Retreat Summer 2015 – Teamwork, Accountability, Wellness, Trust and Fun!

This is my 200th blog post.  Yes!


Bakersfield College Administrators. Summer 2015.


Jennifer Marden and Sonya Christian

Summer that is considered a “downtime” for an academic institution is a time for the administrative team and classified staff to regroup and plan for the following year.  In this spirit of valuing reflection, and planning, the administrative team at BC retreated for two days.  The focus of the two days was to promote and deepen:

– our teamwork: getting to know each other and building trust

– our collective accountability to our students, our colleagues and our community

– our collective understanding of what leadership looks like in the fast-paced 21st century with the explosion of information

– our wellness individually and collectively.


Nicky Damania and Terri Goldstein

I asked Karla Young, our new Student Success Program Manager to capture this two-day event.  Let’s hear from Karla:

Part of that year-round drive for excellence includes our summer Administrative Council Retreat, a much-needed annual opportunity for some connection and reflection throughout our BC family.

Over the course of the retreat, the entire management team at BC came together to reflect on accomplishments, develop work plans for the upcoming year, reconnect, foster leadership, and enjoy a friendly lip-sync competition.

2015AdminCouncilRetreat_June8_14The first day consisted of various presentations on several topics, including the strategic direction of our campus, the importance of health and wellness, reflections on transformational leadership by Dr. Michael Wesch, the review of our past year accomplishments, brainstorming on work plans for the upcoming year, and a good old-fashioned lip-sync competition between members of our eight teams.


Todd Coston and Manny Mourtzanos

The second day was filled with great momentum from the previous day.  Everyone displayed their work plans for the upcoming year throughout the room for all to review. We broke out in groups to focus on and discuss various leadership scenarios and received a presentation on the Renegade Scorecard version 2.0.

More reflections on transformational leadership followed, and then, the conclusion of our lip sync competition with the remaining teams.

Although the performance aspect of the retreat caused a few pauses with the management team everyone jumped in and had a great time.  Here are two samples:

Team: Todd Coston and Manny Mourtzanos

Team: Odella Johnson, Liz Rozell, Ramon Puga, Danell Ward (who was ill and Manny Mourtzanos stepped in), Sonya Christian 

For the photo gallery check out

Another usual weekend enjoying the Bakersfield Community

Clayton Fowler and Sonya Oct 3 2015 Leadership Conf

SGA President Clayton and Sonya Christian. October 3, 2015

I stopped by Wendy’s last evening to pick up a spicy chicken sandwich for dinner and the young woman serving me spontaneously commented that she was a student at BC, psychology major, and that her teachers in all of her classes were the very best.  This encounter is not unusual for me or for any of you.  BC has stood for excellence and leadership for over a century and this community has steadfastly supported its college for all that time.

My Saturday morning started with welcoming over 100 students from BC and CSUB who were attending a Leadership conference at the indoor theater.  Bakersfield Strong: Our city, our organizations, our student leaders was the theme of the conference.  I was proud of our SGA President Clayton Fowler and Director of Student Life, Nicky Damania, who planned this event in collaboration with CSUB.

What a community we have – you just have to look.

Fred Mike Sandi Oct 3 2015

Fred Smith, Sandi Taylor, Mike Madeiros

After the morning event, I headed to the College of the Canyons stadium where the Renegades were meeting the Cougars. Standing near the end zone I was perfectly situated to see the crowd on both sides of the field. I was thinking about how many of our community members turned out for their team, and how much they care for and support the student athletes.

At halftime it was shaping up as a tough match in a tough season. As I spoke with the community members I heard their unwavering support and dedication.

In the second half one of our players, Terrence Young (23) went down with an injury on his right shoulder.  Dr. Bill Baker took to the field right behind our athletic trainers, Mike Medeiros and Fred Smith. Dr. Baker is a former BC football player himself, and it was at BC that he met his wife Sharon.  The two of them come to the Renegade games year-in and year-out to support the team, and Dr. Baker to volunteer his services.

Sharon and Bill Baker Oct 3 2015

Sharon and Bill Baker

Terrence was clearly in pain from his right shoulder injury, and after stabilizing him Dr. Baker signaled for the ambulance.  Sandi Taylor and the Athletic Dept. Assistant Alex followed the ambulance to the Henry Mayer hospital on McBean Parkway where Terrence was taken.

After the game I joined them, and in the waiting room once again saw our community join together in support of our student. Coach Chudy was there and spoke to Terrence’s grandmother.  Stig Janz, Ed Advisor for the athletes was there as well, and it seems attends pretty much every athletic event. Fred Smith stayed the night with Terrence at the hospital.  Just wonderful!

I had the opportunity to visit with Sharon Baker who attends each game with her husband. How fortunate we are at BC to have such commitment from folks like the Bakers.  And of course Dr. Tivnon.

As I sat with this community of support, talking quietly and there to support Terrence, I was aware that this community is family. This community, this family, comes together to celebrate when times are good and gathers together when times are hard. Thank you Bakersfield! Thank you Dr. Baker! Thank you Dr. Tivnon!

Group at hospital Oct 3 2015

Sharon Baker, Sonya Christian, Sandi Taylor, Vickie Edden, Alex Broom

BC engaging our community on issues of Equity and Inclusion

Members of the SF Youth Theater during Friday's performance of

Members of the SF Youth Theater during Friday’s performance of “In and Out of Shadows” in Bakersfield College’s Simonsen Performing Arts Center.

Cool things are happening on and around the BC campus every day.  I could walk you through any dozen entertaining and enlightening offerings in the past seven days (and that would barely cover sporting events alone), but with all due respect to all the great things that happen here daily, let me focus on one that took place this week that truly speak to the diversity and pride we see 24/7/365 at Bakersfield College.

On Friday, Sep 25th, BC got to celebrate the arts, address a critical social issue, engage with our wider Bakersfield community and reach out to the next generation of Bakersfield College students — all at the same time.

In and Out of the ShadowsBC hosted a Simonsen Center performance of playwright Gary Soto’s amazing musical “In and Out of Shadows” as presented by the incredibly talented actors and performers of San Francisco Youth Theater’s DREAM ensemble.

A powerful piece of theatre, “Shadows” tells funny, eye-opening and sometimes tragic stories of what it’s like to be an undocumented resident of California as told by teens trying to navigate those confusing and often frightening waters.

The play was assembled from Soto’s interviews with actual Bay Area DREAM Act kids, offering a deeply authentic voice to the all-encompassing human impact our nation’s thorny immigration policies have on young people.

Students from Arvin, Golden Valley and Mira Monte high schools at the

Students from Arvin, Golden Valley and Mira Monte high schools at the “In and Out of Shadows” performance.

And who better to relate to those stories of youth struggle than students from some of our local high schools?  About 200 teens from Arvin, Mira Monte and Golden Valley high schools packed Simonsen with enthusiasm and appreciation for the production and it was a joy to introduce them to our campus and our commitment to performing arts.

The play was followed by an equally engaging panel discussion on all aspects of America’s immigration debate organized by the California Endowment and moderated by BC Professor Gerald Cantu.  The panel even featured local activists, organizers and attorneys who work in South Kern County.

The event was one of a series of events planned with our partners at CSU Bakersfield commemorating the 50th anniversary of the historic 1965 Delano Grape Strike, a standoff that still stands as one of the watershed labor and civil rights events in our nation’s history.

A huge thanks to Gerald as well as Professor Oliver Rosales for helping to put this tremendous event together.

Thank you Jason Kobely for covering this event.

Remembering Tom Nery, a true Renegade


Sonya Christian with Tom Nery. Fall 2014

We lost a true dyed-in-the-wool Renegade earlier this month.

Thomas Nery, a BC grad and member of the storied 1961 Renegade football team that played in the historic Junior Rose Bowl against Cameron University, passed away a few weeks ago.

I first met Tom, 76, at last year’s Homecoming game and was immediately struck by his winning personality and deep sense of pride and enthusiasm for his alma mater. So it was with great sadness that I received this email earlier this week from Tom’s daughter Kim Nery Drndarski.

Hello Sonya,

I wanted to share the news of the passing of my father, Thomas Nery, a former BC Renegade from 1961.

Tom Nery

Tom Nery with daughter Kim

At last year’s homecoming, you interviewed him and me during the game. You really made him feel special that afternoon, the hero he is to his family.

We went to the GWC game last week, and I saw you there. I wanted to tell you my thanks in person and give you a giant hug, but I knew I was going to cry and I decided to send you cyber hugs instead.

My Dad passed on 9/1/15, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. It takes the worst cancer to bring down a Renegade. He will be placed at Greenlawn on River Blvd., on 10/3/15 at 11am. He worked there when he was attending BC. I made sure that his niche faces the school and asked if he could hear the game from where he is on Saturday nights. :o)

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for making him feel so special that day.


Kim Drndarski

Nery-02Kim also sent this photo of Tom in his vintage 1961 BC jersey along with his grandson.  50 years later and the jersey still fits…

During our time together at 2014 Homecoming, I shot this quick video talking with both Tom and Kim.

First, a thank you to Kim for taking the time to reach out and pass along the sad news. I’m returning that cyber hug and adding my thoughts and good wishes for you and your family as you go through this difficult time.

And also, a sincere thank you to Tom. You represented Bakersfield College with distinction 50 years ago on the gridiron, then spent a half-century further honoring this institution by leading a life that bettered your community while raising a beautiful, loving family.

As Tom himself said in the video, “I had a good life.” No one could ever ask for more.

I know I’ll be thinking of you when I head out to Memorial Stadium Sept. 26 for our next home game against Allan Hancock. And I’m heartened to know that your spirit will be there cheering on future Renegade squads for decades of Saturday nights to come.

Rest easy, Tom.

Porterville College: Pirates and Renegades Together

Porterville College logo

Since I am starting this blog on September 11th, I would like us to take a moment to pause and reflect on September 11, 2001.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to spend part of the day at Porterville College to attend the Board meeting.  As we arrived on campus, Nan and I talked about the spirit of community that PC promotes and the richness of life on campus.  We proceeded to have a great lunch cooked by none other than Chef Coyle and had a wonderful conversation with PC faculty and Public Safety Officers who joined us.  The topics ranged widely including how it was important to “feed our souls” ….. what can i say, healthy body, mind and soul to give the best to our students.

I woke up early this morning after a restless night and thought I would start a blog and share with you some of what I really enjoy about our sister campus.

Back in 1927, something wonderful happened in the quiet Tulare County community of Porterville.  Back then, it had only been 25 years since the town’s inception at the foot of the Sierras, but progressive Portervillians quickly realized there was already an insatiable need for higher learning to service their growing population.

And in 1927, Porterville College launched its first classes on the campus of the already established Porterville High School, serving 97 eager students.  A thriving new institution was up and running.

Porterville College

Courtesy Porterville College

For the better part of the past century, PC has maintained a keen focus on servicing its most important asset – the Porterville community itself.  And that’s not just lip service.  When I think of community, I think of people who aggressively identify their needs (as well as those of their neighbors), then move to take care of those needs. They see an area of deficiency — and they move to solve it.

Communities aren’t defined by an insular silo approach to problem-solving.  They’re defined by individuals moving to take care of those problems.  And for decades, Porterville College has taken a proactive, can-do approach to tackling issues with studied persuasion and plenty of old-fashioned heart.

Porterville College CHAPAmong its many virtues, perhaps the aspect of PC that I’ve always treasured the most is the sense of intellectual curiosity exhibited by PC’s faculty and staff.  Nowhere is that thirst for new and exciting pursuits more in evidence than in Porterville’s exceptional CHAP program.

For the uninitiated, the Cultural and Historical Awareness Program (CHAP) was started at PC in 2002, dedicated to shining a light on often overlooked aspects of our society.  Each year, PC’s CHAP members identify a theme, then work with faculty to integrate that theme into coursework campus-wide.

This year’s theme is “The Life of Books: Written Language Past and Present” — and just last night, they hosted a presentation on comics and the art of visual communications with famed comic book creator and historian Scott McCloud. CHAP consistently features inspired topics, hosts inspired guests and generally inspires both PC and the entire Porterville community to think differently.

In fact, Prof. Oliver Rosales from BC shaped the BC-CHAP program after PC’s.  Here is an excerpt from the website where Oliver pays homage to Prof. Richard Osborne:

The project is a direct result of the mentorship of Professor Emeritus Richard Osborne of Porterville College. Over a decade ago, Professor Osborne launched Porterville College’s CHAP initiative to much success, bringing in hundreds of speakers over the years. He has been generous with his time, sharing with Professors Hart and Rosales strategies for implementing a successful CHAP series in Delano.

Well, programs like CHAP preserve that spirit and certainly replenish our soul.

The ties between BC and PC, not to mention the deep tradition of collaboration between the two campuses, are strong and long-standing.  The connection has stood the test of time for nearly 100 years at both Porterville and Bakersfield and will undoubtedly continue long after present staff, students and faculty at both institutions are gone.  It’s so incredibly heartening to experience the richness of our sister campus and I’m confident that the BC-PC partnership will continue to strengthen and flourish for the next generations to come.


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