Welcome to Santa Monica College

Ambassadors Put Face on Santa Monica College

2013 SMC President’s Ambassadors with Deirdre Weaver,  SMC Foundation’s Assistant Director of Campus and Alumni Relations

2013 SMC President’s Ambassadors with Deirdre Weaver,
SMC Foundation’s Assistant Director of Campus and Alumni Relations

They are among the first faces you see at the doors to college events—art openings, breakfast meetings, concerts and lectures—and it is their impressions and experiences that are shared during campus tours.

Taynard Costa-Moura, SMC’s 2013-2014 AS President,  gives a tour on the SMC campus
Taynard Costa-Moura, SMC’s 2013-2014 AS President,
gives a tour on the SMC campus

They are the Santa Monica College President’s Ambassadors, and they put a face on a school that prides itself on its diversity and the record number of students who transfer to four-year institutions.

“President’s Ambassador students are the true representatives of what we do at the college,” said SMC President Chui Tsang. “They represent the diversity of students. They came from different walks of life and different parts of the world.

“They are here getting the best education they can,” Tsang said, “and they are relating to the outside world the real experiences they’ve had during their time here at SMC.”

View the pictures of this year’s 13 ambassadors or read their names and you realize the program, which is now in its fourth year, encompasses every ethnic and racial group—there are Caucasians and Asians, Latinos and African Americans from as near as Los Angeles and as far away as China.

Valentina Seitz guides students during  the Latino/a Youth Conference
Valentina Seitz guides students during
the Latino/a Youth Conference

“Each ambassador has a unique story to share that reflects the face of Santa Monica College,” said Deirdre Weaver, assistant director of campus and alumni relations, who oversees the program. “The Ambassadors are an exemplary group of students that are really quite exceptional and have wonderful and incredible stories to tell.”

Judy Neveau, SMC’s director of community relations, brings ambassadors to many of the special events she organizes to show participants “where we are today” and let them see first hand the diversity of the student body.

“People get to meet what I call the updated version, the 2.0 version, of the SMC student,” Neveau said. “They are a bright, articulate, ambitious group. They help form an image of our diversity in people’s minds.”

Sierra McDonald, President’s Ambassador, Tavis Smiley Intern
"I feel I’m one of the helping parts of somebody’s life…”
Sierra McDonald • President’s Ambassador • Tavis Smiley Intern

In addition to greeting and interacting with the public at campus events, the ambassadors serve as tour guides for everyone from donors to prospective students.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to see the college from the perspective of a student, a student who’s engaged, super involved, excelling academically, who’s doing extracurricular activities,” Weaver said. “They get to see students’ successes and real involvement.”

Being an ambassador helps students gain valuable leadership experience and provides a chance to meet people they wouldn’t otherwise meet—including business leaders and international visitors—and to develop their communication skills.

Students also can receive scholarships of up to $450 depending on how many hours they put in, a letter of recommendation from the college president, and an accomplishment they can include when they apply to transfer or win a scholarship.

Scott Pine, President’s Ambassador, Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winner
“There is a community of support at SMC...”
Scott Pine • President’s Ambassador • Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship winner

Scott Pine, an ambassador majoring in psychology, was drawn to the program to “expand and increase” his leadership opportunities and meet “wonderful people.”

“Because our college prides itself on diversity, you have to learn how to adapt and interact with all sorts of people from different backgrounds, races, creeds, and ethnicities,” said Pine, who is half Filipino. “You’re representing your entire campus and that’s a huge responsibility.”

During its four years, the program has retained all of its ambassadors, most of whom volunteer at least 40 hours a semester.

To make the cut, the 13 ambassadors must compete in a rigorous application process. They must maintain a high GPA, write an essay, present a letter of recommendation, demonstrate experience and field questions from an interview committee.

“When you take this on, you take it very seriously,” Weaver said. “It really lets people know what it’s like to be a student at SMC.”

Sierra McDonald, President’s Ambassador

Broadcast TV Intern

Sierra McDonald, a journalism major and SMC President’s Ambassador, is an intern in SMC’s Promo Pathway—a media training program for students from Los Angeles—and an intern at the nationally-televised Tavis Smiley talk show.

In one day in April, Santa Monica College student Sierra McDonald met actor Kevin Bacon, Hollywood legend Jane Fonda, and Chadwick Boseman, who plays the lead role in “42,” the new film biography of Jackie Robinson.

And that was just a routine day for McDonald. An intern at the Tavis Smiley show, her duties include greeting the guests, escorting them to the “green room,” having them sign the release forms and watching the tapings from the audio booth.

For the 20-year-old sophomore, it’s a far cry from the violence-riddled streets of Compton and another step toward achieving her career goal.

“I’m a journalism major, and I aspire to being a producer in the trenches making things happen,” McDonald said. “I come from Compton and grew up in this whole gang area and environment. There are social issues to why people commit crimes, but people don’t want to know that.”

Growing up in New Jersey, McDonald was introduced to the joys of print by her father, who had her read out loud from the newspaper—at first the funnies, then short articles—and write down her impressions. They also listened to the morning newscasts on the radio together.

But McDonald admits that she was, at best, a mediocre student at King Drew Magnet High School in Compton, where her family moved when she was 14. She had no idea how she would achieve her dream of attending USC.

Until she met a guidance counselor at the high school who had been an international student from Poland at Santa Monica College. Her advice—go to SMC, get involved, study hard.

And that’s what McDonald did, enrolling in the journalism program, taking numerous buses and trains to get to campus. Soon, she joined the Black Collegians Program, became a President’s Student Ambassador and an intern with the Promo Pathway Program, a media training program for students from Los Angeles.

“As soon as I got here,” McDonald recalls, “I was really proactive and got involved.”

McDonald plans to transfer to a four-year university in New York, either Columbia or NYU, and recently visited the metropolis to serve as an ambassador at an SMC Alumni reception.

“I met a lot of alumni that go to Columbia and NYU,” she said. “I feel more competitive about my position. There are SMC students that are there. Now I know them and they know me.”

She also met prospective students from New York who want to come to SMC. “I talked to them, and now they’re excited about coming,” McDonald said. “I feel I’m one of the helping parts of somebody’s life.”

While in New York, McDonald hooked up with her Pathways mentor, Tonja Brown, CNN’s senior director of strategic integration, who was visiting from Atlanta. And, along with three other SMC students, she got a personal tour of the MSNBC studios.

She even had lunch with Michael Chen, the network’s director of brand marketing, who gave McDonald his card. “I had a chance to connect and have a one-on-one conversation during our meal,” McDonald said.

In her two years at SMC, the kid who read the comic strips out loud to her father to learn how to read has made major strides toward what she has come to realize is her life goal.

“I want to introduce a different perspective of a world that never gets the light shone on it,” McDonald said.

Scholarship Winner

Scott Pine, a psychology major and SMC President’s Ambassador, has been awarded the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke transfer scholarship, up to $30,000 a year for three years, the largest privately funded transfer scholarship in the nation.

Scholarship Winner Scott Pine

Scott Pine arrived early at the Manhattan penthouse for the Alumni Association reception April 16. He set up a table with t-shirts, got a feel for the place and made sure that the platters of food were ready for the arriving guests.

“When the event started,” Pine recalled, “people came in droves.”

Pine, as he always does in his role as a President’s Student Ambassador, greeted the guests and “got them to feel comfortable.” And he shared his experiences at Santa Monica College.

One of the guests was a prospective SMC student who came with her mother. “The opportunities are there at SMC,” Pine told her. “All you have to do is reach out.”

Pine, a psychology major who graduates this year, should know. He put himself through school with an $18,000 scholarship and was, on this night, a finalist for a prestigious Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, at $30,000, the largest private funded transfer scholarship in the nation.

“I wanted to make sure I didn’t have to work so I could concentrate on my studies,” said Pine, who hopes to transfer to Stanford, UCLA or Claremont College to study social psychology. “There is a community of support at SMC that helped get me where I am today.”

Before the night was over, SMC President Dr. Chui Tsang made a special announcement. Scott Pine has been chosen as one of 73 recipients—from among 769 nominees from 377 community colleges—of the 2013 JKC scholarship.

“Tears rolled down his face, and everyone in the audience cried,” said Deirdre Weaver, SMC Foundation’s assistant director of campus and alumni relations, who organized the event. “It was clear that SMC was a place committed to excellent education. It was powerful.”

“When Scott got the award,” recalled Mike Tuitasi, SMC’s vice president of student affairs, “people thought, ‘Wow, this is a great institution.’”

As the guests left, the prospective student and her mother stopped to congratulate Pine on his scholarship. The student told Pine that, after tonight, she wanted to attend Santa Monica College.

The JKC scholarship, Pine said, “seemed to seal the deal.”

“That was it right there,” Pine said. “It wasn’t just about me. I accepted the award in my role as ambassador. It was about Santa Monica College.”

Service and Tradition

Many of SMC’s best and brightest students compete to be selected for the President’s Ambassador position. These students demonstrate the qualities of an outstanding scholar and future leader: enthusiasm, leadership, thoughtfulness, warmth, intelligence, and most of all a genuinely welcoming smile. Here are the cohorts from the first three years of the program.

SMC Ambassadors 2010
2010 Front row: Elias Gonzalez, Kenzie Barnett, Ishan Khwaja. Second row: Kevin Kerr, Drew Gatto, SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang, Michael Song, Rochelle Watkins, Christabella Adams, Geeta Sharma, Diana Navarrete, Associated Students President Cameron Henton.

SMC Ambassadors 2011

2011 Front row: Bijan Bayrami, SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang, Associated Students President Tiffany Inabu, Chantelle Eastman. Second row: Karissa Gonzalez, Diana Navarette, Andrew Gatto, Hun Hee “Haley” Kang, Eunice Kim, Lamis Tashta, Amelia Sanders-Aspuro, Cleo Anderson.
SMC Ambassadors 2012
2012 Front row: William Sun, Aditya Dhar, Isis Enriquez, Luis Gomez. Second row: Michael Maylahn, Bijan Bayrami, Dustin “DJ” Davids, Ava Haghighi, Natalie Waldon.
SMC Ambassadors 2013
2013 Front row: Valentina Seitz, Ernest Sevilla, Ashley Mashian. Second row: Amy Rahimpour, Nadia Deen, JoJo Lai, Taynard Costa-Moura. Third row: Nathalie Sanchez, Sierra McDonald, Scott Pine, Seyf Nasr, Delana Overton. Not pictured: Oren Shechter.

SMC Touches Base in New York

“We are creating the kind of network that pulls people through.”
— Deirdre Weaver

More than 60 past, present, and future SMC students gathered in New York City for a first-of-a-kind reception sponsored by SMC’s Alumni Association.

More than 60 past, present, and future SMC students gathered in New York City for a first-of-a-kind reception sponsored by SMC’s Alumni Association.

In the penthouse of a Manhattan high-rise with sweeping views of the Empire State Building and 9/11 Memorial, more than 60 Santa Monica College students—past, present and future—gathered for a first-of-a-kind event.

SMC students at Columbia University.
SMC students at Columbia University.

The President’s Student Ambassadors were on hand to greet guests and share their experiences with students considering the college in a small beachside city 2,500 miles away. SMC alumni now attending Columbia, Brown, Fordham, NYU, Pace and Yeshiva University mingled with current and prospective students, dispensing advice and providing new contacts.

The goal of the April 16 reception sponsored by the SMC Alumni Association was to create a national network of former students who can advise and mentor graduates transferring to four-year institutions in the U.S. and abroad, and help recruit new students.

SMC students DJ Davids, Mike Chen, and Sierra McDonald at Rockefeller Center.
SMC students DJ Davids, Mike Chen, and Sierra McDonald at Rockefeller Center.

“The idea was to create something we could come away from and tweak, so that we can possibly do these events nationally and internationally,” said Deirdre Weaver, SMC Foundation’s assistant director of campus and alumni relations, who organized the event.

“We want to create opportunities so when we send students out into the world, they arrive and are received by a former SMC student,” Weaver said. “We are creating the kind of network that pulls people through.”

Weaver combed the internet to track alumni who had ended up in New York, while an outreach counselor checked the list of prospective out-of-state students to pinpoint New Yorkers.

They not only found students attending Ivy League schools in the area, they found alumni from as far away as Sweden who lived in New York.

SMC students at Columbia University.
SMC students Miriam Alvizures, DJ Davids, Scott Pine, and Sierra McDonald in Times Square.

“Everybody was related to SMC,” said Mike Tuitasi, SMC’s vice president of student affairs, who attended the event, along with SMC President Dr. Chui Tsang and other college officials.

“People started talking to each other about what they were doing, Tuitasi said. “It was a great networking opportunity.”

The trip to the Big Apple was also a success for the four current students—including two ambassadors—who attended. They met with faculty at New York Schools and met with the director of brand marketing for MSNBC.

One of the students even walked away with his business card.

The SMC Alumni Association is also open to all former students, as well as current and former College employees, family, and supporters.

New York Alumni Reception

New York Alumni Reception

More than 60 Santa Monica College students—past, present and future—gathered for a first-of-a-kind event sponsored by the SMC Alumni Association in New York City this past Spring. SMC alumni now attending Columbia, Brown, Fordham, NYU, Pace and Yeshiva University joined the reception.

The Digital Campfire

Classroom Venture Brings Old–Time Storytelling into the Digital Age

Professor Roxanne Captor’s Media 20 class.

Professor Roxanne Captor’s Media 20 class uses original student research and produces short documentaries based on events in Los Angeles. Professor Sang Chi’s history class is now working on a comprehensive online archiving and storytelling project on the history of the Korean community in Los Angeles.

A narrator with an old-time-newsreel voice intones above the black and white images. America has gone to war, and women have joined the effort in droves, leaving their households and offices for the Donald Douglas plant not far from Santa Monica College.

The short digital film, a collaborative venture between SMC’s history and media departments, is part of an ongoing effort to bring old-time storytelling into the digital age—thorough enough to tell a tale, concise enough to view on a hand-held device.

Professor Roxanne Captor’s Media 20 class.

“We’re teaching the concept of storytelling,” said Roxanne Captor, a theater professor at SMC who is teaching a class in writing and producing short-form media. “That’s what people miss—sitting around the campfire and hearing how Granddad was in the Boy Scouts.”

“Douglas’ Angels,” which offers a brief introduction to the workforce of more than 60,000 women employed by the aircraft manufacturing giant during World War II, is one of a half dozen mini-documentaries SMC students have researched, produced and posted on YouTube.

Other documentaries, each of which lasts less than five minutes, also chronicle events that shaped Los Angeles’ Westside—from the birth of Culver City to the rise and fall of gambling ships off the coast of Santa Monica.

Zachary Tassler, who was a film major at SMC, said that directing “Douglas’ Angels” gave him a valuable overview of the production process.

“We all did little things outside of our job descriptions in order to bring it together,” Tassler said. “I learned a lot more about what it meant to be the director of a production.

Professor Roxanne Captor’s Media 20 class.

“The history student I worked with was a great guy, who worked very hard as both our history ‘expert’ and our producer,” he said. “If anything, I just wish the projects could have been a bit longer so that more of the historical information could have been shared.”

It is the history students who lay the groundwork for the films – combing through old newspapers, documents and photographs that provide the visuals and the basis for the shooting script.

“Typically, a lot of what we had tended to do in academics is to be sort of lecture based,” said Sang Chi, a history professor whose students are conducting research for a short film that will chronicle the story of Koreans in Los Angeles.

“What we really want to emphasize is giving students a real sort of experiential learning experience where they are actually engaged in creating historical documents and historical archiving and working with those materials as historians would do,” Chi said.

The students have been combing four years of the Korea Times, which published an English-language edition during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Professor Roxanne Captor’s Media 20 class.

“With the digital part, we feel very much that history is story telling in many respects,” said Chi, whose students have worked with Captor’s class. “There is an arc, there is a story, and we’re telling the story of the past. We want students to understand it in ways that they haven’t before.”

“The idea behind the digital part,” he added, “is to really get them to love it.”

Captor, whose two-minute videos under the title “The Bag” are popular on YouTube, believes short-form digital storytelling is no different than telling a long tale around a campfire.

“The bottom line for everything is still storytelling,” said Captor, who has produced and directed feature films and television movies and documentaries. “Some of the young filmmakers forget about that. It doesn’t mean a thing if there is no story there.”

Videos are available at www.youtube.com/user/4santamonicacollege

SMC Number 1 in Transfers

Dan Nannini, SMC’s Transfer Center Coordinator

Dan Nannini, SMC’s Transfer Center Coordinator, and the counselors at the SMC Transfer/Counseling Center provide educational planning and academic counseling to all SMC students.

Here’s why SMC is considered the premier transfer institution in California:

SMC transferred 1,076 students to UC, up seven percent from 1,008 sent in 2010-11. This is the 22nd consecutive year that SMC has been No. 1 in transfers to the UC campuses.

Transfers to UC, 2011-12
Ranking College Number of Transfers
1 Santa Monica College 1,076
2 De Anza College 804
3 Diablo Valley College 682
4 Pasadena City College 609
5 Santa Barbara City College 582
6 Orange Coast College 578
7 Mount San Antonio College 426
8 City College of San Francisco 406
9 Foothill College 396
10 Saddleback College 378
  •   Once again, SMC was No. 1 in transfers to the UC and California State University systems combined, with 2,176.

   •   SMC maintained its hold on first place in transfers to USC, from 168 students in fall 2011 to 222 in fall 2012.

   •   SMC continues to be No.1 in transfers of Hispanic students to UC campuses, with an increase from 117 in 2010-11 to 121 in 2011-12.

   •   SMC continues to be No.1 in transfers of African American students to UC campuses, with an increase from 25 in 2010-11 to 43 in 2011-12.

   •   SMC’s College Fair has become the largest of all other California Community Colleges. Over 150 colleges and universities attended the event this past Spring!

For an Easy, Affordable Move into American Culture…

Fall 2013 Offers International Students
a Great Beginning to Their College Careers!

Anthony Cloyd, Alycia Perez, and Celia Rivera.

Santa Monica College is #1 in transfers to the University of California, including UCLA! Many international students choose Santa Monica College to begin their college careers because of SMC’s transfer success, high-quality teaching, and low cost.

The Intensive English Program at Santa Monica College will help you make real progress in college. This program offers a strong plan to help you improve your skills in speaking, reading, listening to, and writing English. For admission requirements and more information, you can contact SMC’s International Education Center on the main campus, or call (310) 434-4217. Intensive English tuition is $3,200 for fall semester 2013. Classes begin on August 26. For information on the web, go to www.smc.edu/international.


English — Intensive ESL

Galina Inzhakova

“Coming to a new country, it’s better to start small…
SMC really helped! The intensive English program is like a little community—you spend a lot of time with other students and the teachers are right there taking care of you!”

Galina Inzhakova, transfer student to UCLA