What’s on your desk? Vi Ly

Vi Ly, student accounts specialist/lead cashier at Brandman University

Vi Ly, student accounts specialist/lead cashier

For Vi Ly, student accounts specialist and lead cashier, his Irvine office is a “home away from home.” And by home, he means his family, his rescue dog Doo and his memories of Vietnam, as shown with a variety of mementos and pictures.

Lining the top of shelves are three wood wise monkey who “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.” There’s also a miniature “xich lo” cyclo. If he had remained in Vietnam, he would likely be pedaling a cyclo or working at a food stall to make a living. Also on his desk is a money tree, an easy-to-grow plan commonly used in feng shui to bring good fortune and luck to an office or home.

Ly came to the U.S. with his family in 1980. He learned to speak English in six months and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Cal State San Bernardino in 2007, two decades after graduating from high school and while working full time and supporting his family. He is the first person in his family to graduate from high school and college, opportunities he says would not have been possible if his family had stayed in Vietnam.

Working at Brandman has been “exciting, challenging and rewarding” and he uses his bookkeeping skills daily to maintain and improve the cashiering function for the university.

What’s on your desk? Niki Villaneuva Santo

Niki Santo, campus director at Walnut Creek

Niki Santo, campus director at Walnut Creek

Walnut Creek Campus Director Niki Villaneuva Santo’s desk is a study in contradictions. There’s the fountain pen and ink  (“I still believe in pen and ink,” she says) but there’s also a smart phone. There’s also the undergraduate degree in molecular biology from Harvard University and the master’s in science, religion and ethics from the University of Cambridge, symbolic of both her varied education and the years spent way from California. It was the urge to return to her California roots that took her first to the Modesto campus and then this fall to Walnut Creek.

Back in early high school, Santo never thought she would go to a four-year college. “Education for me has been a transformative process. It takes you from one place to a society of educated men and women,” she says, adding that’s as true for Brandman as it is for Harvard and Cambridge.

Transforming her desk are her “ubiquitous” tea set, an architectural drawing of Cambridge’s famous buildings (bought for $8 at a junk shop in the Bay Area) and a variety of decorations selected over time that have followed her from one office to another.

What’s on your desk? Linda Gaines-Brooks

Linda Gaines-Brooks, campus clinical coordinator

Linda Gaines-Brooks, campus clinical coordinator

Campus clinical coordinator Linda Gaines-Brooks divides her time between the Ontario and Riverside campuses where she works with student teachers. That doesn’t keep her from doing a little decorating at each place, although we only caught up with her at the Ontario office. Among her favorite desk/office companions are some of the music boxes she collects. “I couldn’t get plants to grow,” she confesses, explaining her choice for music.

A figurine of a teacher, a gift from her sister, reminds her of her own start in education as a teacher and another of an angel keeps the memory of her mother who suffered from dementia alive. And a reminder, perhaps to herself or perhaps to the students who visit her small office, hangs near the door: “When nothing goes right, go left.”

What’s on your desk? Kelli Bostwick

Kelli Bostwick helps students at the Monterey campus as a One-Stop specialist.

Kelli Bostwick helps students at the Monterey campus as a One-Stop specialist.

Truth be told, there isn’t much on Kelli Bostwick’s desk, but that in itself is a story.

Before becoming a One-Stop specialist (and now a One-Stop II), Bostwick was a social worker at the Day Reporting Center for Monterey County, working with people on county probation including recent prison parolees. Pictures of her sons (one in college, one in high school) and other personal items weren’t allowed. When the caseload doubled during the release of record numbers of state prisoners to ease prison crowding and a much tougher crowd of parolees started to show up at her desk, Bostwick decided it was time for something else. The university’s amazing view of the ocean and the Monterey wharf and a chance to still be helping people led her to Brandman. Although she’s been at work there for over a year, she’s finding it hard to shake the “no decorations” rule.

But she does have a chef’s hat thanks to Pamela Holguin, director of the Monterey campus.  “She’s our baker,” said Holguin. She’s so good that baking cupcakes and cheesecakes is one of her three side businesses. She also manages the business side of her family’s beauty salon and sells real estate. Her co-workers say she’s also the  source of encyclopedic knowledge about the Monterey-Pacific Grove area.

What’s on your desk? Alan Dumke

Alan Dumke

Alan Dumke, senior academic advisor at the Ontario campus with on of the symbolic imagery projects gifted to him.

The "You Say It's Your Birthday" gerbill.

The “They Say It’s Your Birthday” gerbil.

Alan Dumke has a plant in his office that is older than some Brandman University students. Since 1989, it has followed him from Brandman sites at Norton Air Force Base, Twenty-nine Palms, Moreno Valley and finally Ontario, where he has an entire office to decorate as senior academic advisor. Joining the hardy plant on the overflowing bookshelves are gifts of “symbolic imagery” created by students he’s gotten into English 104 classes (“I think it’s their way of getting me back,” he said with sly smile), photos of his family (his granddaughter, Parker, gets top billing), various beanie babies and a singing gerbil he brings out for staff and faculty birthday celebrations.

Tucked away on his desk, but quickly mentioned by others at the Ontario campus, is his C.A.F.E. award, given this spring for his integrity. Dumke’s nominators said he was “never too busy to stop and listen” and “in this crazy work, with many people wanting only for themselves, to work with a person like Alan allows a hope that mankind is going to be alright.”

What’s on your desk? Suzy Mix

Suzy Mix is the One Stop specialist for the Santa Clarita campus.

Suzy Mix is the One Stop specialist for the Santa Clarita campus.

Suzy Mix, the One Stop specialist for the Santa Clarita campus of Brandman University, has a view to envy from her desk on the second floor of the University Center on the College of the Canyon, the community college serving the north end of Los Angeles County. It looks out over trees, hills and a very familiar plaza. If you’ve watched the Audi A6 commercial featuring drones reenacting a scene from “The Birds,” you’ve seen what Mix can see every day.

More important to Mix, however, is the view the other direction which includes multiple pictures of her late basset hound Brutus, her current rescue dog, Hachi (a dachshund mix), and her 21 lb. cat, Mr. Pickle. They, and every Brandman student she meets, are her kids.

“I love my students,” she says. As a One Stop she guides them through financial aid and other challenges. Because she’s on the community college campus, she gets to see students in person as they start make the transition to the  next phase of their education. “They all have good stories. I feel a little maternal toward them.”

What’s on your desk? Dr. Shelly Neal

Vice Chancellor Shelly Neal

Vice Chancellor Shelly Neal

Vice Chancellor Shelly Neal, who oversees Brandman University’s strategic initiatives including Outreach, loves her job and art. “I have the best job at this university,” she said. To help explain Brandman University to visitors, she has a wall of photos dedicated to the Brandman story in her office. But just below the stenciled “every picture has a story to tell” is a favorite piece of art featuring the names and colors loved by artists.

When she’s not enjoying the university’s best job by reaching out the community to build mutually beneficial opportunities and thus growing the university, Neal likes to spend her time creating oil paintings. One of her pieces, her version of Brandman’s Irvine building, helps decorate Chancellor Gary Brahm’s office. A fan of impressionist painting, Neal is also devoted to Laguna Beach’s summer art festivals, which she says she’s been going to as long as she can remember.

What’s on your desk? José Mendoza


José Mendoza, Palm Desert One Stop specialist

The boxes aren’t his but the sign quoting Roy Disney that says “It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are” is.

José Mendoza is still settling into his desk at the new Palm Desert campus location ( 75-105 Merle Dr., Building B, a few doors down from the old office). The contents of the boxes are still waiting for the right spot elsewhere on campus. Also on his desk: a calculator, one of the necessary tools of a One Stop specialist used to keep students informed about total tuition costs, financial aid and other factors that affect their enrollment.

Mendoza has been a One Stop specialist for about two years (longer if you count his months as a temporary worker). For Mendoza, family is one of the values that makes decision-making easy for him. He made the move to Palm Desert when his wife was hired as a news anchor at a Palm Desert television station. Since then he’s also earned his M.A.O.L. from Brandman, using his experiences as a student to ease concerns of potential enrollees for whom he is often the first point of connection.

What’s on your desk? Candice Carter

Candice Carter, Community and Corporate Relations manager in Riverside

Candice Carter, Community and Corporate Relations manager in Riverside

CC-june-488When you have a 6-year-old daughter who loves art, you better have a place to show that work. For Candice Carter, a Community and Corporate Relations manager at Brandman’s Riverside campus, that means a desk and office area with a bounty of drawings from Adelle, her first-grader with “a great imaginative mind.”

“I love her so much,” said the single mother. “I want to have that here with me at work. Her drawings make me think of her. I do like to show her off.”

In addition to juggling work and a daughter, Carter is also an MBA student at Brandman. She finds having the dual role of student and manager helps others identify with her when she talks about Brandman in the community. Her daughter also loves school and learning and will be heading off to second grade in the fall.

“Fortunately I have lots of support from my family,” she said.

What’s on your desk? Mary Ann Bardoni-Barbe

Brandman University’s JBLM campus director Mary Ann Bardoni-Barbe knows exactly what it’s like to pursue a degree while serving active duty. After 28 years in the U.S. Army, she has a lot of stories to share with students and keeps a scrap book on her desk that chronicles her years of service.

What’s on your desk? Barbara Bockman

Barbara Bockman

Barbara Bockman

Two things near and dear to Barbara Bockman’s heart dominate her office at the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island campus. The campus director has been quilting for more than 20 years, but this year she has added machine embroidery to her quilting techniques. Samples of some of her recent work hangs above her desk.

Even more important are the pictures of her five grandchildren. Bockman, who earned both her master’s degree and bachelor’s from Brandman when it was Chapman University College, has three grown children, all married with children of their own. Her oldest granddaughter will graduate from high school in June.

What’s on your desk? Wendy Brown

Wendy Brown

Wendy Brown

Wendy Brown has been with Brandman University for seven years, but if her desk looks a little under-decorated, blame it on having to change locations for the Roseville campus this year. The One Stop specialist for the Roseville campus does keep a few mementos handy to remind her of some of her favorite places.

The miniature turtle is a souvenir from Hawaii and the shell reminds her of Santa Cruz, where she spent more than 20 years. Both represent the beach, which despite her years in the Sacramento Valley, still calls to her. “Sometimes you just need a beach fix,” she said. As for Mickey Mouse, he remind her of “the happiest place on earth and that’s why it’s on my desk.”

Brown makes sure Brandman students, for whom she is often the first point of contact, are also happy as they make their way through the admission process.

What’s on your desk? is a weekly feature of Brandman News Now. If you have a story about something you keep on your desk and want to be featured, send an email to news@brandman.edu.