Final Stretch to Commencement!

commencement

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Management:

In three weeks on Friday, May 23rd we will be celebrating the degree, certificate, and transfer completions of thousands of our students at Saddleback’s annual commencement ceremony.  As we enter this final stretch of the academic year, I want to congratulate and thank our amazing faculty, staff, and management for their incredible work and accomplishments this semester.

At Monday’s board of trustees meeting, we recognized our professors of the year.  Congratulations to Dr. Alannah Rosenberg, chair and advisor of the honors program, Fariba Vatandoust, chemistry instructor, and Collette Chattopadhyay, Emeritus Institute art history instructor.  These three wonderful members of our faculty represent the quality and commitment of all of our faculty, and we appreciate their contributions.  We also greatly appreciate our classified staff, and a few weeks ago our college chose Giziel Leftwich as our classified employee of the year.  Also at Monday’s board meeting, our faculty, led by professors Christina Hinkle, Marina Aminy, Gary Luke, and Kia Shafe, and Dean Patti Flanigan and  Director Patti Weekes delivered an excellent presentation on the recent successes of our LRC Tutoring Center.  Did you know that we more than doubled the number of tutoring hours this past year, and that students who take advantage of tutoring have a 10% higher success rate and an incredible 20% higher persistence rate?

Speaking of student success, our college is operating on all cylinders.  Our college-wide Student Success Coordinating Committee led by faculty coordinators Bruce Gilman and Penny Skaff has been working hard to help implement our Academic Senate’s six student success recommendations and Saddleback’s strategic planning goals and objectives, in addition to numerous other student success efforts happening throughout our campus and community.  Last week, some of you were able to attend our student success summit held jointly with Irvine Valley College.  This was a highly successful day of workshops and guest speakers that allowed the faculty, staff, and management from both campuses to collaboratively learn about various student success efforts going on in our district and hear some best practices.  A big thanks to Dean Patti Flanigan and Professor Jane Horlings and Professor Roopa Mathur and Dean Cathleen Greiner at IVC for their outstanding leadership in making this summit a success.

As we all know, one of the biggest challenges for many of our students is their financial circumstances.  At the March board meeting, Financial Aid Director Christian Alvarado and IVC Interim Financial Aid Director Ruth Higgins gave a comprehensive presentation on student financial aid which revealed many of our students’  financial challenges but also showed the tremendous progress that Saddleback has made over the past few years in expanding financial aid opportunities for substantially more students.  An important financial resource for our students is our Saddleback College Foundation.  On Friday, May 16th at 4pm we will be holding our annual scholarship awards ceremony where we will be awarding over $700,000 in scholarships to over 450 students.  This is the most ever awarded in scholarships by Saddleback, and our foundation is now one of the highest performers in the state.  In April, the foundation held its annual gala and doubled the amount of money raised, thanks to the generous support from our college community.  Your efforts are helping to reduce the barriers that many of our students come up against, and these efforts are a testament to the role that each and every one of us plays in helping students succeed.

Advocating for students and student success is our passion.  In April, I was pleased to have represented our college and district in Washington, D.C. to continue developing important relationships with federal officials and agencies.  Meeting with our state’s two U.S. senators, three local congressional representatives, and several departments including labor and education, I was struck by how well known our college and district are now by folks in our nation’s capitol.  The work that our chancellor, board of trustees, college presidents, and others has really paid off.  You may recall that last year we received a $2.7 million U.S. Department of Labor grant and we expect more opportunities to come our way soon.  Also while in D.C., I attended the American Association of Community College’s annual convention and had the privilege to join Dr. Glenn Roquemore, IVC president, and Tere Fluegeman, district director of government relations, to hear Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and his wife, Jill, address the 2,000 or so community college leaders.  The vice president delivered one of the finest speeches espousing the importance of our community colleges.  He said, “the middle class has its best shot of growing through all of you.  You really are the heart of expanding opportunity for millions of Americans.”  He also used this opportunity to announce the launch of a new $100 million job training initiative—the Registered College Apprenticeship College Consortium—which we hope to participate.

Last week, Chancellor Poertner, President Roquemore, and I attended the annual Southern California CEO Meeting and had the pleasure of hearing from state Chancellor Brice Harris.  Dr. Harris gave updates on several state-wide issues including community college baccalaureate degrees, student success initiative, adult education, accreditation, and a proposed new center for policy and leadership development.  I was most pleased to see that when he gave an update on the progress of implementing CSU associate degrees for transfer, Saddleback was at the top of the list for implementing these degrees and we will shortly have 100% completed.  A big thanks to our academic senate and curriculum committee chair Karah Street for their excellent work.

As you can see, when it comes to student success, our college is operating on all cylinders.  I hope that each and every faculty, staff, and manager and administrator will be attending Saddleback’s commencement and scholarship awards ceremony, as well as the many other end of the year celebrations going on throughout the college over the next three weeks.  Once again, thank you for your incredible work and accomplishments this semester.

Sincerely,

Tod A. Burnett, Ed.D.                                                                                                                           President