Ellie White is a lot like many teenagers her age. She’s a college student who’s discovering her educational interests and what kind of career she wants to pursue. She loves to dance. And, like most 18-year-olds, she enjoys spending time with her friends.
But White is also a one-in-half-a-million gem: The Community College of Aurora sophomore, who’s pursuing a degree in psychology and wants to go on to earn a doctorate in clinical therapy one day, has Wolfram syndrome.
Wolfram syndrome is a rare genetic disorder characterized by childhood-onset diabetes mellitus (which prevents the production of insulin), diabetes insipidus (which causes constant thirst), and progressive vision loss due to degeneration of the nerves that carry information from the eyes to the brain. Other symptoms may include deafness, coordination and balance problems, seizures, a loss of the sense of smell, anxiety, and depression, among others. Only one in 500,000 people worldwide has Wolfram syndrome, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Also according to DHHS, the average life expectancy for someone with the disorder is 30 to 40 years.
Present her with those statistics and the teenager doesn’t flinch. “I was raised by my parents to be very, very resilient,” White said. “One of my sayings is, ‘I have Wolfram syndrome. It doesn’t have me.’ I’m fighting it and I’m not going to let it keep me on my seat.”
Photo: CCA student Ellie White stands with Fumihiko Urano, a professor of medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Urano’s main focus is to discover a cure for juvenile diabetes and genetic forms of diabetes, including Wolfram syndrome.
The Community College of Aurora honored a longtime educator and CCA supporter and advanced the college’s mission to be the college where every student succeeds with the dedication of the Lore Isa Wiggins Advising and Career Center on October 8.
Longtime CCA supporter Bill Wiggins donated $335,000 for the construction of the center, named after his late wife, who passed away in 2014 after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Bill and Lore Wiggins supported CCA from its inception and Bill is an original member of the Community College of Aurora Foundation Board. Lore Isa Wiggins taught French at Gateway High School for 20 years and served as a substitute teacher in the area for another 10 years after she retired.
During the dedication, CCA President Betsy Oudenhoven highlighted how important the Wigginses have been to CCA and the magnitude of the gift to the college.
“[Bill] got this started with this incredibly generous donation to the college. He’s had such a long friendship and association with this institution. Lore was a passionate, talented and dedicated educator,” Oudenhoven said. “We are so glad that we could honor her.”
Photo: Bill Wiggins points to a plaque that hangs in CCA’s new Lore Isa Wiggins Advising and Career Center during the dedication on October 8.
On November 19, CCA held its annual Partner Appreciation event at the CentreTech Campus where it presented Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver and its President, Janine Davidson, with CCA’s 2019 Outstanding Partnership Award. CCA recognized MSU for the work the four-year university does in helping CCA students transfer and for the strong articulation agreements between the two institutions.
Some of the benefits of the CCA-Metro partnership include:
• Over the past five years, nearly 2,200 CCA students have chosen MSU as their next educational destination
• 57% of these students were first-generation college students and 59% were Pell Grant-eligible
• MSU students who transferred from CCA were retained at a rate of 72% as compared to a 69% retention rate for non-CCA transfer students and a 66% retention rate for students who started at MSU without any transfer credits
• CCA students at MSU graduate at a rate of 53% as compared to a 26% graduation rate for other transfer students
Photo: CCA President Betsy Oudenhoven, left, stands with Metropolitan State University of Denver President Janine Davidson during the Partner Appreciation event.
Kon’nichiwa. This fall semester has been full and has gone fast. And, as we highlighted in our fall kick-off meeting in August, there has been a substantial amount of change. For me it has been an interesting four months personally as well. We welcomed our first grandbaby (I believe we are showing her off in this newsletter in her CCA attire) and I had the opportunity to visit Japan in November with a delegation from the city of Aurora.
My husband and I have never traveled much. As educators and parents, we never felt we had the financial resources, and then as we progressed in our careers and had more resources, we never felt we had the time. We were probably wrong on both counts, but the end result was that we did not travel, and at that time, most of the people we knew did not either.
CCA has been a gift to me because of the incredible number of students who are here from other countries. I know that many of you have either grown up or lived in other countries as well – or you make a point to go. And I know it can be a life-changing experience.
Dr. Chris Ward, CCA’s VP for Institutional Effectiveness, is the Chair of Aurora’s Sister Cities committee (and the college is a founding partner). He encouraged me to participate on this trip as there were opportunities to meet with college and university administrators as well as city officials, learn about amazing biomedical facilities, provide direct input on the product of the Yamagata Sake Brewers (a tough assignment), and interact with the Japanese people.
It was largely a good fit for me. The Japanese culture shares values we espouse at the college; in particular respect, collaboration and quality. I am a rule follower (for the most part) and can be fairly reserved – so I appreciated the quiet and thoughtful courteousness we encountered as well as the friendliness and flashes of humor. And I think bowing is lovely.
It was also incredibly different, and, except for a long-ago visit to Africa, the first real immersion experience I’ve had in a culture completely different from my own. I couldn’t read the language or understand it. I couldn’t figure out the technology (nothing new there). There was relatively little diversity (that I could recognize). I struggled with the food. And I kept trying to imagine what it is like for our Asian students and colleagues when they come to the U.S.
This trip made me aware that while I value the cultural richness that our students bring to this college, I understand very little of their lived experiences. As we continue our journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion at CCA, I am going to work harder to learn and understand whom we serve, where they come from, what they value, and how their experiences here are similar to or different from the cultures they have left. It is a daunting task as I have so much more to learn about the one amazing country I just visited.
I know that many of you travel and none of this is news to you – but if you have not had the opportunity or aren’t sure you can do it or would like it – I encourage you to give it a try. It can be an amazing experience both in terms of what you learn about other cultures and also what you learn about yourself. And sake is great.
Holocaust Survivor Gives Gripping Talk at CCA
Holocaust survivor Sara Moses gave a powerful and moving talk to a standing-room-only crowd September 16 in the CentreTech campus’ Rotunda. In her talk, Moses recounted her earliest memories of life in the Piotrkow ghetto and shared the story of her survival and ultimate liberation while at Nazi concentration camp Bergen Belsen. Widely known as “hell on earth,” Bergen Belsen’s horrific conditions were pivotal in shaping public policy and opinion after 1945. Ultimately, Moses lost over 100 of her family members to the Holocaust. To conclude her gripping talk, Moses said, “Imagine my dream — where different individuals, different countries, and different cultures all live by the very same standard and rule of behavior that they wish for themselves. I believe that only then will we have real hope for our world — a world free of genocide, wars, and violence, a world of compassion, respect for life, and peace.”
Photo: Holocaust survivor Sara Moses speaks to a standing-room-only crowd September 16 at the CentreTech campus.
Luncheon Pays Tribute to CCA Retirees
CCA retirees and some longtime CCA friends were invited to a special luncheon in their honor October 9 at the CentreTech campus. The annual celebration was a time for CCA retirees, friends, and current staff, faculty, and instructors to share and hear stories of CCA through the years. Over 20 retirees were in attendance for the event, including some of CCA’s first employees.
Photo caption: CCA retirees and longtime friends of the college gather for a group picture at a special luncheon at the CentreTech campus.
Nadir Shakir, a student at the University of Colorado - Boulder, presented on his cultural experiences while completing research of a rapid mutant algae strain during the STEM+ Symposium held in the Todd Bergren Room on November 21. The Symposium featured five guest speakers, and students were able to explore science and engineering research from field experts and learn about their journey through a social justice lens.
Grounds Supervisor Bobby McKie puts in some sod on the CentreTech campus as part of a sod replacement project on September 26. CCA's Facilities Department replaced dead and damaged grass on campus medians in September as part of ongoing maintenance and renewal work.
CCA student band Generations performs to begin the annual Music Showcase in the Larry D. Carter Theater on December 5. The performance included pieces by students enrolled in the college's private instruction classes as well as students who perform music on the side or as a hobby.
International Winter Celebration
CCA student Crystal “KiKi” Gonzalez holds up a Lotería card and explains the rules during the International Winter Celebration in the Forum on December 5. During the Winter Celebration, student clubs played games and held activities for students to learn about different cultural winter celebrations around the world.
Theatre Director Stacey D’Angelo Collaborating on Inclusive Production That Will Tour Japan in February 2020
Theatre Program Director Stacey D’Angelo is working with a Japanese theater foundation called The Nippon Foundation: Diversity in the Arts, which is exploring inclusive theater practices for Japanese actors with disabilities, the majority being deaf actors who speak sign language. D’Angelo is collaborating with Japanese actors and actors from the Phamaly Theatre Company, a Denver-based nonprofit whose performers have wide-ranging disabilities, to create a production that will show at the Aurora Fox Arts Center in January 2020 and in Japan the following month.
CCA’s Paralegal Program Hosts Successful Approval Visit
CCA’s Paralegal program, under the direction of Legal Studies Program Coordinator Margaret Ann Uchner, hosted the American Bar Association (ABA) for a reapproval site visit September 23-24. After much preparation and many presentations on CCA’s end, ABA recommended the program for reapproval.
Erica Hines to Present at 2020 American Counseling Association Conference
Career Counselor Erica Hines and Jackie Peila-Shuster of Colorado State University’s Counseling and Career Development Program will present at the 2020 American Counseling Association conference in San Diego in April on "Career Construction Counseling with Women."
Carlos Matthews Presents at National Communication Association Conference
Communication Instructor Carlos Mathews presented at the National Communication Association’s annual conference in Baltimore in November. Mathews presented "Preparing Our Students To Be Adaptable, Organizing Collaborators" at the conference.
Anaya Elected Association for Student Conduct Administration’s Director At-Large for Community Colleges
Dr. Reyna Anaya, Dean of Students, has been elected to be the Association for Student Conduct Administration’s (ASCA) director at-large for community colleges. ASCA is the leading voice for student conduct in higher education. Anaya will serve as the director at-large for two years.
Student Delegation Announced for 2020 National Model United Nations in New York
CCA celebrated Model United Nations (MUN) Week the week of October 21 with three events: a keynote breakfast on October 22 during which Nadar Hashemi, an expert on the Middle East and human rights, discussed the plight of the Uighur Muslim population in China; a presentation titled “Developing a Sustainable Transportation Infrastructure to Address Global Climate Change,” given on October 23 by University of Denver faculty member Andrew Goetz; and MUN simulations throughout the day on October 25. On November 5, the student delegation that will represent Belize and Estonia in New York next spring for the 2020 National Model United Nations simulation was announced. The head delegates are Mahlia Baldrey and Steven Van Hulle.
Harrell Featured in Westword
Art Instructor Kim Harrell was featured in the online version of Westword as part of the publication’s Colorado Creatives section. Read about Harrell’s influences and what she is working on outside of CCA.
Savannah Sanburg Has New Ethnic Studies Course Approved
Savannah Sanburg, Communications Faculty, has received final approval for a new Ethnic Studies course titled “Discrimination, Diversity, and Difference in the United States.” The course will now be part of the statewide common course numbering system for use by any college within CCCS. Sanburg put in an immense amount of work over the last year to develop and gain approval for this course.
Our CCA Stories Illustrated
The Art and Spanish programs have developed a project called “Our CCA Stories Illustrated.” The students in Edgar Vargas’ Spanish 235 class wrote their stories in Spanish based on their own experiences and ideas. The students in Kate O’Donnell’s class took the time to read and understand them in order to illustrate them on posters that will be shown on the third floor of the Classroom Building at the end of this semester. This project opens new opportunities for the students to be more creative and to work with other areas of study.
Dan Lawrence Completes Institutional Effectiveness Program
Dan Lawrence, Library Director, has successfully completed the three-course Institutional Effectiveness Program Certificate through SUNY’s Center for Professional Development. The program prepares participants to contribute to institutional-level assessment and accreditation committees, assist their institution and respective departments in the assessment of strategic objectives, and be able to advise, assist and instruct others in developing cycles of goal setting, measurement, data collection, process review and evaluation.
Courageous Conversations is an Instructor-written contribution to the newsletter. This edition is written by Sandra Edwards, English Instructor.
“You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all,” words of Robin Williams as John Keating in the Dead Poet’s Society.
For many decades, fear overcame my ability to speak up, to share, and to advocate for myself and for others. From college to the workplace, finding my voice, being brave and having courageous conversations hasn’t been an easy journey.
Not having a voice and being scared to speak up for myself affected me in college. I didn’t have the confidence to speak up in particular classes. In Astronomy 101, each student needed to point out constellations in the planetarium. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t pass the class. After failing the class twice, because I was too scared to speak in front of my peers, I took public speaking, interpersonal communications, and psychology. These classes changed my life by building my confidence and skill, so I passed Astronomy 101 the third time. Earning degrees in education, English, and mass communications further developed my speaking abilities.
At the CCA Strategic Development meeting in October, Dr. Tricia Johnson, VP of Academic Affairs, said, “[Because] we can’t guarantee a Safe Space, we must have a Brave Space.”
I loved this on many levels, mainly because being brave empowers us to embrace Courageous Conversations. We can’t expect people to read our minds or anticipate what might provoke our anxiety, frustrations, or indignation. We may be afraid of voicing our concerns, but we have to speak up. This happened at the All-College Meeting in September. A man bravely stated he felt triggered by some of the statements regarding feedback on student challenges. I can’t remember exactly what the statements were. But when he announced to a room of over 50 people how he felt, I admired his courage.
The reasons why I became the Adjunct Representative include being able to advocate for adjuncts and their needs, to make life better for adjuncts, and to allow insight for those who may not understand the challenges of what adjuncts go through and how difficult it is making ends meet. The intrinsic reason was that I wanted to practice strengthening my voice, to challenge myself as a woman to take my voice to the next level in a leadership position. Having strong women in leadership positions at CCA is inspiring and shouldn’t diminish the need for me, or anyone, not to practice using their voice.
A few years ago, when Hewlett-Packard wanted to see why more women weren’t in top management positions, they made an interesting discovery: “Women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job. Men were happy to apply when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements.”
I became the Adjunct Representative because I met over 60 percent of the qualifications, but not over 80. I knew I would develop more skills, I would learn how to advocate, and, yes, challenge and stretch my comfort zone to voice concerns, issues, and situations, to practice being empowered in uncomfortable circumstances, from everyone from the Vice Chancellor at the CCCS level to influencing and connecting adjuncts from many of the community colleges.
In September 2019, the CCA Office of Inclusive Excellence and the HR Department collaborated on information around recruitment, retention, and turnover trends. One of the questions from the Employee Retention Session was “What has made you want to leave CCA?” Included in the top ten reasons were: poor communication, personality conflicts not resolved, coworkers, not feeling a part of the team, not feeling heard, and no support for difficult students.
As a community we must support and empower each other to be brave and have those courageous conversations, to develop our voices not only for ourselves but others. For me, this hasn’t been a journey without its bumps and missteps. But it’s more important to be brave, rather than minimalizing our ideas, thoughts, and frustrations before they are heard. Let’s empower each other with courageous conversations. We may not always get the outcome we think we want, but if we can have these courageous conversations then our personal and professional lives can thrive and prosper. There’s a quote by Alice Walker hanging by the elevator in the Classroom Building at Centretech: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Let’s never give away our power. Let’s create a place that supports all voices. In doing so, we can have those brave, courageous conversations we need to have but are afraid of having.
Charmaine Lowe, Upward Bound Project Director, and her fiancé, Ellie, welcomed their second son, Ezra Francois Hyppolite on September 5 at 11:48 a.m. Ezra weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces and was 20 inches long.
Brandon Williams, Social Sciences Chair, and his wife, Cara, welcomed their son, Alpine Lewis Williams, on December 3 at 2:57 p.m. Alpine weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces and was 20 inches long.
President Betsy Oudenhoven became a grandmother for the first time. Her son, James, and his wife Heather, welcomed Violet to their family.
Adriana Cordova Starts as Project Director for Transfer Success Initiatives
Adriana Cordova started as the Project Director for Transfer Success Initiatives on November 18. Formerly serving as a Recruiter with the Center for Recruitment and Orientation, Cordova has worked for CCA since 2013.
Jorge Velasquez Becomes Student Life Director
Jorge Velazquez was selected as the Student Life Director in October. Velasquez started at CCA in August 2016 and has served as the Assistant Director of Student Life as well as the Interim Director of Student Life.
Ana Romero Named Marketing Manager
Ana Romero was selected to become the Marketing Manager for the Communications and Marketing Department. Romero started with CCA as Graphic Designer in January 2017.
Darlene Miller Promoted to Senior Research Analyst
Darlene Miller was promoted to Senior Research Analyst of Institutional Research. She started with CCA as a Research Analyst in January 2017.
Alemu Joins Student Success Center
Melkamu Alemu joined the Student Success Center as an Academic Coach. Alemu started as a Pathways Advisor in August 2018.
Martinez Named Associate Dean for Career and Technical Education
Sheena Martinez was named Associate Dean for Career and Technical Education. Martinez started at CCA in September 2017 as Upward Bound Project Director and became the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Director before taking her new role.
The Community College of Aurora Library will host a Denver Museum of Nature and Science Community Focus Group on December 17 from 1 to 4 p.m.
The focus group is open to CCA students, staff, and faculty who are museum visitors and are interested in providing feedback on the museum – staff and students who have children are encouraged to attend. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is in an early phase of imagining a community co-created, all-new exhibit experience that will be offered on level one of the museum and open in a few years.
Museum staff are asking community members to share their thoughts about different concepts of what the first-floor experience could be. In this three-hour session, museum staff will ask CCA community members to construct and deconstruct these ideas to help create something truly unique.
In order to participate, fill out this survey form. Space is limited – focus group participants can receive $50 for their input.
Please contact Maritza at Maritza.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Jake Jabs Gives CCA Entrepreneurship Students Private Tour of American Furniture Warehouse
CCA entrepreneurship students were given a private tour of the American Furniture Warehouse headquarters in Englewood on November 18 by company President and CEO Jake Jabs. During the tour, Jabs talked to the students about the entrepreneurial spirit, taking risks, living within one’s own means, running a green business, and much more.
Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation students have been busy this semester with a variety of university and industry visits. The consortium of five community colleges, including CCA, in the metro-area provides opportunities for students with marginalized identities to build transfer and career plans for their next steps after community college graduation. On November 22, the LSAMP students toured the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden.
CCA hosts 25th-Annual Gateway to the Rockies Art Show
CCA hosted the Aurora Artists Guild’s 25th-annual Gateway to the Rockies Art Show from November 1 through December 6 in the Fine Arts Building on the CentreTech Campus. The show featured art in three categories: two-dimensional, photography, and miniatures. The show included several pieces created by CCA students.
Christopher Castro, Administrative Assistant, Admissions, Registration, and Records
Demetria Dean, Strengthening Working Families Initiative Coach
Cynthia Deligeorges, Translation and Interpretation Faculty
VA Hayman Barber, Dean of Academic Affairs & Workforce Partnerships
Michaela King, Strengthening Working Families Initiative Recruiter and Outreach Coordinator
Stephanie Lee, Pathways Advisor and Patient Care Technician Apprenticeship Coordinator
Amanda “AJ” Papesh, Testing Specialist
Angela Tancik, Advisor
Tarik Walker, Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation STEM Alliance Project Director
Cyanna Whitney, Pathways Advisor/Construction Navigator