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I am UCC

I am UCC: Nursing student thankful for support

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    Priscila Lopez is clear about her career goals and who has inspired her along the way.

Priscila Lopez, ASUCC senator and Spanish Club representative, developed a profound respect for her family and heritage at an early age.

One of three children born to immigrant parents, she had a first-hand view of the difficulties Hispanic Americans face and the determination that is required to overcome them. “My parents came from Mexico in the mid-’80s,” she says. “They worked hard, had my brother, and got their citizenship that they worked very hard for.”

She gets a little misty-eyed as she recalls her humble but loving childhood. “There were days we didn’t  have very much,” she says, “and I remember how much they struggled to just get by, paycheck to paycheck.”

In the early nineties, liability issues were not as prevalent as they are today, so field work often included the whole family with the little ones working too.  Summers were spent alongside her parents harvesting produce and saving money for the incoming school year.

“I remember growing up and going to the onions, the asparagus . . . and then I learned how to pick cherries, which I was really fast at,” she says. “I would work just as hard and long as everyone out there,” she says, “and I got some money for clothes.” The reality of intense work for long hours and little pay did not escape her, however. “It reminded me that I don’t want to do that,” she says. “It’s really hard (work), hard on your body, and I was just a kid.”

Lopez’s decision to leave her hometown of Pasco, Washington and pursue school was born out of frustration. “When my daughter was 3 years old, I was working two jobs; I worked at Ross, and I worked as a housekeeper at a Shilo Inn,” she says. “I was living with my parents and decided I needed an education.” She went to the Department of Labor in Pasco and entered Workforce (a training program).

“I just needed one job instead of trying to struggle through two,” she says. While waiting for a counselor to get back to her, she saw a notice that started her path to UCC.

It was wanting to be as far from home as possible — for an entirely fresh start— that brought her to Douglas County. “I saw a sign on a door that said ‘Join Job Corp’ and so that’s what I did.”

Her interest in nursing and a desire for distance led her to the Wolf Creek Job Corp, where she enrolled in the nursing program and earned a scholarship. “I did phlebotomy and some of my prerequisites,” she says.

After the two years required to remain in the program, she found herself a local job. “I got a job at Davita Dialysis,” she says, “and I stayed here with my daughter and continued to go to UCC because it gave me the opportunity. I got my G.E.D. here.”

Everyone is prone to moments of doubt, and Lopez is no exception. “Before even thinking of going to school, I didn’t think I was going to make it very far,” she says. “I didn’t believe in myself; I didn’t think I was smart enough.” The positive atmosphere she experienced at UCC bolstered her confidence greatly, though. “When I started college here everyone was so supportive . . . . It was amazing how much it changed my life,” she says, “so I stayed for the school.”

Lopez is the first in her family to attend college and admits to occasional uncertainty even today. “I still have the fear sometimes,” she says, “but then, UCC is so different, and it motivates me to keep going.”

As a kid, Lopez wanted to be a police officer, but her interest in the field of medicine started with one of her early jobs. “I started off as a caregiver in Washington,” she says. “I would go to people’s homes and help them with their laundry, grocery shopping, baths, and take them to doctor’s appointments. That’s where it started,” she says; “where I learned that I wanted to do more.”

Now in the nursing program on campus (and working at Mercy Medical in Roseburg), Lopez intends to seek a bachelor’s degree and work as a nurse in either the E.R. or Critical Care. After two years of experience, she will apply to be a nurse anesthetist. “They get to administer anesthesia under their own license,” she says, “and be part of procedures like colonoscopies, endoscopies, cataract removals and most medication sedations.”

In the meantime, however, the prospect of working with traumatic injuries doesn’t intimidate her. She has encountered emergencies when working with diabetic patients. “Sometimes, when working in dialysis,” she says, “people were crashing hard.” She has altruistic reasons as well for taking the steps toward her chosen career: “When I enter a patient’s room, I think I’m going to make their day better,” she says. “The way I view it is that could be my dad, or mom or sister . . . . I want them to be treated well and cared for genuinely, (and) not just be there to pay my bills. Most patients won’t remember what you did for them, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

Lopez is a saltwater angler in her free time, and she’s enthusiastic in her description. “I love kayak fishing in the ocean,” she says. “I love going out in the open water and being surrounded by only God knows what.” She is not a fan of “catch and release,” however, as cooking her catch is part of the appeal. “Eating it is great.” she says, “It’s something that I caught, and I know exactly where it came from.”

If Lopez could influence any change at UCC, she would like to see more student involvement with the various organizations on campus. “I’d really like a lot more students to get involved with things ASUCC is doing,” she says, “and the work The Mainstream is putting out there . . . to just get involved and have fun.”

As for inspiration, Lopez looks no further than her children. “They inspire me to keep going,” she says, “I want them to be able to look at me and say ‘Mom can do it, I can too,’ but I don’t want them to ever rate their level of success based on me. I hope they go over and beyond what I’ve accomplished. They’re the reason I try.”

I am UCC: April Hamlin, Dean of Student Services

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    The new dean of student services stresses the importance of having a “Plan B.”

   There is little to nothing that the director of student services thinks she “has” to do. She does, however, “get” to do exactly what she loves with exuberance.

    April Hamlin doesn’t proceed through her days with of a sense of obligation, but rather a buoyant joy, the infectious kind that brightens a space and likely the days of many students and co-workers. This would seem counter-intuitive for someone who, in fact, has a virtual laundry list of roles to play and things to do on campus. “So far this morning,” she says, “I’ve been working on a grant that provides services for our program, I’ve worked on a drug and alcohol program annual review and I’ve visited the services here in the Student Center to do some advising.”

   With 12 vacancies in Student Services at the time of this writing, Hamlin’s priority is to fill those job positions. “It’s one of the big things that have been really driving my energy and attention right now,” she says. Otherwise, she has leadership roles in many departments including the Trio program, Student Life & Campus Engagement, Financial Aid, Admissions and Enrollment, Advising, Counseling Services, Testing and Accessibilities. “I’m also the campus diversity officer, and Title IX deputy coordinator,” she says, without the slightest hint of being overwhelmed.

   Education was an unexpected field that Hamlin didn’t initially pursue. “In grade school, I wanted to be an astronaut,” she says, “and then in high school I wanted to be a music therapist; I was going to double-major in psychology and music.” By the end of college, however, she wasn’t so sure about those choices. “I feel so blessed I fell into education,” she says, “it wasn’t on my radar.”

   The kind of work she had done prior to UCC provided her with a solid foundation for her present duties, even if the path was unintentional. She spent eight years in youth special education with the Bend-LaPine school district and later went on to be the director of the adult basic skills development at UCC’s Wooley Center, where she took part in G.E.D. preparations, high school diploma programs, English learning and college/career planning for over five years. “It’s kind of a microcosm (of services) here on the main campus,” she says.

   Hamlin likes to think of herself as an “agent for change,” and this is even reflected in some of her earliest work. “I did about 10 years in juvenile corrections,” she says. “What I loved is that I worked in both Deschutes and Douglas counties where restorative models of juvenile justice were practiced. Instead of just putting kids in detention,” she says, “we would work with them to find out what was really going on.” During this period she also worked in prevention programs for girls believed to be high-risk for future infractions, headed work crews, led 30-day programs and was involved with behavioral rehabilitative services.

   The leadership and supervisory skills she has gained aside, Hamlin believes her most recent duties as a grant development writer have prepared her well for her current position. “I was really blessed because I got to work really closely on several federal grants. I worked with the Upward Bound team on the renewal of their federal grant.”

   A recent concept that has entered the national conversation among community colleges also has her excited: “I got to do a lot of work last year with Guided Pathways, a new direction community colleges are looking at in terms of promoting a holistic approach to student success,” she says “and success being measured by completion.”

   Though not prescriptive (every college will have to make their own adaptations), Guided Pathways is an idea that aims to hopefully offset some of the dismal statistics regarding college completion. Many students are very clear about their academic and career goals when enrolling, and a reduction of studies unrelated to those specific goals may encourage some to complete their education.  “If you have a place that you are aiming at, a place to land,” she says, “we can help you land in the least amount of time”. If students arrive hoping to find a direction, Hamlin indicates that is still perfectly OK. “It’s not about limiting options,” she says; “it’s about defining paths so that you know exactly what you need.”

   Part of what keeps Hamlin grounded, healthy and happy is a simple philosophy. She says she could be doing one of many things, but “gets” to be where she is. “One of the ways I think self-care manifests itself is (in) always having a Plan B in mind.” she says, “Have some other thing that you could be doing for your job. I could be a massage therapist (she has been licensed for 16 years), but I don’t want to do that. I get to be the dean of student services. I’m not a victim of my choices.”

   Hamlin credits her parents for being her biggest inspirations. “My mom finds treasures in the most mundane places,” she says, “we go for walks and she still picks up rocks and shiny things and is super delighted by it. I want to be somebody who finds treasure in my life, whether it’s in relationships or something shiny off the street.” Her dad, a minister in Hamlin’s youth, also modeled the way for her. “He always had a calling, and I feel like I’ve got a calling. I may have stumbled onto the path, but here’s where I’m supposed to be.”

   One of Hamlin’s favorite quotes is from composer Leonard Cohen who once said: “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” Perhaps her own, born of the moment, is just as good: “Walk the path you’re called to and look for treasure on the way.”

From music to education: Dr. Debra Thatcher’s journey to becoming UCC’s president

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    Dr. Debra Thatcher, president of Umpqua Community College. Photo provided by Robynne Wilgus.

Dr. Debra Thatcher never expected to land into the position of a college president while in her studies as an undergraduate student.

“I never dreamed of being president of anything,” Thatcher said. A passion from her childhood, Thatcher initially intended to earn a degree in music at the private school she first attended.

“In elementary school, the big thing was that they went around to all the third and fourth graders and said, ‘we have all these instruments, which one would you like to try?’” Thatcher said. She first chose the flute and when eighth grade rolled around she decided to upgrade to the bassoon because the instrument sounded fun and was cool.

“Then I just fell in love with it,” Thatcher said. “I thought I was going to be a musician, that was my number one goal and all through school that’s what I spent my time working on, playing the bassoon. I was going to be a musician or a music teacher.”

While music continued to be a passion of hers, Thatcher’s interest changed multiple times before she would finally hit the bull’s eye in determining her end goal. She began her exploration in her undergraduate study by attending a community college followed by NC State where she studied botany and lastly the University of Wyoming.

“When I went to college I discovered I’d rather be out riding my bicycle than practicing six hours a day. I went through a series of changes and ultimately ended up in education and working with young children,” Thatcher said.

In between her undergraduate and graduate degree, Thatcher taught for a number of years in Wyoming, Alaska and the Marshall Islands overseas. Once in graduate school, a professor encouraged her to further her career in education and become a professor herself. But that was not the end of Thatcher’s journey.

“I was happy teaching. That’s all I thought I would ever do, is teach, and opportunities come along and someone says, ‘would you step up and do this?’ and next thing you know you’re climbing the ladder in administration,” Thatcher said.

From program coordinator to the director of education, she found herself in New York where she served as acting president that then led Thatcher into having the interest of becoming an actual president.

“This is a position to serve students, it’s to serve the community and it has nothing to do with me,” Thatcher said.

Thatcher began her presidency over UCC during the 2016 summer term and has now served for approximately eight months.

“I think this is an incredible community and I know that [Oct. 1] will always be part of what happened here, people will always be affected by it. But I think for most people, they are going to emerge from it stronger and wiser and probably more empathetic and helpful to other people who undergo whatever sorts of tragedies or traumas that may occur in their lives,” Thatcher said.

In describing her goals on campus, Thatcher explained her desire to help students succeed.

“I would love to see us be able to help more students meet their goals and for more students to come and finish their certificates or degree programs. It’s tough financially for a lot of students, but I think if we can provide the support necessary that more students will do that.”

‘Dialogue with Deb,’ a session where students, faculty and staff are able to talk with Dr. Thatcher, are held bi-weekly in the Bistro. Dates and times can be found through ‘A Week in Campus Life’ emails.

“College campuses are expected to do things probably better than any business or association in terms of communication, but it’s also the hardest thing to do. What I wanted to do was have one more opportunity for people to share things that they would like to see change at the college, ideas they may have and concerns they have,” Thatcher said.

Thatcher hopes to share her vision for UCC at these sessions as well.

I Am UCC: UCC student survived being drugged at public event and abducted

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    Joy Smith, UCC nursing student, was found nearly lifeless in her totaled car in a remote location. Photo provided by Joy Smith

UCC nursing student Joy Smith was working with a group of volunteers at a wine tasting event four years ago in Portland, Oregon, when she allowed her cup to be out of sight for several minutes. She didn’t consider that doing this was unsafe. Seven hours later, in a remote location, the police found Smith’s near lifeless body in her totaled car. The next morning, she woke up in a strange hospital with no recollection of what happened.

Smith had been drugged.

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Counseling staff: Danielle Haskett, Lindsay Murphey, Tony Dicenzo, Kindall Baker, Mandie Pritchard Sheri Rokus / The Mainstream

In 2013, as a newly divorced 32-year-old single mother, Smith frequently volunteered at events in the Portland area. A new chapter of her life was beginning, and she felt confident and invincible. At that time she was attending Mt. Hood Community College and was a leader in student government. Smith had signed herself up to volunteer at a local wine and music festival. The opportunity to assist at the festival seemed innocent and wholesome, so she didn’t tell anyone about her plans. Smith didn’t see any harm that could come of this.

But she was not careful enough.

Having a buddy system in place could have changed the course of Smith’s evening that night and her sense of security for years to come. In 2013, Smith’s sister lived a mile away from her, but Smith hadn’t told her sister, or any of her close friends where she was going that day or when she would return home. If Smith would have had a safety plan in place, her sister could have called the police when she didn’t come home. Instead, no one suspected that her life was in grave danger.

“There is something very unsettling about having a black hole of time where I had no control over my mind or body. It created utter, inner chaos because I lost a piece of myself that I can’t ever get back,” Smith said.

Smith understands that transitioning into young adulthood can be difficult, but she would like college students who want to be independent to consider the safety of their actions.

“We are naive and think we’re invincible, but it’s not true. This crime happened four years ago and I still have no memory of what happened,” Smith said. If Smith could go back in time, she says she would have made different decisions.

Smith’s experience reflects staggering U.S. crime statistics: “Violent crimes don’t just happen to women. Rape is the most common violent crime on American college campuses. One in four college women will be the victim of sexual assault during her academic career. Three percent of college men report surviving rape or attempted rape as a child or an adult,” according to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

College campus crimes have influenced Title IX legislation aimed at gender equality and safety. Lynn Johnson is UCC’s Title IX coordinator. She can inform survivors of their options without mandating legal reporting. In other words, it is the survivor’s decision whether or not he or she presses charges. Johnson supports survivors in a caring and secure environment. “This is a safe place for survivors to come,” said Johnson. She helps educate students regarding their options and can help them set up a plan to promote healing.

Johnson is also the director of the Human Resources Department, and her office is in the Student Center, the first office on the right. She can be contacted at 541-440-7690. Johnson’s contact information is also on the fliers inside of the bathroom stalls on campus at UCC.

Another resource for survivors is the Battered Person’s Advocacy. The Roseburg organization helps survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault with emergency safe shelter, emergency transportation, help with restraining orders, emergency food and clothing, support groups and sexual assault and rape services. For free and confidential services, call 541-673-7867. Toll free number is 800-464-6543. Advocates are on call 24 hours a day and can meet a survivor at a hospital, clinic, or safe meeting place.

According to website Facty Health, the following symptoms can signal depression: enduring sadness, self-loathing attitude, loss of interest in all activities, irritability and isolation, anxiety, loss of energy, disturbed sleep patterns, change in appetite and body weight, reckless behavior and suicidal tendencies. College students are often balancing many high stress activities. When depressive symptoms are present for more than two weeks its important to talk about what’s going on.

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Lynn Johnson, UCC’s Title IV coordinator
Sheri Rokus / The Mainstream

At UCC, three licensed therapists are willing to assist students for free. They provide support and therapy to students that helps with their individual challenges. They listen and help with all the issues faced by college students, not just abuse. Many students are still dealing with the aftermath of the October 1 shooting and need a safe place to talk. To schedule an appointment, students can call 541-440-7900. Their office also contracts with a 24-hour help line run by Compass Behavioral Health. Students can call 800-866-9780 any time to speak with a licensed therapist. Without insurance, a typical counseling session like these would cost between $100 to $150 per hour. Currently, these valuable campus resources are underutilized.

Smith is a survivor who has moved forward with her life. As a Ford Foundation Scholar, she will graduate this year with her R.N. from UCC’s nursing program and a goal to become a nurse practitioner. As one of her coping skills, she chooses a positive word each year to focus on. This year her word is “become.” Smith has incorporated art therapy into her healing by painting her word mantra on a canvas and displaying it in her home.

Smith attributes her ability to move on to her faith in God and support from family and friends which she says was central to her healing. Smith has also had professional counseling and uses music and hiking to aid in her recovery.

Fortunately, Smith doesn’t have any lifelong physical impairments, but others often do. According to counselors, survivors often deal with the emotional impact of their traumatic experiences throughout their lives.

Another key factor for Smith in moving forward has been forgiving herself. She acknowledges that we all make mistakes. “My healing has come from taking responsibility, being accountable, learning from it and never making the same mistake again,” said Smith.

Today, Smith always has a buddy system in place and suggests others do likewise, especially when visiting bars or public events.

“We are naive and think we’re invincible but it’s not true. This crime happened four years ago and I still have no memory of what happened” —Joy Smith, UCC nursing student

Revised February 26th 2017 – updated phone number.

I am UCC

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    Jared Norman, 33-year-old nursing student, learned to push his own boundaries in his life journey.

Joy, Adversity, and Inspiration

Jared Norman’s road to UCC nursing program

Halfway through a year-long backpacking trek a few years ago, Jared Norman realized his calling.  He knew that becoming a pediatric oncology nurse would be his career path. To clarify, the practice of pediatric oncology deals with treating children with cancer.

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