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Columbia College's

Academic Wellness Educators    

Keeping Us Connected

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Keeping Us Connected                 

Volume 3, Issue 6, February '10


AWEStar of the Month


Tom Hofstra, February’s AWEstar, started at Columbia College in 2004 as an adjunct instructor in Biology and was hired full-time in 2007 as the Forestry and Natural Resources instructor when Ross Carkeet retired.  Tom is excited to teach on a campus that has such wonderful natural and cultural history, including 285 acres of oak woodlands and mixed conifer forest with mountain lions, foxes, ring-tailed cats, skunks, deer, raccoons and coyotes as well as the historic San Diego Reservoir and Goldrush placer mines.  Many of his classes spend a lot of time out in the field on and off campus learning natural resources skills such as wildlife surveys, water quality monitoring, and timber cruising.



Tom Hofstra

Tom Hofstra, Forestry and Natural Resource Instructor


Tom is currently working on developing the Water Resources Management degree and certificate program, funded by a state CTE Collaborative grant for sustainable resources job training.  The grant is funding similar “green” programs at MJC, Delta and Merced colleges.  Water is essential for life, and as human demands on water resources continue to grow, water resources management is becoming increasingly important.  California is the fifth largest economy in the world, based on agriculture sustained by water from the Sierra Nevada.



The CTE Collaborative grant has provided resources to write the curriculum for classes, purchase equipment and promote articulation and community outreach.  Tom is working with Annie Cavaganaro on a "Side Car" to help integrate basic math skills into the new Introduction to Water Resources Management class this fall.


This spring Tom is organizing a water resources themed fieldtrip to Baker Station for middle school students as part of the CTE Collaborative Grant, as well as hosting the first Occupational Olympics water quality testing event for high school students.  The students will be evaluated in their ability to measure oxygen concentration, pH levels and temperature in stream water.  Evaluation criteria for this event include protocol execution, accuracy of results, and speed.  The event will take place along the San Diego Ditch on the Columbia College campus.  Participating students were provided with test kits to practice with and training prior to the event.


One of Tom’s favorite projects is the High Sierra Institute, which he co-coordinates with Dimitri Keriotis of MJC.  HSI is based at Baker Station, which is operated in partnership with the Stanislaus National Forest. Tom teaches a number of courses at Baker Station, including Wildflowers of the Emigrant Wilderness, Field Biology, and the Natural Resources Field Camp.  The high mountain setting is an ideal outdoor classroom that fosters enthusiasm for the subject matter.  The High Sierra Institute also offers courses from yoga to creative writing. In the GPS/GIS Mapping course, taught by Tom, Jeff Tolhurst and Dave Pastizzo, students map vegetation and geology in an almost road-less two-square-mile area around Columns of the Giants.


Tom is helping plan the new Science and Natural Resources building coming in Fall of 2011, which will feature LEED Certification and state-of-the-art technology, including solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling for parts of the building.  All the Sciences, as well as Forestry and Natural Resources, will be under the same roof in this facility, with modern labs and smart technology classrooms.



Tutor's Corner





I have been a tutor at the Academic Achievement Center and a library assistant on campus since the fall semester of 2008.  I sincerely enjoy working with the amazing students and faculty of Columbia College.  This April, I am graduating from Columbia and I hope to transfer as a cultural anthropology student to either UC Santa Cruz or UC Berkeley.  The courses I have taken and the study skills I developed through the guidance of several very dedicated, enthusiastic professors at Columbia have truly prepared me for this next exciting step in my life.


Ariella Megory

Ariella Megory, AAC tutor and Library Assistant


I believe that developing study skills and time management skills are the most significant contributions that tutors can make to the academic development of their peers/tutees because these skills promote increased academic independence.  This task is actually harder than it seems since many students come in to the AAC fishing for direct answers to the homework problems.  Nevertheless, working at the AAC I see people change and grow all of the time.  The way we tutors know we’re doing our jobs right is when students become self-sufficient and stop using our tutoring services.  Our job, by design, is to make ourselves “progressively unnecessary,” or, in other words, to put ourselves out of work (fortunately there are plenty of new incoming students every year). 


A piece of advice I would give the professors of the college is “challenge us!” Living in a rural community which has few employment opportunities while, at the same time,  living in a generation that is preparing for jobs that might not be available in the future are sources of great anxiety for many students.   Given that Columbia College is a democratic institution—democratic in the sense that through its low costs it makes education more easily accessible—I believe that it has unique opportunities to address these conditions.  It has the opportunity to promote organizational, communication, and critical thinking skills that will be necessary to deal with the uncertainty of our futures.  To promote the development of Columbia College students I believe that it is essential to challenge us.  Encourage us to make connections between our lives and the material we are learning and to question the world around us.  Spark within us the excitement which made you fall completely in love with your discipline.  Make us realize, first and foremost, the value of education and, later, the value of a degree. Your expectations of your students are reflections of what you think they are capable of achieving. Students will rise to your expectations, value their academic and developmental accomplishments, and appreciate you for encouraging and supporting their growth.  Overcoming little challenges and barriers to achieve long term educational goals is part of what makes learning such an exhilarating experience.





A diverse group of staff, faculty and students meet to


"Habits of Mind".


The newly formed T&L FIG



Remind your students about the AAC for tutoring.

AAC Logo

The AAC also provides:

Computer lab with free printing

Individual and group study space with whiteboards

Test Proctoring for non-Columbia College exams

  • Computer lab with free printing
  • Individual and group study space with whiteboards.
  • Test Proctoring for non-Columbia College exams
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact Adrienne Seegers, Anne Cavagnaro, Alicia Kolstad, John Leamy, Lynn Martin, Karin Rodts, Craig Johnston or Melissa Colón. Check out the AWE Web site.