Linda Serra, Business Division Chair for 12 years, remembers her time at GCC as a young married woman, working full-time and taking classes part-time. It was a struggle. She started by taking non-credit secretarial courses for three semesters before transitioning to credit and the business division. Her influence? Instructor Nancy Spillman, who taught consumer economics and business English, took her aside at the end of the semester. “She really encouraged me,” says Serra. “I was inching my way through college, one class at a time. It took forever. She gave me the encouragement to realize that there was more; that I could be a teacher.”
“When I started,” she says, “it was a really tight-knit community. The only buildings that are still recognizable are the admin building and the auditorium. Now the campus is so spread out, and the population is so much more diverse.” Still, she says that the culture is still very similar. “The faculty and staff still have the same nurturing and supportive attitude they always had. The general feeling and attitude is the same; we know what we’re here for.”
Eventually, Serra got her associate’s degree at Glendale, and went on to finish her baccalaureate at Cal State LA. It also helped that she was working for the college, and later the school district, as a classified employee. “I don’t think that I would have found the same level of support in the private sector,” she says. “It gave me motivation and cleared the path for me to pursue my education.”
As chair of the business division, Serra had plenty of experience looking at budgets and evaluating expenditures. Where is the greatest need? She thinks classroom upgrades are critical, particularly in the auditorium building. Rory Schlueter, Business Division Chair and CS/IS Instructor, agrees. “Some of the furniture we have for our students is 40-50 years old,” says Schlueter. Serra also sees computer upgrades as a necessary line item. “We really need high-end computers in the CS/IS [computer science information systems] and the computer applications [Computer Applications and Business Office Technologies] classrooms, she says.
Of her new role as Assistant Business Division Chair, Serra says “I’m still involved but I don’t need to come in every single day. I’ve got more of a behind-the-scenes function doing things like evaluations, curriculum development and certificate approvals.”
The school has changed tremendously since the early ‘70s. Serra estimates that there were about 5,000 students when she started taking classes, increased to approximately 28,000 today including non-credit.
Serra encourages students to “don’t give up and don’t get discouraged. Eventually, you will graduate.” Taking a class or two each semester while working full-time required sacrifice, but she insists it was worth it. “You really don’t need that much sleep!” she laughs. “You’ll be successful.”