Ofelia Arellano, who received a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, has returned to Santa Barbara, having just begun as the Vice President of Continuing Education at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). She kindly agreed to an email interview about her time at UC Santa Barbara and her hopes for her new job. But she also wanted to be sure to say that she’s “most proud of two ‘professional accomplishments’ – mentoring my family to pursue higher education. My younger sister, Dr. Leticia M. Arellano-Morales (#2) also received a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Michigan State University. (No influence from big sister, right?) Dr. Arellano-Morales is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of La Verne. My daughter, Xochitl Raquel Romero, graduated from San Diego State with a B.A... in Theatre Arts. She is currently on a full-ride scholarship at the University of Texas, Austin pursuing her M.F.A. in Theatre with an emphasis in Acting.”
What do you remember from your time in the Counseling Psychology program at UCSB? Who did you work with?
Whenever possible, I speak with under-represented high schools regarding my academic challenges as an undergraduate student at UCSB. I share with them how I was not academically prepared in high school but through the mentoring of faculty, I found the confidence to pursue higher education. Students relate to this story and feel motivated when I share that I was not a "straight A" student but did manage to achieve professional success throughout my career.
I applied to the Counseling Psychology Program with the intention of only completing my Masters degree. I excelled in my courses; an experience never achieved as an undergraduate (I was actually achieving those straight A's).
I was not aware that the Counseling Psychology Program faculty noticed my academic excellence. What I remember most was when the faculty scheduled a meeting with me and encouraged me to apply to the Ph.D. program. I had never even considered pursuing a doctorate. It was their confidence in me that allowed me to endure many years of infamous dissertation re-writes. I shall always be grateful to them for supporting and inspiring me to pursue my doctorate. Who were these mentors? Dr. Don Atkinson, Dr. Jesus Manuel Casas, and Dr. Ray Hosford.
How did your time at UCSB prepare you for what you’ve done since? How will it help you at SBCC?
The Counseling Psychology Program, I believe, prepared me to tackle one of the most challenging aspects of administrative work – supervising personnel. For example, individuals may have different perspectives and views on the same topic. My program focused on studying human behavior. It also emphasized the importance of listening skills, especially in the area of conflict management. I practice my counseling skills on a daily basis. An effective manager is one who listens and can work on consensus building in a way that is respectful of all parties.
What I learned through the Counseling Program has already helped me in the short time I have been at SBCC. It has allowed me to begin to build effective relations with my staff, students, community members, and colleagues.
How excited are you to be back, in Santa Barbara?
I spent approximately 15 years in Santa Barbara working on my undergraduate and graduate degrees. It became my home. I relocated to San Diego for family reasons and hoped someday to return to Santa Barbara.
I enjoy running on the beach; the water is peaceful and calming. I began running after I had my daughter (who was born in Santa Barbara 26 years ago). I continued to run in San Diego and even underwent knee surgery. After a brief recovery period, I began running again.
When I relocated to northern California, it was difficult finding adequate and safe running routes. I could not find routes that were gentle to my knees and had to stop running for almost three years.
The first thing I did when I moved to Santa Barbara was to begin running again at my favorite place: the beach. I did not realize how much I missed running. I am really excited to return to Santa Barbara. I love the area and the community and appreciate that I again live in paradise....
What are your goals as VP of Continuing Education?
More than 50,000 students take advantage of our courses each year. Continuing Education offers over 700 classes at over 75 locations throughout the county including our two Centers (Schott and Wake). One of my goals is to continue to offer a wide range of programs and services that meet our community’s needs within our fiscal constraints.
The population that receives the majority of adult education services, not just in Santa Barbara, but throughout California, is the high-risk dropout, immigrant, senior, and non-English speaking population that is growing faster than the general population. Understanding the unique needs of these individuals will lead to providing quality program and services; hence, student success. My staff and I will continue to address the needs of these diverse populations.
Another area of interest is to begin to explore how Continuing Education can play a pivotal role in preparing workers for the green economy that will place them on the cutting edge of sustainability. In other words, how can Continue Education create “green career paths?”
How do you see Continuing Education affected by the current economic down turn? How will that affect SBCC?
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contains a provision for $3.9 billion for adult education and job training. These funds will be available to higher education through the provisions of the Workforce Investment Act and competitive grants. Guidelines regarding allocation of funds are pending. Hopefully funds will provide resources for much needed programs and training that increase the skills of adult workers, offer recurring job training, and provide resources to help adults cope with career change and job displacement.