Grace Cardinalli focuses on student services after CSUMB graduationby Jan Janes on Jun 10, 2020
Grace Cardinalli, long-time Executive Assistant of Student Services at Gavilan College, graduated from California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) this spring, earning her BA in Psychology.
Cardinalli applied an insider’s view in student
services to guide her own educational career.
“Many years ago my major was chemistry, which my parents wanted,” said Cardinalli “That did not go well.” Switching majors clicked, and she received her ADT-Psychology in 2018.
Deciding to attend CSUMB was easy. “San Jose State was so impacted,” she said. “This worked. I had a fabulous advisor, some wonderful instructors and really supportive people.”
Attending university full time while working full time was challenging. Most classes were 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. “I would go home, make dinner, see family, then jet,” said Cardinalli. “If the class started at 6:00 p.m., I went straight from Gav.” She recalled driving home in the fog many evenings after class.
“My husband said he understood why I was doing this,” she said. “That I need the mental challenge.” Amid all the late nights and hard work, she missed more than a full year of family functions.
“I didn’t really know how much I could actually do and how far I could push myself.” she said.
Cardinalli’s final year focused on her Senior Capstone, where she applied her academic studies to a specific area of research, Effects of Distress on Academic Success.
“It is completely done, a very long paper,” said Cardinalli. “I had done a beta test at Gavilan, but the two-year level was very different than the four-year level.” Previously she had collected surveys from students who were learning to manage their classes at community college. The recent work draws from a sample of 70 university students responding to a survey on stress, which was included in her Senior Capstone.
“We found stressors were mostly self-imposed, their expectations were very high, and they pushed themselves hard,” she said. The survey was anonymous, and key groups were not as responsive. “We had hoped to have more evening, non-traditional students and veterans take the survey.” Dreamers and undocumented students declined to participate.
Notable in the results was that 40% of the respondents experience housing insecurity, and 10% reported food insecurity.
Cardinalli moved her office to the Student Health Center last fall, and students on campus could come in for a band aid, triage, or just a place to sleep. “I wasn’t in an authority role,” she said. “But in a supportive environment, and I loved it.”
During the immediate SIP, she fielded all the initial calls that came in. She was also part of Gavilan Cares Student Contact Project, a 30-member, campus-wide outreach team that telephoned every registered student.
“Coding the calls, we learned that students had to drop everything,” said Cardinalli. Students expressed problems with internet connectivity, lack of equipment, housing and food insecurity, losing their jobs. None of the calls was short, and it took the team weeks to go through the lists.
Cardinalli’s vantage point, as a community college employee in student services simultaneously attending a four-year university, presented an opportunity to view student services through a new lens.
“One of the most striking things, when you work at a college, is you become too familiar with the processes,” she said. She saw, firsthand, the ways CSUMB presented information about student services. “The first half of every class, every semester outlined the expectations, as well as the services available to help you meet those expectations.”
Cardinalli will take a year off to decide her next step, between pursuing an MSW or an MA in Cognitive Psychology.
“After the virtual graduation ceremonies, it hit me: I’m done!” she said. “And the family gets me back.”
(This is one of three stories about Gavilan College employees who completed university work while working full time at the college.)