PAC faculty dedicated to students’ success
Veronica Rosas-Tatum, Palo Alto College department chair and assistant professor of business, shows her commitment to students through her actions in and outside of the classroom. From teaching to making herself available to meet with students one-on-one, serving as co-chair of Student Government Association to being a faculty advisor for the district-wide Student Leadership Institute, and sacrificing her personal time over weekends and holidays, Rosas-Tatum says that she doesn’t see her work at Palo Alto College as a job. It is an opportunity to impact students’ lives, and that’s not something she takes lightly.
“Teaching is one thing we do, but it is not the totality of what we do. Teaching occurs outside the classroom, whether it’s the co-curricular activities like the competitions that are discipline-specific or the extracurricular activities helping students develop and grow,” said Rosas-Tatum.
It’s this way of thinking that led to Rosas-Tatum being nominated and awarded the Starfish Award in fall 2017. This student-nominated award is presented to a faculty member who has made a lasting impact on students’ lives. Nominees must demonstrate a commitment to teaching, learning, helping students, and assisting them beyond the classroom.
“As a student, I have seen [Rosas-Tatum] go above and beyond what may be required of her as a faculty member. She will never tell a student ‘no she can’t see them’ or say that she doesn’t have time to help them, no matter what the case may be (school or personal),” said Melissa Vasquez in her Starfish Award nomination for Rosas-Tatum. She went on to explain how Rosas-Tatum willingly sacrifices her own time to help students by staying late, chaperoning trips, and spending her weekends and breaks with students. “Mrs. Tatum has been one of my many cheerleaders from day one.”
Rosas-Tatum, who also received the Starfish Award in 2010, said she was humbled to receive the award because she knows there are many faculty members at Palo Alto College who deserve the award – many of whom she looks up to as role models.
“I’m one of many very worthy recipients of the Starfish Award. That’s why it is humbling to me to be singled out among my peers because there are many faculty who have the same kind of dedication and commitment to what they do,” said Rosas-Tatum. “It’s important because it comes from students.”
Rosas-Tatum understands personally what it means to be a first-generation student, and she has experienced the opportunities that become available through higher education. Rosas-Tatum grew up in a working-class family, and her parents and siblings believed that college was a nice-to-have – not a necessity. She could pursue a college degree, so long as she could get a job when she finished. She said she often considers the fact that fewer than 5% of adults in south San Antonio have bachelor’s degrees and more than 50% live below the national poverty level; it’s that economic disparity that drives her to do whatever she can to help students reach their goals.
“If it takes meeting them after work hours, and that makes the difference to whether they can advance to their next semester, then all it is for me is time,” said Rosas-Tatum. “For them, it’s an impediment to a goal. So why do I do it? Because the rewards are there for the student and the rewards are there for me in terms of seeing people [succeed].”
Rosas-Tatum says she tries to stay in touch with her students once they graduate, so that she can help them with their resumes, interview preparation, references, and networking. That intentionality reassures students and encourages them to persist and achieve their goals.
“Community college is a start. I really promote that they continue onto their four-year degree and their master’s degrees,” said Rosas-Tatum. “It kind of goes back to that disparity and knowing that this education is going to be important to them, to their families, to their children.”
She is encouraged by the faculty around her, many of whom are equally committed to making sure students are successful. Palo Alto College has a value of putting “Students First” as part of its mission, but Rosas-Tatum says that the faculty and staff embodied that “Students First” value before it was pronounced.
“We engender a culture here of reaching out and doing what we can as faculty to assist our students and ensure their success,” said Rosas-Tatum. “If I just look at my own department, they’re all Starfish here. All of them. It almost becomes – not an expectation, but by osmosis – what you do.”