Saddleback Librarian April Cunningham to Serve as Curriculum Designer for AiA project

April Cunningham has been selected to serve as a curriculum designer/facilitator for  “Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success” (AiA), a three-year project conceived by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to support the design, implementation, and evaluation of a program to strengthen the competencies of librarians in campus leadership and data-informed advocacy. April’s role will be to create dynamic and authentic learning experiences for participating librarians using blended learning and peer-to-peer collegial relationships resulting in action learning projects.

April is the Instruction Coordinator Librarian at Saddleback College. She leads the library in all forms of instruction, including library workshops, class orientations, embedded librarian projects, and credit library classes.  April has an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in Community Colleges from CSU Fullerton and a Masters of Library and Information Science from UCLA.  She is currently serving as the Director-at-Large for Community Colleges for the California Association of College and Research Libraries.  At Saddleback, she is the library’s representative on the Educational Planning and Assessment Committee and also serves on the Academic Senate Student Success Committee.

-By Elizabeth Horan

Congratulations to the 2013 Professors of the Year

Saddleback College named Dr. Scott Fier, a chemistry instructor, Farida Gabdrakhmanova, an interior design and computer-aided design (CAD) instructor, and Melinda Smith, a fashion instructor in the college’s Emeritus Institute as the 2013 Professors of the Year.  The professors were nominated by their students and will be honored at the April 29th meeting of the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees.

The students’ nominations of Professors Fier, Gabdrakhmanova, and Smith speak to the dedication they have to their students and the passion they have for teaching. Saddleback College has so many exceptional instructors that it is always difficult to select our professors of the year, but it is clear that these superb professors have very positively influenced many lives.

Saddleback’s Professor of the Year is Dr. Scott Fier, who has taught at the college since 1993 and was praised by one student as being “the greatest educator I have ever had in all my years in education.” His students also said that he is more than just a professor; he is a mentor who is there for them inside and outside the classroom.

Dr. Fier stated, “I am truly honored by this award. I feel very fortunate to teach at a school with a wonderful faculty that always puts students first, and with a great staff and administration that is always supportive. Students come to Saddleback College because they have goals and dreams, and for those in my classes I try to help them reach their potential. My favorite thing to hear from former students is how well they were prepared for university classes by Saddleback College.”

The Associate Professor of the Year is Farida Gabdrakhmanova, who began teaching interior design and CAD classes at Saddleback in 2011. Gabdrakhmanova’s nominating students used the words “compassion” and “caring” to describe her and said that they appreciate that she is tough on them when they need it. Students stated that her willingness to help promoted the success of her students.

Gabdrakhmanova stated, “I am so deeply honored to have been chosen as Professor of the Year. This award does not belong just to me. I share it with my colleagues, who were also my teachers at Saddleback. They challenged me to start teaching two years ago and continue to support and encourage me today. I share the award with my students, who inspire and motivate me every single day with their commitment and positive attitude toward learning. I teach to help my students grow, learn, and gain confidence in everything that they do. I am not an ‘easy’ teacher, but I have high expectations of my students because I believe in them and I want them to leave college prepared and ready to succeed in the real world.”

Emeritus Professor of the Year Melinda Smith has been teaching fashion classes for Saddleback College’s Emeritus Institute since 1999. Emeritus Institute classes are developed to provide older adults personal, social, cultural, economic, and environmental benefits to positively impact their lives. Smith’s classes are some of the fastest-filling in the Emeritus Institute and it’s easy to see why when her students say, “I schedule my activities around this class so that I don’t miss any days because [Smith] makes each day exciting” and “She is so respected by the students you can hear a pin drop while she is lecturing.”

Smith stated, “It is truly a pleasure to teach what I love to such creative and enthusiastic students in the Emeritus Institute. I love the interaction and exchange of ideas that take place in the classroom. My students are delightful and I am so appreciative of this award.”

Twenty Four Professors Attend Saddleback’s Great Teachers Seminar

On January 16th through 18th, 24 outstanding Saddleback College faculty attended the Saddleback College Great Teachers Seminar at UCLA’s Lake Arrowhead Conference Center. The yearly seminar provides a place where full- and part-time faculty can share their practical experience with their peers in a relaxed environment.

Photo Courtesy of Academic Senate

Congratulations to all the attendees and a huge thank you to the event facilitators and  organizer!
Shellie Banga
Allison Camelot (facilitator)
Amy Casil
Torri Catalano
Deidre Cavazzi
Claire Cesareo-Silva (facilitator)
Naomi Chianese
John Conley
April Cubbage-Vega
Robert Farnsworth
Patrizia Goldberg
Frank Gonzalez (facilitator)
Mary Homma
Kathryn Kramer
Michael Long (organizer)
Margot Lovett
Gary Luke (facilitator)
Bill McGuire
Emily Quinlan
Maureen Smith (organizer)
Blake Stephens (facilitator)
Glen Stevenson
Barbara Tamialis
Carol Ziehm




Nursing Professor Phillis Kucharski Recognized for National Award

Congratulations to  Saddleback Nursing Professor Phillis Kucharski, MSN, RN, OCN, who was named the 2012 Educator of the Year by the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (N-OADN) Foundation. The N-OADN Foundation Educator of the Year Award recognizes overall excellence in associate degree nursing education and is the highest award given by the foundation.

Phillis was recognized at the January meeting of the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees.

It is a testament to Phillis’s excellence that she was nominated by several of her current and former students. Saddleback has one of the best nursing programs in the nation and it is largely due to the hard work and dedication of our nursing faculty who work tirelessly to ensure the success of our students.

Kucharski joined the Saddleback College Nursing Department in 2001 and teaches medical surgical nursing lecture and clinical, community health nursing, and pediatrics clinical. Kucharski served as an advisor for nursing students and helped increase the retention rate of the program to 93.5%. In addition to her role at Saddleback, she is the Oncology Educator for Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach where she teaches several nursing oncology courses.

Congratulations, Phillis!

Saddleback Professor Kris Leppien-Christensen Named President of National Honor Society

At the American Psychological Association’s 2012 national convention, Dr. Kris Leppien-Christensen, Saddleback psychology professor, was installed as the national president of Psi Beta. Dr. Leppien-Christensen, who was named as the college’s 2011 Professor of the Year, is a Psi Beta Faculty Advisor and served on the Psi Beta National Council from 2008-212. He will serve as the national president for 2012-13 and the past president for 2013-2014.

Psi Beta is the national honor society in psychology for community colleges and is a member of the Association of College Honors Societies. The organization is affiliated with the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. Psi Beta promotes and recognizes its members’ scholarship, leadership, research, and community service excellence.

Congratulations Dr. Leppien-Christensen!

Saddleback Faculty Honored by Former Students

Each year, University of California, Irvine holds an Educator Recognition Reception and Award Ceremony during which their honors students have the chance to identify someone from their community college who was critical in helping them successfully transfer. On May 7th, five Saddleback College faculty were honored for their dedication to their students.

This year’s honorees:

  • Dr. William Alston, Organic Chemistry Professor, recognized by Seyed Pairawan
  • Dr. Scott Fier, Chemistry Professor, recognized by Arshan Ferdowsian
  • Dr. Carmen Hernandez-Bravo, Spanish Professor, recognized by Ashley Santellan
  • Elizabeth Ininns, Microbiology/Anatomy Professor, recognized by Sabrina Tamme
  • Dr. Kris Leppien-Christensen, Psychology Professor, recognized by Morgan Zisch

Honorees, students, and supporters!

Everyday our faculty work tirelessly to help their students meet personal goals, whether that is transfer, career training, or self-improvement and I am extremely proud of the professors who have been honored at this event. Because of your dedication, your former student are doing great things at UCI and are sure to be successful following completion of their degree.

I would also like to thank those who made it out to UCI to support our faculty – Gary Poertner, Chancellor, South Orange County Community College District; Dr. Don Busche Acting Vice President for Instruction; and Dr. Bob Cosgrove, President Elect, Academic Senate.

Saddleback College Recognizes Professors of the Year

Saddleback College named Dr. David DiLeo, a history instructor, Ken Lee, a landscape design instructor, and Rob Henry, a consumer health issues instructor in the college’s Emeritus Institute, as the 2012 Professors of the Year.  All three professors were nominated by their students and were honored at the April 30th meeting of the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees.

Saddleback College has so many exceptional professors that it is always difficult to narrow it down, but the student feedback spoke volumes for Professors DiLeo, Lee, and Henry. Students sang their praises and it’s clear that these superb professors  have very positively influenced many lives.

Dr. DiLeo Addresses his History Class

Dr. DiLeo Addresses his History Class

Professor of the Year Dr. David DiLeo teaches history and has been a full-time professor at Saddleback College since 1993 and was praised by his students for being one of the most devoted and kind professors they have ever learned from. He was also commended for providing an inclusive learning experience that broadened their minds and pushed them to learn new ideas.

“I am honored to represent the entire Saddleback staff and faculty as the 2012 teacher of the year recipient. It is most certainly a privilege to do what we do. The pursuit of knowledge, and its cousin, understanding, is a necessary and worthy endeavor,” said Dr. DiLeo. “My hat is off to a tireless support staff, a dedicated board and administration, and my talented colleagues.”

Associate Professor of the Year Ken Lee

Associate Professor of the Year Ken Lee

Associate Professor of the Year Ken Lee began teaching landscape design classes at Saddleback in 2000. Lee’s nominating students called him their mentor and expressed appreciation for inviting them to his landscape design business for a glimpse into practical applications of their studies. Lee was described as professional, welcoming and down-to-earth.

“As a teacher and a mentor for a young generation, I believe that teaching should be a passion, not just a job. All teachers should be passionate about what they do. Without it, it would be impossible to influence the next generation to become better. Passion from a teacher, about any subject, is contagious, spreading out to everyone in the classroom,” stated Lee.

Emeritus Professor of the Year Rob Henry

Emeritus Professor of the Year Rob Henry began teaching for the Emeritus Institute in 2005 after teaching in the Division of Health Sciences and Human Services since 1987 and was  been nominated by his students an astounding 40 times! His emeritus students say he is an outstanding example of what an educator should be and his class is a “must” for everyone.

“I spent 18 years instructing traditional students on campus.  It wasn’t until I began teaching emeritus classes as well that I became fully fulfilled as an instructor,” said Henry. “The exchange of ideas and knowledge is truly rewarding.”

Online Learning Student Success Rate Increases by Three Percent in One Year!

Thanks to all of the hard work by the entire Distance and Online Education Program Team, success rates for online courses increased by almost 3% since fall 2010. This is the largest success rate increase for any instructional method.  Success is defined by a student earning a grade of A, B, C, or Credit/Pass.

There has also been a steady increase in the number of students taking online courses throughout the last ten years. In fall 2001, 1,858 students were enrolled in online courses; this number has grown to 11,704 students in Fall 2011.

College Efforts Leading to Increased Student Success in Online Classes

How to Succeed in Online Classes WorkshopsIn Fall 2011, the program initiated a grant-funded pilot program that included a series of four-hour workshops.  Professors Claire Cesareo-Silva, Christina Smith, Elizabeth Horan, and Christina Nigrelli facilitated these workshops. In Fall 2011, there were three workshops with a total of 32 students in attendance.  In Spring 2012, they doubled the offerings to six workshops and nearly quadrupled their attendance to 123 students!

Reconfigured Center for Instructional Design and Distance Education (CIDDE) to be more conductive to faculty training.

Student Technical Support Taskforce:  In Fall 2011, a Taskforce on Student Technical Support was formed that included campus and district faculty, staff, and administrators.  In a year the task force has

  • Revitalized the Student Technical Support Website
  • Created information cards
  • Established a technical help email address (
  • Worked closely with the district to update MySite
  • Developed and implemented new associate faculty orientations in CIDDE
  • Strengthened student support in the Information Booth, Village 4 computer lab, and the IMC Lab
  • Created new student tutorials that will be launched this summer

Thank you to the Dean of Online Education and Learning Resources, Dr. Patti Flanigan, and her entire support team for helping our students succeed! Special thanks to those who supported this effort: Jane Rosenkrans, Leslie Humphrey, and Craig Connor for their support and input on the taskforce, Claire Cesareo-Silva, Christina Smith, Christina Nigrelli, and Elizabeth Horan for their efforts on the workshops, Jenny Langrell for her support as the DE faculty coordinator, Valerie Senior, Vivian Nguyen, and Thomas McKenzie for their role in faculty training in CIDDE, Dr. Don Buschè for his support on reconfiguring CIDDE, and Matt Miller for his work on the student tutorials.

Professor of the Year Nomination Forms Now Available

Has one of your professors gone above and beyond your expectations? Did this improve your learning experience? Recognize your professor’s efforts. Nominate your favorite professor for Saddleback College’s Professor of the Year!

The nomination form is available at:

Nomination Deadline: March 30th by 5:00 p.m.

Submit nomination forms to: or in-person to Student Development SSC 210

Requirements: Student cannot be currently enrolled in the nominee’s class – Professor may either be full-time or part-time.

Speech Instructor Receives Award from the American Legion

Stephen Robertson and Bill Cook

Congratulations to speech instructor and forensics coach Stephen Robertson, who was given a certificate of achievement from the American Legion Post 862 in recognition of his assistance with the American Legion High School Constitutional Oratorical Contest, which was held at Saddleback in December.

According to Program Chairman Bill Cook, “The American Legion Oratorical Contest exists to develop deeper knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution among high school students.”

The national contest awards $138,000 in college scholarships to several students, including a $1,500 for each state winner. Local winners will advance to the district competition on January 29th, in hopes of moving on to the national competition.

Well done, Stephen!