High Impact!

The First Year Experience program is succeeding.
SMC has doubled the program for this fall.

FYE Students on campus.

SMC coordinates with local high schools to provide campus tours, assessment, and academic counseling, including one-on-one sessions. Many students learn about the First Year Experience program this way, and find it an attractive option.

First Year Experience Program

Dr. Roberto Gonzalez 
Dean of Student Success Initiatives at SMC

Dr. Roberto Gonzalez
Dean of Student Success Initiatives at SMC

“I didn’t know what the heck I was doing,” says Dr. Roberto Gonzalez, Dean of Student Success Initiatives at Santa Monica College, describing what it was like being the first in his family to go to college. He sees his experience mirrored in the students enrolled in SMC’s First Year Experience (FYE) program, created last year to respond to a state-wide goal to improve overall student success at reaching degree or transfer goals within a reasonable amount of time.

In fall 2013, 268 students from some of SMC’s top feeder high schools who assessed into pre- or college-level math and English applied and qualified for the FYE program. In return, they got guaranteed English and math courses for a year. The results so far are impressive: FYE freshmen students are enrolling in more classes, completing more units, and had a better first semester GPA than non-FYE freshmen at SMC!

Student with counselor.

“All of these young people are first generation college students and have little or no support at home,” said Aurora Martinez, a college counselor from downtown Los Angeles’s Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, who brought a group of 33 “excited and nervous” students to SMC for what FYE calls one of their ‘Admitted Student Days.’ After participating in SMC’s award-winning Prep2Test workshop at their high school, which explains how high stakes the assessment test is—students come to SMC for a campus tour, meet counselors and take the assessment test.

Jose Hernandez, SMC Counselor who works at the Welcome Center—which serves as a ‘one-stop shop’ for first-time students—is a former first-time SMC freshman himself.

“What better way to get them off on a strong footing than guaranteeing them English and Math classes along with access to counselors in their first year,” says Hernandez. It took him six years to transfer from SMC to UCLA. He now takes pride in working with FYE students, and it is his hope that they will transfer in half the time it took him.

Students with counselor.

In the 2014-2015 academic year, the program will be expanded to include 500 students, which is still “a drop in the bucket,” says Dr. Gonzalez, when compared to the number of approximately 5,800 first-time freshmen. And the plan is to keep growing the program each year while keeping it accessible.

“At Santa Monica High School, we rate SMC really high as a potential destination because of the level of support services SMC has,” says Rosa Mejia, counselor from SaMoHi who brought a group of 30 students to SMC on an infuriatingly beautiful day in March.

And SMC doesn’t plan to disappoint.

Student with counselor.

There are two kinds of summer programs for the FYE student: non-credit workshops referred to as ‘Summer Jams’ which focuses on strengthening reading, writing, math and study skills for college; and a for-credit program called ‘Summer Bridge’ that offers English, math or counseling classes. Following the summer program, FYE students will have the option to enroll in the fall semester in general education courses in areas such as sociology, art, art history, media studies, communication studies, dance, and political science. They will also have access to academic support, student success seminars, tutoring and supplemental instruction for math and English classes, intensive academic and career counseling and opportunities to be employed on campus.

“As an institution, our hope is we will be able to expedite these students getting bachelor’s degrees,” says Dr. Georgia Lorenz, Dean of Instruction.

The benefit of FYE doesn’t end at the student.

Students with counselor.

One of SMC’s new initiatives, ‘I³’—which stands for ‘Institutional Imagination Initiative’—envisions a future for the campus community that includes the exploration of cutting-edge educational models and technology to prepare students for fast change, emerging careers, and access to educational opportunity.

“What FYE does is ask teachers to think about how their course fits into the larger framework of what we offer here on campus and what students’ pursuits might be while they’re here,” says Susan Sterr, English Department Chair. “What English is trying to do is work across the curriculum with math and counseling to create academic pathways for students so that they can choose courses based on their interest and explore it to some depth.”

The FYE English, math, counseling, and general education courses are designed as loosely paired cohort courses, with the aim of having faculty from various disciplines work together to create interdisciplinary assignments, integrate career/major exploration and contextualize curriculum.

Student with counselor.

“I like the philosophy behind FYE,” says Laurie Guglielmo, Counseling Department Chair. “The students will be moving through it somewhat as a cohort—they will have a community built in and can rely on each other for support in their classes and things that they do.”

Details are being worked out for an iPad loaner program, conceived as a way for students to learn how to use technology as an academic success tool and to manage their time and productivity. FYE instructors would also be trained to enhance the learning environment using digital resources and students will learn how to make the most of the iPad—for group projects, making presentations in SMC’s ‘SMART’ digital classrooms, writing research papers, annotating sources and so on.

“We’re really setting them up to be successful,” says Guglielmo. “It’s up to them and their motivation.”

To learn more about the First Year Experience and to apply, go to www.smc.edu/fye.



   •   Recent high school graduates and first time college students who want to attend SMC.


   •   Students place at the pre-college or college level in SMC’s math and English assessment before June 30, 2014; and plan to attend SMC in the fall with the option to attend SMC beginning in the summer


   •   Guaranteed English and math classes for the 2014-15 year
   •   Early course enrollment dates for the year if in good standing
   •   “Summer Bridge” FYE English, math, or counseling classes (credit) & “Summer Jams” student success seminars and workshops (non-credit)
   •   Tutoring and supplemental instruction for math or English courses
   •   Academic and career counseling: financial aid and enrollment assistance, group counseling, workshops, short- and long-term educational planning
   •   Peer support and employment opportunities on campus

FYE freshmen students are enrolling in more classes, completing more units, and had a better first semester GPA than non-FYE freshmen at SMC!

Students in computer lab.

Preparing for Assessment Helps

Prep2Test logo.

SMC’s award-winning Prep2Test program, offered at both the high school and at SMC during a campus visitation, raises student awareness in preparing for placement exams in English and math. Students who take the short program are significantly more likely to place in college-level English and math and can choose from a broader range of general education classes. This preparation is a component of ‘Admitted Student Days’ at SMC and is important in assisting students in entering the First Year Experience program.

About one-fourth of SMC students
now take one or more online classes each semester.

Fall 2014 schedule of classes cover.

SMC Online

   •   About 225 different classes have been converted for online and online/hybrid delivery
   •   New curriculum is constantly being added
   •   All online classes are taught by SMC faculty
   •   SMC continues to grow the program. This fall’s offering is nine percent larger than
last year’s
   •   More than 340 sections are available this fall – 308 online and 34 hybrid/online
   •   SMC is consistently among the top three community colleges in the state in number
of online enrollments
   •   Online courses at SMC fill quickly and no online courses have been cancelled for low
enrollments for several years
   •   Student outcomes are about the same for online and on-ground classes. Success
rate and retention rate for distance education classes are within two or three percentagepoints of the rates for non-distance education classes
   •   Students from 31 different states and several different countries took SMC online
classes last year (none from the moon yet)
   •   SMC routinely trains its faculty on the use of an online learning platform to support classes with web-only and web-enhanced content
   •   Use of eCompanion to support ground classes has grown substantially – about 88 percent of SMC faculty report using eCompanion during their teaching assignment
   •   eCompanion also offers virtual workplaces for faculty to work with colleagues. Active gathering places include Counseling 20 faculty, Japanese Language faculty, ESL workgroups, STEM, the English Department faculty Common Essay group, the Academic Senate, and Math Department homeroom, according to a recent report
   •   Pearson Learning Studio’s My Math Labs have recently been integrated into eCompanion shells. Students who purchase a My Math Labs textbook get seamless, single sign-on access to a myriad of lab resources and free tutoring time

Siamak Khakshoor-Kohan.

Siamak Khakshoor-Kohan is One of 85 Students
Chosen from 3,705 Across the Nation

For the second year in a row—and marking the third time in four years—a Santa Monica College student has been awarded a prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the nation’s largest private scholarship for community college transfer students.

This year’s recipient, Siamak Khakshoor-Kohan, is one of 85 students chosen from 3,705 students from 737 community colleges. The award follows last year’s JKCF scholarship given to SMC student Scott Pine, and comes three years after Stephen Olsen became the first student in SMC history to receive the award.

JKCF winners—chosen by a highly respected selection committee of 18 admissions professionals, mostly from selective four-year institutions—receive up to $30,000 a year for up to three years to complete their Bachelor’s degree at accredited four-year colleges or universities.

“The Jack Kent Cooke award will allow Siamak to realize his dream of becoming a caring physician for those in need,” said SMC President Dr. Chui L. Tsang. “His success is one that mirrors what America is about: hard work and opportunity.”

JKCF Scholarship winners are chosen for their “high academic ability and achievements, financial need, persistence, leadership, and a desire to help others,” according to the Foundation, which was started in 2000.

A pre-med student at SMC, Khakshoor-Kohan is one of four children raised by Jewish immigrants from Iran. “As I see them working every day of the week to save for our future, my parents are still an inspiration to me,” says Khakshoor-Kohan. “They taught me the importance of leading an honorable life centered on higher education and service to society.”

Khakshoor-Kohan is familiar with the idea of embarking on a career in healthcare. His older sister is a dentist, his brother is a radiology resident, and his younger sister is currently working on her Master’s degree in biomedical sciences.

“The vision of one day healing my own patients because of higher education now beckons me to pursue my own path in healthcare,” says Khakshoor-Kohan. “My family’s humble immigrant background has helped me to have greater understanding and compassion for patients of diverse backgrounds.”

SMC Life Sciences Professor Mary Colavito, along with SMC’s environmental education program Sustainable Works consultant Kaya Foster, recommended Khakshoor-Kohan for the scholarship. “Siamak has the essential combination of motivation, intellectual curiosity, and compassion to reach his goal of a career in the medical field,” said Colavito, who by coincidence has also been an instructor for all three of Khakshoor-Kohan’s siblings.

Khakshoor-Kohan is a longtime healthcare volunteer and—through the honor society Alpha Gamma Sigma—has been the recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, established in 2003 to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers are making in the nation’s communities, and to encourage more people to serve.

SMC Biology 23 instructor Ellen Baker, SMC Life Sciences professor Mary Colavito, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship recipient Siamak Khakshoor-Kohan, SMC consultant to Sustainable Works Kaya Foster, and SMC Transfer Center Faculty Leader Dan Nannini

SMC Biology 23 instructor Ellen Baker, SMC Life Sciences professor Mary Colavito, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship recipient Siamak Khakshoor-Kohan, SMC consultant to Sustainable Works Kaya Foster, and SMC Transfer Center Faculty Leader Dan Nannini

“When I was in high school, I was a volunteer at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood and worked as a patient escort,” says Khakshoor-Kohan. “One day, my friend and I were helping discharge an elderly lady in chronic pain. She pointed to a window and said, ‘That’s a good place to jump.’ We were speechless, but that’s when I realized how important it was to connect and communicate with patients on a personal level.”

For the past six months, Khakshoor-Kohan has been a volunteer at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, where his attention is focused on supporting nurses caring for ICU patients.

Khakshoor-Kohan, a member of SMC’s academically rigorous Scholars Program, has been accepted as a transfer student from SMC to UC Santa Barbara, and is still waiting to hear from UCLA, University of Southern California (USC), and Stanford University. “I still haven’t made up my mind about where I want to continue my studies,” he says.

Although his long-term ambition is to become a physician, Khakshoor-Kohan says, “I cherish every blessing along my journey of learning and growth, and embrace every opportunity with open arms and a view to excellence. I’ve been active—first as a student and now as a workshop leader—with Sustainable Works. One of the things that made me interested in participating was finding out that it takes about 4,000,000 gallons of water to produce one ton of beef! I have to admit that I was really shocked about that, but the whole thing has been an elevating experience, encouraging me to be a role model of higher learning, personal excellence, and service to society. I have always longed to improve the world through higher knowledge and understanding.”

SMC Transfer Center Faculty Leader Dan Nannini said—in tribute to both Siamak and Cooke, who once owned the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Los Angeles Kings (NHL)—“It’s nice to know that money I spent going to Kings and Laker games in the 70s is going to deserving students like Siamak today.” Nannini also serves as President of the Western Association for College Admission Counseling (WACAC) and is SMC’s faculty liaison with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

Scholarship amounts vary based on several factors, including costs at the college or university the student attends, as well as other grants and scholarships the student receives.

Scholarship recipients can pursue any area of study, and can use the award to pay for tuition, required fees, books, and room and board. Recipients also benefit by gaining access to the greater JKCF Scholar community.

“The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has long been committed to helping outstanding community college students transfer to and succeed at the nation’s top colleges and universities,” said Emily Froimson, vice president of programs at the Foundation. “Since the program started in 2002, the Foundation has supported 643 community college students directly, and thousands more through the Foundation’s grant-making initiatives.”

About the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Building on the belief that that high-potential, low-income students will excel educationally when given the resources to develop their talents, the Foundation supports exceptional students from elementary school to graduate school through scholarships, grants, direct service, and knowledge creation and dissemination. Founded in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, the Foundation has awarded $120 million in scholarships to more than 2,000 students, and $76 million in grants to organizations that support the Foundation’s mission.

Business is More than just usual

SMC Professor Gregory Brookins mentoring student Leticia Legre
SMC Professor Gregory Brookins
mentoring student Leticia Legre

The seagulls who hang out in the fountains at Santa Monica College’s gorgeous quad attest to two things: sun-kissed beaches a stone’s throw away and three hundred plus days of sunshine. But even they could tell you it’s more than just beaches and sunshine that bring students from all over the globe and the country to California’s number one transfer institution—as proven by SMC’s Business Department. A recent study of data from the National Association of State Boards of Accounting which publishes annual data related to the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) Exam showed that, on average, SMC has a higher CPA exam pass rate (44.1%) when compared with all community colleges (national average, 36.7%) and CSU institutions (41.0%).

Accounting professor Jenny Resnick chalks down this success to the following: the support system and resources available at SMC, the quality and enthusiasm of the faculty and their interest in the students’ future.

“You can go as far as you want to here at SMC.”
– Aileen Huang, SMC Accounting Professor

SMC Professor Ailen Huang mentoring students
SMC Professor Ailen Huang
mentoring students

“SMC’s business professors are one-of-a-kind,” says alumna Nancy Bouabsi, 20, now a junior at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Bouabsi plans on returning to SMC to prepare for the CPA exam after she obtains her B.A. in Economics from UCSD.

Many of the business department professors are working professionals who are able to tell students stories ‘from the trenches’, of what it’s like to be an accountant at a top CPA firm, or to work in logistics, marketing, management or insurance. And as Department Chair Joy Tucker puts it, SMC’s business professors are “our biggest selling point.”

“What makes us unique is that we attract worldwide talent to our campus,” says Greg Brookins, who teaches accounting. Brookins often finds 15 languages being spoken in his Accounting 1 class of approximately 45 students.

Student tutoring.

SMC’s business department offers transfer and traditional degree or certificate options as well as options for career training and continuing education to business professionals—and a full complement of CPA preparation courses, which includes those offered at the upper division level. SMC offers five Associate degrees in Business: Business Administration, Insurance Professional, Logistics/Supply Chain Management, Management/Leadership and Merchandising, and an Associate in Science for Transfer in Business Administration; five Certificates of Achievement; and six Department Certificates.

Recently, veteran and SMC alumnus Martin McMahon led a team of four from the University of Portland, where he is now a junior, to win the prestigious 2013 American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Accounting Case National Competition—and an award of $10,000. He credits his experience and professors at SMC—where he was also a student leader for the Supplemental Instruction Program—for his continued interest and desire to succeed in accounting.

Enrolled SMC business students can “shop” for free in the business department’s Career Closet
Enrolled SMC business students can “borrow for interviews”
for free in the business department’s Career Closet

“They are just so involved,” says student Danny Rodriguez, of his professors. This is evident in faculty-led initiatives like the Rotaract “Business Club” which brings successful business leaders to speak and offers students networking opportunities, and in things like the “Career Closet”, a retail-like space in the business department stocked with gently used business clothing, accessories and shoes donated by faculty and advisory board members. Professor Lorrie Ivas’s Merchandising students maintain the closet while her Advertising students create publicity to generate donations for it. Each semester, currently enrolled Business students can come in and “shop” for a head-to-toe outfit and IMAN cosmetics, all for free.

SMC Professor Marcella Kelly  mentoring student Carlos Villegas
SMC Professor Marcella Kelly
mentoring student Carlos Villegas

A student told Pat Halliday in her Accounting 1 class that when she became an accountant, she wanted to look just like her: always professional. The next week, Halliday brought in one of her pantsuits for the student. The student told her later that the pants didn’t fit but when she put on the blazer, something happened to her. “I felt like I could do anything,” she told Halliday. Inspired by this, Halliday created the Career Closet.

When asked what she liked best about SMC, alumna Nancy Bouabsi responded: “How much the faculty cared.”

For more information on the Business department at SMC and the programs offered, visit www.smc.edu/business.

SMC Accounting Students Learn and Serve

“Anyone can volunteer at a soup kitchen but not everyone can help people prepare tax returns,” said SMC accounting professor Ming Lu. For about five years, Lu has volunteered with an IRS program called VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), which provides income tax return preparation services to low income individuals and their families—for free.

SMC Professor Ming Chun Lu.
SMC Professor Ming Chun Lu

Early this year, some of his Accounting 2 students asked him what he did for community service and he told them about VITA. Then, nine or ten of them came up to him and asked him if they could get involved.

Lu thought two things: that they were kidding and that they were trying to be nice. He had never talked about VITA before because he knew that most of his students had a lot going on in their lives; many of them work to support themselves.

For the duration of the tax season—from February till April—Lu’s students prepared tax returns with VITA on a few Saturdays. All of them had to go through a training session and take a certification test.

“This experience gave me great insight into the accounting profession, and I enjoyed helping others,” said Daniel Haiem, VITA volunteer and SMC accounting student, who is preparing to take the CPA exam and holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

“I wish I had gone to SMC since high school,” said Haiem.

(VITA is open to people who make $52,000 or less)

“The professors at SMC will make your experience as good as possible and will have a great effect on your future.” – Nancy Bouabsi, former SMC student

It’s all in the numbers

1.   On average, SMC has a higher CPA exam pass rate* (44.1%) when compared with all community colleges (national average, 36.7%) and CSU institutions (41.0%).

2.   SMC had higher pass rates on all four sections of the CPA exam** when compared with all U.S. community colleges, California community colleges, and CSU institutions.

3.   SMC is ranked first in terms of number of candidates taking the CPA exam among all community colleges in the United States and its territories.

(Findings from an SMC Institutional Research study of data from the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), which publishes a detailed report each year on how candidates did on the national CPA exam. This data is from the 2012 CPA exam)

*Includes first-time and repeat testing events

**Does not measure the unique number of candidates who passed all four sections of the test. The CPA Exam Pass Rate was calculated by dividing the total number of testing events passed by the total number of testing events. All candidates, including those who attempted only one, two or three of the four sections were included in the analyses.

Focus on: The Art Mentor Program

Two people in gallery.

Accelerating the Crème de la Crème

Sewer, Sculptor, and Scribbler” is how Australian-born artist and Santa Monica College art student Svetlana Shigroff describes herself in her blog. Her work encompasses a variety of media—paintings, textiles, drawings, photographs, jewelry, and sculpture—all mind-bending and avant-garde.

Shigroff participates in SMC’s Mentor Program in the Arts—better known as the Art Mentor Program—which offers especially talented art students the unique experience of working intensively with faculty mentors, visiting artists, and fellow students to create individual bodies of work that scream “personal” and “autonomous,” and that are portfolio-ready and gallery-worthy.

“The Art Mentor Program allows me the chance to be reviewed by peers and get feedback on each piece I produce,” says Shigroff. “That may sound scary, but my work has evolved exponentially from this process. And the connections I have made through this program have helped me form friendships that have evolved into collaborations and group shows, and allowed me to be a part of a number of art collectives.”

SMC art professor Carlson Hatton is one of the program’s mentors and a tour de force in his field. A graduate of de Ateliers in Amsterdam and the Jan van Eyck Academie studio arts laureate program in Maastricht, the Netherlands, Hatton has shown his work at the de Appel Arts Centre in Amsterdam, the Torrance Art Museum, Ruth Bachofner Gallery, and SMC’s Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery.

“The Art Mentor Program tries to fuse technique and idea and a student’s interest,” says Hatton. “Students in the program end up with really well-rounded portfolios, and get exposure to what they will encounter in a four-year school: critique and projects that don’t need hand-holding, along with a looseness where they can incorporate their own interests.”

To join the Art Mentor Program, students must be enrolled full time, have completed their general education (GE) requirements with a 3.0 or higher GPA, have taken a couple of art studio classes in which their work has proven outstanding, and be developing a portfolio to apply to schools within the next two semesters. An SMC art instructor recommends students to the program based on their artistic talent.

This year, six of the 25 SMC Art Mentor Program students were accepted into UCLA for Fall 2014.

Former SMC student Steve Martinez, 22, is now a UCLA architecture major whose work was featured in the June 2014 UCLA Architecture and Urban Design exhibition. He credits the Art Mentor Program with shaping his goals as an artist/architect. “It was the emphasis on collaboration,” says Martinez. “SMC runs under the flag of being an incredibly diverse school, but the Art Mentor Program began dissecting that vast diversity within the field of art. We were encouraged to exchange and merge our ideas to form alternative questions and problems regarding someone’s work.”

Hertz Alegrio, a former SMC student studying illustration at Art Center College of Design, believed illustration would be all that he would do. Then he joined the Art Mentor Program. “The program instilled within me a newfound interest in fine art,” says Alegrio. “Though I’m studying illustration, because of the Art Mentor Program, I can see myself eventually going into fine art.”

Another Art Mentor Program alumna, Tara Gruchalski, 21, is an Art major at UCLA. “The Art Mentor Program forced me to acknowledge that my work doesn’t exist alone,” says Gruchalski.

Shigroff, Martinez, Alegrio, and Gruchalski agree that possibly the best things about the program are the relationships and collaborations they’ve made.

“Being around so much creativity every week inspired me to no end,” says Alegrio. “Not only have many of these people become lifelong friends, but also enduring artistic inspirations.”The Art Mentor Program meets every Saturday at a hangar at SMC’s Airport Campus for working sessions, demos, and critiques. The program has organized well-received shows the past two springs at SMC’s Barrett Art Gallery, and has also featured prominent LA-based artists such as Meg Cranston, Zak Smith, Jay Stuckey, and Michelle Carla Handel as guest speakers.

Art Mentor Program students have gone on to some of the most prominent art schools in the nation, including California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Art Center College of Art and Design, San Francisco Art Institute, Chicago Art Institute, and Rhode Island College of Art and Design.

SMC offers Associate degrees in Art and in Art History, and has one of the best foundation art programs in California. To learn more, please visit www.smc.edu/academicprograms/art and click on the “Art Programs” link.

“Being around so much creativity every week inspired me to no end.” – Hertz Alegrio, former SMC student

Focus on: Global Motion World Dance

Global Motion dancers.

Dancing Their Way Across the Globe

Getting them back on the bus wasn’t easy because everyone, it seemed, wanted to have pictures taken with them.

“No, let me enjoy this moment!” was what Raquel Ramirez and Sri Susilowati—Santa Monica College Dance instructors and co-directors of SMC’s Global Motion World Dance Company—heard from the students who had just finished performing the Danza Azteca on a mile-and-a-half route at the opening ceremony of the 15th Beijing International Tourism Festival (BITF) in China. It was the first time that the dance, one of pre-Hispanic Mexico’s most ancient, had been performed at one of China’s top dance festivals. Twenty-one dancers from SMC’s Global Motion and 18 dancers from Ramirez’s professional dance company, Ballet Folklorico Flor de Mayo, were selected from thousands of applicants to perform with artists from 10 other countries in late September 2013. “Often, people think that college dance troupes are amateurish,” says Susilowati. “But Global Motion’s quality is professional. And once judges and audiences see us perform, they realize it.”

The dancers were selected for the 2013 BITF on their second try at applying to perform at the festival. And organizers of the International Folklore Arts Festival in Beijing were so impressed by the performance that they invited the dancers to return and join artists from around the globe as part of the five-day festival in September 2014. This time, their repertoire will include Tahitian, Indonesian, and Salsa—and of course, the tried, tested, and wildly popular Danza Azteca.

“My favorite part of the trip was when we got to the airport in Beijing, seeing the disbelief and joy on everyone’s faces!” says Ramirez of the 2013 trip. The experience was “transformative,” says Ramirez, and even better, the dancers managed to get their elaborate Danza Azteca headpieces safely to Beijing, feathers disassembled and carefully ensconced in their carry-on luggage.

In the Beijing hotel where they were staying with the other performers, a Belgian stilt-walker let then-SMC student Toni Pasion try out her stilts.

“It put things in perspective; you realize just how big the world is,” says Pasion, who is now at UC Riverside. “Working with a company of dancers of different backgrounds and experience levels, and then trying to give off the same energy of the culture we were representing was such a growing experience.”

“SMC is open to everybody and all cultures,” says Ramirez. “And we took this message to another country. We had dancers from China, the Dominican Republic—African Americans, Latin Americans, Central Americans, Mexicans—if that doesn’t make us global, then what does?”

“The experience taught students what it’s like to be in a real dance company,” says Susilowati, “showing them how to share space and get along with others.”

In addition to Global Motion, SMC has a contemporary dance ensemble called Synapse Dance Theater. Synapse focuses on dance styles that include Modern, Postmodern, Jazz, Contemporary Ballet, Hip Hop, and Fusion.

Global Motion and Synapse are more than just performance companies. They are also classes designed to give students firsthand, professional-level performance experience. These students gain the abilities and confidence they need to go on to professional careers in dance and related fields.

Both Synapse and Global Motion dance at venues and cultural events in the Los Angeles area—and each semester in the world-class Broad Stage at the SMC Performing Arts Center— showcasing new works by student, faculty, and guest choreographers and artists. In March 2014, SMC dance students—members of both Global Motion and Synapse—were also invited to perform in the prestigious American College Dance Festival (ACDFA) national competition at Georgia College. The SMC students were the only dancers from a community college, and were selected as finalists to perform at the ACDFA Gala.

Each semester, in addition to presenting public performances, the department hosts a free Masters of Dance lecture series, which is sponsored by the SMC Associates (www.smc.edu/associates), and has featured dancers such as Fayard Nicholas, Toni Basil, David Zurak of the Martha Graham Dance Company, and Stanley Holden of the Royal Ballet.

SMC offers an Associate degree in Dance and has set up transfer agreements with UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and UC Santa Barbara, as well as Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and Cornish College of the Arts. Please visit www.smc.edu/dance to learn more about SMC’s Dance Department programs.

“It transformed the students in a way that I can’t explain. You had to see their faces.” – Raquel Ramirez, Co-Director, SMC’s Global Motion World Dance Company

Focus on: Academy of Entertainment & Technology

AET campus.

Making Space for Cutting Edge Skills

Let’s face it: Phrases like “the best of” and “the original,” are so overused they don’t even make you blink. So look for the proof in the pudding. Or take a walk down Stewart Street in Santa Monica, where Santa Monica College’s Academy of Entertainment & Technology (AET) sits, at the moment a construction zone undergoing a major makeover and expansion. AET programs are temporarily headquartered at the Airport Campus.

In the mid nineties, the entertainment industry pointed out that California’s workforce was painfully short of employees with digital media technical skills. Industry reports and media coverage at the time concluded that a big reason was a lack of training programs.“SMC’s then-President Piedad Robertson pulled together a group of people from the entertainment industry,” says Dean of External Programs Katharine Muller, “and asked what they wanted.” An advisory board that included prominent industry executives was formed, and discussions were held at city, county, and state levels. The result was the purchase of the AET campus, and the start of the very first entertainment technology program of its kind in the United States.

Today, AET is home to the Design Technology Department, which offers Associate degrees and various certificates in areas such as Animation and Digital Media, Game Design and Digital Effects, Graphic Design, and Interior Architectural Design. “The instructors here are experienced professionals who know their stuff,” says Muller. “They work closely with industry advisors to keep SMC’s curriculum up to par with industry trends.”

Take for example, Chris Fria, who has worked in animation production for television (King of the Hill, South Park), video games, and feature films. After enjoying training the crew as lead technical director on the South Park movie, Fria applied to teach at SMC “on a whim.”

That was 12 years ago. Today, Fria is Chair of the Design Technology Department, where he has overseen major shifts in curriculum. The program’s students have gone on to graphic design and animation jobs at companies such as DreamWorks Animation, Lucky magazine, Motion Theory, Science Media LLC, and even the Democratic National Committee.

SMC’s Academy of Entertainment & Technology is no longer the only institution of higher education to offer such programs—but having set the standard means sitting back is never an option. Enter EMERGE.

EMERGE is part of a new initiative at SMC called ICTE (Information, Communication, Technology, and Entertainment). The initiative was launched in response to the national and international growth of the “ICT” industry, which merges interrelated, fast-changing high technologies: computers, software, information systems, and digital media, to name a few.

“EMERGE will explore to see where content overlaps between disciplines,” says Fria, “and try to bring these different groups of students closer, so they can collaborate on projects they wouldn’t have considered otherwise.”

And when the AET campus reopens in 2016, it will be the proof of that overlap… in concrete. In addition to Design Technology, the campus will house SMC’s Communication and Media Studies Department, which includes the College’s new, already acclaimed film production program, as well as programs in broadcasting and journalism. The newsroom for The Corsair, SMC’s student newspaper, will also be at AET.

“The renovated AET will be fabulous for our new AS degree program in Film Production,” says Salvador Carrasco, professor of SMC film production. “We’ll be able to operate like a mini-studio in close collaboration with all the other programs housed there. We’re going to have direct access to cutting-edge facilities and technology that will allow us, for instance, to shoot a scene with a RED camera on the sound stage and simultaneously make that material available—in real time—to an AVID editing class.”

The program’s first film, Solidarity, won Best Short Drama at the 2013 San Diego Film Festival and was an official entry at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and a finalist at BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Theater Arts).

Also emerging on the new campus will be KCRW, Southern California’s leading NPR radio station, which is licensed to SMC and currently operates out of studios in a basement under the College’s cafeteria.

“KCRW is thrilled to be above ground for the first time in our modern history,” says KCRW General Manager Jennifer Ferro. “The AET campus is situated right in the center of Los Angeles’ creative economy, a tremendous benefit for both KCRW and SMC students, who make a valuable contribution to KCRW’s life and vitality.”

Visit www.smcdesigntech.org for more information on the programs offered through AET’s Design Technology Department.

“The idea is to smooth the transition for our students from the AET classroom to the workplace.” – Salvador Carrasco, Professor of SMC Film Production

Focus on: Study Abroad

Study Abroad students.

Going Outside the Box

“Embrace where you are and forget where you came from,” says Santa Monica College student Johannes Westin, 28, originally from Sweden. “It’s how you make the most out of a study abroad experience.”

After having the epiphany that it would be really nice to converse in Korean when hanging out with his Korean roommates, Westin first enrolled in Korean classes at SMC. Then he went on to spend three semesters abroad at Soon Chun Hyang University in the South Korean city of Asan on a California Colleges for International Education scholarship. In South Korea, he found himself a part of family holidays with friends he made there, and deduced that his fellow Swedes could learn a thing or two from Koreans. “Especially about social interactions,” he clarifies.In Winter 2015, SMC students taking Physical Anthropology (Anthropology 1) with Dr. Catherine Haradon and Intercultural Communication (Communication Studies 37) with Dr. Nancy Grass Hemmert will have the chance to travel with their instructors to South Africa.

Dr. Haradon will lead visits to paleoanthropological sites where fossils of early humans have been discovered, and Dr. Grass Hemmert will provide a very practical lens—via her class themes and concepts—through which students can process surprising or shocking experiences they may encounter in their travels. Students will also hear guest lectures at the University of Cape Town, visit Johannesburg and historic sites like Robben Island, and go on a safari in Kruger National Park.

In Summer 2015, the Study Abroad menu will offer trips led by SMC instructors to Turkey, with study at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, and to China, where students will travel to Beijing and attend The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies. Why, of all places, South Africa, Turkey, and China? “We were looking at important areas of the world to which our students haven’t had a lot of exposure,” says Kelley Brayton, SMC’s Dean of International Education.

Wall of China.

Over the past 20 years, archaeology professor Brandon Lewis has taken close to a 1,000 SMC students to the Three Rivers Region of northwestern Belize, Peru, Bolivia and Guatemala on an Archaeological Field Techniques course he describes as “jungle survivor.” Working at excavations, exploring caves the Mayans believed to be entrances to Xilbalba (the realm of death), camping in the jungle, snorkeling and studying the world’s second largest barrier reef, and getting supplies to children living with AIDS are just a few highlights.

“What better way to be a global citizen?” asks Lewis, one of the directors of the La Milpa Archaeology Project in Belize, which has been featured by National Geographic. Another SMC veteran of field studies abroad is life sciences professor Ed Tarvyd, who has led students in Natural Studies and Marine Biology field studies courses to Tahiti, the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, Belize, and other locations since the 1960s. While swimming with humpback whales in Tahiti isn’t too low of a highlight, Tarvyd defines his favorite moments as those “when students tell me that I’ve opened their eyes to an entire new experience in life.”

Most study abroad courses offered at SMC are 3-unit transferable courses and fulfill the Global Citizenship requirement for those pursuing an Associate degree. Courses roughly follow the format of three weeks at SMC and three weeks at the destination abroad, though schedules vary. Scholarships and other financial aid are available for study abroad programs.

SMC’s pursuit of ‘global citizenship’ doesn’t necessarily require students to get a passport and visa, either. Each year, about 50 SMC students join faculty and staff for a daylong field trip of Los Angeles—a ‘study in-broad tour’—with geography instructor Bill Selby and Dr. Grass Hemmert. Students travel to historic and cultural LA-area landmarks; sample cuisines of Mexico, El Salvador, Japan, and Ethiopia; and go home with a full stomach and a new appreciation for Greater Los Angeles. “The idea,” says Selby, “is to tour the world in our own backyard, and learn that we have to understand each other to make LA, and the world, work.”

Visit www.smc.edu/studyabroad to learn more about SMC’s Study Abroad programs.

“Studying abroad will change your life. It’s like jumping into the unknown and finding new possibilities.” – Kelley Brayton, Dean of International Education

Focus on: Scholars Program

SMC Scholars group image.

Nothing Mediocre About SMC’s Scholars

In 1985, the Titanic was found, the plastic thingamajig that saves hot pizza from the top of the box was invented, and Santa Monica College became the first community college with a Transfer Alliance Program (TAP) with UCLA, guaranteeing SMC students UCLA admission if they met certain qualifications. TAP evolved into SMC’s Scholars Program.

Now, 29 years later, SMC’s Scholars Program is the most robust in the state, serving approximately 1,100 students each year. The program offers a selection of rigorous classes, along with individual counseling and tutoring, to prepare students for transfer to four-year colleges and universities. Students in the program are guaranteed priority admission to selected schools, including UCLA, UC Irvine, Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Chapman University, Mills College, and Occidental College. In Fall 2013, more students were admitted to UCLA from SMC’s Scholars Program than from any other California community college.

“What sets this program apart from that of other colleges,” says SMC Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeff Shimizu, “is that we made a commitment to make transferring students a priority.” Shimizu was the first counselor for the Scholars Program, helping its first group of 90 students in 1985. “From the beginning, our faculty supported the Scholars Program and set a strong standard that filtered through to other programs: We’re not going to settle for mediocre,” says Shimizu. “We’re going to strive to be better and be the best at what we do.”

Teresa Pitts, 52, had “a bumpy start with education.” She didn’t graduate with her high school class, and she dropped out of college twice. At 46, after the deaths of her beloved older brother and mom, Pitts came back to SMC, then transferred and graduated from UCLA with honors, an inspirational story covered by Huffington Post and USA Today.

Pitts was working full time when she came to SMC, but was determined to see her education through. And the Scholars Program counselors were there for her all the way, starting with getting her through the panic of thinking she wouldn’t be accepted into UCLA because of her past academic record.

“But Teresa (Garcia) fought for me,” says Pitts. Next stop for Pitts: law school.“I always say the Scholars Program ‘packages’ students,” says Counselor Teresa Garcia, who has been the program’s leader for the last 14 years. “The students are ready—we just help them develop and show the potential they’ve already got.”

Andrea Jimenez, 21, is an SMC Scholar working toward an Associate degree in Public Policy. “Being an undocumented immigrant meant financial aid was not available when I graduated from Santa Monica High School,” says Jimenez, “so I couldn’t go to New York University or to UC Irvine, where I was accepted.” Instead, she came to SMC and joined the Scholars Program.

Today, Jimenez is also working full time and has already been accepted into UC Santa Barbara, but she’s waiting to hear back from UCLA, her top choice. “In six years,” she says, “I see myself as a UCLA Law School graduate.”

Jariel Bytheway graduated cum laude from UCLA in 2009 with a Political Science, International Relations degree, and was accepted directly into defense contractor Raytheon’s prestigious rotational Leadership Development Program. He now works with clients such as NASA as a Lead Contracts Negotiator for Raytheon.

Bytheway describes his life at SMC as “simply difficult.” After he was accepted into the Scholars Program, his determination to succeed was noticed by the counselors, who helped guide him through the transfer process—twice! After a poor academic performance in his last semester, Bytheway’s initial acceptance to UCLA was rescinded.

“I was devastated,” says Bytheway. “For the first time in my life, I contemplated quitting.” But the Scholars Program counselors wouldn’t let that happen, helped him craft a plan to earn reinstatement to UCLA—and you already know the rest of his story.

How successful is the Scholars Program? Recent data from UCLA showed that students in the program had an application success rate of 90%, compared to about 35% for the general SMC student population.

And since SMC has held its spot as California’s top transfer institution for over 20 years, no one’s arguing.Visit www.smc.edu/scholars to find out more about the Scholars Program.

“I believe my success was insured the day I was accepted into the Scholars Program.” – Teresa Pitts, former SMC Scholar now a UCLA student

Focus on: The Veterans’ Resource Center

Veterans in front of flag.

Inside the Wire at SMC

Home,” says Eddie Gutierrez, 35, Santa Monica College student and a 12-year veteran of the Marine Corps, when asked what SMC’s Veterans’ Resource Center (VRC) means to him.

Gutierrez, whose plan is to transfer to the Kinesiology program at Cal State Long Beach, and someday own his own gym, says the staff and counselors at the VRC know exactly how to get him the classes he needs and what papers to fill out. No wonder he calls them “awesome. Not all schools have VRCs,” says Gutierrez. “I’m so lucky to be at SMC, where there is one.”

Every hour, a clock tower standing tall in the lawn outside SMC’s cafeteria startles lounging lovers, birds, and professors in mid-sentence all over the main campus. The tower is a reminder of SMC’s history of supporting military veterans, built as a memorial to those who served in World War II. Veterans have been coming to SMC under the GI Bill since then. Today, there are about 700 veterans on campus,

“Our veterans deserve a special place on campus where they feel safe and welcome as they transition to civilian life,” says Brenda Benson, Dean of Counseling and Retention. “Our VRC counselors and support staff thoroughly enjoy their work with veterans, and have great respect and admiration for what these students have done for our country and been through as individuals.”

The VRC is open to all veterans and serves about 450 SMC students who receive educational benefits from the Veterans’ Administration. The center acts as a ‘one-stop shop’ where veterans can find everything from academic and career counseling, assistive technology training for vets with disabilities, and individual and family therapy, to a computer lab, referrals to residential programs for homeless veterans, referrals to substance abuse programs and groups—and frequently, doughnuts.

Joshaun Blackmon, 47, a Marine Corps and Army veteran, first came to SMC in 2001, when the VRC did not have the home and resources it does now. In 2003, Blackmon’s unit got called into service. When he finally returned to SMC in the summer of 2013, the campus felt like a different place, says Blackmon, because of the VRC.

Veterans at Warrior Dash banner.

“Ah, my God!” exclaims Blackmon. “I can’t speak highly enough about them. I just love them.” Blackmon wants to transfer to UCLA’s School of Engineering in 2015.

Linda Sinclair’s eyes fill with tears when asked what she finds meaningful about her work with the VRC. Sinclair is the VRC’s faculty leader, and has many stories about the veterans in her life: her father, a WWII vet who told sometimes silly combat stories; her high school friend, a Vietnam vet whose grief and pain she witnessed first-hand; and other friends of hers in graduate school.

Sinclair talks about individuals who have returned from the service, graduated from Ivy League schools, and become highly successful, but who are “falling apart inside. I don’t want the vets now to be living with that hurt 40 years from now,” says Sinclair.

And what do the veterans bring to SMC?

“Maturity, leadership, experience,” says Sinclair. “They’re here because they want to be here—not because someone made them.” Three veterans have been student trustees and two have been presidents of the Associated Students.

The VRC provides training for faculty, staff, and the community about how best to help veterans transition from military life to civilian and college life. A psychologist from the nonprofit US Vets is at the Veterans’ Resource Center one day a week to work with students. The VRC also serves as a liaison for veteran service organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion.

Please see www.smc.edu/vet for more information about the Veterans’ Resource Center.

“We want to give veterans a place where they literally feel safe.” – Linda Sinclair, Veterans’ Resource Center faculty leader

For an Easy, Affordable Move into American Culture…

Fall 2014 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 2014. Classes begin on September 2. For information on the web, go to www.smc.edu/international.


English — Intensive ESL

“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

Galina Inzhakova

SMC’s 2013-2014 Annual Report

The report provides a narrative overview of the many successes and opportunities at SMC this past year and offers an inside look at the efforts that go into building and operating an exemplary community college. The report is online at www2.smc.edu/annual_report/2013-14.pdf.