The rain was angry on a Wednesday afternoon. The wind whistled through the glass windows in the 1600 building, creating a cool breeze outside of the entrance of the VP Office of Academic Services. But there was also a chill inside. It wasn’t from the weather, though, but instead because of the first-level interviews the women in this office were about to join.
“We’ve been running around, preparing all these all week,” said Danielle Bañuelos, the first smiling face you see whenever you enter 1690. “We’re anxious and excited.”
Bañuelos sits at a desk in the middle of the office. The perfect fulcrum. It is where all meaningful activity begins.
Their space has a pristine vibe for a community college. Smooth off-white walls rise up from a charcoal carpet. The peacefulness of the area is supplemented with light gray chairs and a hanging portrait of a plant. In the middle of the room is a fortress of a cubicle that serves as Bañuelos’ desk. She greets with a smile and a sparkle from her diamond nose ring. The dainty sunflowers on her desk provide a pop of color to a neutral ambiance.
Out of the countless departments on campus, the VP Office of Academic Services is the only all-women-run senior-level department at Las Positas College. It used to be headed by Dr. Kristina Whalen, the former Vice President of Academic Services. But her office now sits vacant after she took a job as the new president at Foothill College in March. So now, it’s a five-woman crew.
Carolyn Scott is the glue. Danielle Bañuelos and Andrea Migliaccio are the bubbly hubs of the operation. Emerald Templeton is the silent star. Elizabeth McWhorter is a curriculum and student learning outcomes specialist. And Vicki Shipman? She is the money.
This office runs like a machine, a fun and energetic operation getting things done and enjoying life while doing it. The secret recipe is their chemistry.
Together, they oversee one of the most important departments on campus. Academic Services, an often overlooked department, facilitates students’ academic needs while providing support for future instructional planning. They orchestrate all instructional programs and support for students. So whenever a new catalog or a class schedule is released with all the important deadlines updated, all thanks go to these six women. Their work behind the scenes keeps students organized and supported. This group of women lives up to the pressure of being the backbone.
It is often wondered what the world would be like if it were run by women. In this universe here, nestled in a back corner of Building 1600, women do run it and the school is a better place because of it. The only question is, how good are they?
“The women in Academic Services are supportive and empowering,” Ryan Eckles, a general counselor on campus, said. “I like how they always put students’ needs first.”
Meet Carolyn Scott.
She is the unofficial leader of the group, thanks to her vast experience and natural commanding presence. She is certainly the voice of the operation.
Scott has a charismatic and undeniable personality. She is relentlessly optimistic and brings constant enthusiasm. Her laugh is big enough to bounce off the walls. From her radiant smile to the way her jewelry matches her outfit, Scott exudes professionalism.
But in a blink, the don’t-take-any-mess side of her can come out.
“Don’t misquote me,” she said, her smile making it jovial but no less commanding. “I don’t like being misquoted.”
You rarely see her not smiling. The way Scott carries herself exudes confidence. Combined with her experience, it makes her a matriarchal figure.
“When Scott isn’t at a meeting or working to provide student support, she is the mom of the group,” Templeton said. “If I’m having a particularly hard day, I can go and sit in Carolyn’s office and think of her as a mother. I can talk to her about anything.”
Scott is widely respected for her track record of quality work. She’s been at Las Positas College for more than 16 years. She also worked for the District Human Resources Office. She has decades of institutional knowledge in the district. So when she says, “I keep things running,” you know she has the expertise.
As the executive assistant to the vice president of Academic Services, she does a variety of things. Some of her duties include providing technical assistance to the vice president of her department, and ensuring that her designated VP has the support necessary to conduct daily tasks.
“When someone wants to make sure something gets done, they’ll give it to me,” Scott said, with a look of confidence and use of authority. “I’ll get it done.”
Last May, at the California Community College’s Board of Governors, Scott was given the Classified Employee of the Year Award. It was in recognition of her work supporting minority students.
Scott is known for portraying and cultivating Black excellence. She was integral in creating the Black Cultural Resource Center (BCRC). It opened on February 16, 2022, a space for all students to be welcomed and supported while they study — individually or in groups — to ensure the best academic outcomes.
She serves on President Dyrell Foster’s advisory council on race and equity. She volunteers at the BCRC. She is a mentor in LPC’s Connect UP program for first-year Black students. District Chancellor Ronald Gerhard called her “one of the most visible and impactful equity leaders” on campus and “a voice for underrepresented students.”
“Being in this office in particular, working alongside Carolyn and my team, it’s great to see people every day who you can go and ask questions. Carolyn has a long history here in the district, so being able to rely on her. You know she is super bubbly, having a group of women who are just like you. It’s great,” Templeton said.
Meet Danielle Bañuelos and Andrea Migliaccio.
They are the bubbly, cheerful center of the office. They are often the first faces you see, and they set the tone for how people experience the VP Office of Academic Services.
Danielle Bañuelos is the cheerful energy in the office. She disarms tension and makes people feel comfortable. She is responsible for the welcoming atmosphere when you walk in. She offers a gentle wave with her right hand, a big smile, and all her attention focused on you.
“Everyone in our offices is important. We all have our individual gifts. We come together, and we contribute as a whole,” Scott explained.
Bañuelos’ individual gift is her skills of administrative assistance, providing support to the various programs in Academic Services. She is a critical support for in-motion and upcoming projects. Her organization keeps the office running efficiently. She reassures everyone by accommodating their needs and providing verbal positive affirmations.
Andrea Migliaccio is the curriculum and scheduling specialist. Her warmth is a little milder but just as friendly and helpful. She greets you with a softer hello. Her eye contact is intentional, focused, as if she’s making the point to acknowledge, even when many others are around. It’s the beginning of her process of figuratively taking you by the hand and being your guide.
She’s been at Las Positas since 2012, and her expertise is expansive.
“Andrea has institutional knowledge,” Templeton said, “so if you are struggling or you don’t know how something works, she will know.”
Meet Vicki Shipman.
That’s right. You can’t. Shipman exists behind the scenes as she is often in various meetings as the supportive and invaluable advocate of CTE on campus.
She is the program manager for Career Technical Education, known commonly as CTE. She works with administrators and faculty on programs related to career education. Many programs integrate academic knowledge with technical skills. Some are primarily vocational and designed to assist students in entering the field after LPC.
Either way, a big part of Shipman’s work is facilitating state and federal grant money. As co-chair of the CTE Committee, she is a central figure in funding. Her expertise in the process and requirements helps get the money necessary for many programs and events. Who doesn’t love the one who comes through with the money?
“She always seems to come through in the end,” said Shipman’s co-chair on the CTE Committee, Melissa Korber, whose main role is head of the Journalism and Media Studies department and advisor to the Express. “She knows how to find money. She closes the gaps. She knows the programs inside and out. She can always find a way.”
Meet Emerald Templeton.
She is a humble leader. Her humble and positive personality is a representation of her work. But you’d never get the breadth of her work, nor the quality, from her mouth. She doesn’t speak much about herself. When it’s time to talk about her colleagues, she’s a faucet of information. When it gets to herself, she deflects.
Like when her colleagues bring up she’s a published author. She co-edited “Elevating Marginalized Voices in Academe: Lessons for a New Generation of Scholars” published in March 2021.
She brushes it off like it’s nothing.
“That little book?” she said with a smile.
As an educational partnerships program manager, she oversees the school’s educational partnerships, including those with high schools, adult schools and correctional facilities. Her specialty is strategic planning and project management, and she focuses on equity and serving underrepresented populations.
“Emerald is a jewel, literally! She’s funny, bright and a go-getter. I often tell her that she reminds me of my younger self. This office is better because of the experience she brings. I love working with her!” Scott said.
The VP Office of Academic Services will have a new head soon. Dr. Nan Ho will begin her new role on June 15. She’s inheriting a unique bond and a family. Their chemistry allows them to be a joyful team together as they assume daily tasks and the pressures of their significant impact. They are successful because they are good at what they do, and they have each other.
Their shared activities are what emphasize and create their bonds. These ladies love to bond over snacks while sitting together at a spacious brown table with black chairs. For the women in Academic Services, quality time together is their love language and their greatest strength.
Ashly Meija Ferreras is a freelance writer for the Express.
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