Dental Assisting Program Centered Around Student Support and Success
Dental Assisting Program Director, Dawn Christy makes it clear that her ‘reason to breathe’ is to support her students in their quest to successfully complete their program. She wants them to graduate with high confidence in their level of skill and knowledge that will attract top jobs in their field.
Dawn is on high alert to handle anything that might interfere with that objective. And she has the support of Dental Assisting (DA) program staff and faculty that mirrors her commitment. “I have the most amazing team, and we’re all in it for the students,” she says.
“I talked with students to find out what they didn’t like, what wasn’t working and how we could make it better,” says Dawn. The most important change Dawn made was to throw her office door open wide. “My door is literally open for anyone to come in at any time.”
But she does not wait for students to get the courage to approach her. Dawn is out in the hallways and in the classrooms every single day, taking the emotional pulse of students, faculty and support staff. She uncovers potential roadblocks before they have a chance to prevent students from reaching their education and career goals.
“There are so many issues students have to deal with,” says Dawn. “It just breaks my heart.” Some students struggle with transportation, childcare, personal relationships, finances, program academics, or too much life responsibility and too little time. Dawn and her student support team offer more than an ear to overly stretched students.
Dawn reflects on so many students who were about to sink before staff and faculty intervention helped to pull them through. “A student came to me crying. She, her boyfriend and their two children under the age of three had gotten kicked out of their home and were living in a motel. “She didn’t even have a way to warm her baby’s milk,” Dawn remembers. The campus worked together to help support that student and their family. Their intervention bought more time for the student to gain a little stability.
Dawn credits campus staff and faculty on the front lines of support for providing a strong safety net for those most at risk. They include Campus President, Dean of Student Services, Academic Dean and Career Services. “SJVC leadership is so awesome,” says Dawn. “They support you so much. There’s always someone you can go to and they always have your back.” Sometimes it takes a village, and the Bakersfield campus is a determined village.
Leadership can also be a humble venture. “My leadership style is to just treat everybody with respect,” Dawn reflects. “I never try to make my students or instructors feel like I’m superior to them. They know I really care about them and I want them to feel comfortable coming to me with anything.”
A former colleague on the Bakersfield campus who is now the Academic dean at the Bakersfield and Delano campuses describes Dawn’s powerful influence.
“Dawn is a very kind person,” says Michael Rugano. “She speaks optimism into every space she occupies, and students, staff and faculty believe in her and her vision for the future.”
The success of the Dental Assisting program is personal to Dawn. She, too, graduated from the DA program on the Bakersfield campus. It was 1997 when, at the end of her program, she passed the exam to become a Registered Dental Assistant and entered the field where she worked for 17-years. “I loved my patients and getting up every day and going to this job.”
But Dawn always held a desire to teach. Three years ago, SJVC had an opening for a Dental Assisting program faculty position. “I went there (as a student on Bakersfield campus) when I was only 21, and because of the foundation of skills they gave me, I landed a job at one of the top dental offices in Bakersfield.”
The faculty job interview went well, so well that she was offered the position of Dental Assisting Program Director instead. “I’m so proud to be able to come back to SJVC and give my students the same great experience I had as a student,” says Dawn. “It is so rewarding to help these students go out into this profession and be successful.” She also enjoys the classes she instructs that allow her to stay connected to both Dental Assisting students and the curriculum she implements as Program Director.
“Dawn relates everything in the classroom to the real world her students will impact,” says Runago. “She sets expectations for her students at a high level and, in turn, has produced very capable and professional graduates!”
The DA program leadership and faculty are working in perfect harmony. “I have complete confidence in our faculty. I know the minute I step out of that classroom, they (faculty) will keep the same professional quality at 100%,” says Dawn.
The value of hard work was impressed upon Dawn at an early age by her dad, David. “My dad has always been my hero,” says Dawn. “He has my back and I can always count on him. He worked 7-days a week and would give the shirt off his back to anybody. Watching that growing up made me want to be like him.”
She adopted his work ethic and his generosity toward others. “I want to look back when I get older and know that I made a difference in somebody’s life,” says Dawn. “I want to make a mark on the students, who might remember me as being something positive in their lives.”
Two more impressionable souls she hopes to influence are her daughter Madison, 21 and her son Carson, 19, with whom she shares a home and life. “I’ve been a single mom for 5-years and I want them to look at me and think that I worked hard for them, sacrificed a lot, that I still had drive and ambition, and I never gave up. I want to be a role model for them.”
There are reminders all along the way that keep Dawn on track. “Every day I walk by and read this quote because it’s so true”: I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou.
Dawn is out there every day helping all in her path to feel the full measure of their efforts and accomplishments. She will undoubtedly be remembered for those feelings she ignited in others.
Our RN to BSN program is a Bachelors degree completion option for Registered Nurses.