It might be reductive to say that area administrative coordinators work “behind the scenes” to ensure students complete their goals.
Merced College’s coordinators actually work in concert with faculty, students and administration to help get students to the finish line.
“Before, we were called division secretaries, and then area secretaries,” STEM Coordinator Angelica Campos said. “Then we all decided those titles did us a disservice, because they didn’t encompass all we do beyond general clerical work. We really are coordinating our areas.”
Most coordinators at the college have a reassuring amount of experience within their areas.
Campos, for example, held two other classified positions at the college dating back to her student work study days in 1998. She took the coordinator spot in STEM in 2005, back when she was still called a secretary and when the area was still called Science, Math & Engineering.
Lupe Ramirez, Area Administrative Coordinator for Athletics & Kinesiology, is new to her position. She began working her way up the ladder at the Business Resource Center downtown in January 2017. She took the athletics position in August 2021 and quickly embraced the energy and the people.
Area coordinators and their expertise create benefits for students and administrators alike. Caroline Dawson, Dean of Instruction for Business, Workforce Development, Adult Education & Noncredit, is celebrating her 30th year at the College this semester. She said she’s come to appreciate and value great colleagues, who since 2021 have included area coordinators Corina Jimenez in the business department and Denise Dupree in Adult Ed & Noncredit.
Jimenez has worked in several capacities in the business area for 14 years. Ditto for Dupree, who has worked in adult ed for nine years.
“They serve as buffers in the best ways,” Dawson said. “They’re seasoned. They’re ethical. They have incredible work ethic. They know how to approach the dean in a productive manner, and still provide guidance to everyone else that comes to them.”
Area administrative coordinators handle whatever needs handling outside of the classroom.
Campos has teamed with outgoing Dean of STEM Douglas Kain since 2006 to finalize and distribute course schedules each semester. For Campos, that includes scheduling faculty office hours, gathering textbooks, and organizing the faculty evaluations and student surveys that are included within.
“My job is to do whatever I can to make my boss’s job easier so he can focus on what he needs to do,” Campos said. “It’s about making the department run efficiently.”
Ramirez works with Associate Dean and Athletics Director Bob Casey to oversee coaches’ academic schedules within the kinesiology department. In athletics, she tracks academic progress, updates sport schedules, and organizes travel, meals, hotels, facilities, etc., for each team.
“I love doing all of those tasks,” Ramirez said. “I believe my work shows our student-athletes that their time here is not just about athletics. … Yes, it’s wonderful and important that they are athletes representing Merced College, but they are also working hard in the classroom. We want them to be successful in both. We’re preparing them for their future.”
Jimenez, for example, while helping Dawson organize a community initiative, and Dupree, while providing guidance to new adjunct instructors, would be executing similar projects as Campos. With their access to their deans, coordinators are an important conduit for information and reassurance for everyone else.
“There’s no way I can survive without the coordinators,” Dawson said. “They are the constants. I actually relied on [Jimenez and Dupree] to train me when I started two years ago.”
That exchange will happen again when Kain goes back to the STEM faculty this summer. The incoming dean will need Campos during their transition.
Each coordinator contributes to the overall goal of student success.
“I feel like I work well with our dean and the faculty, maybe to the point that others may not notice the work because it all goes so smoothly,” Campos said.
And who do you think is redoing arrangements for all the athletics contests that have been canceled due to the rain? Yes, Ramirez.
“I worry about transportation all of the time, not wanting to take more time away from the students’ classwork,” Ramirez said. “The past few years we’ve had athletes stop playing due to COVID, and new ones excited to play again. It makes a difference for their mental health when they can play. But there are obstacles. That’s my job, removing those obstacles.”
Coordinator-dean duos always face a mountain of student needs—everything from food and tuition to books or a hug.
“Students are ground zero here,” Dawson said. “We need to do everything we reasonably can to meet their needs. We can’t do everything, but we can do everything we’re able to in order to give everyone the best environment to work in—arranging professional development for faculty, talking to everyone with respect, always considering everyone’s well-being. We have to balance it all.”
Loving their work makes area coordinators quite clear-eyed about their roles at the college.
Campos loves doing data entry on student surveys.
“They have open comment sections where I’ve read so many cool replies over the years,” she said. “We aren’t in the classroom, so the comments guide us. They give me insight I need to solve problems.”
Ramirez said building relationships with coaches and student-athletes fuels her at work.
“We are a big team, and we are united,” she said.
Area coordinators gather the threads, often helping deans develop new partnerships. For example, Dawson has been working with accounting professors and the federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to bring those services to community members, and Jimenez will play an integral role in executing the plan.
“Her job, once we agree on an end goal for that, will be to serve as a liaison between all of the group members and make connections for us on campus,” Dawson said. “That’s how coordinators help us develop synergy. They’re using their knowledge to help us figure out how all the pieces fit, so we can realize our goals together.”