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Welcome to the Valley College Connection, where John Kawai and Scott Weigand, two Valley College professors, engage in a conversation about success with educators and students. Each week they’ll sit down with a different guest to find out ways each of us has had to plan, persevere, and overcome to be where we are now. The show will also highlight resources and services that are working to make a difference at Valley College.

Click on the links below or stream from your favorite sources: Spotify, Apple, Google

Dr. Alex Ojeda, Coordinator Next Up/Guardian Scholars

Dr. Alex Ojeda's work at Valley College is focused on supporting current and former foster youth attending Valley College. Listen to his personal story and find out how his doctorate degree helped to open the doors that incarceration closed.

Richard Kahn, Professor of Music

Sometimes when life provides you with opportunities, you need to drop out of school and grab them. How do you intertwine a career in performance with a commitment to lifelong learning?

Greg Morrison-Program Director of Respirator Therapy (RT)

Learn how a career in respiratory therapy provides an inexpensive three-year pathway to a middle-class job that allows you to work anywhere in the US.

Karla Zeron-Program Manager to the Biotech Training Academy

How does one navigate college as a single mother with two kids? You build a program on campus that supports student parents.

Nikoo Berenji - Professor of Law

Sometimes a brush with the law will move you to protect those who are most vulnerable to the law.

Chad Sustin, Professor of Cinema and Media Arts

Want to learn how to break into the film industry? Listen to the advice of Professor Sustin who has seen it all.

Wendy Dufour, Professor of Nursing

Are you sure you want to be a nurse? Listen to advice from Professor Wendy Dufour, who found her calling with a nursing career.

Dr. Alan Cowen - Emergency Services Department

Learn what LAVC has to offer in Criminal Justice, Fire Tech, and EMT training regarding courses, certificates, and degrees from Dr. Cowen, a retired Deputy Fire Chief for the Los Angeles Fire Department. Dr. Cowen will walk us through paramedic history and give advice on how to prepare for the sheriff, police, and fire academies.

Ron Reis - Professor of Electronics

Learn what LAVC has to offer in Electronics from Prof. Reis who has worked extensively in industry, taught electronics at all levels, and is an accomplished young adult non-fiction author.

Pete Lopze, Professor of Chicano Studies

Learn and explore how Pete’s childhood growing up during the Chicano Movement as a multi-generational born and raised "Angelino" created an engaging lens and life-long desire to immerse himself and understand Chicano/Mexican American History.

Dr. Barry Gribbons, President of Los Angeles Valley College

Tune into the conversation with Dr. Gribbons and find out how following your personal ethic and academic curiosity can lead to meaningful career opportunities.

Phung Huynh - Professor of Art

How do you tell your Asian immigrant parents that you want to be an artist after they risked their lives for you to have a career in something more stable?

Raul Castillo, Executive Director of the Foundation at LAVC

Shortly before Raul passed away, we talked about the joy of his life’s work in connecting those in the community who wanted to help students who were in need. His legacy to LA Valley College is an $8.5 million dollar endowment in addition to a roadmap on how the Foundation can move forward. This interview is his love letter to LAVC. On the way, we learn about the fascinating world of fundraising.

Preethamol Puthiakunnel - Director of Nursing Program, Department Chair of Health Science

Sometimes unintentionally falling in love takes you on an unplanned adventure. Follow Preethamol’s life from India to the US as she experienced nursing at intensive clinical, teaching, and administrative levels. Listen to the Valley College Connection Podcast and be inspired.

Jose Arrieta, Professor of Chicano Studies

How does a ten-year-old boy running the streets of LA homeless find his way to become a professor at LAVC? Listen to the Valley College Connection Podcast and be inspired.

Dr. Eric Maceyko, Associate Professor of Reading

Sometimes a love of learning languages takes you on a lifelong adventure. Listen to Dr. Eric Maceyko’s inspiring journey that brought him to Valley College. Listen to the Valley College Connection Podcast and be inspired.

L. Denice Labertew, J.D. – Professor of Sociology

How did volunteering at a crisis hotline for domestic violence open the door to writing legislation to protect abused women and monitor human rights for the United Nations?

Dr. Elmida Baghdasarians - Professor of Child Development

Learn what you can do with a child development license as we follow Dr. Baghdaserians’ academic/professional journey from community college to an Ed. D.

Chauncey Maddren - Associate Professor of Music

Listen to Chauncey’s uplifting decades-long journey of starting at LAVC as a music major, working at every level of the college, until eventually becoming a tenured faculty and President of the Academic Senate.

Dr. Ron Mossler – Chair of the Psychology Department

Ever wonder what you can do with a Marriage and Family Counseling Master's Degree? Join our conversation with Ron Mossler as he describes his journey through graduate school at CSUN and UCLA and a rich career including his own counseling practice, textbook writing, research, and teaching.

Sabrina Luna - LAVC Alumna/UC Berkeley Student/Philosophy Major

How do you go from learning the multiplication table to UC Berkley? You do it one step at a time. Listen to Sabrina’s journey to Berkley and the advice she was given every step of the way from family and faculty.

Luis Cabrera – Outreach & Mentoring Coordinator for Science/Engineering/Nursing Students

In high school, Luis joined Upper Bound which helped him navigate his way from South Central to UC Irvine. Now he is building a career on helping those same students navigate STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) careers at LAVC.

Chauncey Maddren, Associate Professor of Music; Academic Senate President

Listen to Chauncey’s uplifting decades-long journey of starting at LAVC as a music major, working at every level of the college, until eventually becoming a tenured faculty and President of the Academic Senate.


Last year Yale announced a class on Happiness, and it was mobbed by thousands of students who wanted to enroll. Scott and John talk about the science of how to be happy in the face of the challenges of college.

Miguel Sandoval, EOPS Counselor

Sometimes you just don’t look like you belong in school. Once in a while, you get a teacher who will tell you so to your face. Meet Miguel, whose hustle and character changed that teacher’s mind.

Howard Levine - Professor of Accounting

Join us as we learn the breadth and depth of what doors an accounting degree/CPA license opens as we follow Howard's story at a Big 8 accounting firm, as an entrepreneur of his own accounting company, and as a tenured faculty.

Producer/Engineer Jess Callejas

Meghan Gaynor Cason – Librarian and Faculty

Sometimes what you need in life is a group of friends that help push you to find your potential. Meghan met those friends in roller derby.

Amber Angel – LA Valley/CSUN Alumni –Family Resource Center Coordinator

When the US Department of Education, The Aspen Institute, and the Atlantic Magazine wanted some advice on how to provide better campus support for students who are also parents, they asked Amber Angel. Find out how her role starting as a student mentor with the LAVC’s Family Resource Center gave her a national profile as an advocate for parents in colleges.

A Conversation about the George Floyd Protests

Dr. Llanet Martin (Associate Dean of Student Services), Scott Weigand (Director of the Academic Resource Center, and Dr. John Kawai (Math Professor) talk about the George Floyd protests and issues of equity on campus.

Dr. Annie Reed--Associate Dean of Student Services

Suppose you do something wrong on campus, who exactly is going to have a conversation with you? Meet Dr. Annie Reed, our administrator who helps arbitrate between what is fair and not fair between students and faculty on campus.

Producer/Engineer Jess Callejas

Florentino Manzano, VP of Student Services

As a young teen, Florentino followed the crops picking fruit/vegetables from California to Mexico and back. His lifelong aspirational community advocacy has been the stabilizing soul of the LA Valley College administration.

Jonathan Arnold Esq. – Director of Extension

What can a major based on studying the 50 great historic works of literature lead to? Oxford Law School, international corporate law for the aerospace industry, trustee of the local bar association, and now LA Valley College. Meet Johnathan Arnold who is not only the heart and soul of our paralegal program but also human resources and our entire offering of extension courses. Find out why our extension program is the fastest way to jump-start a student’s career.

Producer/Engineer Jess Callejas

Ellie Rabani, Director of CalWorks

Hungry? Ellie saw that too many students on campus have food insecurity. She decided to partner local farmers markets and schools to give away organic food to students every week on the LA Valley campus. Find out what making a difference at scale looks like.

Scott Weigand – Director of the Academic Resource Center

Imagine floating between jobs, careers and different colleges. How did a career challenge focus Scott’s life to one of supporting and building up faculty, students, and peers? Hear the story behind one of the podcast’s hosts, Scott Weigand.

April Forest, LA Valley/Pitzer College Alumni

How does a single mom without straight A’s get an elite private college to pay for her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and travel to research in Africa, Puerto Rico and Asia? What kind of person does Pitzer College want to invest in? (Warning mature topics and words used.)

Dr. Erika Endrijonas – Former President of Los Angeles Valley College

Ever wondered about the path to becoming a college president? Meet Dr. Erika Endrijonas, former LAVC President and now Superintendent/President at Pasadena City College. Listen to her journey that details her path from undergraduate school to being engaged in transformative work across different colleges in support of student success.

Dr. Darby Southgate - Professor of Sociology

Have you ever fantasized about sneaking out of your house and hanging out with rock stars in the local clubs? As a kid, Darby Southgate lived that fantasy. Hear her story as she details her passion for music and the path that ultimately led her to pursue an academic career as a sociologist focused on teaching, publishing, and research.

Clive Gordon: Career Counselor

Follow Clive’s story of selling fruit on the streets of Belize to traveling Europe in service of our country to becoming a career counselor who helps students find a professional direction in their lives.

Dr. John Kawai – Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Ever felt desperate? How do you recover from a career ending disability? How do you find a new career at 40 after being sidelined for 10 years? Hear the story of one of our podcast’s host’s hustle to find a way out of his mal-employment hole.

Ana Trujillo, Associate Professor Mathematics

Ever see someone studying midnight alone at Starbucks? Ever wonder who they are and what drives them? Meet Ana Trujillo, a professor who uses those experiences to challenge minorities and women to explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) majors.

Kassidy Miller, STEM Counselor

What if you paid your way through college and discovered that your high paying job was unfulfilling? Who would you ask for help? Kassidy asked Yelp, and it directed her to a job filled with meaning.

Michelle Fowles - Dean of Institutional Effectiveness

What if your immigrant parents from Jamaica wanted you to be a top elite student, but they didn’t know how the system worked? How would you figure out how to go to Stanford and Princeton?

Dr. Elliott Coney – Umoja/Black Scholars Counselor

What if your job was to amplify the voices of African American students on campus? Elliott Coney’s mission is to support LA Valley College in meeting our black students at their greatest points of challenge.

George Caleodis – Associate Professor of Mathematics

What would happen if you combined a stand-up comedian/improv actor with Calculus? Meet George Caleodis who makes a career in both worlds.

Dr. Llanet Martin - Associate Dean of Student Equity

How does a student go from walking into a community college with dreams of being “the make-up artist to the stars,” to becoming a community advocate on the campus of Harvard, UCLA and now LA Valley College?

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