Classified professionals lauded
A 37-year employee with the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, a health and safety specialist who became a go-to expert on COVID-19 and an administrative assistant on a mission to help tackle students’ food insecurities were lauded at a district Governing Board meeting Tuesday night for worker excellence.
Laura Murphey, a business analyst with the District’s Information Technology; Francys Ropohl, health and safety specialist with Cuyamaca College; and Janice Fischer, an administrative assistant with Grossmont College’s Career and Technical Education/Workforce Development (CTE/WD) office, each received the 2021-2022 Chancellor and Classified Senate Award recognizing the excellence of classified, or non-instructional, staff at the East County college district. All three are also graduates of Grossmont College.
“This trio represents the best of our classified professionals whose skills, knowledge and collaborative efforts help us to better serve students and the community,” Chancellor Lynn Neault said. “The three award recipients strongly reflect the priority of building community within our institution in the work that they do.”
Laura Murphey, a 1985 Grossmont College honors graduate in Administration of Justice, was hired shortly after graduation by the college’s Admission and Records office, where she began as a transcript and records clerk before a promotion to systems specialist. Her familiarity with Admissions and Records has served her well over the past seven years that she has worked in the district’s IT office.
“With her long commitment to GCCCD and the colleges, Laura's breadth of institutional knowledge is invaluable,” said Kerry Kilber Rebman, the district’s interim associate vice chancellor of Technology Resources. “Laura has been the leader of a districtwide operational team that brings together employees across the district to discuss data problems and their solutions. Laura continually advocates for students and staff. When developing procedures or processes, she always thinks in terms of how students are best served.”
A lifelong learner who changed her educational focus to computers in 1990, Murphey said her greatest satisfaction at work is serving the campus communities and helping to meet the goals set for the institution.
“What I like most about my job is the fulfillment I get when I solve a complex problem for users and I see their eyes light up because I’ve made their job easier,” said Murphey, who added that a recent bout with COVID-19 was especially challenging because of her isolation from coworkers, students and faculty.
Francys Ropohl, who obtained an associate degree in Business Administration from Grossmont College, then went on to earn a bachelor’s in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from San Diego State University, has worked with the college district for more than a decade, the last year at Cuyamaca College.
“During the beginning of fall semester 2021, it was an incredibly stressful time for the Health Center, developing a contact tracing process while managing a high volume of cases,” said Lauren Vaknin, dean of Cuyamaca College’s Student Affairs office, who was one of two who nominated Ropohl for the award. “Francys joined the team at this very busy time and under her guidance and leadership, she has transformed the COVID-19 contact tracing process for the campus. As a result of her dedication, the tracing system is a seamless process.”
Michael Williams, a Campus and Parking Services specialist with the district, also nominated Ropohl for the award, praising her for her adroit handling of religious-exemption requests related to the district’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates.
“Her careful consideration for all persons at all times with such a sensitive and confidential assignment has been crucial in the college's ability to handle all of the pandemic issues,” Williams said.
Ropohl, who began working for the college district in 2010 as a parking information assistant, called her selection for the district’s top award for classified professionals an “incredible honor.”
“This award is very special because it means that the work I am so passionate about also resonates with others,” said the native of Peru, who came to the United States as a high school student, first to Seattle and then San Diego County. “What I enjoy most is building trust with students the staff and faculty. Acting as a liaison between our college community and the federal, state and local health entities is very satisfying.”
Like her fellow awardees, Janice Fischer is also a college district alum, in her case a 1987 accounting and business administration graduate of Grossmont College. After 14 years working in the Home Health division of Sharp Healthcare, she returned to Grossmont College to update her job skills through the Business Office Technology program where she was then hired as a teacher’s assistant and lab tech. In 2017, she transferred as an Administrative Assistant III to the college’s dean of CTE/WD.
“Janice has been an exceptional example of building community and ensuring our most at-risk and vulnerable students have been served during the past two years due to the Covid shutdown,” said Susan Berry, a student engagement coordinator at the Student Affairs office, who nominated Fischer for her award.
Berry praised Fischer for her constant presence at monthly food distributions organized by Gizmo’s Kitchen, the college’s student food pantry.
“When COVID-19 shut down the campus, it was still essential to ensure our students’ basic needs were being met,” Berry said, adding that this work couldn’t have happened without the weekly and monthly assistance of people like Fischer. “When I would put the volunteer call out, Janice was always one of the first ones to sign up,” Berry said.
Fischer said she is humbled by the award, noting that her volunteerism, along with the work she does in her department, are all in the spirit of doing what’s best for students.
“Mighty work is being done at Grossmont College,” the La Mesa native and resident said. “I am one of many who give their best tirelessly to improve the lives of others.”
The Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District provides San Diego’s East County with high-quality, affordable college education, workforce and career training, and job creation. Its facilities are designed to meet the needs of today's students, veterans, and employers seeking qualified applicants. In these challenging time, the district strives to provide more flexible, up-to-date campus facilities and technology to meet emerging needs and demands.
The district’s two colleges, Grossmont College in El Cajon and Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego, together serve about 24,000 students.
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