Professor Receives Distinguished Faculty Award

PAULINE GUIUAN
El Vaquero News Editor

Outgoing, active, energetic and a forward thinker: this is how Brett Miketta, this year’s Distinguished Faculty Award (DFA) recipient, is described by his colleagues and students. This computer science/information systems professor can often be seen pacing around a San Rafael classroom, peering over students’ shoulders as they work on their computers, instructing in his usual animated, enthusiastic manner.

Miketta was chosen for the award by the college’s Academic Senate last semester, and was recognized at last June’s commencement exercises. He gave a DFA presentation titled “Invasion of Privacy: Digital Tracks in a Networked World” on Oct. 19.

“We’re very excited and very grateful that someone in our division has been recognized,” said Linda Serra, chair of the GCC business division. “Brett is very well-deserving. He’s always been an absolute star performer and continues to be [one].”

A former GCC student himself, Miketta has been teaching computer science classes for more than 16 years now. He is the co-author of a top-selling textbook on information systems, “Understanding Computers Today and Tomorrow,” and was one of the first instructors to teach a fully online course at the college.

Miketta was born and raised in the Glendale area. “I grew up in La Crescenta,” he said. “My wife grew up in Glendale, and we both went on to Glendale College.”

Miketta said that he and his wife, who is now an elementary school teacher, met and hit it off during professor Joseph Puglia’s “wilderness adventure” class, a backpacking trip through several states. Puglia was later the best man at Miketta’s wedding.
“My connection with the college has been here forever,” said Miketta. “It will never go away. My fondest memories during my educational experience were at Glendale College.”

The professor said that his instructors at GCC inspired him to become an educator himself. “There’s no doubt that the best professors I ever had were [also] at Glendale College. I had awesome teachers here.”

One particularly influential teacher was art history professor emeritus Leonard de Grassi, who was also a Distinguished Faculty awardee. “When I took his class, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue in education,” Miketta said. “He brought life into the class. Everything he does was like multimedia before multimedia was cool. That’s what made me think, ‘Oh, education is the best.'”
After GCC, Miketta went on to University of Southern California (USC), where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in business administration. He later earned his master’s degree from Claremont Graduate School. He then worked for a few years in the aerospace industry.

Miketta taught the second online course at GCC, taking his cues from real estate department coordinator Walt Huber, who taught the first online class and apparently warned Miketta that it would be “a lot of work.” At that time, only 12 students enrolled in Miketta’s class.

He said that in his experience, hybrid courses, which are classes that require students to spend some hours in the classroom and the rest of the time doing online coursework, have proven to be the most productive learning experience for his students.

“[Purely] online classes are really not where a student needs to be,” he said. “Students need to be in a hybrid course, where they can do some of the learning better on their own, while at the same time there are some things that you really need to do with them in the classroom for them to understand better, and you can tell by their body language if they understand it.”

He added that these classes, such as the introductory computer science course he currently teaches, are more convenient for working students and students who often get sick. He also said, smiling, that these classes are helpful to students who have trouble finding parking space.

The professor said that he was “totally humbled” upon receiving the award. “There are many instructors who I am sure are not only equally as deserving as me, but much more deserving than me.”
He even laughingly joked that he won because he “took the [Distinguished Faculty Award nomination] letters out of other faculty members’ mailboxes. The only one left was mine. So I knew I was going to win.”

On a more serious note, Miketta said he believes he was chosen because of his dedication, enthusiasm for teaching and use of technology.

“I love teaching,” Miketta said. “I can’t imagine a better job-I worked for a few years in the aerospace industry, and though I made a lot of money, it was work. Teaching is not work. It’s fun. I get to be in a classroom and teach students things, excite them about topics, energize them to learn about the material, get feedback from them-it keeps getting better.”

His satisfaction comes from seeing “a student come back with a good grade on an exam, and you know [he/she] really understands the material.”

Some of the other things he enjoys about working on campus are being able to play tennis and volleyball with students, go to “interesting lectures,” and attend student activities such as concerts.

Serra said that Miketta is an “excellent instructor. He’s wonderful with students and a real motivator.”

“He takes the time to help students,” said Jerry Park, one of Miketta’s CSIS 101 students. “He actually explains concepts and answers questions well. He tries to be funny. Whenever he comes to class, the first thing he says is, ‘Did anyone miss me?'”
“He’s a great teacher,” agreed Jackie Izumi, another CSIS 101 student. “He’s very hands-on and very helpful.”

Miketta said he makes the learning experience exciting for his students by “making it real.” One of his final projects for a class was for his students to decide on a job they would like to have after college, do online research on job openings, find a school where they can get the necessary education, and list the college classes they need to take to transfer and get the degree.
All the information is collated onto a database; students then publish the document on their Web site and share a Powerpoint presentation with the class. “This makes students think, ‘Where do I want to be five years from now?'” he said. “This leaves them with an idea of what they want to do.”

The professor is also extremely devoted to his family and spends most of his spare time with his four children, who, according to him, all love soccer. “We go to soccer games all day Saturday,” he said. “Then we have dinner from the folks from church.”

“He’s an excellent, excellent division member,” Serra said about Miketta. “We all hope he stays until he retires.”

“My most productive time is when I’m with the students,” Miketta said. “I’m here for the students.”