Reason #15: We are the third largest major on campus.
Annual Alumni Speakers Panel
The Communication Studies Department for the past 10 years has hosted the Annual Alumni Speakers Panel showcasing former Gavilan College graduates who are now in their careers, utilizing their degrees and certificates, and communication skills in gainful employment.
The department has seen exponential growth in declared majors and minors over recent years. We proudly invite back our alumni who have graduated with Associate of Arts Degrees and/or Certificate of Achievements to connect with our current student body of students.
2019 Alumni Speakers Panel
Communication Studies Instructors Kelly Glass (far left) and Denise Besson (far right)
alumni panelists: (l-r) Carrie Mansmith Gutierrez, Marcos Vizcaino, Heather Fogelstrom,Amy Hollis, Priscilla DeAnda and Ron Colman.
About the panelists:
Carrie Mansmith Gutierrez
AA Communication Studies 2015; BA Communication Studies FSU; CEO Mansmith Enterprises, Inc.
Encouraged to take communications classes by her grandmother, Gutierrez took one class, expecting to remain on the sidelines. “Instead, I found a culture and a real community in the classes. I took everything, convinced this is for me. You couldn’t shut me up!”
Loving her time at Gavilan, Gutierrez extolled the value of the program, instructors and her degree. She played on the women’s basketball as well. After her transfer to Fresno State, she took with her all the study skills she learned in the program, applied it to all her classes.
“I was so spoiled here at Gav, compared to Fresno State,” she said. “These teachers know how to teach.” While at Fresno, she was offered employment working with after school students and said she uses her conflict management skills every day. “You learn how to manage different, difficult situations,” she said. “My colleagues would send difficult management cases to me, and I knew how to hand them.”
She expressed confidence in her skills because of the communications classes she took, even though, at the time, people questioned how she could possibly have a career or make money. “The time you put in now, in your education, can never be taken from you,” she said. “Employers like to see your certificate or degree in communications. They know you can talk to employees, customers and vendors.”
AA Interpersonal Communication 2008; BA Communication Studies SJSU; Parks Interpreter San Juan Bautista State Park
Denise Besson turned on the news one evening, was busy with other tasks, then stopped. “I know that voice.” Sure enough, in a local news spot about San Juan Bautista State Park, her former communications student was on television.
While taking classes at Gavilan, Vizcaino was required to participate in service learning. How to associate service learning with a history class? He visited San Juan Bautista State Park, met with the commissioner, and in the course of a month fulfilled his hours and learned about the park.
“I was able to utilize my love of history and communication,” he said. “The interpreter at the time offered me a position as a park aide. Ten years later I am still there, now as a full time, permanent employee. Fate has a way of working things out.”
He describes each day as an opportunity to use his small group communications skills. Each year he speaks to 15,000 school kids.“My audience is nine year olds with candy on their minds,” he said, “and a little spending money in their pockets. Eye contact is incredibly important. Look those kids in the eye and you will never lose them.”
“I make the presentations relatable to the audiences I speak to,” he said. “The interpretation helps people understand the historic significance of the buildings.”By the end of the tour, every visitor knows the park’s importance.
General Ed 2005; BA Communication Studies, Santa Clara University; Change Manager, CBRE
Fogelstrom talked with the students about current and former instructors and their tools to help improve communications. One had a clicker tucked away for use during assigned speeches.
“They taught us to learn to pause instead of using filler language,” she said. Every filler word or phrase was met with a click, and with some speeches it sounded as though the room was filled with crickets. “We also learned that speeches are much more about the message than they are about you.”
She has worked at SAP, Cisco and joined Toastmasters groups. “If you don’t use it, you can lose it,” she said. “I still work, every day, to improve my public speaking skills. I am happy to utilize the degree in my professional career.”
AA Communication Studies 2018; BA Communication Studies SJSU; Manager J Winston Winery
She will walk in graduation exercises this month. This, from a person who always said school wasn’t for her.
“Then I took courses with Denise Besson and Kelly Glass,” said Hollis. “I learned it wasn’t school, but what I was studying. If you have a passion for communication studies, stick with it.”
“Find your niche,” she said. “It can still be used in everything else.”
Certificate of Achievement Communication Studies 2014; BA Communication Studies SJSU; Instructional Program Specialist, Accessible Education Center, Gavilan College
DeAnda enrolled at Gavilan straight out of high school, only to drop out. Twice. Then, as a communications student, she saw Kelly Glass on an alumni panel.
“My first love was interpersonal communications,” she said. Fast forward to 2019, she is working toward earning an MS in intercultural communications at SJSU.
“I have been able to apply my skills to my personal and my professional life,” said DeAnda. “While at Gavilan I was part of the college staff.” She worked in the Welcome Center, where she learned about all the student services at Gavilan. “Future career opportunities could be in counseling, business, public relations or marketing,” she said.
AA Criminal Justice & Business Administration 2011; certificate of achievement Communication Studies; Vice President Capital One Commercial Card Sales
Colman arrived at Gavilan College to play basketball, had a great coach and great experiences. “All I wanted to do was play basketball and make money. I knew I wanted to be in the business world.” His family owns the local Jiffy Lube, plus others in California and Ohio. Asked by his family if he wanted to take over, he decided the answer was no.
“Denise Besson probably put me on the knucklehead list,” Colman said, “because I didn’t always take classes as seriously as I should have.”
“I came back to school for the certificate program,” he said, expecting to go into law enforcement and become a police officer. A hiring freeze redirected his energies to retail sales. He now works in commercial credit card sales. Knowing how to assess body language and learning how to really listen to people are critical skills.
“I deal with CFOs, CEOs, finance people who tell me ‘you have 15 minutes to impress me,’” he said. “I use a lot of the communications skills I learned, every day, even though I didn’t know I would at the time.”
2018 Alumni Speakers Panel
From L to R: Denise Besson (Communication Studies faculty), Eryka Temores, Patricia Mondragon,
Jessica Prado, Nahal Dadrass Hayes, Sergio Zendejas, and Kelly Glass (Communication Studies faculty)
About the panelists:
Eryka Temores, Program Coordinator, YMCA Mt. Madonna
Graduated Gavilan 2012, Arizona State University 2014
You can learn a lot, Temores discovered, going out to lunch with an old friend. They graduated at the same time, and she asked about job prospects. Two years after graduation the friend was...waiting. By contrast, Temores landed a job in radio four months after graduation and spent three years at a number of stations producing creative work. Currently she works at YMCA Mt. Madonna where she uses her communications skills to make a difference in people's lives.
Patricia Mondragón, Principal, South Valley Middle School, Gavilan College Board of Trustees Member
Graduated Gavilan 2007, SJSU MA Ed 2007
Talking about her career path, Mondragón nonchalantly dropped a shocker: as a youth she dropped out of high school and worked in the ticket booth of a movie theater. Raised in a family of migrant workers, she spent her childhood constantly moving from Castroville to Salinas to Watsonville. The family finally settled down after moving to Gilroy. Anchored, Mondragón could pursue her education.
Jessica Prado, Relationship Advisor & Private Banker, Silicon Valley Bank
Graduated Gavilan 2009, SJSU 2012
After Prado graduated from Gavilan, CSU schools created a nine month waiting period before a new class could enter. Bad timing? It seemed artificial but was a real, inconvenient frustration. Not one to sit around and wait, Prado distributed her resume and applied for work everywhere. She got a call back from Bank of America, interviewed and received a job offer. The communications career path she envisioned as an employee of a major technology company in Silicon Valley shifted. Instead, she now advises those companies as a private banker.
Sergio Zendejas, Insurance agent Golden Memorial Advantage Life, marketer Costco
Graduated Gavilan 2008, SJSU 2010
Zendejas shared his personal perspective. Being male from a family of farm workers, the emphasis was decidedly not on communication. At a crossroads, he flipped a coin to decide his next direction. Heads: take the communications class. Tails: continue hanging with his friends. Heads it was. He enrolled, then pushed himself to take all the courses. Zendejas received his degree from Gavilan and transferred to SJSU to continue studying communication studies. Repurposing the familiar phrase "gateway drugs," he described communications studies as gateway courses to succeed with career pursuits.
Nahal Dadrass Hayes, Accountant, Monterey Mushrooms
Graduated Gavilan 2002, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 2005
Born in Iran as politics became volatile, Dadrass Hayes was three years old when her parents immigrated to the US. English is her second language. She recalled feeling very uncomfortable speaking in front of people and identified it as an obstacle. She earned her Communications Studies certificate and transferred to study business and accounting at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, a school emphasizing presentations and project work. She credited Gavilan's communications program as pivotal to her success at SLO.
Panelists Eryka Temores, Patricia Mondragón, Jessica Prado, Sergio Zendejas and
Nahal Dadrass Hayes field questions from Gavilan students.
Panelists shared about their educational pursuits before answering questions from the audience:
How would you compare the communications courses at Gavilan to the communications courses at SJSU?
Mondragón: I enjoyed communications more at Gavilan, where there is an emphasis on the individual person. The classes at SJSU focused on career preparation and included an emphasis on teaching.
Zendejas: Some of the prerequisite classes weren't that interesting, but the classes in the major were similar to course work at Gavilan. I did notice the preponderance of women in the program.
Besson: Yes, the communications industry and career paths seem to have a lot of women. An outreach to more men would benefit the industry. SJSU offers a solid foundation for teaching communications.
After graduating with your communications degree, what were your career steps?
Temores: Find ways to focus, narrow down what you want. Make those discoveries by taking internships and temporary positions. Dig your hands into your own career direction.
Prado: While working during the interim waiting period before starting SJSU, Prado discovered she really enjoyed banking and people. When her spot at SJSU finally opened up, she learned her employer would pay her tuition. She ended up without any college debt and a new career path to apply her communications degree.
Dadrass Hayes: Looking at her own career arc, she told the students to find their passion and recommended job shadowing to discover opportunities, which is how she discovered accounting as her career path.
Besson: Networking is important to career opportunities. Typically, connections are made at four-year schools.
How are communications reinforced at the middle school level?
Mondragón: Middle school students have a reputation as difficult to teach. But actually they are eager to please, they are searching for their own identities, and they need guidance and tools. Communications are emphasized across the curriculum as a Common Core skill.
What communication skill that you learned at Gavilan do you find yourself drawing on every day in your career?
Temores: Active listening, really listening without responding. I use it every day and listen to the messages behind the words as well.
Mondragón: Agreed, active listening. Be present, encourage people to emphasize what they like, advocate, speak up, be patient and be clear.
Prado: Yes, active listening. Using it, I can determine what clients really need. I conduct many meetings without any equipment, so I am focused on what they are saying, not distracted by devices. I can also be attuned to nonverbal cues by watching and listening.
Zendejas: Nonverbal communication. Learn it, read it, use it. I also draw on the culture courses we were taught, understanding and not judging when people's behaviors are different.
Dadrass Hayes: Perceptions. I recall a video clip about perceptions and body language, and how people's perceptions differ. Based on that, I try to see myself through the eyes of others. It helps me adjust, watch and listen intently.
What majors and minors complement communications studies?
Temores: Communications go hand in hand with every degree. I now want to apply those skills to pursue a study of sociology.
Prado: Every student should take at least one communications course. It will help any area they study.
Glass: What are you passionate about? Find that, choose your focus, and discover how communication studies works with it.
Alumni Patricia Mondragón and Jessica Prado talk with communications studies
students after the panel presentation.
The five panelists affirmed the value of communications to their careers. Employers are not necessarily looking for the smartest person to hire. They are looking for team players who can engage, solve problems and communicate.
2015 Annual Alumni Speakers Panel
The Communication Studies Department held its second annual Alumni Speakers Panel March 26, 2015. Five of our former graduates discussed how their Communication Studies Associate of Arts-Transfer (AA-T) degree or Certificate in Communication Studies from Gavilan College helped them achieve their career goals.
Nate Whitaker (AA-T-2011): Teaching Assistant and Graduate Student at San Francisco State University
Matthew Galindo (Certificate in Communication Studies-2013/2014): Seed Enhancement Technician with Sakata Seed America Inc
Carlos Martinez(AA-T-2013) Communication Studies Student at San Jose State University and Retail Associate at Ralph Lauren
Nayela Ceja-Anguiano (AA-T- 2009): Community Worker for the Adelante Family Resource Center at Rebekah Children's Services
Kathleen Sandys (AA-T-2009): Speech-Language Pathologist Cupertino Union School District
2014 Annual Alumni Speakers Panel
The Communication Studies Department held its first annual Alumni Speakers Panel October 23, 2014. Five of our former graduates discussed how their Communication Studies Associate of Arts degree from Gavilan College helped them achieve their career goals.
- Claudia Oropeza, class of 2007, Public Relations Manager for Glu Mobile, Inc.
- Laurelyn Perteet class of 2009, People Operations at Palantir Technologies
- Ali Henry class of 2012, Forest Park Ranger for Santa Clara County Parks Department
- Lindsay Bustillos class of 2013, graduate of Chico State University
- Kelly Glass class of 2008, formerly a Gavilan College Communication Studies Instructor
More pictures from this event are below: