Two veteran counselors honored as GCCCD top faculty

GROSSMONT COLLEGE (Press Release)–Two veteran counselors who help pave the way for students at  Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges to transfer to four-year campuses have been given top faculty awards recognizing their dedication to the colleges and the students they assist.

Janice Johnson is the recipient of Grossmont College’s Distinguished Faculty Award and Teresa McNeil has been honored with Cuyamaca’s first-ever Outstanding Faculty Member Award.

Both have the job title of “articulation officer,” working with colleges and universities to ensure the community college courses are a match with those offered at the four-year schools.. They also are arbiters for students, intervening on their behalf when transfer credits are challenged.

Janice Johnson’s personal story of an impoverished childhood and determination to strive despite her past have given her an empathy for community college students, many of whom have their own challenges to overcome.

“For 34 years, students are better for Janice’s strong work ethic, advocacy, professional tenacity and caring,” said Sue Gonda, Grossmont College Academic Senate president.

Johnson grew up with three siblings – including one with severe disabilities – on a secluded South Dakota farm where the family struggled to get by in a home with no running water. With no telephone, they lived in isolation.

“If someone really needed to reach us, they would call our neighbor and he rode his tractor over to give us a message,” Johnson said. A move in the second grade to a larger school was her first exposure to music and art and Johnson discovered a love of reading.

“During the summer, I herded our milk cows along the roadside,” she said. “I loved doing this because I could take a book. During the summer months, it was not unusual for me to read nine or10 books a week.”

Although Johnson graduated from high school at the top of her class, her parents couldn’t afford to send her to college. But Johnson was determined, working multiple jobs and borrowing money to continue her education.  She picked up computer skills and moved into management in the hotel industry, moving from city to city until landing a job in San Diego.

She began working in 1977 as a counseling center supervisor at Grossmont College  while still pursuing her dream of a college degree. Two years later, she received her associate degree from Grossmont. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management/Behavioral Science from San Diego State University and a master’s degree in educational counseling from National University.

The longtime El Cajon resident has two daughters, both who transferred to universities from Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges.

In 1988, she transferred to Grossmont’s Career and Job Placement Center, where she worked as a supervisor until 1994. It was during this period she began counseling and teaching personal development counseling classes. She became an associate dean in Extended Opportunity Programs and Services in 1994 but continued to work as a counselor. In 2004, she became the college’s articulation officer, working closely with transfer institutions and faculty in curriculum development to ensure Grossmont’s classes are accepted for credit at the university levels.

“I consider every articulated course an accomplishment because I know it will impact the ability for a student to achieve a college degree,” she said. “Education changed my life and I know that it will change theirs. It is truly a work of love for me – not a job, but a vocation.”

Teresa McNeil began at Cuyamaca College in 1978 as a part-time instructor and was hired full-time in 1988 as a counselor and coordinator for Disabled Student Programs and Services upon earning her doctorate in education from the University of San Diego. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at San Diego State University.

In 1995, she became the college’s grant writer, a post she held until 2003, when she joined the counseling faculty.

As the articulation officer, McNeil said her job largely entails being the intermediary between the two higher-education segments of community college and universities on transfer matters.

“The articulation officer is in the middle – we work closely with the faculty at the community college as well as with colleagues at the transfer institutions,” said McNeil, a North Park resident whose three children all transferred from community college to university. “One needs to know a lot about curriculum, and what it takes to transfer, and the articulation officer also has to be a diplomat.”

Michael Wangler, Cuyamaca College Academic Senate president, said McNeil exemplifies the dedication and spirit of a faculty leader.

“Teresa has touched countless lives, inspiring students and colleagues alike to excel in what they do and achieve their educational and life goals,” he said. “I cannot think of a more deserving recipient of the first ever Outstanding Faculty Member Award for Cuyamaca College.”

Cuyamaca’s Outstanding Faculty Member Award, which is open to both classroom and non-classroom faculty, was given at the fall convocation and complements the Award for Teaching Excellence given out at the spring convocation to teaching faculty.

Cindy L. Miles, district chancellor, hailed Johnson and McNeil for their dedication to students, adding that the work they do has touched the lives of the hundreds of Grossmont and Cuyamaca graduates who transfer every fall to universities across the nation.

“As articulation officers, they are in a unique position to engage with people from all segments of the higher education system: students, community college and university faculty, and administrators,” Miles said.

“To do this well requires a thorough understanding of not just the nuts and bolts of transferring from the two-year to four-year campuses, but also, expertise in curriculum development, talent and skills as a negotiator, plus the ability to connect effectively with students and keep in committed to their goals of obtaining that four-year degree.

“Students have to know that we care about their success, and both of these women are absolutely tireless when it comes to helping students. We are very fortunate they are members of our district family.”


Preceding provided by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District