Published writing

The following is a collection of news, opinion and features writing published either in the Sacramento City Express print edition, or in the online version at Some articles were featured in both print and online.

Luke Otterstad in Citrus Heights.
Luke Otterstad, 29, from Citrus Heights, Calif.

Technicians in the sky

Federal program offers aviation internships to City College students

Luke Otterstad | Online News Editor


A retiring workforce, including more than 50 percent of the Federal Aviation Administration’s electronics technicians, is creating a crucial demand for replacement workers within the next five years, according to a City College electronics professor.

“If we allow [these] technicians to retire and don’t replace them, the technology our survival depends on will fail us in the very near future,” warned Melvin Duval, electronics professor.

The sharp rise in the retirement rate is a broader phenomenon economists say is caused by the baby boomer bust – a term describing the lack of new workers to replace older retirees because of U.S. birthrates dropping nearly half since their peak in 1957.

Working to address this problem at some level by providing essential training for replacement workers, City College is leading the way through its electronics technology program in cooperation with an FAA internship program.

City College is one of only a handful of FAA-approved colleges that offers an internship for college students known as the Technical Operations Collegiate Training Initiative. Through the TO-CTI internship, nearly 50 students from City College have gained valuable job training and experience, with three serving as interns this year, according to Duvall.

“It’s basically a part-time job,” explained student Roman Dzhangetov, who is currently an intern with the FAA. And similar to the benefits of a part-time job, Dzhangetov said interns earn about a $30,000 salary – about half of what he says graduates of the program make if hired as technicians after their training.

The state’s recent shortage of money has not directly affected the internship program, as it receives its funding through the federal government, but students who expect future City College class cancellations will likely present problems for those trying to get into the various 16 classes required by the FAA to be taken within a two-year period of time.

With a future outlook of a high demand for electronics technician jobs, Duvall encourages students to consider the field as a rewarding career with opportunities almost everywhere.

Lawmakers reckless in raising student fees

UC case creates questions about legality

Luke Otterstad | Staff Writer

The abrupt 30 percent fee increase at California community colleges is an unethical, and potentially illegal, violation of student-college contracts.

It is also a reckless way for lawmakers to attempt to force college students to make up for the state’s massive money mismanagement.

There is hope for students, however, as this is not the first time decision makers in California’s higher education system have attempted to jack fees up to compensate for their inability to manage money.

In 2003, students in the University of California system sued for breach of contract when the school raised their fees without notice. In this case, known as the Kashmiri decision, the students won a $40 million class-action judgment over the hike in fees.

The case hinged on the fact that the UC system had failed to notify students adequately in advance of the possibility of a fee increase, and thereby violated the university’s implied contract with students who had paid for classes and expected educational services in return.

Similarly, students in the California community college system who paid for fall classes before August of this year expected that, in return, they would be able to attend classes at the advertised rate of $20 per unit.

So why do decision makers for the CCC system think it should be any different with the fees they charge students?

As was the case with UCs when they raised fees, City College bills include the disclaimer: “fees subject to change without notice.”

Thankfully, in the Kashmiri decision the court stated that “such a broad reading of the disclaimers would put students at the complete mercy of the University . . . [and] the University’s position is unconscionable.”

The CCC system did not follow a reasonable process by giving students adequate notice before the start of the semester that fees might be raised and that, in this case, additional billing would be required.

Should students sue over this increase in fees, lawmakers may find that their shortsightedness has damaged the state’s economy more than it’s helped. But if no one sues — and we all just pay the fees and move on — does that make it OK?

Constitution Day event generates debate on rights, freedoms

Luke Otterstad | Online News Editor

Constitution Day was celebrated Sept. 17 and Sept. 18 at City College with a noon-hour event outside the Cultural Awareness Center, honoring the nation’s most significant founding document.

Debate ensued as the celebration’s barbecue, free cake and guest speakers were dwarfed by a back-drop of graphic photos of human abortions being displayed on the Quad.

“We must all be thankful for the freedom we have to speak and debate in the open without fear of governmental censorship,” said City College’s Associated Student Government President Steve Macias, in a statement released Sept. 17. He added, however, that “the ASG has not endorsed any one side of the debate on the constitutionality of abortion.”

But the president’s statement was not reiterated by ASG Vice President Debbie Dixon who made an unscheduled appearance on stage and expressed her anger about being associated with the anti-abortion display.

“I am highly offended,” Dixon said. “I have rights, just as they have rights to not be offended!”

Other scheduled Constitution Day presentations included City College’s cheer and dance teams, with a singing of the national anthem followed by a speech on the Constitution by Craig Deluz.

“How many of you are excited to live in the United States of America?” questioned the energetic Constitution Day speaker, as he walked onto the stage.

Deluz emphasized the importance of the Constitution in protecting the rights of minorities, and stressed that students should understand that the protections they enjoy in America are often not enjoyed in other countries.

“You don’t know how good we have it here,” Deluz said.

A $25 scholarship was awarded at the event to Zachary Turk, who was the only student to have entered an essay in a Constitution Day contest. The contest asked students to write a 500-word essay on why the Constitution is important to them.

“It’s an important issue,” Turk said. “It is the basis for all of our freedoms.”

Constitution Day is nationally recognized to raise awareness to the United States Constitution, and is required by federal Public Law 108-447, which can be found at the Library of Congress Web site (, to be observed by all federally funded institutions of learning.

This year, the event marked the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution Sept. 17, 1787.

Free pocket-sized Constitutions were passed out to students and were provided at no cost to the ASG by the California Secretary of State’s office.

Aircraft seminar to land at City College

December 7, 2009
by Luke Otterstad | Staff Writer

An aeronautics training seminar specializing in skills for future civilian professional pilots and aircraft maintenance personnel will be held at City College on the weekend of Dec. 12-13.

“We’re just trying to give the students as many advantages as we can before they go out there looking for employment,” said Phil Cypret, an aviation department professor who helped bring the seminar to campus.

The two-day Introduction to Turbojet Aircraft Systems Seminar will be presented by the Oregon-based Exceptional Aircrew Training group, and includes 13 hours of instruction for $125.

According to the seminar’s press release, some of the topics covered will be hydraulics, pneumatics, powered flight controls and other aviation-related topics.

Cypret stressed the seminar’s value in providing students with specific-industry training, commenting that City College courses in aviation only deal with the general field.

“When you’re out looking for a job—especially in a tight job market—if you have any industry training, that goes a long way in finding a job because you’ve had something the other students may not have had,” said Cypret.

“It’s pretty much a stagnant economy,” said aeronautics major Ian Lordanich.

Although the current economy is competitive for job placement in the aviation industry, Cypret said experts in the field expect significant job openings in the near future as a result of the baby boomer generation retiring from the workforce.

“Part of our job here is to make sure… we’ve got people trained and ready to step into those jobs,” Cypret said. “And that’s where we differ from the academic side; [that] side is to get people ready to transfer into a four-year degree, ours is to get them ready to enter the workforce.”

The seminar is expected to draw students at City College enrolled in the airframe and powerplant program. Successful completion of the program allows students to get a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration, which allows them to work on aircrafts, according to Cypret.

Students interested in more information can visit

iMail hit with e-mail scam

November 4, 2009
by Luke Otterstad | Online News Editor

A recent e-mail requesting iMail users to disclose their username and password has been declared a scam, according to Susie Williams, associate vice chancellor of communications and research for the Los Rios Community College District.

“We would never ask students to email us their password or any other personal information,” said Williams.

Williams recommends that students delete the message if they get.

Creative cuts save jobs

Part time faculty still hurting

October 26, 2009
by Luke Otterstad | Staff Writer

As colleges around the state are issuing layoff notices to accommodate budget cuts, City College has employed creativity in cutting costs without cutting any full-time employees.

“Our two guiding principles were to try to do the least harm possible to our students and our employees,” said Suzie Williams, associate vice chancellor of communications and research for the Los Rios Community College District, which is in charge of layoffs. She also said the district was guided by looking ahead three years in expectation of further decline in the budget.

This year, City College will save about $420,000 by cutting 2 percent of its sections, as requested by the district, according to Williams.

“Some of the sections that have been cut are taught by part-time faculty and some are taught by full-time faculty as overloads,” said Williams. “Definitely part-time faculty have been hurt; there’s no doubt about that.”

Part-time, or adjunct, faculty is paid based on the number of units taught each semester.
“Adjunct faculty whose classes were cut were more likely than full-time faculty to have a reduction in income for the semester,” said Chris Iwata, dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at City College.

However, employees at nearby community colleges are being hit much harder. Woodland Community College issued layoff notices last month to employees as it struggled to address a $1 million cut in its operating budget.

To help avoid more serious harm to its employees, a 15-20 percent reduction in activity by all departments and programs has been planned at City College, according to Iwata, whose department has helped reduce its activity through cutting back on supplies and limiting travel.

As for the recent $6-per-unit fee increase this semester, the additional revenue is not being seen at City College, as Williams says this money goes into the state’s general fund directly, rather than to the college where the tuition was initially paid.

According to Amanda Hamilton, public information officer for City College, a wise use of reserve funds has helped the college avoid layoffs and weather the budget crisis that’s taken California by storm.

An additional 2 percent of sections are expected to be cut next semester.

Scholarships offered in Constitution Day essay contest

Students to write on founding document’s importance

Luke Otterstad | Online News Editor

Students writing an essay on why the United States Constitution is important to them could win a $25 scholarship as part of the Sept. 17 Constitution Day celebration put on by City College’s Associated Student Government.

The 500-word essay must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15 and will be judged by a committee of ASG members and faculty for content and style.

Three contestants will be chosen to each win a $25 scholarship which can be used in either the City College cafeteria or bookstore.

Essay submissions must include a full name, student ID number, phone number and email address and can be submitted via email to or dropped off in person in room SG 226.

For more information, visit:

The empowerment of the African women

Presentation changes perceptions on women’s status

November 9, 2009
by Online Editor | Editor

Traffic jams, massive homes, airports and politically active women—not images the general public typically associates with Africa. However, after a six-month trip to several African countries,
Sierra College professor Winsome Jackson brought back a unique perspective that blew away many stereotypes students had about Africa.

“The one thing I would say is the people are warm, they’re friendly, they’re inviting, they’re supportive, they’re bright… they’re just amazing people,” explained Jackson when asked to sum up her experience in Africa.

While the topic of Jackson’s Oct. 20 discussion in the Cultural Awareness Center was labeled “The Role of Women in African Politics and Development”, her presentation largely consisted of a slideshow of various locations she visited, with a focus on Ghana and Rwanda, including some highlights of women’s involvement in politics.

Prominently featured in her slides were photos revealing Ghana’s horrific past, searing into students’ minds the massive coastal slave-trading castles, which were once used to export African slaves around the world.

Keeping with the title of her presentation, Jackson discussed the rise in female political leadership, highlighting the 9 percent increase in female members of the Ghana parliament, and the election of its first female speaker.

During the final portion of Jackson’s presentation, a focus was brought on the prominence of women in political leadership in Rwanda, a country largely known for its history of horrific violence between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.

The 1994 Rwandan genocide left 800,000 people dead, leaving women as 70 percent of the country’s population, Jackson explained. She credits this tragedy, however, as being a primary catalyst for a rise in female leadership around the country.

“The country’s attitude about gender was transformed as a result of the genocide,” Jackson says.
She highlighted that women now make up a majority of the parliament in Rwanda, a feat which drew worldwide attention.

“The Rwanda constitution [now] says you must have a minimum of 30 percent female representatives,” adds Jackson.

Jackson noted additionally that it’s not just in political leadership that women are gaining positions; they are also taking the lead in private business, with the World Bank reporting Rwanda as home to the second highest number of female entrepreneurs.

But this shift in gender roles hasn’t made everyone happy. Jackson explained that many in Africa hold firmly to deeply rooted beliefs, resulting in concern about a rise in female leadership from leaders like Ghana’s Most Reverend Charles Palmer-Buckle.

“The motherly role of the African woman who is the homemaker must not be overlooked,” the reverend explains. The two-hour presentation left students with a new perspective of African culture and politics, one that parallels—or to some, surpasses—their experience in America.

“It was very revealing, [and] showed a new side of industrialized Africa,” says economics major Elliot Allen.


Leave a Reply