BC’s faculty and staff are rock stars

Jen Matt Sonya at La Spada June 19 2015

Sonya Christian, Matt Garrett, Jen Garrett at La Spada in Florence. June 19, 2015

I just got back from four days in Rome.  I know it is crazy to go all the way for just four days but what an incredible 4 days. During this trip I was wowed by our students who performed in Rome, Florence and Venice. And equally wowed by Jen Garret, our faculty director who made all this happen for our students.  Stay tuned for a future blog.

Liz Rozell 2

Liz Rozell, Dean of STEM

And then I found this email (see below) from Liz Rozell, Dean of STEM, applauding our Engineering and Industrial Technology faculty who provided an opportunity for middle schoolers to explore their curiosity, creativity, and love of the Sciences through a one week camp–Project Lead the Way.  Let’s hear from Liz.

Hi Manny & Roy,

Thank you so much for all the creative work you did with the middle school students at the PLTW camp this week.  Today at the final meeting, when you showcased the video presentations the kids created to present to their families, I had tears in my eyes because they were so amazing.  The leadership you brought to this camp, and the example you set for the BC STEM Mentors who assisted you, is just stellar.  Adam Alvidrez from Chevron was incredibly impressed and parents were telling me afterwards that they wanted their kids to participate next year.

This was a huge success that we should build upon!  Middle School is a tender age when kids begin to identify with schools and life interests.  This camp provided great opportunities for building our future STEM pipeline.


Project Lead the Way

Bakersfield College hosted its first Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Camp for Middle School students active in various PLTW Gateway programs. Manny Fernandez and Roy Allard, STEM faculty facilitators, along with five STEM mentors (Kevin Galloway, Nick Bakich, Zack Allen, Diana Le, and Noah Kearns) led 24 students on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) adventure.

This was an engaging experience in which each student learned to fly UAVs, build motors, assemble drones, collect video footage via the UAV, and create a video documenting it all!

Project Lead the WayPLTW is a comprehensive STEM program that incorporates project-based learning to increase critical thinking and problem solving skills among students in kindergarten through high school. It is an education model that empowers students in their learning and provides an environment for collaborative team work.

Chevron is a national partner with PLTW and donated the funding for this year’s camp. We appreciate the support that Chevron has provided to BC STEM students over the last seven  years, and now the support to build the future STEM pipeline by garnering interest in cutting edge technologies among young engineers.

Chicano/Latino Commencement, World’s Got Talent Show: Two Awesome Events, One Super Busy Night

2015 World's Got Talent ShowPart of the pleasure of being a member of the BC family is that there’s always something happening on this campus.

Always. Almost literally.

It is a very rare night during the school year when at least one performance, exhibit or gathering of one kind or another isn’t scheduled in one of our facilities. (The college does quite well given that it was built in the 50’s and is in need of serious infrastructure upgrades and remodeling of classroom and laboratory spaces.)

More and more frequently in looking at our calendar the question isn’t which event to attend. It’s HOW MANY to attend. On any given night, two or more stellar events at various campus venues can be vying for our attention.

Such was the case on May 6th when some of our most crazy-talented BCers were showing their stuff in the Simonsen Performing Arts Center Indoor Theatre stage as part of the final round of The World’s Got Talent Show, hosted by the International Student Organization. Thank you Shohreh Raman!  Meanwhile, just footsteps away in the center’s Outdoor Theatre, family and friends gathered to honor 2015 BC graduates at the beautiful Chicano/Latino commencement ceremony.

Getting emails like this one from BC Criminal Justice faculty member Pat Smith brings it all home…

“I attended the talent show last night and brought a friend of mine who is also a BC graduate and a retired probation officer.  I must tell you that I was so proud of our college students who showed off their talents on stage. It was quite fun and so entertaining.

My alumni friend had not been on the campus lately and was impressed with the indoor and outdoor theater upgrades. She expressed how wonderful BC looked at 100 years old and as we peaked down at the Hispanic commencement that was still going on, she was in awe of the outdoor theater upgrades and stated BC should have more concerts for the public and bring Mentu Buru and jazz artists.  I mentioned there were two recent concerts, but she was not aware of them.  She stated she wants to support BC more after seeing the wonderful campus upgrades…I am so proud to be a Renegade!”

Despite having so many talented students, only one could win it all — and a big congratulations to BC freshman Tristen Bangi for taking home the title with her amazing vocal performance.  The 18-year-old kinesiology major made it to the finals with knockout renditions of Broadway hits “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked” and “On My Own” from “Les Miserables,” then took home the trophy with a bravura diva turn on the Barbra Streisand classic “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl.”

While the talent show was going on inside, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house outside as hundreds came out to celebrate the success of our 2015 Chicano and Latino graduates at an intimate, heartfelt commencement ceremony.

The bilingual ceremony gives the Spanish-speaking family and friends of our Chicano and Latino students the chance to share in the pride and achievement of our amazing graduates. Thank you Corny Rodriguez and Joanne Acosta and the rest of the team for organizing the event.

And a word of advice to anyone attending the ceremony in coming years — bring tissue.  Because it’s impossible not to get emotional hearing stories of perseverance and joy from students who often had to overcome so much just to see a day like this become a reality.

Don’t take my word for it — just watch this fantastic video below from the ceremony by BC videographer supreme Manuel de los Santos.  Manny, u r the best!

A truly magical night on this truly magical campus…

2015 MESA Awards: BC Student Achievements Shine

MESA Awards Banquet 2015Bakersfield College continues to focus on low-income communities by providing opportunities that result in economic advancement.  And there’s no better opportunity for a first-generation college student than to dive headfirst into careers in industries clamoring for qualified workers: engineering, science and  mathematics.

So an organization focused on supporting and mentoring disadvantaged students into those in-demand and high-wage careers is one that gets BC’s highest seal of approval!

MESA Awards Banquet 2015On May 7th, members of BC’s MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program held their 11th annual awards banquet, honoring the 2015 achievements of our own MESA students.  It’s wonderful to see how many have accepted the academic support and industrial advantages MESA provides and are now ready to jump into that active job pool.

Under the oversight of MESA Director Connie Gonzalez, the banquet was a great event celebrating the determination of some of BC’s hardest-working students.

Consuelo GonzalezCongratulations award winners!


11th Annual Bakersfield College MESA Awards winners:

Industry Sponsor of the Year: Aera Energy LLC
Outstanding Individual Award: Traco Matthews
Professor of the Year Award: Richard Darke

Scholarships: Jeremy Duke, Jose Chavez, Evaleena Reyes, Amanda Jones, Brian Thayer, Edward Berdon, Oswaldo Marquez, Devin Pozas, Mary Baires, Randy Duong

Chevron Merit Scholars: Joshua Sosa, Tyler Starr, Edward Berdon, Tamara Kozareva, Jordy Dobbs, Jose Salinas, Daniella Bosze, Brian Thayer, Neftali Santos, Zeph Nord, Amanda Jones, Reymil Fernandez, Oswaldo Marquez, Marco Sanchez, Colton Nichelson, Zachary Allen, Yessenia Acosta, Ghillmar Mancia, Evaleena Reyes, Saul Mosqueda

MESA Awards Banquet 2015Transfers: Jeremy Duke, Zack Allen, Daniella Bosze, Brian Thayer, Matthew Gaitan, Tamara Kozareva, Devin Pozas, Anthony Prieto, Mary Baires, Sheri-Amor Craig, Alejandro Cruz, Randy Duong, Travis Renteria, Joshua Sosa, Jose Salinas, Gazali Ezzeddeen, Diana Herrera, Martin Alvarado, Austin Fowler, Joanne Jeong, Aeri Kim, Edison Quinonez, Juan Ramirez, Irabiel Romero, Anabel Salazar, Marco Sanchez, Alejandro Santos

Senate Certificate of Recognition: Jose Chavez, Jeremy Duke, Ghillmar Mancia, Reymil Fernando, Evaleena Reyes, Oscar Santos, Zack Allen, Amanda Jones, Danielle Bosze, Jessica Bravo, Zeph Nord, Brian Thayer, Edward Berdon, Matthew Gaitan, Oswalso Marquez, Mark Martinez, Tamara Kozareva, Devin Pozas, Jose Salinas

Internships/Research: Jose Chavez, Ghillmar Mancia, Reymil Fernandez, Evaleena Reyes, Jose Salinas, Oscar Santos, Amanda Jones, Jessica Bravo, Zeph Nord, Edward Berdon, Mark Martinez, Anthony Prieto Jeremy Duke, Sheri-Amor Craig, Zack Allen

BC Faculty Spotlight

It has been one heck of a week and I thought life would slow down after graduation :)  I got back to Bakersfield on Friday after travelling on work related business and woke up this morning to see the picture of one of our colleagues in the Californian.  Nick is a regular expert contributor to the Californian with his Stargazing feature, and this morning I was filled with pride to read this well written piece that is content rich and has a nice style.  Nick tells us about “Dawn” and “New Horizons,” two spacecraft exploring dwarf planets. He then zooms out to the edge of the universe and the stretching of spacetime with a super-luminous galaxy with 300 trillion times the power of the sun that is visible as it was only 1.3 billion years after the Big Bang. Finally he takes us home for a look at the planets from our familiar night sky, Venus and Jupiter to the west and the rings of Saturn to the east of the evening sky.

Nick's article on June 6 2015

Nick Strobel’s article in the Californian. June 6, 2015

I could not find Nick’s piece on the Californian’s website hence you get an iphone photo image of the front page of today’s Eye Street.  But I found it on BC’s website.  Here it is:


Here is a “copy and paste” from the website.

Bakersfield Night Sky — June 6, 2015

Bakersfield Night Sky – June 6, 2015
By Nick Strobel

Both of NASA’s dwarf planet spacecraft continue to get closer to their targets. Dawn has been in orbit around the dwarf planet, Ceres, in the main asteroid belt, since the first week of March and has now spiralled down to its second mapping orbit at a distance of 2700 miles from Ceres. The two bright spots in earlier images have been resolved into multiple smaller bright spots, so they are very likely exposed ice. Dawn will remain in this mapping orbit until the end of June. After that it will spiral down for an even closer look at Ceres.

Because Dawn uses an ion engine, instead of regular chemical rockets to propel itself, the accelerations are very small so the orbit changes are very gradual. Therefore, it takes days to a few weeks to spiral downward or upward to whatever orbit the scientists want.

New Horizons is speeding toward dwarf planet Pluto at about 750,000 miles a day, so today it is approximately 28 million miles away. You can check its distance up to the minute using the dashboard on the left side of the New Horizons homepage at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu . At the end of May, the images posted on the website were slightly better than the best maps derived from months of heavy computer processing of data from the Hubble Space Telescope. The view over the next few weeks will get thousands of times sharper!

In other space exploration news NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has discovered a very distant galaxy, called WISE J224607.57-052635.0, shining with the power output of over 300 trillion suns. Since the galaxy is very distant, we are seeing it as it was 12.5 billion years ago. Because of the stretching of spacetime due to the expansion of universe, I don’t say it is 12.5 billion light years away. At short distances of just a few million light years away, the light travel time matches up with the distance number in light years. For example, a we see a star 150 light years away as it was 150 years ago. But when we’re talking about billions of years of light travel time, then the distance the object is from us at this particular cosmic time is much greater. That’s why the press releases from the astronomers will be careful to give how far back in time we’re viewing something and not give a light years distance number.

Having said that, though, I’ll sometimes slip up myself and confuse the light travel time with the distance because my brain is hardwired for Newtonian space and time. Well, the news story about the super-luminous galaxy wasn’t about light travel times or even so much about the large luminosity. The surprising thing is that supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s core that is responsible for the huge power output is so darn young, just 1.3 billion years after the Big Bang. The light is coming from the huge disk of gas and dust spiralling into the black hole. Bigger black holes can have bigger (brighter) disks of gas and dust surrounding them.

The black hole at the core of WISE J224607.57-052635.0 was already billions of times the mass of our Sun when the universe was only 10% of its present age. How did it get so big in so short a time? Three months ago in a previous column, I talked about another supermassive black hole that had grown huge in “too short” a time. Well, one can expect a few oddballs to crop up in nature due to chance but the latest study from WISE talks about 20 new very distant galaxies that have been found with have very large black holes that have been added to the oddball list. That’s enough to indicate our understanding about what’s powering these super-luminous galaxies is incomplete or how these black holes grow is incomplete. Probably both are incomplete!

Something we do understand very well are the motions of the planets in our sky. The two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, continue to draw closer together in the western sky after sunset. Jupiter is still between Cancer and Leo. In May Venus scooted through Gemini and is now on the right (west) side of Cancer about a fist and a half width at arms length from Jupiter (see the first star chart below). On the night of June 19th, a thin Waxing Crescent Moon will be below Jupiter and Venus making a very nice photo opportunity. At the time of the free public star party hosted by the Kern Astronomical Society on the 27th, Jupiter and Venus will be about two knuckles at arms length apart from each other. At the end of the month, they’ll be less than a thumb width apart from each other.

Saturn is shining brightly in the eastern sky in the evening. It continues moving retrograde (backward) and is now at the edge of Libra in front of the head of Scorpius (see the second chart below). Saturn’s rings are tipped almost fully open from our perspective on Earth, so this is a good time to check them out in a telescope.

Want to see more of the stars at night and save energy? Shield your lights so that the light only goes down toward the ground. See www.darksky.org for how.

Nick Strobel
Director of the William M Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College
Author of the award-winning website www.astronomynotes.com

“Thank You, Mr. Falker” — and Thank You, Mrs. Mitchell’s Class!

On April 23, 2015 I received a text from our Student Government Association President, Alex Dominguez, that read:

President Christian, a teacher from Bakersfield City School District (Owens Primary School) reached out and asked if I could help her find some community leaders to read to students on May 21 from 9:00-9:30. I won’t be able to attend however I wanted to check and see if you would be interested!

I took a peek at my calendar and thought I could rearrange my schedule and quickly texted back to Alex and said I could.


Selfie with Mrs. Mitchell and her Third Grade Class


Then on May 4th I received this charming letter from Joyce Victor, Kindergarten Teacher.

Joyce Victor

I delighted in the presentation of the letter and made a quick note that the reading was a long ways away…..May 21st and today was only May 4th.

The next thing I know is that it is May 20th late afternoon and all I knew was that I was reading to a third grade gate class.  What does that mean….. what do I read…. panic sets in.  This is much more complex than presenting to a Chamber Breakfast event or even teaching calculus (i was a math faculty many years ago).  And then I remembered meeting Krista Bolton, wife of BC Assistant Football Coach Reggie Bolton, at a recent football event.  I also remembered that Krista taught third grade.  YES! There is a God watching over me and taking care of me.

Krista came through in a big way, steering me to author Patricia Polacco’s autobiographical book “Thank You, Mr. Falker” — and arranging for a copy I could borrow.  What was quite amazing was the time and care she put into finding the right book for me.  This included conversations with her colleagues and discussing the pros and cons of several books, checking Target, then Barnes and Nobles to try to purchase the book for me since she did not have it with her at home.  When she could not find the book readily available for purchase, she arranged to rendezvous with me at her school, early morning on May 21st, so she could get it from the library for me.

I took in the wonderful story — and immediately fell in love with the book, which truly captures the impact a wise and caring teacher can have on a young student.

Dr Christian - reading

Sonya Christian reading to third graders

In the story, a young girl named Trisha is thrilled at the thought of learning how to read, but gets discouraged when she finds the printed page seems to be nothing more than a jumble of letters and numbers.

Mocked as a dummy by her classmates, Trisha eventually comes to the attention of Mr. Falker, who not only recognizes the young girl’s artistic talent, but also her reading difficulties and the sad and mounting frustration she feels. The teacher makes it his mission to help Trisha overcome her problems and finally truly enjoy the world of reading for the first time.

Krista couldn’t have made a better suggestion.

And Mrs. Mitchell and her two dozen third-graders couldn’t have been more welcoming or the children more connected to the heartwarming story.

It’s so satisfying for me to not only tell such a lovely story about the joy and importance of reading, but imparting that message to those engaged, happy young faces in such a powerful way made for an enriching morning that I won’t soon forget.

Before my time with the children, I was happy to have my first face-to-face meeting with Bakersfield City School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Arias.

Dr. Robert Arias

Sonya Christian with Rob Arias

Rob and his fine team at the district have been doing some fantastic work getting all those enthusiastic young minds excited about learning and their futures, so it was great to have some time with him to talk about BCSD.

Thanks so much to Dr. Arias, Bessie Owens School, and to Mrs. Mitchell and her top-notch class for a truly fabulous day! And thank you Krista Bolton for getting me the best book ever.


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