President Presents Annual State of the College Highlighting Priorities for Next Five Years

Saddleback College President Tod A. Burnett presents his fifth Annual State of the College address.

This morning Saddleback College President Dr. Tod A. Burnett hosted his fifth Annual State of the College address at a community breakfast attended by an audience of more than 100 elected officials, business and industry representatives, and other community leaders. This year’s report, entitled “The Next Five Years,” focused on maximizing student success, enrollment management, economic and workforce development, employee success, and strategic planning.

The audience included Diane Harkey, Assemblymember for the 73rd District, Rhonda Reardon, Mayor of Mission Viejo, Gary Capta, Laguna Niguel City Council, Trish Kelley, Mission Viejo City Council, Dave Leckness, Mission Viejo City Council, Dr. Jim Wright, South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees, Joe Farley, Superintendent of Capistrano Unified School District, and Dixie Bullock, former president of Saddleback College.

Assemblymember Harkey, a Saddleback College alumna, stated, “I want to thank Saddleback College, it was only because the community college system was available that I was able to continue on with school. I was one of those kids who did not want to go to college but decided to go back when I was 23 then finished off my degree in economics at UCI.”

“Saddleback College has really undergone an amazing transformation over the last five years,” Dr. Burnett said. “In 2018 our college will turn 50 and I am confident that we will not only be celebrating our golden anniversary but also the tremendous accomplishments of our students, employees, and community. I believe Saddleback College will be the state’s leading community college for student success and I believe it will be the first choice of our community and beyond.”

Dr. Burnett presented his top 10 projects for the 2013-14 academic year, which are as follows: 1) Create a college-wide enrollment management plan;  2) Establish an economic and workforce development plan; 3) Establish a student success committee; 4) Develop a new six-year strategic plan; 5) Provide faculty emergency training; 6) Implement the High School Partnership Program; 7) Develop plans for the Center for Innovation in Healthcare Education; 8) Enhance part-time faculty support; 9) Implement the 20-year facilities plan; and 10) Conduct a college-wide business analyses.

Jim Leach, President of the Saddleback College Foundation spoke to the mission and accomplishments of the foundation, such as increasing annual scholarship dollars awarded over the last five years from $198,650 in 2009 to $509,790 in 2013 (157 percent increase), which expanded the number of students receiving support from 180 to 326  (81 percent increase). “The money we raise from the community goes to help change the lives of young people providing them with educational opportunities they may not otherwise have,” Leach said.

The breakfast featured remarks from engineering student Bahman Sabahi, Associated Student Government President for Saddleback College and a violin solo from Saddleback College music student Natalie Cervantes.

The president’s Annual State of the College provides an overview of the past academic year and a preview of the coming year’s opportunities and challenges for Saddleback College. A full copy of the report can be found on the college website or click here to download a PDF of the full report.

In Memoriam: Micael Merrifield

Micael Merrifield

Dear Saddleback College Family,

Micael Merrifield, our longtime friend and colleague, died unexpectedly on Tuesday, September 24th.  Micael will be remembered for his insatiable curiosity, boundless energy, and ability to capture the imagination of students.

During his tenure at Saddleback College, Micael inspired generations of students to care about the world in which they live and to become involved in working for progressive change.  Micael had a passion for teaching and truly cared about his students as individuals in a way that is rare.  He taught his students to think critically and to question the structures of power, privilege, and authority all around them.  He also lived according to these ideals and was a fierce advocate for students, faculty, and staff at the college he loved and to which he dedicated his life.  He also worked for years as the tribal anthropologist for the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, Acjachemem Nation, and fought tirelessly with them for Federal Recognition.

Micael joined Saddleback in 1977 when he was hired to create a tutorial program, which we know of today as the Learning Assistance Program (LAP).  In 1985, he became a professor of Anthropology in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division.  Students flocked to take his classes each semester, and he entertained them with his stories while also challenging them to be thoughtful scholars.  He loved to travel, and regularly took students on study abroad trips, most recently to Belfast, Northern Ireland, but also to Scotland, Mexico, and Cuba.

In addition to his teaching, Micael was also a faculty leader.  He served several terms as president of both the Academic Senate and the Faculty Association.

Micael was a presence at Saddleback College, and he will be greatly missed.

Thank you Claire Cesareo, Ken Woodward, Brad Rettele, and Margot Lovett for drafting these beautiful words about Micael which nicely reflect the feelings of our entire Saddleback College family.  Our hearts and prayers go out to Micael’s family, and over the coming days we will notify the college community about their plans for honoring our lost colleague and friend.

Saddleback College and Capistrano Unified School District Partner to Improve College Student Preparedness and Success

A landmark partnership plan that helps prepare high school students for the rigors of college has been established by Saddleback College and Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD).  The High School Partnership Program (HSPP) was formally approved through a memorandum of understanding between Saddleback College and CUSD and will be carried out at all of the district’s brick-and-mortar high schools (Aliso Niguel, Capistrano Valley, Dana Hills, San Juan Hills, San Clemente, Serra, and Tesoro).

HSPP is a comprehensive effort to improve first-year college student preparedness and success.  The centerpiece of the program is the Gaucho Guarantee, which states that high school students who follow all of the recommended steps outlined in the plan will have the necessary tools to achieve success whether they seek to attend college, enter the workforce, join the military, or pursue any other pathway after high school.  In addition to providing recommended steps for high school students, the HSPP provides suggested roles for the college, high school, and parents or guardians in support of a student’s chosen pathway.

Dr. Tod A. Burnett, president of Saddleback College, said, “This partnership has the potential to be a model program in the state. The HSPP’s comprehensive approach with our local high schools provides students – beginning in their freshman year – with a promising first look at college life to better prepare them to succeed at Saddleback College or in any other chosen pathway.”

“This partnership promises to give our students another advantage by directly connecting them with additional resources necessary for their future college and career success,” John M. Alpay, president of the CUSD Board of Trustees, said.  “It is community partnerships like this one that help differentiate our school district and add value to the already high quality instructional programs in place at our schools.  I look forward to working with Saddleback College to find and implement additional college-level opportunities for our students.”

“We are excited about expanding our partnership with Saddleback College,” Dr. Joseph M. Farley, Capistrano Unified School District Superintendent, said. “The High School Partnership Plan will provide another resource to help ensure that all of our students are prepared for college and career. We look forward to working closely with the educators at Saddleback College to implement this exciting new collaboration.”

Students who follow the HSPP’s recommended steps will: 1) Develop a clear understanding of the expectations for attending college; 2) Complete the requirements for preparation to succeed while attending college; 3) Develop study strategies that will enable them to complete college courses; 4) Establish career and academic goals; 5) Complete transferable or basic skills English and math courses; 6) Complete a Saddleback College academic planning or educational and vocational planning course; 7) Complete Saddleback College’s orientation and assessment  process; 8) Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA); 9) Create an academic plan for their first semester at Saddleback College; and 10) Register for college-ready courses for the fall term.

A report released by the Student Success Task Force of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in January 2012 calls for “greater coordination between K-12 schools and community colleges.”  This report shows that the biggest indicator of a student’s academic success in college is directly related to skills in English and math.  A lack of student preparedness upon entering college is a statewide trend; in 2010, 79 percent of high school juniors in the state who took the Early Assessment Program college readiness test did not test “college ready.”   Further, a lack of preparation has a long-term, negative impact on a student’s ability to complete his or her educational goals and succeed in the workplace.  A recent Orange County Business Council survey reveals that many employers believe that students are not fully prepared for success in a job or career.

For a copy of the HSPP or additional information, please visit or contact Leslie Humphrey, director of outreach and recruitment, at (949) 582-4272.

Saddleback College Receives $2.75 Million Federal Grant to Develop Healthcare Career Training Program

Saddleback College has been awarded a $2.75 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for the development of a new healthcare career readiness and training program at Saddleback College.  Of the 174 applications that were submitted nationwide, Saddleback College was one of 23 single applicant colleges to be awarded a TAACCCT grant.

The funding will assist the college’s division of health sciences and human services to launch Orange County Health Care Career Transitions (OCHC2T)—Fast Track to Success, a program to prepare current Saddleback students, unemployed workers, and displaced workers affected by foreign trade for high-demand allied health careers.   The program will also train existing allied health workers to respond to emerging career opportunities and requirements resulting from the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act.

“This grant funding will provide the college an extraordinary opportunity for our students to prepare for meaningful jobs in the healthcare sector,” said Dr. Tod Burnett, president of Saddleback College. “Participation in the Fast Track to Success program will eventually lead students to lucrative career opportunities while simultaneously creating partnerships in our local community.  We appreciate the collaboration between our college, Chancellor Gary Poertner, and District Director of Public Affairs Tere Fluegeman, which led to this extraordinary outcome for our students and community.”

Dr. Donna Rane-Szostak, dean of health sciences and human services, stated, “This exciting and innovative health career training project will have a three-pronged approach:  to enhance existing Saddleback College allied health programs to create clearer pathways to high skill/high wage healthcare careers; broaden the skills of many already working in the healthcare field; and develop innovative  programs to train new healthcare workers for roles that are emerging as a result of the federal Affordable Care Act.”

Open to students, local businesses, and educators, OCHC2T—Fast Track to Success will be implemented at Saddleback College but will ultimately be based in part at the college’s proposed regional Center for Innovation in Healthcare Education at the South Orange County Community College District’s Advanced Technology and Education Park (ATEP), located on 68 acres of a repurposed Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin. The program builds on the college’s existing Healthcare Career Readiness: Fast Track to Success program, which gives incoming freshmen opportunities to learn about healthcare careers, including medical assistant, paramedic, emergency medical technician, phlebotomist, medical lab technician, nursing, and health information technologist.

The City of Santa Ana Workforce Investment Board (WIB) will serve as an entry point for dislocated workers and other interested adults to learn about the Fast Track to Success program, and will track employment and training outcome measures as defined locally by the WIB, and nationally by the Department of Labor.  Additionally, the WIB will work with an external evaluator and the college to determine program outcomes, best practices, and potential areas for improvement.

For additional information on the TAACCCT grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor, please visit

Saddleback College Commemorates 12th Anniversary of 9/11

James Pyle, Saddleback’s Deputy Chief of Police, leads Saddleback College’s 9/11 commemoration ceremony.

Yesterday Saddleback College hosted a 9/11 commemoration ceremony at the college’s veterans memorial to pay tribute to the victims of September 11, 2001 and those who died in subsequent action.  Approximately 200 students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community members were in attendance.

James Pyle, Saddleback’s Deputy Chief of Police, led the event and introduced speakers Terry Scort, Battalion Chief of the Orange County Fire Authority, and Dustin Ardolf, United States Marine Corps veteran and a student at Saddleback College.  Erin Long, Senior Administrative Assistant for student development, sang the national anthem.

Dr. Tod A. Burnett, President of Saddleback College, stated, “Yesterday was a time to reflect on the services provided by our first responders at Saddleback College and throughout our community. Thank you for your commitment and sacrificing your safety to ensure ours is upheld.”

Speaking of his years of service, Ardolf stated, “I remember those who sacrificed everything for our freedom. I’ve seen death but live life. I challenge you to not take life for granted. Rise and respect the nation’s colors and never forget.”

For Chief Scort, the day will always be one that can’t be erased from memory, he stated, “We can all remember what we were doing, where we were going and what we planned to do that day. We can all remember when our hearts broke that day.  Twelve years later we are a stronger nation, a safer world and people more united as ever before.”

Chief Scort also posed a challenge to the audience, asking listeners to “go forward and spread the word to not forget September 11th as we move forward in another year.”

To pay tribute to those who lost their lives during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and subsequent action, Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies Bruce Frazee and Randy Taylor placed a wreath at the college’s veterans memorial, and Chief Pyle led the crowd in a moment of silence.


Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies Bruce Frazee and Randy Taylor place a wreath at Saddleback College’s veterans memorial.

Terry Scort, Battalion Chief of the Orange County Fire Authority, addresses the crowd.

Erin Long, Senior Administrative Assistant for student development, sings the national anthem.

Dustin Ardolf, United States Marine Corps veteran and a student at Saddleback College, reflects on his time serving in the war.

Saddleback, Irvine Valley College Partner with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to Provide On-Campus Support Services

Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College have signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide VetSuccess on Campus (VSOC) services to help veterans succeed in college and transition to employment in the civilian workforce.   The partnership makes Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College two of fewer than 100 colleges nationwide to offer VSOC services.  The colleges will continue to provide services for veterans and will host an experienced VA vocational rehabilitation counselor to assist students in achieving their educational and career goals through VA’s Post 9/11 GI Bill and other education benefit programs.

Supporting this effort will be faculty and staff at the Saddleback College Veterans Education and Transition Services (VETS) Center, the Irvine Valley College Veterans Services Center, VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services, and VA Vet Center programs. Due in large part to a collaborative district-wide advocacy effort to enhance support services for returning military, the colleges of the South Orange County Community College District were sought out to host such a program.  This will add to the colleges’ existing and highly regarded veterans services programs.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to enhance our services and reinforce our commitment to serving veterans as they transition back into the civilian world through our campuses,” said Gary L. Poertner, South Orange County Community College District Chancellor.

Dr. Tod A. Burnett, president of Saddleback College, stated, “This MOU strengthens our partnership with the VA and enables Saddleback to enhance the high-quality student support services offered for veterans, active military, and their families in our VETS Center by having a VA counselor directly on our college campus.  It is a true pleasure for our college to offer such outstanding services for our veterans.”

“This MOU comes on the heels of the opening of our new dedicated IVC Veterans Services Center that provides a unique educational space designed to support active service members, veterans and military dependents. Adding a VA counselor dedicated to serving our students will only enhance our abilities to ensure our veterans get the best possible services while they are at IVC,” said Glenn R. Roquemore, president of Irvine Valley College.

Under the MOU, Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College will share one full-time VA vocational rehabilitation counselor, who will work directly with student veterans and their dependents.  In addition to providing assistance in the transition to student life, the VA personnel will maintain close relationships with local VA Vet Centers and VA medical facilities and can refer student veterans for medical services and provide assistance for students who are applying for VA medical and nonmedical benefits.

Within this ground-breaking agreement, Saddleback College and Irvine Valley College will provide use of office space for VA personnel to provide services and assistance, inclusion of vocational rehabilitation counselors in new student programs, employment assistance, financial aid and service referrals, connection with psychological counseling and health services, services for students with disabilities, learning assistance, and expertise to VA on college student development and the college student experience.  The VA vocational rehabilitation counselor will work in tandem with the colleges’ existing full time faculty veterans counselors to ensure each veteran coming to our district has access to every available service and an opportunity for academic and career success.