GROSSMONT COLLEGE–Seldom do we know of the path taken by our professors and campus faculty in order to stand in front of us to teach and assist in shaping our educational experience.
I was able to delve a bit into the past of the recently elected Academic Senate President, Dr. Sue Gonda, during a recent interview in her Tech Mall office decked out with historic artifacts. Her term of office begins the day after Grossmont’s graduation ceremonies.
Born and raised on the outskirts of Detroit, Michigan, Gonda traveled to San Diego in 1981, where she worked as a secretary for over a decade– until realizing she wanted to earn a college degree and move forward in her career and life endeavors.
Gonda was able to work full-time as a secretary while going to school. She obtained a bachelors degree in history at San Diego State University. She went on to UCLA, and was granted a Master’s Degree and Doctorate in American Legal and Women’s History respectively.
Gonda’s collegiate experience was no cake walk, nor close to the conventional college student’s story. It took her six years to complete her bachelor’s degree, and she was 34 when she received it. She continued to work earnestly, even at times taking frowned-upon jobs, such as cleaning bathrooms in order to get through graduate school.
She began teaching six classes while working on her doctoral dissertation. “It was nuts,” as she put it. It was her first year teaching and she was eager to finish her dissertation. “I knew that if I didn’t do it then, I would never do it.” So, she held strong and ended up earning her doctorates from UCLA. It was “totally worth it,” she said. “I love my life.”
Her “life” is being a history professor and serving us college students through various activities. In 1996, she came to Grossmont College, and within her first year became a full time professor. In fact, Gonda brought the American Women’s History course to Grossmont College.
During our interview she showed me a text book that she may use for the upcoming semester, Too Heavy a Load : Black Women in Defense of Themselves by Deborah White. The book covers the history of Black American Women activists from 1894-1994.
In addition to her teaching, Gonda has served as an acting dean of English and Social Behavioral Sciences, and also has devoted attention to the Student Success Committee and the Curriculum Committee. The latter deals with creating, updating, or changing aspects of courses provided at Grossmont.
Gonda states that she has been well prepared to serve as president for the Senate, noting that she served as vice president prior to this year’s elections.
“What’s best for the students?’ is the question that will always be in my mind,” Gonda said. At the moment the college is looking at different strategies in order to prepare students for more success in their overall education. “Cross discipline” prerequisites in English and Math are being considered by several departments so that students have the competencies in reading, writing and math to be successful in college-level courses.
According to the Academic Senate’s current knowledge, no additional course cuts are planned for next year. In fact, Gonda stated, this year’s funding “wasn’t as bad as predicted.”
Nevertheless, no matter how grim or unsure our future may be as a campus, my impression was that with faculty and staff such as Dr. Gonda putting our interests first, that, like her text book title, we won’t have “too heavy a load” to progress in our endeavors.
Jackson is a student in Media Comm 132.