April 2017 Newsletter
MJC Distinguished Alumna for 2017
Marian Kaanon, Class of 1994
My MJC story is one rooted in a dream – the American dream that I believe is still alive for many who come to this country.
I was born in Baghdad, Iraq and my family began their immigration journey to the West when I was five years old, ultimately landing in Modesto, California – home to a thriving Assyrian community.
I am the product of local schools, graduating from Fred C. Beyer in 1992. While I loved learning, I was not very involved in high school activities, preferring to focus on academics. My family was middle-income but did not have any money set aside to support my college aspirations. However, the goal to attend college was woven into our family fabric from the moment we immigrated to this country.
Our family not only believed in the American dream, we recognized that the American dream can be realized through higher education.
I applied to Modesto Junior College and began as a freshman in the fall of 1992, and became an active ‘student citizen’ of MJC. I joined the Associated Students of Modesto Junior College under Nancy Singer at the time, eventually becoming the VP of Inter-Club Council. I studied under the brilliant tutelage of Professors Higginbotham and Elam and others. I made lifelong friends who inspired me. And I began a steady progress towards my own version of the American dream.
I transferred from Modesto Junior College to UC Davis in the fall of 1994 to pursue a degree in Communication Studies. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree, I worked for a period of time in broadcast journalism, then transitioned to marketing and public relations as well as lobbying and legislative affairs. I moved back to the Modesto area in 2005 to start a family and was named Vice-President of Marketing for Community Hospice, a position I held for eight years before being named CEO of Stanislaus Community Foundation.
I now reside in Modesto with my two elementary school age children, Olivia and Luke. With my team at Stanislaus Community Foundation, we invest over $1 million annually in grants and scholarhips to help build up our region. I love Modesto and think our hometown has so many natural assets worth celebrating – and one of our community’s prized assets is Modesto Junior College.
I have built a career around championing the rights of others, in recent years specifically advocating for the right to a quality education from kindergarten to career. I have experienced first-hand the importance of a quality education, and thanks to my time at Modesto Junior College, I know the value of a ‘good start’ to one’s career and college goals.
Modesto Junior College provided me a launching pad to my career and ultimately, to my community work too. I owe so much to this remarkable institution, which I consider a ‘catalyst for good.’ I am honored to be the MJC Alumna of the Year.
Back to Work at MJC
By Angelica Guzman
I was born and raised in the Central Valley – I am happy to call it my home. However, I didn’t always feel this way. Growing up I fantasized about leaving California to attend college out-of-state. In high school I was energetic, committed, and a risk taker. I was ready to leave the comfort of my small town and take on the world. Somewhere along the line my plans changed; moving away was not an option.
When I graduated from high school my parents gave me the choice to attend Modesto Junior College or San Joaquin Delta College. I decided on MJC. My parents attend MJC in the late 70’s, so it seemed like a natural choice. My father transferred to Sac State, so this was my plan too. I attended MJC for three years before transferring to Stanislaus State (somehow, my plans changed again). During my second year I took an Introduction to Physical Geography course with Cecelia Hudelson. Hearing her MJC story influenced me in a major way – I realized the Central Valley was my home and I wanted to invest in it the way MJC invested in me. MJC is where I learned to prioritize my time, utilize the resources around me, and love my community.
After graduating from Stanislaus State, I began working there in the Admissions and Outreach office. I spent seven years working with transfer students. I knew I wanted to work with community college students; my goal was to, eventually, make my way back to MJC – my home. In February 2017, that goal became a reality when I was hired as the Director of Admissions and Records at Modesto Junior College. It’s exciting to be back where it all began. In some ways, I feel as though my journey has come full circle. I’m excited to make a difference, give back to my college, and my community.
A Life Under the Sea
By Dan Gotshall, Class of 1950
After graduating from Modesto High School in 1948, I attended MJC as my next step in completing four years of college. That decision was the most important of my life. Pursuant to my interest in natural history I signed up for a class in zoology taught by Ted Woods. Ted was a remarkable man who became one of the most inspirational figures in my life. A Department of Fish and Game employee, in the spring of 1950, contacted Ted for his recommendation for someone to fill a temporary job with the Department. Ted replied that he had just the person and gave him my name and contact information. Thus began my long and fulfilling career as a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. I retired in 1988 as a senior marine biologist and continued with a new career as an underwater photographer of Pacific Coast marine life with over 50 marine research papers and books to my credit. Thank you, MJC, for sending me on a rewarding path in life.
Higher Education –
A Ticket to a Better Future
By Chet Monh, Class of 1994
I enrolled as a full time student at Modesto Junior College from 1992 to 1994. Hindsight is always “twenty-twenty.” Looking back, my years at MJC are one the few things I would not change. I owe my work ethic and character to the time I was enrolled at MJC. My family immigrated to the United States in 1981; I was seven years old. We were refugees from the war-torn country of Cambodia.
When we came to the US, we had only the clothes on our back. My parents worked as much as they could to help us get through each month, which was not enough, and we relied on government assistance. However, my parents reminded us often to strive and succeed in school, because education was our ticket to a better future. Both of my sisters attended MJC and transferred to CSU Stanislaus to complete their undergraduate studies in Liberal Arts. They are now school teachers in Los Angeles.
As for me, I transferred from MJC to CSU Sacramento to complete my undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering. I am the owner of DME Consultants, a company that specializes in environmental noise and air quality analysis in Phoenix, Arizona. Because my sisters and I succeeded, we were able to help pave the way for my two younger brothers, who completed their undergraduate studies at CSU Sacramento in Electrical/Electronic Engineering and Biology, respectively.
One MJC professor I remember most was Professor Mudie from a Physics Course. I remembered because I fell asleep in his class once. That year was challenging for me, because I was working full time as a janitor from 5pm to 2am while being a full-time student. One day, Professor Mudie was having trouble untangling an extension cord for the overhead projector. He was telling the whole class that if anyone here does not make it as a physicist at least learn to wind up an extension cord correctly. He proceeded to show us how to correctly wind up the extension cord so that it does not tangle when it is unwound. I did not become a physicist, but every time I wind up an extension cord, it reminds me of Professor Mudie and MJC. MJC has a treasured place in my heart. The education and character-building that MJC provided resonate through me every day. My family came to the US with nothing, but the US has opportunities for dreams to flourish. MJC is a gateway to these opportunities. I am grateful to be an MJC alumnus. Thank you.
It’s March and 70+ degrees in Modesto as we welcome springtime. The MJC campus landscaping team has just manicured the lawns on the East Campus. After the recent rains and building renovations, this place looks great! And our West Campus is a showcase of facilities and grounds as we complete the renovations and improvements as promised in Measure E, passed by the voters back in 2004. Thank you ALL for that support!
I invite you to come to campus, either east or west or both, and take a look. Visit your alma mater and see what’s going on today. If you’d like a tour, give me a call at 209.575.6714 or email me at email@example.com. I’ll be glad to show you around campus.
MJC’s faculty, staff and administration are focused on helping students to reach their goals, whatever they might be. Whether students are transferring to a four-year university, improving their technical skills for the workforce, or improving their basic skills, all of our effort involves reviewing the research and applying what works to increase student success. Our students face many challenges. Most are working one, two or more jobs. Many are raising young children. Others face psychological or cultural barriers. Some have limited support networks.
Your help is crucial to student success. We appreciate any support that you can provide so that we can get more of our students on the path to lifelong success.
George Boodrookas, Ed.D.