Four honored with awards of excellence

Every few years, the Santa Monica College Foundation presents four SMC professors with the President's Circle Chair of Excellence award for outstanding work in four different academic spheres.

This year's recipients were professors Garen Baghdasarian who is winning the award in Life sciences, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein in Philosophy and Social Science, Marc Trujillo in Fine Arts, and Corsair newspaper advisor Saul Rubin in Communication.

Designed as an incentive for faculty members to try new, innovative avenues to improve both their career as well as their student's learning environment, the awards provide each winning recipient with $5,000 annually for three years to put towards their selected projects or research.

Tahvildaran-Jesswein, a current Political Science professor at SMC, is receiving the foundation's award of excellence in Philosophy and Social Science. With his $5,000 in annual funds, Tahvildaran-Jesswein said that he plans to "re-invest it in the students" by working to start up and support a civic engagement program similar to the one over at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"[This] will allow students the chance to get out into the community and work with public policy makers to help them better understand what it is like to work in that field," said Tahvildaran-Jesswein, who added that, "it gives me a chance to get back in the classroom and continue to work on a project that I've already put time and effort into for the students and the school."

The Sam Francis/Martin Sosin Chair of Excellence award in Fine Arts went to ten-year SMC art professor Marc Trujillo. As a Yale graduate and award winning artist, he plans to use the award money to attend workshops in New York that will allow him to better understand oil paints and the art of mixing them.

"It's like cooking," Trujillo said. "I've done it before but I'm not an expert." With the knowledge gained in the workshops he will then purchase the required materials and create a number of different charts that will better help the faculty and students understand and learn what he has gathered from the workshops.

Trujillo said that he will return with a better knowledge of the more environmentally safe paints that need to be used in the classrooms at SMC. In regards to receiving the award, he commented by saying that, "It's nice to know that the college is supporting the field that I work in to improve the classrooms for the faculty, students and environment."

SMC Corsair advisor Saul Rubin was the recipient of the newly established Chair of Excellence award in Communication. Rubin, who has spent the last 11 years as a journalism professor here at SMC, and the last year and a half as the Corsair's advisor, was honored to receive the award saying that, "It's great to know that the college is supportive of journalism here at the school, and of my career."

With the funds Rubin will be receiving, he plans to work with Steve Hunt and Mona Martin in the SMC library to create a database for past, present and future issues of the Corsair, which go all the way back to 1929.

This comes as part of a recent national effort to digitize print newspapers. "We are on the forefront of this project," said Rubin. "It is beneficial to teachers, students and the community."

Rubin added that, "It's a project that has to be done." Prior to joining Santa Monica College in 1999, Rubin had fifteen years of journalism experience and has written for various newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times and Variety.

Garen Baghdasarian, who has been a teacher at SMC now for the past nine years, was awarded the Avaya Inc. & Anixter Inc. Chair of Excellence in Life Science. He said that he plans to use his funds by participating in a major research project in the South Atlantic Ocean that is believed to be a "garbage patch" for plastic micro-particulates that can have "devastating long term ecological and health effects on a global scale."

Baghdasarian, who has been active in environmental issues at SMC over the years, has also taught and done research at UCLA. He is currently the head of the Life Sciences department at SMC.