New ASO adviser goes back to his roots

Curtis Smtih, the new Associated Students Organization adviser, sits in his new ASO office on Sept. 9. Photo by: Monica Salazar
Curtis Smtih, the new Associated Students Organization adviser, sits in his new ASO office on Sept. 9. Photo by: Monica Salazar

Curtis Smith’s involvement with Pierce College, which includes his more-than-a-decade-long employment record with the campus, can be traced back to his time as a student in the early 1990s.

As a Brahma, then-24-year-old Smith was an active member of the honor society Alpha Gamma Sigma (AGS) and a senator for the Associated Students Organization (ASO).

Since then, he has worked as both a temporary and permanent proctor for the Assessment Center, a student services assistant and a student services specialist.

Smith now goes back to his roots as he takes on the role of adviser to the ASO, succeeding Brad Saenz, who has held the title since 2004. Saenz stepped down from the position after acquiring a full-time teaching position at Pierce.

“[Being ASO adviser] falls under my job description duties of student services specialist,” Smith said, referring to his current position within the counseling department.

ASO, Pierce’s student government, represents the school’s student body in committees and organizations around campus.

Though Smith hasn’t been directly involved with student government since his stint as an ASO senator in his college days, he was chosen by Vice President of Student Services Alma  Johnson-Hawkins to take over the position partly because of that experience.

“She knew that I could typically work on my own and that I’m always looking for a new challenge,” Smith said.

Smith says that his participation with other organizations on campus — in addition to co-chairing the Pierce College Council, he is a member of the work environment and technology committees and former vice president of the staff guild — will prove beneficial as he tackles his new role as ASO adviser.

“I have heard ASO’s concerns over the years as they’ve come to PCC and expressed concerns there,” he said. “I’ve seen over — especially over the last five years being an officer in the union — what some of the staff’s struggles have been and in some ways, they’re not far from what the students’ struggles are. We’re all looking for equality. We’re all looking for what’s best for us in a sense, and what’s best for our students.”

Smith also expects his connections with the Pierce staff he’s worked with to work in his favor.

“I consider myself pretty well-connected, and I’ve worked many years to gain respect from staff, faculty and administrators, so hopefully my working relationship with the campus at large will allow me to try to work out [whatever issues we might have],” he said.

Smith, who will be keeping his position with Pierce’s Assessment Center, says he is comfortable with leaving his office in the hands of his “great staff” while attending his ASO duties.

“I’m always down the street,” he said. “If there’s a problem they can always give me a call.”

Smith aims to devote as many hours as he can to his new advisory position.

“One, I have 20 years of catch up to do, and two, I’d like to start working with the ASO [toward] their goals to find out what they want to do and where they want to go. I need time to do that,” he said.

As a newcomer to the position, Smith says that his biggest challenge will be to catch up.

“I talked to the ASO officers and we met, and I let them know, ‘if I don’t know the answers I’ll get them for you,’” he said. “‘Give me a little time. I’ll catch up and we’ll move forward.’”

With Saenz planning to stay involved with ASO by way of advising AGS and sitting in as a faculty representative in the student government’s financial committee meetings, the group will still have his support.

Saenz hasn’t worked closely with Smith in the past, but he says that Johnson-Hawkins “picked a pretty good person.”

“He works really well with students,” Saenz said.

This sentiment is echoed by ASO President Gus Sandoval.

“He’s only been here [since Sept. 3] but to say that he hit the ground running would be an understatement,” Sandoval said. “It’s apparent that [Smith] has continued his passion for the students and organizations like ASO. I really feel that we’re going to get a lot done.”

For now, Smith is focusing on familiarizing himself with his new position.

“My typical philosophy when moving into any position is: learn it, and then decide what you’re going to do,” he said. “There’s a good possibility I could make tons of changes or a possibility I could make no changes. I won’t know until I know what the job entails exactly and that comes with a bit of time.”