Innovative Ceramics Program Gives Veterans a Free Outlet for Creativity

Jason Conway, USMC, Iraq War Veteran; Steve Dilley, instructor; Duane Matthews, USMC, Vietnam War Veteran; Ryan Anderson, USMC; Nick Koscielski, USN, Veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan; Brandon Houser, USMC, Iraq War Veteran

It started with a casual conversation between ceramics instructor Steve Dilley and his long-time friend.  Inspired by research into alternative treatments for veterans experiencing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Dilley wanted to start a ceramics program open to veterans as an escape from the emotional and physical trauma they may have suffered. That friend, who is a veteran, gave Dilley a check for $12,000 and, with help from Dean of Fine Arts & Media Technology Bart McHenry, Ceramics Instructor Richard White, and Community Education Director Estella Castillo-Garrison, the program started this semester at Saddleback.

The program, which is free to veterans and their spouses through Community Education, saw a doubling of students from its first week to the second and it looks to continue to grow as more student veterans discover it. Dilley is working closely with the college’s VETS Center, specifically with Kevin Williams’ Applied Psychology 140 class geared toward veterans, to tout the benefits of having a fun course like ceramics.

Dilley tells all students to come as they are, regardless of physical or mental limitations. “You can do ceramics with one hand. You can do it if you’ve had traumatic brain injury.  It really doesn’t matter. These veterans can do it.” Ceramics has the ability to help improve fine motor skills and concentration, even if veterans have severe injuries.

Dilley sees the program as a bridge to academics, especially for those who are not yet ready to take traditional classes. “When we’re talking about ceramics, we touch on chemistry, geology, anthropology, and a lot of other areas of study. This may be a way for these students to find their calling and career path.”

Although the current donation will only cover this semester’s course, Dilley is hoping to continue and expand it.  In addition to starting a similar program at another community college, Dilley is also hoping to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs to bring the program to military bases and hospitals.  It appears that he may be close to his goal — the VA has shown an interest in having him speak to injured veterans about alternative PTSD treatments.

Even though the program is already bigger than he ever imagined, Dilley still believes, “If I help lessen the pain of just one veteran, this program will have been successful.”

President Presents Annual State of the College and Highlights Automotive Technology Program

Saddleback College President Dr. Burnett presented the Annual State of the College at a campus community breakfast held on Friday, September 23rd attended by several dozen elected officials, business and industry representatives, and other community leaders. This year’s report was titled “Being the First Choice” and focused on the college’s vision for being the first choice of students seeking a dynamic, innovative, and student-centered postsecondary education.

In his presentation, Dr. Burnett stated, “Student success is a top priority for our state and nation, and that is what Saddleback is all about. To be the first choice of students, we not only must continue our large number of degree, certificate, and transfer completions each year, but we must significantly expand these numbers in order to meet projected workforce demands. I am confident that with our quality faculty and exceptional programs we can meet this challenge.”

The breakfast also featured a presentation from Professor Cliff Meyer on the college’s renowned Automotive Technology program that is designed to prepare students for employment as automotive technicians. Students can complete their Associate of Science or Associate of Arts degree and transfer to a four-year college or university. Students can also earn certificates in Automotive Chassis Specialist, Automotive Engine Service Specialist, Automotive Engine performance Specialist, General Automotive Technician, and, soon, Alternative Propulsion. About 425 students are enrolled in the Automotive Technology program each semester and the program has been very successful in helping students find well-paying careers.

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.

Second Session of Summer Classes Begins Monday

Summer is already flying by and a new batch of students will be here starting on Monday, June 20th when the second session of summer classes begins. There are still open classes but don’t wait to register!

For the complete class schedule please visit www.saddleback.edu/cs.
To apply and register for classes visit
www.saddleback.edu/admissions.