Sonoma State University orientation and family programs coordinator wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award
Responsibilities with your company: -Plan, coordinate, execute new student orientation for all incoming first year and transfer students (1,800 students every fall, 500 students in the spring). Secure campus partners from academics, student, and entrepreneurial affairs to participate.
How do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty under 40 professional?
Respect for community, family, and fellow leaders. Honor of work, time, people, and experiences Integrity in thought, action, and intention service to others
Years with company: 7
Length of time in current position: 7
Number of companywide employees: 1,000
Number who report to you: 30
Greatest professional accomplishment: When Sonoma County was assigned its first Shelter in Place order on March 17th, 2020 I knew that it would last longer than 2 weeks.
I had been watching the news of other countries and the shut downs they were imposing, and while I had no idea what, medically, was happening I knew that we would be home for a long time.
At Sonoma State University, I run a large scale student and family program that typically, in the course of 14 business days, serves and hosts 2,500 people.
I knew that could not, and would not happen, and so I began to research best practices for orientation programs that would still accomplish the learning outcomes that we needed to meet, but also reinforce the strong community for which SSU is so widely known.
There wasn't a lot of research to find, but I took what I could. During the process of designing an all virtual program with student centered theories and approaches, I encountered road blocks (the announcement that the CSU system would be remote for fall, and then later, that it would be remote for spring). We were seeing epic admissions cancellations and deferrals.
I also knew the long term impact would be job losses, program cuts, evaporating budgets, and class reduction. We, ultimately, saw a reduction of the incoming first year students by nearly half of what was expected.
But in early May, my virtual program was approved to roll out to students. We ran a 12-week, comprehensive program from June until August that still built community and taught students what they need for success in their first year at SSU.
I can say, confidently, that once students began to be a part of our Sonoma State community that the melt of students slowed. While it didn't stop, of course, we began to see excite students again.
I believe that the work I, and my team did, helped keep jobs funded, helped keep classes open, helped inspire students to find their way to SSU.
I'm incredibly proud of the heart, soul, and tears we put into making Sonoma State modern and relevant and accessible for students to be the leaders of our community in the future, whether that role takes place virtually or in person, I trust we have the skills to accomplish anything.
Greatest professional challenge: As proud I am of the greatest professional accomplishment, there are two sides to every coin.
The approval by the campus committee that now was making decisions was a long and difficult one. Out of the desire to entice students to still choose to attend SSU, virtually, some folks from around campus wanted to make orientation very easy, if not non-existent, for the summer.
We knew that we still needed to show students that our campus population that we were there to support them, so we knew this wouldn't be the best way to do that.
We needed to show data, theory, and factual reasons to support, not only continuing the program as required, but now extending it from the traditional 2 day overnight program to a summer program drawn out through the summer.
We were eventually successful, as was the program, but it took a great deal of time and education of other administrators to understand the reasoning behind my decisions.
Best advice received: Take a step back, a deep breath, and have faith that there are many correct decisions that can be made. Choose one and move on.
Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: The success of my entirely virtual student orientation, branded as NOMA Nation Orientation, and being asked to present amongst my CSU Orientation colleagues about the process."
What’s the biggest change COVID-19, the restrictions and the economic impact has had on your work and personal life?
Professionally, it goes without saying that when you are required to socially distance 6 feet from people, let alone are sheltered in place, you cannot host large scale programs that typically have 300 people in shared spaces.
So, we started with a new program. But, the entire budget I normally have to work with (approximately $400, 000) to pay for program spaces, giveaways, and student leaders, and additional professional help, etc. was also refunded to incoming students out of an effort to help relieve some economic stress they might have been experiencing.