Influential civic leaders, heads of industry, artists, professors and law enforcement personnel: these are just some of the 26 California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) alumni who returned to campus April 16 to share with students details about their professional careers during the second annual Professor for a Day.
Organized by the Office of Alumni Programs, Professor for a Day provides current CSUDH students a glimpse into the variety of fields and careers available to them after they graduate from college through the shared experiences, insight and advice of successful CSUDH alumni.
The honorary professors represented the range of corresponding degrees offered at CSUDH and were matched with classes relevant to their professional fields. During their lectures and presentations, and the question and answer sessions that followed, many alumni discussed how their education at CSUDH helped to shape them as professionals.
Todd Rodgers (’84, B.A. history;’93, M.A., sociology), a Lakewood city councilmember who has served four four-year terms starting in 2001 and three terms as the city’s mayor, grew up in Carson and has spent his entire career in public service.
“A counselor suggested I look into Cal State Dominguez Hills. I found that we had a great resource for higher education right here in our own backyard,” said Rodgers during his talk with CSUDH faculty member Maria Montero’s political science class. “After I graduated, I began teaching school in Gardena and at Carson High School, but I made a dramatic shift in my life after a ride-along with gang detectives out of the Carson sheriff’s station. Once I became a deputy sheriff I decided to come back to Cal State Dominguez Hills to get my master’s degree in sociology, which has helped me greatly in my current career in politics.”
Rodgers also shared with the class such topics as the difference between police and sheriff work, the wide-ranging responsibilities of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, and—in reply to student questions—his opinions on gun control and how to address encounters with armed suspects.
He also talked in detail about his political career, telling the class why he enjoys serving at the local level.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Do you have any aspirations to run for higher political office?’ The answer is ‘No,’ because at the local level you can have a direct impact in the communities in which you serve and live,” said Rodgers, who minored in political science at CSUDH. “If you can get a three-out-of-five majority vote from the council, you can pass a law or ordnance; you can change something for the better.”
Alumnus Gilbert Ivey (’75, B.A., business administration), chief administrative officer of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, reminisced with students in Associate Professor James Katzenstein’s business management class about his 43 years at the water district.
Ivey began at the water district as a summer trainee in the Engineering Division and has held various positions since in such areas finance, operations, and human resources. In 2009, he was honored as the Southern California Leadership Network’s “Visionary for Public Sector Leader of the Year.”
“It’s all about becoming a leader, not just a manger, but a leader, which is what I want you all to become. A leader is a person who innovates, originates ideas and develops people so they may move forward,” said Ivey. “A leader is a people-oriented person who listens to people about their ideas; it’s about inspirational leadership that inspires people to do their best work; it’s about long-range thinking and planning. You need to be a visionary. You need to tap into why something needs to happen compared to just doing it.”
Ivey, who will retire from the water district in June 2015, also touched on water planning and distribution for the region, and the importance of networking in and outside of one’s industry.
Professor for a Day also enabled students to learn about the practices and strategies used in day-to-day work situations, including Ameenah Mohammed, a junior studying accounting at CSUDH who attended Ivey’s class.
“This was a very good presentation. I learned a lot about management, and the difficulties that come with the work. But what I really learned today was to push through, to seek mentors, to really learn about the field,” said Mohammed. “Mr. Ivey knows how to get people’s attention. Even though he presented a PowerPoint presentation, he spoke through everything he wanted to teach us really well. He took the time to explain every topic. He made me want to listen.”
CSUDH alumni and Boeing employees Rosalie Hernandez (’87, B.A., art), team leader of the corporation’s Creative Information Services organization, and Leo Barajas (’87, B.A., communications), a scientific imaging videographer, taught television production to CSUDH faculty chair and Professor George Vinovich’s digital media arts course.
Barajas looked forward to teaching his art at CSUDH for the first time during Professor for a Day.
“If they throw some technical questions at me today about television production, that’s fine, but what I really want to impart to them is to keep pursing their dreams and don’t give up,” said Barajas during the Professor for a Day luncheon before he and Hernandez were to teach their 1 p.m. class. “For years I’ve been living by Winston Churchill’s quote, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’”
Barajas recalled some “really tough” deadlines and production challenges while working on projects as a CSUDH student, and how critical it was to push through to get the job done.
“It was really a good program that I went through here at CSU Dominguez Hills. It really prepared me—like you wouldn’t believe—for the outside world of video production,” he said. “So I will also tell students that ‘proper preparation prevents poor performance,’ which comes from ‘The 5 Ps of Success.’ I’ve been saying that for years.”
Barajas also attributes his focus on preparation to Vinovich, his former professor.
“George Vinovich also instilled preparation in us, which I always remember when I go on a video shoot. He taught me that 90 percent of the production is preparation,” he said. “Executing the shoot is not really that big of a deal. Sure, you have to deal with actors and production problems, but if you’re prepared and you have a Plan B and C, things will go much smoother. Just keep your eye on the ball.”
Professors for a Day
- ROBERT ANDERSON (’96, B.A., sociology; ‘99 M.A., sociology) Teacher, Compton Unified School District
- OCTAVIA ASKEW (’05, B.S., biology) Wellness Director, Solid Foundation
- TOWALAME AUSTIN (‘04, B.A., interdisciplinary studies) Non-profit Executive, Roc Nations
- HAROON AZAR (‘04, B.S., business administration) Regional Director of Strategic Engagement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- DANNY AZUCAR (‘13, B.S., health science) Graduate student, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California
- PAUL HUON (‘97, B.S., clinical science) System Director, Avanti Hospitals
- LEO BARAJAS (‘87, B.A., communications) Scientific Imaging Videographer, Boeing Corporation
- GARY BARDEN (‘14, B.S., health science) Project Manager, Kaiser Permanente, South Bay Medical Center
- STEVE BRADFORD (‘85, B.A. political science; ’85, B.A., sociology) Assemblymember (ret.), 62nd District, State of California
- JOE BUSCAINO (‘00, B.A., communications) Councilman, 15th District, City of Los Angeles
- JUSTINA COUEY (‘11, B.S., business administration) HR Recruiter, Space X
- FERNANDO CRUZ (‘13, M.S.W.) Clinical Social Worker, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
- LINDA DEYAMPERT (‘99, B.S., business administration) Senior Manager, Scheduling Operations, NFL Network
- ROSALIE HERNANDEZ (‘87, B.A., communications; ‘99, M.B.A.) Creative and Information Services Team Leader, Boeing Corporation
- GILBERT IVEY (‘75, B.S., business administration) Chief Administrative Officer, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
- HABIB KHERADYAR (‘86, B.A., art) Gallery Director
- CHIARA LANDSMAN (‘12, B.S., health science) Graduate student, Master of Science in Nursing, UCLA
- JOSE MUNOZ (‘98, M.A., sociology) Associate Professor of Sociology, CSU San Bernardino
- KEVIN O’NEAL (‘87, B.A., special major) Associate Professor of Music, Santa Monica College
- AARON REYES (‘14, B.S., health science) Certified Enrollment Counselor, Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties
- TODD ROGERS (‘84, B.A., history; ’93, M.A., sociology) Mayor, City of Lakewood/ Assistant Sheriff, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department
- KRISTEN SULLIVAN (‘14, B.S., health science) Operations Manager, Tri-State Investment Properties/Graduate student, Master of Arts in Gerontology, University of Southern California
- KARI TAPIE (‘00, M.A., special education) Teacher, Los Angeles Unified School District
- KATHY TIBONE (‘75, M.A., behavioral science) Educator and Philanthropist
- PATRICK WEST (‘86, M.B.A.) City Manager, City of Long Beach
- CHIRAZ KELLY (‘05, B.S., business administration) CEO, City National Security Services