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Faculty and Staff Continue Their Education

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Steve Aten Image

Maintenance Repair Specialist Steve Aten has studied the Culinary Arts for three semesters.

One of the four core themes in the mission of Truckee Meadows Community College is “Access to Lifelong Learning,” and staff members from departments spread across campus believe in this value wholeheartedly—taking further classes in subjects from accounting, to yoga, to culinary arts.

Learning to Work Among an Intergenerational Team

Steve Aten, Maintenance Repair Specialist, has so far completed three semesters of coursework in the Culinary Arts. He has taken the basic skills classes, including kitchen equipment, sanitation and food safety, culinary math (weighing and pricing), and Tech I and II that introduce cooking skills and a progressively more difficult group of recipes, types of cuisine, and baking.

“I’ve always liked cooking and would like to prepare really good plates for my friends and myself,” Aten said. “The kids, my fellow classmates, were really nice and supportive.”

He found that taking the courses have given him the chance to meet a diverse set of interesting people, including the youthful set—they’re energetic and many are already working in the culinary field.

“I complemented them when they did something great, ‘show me how you did that,’” Aten said. “Final dinners were really fun—they were stressful—but it’s a team effort and Chef Cannan and Chef Rodrigue were really supportive,” Aten said. “Tech I and II have final dinners that are fundraisers for the program, held in the Golden Frog on an evening near the end of the semester.”

The final dinners comprise seven- or eight-course smaller, unique dishes. And during these finals—cliffhanger moment—something on a small disaster scale typically occurs.

“Something always happens that you need to fix, like when the class before us used all of the onions and garlic,” he said. “We scrambled, and it’s kind of exciting, you get to use your imagination to use another ingredient, something different.”

Learning to Empathize with Students and Broaden Perspectives

Jill Channing, Ph.D., Dean of Liberal Arts could not imagine her life without continued learning.

“My main interest, as well as my main goal in life is to learn,” she said. “As a lifelong learner who wishes to remember what it’s like to be a student, I’ve continued to take college courses throughout my life.”

For Channing, empathizing with students is a highlight of lifelong learning.

“I have to keep up with homework and attending class despite my busy work schedule,” she said. “This has helped me to be even more compassionate and understanding of our students. Another highlight would be the relationships I’ve developed with others as a result of taking these courses. Attending classes gives students opportunities to make friends and engage in the social nature of learning.”

Soon after arriving at TMCC in mid-2016 from her previous position in Illinois, she enrolled in an evening yoga class to increase physical flexibility and strength.

“Mind-body exercise is an important component of living a healthy life,” she said. “I’ve found meditation linked to breathing and movement refreshing.”

Channing is now taking a fine arts course.

“I’m currently taking a printmaking class, where I’ve been granted the opportunity to explore my identity through art,” she said. “I enjoy expressing myself in diverse ways. Also, with art, I’m given an opportunity to focus on learning in new visual and tactile ways.”

Learning for Career Development

Tara Hawkins decided to take an accounting class toward an additional degree, and a career enhancement. She is now a Senior Accountant in Accounting Services.

“I decided to take ACC 202: Managerial Accounting to refresh myself before I went on to get my accounting degree from the University of Nevada,” she said. “I had a career change in September 2017 and as a result, I want to get my accounting degree so I can sit for the CPA exam.”

Hawkins wanted to brush up on managerial accounting to make her even more successful in the upper-level courses. She is sure that taking the course at TMCC was the right decision.

“What I liked most about this class was the instructor,” she said. “Lisa Buehler is one of the best instructors I have ever had in my entire educational career. She's very knowledgeable, teaches the class in an easy to understand format, and she's engaging. She's always willing to help you understand the material. I would highly recommend her to anyone wanting to take accounting or needing to take accounting classes at TMCC.”

Learning for Fun and New Experiences

Dawn Ingraham, Sciences Division Executive Assistant, has recently taken the course Culinary Arts 195: Food and Wine Pairing.

“The best part of the experience was getting to know each and every grape, and the history,” she said. “The students and colleagues I got to share the experience with couldn’t have been any better.”

Ingraham found that she learned so much more than she first expected. One thing that stands out for her is that the class helped her become more open to challenge preconceptions.

“If you think you ‘don’t like’ that wine, try it—food and wine will give you a better culinary experience if they are paired properly; even popcorn and hot dogs can go well with wine,” she said.

The class was taught by Rebecca Davidson, TMCC Instructor and a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators. Even though the class was thoroughly enjoyable for Ingraham, it also involved some serious homework.

“It was a great class and not easy,” Ingraham added. “I have a collage of each night from a classmate and me that I’ll cherish forever. I also have a better sense of how to choose all sorts of different wines; even ones I would have never touched before.”


Additional contributions about lifelong learning are welcome for inclusion in future Good News stories. Faculty, staff and students are welcome to share their experiences with the TMCC community.