff members honored with retirement reception

Originally published in the May 6, 2014 print edition of the Sac City Express

The retiring faculty and staff members for 2014 were honored at a retirement reception April 30 at City College.

During the event, all outgoing staff and faculty members were congratulated on their retirements, according to the official flyer for the event.

Among the retirees was Admissions and Records evaluator Rosie Vevea, who said that while she will miss the people and students of City College, she’s looking forward to hitting the open road to see America in her motorhome.

“I can’t wait to get out and relax,” said Vevea. “[I want to be remembered] as a hard worker and sweet woman.”

Also honored at the ceremony, Coordinator of the Learning Skills and Tutoring Center Kakwasi Somadhi said she will miss interacting with students and wants to be remembered as, “someone who loved her job and performed it well.”

Somadhi added that despite missing her daily work, she is excited for the future.

“I am looking forward to the freedom being retired brings,” said Somadhi. “I plan to spend my time writing, traveling, and being active in the community.”

For a full list of retirees, see below.

Robert N. Bickley • Robert J. Martinelli
• Elizabeth A Chape • Margaret McLaughlin-Jordan
• Richard J. Erlich • Harry E. Outlaw
• George R. Fleming • Donald T. Silva
• Gloria M. Galloway • Kit Sodergren
• Virginia G. Gessford • Kakwasi Somadhi
• Charlotte Humphries • Sharon D. Terry
• John A. James • Rosie Vevea
• Anna L. Joy • Sandra K. Warmington
• Gloria M. Lopez • Marlene R. Watson
• Karen L. Lukenbill • Niefia R. Zupancic
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Put down the pen, pick up a gamepad

The latest and greatest video games to play over spring break

Originally published in the April 10, 2014 print edition of the Sac City Express

Graphic courtesy Sac City Express

Graphic courtesy Sac City Express

 If there’s one thing that’s for sure in life, it’s that being a video gamer and a college student is a tough combination to juggle.

It’s hard enough trying to find time for any hobbies while slaving over stacks of paper, reading endless pages of textbook goodness, studying all night long for tests and quizzes and trying to stay awake through all those hours of lectures, but free time to play video games? What’s that?

Luckily, spring break is coming up and it’s an exciting time because that shiny new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 actually have some games coming out to play. The recently released “Infamous: Second Son” for PS4, “TitanFall” for Xbox One, and the multi-console “Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes” are sure to keep gamers busy during this year’s break from classes.

In addition, “Thief” for current and next generation systems recently began pick-pocketing gamers, and “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2,” “Dark Souls II” and “South Park: The Stick of Truth” hit current generation consoles over the last couple of months.

As for new releases over the seven glorious days of freedom, according to, “Lego: The Hobbit” turns Bilbo Baggins into a mini- figure, Elder Scrolls Online finally drops on PC, “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn” brings the legendary series to the realm of MMORPG and Red Lynx Studios’ critically acclaimed series “Trials” comes to PlayStation with “Trials Fusion,” which will also release for PC and Xbox One.

For those gamers who are into motion gaming, Xbox One serves up “Kinect Sports Rivals” in time for spring break. While the picking is a little bit slim for the handhelds and Nintendo’s home console, the Wii U, gamers who haven’t picked up “Super Mario 3D World” yet owe it to themselves to play one of 2013’s biggest games.

In fact, picking up a Wii U is a good idea if nothing on the other consoles jumps out as must-play right now because in May, “Mario Kart 8” hits store shelves and a new “Smash Bros.” game is slated for release later this year.

Whether it’s a new release that has City College students firing up their consoles or PCs this spring break, or if they’re setting out to tackle that backlog of recent games that college classes have kept gamers from playing, there’s plenty of rest, relaxation and 12-hour button mashing marathons to be had during this year’s week away from campus.

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Learning to love life

Former SCC student with terminal illness speaks to Death and Dying class

Originally published in the March 25, 2014 print edition of the Sac City Express

Former City College student Cathy Speck speaks to professor Joanne Moylan-Aube's Psychology of Death and Dying class March 10 about her struggles with ALS. Photo by Elizabeth Ramirez.

Former City College student Cathy Speck speaks to professor Joanne Moylan-Aube’s Psychology of Death and Dying class March 10 about her struggles with ALS. Photo by Elizabeth Ramirez.

Legendary Yankees player Lou Gehrig is not only known for his triumphs as an all-time great first baseman, but also as a pioneer in raising awareness for the terminal disease that killed him in 1941.

“I might have had a tough break, but I have an awful lot to live for,” said Lou Gehrig in 1939 during his goodbye speech at Yankees Stadium, explaining that even though his disease stopped him from playing baseball, he didn’t let it stop his love for life.

Lou Gehrig’s disease—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)–is a disease that gradually kills the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which control the muscles all over the body, eventually making it hard or impossible to walk, talk, eat, swallow or breathe. Most people diagnosed with the disease die within 3-5 years after the onset of symptoms, but in rare cases, people can live for much longer.

Cathy Speck, 54, is a former City College student diagnosed with ALS in 2009 who lives by a mantra similar to Gehrig’s. Speck says she believes that learning about the ability to cope with the loss of loved ones through humor gave her a completely new lease on life.

Speck spoke to City College Professor Joanne Moylan-Aube’s Psychology of Death and Dying classes March 10, something she has done many times before. But because of Speck’s worsening condition, Moylan-Aube said Speck might not be able to do so for much longer.

“Each time that I ask her [to speak to my classes], I always keep my fingers crossed, and hope and pray that she’s still capable,” Moylan-Aube said to the class before Speck began her talk.

After expressing how happy she was to be able to talk to the class, Speck—who sat on a stool behind her colorfully decorated walker, full of stuffed animals, rainbows and even a horn—started by addressing the disease.

“There is no cure whatsoever,” said Speck. “There isn’t really hope for a cure, certainly not within my lifetime.”

According to the ALS Association’s website, there is medication to help control the symptoms, but “when the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost.”

Speck explained that she is not the only person in her family diagnosed with the disease. Her aunt, two of her siblings and her mother all died from ALS.

“My mom could do anything in the world, and she was never sick,” Speck said with a smile. “She was so strong and so funny and she knew everybody—just the most wonderful person I have ever known.”

Speck said her mother began experiencing muscle weakness when she was approximately 49. Doctors first diagnosed her mother with tennis elbow because, initially, her symptoms were mainly showing up in her arms.

In February 1971, when Speck was 12, the family assembled for a meeting and Speck’s dad explained to her and her seven brothers and sisters that their mom’s diagnosis was ALS. He read information about ALS from a pamphlet, which included information that the disease is fatal.

“I knew whatever these people thought they were talking about, they were not taking into consideration my mom because my mom could beat anything,” Speck said.

As Speck continued to address the class, she explained that the family took care of Speck’s mom at home for a while, but eventually she had to be admitted to the hospital.

Speck paused during her story to explain to the class that she was going to be funny, but first she needed to explain the devastation she went through so that people could understand why humor is a big part of her life.

“The last time I saw her, I said ‘see you later.’ That’s what I said,” Speck explained as the room went silent.

She said that two nights later, the phone rang at four in the morning.

“[My dad] came in and he sat down at the edge of my bed. He said, ‘Honey, mommy died,’” said Speck.

As Speck looked around the room at the students’ saddened faces, she said, “I know,” acknowledging to the room that this was the sad part of the story.

After her mother died, Speck said her life went into a downward spiral. According to Speck, she grew up in an era when it often wasn’t okay to talk about things like death and the associated feelings with which the loved ones of the deceased must cope.

While a student at Sacramento State, Speck played basketball for the college team. After blowing out her knee, Speck went through a very dark time in her life. She related how she jumped from addiction to addiction, suffered from bulimia and anorexia, and dealt with symptoms of depression, including self-mutilation and feelings of wanting to commit suicide.

Then one day, she noticed a beautiful little girl in a childhood photo and realized it was she. Knowing that she could no longer continue to put that little girl through such things, she decided to turn her life around by returning to school to explore her interests.

“What are some things that I like? I like singing, I like creative writing, I wanted to take women’s history,” she pondered to herself. “So I decided to go back [to college] and just take some classes I liked; just ones that I wanted to take.”

Speck enrolled in classes at City College, including Psychology of Death and Dying.

“I was like, ‘Yeah’ I want to take that, I’ve been pondering on that since I was 12,” said Speck. “This class saved my life. This class turned me around. I didn’t know what exactly was going to happen after I died, but it gave me the chance again to look and to know that I did want to live. I just had to figure out how to get there.”

After completing the class, Speck decided to focus on humor, singing and the other things she loved in order to cope with all the pain in her life.

In recent years, because of her experiences with the disease, she has not only become an expert on it, but also works to raise awareness through participation in events like the Greater Sacramento Walk to Defeat ALS, and other events.

In 2010, Speck went skydiving and said she decided it was the perfect way to raise awareness about ALS. Speck now works to help raise ALS awareness and money for research through her ALS Skydiving Specktacular, which will be holding its fifth annual event May 17 in Davis.

Students in the class were asked to turn in a one-page response to the speech that will be given to Speck to read.

“It really opened my eyes,” said Trevyn Currie, a computer science major. “I didn’t know anything about the disease. [Speck] being able to skydive is amazing.”

For Speck, being able to help others by telling her story along with enjoying life through humor is the reason she gets out of her hospital-style bed every morning.

“When I came here, when I was hurting and I was looking for something, I found it here,” said Speck after she was finished talking with the class.

“Not a lot of people want to talk about death and dying—it’s scary—but when you do talk about it, you find that you’re not alone.”

To learn more about Cathy Speck or to find out more about ALS awareness events including the May 17 skydive, visit her website at

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