Teaching is the most rewarding thing I do, and I’ve been privileged to do so every semester for the past 12 years at Santa Barbara City College. Today is the first day of the first time SBCC is holding two summer sessions, and I expect to receive an email from SBCC’s president Lori Gaskin before class starts.
It won’t be exclusively for me, because ever since she took office in 2012, Dr. Gaskin makes a point to send an email every Monday with a warm greeting and weekly report to every SBCC teacher and staffer. Occasionally, her email simply reminds us all to reach out to our students and offer them encouragement.
This is an example of how open to communication she is, no matter how challenging it can be at the time. For that and other reasons, I’ve quickly grown to admire her commitment to academic leadership.
Dr. Gaskin studied to be a geomorphologist, then became a science teacher at Barstow College, beginning 30 years of deep dedication to California’s community colleges. She took a break from that tireless work to answer the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your current state of mind?
Personally: grateful. Professionally: flummoxed at the misperceptions held by some in this community regarding the jewel that is Santa Barbara City College.
What is the quality you most like in people?
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Incivility and superficiality.
What do you like most about your job?
My students. Their desire to learn is infectious. Their determination to obtain an education is humbling. And the sacrifices they make to pursue that life dream are inspiring.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Toning down my workaholic personality and integrating more balance into my life.
What is your greatest fear?
My greatest fear is that we continue on this clipped pace of environmental degradation to the point of no return.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being outside, listening to the birds talking, basking in the warmth of the sun, appreciating the native plants and the insects buzzing about, exploring the natural landscape, feeling the breeze make its way through the trees….
Who do you most admire?
I admire my partner, family, friends, and colleagues. They have wisdom, knowledge, insights, creativity, musical talents, artistic expression, an understanding of human nature, a beautiful command of language, and an inspiring habit of the mind. I am exposed to so much because of the rich fabric of being that they bring to my life.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My greatest extravagance is not something I lavishly spend money on. Rather, my greatest extravagance is unscheduled time.
What do you most value in friends?
Their friendship. What a treasure that is. And for me, friendship is all about a generosity of the heart and a genuineness that weathers life’s challenges with a knowing presence.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I have high expectations and a strong sense of purpose.
Which phrase do you most overuse?
What do you want to eat for dinner?
Which talent would you most like to have?
The ultimate triumvirate: singer, dancer, and musician — of the Rihanna genre.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Without question, my greatest achievement is my son. He is kindhearted, funny, smart, and an awesome husband to his new wife and son to his mom.
Where would you most like to live?
Australia, preferably in the Outback or along the west coast/Indian Ocean. The terrain is spectacular, the people generous and kind, and the natural environment a rich fabric of colors and contrasts.
What is your most treasured possession?
My memories. They remain with me no matter what is going on in my life and bring me great contentment, fulfillment, and joy.
Who makes you laugh the most?
Two people readily bring a smile to my face accompanied by hearty chuckles: my son whose wit and teasing are so endearing and my partner whose humorous perspective and positive approach to life are, well, just plain fun!
What is your motto?
Follow your heart.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I have to frame my answer for it to make sense. My academic training is in fluvial geomorphology, the study of stream systems. I love streams and would very much wish to see California’s rivers through the eyes of the early explorers and gold miners.
On what occasion do you lie?
Every single day: when I look in the mirror and convince myself that I haven’t aged a bit!