MiraCosta College Honors Three Employees for Outstanding Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Community Colleges

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Three MiraCosta College employees have been honored by their peers in recognition of their leadership and advocacy for women at community colleges.

Kathy Rodriguez, Director of Admissions and Records, was named Administrator Woman of the Year; Leila Safaralian, Math Department Chair and Academic Senate President, was named Faculty Woman of the Year; and Ashley Gerdo, Interim Student Services Specialist, was named Woman Employee of the Year for MiraCosta College in the awards from the San Diego chapter of the American Association for Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC).

The AAWCC is a national organization that champions women and maximizes their potential in community colleges. Each college in the San Diego and Imperial County region was allowed to select outstanding women for the award at their campus.

Rodriguez has worked at MiraCosta College since 2007, starting as an academic records evaluator and serving as an assistant registrar at the college’s San Elijo campus and interim program manager for student life and leadership before being named Director of Admissions in July 2021. She earned an associate degree from Southwestern College, a bachelor’s degree in communications from California State University, San Marcos and a master’s degree in educational leadership from CSU East Bay.

“I feel honored to represent MiraCosta for this award,” Rodriguez said. “It serves as a reminder to keep advocating meaningful change for students that will protect our disproportionately impacted and minoritized students.”

Safaralian joined MiraCosta College in 2002 as an associate faculty member in mathematics, and since then she has served as a full-time math faculty member, Mathematics Department chair, Interim Dean of Math and Sciences, and Academic Senate President. In 2014, she created the Bridge to Success in Math program that was designed to improve student achievement in mathematics. The program received statewide recognition by the Associated Senate of California Community Colleges in 2018.

As a faculty member and department chair, she has been deeply involved in providing support for students while focusing on implementing the recent education legislation that has impacted math education statewide. As the Academic Senate president, she has brought attention to teaching and learning and offering the Academic Senate as a venue for faculty to voice their concerns.

Her work was recognized by her colleagues when she received the Leon Baradat Service Award in 2023 for excellence beyond the classroom in fostering engagement and creating a positive and inclusive climate through institutional service.

“I’m very honored that my work was recognized by my colleagues,” Safaralian said. “I dedicate this to all women at MiraCosta College who work tirelessly every day for our students and the institution.”

Gerdo, who has worked at MiraCosta College for three years, said she helps students with all the steps they need to attend college, from applying for financial aid to connecting them to a counselor. As a former MiraCosta College student with a troubled background, Gerdo said she can relate to the challenges that students face.

“I come from the same population that I serve,” Gerdo said. “When I see it clicks for the students when they get that sense of belonging and go full force for achieving their dreams, I’m glad to know I contributed to making them feel they belong and are welcome here.”

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