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Three new staffers bring unique and rewarding contributions to the broader COCC mission

PHOTO COURTESY COCC - Career openings at COCC offer unique opportunities to a diverse field of applicants.

As a track star and aspiring artist at Arizona State University, Venus Nguyen sprinted her way through her college experience. She finished in three quick years with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in hand, and then suddenly came to a halt.

Having received a full athletic scholarship, Nguyen had studied (and raced) year-round, summers included, to utilize her funding and reach her goals quicker. But upon graduation, she struggled to connect her art skills with the working world. It was a jarring moment of feeling employment-ready and yet so distant from starting a career. She never forgot it.

"I love advising my students," explained the assistant art professor at Central Oregon Community College of helping students with their career trajectories. "This is something I am very passionate about since it is what I never received from my undergrad or even my master's program." Graphic art is her life's work, she says, but helping students find their way is what moves her.

Nguyen, who joined the department in 2020, teaches a range of classes each term, such as beginning graphic design and basic digital painting. She's been instrumental in turning a small training niche at COCC into a robust program where waitlists are common. "In two years, we've gone from one class to 12," she said. Soon, a new one-year certificate in graphics and illustration — which Nguyen initiated, expected to commence this fall term — will provide a faster path into the design industry. Some students are even getting a head start before graduating. After last year's annual student art exhibition, which moved online due to the pandemic, several exhibitors received project offers from local companies.

Nguyen's own path after college eventually led to work in art conservation at the Phoenix Art Museum, then as a freelance illustrator, and later as a creative director. She would return to school to earn a Master of Arts in illustration from the Academy of Art University and receive teaching posts at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and Yavapai College. Her athletic prowess continued as well. She competed for a dozen years on the international bodybuilding circuit, at one point ranking in the Top 10 in her category.

"I wanted to work at a place with an opportunity for growth, location did not matter," she said. "I got lucky and COCC was looking for just the skill set that I had. What I didn't expect, and have been most appreciative for, is that I have been supported with the development of our program in a new direction during a terrible time to do any kind of collaboration. Everyone's been very supportive."

A natural fit

Having spent more than a decade working in the environmental sector — from conducting monitoring projects around Lake Tahoe to overseeing watershed restoration efforts along south Portland's Tryon Creek — Sean Tevlin sought a career shift. But he wanted something that would keep him focused on the greater good. With an extensive background in grant writing and a bachelor's degree in community, environment, and planning from the University of Washington, he was a natural fit to become COCC's grants coordinator. He started at the college in early 2021.

"With my position, I get to help faculty and staff find funding to implement programs that truly make a difference in students' lives, so the work is very rewarding," he said. "And I get the opportunity to work and live in Central Oregon, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Going fishing or hiking after work in the summer or skiing before work in the winter is 'the dream' for me."

At COCC, outside funding is crucial to supporting many efforts, from the Chandler Lecture Series' speaker events to high school summer programs for underserved student populations. And a day at the office for Tevlin might involve meeting with a faculty member to discuss the seed of a grant idea; or it might require writing a data-driven summary of a college program or service. He routinely takes a deep plunge into COCC's many grant-powered activities, then sleuths the source that best fits the request. "I've learned a lot about COCC, from the early childhood education program to the details of welding equipment."

Grants typically take one to three months to complete, he says, though some can require as much as a year to orchestrate. Multiple applications are always underway, and turning a need into funding is a fulfilling job. "The staff come up with the ideas," he added, "and for me to help bring that to fruition feels pretty sweet."

Inclusive workplace

Forever in motion, Moises Viramontes covers a lot of ground at COCC. The facilities specialist, based at the college's Redmond campus, attends to the site's four different buildings — whether to fix a leak, paint a classroom wall, or troubleshoot a furnace. He also tackles maintenance projects at the Madras and Prineville campuses once or twice a month.

Viramontes isn't actually new to COCC, but he's in a new role. He began in the grounds department in 2013 and moved steadily up before joining his new department at the end of last year. "I'm really happy here," he said. "It is a respected institution and has excellent benefits, but the most important aspect for me, as a minority, has been that COCC has provided me with a safe and inclusive environment. Also, I feel as if my knowledge and special skills are recognized and appreciated."

An accomplished musician on the piano and guitar, Viramontes plays in a staff band at COCC. He has also been a music director and a pastor at his church. Although he already holds two bachelor's degrees and will soon complete a master's, all in theological studies, he's planning to go back to school and eventually become an instructor at COCC. "If you have goals, it's a good place to be," he shared. "COCC is a place for long-term, professional careers."

To view the diverse career openings at COCC, visit jobs.cocc.edu.


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