Communication Studies alumni share insights with Gavilan studentsby Jan Janes on May 3, 2019
The classroom venue was packed, standing room only, as six alumni returned to campus with their unique stories of success. For eight years, communications studies graduates from Gavilan College have returned to share with current students the value of their degrees.
Each alumnus delivered a brief presentation, followed by audience Q&A. At the conclusion of the program, students spoke individually with the panelists.
“Once again I am in awe of our Communication Studies alumni,” said Denise Besson, Department Chair for the Communications Studies program, “who returned to speak and mentor our future majors and minors in the discipline.”
Gavilan alum Heather Fogelstrom talked to a packed room of students about her career path
and the value of communications studies in the work world.
Carrie Mansmith Gutierrez
AA Communication Studies 2015; BA Communication Studies FSU; CEO Mansmith Enterprises, Inc.
Encouraged to take communications classes by her grandmother, Gutierrez took one class, expecting to remain on the sidelines.
“Instead, I found a culture and a real community in the classes. I took everything, convinced this is for me. You couldn’t shut me up!”
Loving her time at Gavilan, Gutierrez extolled the value of the program, instructors and her degree. She played on the women’s basketball as well. After her transfer to Fresno State, she took with her all the study skills she learned in the program, applied it to all her classes.
“I was so spoiled here at Gav, compared to FSU,” she said. “These teachers know how to teach.” While at Fresno, she was offered employment working with after school students and said she uses her conflict management skills every day.
“You learn how to manage different, difficult situations,” she said. “My colleagues would send difficult management cases to me, and I knew how to hand them.”
She expressed confidence in her skills because of the communications classes she took, even though, at the time, people questioned how she could possibly have a career or make money.
“The time you put in now, in your education, can never be taken from you,” she said. “Employers like to see your certificate or degree in communications. They know you can talk to employees, customers, vendors.”
AA Interpersonal Communication 2008; BA Communication Studies SJSU; Parks Interpreter San Juan Bautista State Park
Denise Besson turned on the news one evening, was busy with other tasks, then stopped. “I know that voice.” Sure enough, in a local news spot about San Juan Bautista State Park, her former communications student was on television.
While taking classes at Gavilan, Vizcaino was required to participate in service learning. How to associate service learning with a history class? He visited San Juan Bautista State Park, met with the commissioner, and in the course of a month fulfilled his hours and learned about the park.
“I was able to utilize my love of history and communication,” he said. “The interpreter at the time offered me a position as a park aide. Ten years later I am still there, now as a full time, permanent employee. Fate has a way of working things out.”
He describes each day as an opportunity to use his small group communications skills. Each year he speaks to 15,000 school kids.
“My audience is nine year olds with candy on their minds,” he said, “and a little spending money in their pockets. Eye contact is incredibly important. Look those kids in the eye and you will never lose them.”
Vizcaino said his communications classes also taught him the ability to read people, using that knowledge to understand their needs and wants.
“I make the presentations relatable to the audiences I speak to,” he said. “The interpretation helps people understand the historic significance of the buildings.”
By the end of the tour, every visitor knows the park’s importance.
General Ed 2005; BA Communication Studies, Santa Clara University; Change Manager, CBRE
Fogelstrom talked with the students about current and former instructors and their tools to help improve communications. One had a clicker tucked away for use during assigned speeches.
“They taught us to learn to pause instead of using filler language,” she said. Every filler word or phrase was met with a click, and with some speeches it sounded as though the room was filled with crickets. “We also learned that speeches are much more about the message than they are about you.”
She has worked at SAP, Cisco and joined Toastmasters groups. “If you don’t use it, you can lose it,” she said. “I still work, every day, to improve my public speaking skills. I am happy to utilize the degree in my professional career.”
She agreed with Gutierrez that communications applies to many different careers in the private, public and nonprofit worlds.
AA Communication Studies 2018; BA Communication Studies SJSU; Manager J Winston Winery
She will walk in graduation exercises this month. This, from a person who always said school wasn’t for her.
“Then I took courses with Denise Besson and Kelly Glass,” said Hollis. “I learned it wasn’t school, but what I was studying. If you have a passion for communication studies, stick with it.”
She also told the students to find their preferred area in communication studies, then stick with it and master it.
“Find your niche,” she said. “It can still be used in everything else.”
Certificate of Achievement Communication Studies 2014; BA Communication Studies SJSU; Instructional Program Specialist, Accessible Education Center, Gavilan College
DeAnda enrolled at Gavilan straight out of high school, only to drop out. Twice. Then, as a communications student, she saw Kelly Glass on an alumni panel.
“My first love was interpersonal communications,” she said. Fast forward to 2019, she is working toward earning an MS in intercultural communications at SJSU.
“I have been able to apply my skills to my personal and my professional life,” said DeAnda. “While at Gavilan I was part of the college staff.” She worked in the Welcome Center, where she learned about all the student services at Gavilan.
“Future career opportunities could be in counseling, business, public relations or marketing,” she said.
AA Criminal Justice & Business Administration 2011; certificate of achievement Communication Studies; Vice President Capital One Commercial Card Sales
Colman arrived at Gavilan College to play basketball, had a great coach and great experiences. “All I wanted to do was play basketball and make money. I knew I wanted to be in the business world.” His family owns the local Jiffy Lube, plus others in California and Ohio. Asked by his family if he wanted to take over, he decided the answer was no.
“Denise Besson probably put me on the knucklehead list,” Colman said, “because I didn’t always take classes as seriously as I should have.”
“I came back to school for the certificate program,” he said, expecting to go into law enforcement and become a police officer. A hiring freeze redirected his energies to retail sales. He now works in commercial credit card sales. Knowing how to assess body language and learning how to really listen to people are critical skills.
“I deal with CFOs, CEOs, finance people who tell me ‘you have 15 minutes to impress me,’” he said. “I use a lot of the communications skills I learned, every day, even though I didn’t know I would at the time.”
Communication Studies Instructors Kelly Glass (far left) and Denise Besson (far right) flank
the alumni panelists: (l-r) Carrie Mansmith Gutierrez, Marcos Vizcaino, Heather Fogelstrom,
Amy Hollis, Priscilla DeAnda and Ron Colman.