Connecting to Imperial Valley: “A Shining Example of Our Mission”

ON THEIR WAY: Academic Connections summer program participants Alejandro Quiroz (fifth from left), Omar Ahmad (holding certificate) and Cynthia Cortez (fourth from right) are shown during the welcoming reception for the recently concluded three-week program. Photo courtesy of Gretchen Laue

ON THEIR WAY: Academic Connections summer program participants Alejandro Quiroz (fifth from left), Omar Ahmad (holding certificate) and Cynthia Cortez (fourth from right) are shown during the welcoming reception for the recently concluded three-week program. Photo courtesy of Gretchen Laue

The first edition of UC San Diego’s “summer bridge” program with a group of top Imperial Valley high-schoolers has been completed.

Seven students from the region – one from each high school in the valley – recently spent three weeks taking college-level prep courses at UC San Diego as part of Extension’s Academic Connections outreach program.

This was the first time that summer-program scholarships were made available to Imperial Valley students. The program is part of a larger strategy by UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla to connect with the region and establish academic ties to the university.

“This program is shining example of our academic mission,” said Ed Abeyta, director of Extension’s K-16 program that serves San Diego and Imperial counties. “We couldn’t be more proud of these students and their commitment to achieving their goals of a college education.”

Of the seven students, several likely will be first-generation college students, especially given their recent experience at UC San Diego. An equal number of scholarships will be offered next summer to Imperial Valley students, perhaps even increased, according to Abeyta.

“Our pledge is that we will continue to reinvest in the Valley and its young people,” he said.

In all, Academic Connections’ summer on-campus programs hosted 340 students representing some 20 states and eight countries.

Predictive Analytics: “Someone Needs to Make Sense Out of All That Data”

When Alex Guazzelli talks about predictive analytics, he likes to use this analogy: “We’ve come a long way since palm reading.”

Instructor Profile: Alex Guazzelli: "Predictive Models with PMML"

Instructor Profile:
Alex Guazzelli: “Predictive Models with PMML”

As a specialist in this fast-emerging field, Guazzelli has a duel role: Chief Technology Officer at Zementis, a San Diego-based analytics firm; and instructor at UC San Diego Extension.

“We’re living in a highly complex scientific age where enormous amounts of data are being gathered everywhere on everything we do,” said Guazzelli. “Someone needs to make sense out of all that data, and find value and insight from it.”

A native of Brazil who earned his Ph.D. from University of Southern California, Guazzelli later became a psychology faculty member at the University of Washington. There, he applied his knowledge of artificial neural networks to the study of the brain.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how the brain works and how we process information,” he said. “That’s why I love what I do. It’s the science of creating a mathematical representation for every-day life, to learn and predict behavior in much the same way the brain does.”

His current Extension course is “Predictive Models with PMML” (Predictive Model Markup Language), part of the Data Mining Specialized Certificate program.

“When my students ‘get it,’ I feel responsible for that,” he said. “It’s very rewarding.”

These days, super-computers and what’s termed “machine learning” (think iPhone’s Siri) reproduce many of the brain’s functions – but hardly all of them. Not even close.

“The biggest challenge of computers is to solve mundane tasks we humans perform every day,” he said. “Like making coffee in the morning – a robot doesn’t do that yet.”

Meanwhile, serving as an Extension instructor gives Guazzelli and his occasionally over-taxed neurons a special dose of satisfaction.

“The transmission of knowledge is always fascinating,” he said. “Other creatures do it, of course, but we humans excel at it.”


“The Pulse” Podcast to Feature Rep. Scott Peters

UC San Diego Extension’s Leslie Bruce, host of “The Pulse: Issues in Healthcare,” has scheduled an especially notable guest for her monthly podcast.

On Thursday, Aug. 14, at 10 am, her guest will be Rep. Scott Peters, (D-Calif.).

“Congressman Peters has been in the forefront of the national healthcare debate, both regionally and in Washington,” said Bruce, co-director of Extension’s Healthcare Delivery and Behavioral Sciences. “At a time when so much about Obamacare is changing so quickly, he’s certain to provide keen insight and perspective on the future of healthcare.”

On his website, Peters states: “Healthcare in America needs to be accessible and affordable for everyone. I was not a member of Congress when it passed the Affordable Care Act, and while the law is an important step in fixing decades-old problems with our health care system, it remains a work in progress.

Leslie Bruce, host, "The Pulse"

Leslie Bruce, host, “The Pulse”

“Opponents of the law have made dozens of politically motivated and fruitless attempts to repeal the law which have gone and will continue to go nowhere. Repeal is not the answer. A more productive approach, and one that I am fully committed to, is to make constructive changes needed to make it work.

“That’s why I have repeatedly supported changes proposed by both parties to fix the new law and make it better.”

Rep. Peters serves California’s 52nd Congressional District, which includes the cities of Coronado, Poway, and most of northern San Diego, including UC San Diego’s health sciences campus east of I-5.

An expert in healthcare and public policy, Bruce currently serves as Extension instructor for Politics and Public Policy of US Healthcare: Washington, DC and Introduction to US Healthcare. She also lectures in the Health Law and Policy master’s degree program and in the Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program.

Mia Savoia: Dual Roles of Dean and Diseases Doctor

Despite advances in global healthcare, the threat of highly infectious diseases spreading out of control, here and abroad, is a constant concern for Mia Savoia.

As an infectious diseases physician at UCSD Medical Center, she’s well aware that the next great pandemic could be lurking around the corner.

Take, for example, the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) spread by mosquito bites. Savoia points out that the highly infectious disease, similar to Dengue fever, was recently found for the first time in the Americas, on islands in the Caribbean. Previously, it had only been in countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

“That’s a definite worry, just like what happened with SARS and MERS and the swine flu,” she said. “It’s all out there. We just have to be careful and vigilant.”

As if that’s not enough for her to worry about, Savoia has another title: dean of medical education at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, with oversight of admissions. In that role, she’s looking to admit medical students with something more than medical knowledge.

“You must have the knowledge,” said Savoia, “but today, becoming a doctor is also about having good judgment, critical thinking skills, and the ability to make the best decisions under extreme pressure.”

For good measure, add equal parts “stability, maturity, altruism, curiosity, some level of emotional intelligence and ability to communicate, dedication … all those things,” she said. “It’s much easier when you start with that as a template.”

In addition to her clinical and admissions duties, Savoia is committed to continuing education. She was a critical member of the advisory team that worked with UC San Diego Extension to create a post-bac pre-med program that gives promising students a second chance to be admitted to medical school.

Savoia is integrally involved in three master’s degree programs that are partnerships between Extension and the School of Medicine. Plus, she is on the admissions committee of the master’s program in leadership of healthcare organizations.

After earning her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and an undergraduate degree at Wellesley College, Savoia first came to UCSD School of Medicine as an intern in 1976.

Within two years, she was appointed chief medical resident in her specialty. After a series of upward executive moves spanning some 35 years, coinciding with her physician role, she was named dean of medical education in 2010.

“I really like the different nature of my jobs,” she said. “No matter what, I always try to advance the mission of medicine as best I know how. I know it sounds pretty Pollyannaish, but that’s how I feel.”

Growing up, Savoia and her family lived on the far end of Long Island, in Shoreham, NY. Both her parents were doctors in nearby Bayville, a small resort town. Her father served the town’s fire fighters and police officers; her mother was the physician for the public and Catholic schools.

“After school, they’d pile us kids—me and my sister and brother—in the back of the car and they’d make house calls, one after the other,” she said. “We’d do our homework in the backseat.”

That’s when her medical aspirations began to take shape, especially since she also spent considerable time tending to her older brother, who is developmentally disabled and mentally ill.

savoia2“Honestly, I don’t think I ever thought about doing anything else except going into medicine,” said Savoia. “It just seemed that’s what I was going to do. Maybe that’s a failing, I don’t know. But I’ve been pretty happy with the way my life has turned out.”

These days, the practice of medicine brings more than its share of workaday frustrations.

“It’s especially hard when you have ten people waiting to see you, you’re way behind schedule, you’re hungry, you’ve just argued with an insurance company, and you can’t figure out how to do something in the electronic medical record,” said Savoia. “But you have to try to live through those moments, and keep your eye on the goal, which is caring for patients.”

By the time her UC San Diego School of Medicine students and residents are ready to graduate or complete their training, they often feel overextended.

“At some point, they need to realize that there are limits,” she said. “Yes, we need to be dedicated and work long hours, but if we don’t know our own limits, we will not be good doctors.

“Aristotle believed you could have too much of a virtue as well as too little. So for me, it’s all about seeking that life’s balance.”

The Border Conversion Factor: “A First Step in Changing Career Directions”

Charlie Grier: "I thought it would be a useful tool to have for those living in the border regions and travelers abroad."

Charlie Grier: “I thought it would be a useful tool to have for those living in the border regions and travelers abroad.”

An expat living in Mexico who spends considerable time shopping on both sides of the border, Charlie Grier thought it was time someone created an app that converted currencies and units in one easy step.

So he did it himself.

“I discovered there weren’t any apps which combined currency conversion and unit conversion in a single step,” he said. “I thought it would be a useful tool to have for those living in the border regions and travelers abroad.”

Thus inspired, he created Border Converter – a direct result of taking the Mobile Applications Development program at UC San Diego Extension’s Digital Arts Center (DAC).

Because his wife is a career U.S. diplomat who’s currently assigned to Tijuana, Grier has been forced to make his own career adjustments along the way.

A few years ago, the couple was living in Washington D.C. Before that, it was Bolivia. Before that, Germany.

His master’s in geography (University of North Carolina, Charlotte) and past experience in urban and transportation planning didn’t transfer especially well to different countries and cultures.

So last year, twice weekly, Grier fought the border traffic to learn the latest in programming and design for mobile applications at Extension.

That’s when he came up with the idea of Border Converter for iPhones and iPads.  Grier recently released the app for sale in Apple’s App Store.

“Publishing my first app is a first step in changing career directions,” said Grier, who had limited computer programming experience before taking the courses. “I’d like to launch a free-lance career in app development, starting now and for wherever we go next.”

The Sounds of Far-flung Diplomacy: “I Truly Feel I Can Do Some Good”

Trumpet in hand, Norman Barth’s career travels have taken him far and wide.

Norman Barth: "I’m living in a country where I am the only trumpet player, literally."

Norman Barth: “I’m living in a country where I am the only trumpet player, literally.”

At present, he’s the deputy chief of mission of the U.S. embassy in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a distance of 4,800 miles from San Diego, where in June he took part in UC San Diego Extension’s “Jazz Camp.”

Wherever he goes, his trumpet goes with him.

That was especially true during the camp’s week-long immersion into the finer points of the authentically American art form.

“I’m living in a country where I am the only trumpet player, literally,” said Barth. “a lot of people here didn’t know what a trumpet was until they heard me play. But they like it.”

During Jazz Camp, Barth joined 55 musicians in a series of instructional classes and spirited jam sessions.

Among the many top musicians serving as returning instructors were former “Tonight” show drummer Marvin “Smitty” Smith; saxophonist Charles McPherson; bassist Mark Dresser; flutist Holly Hofmann; trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos; guitarist Peter Sprague; and pianists Anthony Davis and Mike Wofford.

In addition, the students worked closely with recognized UC San Diego music professors David Borgo, Anthony Davis, and Mark Dresser.

Highly-regarded musicians, all.

“It was a real pleasure to have Norman in our group,” said Dan Atkinson, Jazz Camp’s founder and director. “We always have a number of adults in addition to younger students, and both age groups contribute a lot to each other.  As one of our other adult students, a retired psychiatrist, put it, ‘Here, we all speak the same language.’”

“For me,” said Barth, “a big part of the joy of Jazz Camp was being surrounded by folks who know all about jazz and who are playing jazz and who are interested in the art form.”

Not only accomplished as a trumpet player, an instrument he’s played since childhood, Barth has solid academic chops. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and, prior to his diplomatic career, he spent eight years as a climate-change scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (1994-2002).

TUNED IN: “Maybe because I grew up with a multi-cultural background, I enjoy connecting with different kinds of people

TUNED IN: “Maybe because I grew up with a multi-cultural background, I enjoy connecting with different kinds of people.”

“I have a special fondness for the time I spent in San Diego,” said Barth, “partly because it’s the longest time I’ve ever spent in one place. But it’s most memorable because I met my wife there.”

His father was also a widely-traveled U.S. diplomat, so Barth, a Midwest native, spent his younger years living overseas in Iceland, Belgium, Germany, Lesotho, and South Africa.

It was surely a life of adventure, one he still pursues.

Barth and his family – wife Pamela and their two daughters, ages 5 and 9 – have been in the Marshall Islands the past year. Barth’s assignment is for one more year before he’s reassigned elsewhere.

“Maybe because I grew up with a multi-cultural background, I enjoy connecting with different kinds of people,” said Barth, who lives in the capital city of Majuro. With a population of just under 50,000, the Marshall Islands consist of 29 atolls and five islands.

“I’ve always had a desire to learn more about different cultures, plus a desire to share my knowledge,” he added. “I truly feel that I can do some good around the world.”


“Samson and Delilah” Documentary Wins Award for UCSD-TV: “We Couldn’t Be More Proud”

UCSD-TV has been honored with a coveted Platinum Aurora Award for the production of “San Diego Opera Spotlight: Samson and Delilah.” The program was honored as “Best of Show” in the “Documentary-Cultural” category.

7-21-14 UCSD TV, SAMSON AND DELILAH, GRAPHICProduced and edited by John Menier and photographed by Menier and Marci Bretts, the 30-minute program provides an insider’s look at the Opera’s 2013 performance of “Samson and Delilah.”

The behind-the-scenes production spotlights the opera’s elaborate sets, bravura arias, large choral numbers, and staging of the stirring “Bacchanale” dance.

“We couldn’t be more proud of this award-winning show,” said Lynn Burnstan, managing director of UCSD-TV. “Granted unusual access, John and Marci captured the opera’s artistic brilliance and organized chaos, as seen from a perspective that’s not readily available or fully appreciated, even to those who follow opera closely.”

John Menier and Marci Bretts

John Menier and Marci Bretts

The Aurora Awards is an international film and video competition that salutes excellence in commercials, cable programming and documentaries, as well as industrial, instructional, and corporate videos.

Best of Show is the highest honor awarded in each category. Entries come from throughout the U.S. and some 30 countries.

This award comes on the heels of the announcement that this same team was cited for their role in creating the regional Emmy Award-winning video that documented the San Diego-based Malashock Dance company’s 25th anniversary concert.



Good Neighbor Policy: Promoting Social Constructivism in Virtual Communities of Practice

Morgan Appel, Director, Education Department

In my capacity as a program director offering online coursework for educators, I am frequently compelled to respond to questions related to impacts on synergies between students and instructors found in more traditional brick and mortar environments. The perceived dearth of opportunities for meaningful interaction is part of the popular folklore associated with online learning. In point of fact, an emerging research literature and empirical experience suggest otherwise, if planned and executed smartly. It offers that virtual communities of practice provide unique occasion for social constructivism for both participating practitioners and pupils in their charge, mirroring and modeling what should be taking place in the classroom in real time.

The significance of virtual spaces in education designed to facilitate the delivery of professional development; community building; and enhance peer-to-peer learning are well documented in the professional literature (Akyol and Garrison, 2013; Ravaglia, 2007).  For example, a recent study by the US Department of Education (2013) identifying 21st-century trends in education offers that when used appropriately, these technologies can guide P-12 practitioners in a number of ways, including: (1) personalizing the learning experience based on need and interest; (2) fostering creativity, innovation and connection to the curriculum; (3) meaningfully engaging in cooperative and collaborative activities around teaching and learning; (4) further cultivating critical thinking and problem-solving skills; (5) establishing digital citizenship; (6) becoming more sophisticated consumers and producers of information; and (7) strengthening metacognitive abilities among peers and pupils. Research also portends a sea change in use of online resources among gifted pupils and P-20 students more broadly (for example, see Code, 2007; Shea, 2010), effectively shifting the balance in the use of formal resources (such as textbooks) and informal resources (online portals and various media) for educational purposes.


Furthermore, social media and community building platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have both offered occasion for creating bonding and bridging social capital within and across communities and featured prominently in the election of President Barrack Obama and 2008 and in critical global events such as the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 and the Occupy movements that began the same year. Research also suggests that the advent of dedicated virtual communities of practice among educators create unique opportunities to synergistically focus stakeholders within the school community on issues related teaching and learning and the differentiation of curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of diverse pupils (Bahar and Kursat, 2006; Bell-Robertson, 2014; Belair, 2012; Byington, 2011; Raths, 2013; Vavasseur and MacGregor, 2008).  Studies show similar results among virtual communities populated solely by students (Tomai, et. al., 2010).

Finally, the academic and professional literature underscores the benefits of online coursework and virtual professional learning communities specifically for practitioners working with pupils with distinct cognitive and affective needs (Brulles and Brown, 2013; Ericksson, Weber and Kirsch, 2012; Little and Housand, 2011; Periathiruvadi and Rinn, 2012; Rubenstein, 2013) as well as for the pupils themselves (Besnoy, 2006; Ravaglia, 2007; Thomson, 2010). Virtual learning spaces provide immediate supervised access to differentiated and flexible sources for enrichment (Blair, 2011; Freiman, Manuel and Lirette-Pitre, 2007); venues for real-time conversations, professional development and troubleshooting; mentors to suit a number of purposes (Siegle, 2003); resources for parents (K, 2005) and school community stakeholders; among others.

Anecdotal experience as an online instructor seems to confirm findings from the body of work examined above. Candidates across programs tend to rely heavily on peers during their tenure in coursework, working collaboratively on troubleshooting and resolving issues in the field; seeking advisement and counsel outside traditional hours; and maintaining contact with one another within and outside the parameters of the course and/or program.

Understanding the benefits to be had in this context, the Education Department continues to work with its faculty and advisors to provide interactive opportunities in its online courses, both asynchronously and in real time. The world is becoming much smaller thanks to the forward march of technology, and those who are savvy can facilitate the process by showing us all how to be good neighbors as well as good students in complex virtual communities.

For more information on this post or the Education Department, please contact Morgan Appel, Director, at

From Online Curmudgeon to Convert: Triumph Over the Classic Stages of Grief

Editor’s note: Don Greenlee, a longtime UC San Diego Extension instructor who has taught engineering courses through the years, spans the era of strictly classroom teaching to the current era of online instruction. Below, he ruminates on that transformation. His upcoming course, Systems Verification and Validation, part of the Systems Engineering certificate program, starts Oct. 6 and continues through Dec. 5.

By Don Greenlee

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching within UC San Diego Extension since Fall Quarter of 1999. During that time, I’ve enjoyed the experience greatly, often feeling somewhat guilty because I was learning more than my students.

Instructor Don Greenlee: "I resisted. I pouted.  I sulked."

Instructor Don Greenlee: “I resisted. I pouted. I sulked.”

A highly rewarding aspect of this experience has been the interaction with students in the classroom environment.

That’s where  every smile, frown, roll of the eyes or shake of the head – vertical or horizontal – and every question, answer, complaint, compliment or emotional reaction provided a grateful me with visible and instant student feedback.

Originally offered on the UC San Diego campus, then off-campus, and then at local industry locations – General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, Cubic, Raytheon, ViaSat, even the marine base at Camp Pendleton – my courses had a constant feature: a stand-up performance before a live audience.

Then, much to my surprise, online instruction happened.

When informed that my course would need to be transformed into a web-compatible format to accommodate distant learners, I resisted. I pouted. I sulked.

How could the magnificent classroom experience possibly be captured and rendered via the Internet? Pavarotti offering Nessum Dorma on YouTube? Actually, yes.

And thanks to the kind and patient urging and technical support of my colleagues at UC San Diego Extension, the transformation was accomplished.

Prior to the initial offering, I was concerned that important elements of the course which I had been able to emphasize during the live classroom environment would be missed by students present merely electronically.

How would I — or more importantly, they – know that a significant point had been missed?

Having once taught a course on “Advanced Statistics for Scientists” at the Johns Hopkins University Graduate School, I decided to try an experiment: For the initial online offering, I would use exactly the same assignments, team project, midterm quiz, and final exam as in the previous classroom sessions.

To my relief, the resulting products and grades were quite similar, both substantively and statistically. Clearly, the effectiveness of both teaching and learning were equivalent between the two environments.

The blow to my ego was severe, but I’m slowly working through the classic stages of grief.

The quality of instruction matter thus satisfactorily resolved, the benefits of online outreach became evident, including the obvious capability of global contact.

Successful students have since accessed my course from an office in Germany, a shipyard in Canada – even a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, which happened to come under fire while one of my students was working on his final report.

Let’s add “instructor safety” to the many appealing features of online education.

Workplace Planning Analyst: “A Very Exciting Time to Be Here”

A workplace planning analyst with Blue Shield of California, Angie Jin has only been on the job since May. But she’s been very busy.

Student Profile: Angie Jin, "Overview of Non-profit Organizations"

Student Profile: Angie Jin, “Overview of Non-profit Organizations”

“We are now facing a high volume hiring demand, because our membership base has changed dramatically since last year,” she said. “It’s a very exciting time to be here.”

Based in downtown San Francisco, the non-profit health services firm has more than 5,000 employees throughout California.

“Part of my job is to predict the hiring needs based on market conditions and potential growth,” said Jin. “We chart the company’s growth and workforce needs, not only for this year but over the next couple of years and beyond.”

Born and raised in China, Jin came to the U.S. in 2009, with eight years experience in talent development and training and a degree in education from Yanbian University. Prior to joining Blue Shield, she worked in the human resources departments of San Diego-based Harmonium, Inc., and then at UC Berkeley.

While residing in San Diego several years ago, Jin took a former UC San Diego Extension course, “Overview of Nonprofit Organizations,” taught by instructor Cathy Zumberge. Jin was able to enroll via an Extension-sponsored scholarship program offered by the San Diego chapter of Young Non-Profit Professionals Network.

“Before that, I didn’t have a very systematic overview of nonprofit organizations,” she said. “The instructor enabled me to think in a more holistic way about all aspects of the social sector, especially how to help employees achieve their career goals with limited resources.”


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