Tina Andersen-Wahlberg, who was named last summer interim manager of the Disabled Students Programs and Services department, has brought to the position a rich academic and professional background.
Succeededing Associate Dean Joy Cook who retired after 20 years, Andersen-Wahlberg was the college’s lead high tech specialist for 17 years before receiving the promotion.
Born in Denver, Colo. and raised in upstate New York, she received bachelor’s degrees in English and French, at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa before going on to earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy at USC.
“My training was a combination of things,” said Andersen-Wahlberg. She is a credentialed occupational therapist with more than one set of professional skills who was torn between working in a spinal cord injury unit and becoming a physical therapist. Her background also includes a stint in an accounting office, a tour of duty in a burn unit and a considerably lengthy period as occupational therapist in a locked psychiatric ward for adolescents.
She was encouraged to apply for several grant training programs while completing her studies at USC, which enabled her to acquire invaluable experience that included teaching students at Santa Monica City College how to use assistive technology.
One of her internships led to another grant training opportunity in which her primary responsibility was training occupational therapy interns. She ran that program at the behest of one of her USC professors. At the same time, she taught a couple of classes at USC. Later on, she would lead a different grant training program with an emphasis on assistive technology for people with disabilities. That was a step that put her on the path to GCC and a full-time, permanent position.
“What sealed it for me,” she said, “was the opportunity to serve in the community college setting where we have students with many types of challenges relating to their disabilities.” She had spent more than three years in the field when she received a call from Joy Cook, who asked her if she knew anyone who would be interested in a high-tech specialist position. “I would,” replied the young high-tech specialist and, as the old saying goes, “the rest is history.”
Ellen Oppenberg, another USC alumna and the then-director of the Instructional Assistance Center, would work side-by-side with Andersen-Wahlberg. They shared a common vision for their students. Oppenberg, now GCC’s Workability Job Placement Coordinator, says, “Tina is a high-tech guru.”
In addition to authoring and collaborating on texts, Andersen-Wahlberg has mastered such assistive technology programs as Kurzwiel, Zoom Text, Jaws for Windows and Dragon Dictate. She has also been instrumental in the placement of five Kurzwiel 3000 programs in the Learning Center for students at large.
The high technology leader also brings a level of dedication to students that warrants notice. Rozik Avanesian, an adjunct faculty member and Senior Instructional Computer Lab Technician who has worked closely with Andersen-Wahblerg for more than a decade and a half, said, “Tina does her best to provide the students the very best services. The college made the right decision by selecting her to manage disabled students.”
GCC has more than 1,000 students with varying levels of disabilities. Some of them are working toward degrees, some are enrolled for job retraining and others have come voluntarily for personal enrichment and lifelong learning oportunities.
Andersen-Wahlberg points with pride toward the high technology advances in the employment of assistive technology that have come on her watch. Some of the projects closest to her heart are adaptive physical education classes, adaptive computer classes and study skills classes. However, she remains modest when discussing her most memorable or noteworthy achievements during her tenure in the High Tech Center. She said she is most proud of having been a member of a team that wrote curriculum which will help disabled students reach their educational goals.
“Tina knows what she’s doing,” Oppenberg said.