Reintroducing the new (sort of) Simonsen Performing Arts Center


Simonsen Performing Arts Center ribbon-cutting

College and city leaders cut the ribbon on the renovated Edward Simonsen Performing Arts Center Apr. 22, 2015.

I’m so thrilled that Bakersfield College is now finally ready to unveil its fully-renovated, massively-improved Edward Simonsen Peforming Arts Center (SPArC) to our community.

It was with tremendous pride and a shared sense of accomplishment that we helped Mayor Hall cut the ribbon Tuesday on this revitalized building, which now solidifies its standing as one of the premier arts venues in the region.

sonya and Mayor HallAs our honored guests marveled at all the improvements we’ve poured into this building over our multi-year overhaul, I couldn’t help but think back to all it took to bring us to this joyous new beginning for the center.

Thankfully, the project’s lead architect, the talented Brad Henderson of IBI Group, was on hand as well and delivered this speech to the assembled dignitaries that I think offers a great overview of the new Simonsen Performing Arts Center and what it took to make it happen.


“Our journey began as a typical modernization to improve the usefulness of this nearly 60 year old facility.

Soon after our initial tour of the building and survey of its existing qualities, it appeared evident that we might do much more than just a facelift.

Project Lead Architect Brad Henderson

Project Lead Architect Brad Henderson

With the influence of the district’s desire to make this a “showplace” for Bakersfield, we embarked on a new mission to transform this academic function into the grand venue we see today – for both campus and community use.

It was evident that we needed to understand the importance of the college and its significance to the community and the students.

So, our approach was three-fold:

• Dealing with the orientation of the facilities to the campus and the lower student quad for day-to-day activity and from the public way – for the more formal after-hours amusement.

• Next, was the incorporation of physical improvements of the ‘house’ and learning centers within — accommodating more than the traditional instruction and an assembly auditorium, and . . .

• Then, the enhancement of the outdoor stage/amphitheater to accommodate more useful daytime activities.

IMG_1758aWe accomplished these goals by expanding the limits of our vision of ‘what might be’ – to envisioning ‘what people might experience’ as they transition from the outdoor space to indoor functions.

• The Promenade/s and this upper quad gathering area are a result of morphing the immediate boundaries around the buildings to incorporate an extension of the arts to the outdoors – to allow activities before and after performances (having display of outdoor art, banners or possibly integrating the Renegade Room for coffee and desserts).

• The Theater and Black Box are designed to accommodate multiple types of performances – music, dance and the dramatic arts. Some formal, some less formal. We changed the seating in the house to provide more opportunity of patrons to ‘see’ the stage and its performers, and expanded the practice room to accommodate small performances [what we call a Black Box].

• The Amphitheater was molded for optimum use, using 3-D computer modeling to test sun angles and the placement of shade structures for visual comfort to the ‘choice’ seating arrangements.

Among the improvements of the traditional air-conditioning, plumbing and electrical services, we brought in the state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems. These are important accommodations as the college seeks to offer these facilities to guest performers.

What you see here today, is what we call ‘timeless’ architecture. It’s borrowing from existing architecture around campus, and creating a ‘new’ form to an old vernacular – but not allowing it to compete for attention. Here, we basically emulated the inviting approach similar to the Administration and Student Union entries to develop this ‘grand entrance’ and approach into the building – expanding the lobby and spilling out into this quad.

All in all, funding for this type of education facility doesn’t come around often – every 30 to 50 years.

Our opportunity to participate in this venture is most rewarding, as we too were educated here some 40 years ago before we moved on to university instruction – it’s our legacy to the college and this community.”



If you’d like to take in this magnificent marvel firsthand, tickets are still available for Saturday night’s “A Noteworthy Event” concert.  Guests will enjoy the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra, the Bakersfield College Choir with guest conductor Ron Kean, DMA — and, of course, this gorgeous new jewel on the BC campus.

Show starts precisely at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.  Everyone needs to be seated no later than 6:25 p.m.  I’ll be there.  You should be too.  You will enjoy Dr. John Gerhold’s new composition Joyful Noises commemorating BC’s centennial year.

Full Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony (16:18)

Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall (2:26)

Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce CEO Nick Ortiz (3:49)

Romeo Agbalog, Sen. Jean Fuller’s Office (0:54)

Levan Center: St. John’s Lecture. Greg Schneider and The Brothers Karamazov

Full Moon April 2 2015 early morning

My brief Spring Break trip to Hawaii has confirmed that spring breaks are a necessity for sanity and this year, I’m taking full advantage of it.  Here is the full moon over the pacific at 4:00 a.m. Hawaii time on April 2nd.  I am out on the balcony of my room catching up on some of reading and social media…reflecting on difficulties facing a few of our colleagues who are dealing with medical issues related to themselves or loved ones.  These are by far the most difficult times one faces on life.  So here is some Hawaiian warmth, love and well wishes coming your way.

Last week, Jack Hernandez invited Dr. Greg Schneider to BC for the annual St. John’s Levan lecture. I had a crazy day and at 7:00 p.m., walking into the Levan Center, I felt exhausted with the weight of the world on my shoulders. However, the lecture had me captivated the entire time….Schneider’s words elevated me so much so that when I was driving back I felt uplifted.

Greg Schneider, to me, was pretty hardcore; his piece was meticulous with deep-dive analysis and thorough, insightful evaluation that reflects a top-notch mind.


Dr. Greg Schneider

A faculty member at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Schneider delivered a fascinating interpretation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic novel “The Brothers Karamazov.”

Most who know the Russian master’s final work are already familiar with the deep philosophical themes of God and morality at play in the story of murdered patriarch Fyodor Karamazov and his three extremely different sons.  But Schneider’s intriguing take delved into the connection between the mind and body of the novel’s characters, showcasing how physical moments in the book inform and explain the intellectual ideas at the heart of the story.

Schneider-Karamazov-5I loved the way he examined how a bow, or a kiss, or a character laying on the ground speaks to concepts like mutual responsibility or spiritual vs. atheistic arguments in the 135-year-old story.

Studying great works of the past has special value when you look at it through the prism of our 21st century world, illuminating how universal themes resonate through time to a modern audience.

As Schneider beautifully expounded on Doestoyevsky’s realm of murder and moral ambiguity, it wasn’t a long walk to connect his thoughts with some of the dangers and crises, both domestic and international, darkening our world today.


Tom and Pauline Larwood with other attendees at the Levan lecture

It’s in moments like those, applying elements of long-forgotten answers to some of our most perplexing modern-day questions, that academia is uniquely engaging, a kind of archaeology, unearthing treasures of the past for the enrichment and betterment of today and future generations.

And isn’t that what education is all about, anyway? I was sorry my mentee Mariaha wasn’t there there to experience this brilliant Levan lecture.  Dr. Norm Levan’s gift is so meaningful to the communities of Bakersfield, Arvin, Lamont, Wasco, McFarland, Shafter, and Delano.  It is our obligation at BC to expose our own minds and the minds of our students and community to first-rate scholarship and thought shared by the likes of Schneider.

Thank you, Dr. Schneider, Levan Center director Dr. Jack Hernandez and most of all, thank you Norm Levan. Here’s to you for making this a possibility at Bakersfield College.

BC students at Fresno State

2014 Trip to Fresno State

2014 Trip to Fresno State

In an effort to encourage and emphasize transfer, the EOP&S/CARE/CalWORKs programs had the opportunity to attend a university excursion to Fresno State University. Improving college awareness and access through university exposure is an essential part of the student success process, so, our team took students to Fresno State so they could fully understand the transfer process and increase their own self-confidence in their ability to transfer.

Many of the participants in Bakersfield College’s EOP&S, CARE, and CalWORKs programs have never ventured out of Kern County or visited a university campus: such is the plight of most first generation, low-income students.

This campus outing was a HUGE success which allowed 35 of our students to participate in a campus tour. In addition, participants were able to develop long-lasting friendships with one another, and preview the best of what Fresno State had to offer. As confirmed by student feedback, our students were genuinely enthusiastic about having the opportunity to visit Fresno State. The event was as eye opening experience which impressed upon our students that education and transfer are POSSIBLE.

Among the many successful components of the university excursion was the following:

  1. Exciting campus tour by well-organized and enthusiastic tour guides
  2. Meaningful and pertinent information obtained about every department and major
  3. Outstanding student panel organized by the Fresno State EOP Program
  4. Amazing lunch buffet at the Fresno State Dining Hall
  5. Incredible team-bonding activities to foster unity and togetherness amongst the students
  6. Excellent educational showings at the Downing Planetarium

But, enough from me. What did students have to say about the trip to Fresno State?

The field trip was an Awesome experience! I got to see what a big university like Fresno State really felt like. I had so much fun I felt like a little kid again as we had the opportunity to travel as group and shown the main attractions of the campus. It definitely pushed and motivated me to transfer to the university level. Thanks to the university trip I have a better perspective on the transfer process. ~Jesus Salazar

This trip was not only fun but it was also educational and insightful. We got a great tour of the campus and learned so much about Fresno State and the best part about the trip was Manuel cracking us all up. Through team bonding activities we all got to bond together and the opportunity to make new friends and relationships. Seeing how wonderful the campus was definitely motivated me to actually apply to it as well. Especially, when our tour guide told us that “English majors can go teach at any part of the world” if they get their B.A. from Fresno. I am an English major so this was like music to my ears. Overall, I had a great time and the Planetarium show at the end made me realize that astronomy is not as horrible of subject that I always made it out to be. I hope that next semester we visit a UC campus and see what they have to offer, especially since that is my ultimate goal. ~ Roshelle Czar 

Going to Fresno State was a memorable and exciting experience. I have never been to a university before. I had the chance to get an insightful tour of their campus, try their delicious food (lunch was amazing), and make new friends. If you were to make another trip like this, I’d definitely go. ~Stacy Vega 

The trip to CSU Fresno was a fantastic day for me! The whole tour was interesting and I really fell in love with the campus. I know it would have been more exciting if my friends came along!!! Hopefully we can go to another great campus soon. Overall, I had a great time! ~ Lliemeles Ortega 

Design Challenge Gathers Local Students to Test Engineering Smarts

engineeringEach Spring semester, the Engineers Club invites middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students and professionals of all ages to participate in their Design ChallenOge in honor of National Engineers’ Week. During the Fall, the Engineers Club members come up with the specific “design challenge” they want to hold in the Spring. They create a set of parameters that the entrants should follow in designing their machine, and send them off to the various schools and businesses by December. Contestants build their machines and bring them on the day of the event.
This year, the Design Challenge was held on Saturday, February 28th in Bakersfield College’s Gymnasium. The objective was to design a Spring-powered model car that could carry a load of sand between 0 and 250 grams a distance between 10 and 20 meters. The contestants were not given the weight or distance until right before the competition began. As one can see, keeping the specific details vague until the day-of forces the engineers to be as creative and thorough as possible with their designs— they must be able to be adjusted to satisfy the wide range of possibilities within the parameters. 
“We had a pretty good showing. Even with a simple design, a spring-powered car, a lot of people were able to design things differently.,” said Engineers Club member Zeph Nord, “There were 2 designs that were able to predict the distance down to the very centimeter; We were all pretty impressed with that.”
For anyone who thinks this sounds like something they’d be interested in, but missed the challenge in February, there is some exciting news— for the first time since its inception, there will be a second Design Challenge held in the Fall. 

Professor Klint Rigby, faculty advisor for the Engineers Club, tells us more. “We decided we’ll do a Civil challenge in the fall. Civil would be bridges, roads, waterworks, all those kinds of things.,” he explained, “It will probably be in that window around early November, that first or second week. We’ll be publishing the rules for our Civil Design Challenge before we leave for summer, and It’ll have information set in stone of when it will be, and where it will be held.”


Students Love Our Faculty and Staff – 3rd Edition

I was chairing an accreditation visit last week and was gone from campus most of the time.  So coming back on friday and then spending the Super Pi day in my office and the baseball game just made me appreciate BC so much and the colleagues I work with who are so dedicated to students and the college.  But before I get to the story of my BC colleagues let me pause for a moment on Super Pi Day–March 14, 2015 or 3-14-15 which coincides with the first few digits of pi 3.1415. Pi is the symbol used in math to represent the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter which is about 3.1415926….. check out  So in my household we paused for a moment yesterday at 9:26 a.m. to celebrate pi and again at 9:26 p.m. to celebrate 3-14-15@9:26.

Jeff Chudy watching a baseball game on March 14 2015

Head football coach Jeff Chudy out on Saturday afternoon to support baseball

ann tatum at B&N on March 15 2015

Prof. Ann Tatum at Barnes and Nobles on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. available to her students for weekend support














We won the baseball game against College of the Canyons (yeah!) and had both community folks and BC folks out there to support our students.  Francis Mayer was fabulous announcing the game and AD Sandi Taylor was there making sure that everything was done right.  Faculty from other disciplines came to support students, baseball players who are in their classes–Pam Boyles, Ann Tatum, Janet Tarjan, Jeff Chudy……. just to name a few.

Walking over to the baseball game on this glorious Saturday afternoon, I bumped into Janet Tarjan who was on campus for study sessions for students in her calculus and precalculus classes.  Later in the evening, I was at Barnes and Noble and ran into Ann Tatum available to work with her students. Again on a Saturday.  Just wonderful!

Matthew Garrett

Prof. Matthew Garrett

I do have the best job in the whole wide world–being president of an amazing organization because of the dedicated and passionate folks who work here.  I wanted to take a quick moment to share an email chock full of good things sent by Bakersfield College History professor Matthew Garrett (thank you matt!) to a few of his faculty colleagues. The email recounts a student discussion about class selection, and weighs in on the most important detail to students – what is the professor like. Here is Dr. Garrett’s email to Sung Soo Park, Robert Martinez, Kimberly Chin, and Michael McNellis.

Professors Park, Martinez, Chin, and McNellis,

As is common following the opening of next semester’s registration, students in one of my classes were discussing what courses to take next semester. To my surprise, instead of the typical complaints about who to avoid, half a dozen students stayed after class to boast about the teachers who most inspired them (and encourage others to take their classes). They said these teachers were so passionate and/or so insightful that it “blew my mind” and changed their lives; they went on and on with great detail about classroom management and course content and presentation, etc  I’ve heard individual compliments like these before, but the accolades continued to pour about about these few teachers and went on for some fifteen minutes  I thought you should know how positive an effect you have had on the lives of students here. Thanks for being you.


Who are these amazing professors? See below photos I could get from the web!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,203 other followers