After spending some time with Gaby Gomez-Dominquez in the biology department office, it’s easy to understand why she was awarded the 2013 Staff Excellence in Customer Service Award at California State University, Dominguez Hills. The rapport she shares with the many students and members of the faculty and staff who visit her on a daily basis is punctuated by her focused attention on addressing their needs.
“I get along with people very well. Once I came [to the university] I discovered I really enjoy talking to the students. I really enjoy helping them. And of course after working here 10 years, I know how the department works. It helps to have that background,” said Gomez-Dominguez, who celebrated that employment milestone during the Sept. 26 Staff Service Awards reception, where she was also presented with the Staff Award of Excellence.
Nominated by John Thomlinson, professor and chair of the biology department, Gomez-Dominguez is described as “indispensable” and as “consistently taking initiative and finding ways to make the department run more smoothly” for faculty, staff and biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and clinical sciences students, among others.
In support of Gaby’s nomination, Thomlinson submitted a list of 31 signatories, including full-time and part-time faculty and lab staff.
“Everyone’s response when asked if they would like to sign on was an emphatic ‘Yes’ followed by comments about how much she deserves this recognition,” Thomlinson said. “Gaby is the best administrative assistant anyone could ask for.”
Of receiving the award Gomez-Dominguez said, “It’s an honor first of all. … It’s very rewarding to know that the work I do is appreciated, knowing that I am doing a good job helping our students, helping our faculty.”
Her duties as the biology department’s administrative support coordinator extend well beyond ordering books, scheduling courses, overseeing classroom assignments, arranging the summer retreat for biology department faculty and staff, coordinating tutoring workshops for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), and collaborating with the testing office to coordinate chemistry placement examinations. She is often described as the heart of the department.
Most importantly, Gomez-Dominguez identifies her top priority as helping to advise biology majors and graduate students. She describes this work as being in concert with the advising that students receive from biology department faculty members and general advising conducted through the University Advisement Center.
“I’m more like a … pre-advisor or something,” she said, while smiling broadly.
Her positive, friendly attitude hasn’t decreased as her workload has increased in recent years. She still gives each student her undivided attention and sees each as an important individual.
“That’s one of the things I take pride in; I do try to learn their names,” she shared.
The department’s five full-time faculty members advise more than 560 undergraduate majors and 30 grad students—compared to approximately 400 students in the major in 2012. Gomez-Dominguez estimates that each week she consults with nearly 200 students in person and over the telephone.
“It’s been nonstop because we have a lot more students,” she said. “It’s not just taking appointments and questions. I have to tell students about the procedure, what classes apply toward their degree … . I’ll give them information about the major. It’s work, but when it comes to graduation time, students know where they are at.”
The students, as well as the department’s faculty and staff, are fortunate to have the Bellflower resident keeping them on course. She was already well on her way in a tech career before arriving at the university.
With a B.S. in electrical engineering from CSU Los Angeles, Gomez-Dominquez, along with her husband, CSU Dominguez Hills alumnus Felipe Dominguez (Class of ’99, B.A., history), moved to Gilbert, Ariz. in 1998 to work for Motorola’s Tempe factory. There, she created assembly “recipes” for engineers and machine operators to follow during the manufacturing of cell phones parts. Before the company downsized, laying off thousands of workers in 2002—herself included—Gomez-Dominguez’s superior customer service was already getting noticed and she was recognized with a customer service award from the factory.
With the award but without a job, she returned to her native Los Angeles. Not long after, Gomez-Dominguez learned of an employment opportunity at CSU Dominguez Hills through her husband, who had served as treasurer of the university’s student Science Society and still had ties with the organization’s faculty adviser Sofia Pappatheodorou, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.
Pappatheodorou was looking for someone proficient in math to help out on a part-time basis with administration for LSAMP. Although Gomez-Dominguez hadn’t previously thought of holding such a position, she was looking for a job, had the right combination of skills for the position, and working at her husband’s alma mater was intriguing.
She took the part-time position for LSAMP. A year later she took on an additional part-time administrative position for the biology department. A couple of years after that these duties were combined into the position she now holds.
“[The biology department] is a small community,” she said. “You really get to know the students and you get to know the faculty and staff. The department works very well, a lot of teamwork. It’s very important, especially when we are advising, that we communicate the same information to the students. Communication is very important.”
She also commented that she has enjoyed establishing alliances throughout the campus community.
“When you’re stuck on something … you can go and ask …, ‘Hey, can you help me with this?’ They are always willing to help,” Gomez-Dominguez said of colleagues. “I like that part, that you actually get to know people, and they can help you if there’s ever a problem.”
But of all the joys of working at CSU Dominguez Hills, Gomez-Dominguez said one tops them all.
“We feel very proud when we help biology students to graduate. That really does make my day,” she remarked. “You know, biology is not an easy major.”