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CCPE’s Damon Named CSULB Employee Of The Month

Published: July 17, 2012

Yvonne Damon, the operations coordinator for the College of Continuing and Professional Education’s (CCPE) American Language Institute (ALI), was named recently by her co-workers as employee of the month.

Damon felt honored to be recognized. “I see myself as a very shy person, so this has been a little overwhelming,” said member of CCPE’s ALI since 2006. “This is the first recognition like this I’ve ever received and it’s wonderful that my coworkers appreciate me that much. I love working at CCPE and the American Language Institute.”

CSULB President F. King Alexander praised Damon as a key and integral member of the ALI team. “She is always going above and beyond in her duties,” he said. “Yvonne’s co-workers say she is always pleasant to work with and is always willing to help others, often sacrificing her own time to make sure everything runs smoothly.”

The ALI has provided quality international programs for more than 25 years. The first CSU Intensive English Program to be accredited by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation, ALI’s main program offers seven levels of intensive English instruction year-round.

Damon groups many of her duties under the heading “crisis management” and it’s an all-day job. A typical challenge could be a faculty member unable to connect with the Internet, which she will deal with personally, or unjamming the copier, or helping students who walk in with issues, health concerns or academic problems. “If faculty members have questions about everything from maternity leave to field trips, they ask me,” she said. “We even have a name here for the extra special crisis. We call it a TSC or `time-sucking catastrophe.’”

Dealing with TSCs has earned her the office sobriquet of “paperwork queen” with a desk that groans with “perilous piles of paperwork.” She oversees faculty contracts and ALI budgets and, with the help of a new assistant, enrolls every ALI student in all their classes. When she recently returned from a rare week off, she discovered 200-plus e-mails. “I’ve also been called an `office mom’ because I know where the Band-Aids are and I keep safety pins in my desk for faculty zipper emergencies,” she said.

Damon is proud that her co-workers speak of each other as family. “Like family, we have cried on each other’s shoulders through tough times and happy times,” she said. “This staff has been so supportive. I remember my birthday last year when my co-workers wrote nice thoughts then assembled them into a journal before presenting them as a gift. I still can’t read it without crying. We all work hard, but we are never too busy to support each other. One of the nicest things about my job is that I never hear the words `That’s not my job,’ or ‘I’m too busy.’ No matter how small the job, this staff is ready to step in and deal with it whenever they are needed.”

The ALI goal of teaching English as a second language to students from all over the world (current enrollment is nearly 300) is a source of wonder for Damon. “Students come here to improve their English in order to study at a U.S. university where they need a certain level of proficiency,” she explained. “I meet people from all over the world. This job has opened my eyes to a larger world and I have found myself learning things I never expected to know.”

Employee Of The Month Yvonne Damon
Yvonne Damon with her two daughters, Abby (l) and Faith, and CCPE Dean Jeet Joshee.

Damon first joined the ALI as a temporary office worker in May 2006. By that July, she was offered a permanent position where she remains. One reason she chose CSULB was her experience working at Idaho State University at their Pocatello campus. “I knew after working at Idaho State that I wanted to work in a university environment again,” she said. “I saw at once I would love it in the ALI and that I would love the people I would work with.”

Before joining CSULB, Damon’s careers included customer service for a major airline in such airports as Las Vegas and Ontario, and in a Laughlin, Nev., casino as a 20-something hotel manager. “That gave me plenty of customer service experience,” she laughed. “I have worked at CSULB longer than I have at any other job. I’m not leaving. I love it here.”

She is glad she chose CSULB. “This campus is a beautiful place to work,” she said. “I walk here with my daughters, Abby and Faith. We attend the Pow-Wow every year, sporting events and summer camps. It’s a great campus with an exciting and energetic environment.”

She recommends universities as the best places to work. “There is an air of energy and excitement here,” she said. “It is such a positive atmosphere. We do a job that helps people in ways that change their lives forever. When I worked at the hotel, my job was finding people a room for the night. At CSULB, I help people do something that will change their life. You can’t beat that.”

Damon received several gifts with her recognition including a CSULB sweatshirt, a $25 gift certificate to Joe’s Crab Shack, a $25 pump pass for ARCO and one free Whopper from Burger King.

–Richard Manly