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Coast To Coast

Coast To Coast

Thursday, January 30, 2014

“It feels great to be back!” said Kate Mueller upon her return to OCC this month after spending 15 months as an administrator for Al Rowdah Academy in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Mueller took a leave of absence as OCC’s Dean of Student Services to serve as chief academic administrator for the academy at the Institute of Applied Technology, where she was responsible for curriculum, program review, accreditation, faculty oversight and policy recommendations.

“It was a good experience, but it was a long way from home,” she added. While in Abu Dhabi, she lived with her brother, sister-in-law and nephew. “It gave me a base.”

Her husband, Tim, visited several times and the couple took the opportunity to visit Nepal and Jordan.

“OCC still feels like home,” Mueller said. “People have been more than welcoming.”

She returned to the states on January 1, and was back in her office on January 8 with a new assignment: Dean of Special Projects. She is ramping up the college’s Degree Works program that will create an electronic educational plan for every student by semester’s end.

The program is tied into the District’s Banner program and will enable students to access their educational plans online. What Mueller likes about the new project is giving students the ability to have their educational plans “at their fingertips,” including a “what if” scenario that tells students what classes they would need to take if they changed majors.

“It’s a very cool tool,” Mueller said, and it will help the college collect needed data.

This semester OCC will offer large group workshops in addition to individual counseling to help students create their electronic educational plans.

While she was in Abu Dhabi, Mueller stayed in touch with friends and colleagues using an online blog and posting occasionally to her Facebook page, which she didn’t use much before she left campus more than a year ago.

Cities in Abu Dhabi have modern amenities and 85 percent of the population includes “expats,” people from other countries throughout the world from Southeast Asia, China, Egypt and other non-Western countries. Americans and Europeans were in the minority. The largest European expat population is from the UK, according to Muller, “but my personal experience was that – most of the time as an American – I was in the minority in both social and work settings.”

Finding your way around the city was also a challenge, Mueller observed. Often there are no street signs, and when a street does have a sign, it frequently has multiple names. Buildings don’t have numbers.

Dress is conservative for women, but they do not have to wear head coverings and full length garbs unless they are entering a mosque.

Although gasoline is cheap, gasoline stations are scarce. It was not unusual to wait in long lines to fill your tank, Mueller said.

The OCC administrator admits that she is “still digesting” her experience in the United Arab Emirates and hopes someday to apply it to her work at Coast.

Mueller won national recognition in 2011 when she received the National Community College Professional Award from Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA). She is recognized as a leading expert on student learning outcomes (SLOs), program review and behavioral assessment teams.

As Dean of Student Services, Mueller was instrumental in establishing programs that support student success, including the Pirate Referral Program (PRoP) that helps students in crisis. She was also recognized as an “Amiga de Puente” or “Friend of Puente” for mentoring students in OCC’s Puente program.

Mueller joined Coast as dean of students in 2001. She earned a B.A. degree in comparative literature at Scripps College and completed an M.S. in counseling at California State University Long Beach. In 2008, she received a doctorate in education from the University of Nebraska.