Fresno Student Services Dean always ready to lend ear to students
As Dean of Student Services on the Fresno campus, Glenn Elizarde provides a haven for all students who need help and advice in their struggles to meet challenges that threaten their ability to stay in school.
These students might get new resources for child-care, groceries or help with utility bills, a few much-needed school supplies from the campus pantry, or a plan for better time management and household expenses budgeting. What they will not get is a lot of judgement about their circumstances – even those situations that their own poor decisions made.
“We all learn from our mistakes,” says Glenn. “I talk with students about what went wrong and what else they can do when they run up against those challenges.”
Those are not empty words. Eighteen years ago, Glenn was a Business Administration student at that same campus and had some of those same experiences and doubts that can eat away at the core of stability and self-confidence. “I was afraid to fail,” he admits. “I wanted a change in my life, but I didn’t know what the other side of graduation and that change looked like.”
One of his instructors gave Glenn what he hopes to pass along to every student who comes to him for help. “Rick Sowers helped me change that (negative) mindset,” says Glenn. “I’d failed a class and he helped me realize that failure is part of success. He told me to keep on going forward. He didn’t judge me. He made it a safe place.”
Now Glenn is wearing those shoes and providing that safe place for others. He finds a way to talk with students about focus, budgeting and prioritizing without casting blame or making them feel inadequate.
“When students need an advisor who can relate to their experience and help navigate the choices in front of them, Glenn is a real advocate and partner for their success, “says Jerry Franksen, Fresno Campus President. “Glenn makes himself available to students first, others second.”
Glenn realizes that circumstances and priorities can quickly get out of balance for his students. “There are students who have very expensive iPhones, but don’t have a way to get to school,” he says.
Cell phones can create a whole new level of insecurities and anxieties for students. “It’s the comparison game,” says Glenn. “People put their life’s highlight reel on social media and folks who are going through struggles are comparing their lives to those Disney versions that often don’t mirror a lot of reality.”
Many students struggle beyond the difficulties of every-day life circumstances. “Often there were not a lot of people in their lives who helped them with their self-limiting beliefs,” says Glenn. “Just not having somebody who would tell them they could do it.” He is happy to be that voice.
Glenn has spent his career in preparation for this role. He has held management positions in hospitality/guest services, corporate recruitment, management team-building, human resources and finally college-level student services.
When SJVC invited him to apply for the Dean of Student Services position on his old campus, he didn’t hesitate. “In a heartbeat,” he said. “I was really missing student services, helping people overcome their obstacles – including themselves. The opportunity to come back to the place that gave me my start in my career and gave me focus, was like it was meant to be.”
Glenn has found his passion in the day-to-day support he gives his students. That doesn’t mean that his straight talk is always appreciated or what a student is prepared to hear. “I’ve been cussed out and flipped off, but it’s part of the territory,” he says. “It’s tough love, and it’s a slow, painful process.”
“The longer Glenn proves himself to the students of the Fresno campus, the more they respond, open up and seek him out,” says Jerry. “He works with them to identify the root issue when there’s a challenge, and celebrates their success with them, both the big and the small wins.”
He has some thought-provoking, sometimes hard questions to put to some of those standing in their own way toward success. “I ask them what they want for themselves after graduation,” says Glenn. “Why are you here?” Sometimes their answers show a modest expectation, a humble definition of success.
“A student told me she just wanted to eat better quality food, something better than beans and weenies,” says Glenn. Sometimes it is much more serious. “One student just wanted to be able to pay all the bills at one time, instead of choosing between having the water turned off or the lights.”
Student support stretches way beyond Glenn’s office. The campus leadership team works together to provide all students with as many tools as possible to be able to learn, grow and successfully complete their career education and training programs.
“Students may not raise their hands voluntarily to let us know they’re distracted with home life,” says Glenn. “We don’t wait for them to knock on the door; we are proactive and look for warning signs.”
Absenteeism and a drop in grades are red flags. “During orientation, we let students know that if someone has recently gone through a break-up, or had a baby, or had someone pass away in their family, they may not emotionally want to come to school. We want them to know that they are supported, right off the bat.”
Still, there are many who never come forward, who just quietly suffer the weight of great pressure. “We walk through hallways and have no way of knowing the struggles students are going through,” says Glenn. “There are so many needs out there and sometimes just juggling all the tasks and giving my students the time they deserve makes me want to grow my hair out longer just to pull it out.”
Glenn finds other ways to burn off any frustration he might feel. He and his just-turned-teenager daughter Jada are into kayaking, hiking, martial arts and boxing. “My goal as a parent is to have a kid who lives a life that is fulfilled,” he says. “My job helps me show her what that looks like.”
Glenn got an early peek at that concept from his dad Jose. “He kept loving me through all my mistakes. He would ask me questions that would lead me to a better solution the next time. He wouldn’t give me the answer right off the bat, but would let me figure it out.”
His father’s best advice? “Keep moving forward. Always.” Glenn adds an afterthought: “Drive using your windshield and not your rear-view mirror. Too many look more at the past than toward the future.”
Glenn is always there for students who wish to experience a little vision correction.