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Vincent  Battaglia

#260 Vincent Battaglia, Transfer to UC Riverside
(COD Alumnus)

Successful Alumnus Hires COD Graduates at his Energy Company

As an entrepreneur, Vincent Battaglia had always heard that the most difficult challenge for businesses in the Coachella Valley was that there was no place to find career-minded individuals in their 20s and 30s to be a part of a growing company.

But Vincent started to notice, during the downturn in real estate in the late 1990s, that College of the Desert was offering programs promoting not just entrepreneurism but also solid technical skills and training in careers that mirrored the way the Coachella Valley was growing.

As he was making plans to go back to school, he decided to enroll in math classes and an accounting course at COD to hone his skills.

He went on to develop the business plan for Renova Energy Corporation as part of his master’s thesis and then launched the company in 2006.

As he was trying to catch his footing, the business was growing and he needed workers, the bulletin boards at College of the Desert became his closest ally. He literally stalked the bulletin boards at COD every day, combing the note cards pinned on the board by students looking for work.

Those bulletin boards provided essential support for Renova during critical growth periods. Vincent recounts how he could bring in someone that he found on the bulletin board at COD and know exactly what career path they were on -- engineering, technical, sales or administrative. He would pull off the little index card, note the student’s area of academic study and career path, give them a phone call, discuss current job openings and more often than not put them to work. It was that simple.

“I gradually grew the company from that simple job board at COD to a $40 million company with more than 160 employees,” Vincent says.

As the renewable energy industry grew, College of the Desert established a center for workforce and career pathway development in energy and sustainability to meet the local needs. Vincent worked “hand-in-hand” with Larry McLaughlin, the Director of the Energy Center at COD, to develop a 60-hour training class, preparing solar trainees for their accreditation test. And then he put them to work.

As Renova has grown to a mid-sized company, its partnership with the college has continued to grow as well. They continue to offer tours of their campus and installations, working with COD professors to bring classes and students to see the number and variety of career opportunities available in the rapidly growing solar and battery storage industry. Summer internship opportunities are also made available to COD students, a great way to open the door to a career in the renewable energy industry. Currently, Renova boasts an estimated 120 staff members who are COD alumni.

“College of the Desert has become our solar university,” Vincent says. “You could say, we are COD.”

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Danny Owens

#259 Danny Owens
(Art Student 2011-2013)

When I first walked onto campus at College of the Desert in 2011, I didn’t have a clue where I would be or what I would be doing six years later. I didn’t even know what I wanted to major in.

Nonetheless, it was those two years at COD that helped solidify my passion for the arts and the knowledge that I was going to pursue something creative and visual. It was the days in the art building with my two favorite professors, Judith Cook & Ida Forman that helped me grasp what my artistic voice was and how to put that into physical form. I dove head first into everything art related I could find at COD. From art history classes to gallery management classes, from drawing and composition to screen printing.

Towards the end of my time at COD I was awarded a scholarship through the Marks Art Center, and I can honestly say that changed my future. I used those funds to purchase my first camera and from then on photography became my passion. I immediately saw that I could tell stories and share emotion through the lens of a camera in a way that I never had before.

I used that camera to tell stories of hope in Liberia, to create work for some of my very first clients like Gap & Budweiser, and to capture portraits of the people closest to me.

I went on to transfer to the University of Washington (UW) where I majored in Communications & Arts. There I built on the knowledge I had gained at COD and continued to follow those passions I had discovered.

Throughout my time at UW, I worked as a freelance photographer. Traveling all over on my weekends, shooting for brands and clients that allowed me to express my creativity in a tangible way. Since graduation I’ve shot some of my favorite work and partnered with people that I could have only dreamed of. From shooting portraits of Rainn Wilson (the actor behind the iconic Dwight on The Office television series), to working with artists in Seattle, NYC, Portland, & Nashville, and sharing my adventures for Alaska Airlines. It’s been a wild ride since the desert.

Now, I’ve taken everything I gained through schooling and experience to a new role at Urban Outfitters HQ in Philadelphia as their Creative Content Coordinator.

You never know where life is going to lead you, but one thing I know for sure - I wouldn’t have gotten here without COD.

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Emma Lopez de Delgado

#258 Emma Lopez de Delgado, Class of 2016
(AS 2016 - Architectural Technology AS 2016 - Architecture)

Emma Lopez de Delgado likes to work with her hands. Her father also worked with his hands, in the fields as a watermelon cutter, to provide for the family of eleven. As a child, Emma spent countless hours creating intricate paper cut outs and dreaming of becoming an architect. Her parents insisted she choose another path, concerned a woman would not succeed in a male dominated industry. So, after finishing high school, Emma put her dreams and aspirations on hold to pursue a vocational degree in computer programming, get married and make family her priority.

Years later, following a move to the Coachella Valley, Emma’s dreams of higher education and career returned. She enrolled in a class at College of the Desert, her sights set on an associate’s degree in

Architectural Technology. Even though financial and transportation obstacles made attending classes very challenging, she was determined not to set aside her dreams once again. Without access to a car,Emma hitched a ride with a friend to get to and from classes. She spent many hours on campus at the computer, making sure to complete her homework before returning home to care for her family.

Although attending college presented many challenges, Emma believes it was a blessing in her life. She credits support from family as her motivation to educate herself and become a better person. “I’m so grateful for my parents who set the example and made me the person I am today”, Emma says. “And for my sisters, who have always been there for me. And especially for my husband and son who have been by my side spoiling me, supporting me, and always ready to pick up the pieces every time I got discouraged.”

Emma also appreciates the many resources available to help students at College of the Desert, the wonderful staff who are eager to assist, and the professors who go beyond their responsibilities to help students succeed. Architecture Professor Bert Bitanga recognized Emma’s talent and determination early on and encouraged her to stick with it. “I’m very, very proud of her”, Professor Bitanga says. “There are many students we see each year in our classrooms, and then there was Emma. Every class she took with me, she excelled. I know how hard she worked and I am certain she will succeed.”

Two years after starting her degree program, Emma made it to the top of her class. She was selected student speaker, graduating with a 4.0 grade point average. At commencement, with more than 25 proud family members alternately crying and cheering her on, she delivered an emotional speech filled with hope and inspiration. “Never give up, she told the largest graduating class in COD history. You can believe in your dreams.” As Emma heads to Cal Poly Pomona to pursue a four year degree in architecture, she knows the challenges are not all behind her. But, she also knows hard work will see her through.

“I can say with certainty that dreams do come true because I am now one step closer to fulfilling mine.”

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Amy Hetherington

#257 Amy Hetherington, Transfer to CSULB
(ADN 2007 Nursing - Nursing Faculty )

When I first arrived to the desert with my husband in 2000, I was unsure of what my long term career path would be. We had relocated from Bogota, Colombia and were not only new to the desert, but also to the U.S. I had an undergraduate degree in communications, but was unsure on this career path and could not identify employment opportunities. My first job as an adult in the U.S. was at a locally owned video rental chain. It was fun, it helped pay our bills, but it was not my preferred career path. I luckily had also trained in esthetics in Colombia and was able to eventually find work as an esthetician at a local spa. As I worked in this environment I was becoming very drawn to health sciences. A client encouraged me to look into a career in nursing. The following day was a pivotal moment in my life. I met with a counselor at COD, and soon I was on my way to my career as a nurse. I am forever grateful to the counselors at COD for helping me pursue my education. I am also indebted to the desert community for the many grants and donations given to COD; I was part of a local grant funded cohort of evening and weekend registered nursing program, and graduated with my ADN in 2007. I was able to then transfer to the CSUSB RN-BSN program, which later propelled me into a MSN program. Most recently I graduated from Brandman University with my doctorate in nursing practice and a clinical focus as an adult acute care nurse practitioner. I have worked in many roles at different hospitals and facilities locally in my ten years as a nurse. I am proud to say that I have returned to COD to be a part of the nursing faculty. I am delighted to inspire, educate and develop a passion for the nursing science in our future nurses. For me, it all started here at College of the Desert.

Dr. Amy Hetherington, DNP, APRN, AGACNP-BC

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Courtney Doussett

#256 Courtney Doussett, Staff
(Professor, Kinesiology)

From military forces to college courses, Professor Doussett continues to serve

It’s been a long and very interesting journey to where I am today, but it’s all been worth it to be able to make a difference at College of the Desert.

I served as an Arabic linguist and sergeant in the U.S. Army, where I spent five years in places such as Georgia and Egypt. Those years helped me find my calling. In the Army, I had the opportunity to develop a physical fitness and wellness program for soldiers that were either injured or needed help passing the physical fitness exam. I quickly realized that I wanted to continue to help people in a health and wellness capacity.

The most difficult transition for me was coming out of the military, having a family and two young kids, and trying to get back to school. I really struggled with just getting past the front gate. I finally took the advice of family members and friends to start small, so I began taking a couple online courses at San Bernardino Valley Community College. It took me several years as a part-time student to transfer to Cal State San Bernardino and start attending full-time. I don’t think it ever became easier, but I found more people that supported me along the way.

I can’t say enough amazing things about the counselors, instructors, fellow students, and family that helped me through the process. The G.I. Bill afforded me the opportunity to complete my college education and the Veteran’s Counseling Services helped me stay on course.

As for what led to teaching? Something clicked. It’s really that simple. I had to get field work hours as part of my bachelor’s degree program at CSUSB and ended up doing classroom observations at a local elementary school. I knew I loved the teaching part but still wasn’t exactly sure it was the direction I wanted to go until I ended up interning at COD in the Kinesiology Department. The students, the atmosphere, the discussions. That was it for me. I knew I wanted to teach college students. It felt like home. And it still does.

I am proud to step up for COD, which has helped me pursue my career and can help you, too.

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