When I was going through high school, I was a slacker (at least for the first half of my high school career). Because of my lackadaisical attitude towards school along with financial reasons, my college options were very limited. It was only because of those things that I was hesitant to enroll at College of the Desert. However, after a long and thoughtful discussion with a past high school teacher, I made the decision to enroll at COD in the summer of 2012. I am proud to say that going to COD was quite possibly the greatest decision I have ever made in my academic career.
Even after I had enrolled, I remained uncertain because of all I had heard during high school, including how people couldn't get any classes and were not finishing it out. I was very hesitant but with my mother behind me helping me with registering for courses and my father also going to COD, it made my transition a lot easier and helped me to create a strong work ethic.
Because of this strong work ethic, not only was I able to graduate in two years time, but I was also accepted to U.C. Berkeley to attend in Fall 2014 to study economics. I was also fortunate enough to graduate alongside my father, which was one of the best experiences of my life.
I began attending College of the Desert (COD) after academic disqualification from U.C. Davis. The professors at COD gave me back my confidence while teaching me about my intended field of study. After transferring and graduating from Cal State San Bernardino, I was accepted to the University of Redlands for my MBA. My next goal is to obtain a doctoral degree in business and help students as others have helped me.
#195 Brian McGowan, Class of 1996, Transfer to University of California Riverside
(Alumnus, former student body President)
College of the Desert (COD) holds a very special place in Brian McGowan’s heart. “The College literally changed my life and I will always be grateful for the opportunity it offered me,” he says. Brian was at a cross roads having just moved to the desert from the East Coast and was not sure what he was going to do with his life. Shortly after he enrolled at COD, it became clear that he was in the right place. Brian credits two professors who challenged him to dream big and believe in himself and classes in mass media with Dr. Roy Wilson and English with Susie Zachik Smith for inspiring what became a lifelong interest in government administration.
COD also offered Brian the opportunity to apply these new interests and skills. He was elected student body Vice President and then President working with the Board of Trustees and administration officials to help run the college. Brian eventually transferred to the University of California, Riverside where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in political science and then went on to earn a Master’s degree at the Claremont Graduate University. Most importantly, Brian says, COD is where he discovered a passion for public service which ultimately led to serving our country as a Presidential appointee in the U.S. Department of Commerce and in the White House.
As an economic developer, Brian believes there is a very direct correlation between the educational levels of residents and the rate of economic growth for communities. “College of the Desert fuels your local economy because it creates opportunities for wealth creation and new jobs,” Brian said. “It also strengthens the regional economy and helps businesses stay on the competitive cutting edge in a complex global economy.”
And for its students, the College paves career pathways and serves as a springboard for upward economic mobility. “That’s what it did for me and is another important reason to Step Up for COD.”
My father, Chuck Hayden told me one of the best roads to travel was the road of higher education. My Dad knew what he was talking about as he served for 29 years on the College of the Desert Board of Trustees. His wisdom, my hard work and what I learned at the College has not failed me. I went back to school as a non-traditional student in my early thirties as a recovering drug addict. I spent my twenties addicted to meth and completely hopeless. After my son's mother died, my parents took him and me into their home as I started on a road to recovery. This recovery included going back to school. I started at COD in the certificate program to become a substance abuse counselor. I did very well in those studies, finished, and took a job following at a local substance abuse rehab. However, I longed to continue my education. After a few years, I returned to COD and started a general credits program. My aim was towards transferring to a four year university. The COD career and education counselors, along with my parents and son, kept me on track and in a few short years I was headed to U.C. Riverside where I graduated with a BA in Political Science. From there I went to law school in Denver Colorado, passed the bar and am now practicing law as the Chief Deputy District Attorney for my small bit of heaven, La Junta, Colorado.
When I was laid off from a dead-end job in the gaming industry, I heard that College of the Desert had a program in renewable energy so I contacted Larry McLaughlin to see when the next class was available. I attended the next ten and a half week program at the Desert Energy Enterprise Center (DEEC) in Palm Springs, completed the course and received a certificate. Because of this training, I went on to do volunteer work for Grid Alternatives, a non-profit that provides free solar systems for low-income homeowners. There I acquired additional skills that allowed me to get a job in the solar industry. I began as an installer and now I am a system designer. I'm very grateful to COD for offering this certification course. It changed the direction of my life.