By Christie Sosa
Q: How long have you been employed at UCI?
A: Since the spring of 1986, currently going into my 24th year.
Q: Can you tell me the history of Global Connect?
A: I created Global Connect with the blessings of the Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez, he’s the one who put the challenge down.
Q: Where did the idea come from?
A: Here was the challenge, the Vice Chancellor said, “How come we’ve never had an outreach program from the School of Social Sciences? Probably because all the money for outreach always went to math and science.” Manuel Gomez felt this cause a void, in the sense that all students were being taught the world is made out of just math and science.
Ellen went on for a few minutes to explain the importance of the program and it’s ability to help improve literacy skills in non-fiction ways and to expose students to the “real world”
Q: How old is the program?
A: I was on a computer in my house, the summer of 2001 and was actually implemented the next Fall. Vice Chancellor said, I’ll give you the money if you can implement it. So the challenge was to design it and the challenge was getting into public schools, because it is not easy.
Q: What high schools is Global Connect teaching at?
A: We first checked out Santa Ana and it didn’t work out at first because they wanted us to design a geography class and that had nothing to do with the concept I had in mind. Turns out, after we met with them, the Santa Ana school district was taken over by the state for incompetency. We had no idea the school district was in such disarray. So we approached people at Newport Mesa Unified, and ended up starting at Estancia and Costa Mesa High. We currently run the program there and at Newport Harbor and Laguna Hills as well.
Q: Has Global Connect been affected by the budget cuts?
A: It’s grown without money; it’s the energy and generosity of people. There is enough money just to keep us breathing. But it’s the energy and generosity of people and the undergraduates that has kept it alive.
Q: When did you feel the School of Social Sciences was being affected by the budget cuts?
A: In the Fall of last year, I was in Washington D.C for the UCDC program with my husband as a lecturer and by the time I came back, the issue of money was apparent. The Administration of the school, the Dean, the Associate Dean started to realize how deep those cuts would have to be.
Q: Amidst this entire financial crisis, how has Global Connect managed?
A: Global Connect impacts undergraduates directly, and they have created a legacy for the school and lots of them have been placed in high ranked graduate schools. I believe the reason Global Connect is secure this year is because we’ve never enjoyed too much funding. I really don’t know where it’ll stand next year. Truth is, we weren’t on the big hit list because there is only myself on school salary.
Q: What is Global Connects budget?
A: My salary, … I am the only one who’s really paid salary to do the program. The only other costs are the two rooms we use, and computers, paper, which doesn’t seem to be a problem so much.
Q: What are your other financial concerns?
A: Memory is an interesting word right now. All the young people think of computer gigs when I say this, but I’m concerned about the things we’ll loose. One is institutional memory. I have seen the institution encourage early retirement, and a lot of outstanding people I know from campus, the head of the career center, Katherine V. and Robin C. from Educational Partnerships, left. These people who have run and led major programs on campus have been encouraged to retire and that in itself isn’t bad because you make room for lower salary people, but I really don’t think they put any money or consideration (and I could be wrong about that) into retaining the memory of the campus so that programs that have thrived throughout the years, that all the knowledge is not lost. That is some money, but it’s also consideration.They thought that by cutting down numbers of people by early retirement, it was a win-win situation. And in that respect, I see a void.
Q: Has anyone encouraged you to retire?
A: No, but retirement becomes encouraging, you may love your job, but the other thing is to watch a campus slip because of economics is a hard place to be. The thing is, can the knowledge be transitioned so that the University doesn’t waste its hours, time, and human resources in creating a wheel that was already built. Short-term cuts could be long-term costs.
Q: What’s your advice for students?
A: There are wonderful humanitarian programs that I found as a by-product of resources, I know students working at Peace Corps, and some students I know doing Teach for America. Another plus might be that more people may not be looking for huge financial rewards, as they will, in terms of enduring rewards of the careers that they pursue. Just think, when gifted lawyers are out of work, law firms aren’t hiring, so you’re not going to invest in law. Would you go back to an education and maybe serve and teach or help repair the structure of the American school system?
Q: What’s wrong with the American school system?
A: Textbooks are outdated and kids are not learning about the world today and the issues present in our day. Programs like Global Connect inform students that they are not just competing with Americans but with the world. When one pursues interests, one must perceive it in a way that is not only to the American society.