September 25, 2014 by University of La Verne

The Los Angeles Business Journal named University of La Verne Chief Financial Officer Avedis “Avo” Kechichian “CFO of the Year” during a ceremony in Los Angeles on September 25.

Kechichian was among 42 finalists representing a wide variety of private and public companies, as well as government and nonprofit organizations.

“As a man who traveled halfway around the world to arrive at a University that complements his personal values, Mr. Kechichian, in turn, dedicates his life to the success of the institution,” University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman said.

The annual event honors finance professionals in the Los Angeles region for their ongoing efforts as outstanding financial stewards, according to the Business Journal.

Kechichian’s rise to success is a story that has been chronicled in newspapers and magazines at the University over the years.

As a child, he and his family survived the Lebanese Civil War, one of numerous conflicts that shaped his family’s history.

The struggles never derailed Kechichian’s determination to attend college. He came to the U.S. with only a few articles of clothing and $300 in his pocket to attend the American Armenian International College. He began working odd jobs to help pay his tuition. One of his jobs was vacuuming and picking up trash at the University of La Verne.

He graduated with a degree in business administration from both AAIC and La Verne, taking on an accounting position at AAIC. He began working for La Verne about a year later as payroll manager.

Kechichian worked his way up through various financial positions, becoming Associate Vice President and Treasurer in 2007, Vice President of Finance five years later, and eventually CFO.

“Mr. Kechichian is a valued and instrumental part of the University of La Verne administration,” Lieberman said.

Kechichian thanked his family, the University and the Business Journal during his acceptance speech.

“As a first generation international student who arrived at the University of La Verne in the fall of 1977, I could have never imagined to be in the position I am today, living my American Dream,” Kechichian said.

September 25, 2014 by University of La Verne


Vice President Joe Biden meets with Director of Community & Civic Engagement Marisol Morales at a reception celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

Director of Community & Civic Engagement Marisol Morales accepted an invitation to attend a special reception for Hispanic Heritage Month in Washington D.C. on Monday, Sept. 22.

Hosted by Vice President Joe Biden, Morales was among a select number of guests from institutions throughout the country invited to his home to engage in a common cause to strengthen relationships in the growing hispanic community. The event was one of many official celebrations initiated by the Obama Administration marking Hispanic Heritage Month.

September 24, 2014 by University of La Verne

White House officials on Tuesday named the University of La Verne a recipient of the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, designated as a top 5 institution in the category of interfaith and community service. 

The ceremony, at George Washington University, drew presidents of higher education institutions, students, administrators and chaplains, among

University of La Verne representatives who attended were President Devorah Lieberman, Chaplain Zandra Wagoner, Provost Jonathan Reed, Professor of Religion and Philosophy Richard Rose, Office of Civic and Community Engagement Director Marisol Morales, and two La Verne students.

“This is a significant honor and point of pride for La Verne, not only for the recognition it brings, but for the level of excellence it represents,” said University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman.

Morales called the win a ‘touchdown’ for the University. “I was very happy because this was one of the major (awards) that we wanted, and we were able to receive it and highlight the work we’ve been doing,” she said.

Programs that set La Verne apart from other institutions include Freshman La Verne Experience’s (FLEX) Community Engagement Day, which introduces new students to the value of volunteerism. Students have also contributed thousands of hours of service to community groups that address issues such as hunger, homelessness and environmental conservation since The La Verne Experience program began in the fall of 2012.

The University’s various summer camp programs, introducing high school students to career paths and the college experience, were also highlighted as examples of La Verne’s commitment to service. La Verne’s REACH Business Camp, which invites high-school junior and seniors to learn how to develop a business plan while experiencing campus life, is one example.

La Verne shined in the area of interfaith cooperation, another component of the award. Among the University’s programs is the Summer Service Program, which pairs students with religious, secular and social service organizations. It emphasizes leadership development, personal, and spiritual growth. The University also holds interfaith celebrations for Hanukkah, Hindu Diwali and Pooja, Lent, Easter, Passover, Eid, and a candlelight vigil for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to educate the campus community.

University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner said the recognition reflects La Verne’s work to be a model interfaith campus.

“We want to be a place of welcome and hospitality to students and staff from any faith or non-faith perspective. We want our students to have basic religious literacy and the skills to navigate a complex world of pluralism, and to do so with a commitment to peaceful practices and empathy.”

September 22, 2014 by University of La Verne

DVLVBill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times paid a visit to the University of La Verne on Saturday, September 20, 2014 to capture the essence of a football game not surrounded by shallow hype or judged by the score, but that is all about the journey of the student athlete. Chronicling the Leopards’ first football game of the season, Plaschke spent the afternoon meeting the players, their families and gaining an insight into the tight-knit, supportive community that is La Verne.

Read story here: Getting a taste of football at its purest

September 19, 2014 by University of La Verne

From left, University of La Verne students Tyler Harrison, Chantal Silva, Ebony Williams and Marilyn Mejia, first place winners in the Alliance for Community Media’s national Hometown Media Awards.

Several University of La Verne student filmmakers got a taste of the A-list during recent ceremonies honoring college and high school students in movie and documentary production.

Marilyn Mejia, and her crew of Ebony Williams, Tyler Harrison and Chantal Silva took home first place for best student documentary through the Alliance for Community Media’s national Hometown Media Awards in August. Their film profiled Jim Brown and his family, who own the business, J.Brown Violin Maker in Claremont.

More students earned awards at the 3rd annual San Bernardino Valley College Film Festival in May, said Don Pollock, communications professor.

Following are students who received awards:

From left, Chris Mitzel, Spencer Bruno and Alex Clague, took home awards at the San Bernardino Valley College Film Festival.

From left, Chris Mitzel, Spencer Bruno and Alex Clague, took home awards at the San Bernardino Valley College Film Festival.

- Alexander Clague for his dramedy short, “Sugar and Love”, shot at Hillcrest Homes in La Verne with Hillcrest residents in the starring roles (Best Crime/Drama)

- Chelsea Stark-Jones for her senior project, documentary short “Enjoying the Journey,” about the University of La Verne men’s baseball team (Best News/Reality)

- Delanie Pacheco for her documentary short “The Road to Recovery” on the rehabilitation of an injured athlete on the University of La Verne women’s volleyball team (Best Editing)

- Jetske Wauran’s “Mary Cotter: 100 Years,” about a 100-year-old volunteer at the Montclair Senior Center (Best Cinematography).

Students won prizes including a Sony video camera and AVID video-editing software.

September 12, 2014 by University of La Verne

The 15-year-old boy in Angela Haick’s juvenile hall class in San Jose had an S-shaped scar running down his cheek from a brutal attack by rival gang members. It was a mark that filled him with hate, and his violent history left him feeling little hope for the future.

A year later, the boy had graduated high school and completed one and a half years of community college classes. He dreams of one day being a probation officer or a teacher, so he can follow the same path of the role models who helped turn his life around.

“They made him see that there were more options in his life than the ones he was exposed to,” Haick said.AngelaHaick2

The success story is one of many that Haick, a University of La Verne graduate, has played a part in during her career in education. Her journey has taken her from the classroom to administrative positions throughout the state, a path she says has helped her gain the skill set necessary to become superintendent of the Penn Valley Union Elementary School District.

She began her new job in August.

But it was a move that almost didn’t happen.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1987 from San Diego State University and a master’s in educational leadership in 1992 from National University, she didn’t think she had the ability to take her education to the next level.

“I didn’t think I was smart enough to do it,” she said.

Raising two small children as a single mother,  and working a job as an assistant principal at the Murrieta Unified School District at the time, Haick did not think she had the time either. Family members, along with a lot of motivation from La Verne faculty and alumni, helped. She entered the Doctor of Education program, completing it in 2003.

Haick credits La Verne alumna and former La Verne faculty member, Lou Obermeyer, and Dr. Jonathan Greenberg, adjunct instructor in organizational leadership, to convincing her to pursue her doctorate.

“Both of them insisted that I could do this,” she said.

Since then, she has worked as an elementary school principal for the Jurupa Unified School District, Oakland Unified School District, and principal at Osborne Juvenile Hall in Santa Clara County.

During her career, she has survived cancer, divorce and the challenges of being an openly-gay single parent.

“She has overcome much adversity in her life. She is brave and courageous. I’m proud of her,” said University of La Verne professor Dr. Thomas Harvey, one of Haick’s instructors.

Haick’s varied experiences in urban and rural school districts, along with her forward thinking and compassion make her the perfect person to serve as a school superintendent, said Dr. Nancy Fischer, a retired human resources administrator who also received her doctorate from La Verne.

“Most importantly, she has a gift for understanding and nurturing the needs of all children,” Fischer said.

In her new position, Haick oversees a district that has 700 students in four schools. Penn Valley is a Northern California community northeast of Sacramento.

And even though she has taken the helm of a small school district, she has big plans.

She believes the self-doubt she overcame to return to school is a lesson she can instill in her students. Haick hopes she can teach them to discover their potential, and that their lives can be different one day.

Haick wants to eventually work on a college dissertation committee and teach in higher education.

La Verne’s emphasis on community engagement is another element she plans to bring to her new role as superintendent.

Haick wants to join Penn Valley’s Rotary Club. When she attended a meeting Sept. 9, she received a pleasant reminder of where she came from.

Longtime La Verne philanthropist, former Board of Trustees member and chancellor, Richard Landis, who lives in the Penn Valley area, heard about Haick’s new job and her alma mater. Landis, a member of the area’s Rotary Club, sought her out.

“When he learned that I was a ULV grad, he was just tickled pink,” she said.

September 12, 2014 by University of La Verne

The University of La Verne is celebrating National Hispanic Serving Institutions Week Sept. 14-20, which coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month. The week includes a variety of activities meant to promote discussion and expression about Hispanic culture and heritage. Hispanic Serving Institutions are accredited colleges and universities that have a Hispanic enrollment of at least 25 percent. Social media content can be accompanied by the hashtag phrase “#hsiweek.”

What: National Hispanic Serving Institutions Week

When: Students wanting to express their heritage and culture artistically may use the graffiti boards at Sneaky Park from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday Sept. 14-20. The campus “Question Board” will be available at Campus Center near the first floor information desk. From 4:30 to 6 p.m. Monday, there will be a general focus group to share views in the Presidents Dining Room.

Why: The designation allows the University to access funding and resources to serve the needs of all students. The program is part of an effort by the federal government to provide assistance to colleges and universities serving traditionally underrepresented groups.

Information: Beatriz Gonzalez,, 909-448-4512 or Marisol Morales,, 909-448-4651.

September 12, 2014 by University of La Verne

An international organization plans to award University of La Verne Campus Safety Director Stan Skipworth this month for initiatives that have improved safety at the institution, and sharing his knowledge with other colleges and universities.

Skipworth will receive the World Safety Organization Educational Award during a ceremony Sept. 29 in Denver, Colo. Skipworth has also been invited as a speaker during the symposium.

The award is given annually to institutions, companies, training entities and individuals for implementing programs that contribute to the protection of people, property, resources and the environment, according to the organization.

Skipworth said he received the award for programs he and the Campus Safety Department have created in the last 1 ½ years. These include extra training for officers, increased security cameras and programs that encourage the campus community to play a role in safety.

He said campus safety divisions from other Southern California institutions have come to La Verne to learn more about its programs.

September 12, 2014 by University of La Verne

Carrie Swidecki’s 76-hour dance gaming marathon in July generated national publicity and awareness for childhood obesity. The feat also earned her two Guinness World Records.

Now both records are featured in the 60th anniversary edition Guinness World Records book, released Thursday.

“I love being a world record holder, because I directly see the impact my actions have on my community,” Swidecki wrote on her website. “Every time I set a world record, it opens the door for more schools to include exergaming in their physical education programs as a way to fight childhood obesity.”

Swidecki, who obtained her teaching credential from University of La Verne’s Kern County campus, teaches second grade at Sandrini Elementary School in Bakersfield and has obtained grants to incorporate “exergaming” into after-school programs at Sandrini.

The records featured in the latest Guinness edition are for the “Longest Marathon on a Motion-Sensing Dance Game” and the “Longest Marathon on a Dance/Rhythm Game.”

University of La Verne President Devorah Lieberman applauded her latest world records.

“Carrie Swidecki’s accomplishments are nothing short of extraordinary,” Lieberman said. “Not only is she living proof that great things come to those who celebrate physical fitness, but she is a true role model for us all in her pursuit toward ending childhood obesity. She is a University of La Verne alumna who truly represents our core values and is making a worldwide impact. We are proud of her.”

La Verne’s Kern County Campus Director, Nora Dominguez, also expressed pride in Swidecki’s achievements.

“Carrie is not only academically influencing elementary school children. She is changing their course in life by modeling and teaching them to take control of their health while having fun,” Dominguez said.

Swidecki has set several other Guinness World Records for playing “Dance Dance Revolution,” “Dance Central 2” and “Just Dance.”

It was a journey that began in 2000 when she walked past her favorite donut shop and entered an arcade where she tried “Dance Dance Revolution.” She was 210 pounds then. Swidecki has dropped 75 pounds since she began exergaming.

“I dedicate every world record to bringing awareness to using exergaming in the schools to fight childhood obesity and inspire adults to get fit,” she wrote.