Pierce offers much more than general education classes

Looking through the Pierce College course catalogue can be overwhelming and in a haste to find that English or Math class students frequently overlook some of the more intriguing courses that our campus has to offer.

Professor of Geology Stephen Lee, 64, teaches oceanography, a course that incorporates aspects of geology, chemistry, biology and physics. It covers how a major part of our world works and the ocean is still a largely mysterious place, even to the scientific community.

“Being California residents, it’s hard to imagine not having some interest in the ocean,” Lee said. “What we try to do is take a look at the ocean from a scientific point of view, but also what local conditions are like and what the local ocean is all about. So hopefully it’s about how our home works and what conditions are like here.”

Certain classes are part of a larger program that earns a certificate designating qualification in the field of work. The Industrial Technology department offers certificates in its automotive and welding courses.

Tom Fortune, 59, is an associate professor of automotive technology and chair of the Industrial Technology Department where ten basic core classes make up an automotive certificate. Several more courses go beyond the core including hybrid technology, alternative fuels and fabrication classes with additional certificates.

“If you like cars, there are great careers in automotive,” Fortune said. “We have an articulation agreement with Cal State LA and the major would become industrial technology power and transportation.”

Many even begin working right out of Pierce with an associate degree. The courses also make up the necessary foundation to expand into what Fortune calls “clean work.” These days many of the systems in cars are managed by a computer, Fortune said.

“There’s a lot of electronics, electronic diagnostic work where you’re sitting inside a car and with a laptop and you’re online with the factory and you’re solving problems that are really software problems,” Fortune said. “It’s not just about changing oil and tires but there’s that aspect too.”

As for the welding courses, the certificate adds a level of credibility and value to its holder in the work force, according to Gary Wheeler, the senior welding instructor.

“Just been doing a little research on the average pay for a welder that is not certified and it stems from about $16 an hour to about $37 and once you become certified it goes up from there,” Wheeler said. “Some welders are making $150,000 to $200,000 a year by using the skill they’ve learned in colleges like this.”

The welding courses have been able to offer more classes and conduct safety tests on campus.

“We give an overview of all the different types of processes and some people choose to work toward a structural steel certification,” Wheeler said. “We have established last year a testing facility for the LA department of building and safety test lab.”

This semester there are classes on Saturday and there will be classes offered during the summer, which Wheeler said is a great time for students to get introduced to welding and see if they would like to continue when the fall semester picks up.

Addiction studies is another program that leads to a certificate and has the option of continuing toward an associate degree in which one can become a counselor, according to Allen Glass II, 34, faculty adviser for the addiction studies program and assistant professor of psychology.

“The focus is on much more than just alcohol and drug dependence. It’s a clinical psychology program designed to train students to become clinical counselors,” Glass said. “There is an emphasis on addiction but addiction covers a wide range of both behaviors and substances and in general mental illness and mental health challenges.”

The certificate program consists of 36 units. Upon completing those units students are then eligible to take the state certification exam.

“Once they complete those 36 units of the program and pass the exam and they complete 2,240 hours of fieldwork experience they become certified counselors as recognized by the state of California,” Glass said.

The fieldwork requirement can be fulfilled by things such as record keeping, counseling, which can be group counseling or individual counseling, discharge planning, screening, assessment, and treatment planning.

“It’s very similar to what would be required from the Board of Behavioral Sciences for a social worker or MFT (marriage and family therapy) license,” Glass said.

Another little-known class teaches broader, less technical skills. Mia Wood is an associate professor of philosophy and teaches symbolic logic, whose subject might not be obvious from the name alone.

“Symbolic logic is a course devoted to the study of language in relation to deductive modes of reasoning,” Wood said. “You study systems of deduction and the general goal is whoever comes out of the class has among other skills developed the skill of reasoning in a strategic and logically correct fashion.”

There are usually around four sections of the class in a semester. A majority of those who take the class are pre-law and computer science majors, but being able to reason well is something useful across all disciplines, Wood said.

“Studying how to reason in a very technically correct and sophisticated way is going to aid you in anything you do,” Wood said.  “I wouldn’t want a surgeon who couldn’t reason well.”