March - May 2020 | Volume 1, Issue 10

Employee News

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Angela Thomas

Thomas to Deliver Faculty Commencement Speech

Nineteen years ago, Angela Thomas was a student worker at Riverside City College. Today, she is a part-time faculty instructor, working for four different departments at Moreno Valley College and RCC in Library Information and Computer Information Sciences. She will be delivering the commencement speech on behalf of the faculty at MVC on June 12 during the virtual ceremony.

Thomas said her speech will re-enforce to students that they are not alone.

"We are in the same storm, just different boats," she stated.

Ultimately, she said, it is about celebrating what the students have accomplished.

It wasn't long ago that Thomas was on the other side of the microphone. She graduated from RCC in 2002 with a degree in Music. Three years later, she earned a bachelor's degree in Music from California State University, Fullerton. Ten years later, she earned her master's degree in Library Information Studies from San Jose State University.

At MVC, Thomas in an instructor for Computer Information Systems and provides support in the College's computer lab. She also develops and maintains academic support websites and teaches beginning and intermediate web design. Thomas also serves as a librarian at MVC (2016) and RCC (2018); teaching web enhanced, hybrid and online courses; and is currently redesigning several academic websites for both colleges.

For seven years, she worked at MVC as the instructional media broadcast technician. In 2010, the Associate Students of Moreno Valley College selected Thomas as Staff Member of the Year. Thomas has been actively involved in academic leadership, serving on a number of committees, including the College's President's Advisory Council and as a member of the Executive Accreditation team. And in 2018, Thomas was elected as the part-time academic senate representative.

Professors Drake and Namekata

Drake, Namekata Awarded Rank of Professor

Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees awarded nine instructors the Rank of Professor at its April 17 meeting. Two instructors – Sean Drake and James Namekata – are mathematics instructors at Moreno Valley College.

Born and raised in Riverside, Sean Drake graduated from North High School in 1989. He pursued a degree in pure mathematics, earning a bachelor's degree in 1993 and then a master's degree in mathematics from UC Riverside in 1994. While teaching at North High School, Drake became an adjunct faculty member at Riverside City College. Then in 2000, after three years as an adjunct faculty member, he was hired full time at Moreno Valley College, earning tenure in 2004. Since 2017, Drake has also served as chair of the Mathematics department. Seven times he has been named Outstanding Faulty of the Year in mathematics.

James Namekata, who was born and raised in Riverside, graduated from Ramona High School. While in high school, Namekata earned a Riverside Scholars award, enabling him to attend Riverside City College and then UC Riverside tuition-free. He graduated with his bachelor's from UC Riverside and then his master's degree from California State University, San Bernardino. He started his teaching career on the Moreno Valley campus in 1996 – as a karate instructor. In 1998, under the Faculty Internship Project sponsored by the Riverside Community College District, Namekata served as an intern math instructor.

Over the last 20 years, Namekata has served in a number of roles including as the assistant chair of mathematics and kinesiology, faculty advisor of the Moreno Valley College Karate Club, member of the District Assessment Committee and faculty co-chair of Standard I Committee. Six times he has been voted Outstanding Faculty of the Year, and twice Outstanding Advisor of the Year. In 2009, he was awarded Instructor of the Year by Genbu Kai Federation.

MVC campus entrance

MVC Reflection by Cordell A. Briggs, Ph.D.

In spring 1988, I had not envisioned working at a community college. I had been a product mostly of historically black colleges and universities and recruited to teach at Loma Linda University (LLU), La Sierra campus (now La Sierra University), a denominational school. I accepted an invitation to meet with RCC's vice president of Instruction and dean of Humanities and Social Sciences to learn about the College, but I was, in no way, interested in teaching at a two-year institution: I had other professional goals in mind. When I met with the two RCC leaders, I could not have imagined the strategic vision that the two outlined for the single college district: the first single college district to plan, build, and open two new campuses simultaneously, on March 13, 1991, to celebrate RCC's birthday.

I became mesmerized by the RCCD vision to serve a broadly diverse group of students in three growing communities. In community college education, I spent 28½ out of 31½ years in the Riverside Community College District–most of those years at MVC. I enjoyed serving both inside and outside of the classroom.

Seeing students shopping, working at the MV and Tyler (later Galleria) malls, or in restaurants, and learning about their personal challenges, I acquired early an important view of the community college student. Our linguistically and culturally different students were very bright but often challenged by personal and social circumstances that created barriers for their success.

I'll never forget my first semester teaching at RCC: previously at LLU, I had been accustomed to starting a class with 25 students and ending with 24 or 25 students. During my first fall, 18-week semester ending in January (not 16 weeks as we have now ending in December), I had a number of students leave. I was devastated and sought to contact the students to inquire if I had done something wrong to have prevented them from continuing classes. Later I learned and never forgot about the challenges that many of our students confront daily. For example, I had one student, who was homeless but determined to complete his sequence of English courses with me; I would drop off his assignments in front of the motel where he and his family lived temporarily; another student had to attend to her 10 siblings, as she enrolled in several of my English courses after dropping out and then returning to pursue her goal of working in criminal justice.

I remember the shaping of the campus' cultural identity. The emerging ASRCC/MVC created district-wide turbulence by announcing unofficially the campus' school colors. The students who created a multicultural advisory counsel wanted to know from me how to stage a protest, despite my being in leadership on the campus. The Puente program quickly expanded to MVC, soon after it was established at RCC in 1989. The beginnings of the Gospel Singers, with only six students, was another central part in establishing early the campus sense of belonging for students, faculty, and staff.

Leaving the MVC campus in December 2019, I thought about how the campus had evolved over time. President Charles Kane and his leadership team had a strategic vision of building two new campuses that reflected the vision and values of the historic, traditional, "parent" campus in Riverside. The leadership of Moreno Valley City, however, was impatient with Riverside tradition and sought to embrace the campus as its own. In 1992, the arrival of President Salvatore Rotella marked a new era and change of direction for the campus, as he formally announced at the campus' convocation that MVC would develop a programmatic identity in the health sciences, open phase two of the campus, and become a separate college within the Riverside Community College District.

The campus experienced some difficult days. State finances impeded occasionally the campus' growth. The Humanities Building, the phase two project, was unable to open, as scheduled, in early 1995, and sat empty for months because the state was unable to provide growth funds. Similarly, under Chancellor Gregory Gray's leadership, the campus was caught by the Great Recession of 2008 and beyond. In general, the College had to cut its budget, lay off or furlough staff, delay hiring of faculty and administrative staff, and reduce its Public Safety Education and Training budget at the Ben Clark Training Center by $1 million. At one point, only one dean of Instruction, along with then Vice President Robin Steinback, Ph.D., managed the instructional program.

The Umoja Community program was the diamond in my career in serving students. From its predecessor, the Renaissance Scholars Program, conceived by three MVC faculty in the early 2000s, we wanted students to know about their African American culture and to embrace their uniqueness, academically and culturally, as young artists in Harlem, NY, did in the 1920s. I am eager to see the days ahead as the ollege continues to redefine itself.

For years I exclaimed: "It's a shame that RCCD pays me for what I enjoy doing so much; however, I do need to feed my family!"

MVC campus during construction

MVC Reflection by The Reverend
Gregory P. Elder, Ph.D.

At the end of this month it will be 28 years since this author was hired by Charles Kane, Ph.D., then the sole president of the District. I joined the District just as what is now Moreno Valley College was opening. In all honesty, I had never heard of Moreno Valley in my life, and my first impressions were underwhelming.

I arrived at the College site the very next day after I had signed an epic number of papers. Standing in the parking lot, there was a great deal of nothing all around me - no houses, no shops, no gas stations, no sign of life except March Air Force Base a mile to the west. There were streets, vacant lots, and dry dusty winds blowing brush around. Upon entering the campus one found only the Student Services/Library and the Science buildings standing out in this expanse like lost heads on Easter Island. Next to these structures stood a squat little structure where the Lion's Den now stands. This hut was hopefully labeled as Bookstore. Upon entering, half of the room was filled with empty racks, presumably for books, and the other half was a room with low plastic and wooden structures that could only be called "tables" because they had benches bolted to them. Along the wall stood vending machines to offer the silent visitor a hearty repast of potato chips and candy bars.

Thus, began my almost three decade academic career.

It would be tedious herein merely to list every new building, every increase in enrollment, and innumerable ferocious brawls known as "search committees." Particularly in my 19-year service as a department chair, I helped hire a great many of the faculty names you know, and sadly "declined to rehire" a handful. But perhaps it would be more fruitful to reflect on what my students have taught me over the years.

First, I learned of the poverty of the students. Not financial poverty, although some of them were poor, but they were bereft of culture, history, the sciences or any sense of the larger picture of life. The majority were and are first-generation college students. A great many of them were children of emigrants and had been raised strung between two cultures and languages but tutored in neither. It was with these many students that the adventure began when you can guide them to open their eyes a little bit. I recall a student of Chinese heritage approach me after a lecture on Confucianism, and thanked me saying, "Now I understand why I was raised the way I was." Another time, I had showed a series of slides of famous art works to illustrate the period studied. One young lady sat there with her mouth open and said, "I have never seen anything as beautiful as this in my life." One very well covered Muslim young lady and her family went with me on a class field trip to a synagogue. The following day, she presented me with a small gift, and thanked me saying, "Now I do not hate them any more." All these are very small victories, but they are real victories, nonetheless.

The other thing I learned from students is the importance of humility in academia. Students are quick to spot the stuffed shirt or the poorly trained. Their gratitude is a joy, but they can be just as cynical. I learned over the years that the biggest problem for me was figuring out how to reach them and explain difficult concepts. When I lectured on Hegelian dialectic and its impact on Marxism or medieval scholasticism, I could see their troubled brow and glassed over eyes. I learned to say, "Let me put this another way." Certainly there are some students whom I could never reach either through their fault or mine, but I pray that another wiser professor will.

I would like to say one thing to the faculty, staff and administrators of this College. You will never fully know how much of an impact you have had on the students, but it is very real indeed. In my 28 years and since, I have met innumerable people - a nurse, a repair man, a dentist, several business leaders, and several members of my parish church - walk up to me and say, "Hey, are you Dr. Elder? I was your student back in 1066 AD" or words to that effect. This too is a lesson in humility for it is a most far reaching enterprise in which we are honored to serve.

It is also important to know when it is time to go. I recall at the beginning of one semester, I saw a young woman who appeared to be lost, perhaps because now the College is so much bigger, with more buildings and increasingly well populated. She was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, and with her ponytail could have been any Southern California girl. So, I walked up to her and said, "Excuse me Ms., can I help you find something?" She looked back at me with an amused look and replied, "Dr. Elder, I am Dr. Soandso. I am one of our faculty; you hired me."

When you can no longer tell colleagues from students, you know it's time to weigh anchor and sail away.


Gonzalez Named Classified Employee
of the Year; Will Compete for State Award

Enrollment Services Assistant Evelyn Gonzalez has been selected the Classified Employee of the Year by Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees. With the selection, Gonzalez' name advances to the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office for consideration for the California Classified Employee of the Year award.

The Classified Employee of the Year awards honor community college classified employees who demonstrate the highest level of commitment to the Vision for Success, the mission of the California community college system, and their local district. Recipients are nominated by their colleagues and then need to be endorsed by their local board of trustees to move forward. Classified employees with a minimum of five years of service as a permanent employee within the nominating community college district (full time or part time) are eligible for the award.

"Evelyn has been involved in college leadership as long as I have been at MVC," Michael Paul Wong, Ph.D., dean, Student Services Counseling, said. "She has earned respect from all elements of our campus for her hard work improving the experience of students at all levels."

Gonzalez, who has worked at the College for the past 17 years, attended Moreno Valley College, earning degrees in Social and Behavioral Studies and Administration of Justice. She went on to earn a bachelor's degree in Workforce Education and Development from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale this past December. She hopes to begin a master's degree program later this year.

A graduate of Perris Lake High School, Gonzalez was active in the High School Public Safety Internship Academy, then run by Riverside Community College. She volunteered for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department at the Perris station as an explorer, explorer advisor, citizen patrol and scenario role player at the Sheriff's Academy.

"From there I transitioned into working for the College," she said, "and have just stayed here."

The summer after high school, she interned for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department at the Ben Clark Training Center. From there, she was hired as an office assistant for the Department of Public Safety Education and Training's Law Enforcement Training programs at the BCTC. In 2010, her position transitioned to Enrollment Services. In December 2015, she transferred from BCTC to the College campus. Since October of 2019, she has also been serving students as an educational advisor.

"When I started working at the Ben Clark Training Center, I never thought that I would choose or stay with the education path," Gonzalez said. "My goal was to go into law enforcement, but once I started seeing the training aspect of law enforcement, I fell in love with it. I didn't know what happened behind the scenes and became fascinated by the different aspects such as adult learning principles, creating/developing curriculum, building lesson plans, and helping people reach their educational/professional goals.

"I love helping people. The thing I like best about being an educational advisor is that I am able to help a student from matriculation to class selection. I feel a sense of pride when a student approaches me later in their academic journey to thank me for having helped them along the way."

Gonzalez said being named the District Employee of the Year gives her a sense of accomplishment.

"I do my work and continue helping others not for the accolades, but for the mere personal satisfaction of being able to make a difference," she said. "This recognition allows me to see that my efforts have not gone unnoticed even if I don't do it for the recognition."

In the future, Gonzalez hopes to make a larger impact on the students she works with. Through her work with shared governance and committee work, she has gained a broader picture of higher education. This, in turn, has inspired her to pivot from her law enforcement focus to becoming a higher education administrator.

"When it comes to students, there is a tireless effort behind the work Evelyn does," Andrew Graham, placement coordinator at MVC, said. "Empathy, compassion, and an effort to relate are core elements of her student driven mindset. Evelyn's reputation with the students probably goes beyond her awareness of just how impactful she is in their lives. I could entertain hours of stories where students have recounted just how much support, motivation, and time Evelyn has lent to student success and their overall well-being."

Classified Employee of the Year winners will be announced at the July 21 Board of Governors meeting in Sacramento.

RCCD COVID-19 response website

Faculty, Staff Encouraged to Check District Website Regularly for Information

Moreno Valley College faculty and staff are encouraged to regularly check the Riverside Community College District COVID-19 website for updates from the District regarding the coronavirus. The District is also providing information through RCCD-All messaging and social media. Faculty and staff are encouraged to follow MVC and RCCD on social media platforms.

If you are having any symptoms, the County of Riverside has a website that will triage symptoms and refer you for testing. Also, the Office of State Emergency Services is reporting an increase in phishing attempts. Please do not click on unfamiliar links in emails or websites. Riverside County has issued a stay-at-home order as well as a requirement that when away from home faces must be covered. Face coverings can be bandanas, scarves, neck gaiters or other clothing that does not have visible holes. Remember to wash your hands frequently and maintain a six-foot distance between yourself and others.


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Moreno Valley College

16130 Lasselle St., Moreno Valley, CA 92551
(951) 571-6100


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