Pierce Pioneer

Tacoma Public Library and Seattle Public Library announce a reciprocal borrowing agreement

On March 29, 2021, Tacoma Public Library and Seattle Public Library announced they would have a reciprocal borrowing agreement. People who have a library card with TPL and a government issued ID can now get one with SPL. 


According to SPL’s library card FAQ, previous availability went only to people who lived, worked, went to school or owned property in Bothell or King County. Other libraries made reciprocal borrowing agreements with SPL in the past, and now TPL is added to that list. 


Applications for an SPL card are available at any SPL branch or online at their website. Once approved, readers can check out and put up to 25 e-books and e-audiobooks on hold, as well as 50 physical items on hold. Physical items on hold must be picked up at a SPL branch. This process is the same for SPL patrons getting a TPL card as well. According to both libraries, they are not charging overdue fees—only fees for lost or damaged material. 


Most TPL are still closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, there is hope for people who miss the calm environment of the library. “Fern Hill Library and Swasey Library are now open for visits by appointment or walk-in,” TPL stated. TPL Now updates regularly on the availability of services being offered at TPL. 


This is a wonderful partnership, and people should take advantage of this wider access to library catalog as more libraries continue to open up.

COVID-19 Self-Test Kits available at local libraries

On April 14, 2021, Tacoma Public Library and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department partnered up to offer free self-administered COVID-19 test kits, with library cards not being required. The kits can be picked up at any TPL location during their service hours, or by speaking with a librarian at one of their branches; it is unclear if the Eastside Community Center is included.

Afterwards, the kit can be registered online using the included instructions. Once that is complete and the test has been administered, the kit can be dropped off at a UPS store or UPS drop box. Postage has been included since it is required that the kit be mailed to UPS the same day it is taken. TPL advises those interested to not bring kits back to the library after picking one up.

This is a great way to give people more flexibility and privacy while also being safe. For more information regarding TPL’s pickup services and schedules, visit TPL’s Events calendar.

The student media teams are searching for creative co-workers.

It’s great opportunity for someone looking for part-time employment within the college that offers a flexible schedule. Students who work for the media teams will bring new voices to publications to give us fresh perspectives.

This is a work-from-home opportunity until campus reopens.

  • Starting pay: $13.94/hr
  • Starting hours: 10-15hrs/week

Positions begin in late August and will continue throughout the 2021-22 school year.

Positions Available:

Online Manager: The student responsible for the look and content on the website.

Social Media Manager: The student who creates the content for the social platforms.

Writers: The students who research, interview, and write stories.


Team members need to take 10 credits each quarter from fall to spring and maintain a 2.7 grade point average.

Contact adviser Teresa Josten at [email protected] for more information or detailed job position descriptions.


Students and professors share their experiences switching from in-person classrooms to fully virtual learning one year after the fact

On March 16, 2020 Pierce College closed its campuses to students following the sudden uprising of COVID-19 cases in Washington State. One year later, Pierce College has proceeded to do its teaching virtually. 

Announcements to continue in person teaching have since been extended to a small number of classes for Fall 2021. As Pierce prepares to bring students back to campus step by step, and other campuses and school districts begin to open their doors, many students and staff at Pierce feel as though the overall transition from being in person to fully online was mostly successful. 

While some issues regarding communication and overall engagement brought mixed feelings for some, the general consensus seemed positive, with part of this being due to the accommodations made by professors. For Jade Dickinson, writing tutor and Running Start senior, she’s felt that Pierce College has done the best they could do, given the circumstances.

“Pierce and its professors have a strong commitment to quality,” Dickinson said. “I find that I have still been learning in my online classes and that most of the professors that I’ve come across have been really understanding. [However] I know that’s not the case for every professor.”

Dickinson can recall earlier March of 2020 when Pierce first closed its campuses and transitioned to online learning. “At the beginning of the pandemic, everybody was really really confused—including Pierce,” Dickinson said. 

“I remember, we actually went online four days before classes ended and I had to do my last week of classes online. I think there was just so much fear around what could happen and we didn’t know anything about the virus. We barely knew how it spread, and we didn’t even have a mask mandate at that point.”

Mika Asiag, another Running Start student, also thought Pierce handled it well but felt that not everyone likes online learning and would have preferred other methods instead of fully online classes.

“I think they honestly could have done hybrid,” Asiag said. “I just feel like not everyone likes online learning—especially me. I hate online learning, and it’s hard for me to grasp ideas when [I] have to learn on [my] own.”

Students were not the only ones affected by the switch to online. For math professor Claire Gibbons, Ph.D., she’s been trying to view the whole ordeal in a positive light, not just for herself, but for those around her as well. “I think if I have the privilege, that I need to be using that to make a good situation out of this,” Gibbons said.

“If I’m just kind of feeling bad for myself—when I actually have so much—I don’t think that is the right way to handle it. The empathy that I can feel for my coworkers who are going through this I can try to share with my students, because my students also might have things going on at home—they might have kids, they might have jobs. I have lots of stuff that’s been impacted,so to be warm and understanding of that is good I think.”

Gibbons shared how a small disconnect between admin and higher-ups and the actual experience of faculty in their classes felt present at times. Overall though, Gibbons is grateful that Pierce was able to provide the needed support for this transition. “I think that [the higher-ups have] done a lot, especially with transparent communication and trying to be as supportive as possible; so I’ve been overall really impressed, personally.”

For math professor Cody Fouts, this was his first time having to teach full time online. Fouts had to adapt his class to online, as he’s been attempting to find different methods of teaching that may help his future students.

“I actually, prior to the beginning of the pandemic, had no desire to teach online because I think that one of my strengths as an educator and a teacher is in-person interactions with students, and I thought that was gonna be really hard to replicate online—, which has been true,” Fouts said.

For Fouts, getting students to register to the proper locations for his class, such as WAMAP, proved to be a small issue, as Pierce’s primary work-space for students is Canvas. But one thing in particular that has been difficult for Fouts has been interpersonal relationships with students and being available to his students while juggling his schedule.

“I think one of my biggest struggles as an educator—online or not—is trying to meet all students where they’re at, but I also want to keep myself in mind,” Fouts said. “I have things that I want to do in the evenings and weekends too that are not work. And it’s not that I don’t care about my students; I just only have so much time during the week.”

For Dickinson, she felt as though the school should do more to make their basic information more visible to students. Dickinson further said how she thinks sometimes info needs to be shoved in peoples’ faces.

“I think they’re doing a great job and making the right decisions personally, but just remind students through email [and] Canvas when tuition is due, when registration starts and any other important dates they should know about instead of relying on the students themselves to look in the handbook or look in the calendar,” Dickinson said.

For Fouts, what he felt could have been done differently had less to do with Pierce and more to do with himself personally. “I don’t know [if] I would have been as optimistic that things were going to be as short lived as they were,” Fouts said.

“I also would have really sought out more resources for how to effectively facilitate an online course. I think again during those first initial quarters, [it] was in my mind [that] all this was still very temporary, so I was still trying to do a very similar version of what I do in person; I was trying to do that online.”

Pierce has been trying their best given the situation. A year ago they were scrambling to move everything online as soon as they could. Some people understandably disliked online learning; others have tried to make the best of it despite the isolation. One thing Fouts misses most about in-person learning includes the simple “good mornings” and the relationships that could be built from getting to know students personally. 


“You just know that when you’re seeing someone every day or even every couple of days you get to know things about their lives,” Fouts said. “You know maybe their families or things they’re looking forward to, or even just why students are in school, and then [you’re] able to ask them about that,” Fouts said.


“I am really goofy and silly in the way that I teach generally and so I really miss being able to do that every day with my students and see the look on their faces when they roll their eyes at my stupid math and dad jokes.”

Pierce has been in quarantine for over a year now with signs of returning to campus in Fall 2021. If there’s anything the pandemic has taught us, it’s to not take things for granted and the importance of compassion. 

Reach out to people; no one is above burnout. Find little things to be grateful for—they exist everywhere. Be proud for making it an entire year.

Littering in Local Wetland

Aspen Award: Pierce College wins outstanding student achievement

Veronica Lu / Staff Photo
Chancellor Michele Johnson (Left) and Interim President Deidre Soileau hold the Rising Star award that Soileau accepted on behalf of Pierce College Fort Steilacoom at the ASPEN ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The $100,000 prize awarded to Fort Steilacoom will go towards helping stuggling students

The results are in. Pierce College Fort Steilacoom received $100,000 last month – along with bragging rights – as one of the top five community colleges in the nation. 

The Aspen Institute designated Pierce College as a Rising Star for dramatically improving student outcomes, especially in the areas of student retention and completion. The college reported its completion rate is almost 20 percentage points higher than the national average.

The $1 million grand prize was split this year between Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida and Miami Dade College in Miami, Florida. The other nominees in the final round were Palo Alto College in San Antonio and Odessa College in Odessa, Texas. 

Chancellor Michele Johnson said Pierce’s decision to use Guided Pathways contributed to higher retention and completion rates. “This award represents all the changes we made – completion rate, transfer rate. We created clear pathways,” she said. 

Guided Pathways was created last year to better help incoming students complete their education goals. It also streamlined the support services for stuggling students

We need to give back to the employment professional development to help students move forward.”

— Stephanie Webster

Johnson added that the prize money was put into the Pierce College Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to create partnerships in the community to help bridge struggling students to resources.

“It will be used for more than scholarships and building up emergency fund,” she said. “We are using it to leverage other foundations and other donors. We are hoping to generate $3.3 million.”  The foundation raised $750,000 as part of a fundraising campaign as of April 11, she added.

The college was also honored for a commitment to equitable outcomes for students and a dedicated focus on helping them overcome obstacles. Johnson said the award does not mean that the work is finished. She wants to help single parents and men stay in college and finish their degree. 

“Men in general are not showing up. African American men are not completing as strongly, so we’re trying to get all the barriers removed,” she said.

Having access to available resources are a constant challenge for students. Those in support services have hope that some of the money will be funneled into their departments.

Jake Williams, a student advisor at Pierce College, said he would like to see an increase of personnel and student resources. “I would like to see more advisors, more textbooks available for students,” he said.

Stephanie Webster, a Financial Aid staff member, said students need opportunities to grow and be employable. “We need to give back to the employment professional development to help students move forward,” she said.

Claudio, who is finishing up his high school completion before pursuing to criminal justice at Pierce was happy about the Aspen status because it reaffirmed why he came to this school. “Being in the top five is really huge,” he said. “It assures me of what I already knew. I am where I need to be.” 

Jordan Blevins, Access and Disability Services supervisor, said one of the biggest complaints he hears most often is outside the buildings. “We need to improve the handicap parking,” he said.

 The Aspen Award, which started in 2011, recognizes community colleges for student achievement and is given every two years. The next round of Aspen winners will be decided in 2021. 

“We have some equity gaps to close. We’ll be prime to come back again,” Johnson said. 

With that money, we should get a hot tub. Imagine, after a stressful test week, you can go into it and have ten minutes of chilling in a hot tub.

~Darryl McNeil

I believe it should be put in more resources for the students like books for students who can’t afford them.

~Evelyn Mendoza

I think, maybe a swimming pool.

~Yuan Wu

I would want to improve the gym.

~Pavina Sapakdy

One of my teachers was explaining that they’re restoring some part of the woods in the back for habitats for endangered species so I think the money should go towards that.

~Lindsay Carpenter

I’m a creative person so I would rather have something that gives to the art community. We should do more music and that kind of thing. There is nothing for electronic music and recording. A lot of technology nowadays is updated so we need to stay current.

~Quintin Mattson

The campus could use some help with the parking. We can also do scholarships for a lot of the students.

~Donny Herrara

I think we should at least upgrade some programs for the computer lab. More up to date programs for digital design or computer science classes.

~William Canche

I think probably on technology. I think more resources for students because you can never have to much.

~Marissa Warren

I think the school should give some of the money for scholarships. The rest of them can be used for school buildings and financial aid. 

~Zhigang Xie

It doesn’t hurt to have a few more vending machines around here.

~Nicholas Cavin

We need the money for security purposes.

~Erika Solesbee

Khuong “Finn” Quoc Ho / Staff Photos

Pierce Distinguished Alumni shares what is possible


Passion and dreams make a fulfilling career

On Jan. 24, three former Pierce College students came to share how Pierce has helped them in their careers. One became a business leader, the second a pioneer fire fighter, and the third a prominent pediatrician.

This is the second year that Pierce College Foundation has set up the “Pierce Talks” forum. Former Pierce Distinguished Alumni were invited to come speak about their learning experiences and what they did after graduation. While they came from different paths and pursued different careers, they all had two things in common – a heart to serve and to do something different.

The first speaker, Jerry McLaughlin, spoke from the heart. From the beginning, he talked about the importance of relationships. The recent loss of close family members had him reflecting on personal connections that carried him through his professional life.

Matt Wuscher / Courtesy Photo
One of Jerry McLaughlin's proudest moments happened 38 years ago when he was named Pierce College's first Distinguished Alumni.

In 1969, he was a D-minus student from Clover Park High School and an assistant manager for McDonald’s. Ray Kinnaman, the assistant basketball coach for Fort Steilacoom Community College (as Pierce College was then called) recruited him. The coach would be the first of several mentors who fostered relationships that contributed to his career growth.

One of those professors was the head of the business department at the University of Puget Sound. The two would often meet outside of class. After McLaughlin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in marketing, Glenn Graves — another mentor and professor — hired him to work at his advertising agency.

He would continue to be involved in the community, creating more connections. He has served on a number of local non-profit boards, including Junior Achievement, Tacoma Urban League, and the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.

McLaughlin ended his talk with strong encouragement. “It all started with relationships formed at Pierce College. So you students, get to work, kickstart your career and start building those relationships,” he said.

Karen Leming started her speech by asking the crowd if they knew what they wanted to do as a career. Years before she was recognized in People magazine in 2000, along with the other female firefighters in Fire District 10, she was still trying to answer this question.

Matt Wuscher / Courtesy Photo
Karen Leming met her husband, Paul, while taking a public speaking class at Pierce College, and they got married the same year she graduated from Pierce in 1981.

She did not start out to be a pioneer, to be one of the first female firefighters in the county. Like other high school graduates, she got a job and went on to a vocational/technical school for training in data entry.

In 1979, she made a decision that would also affect her career path. Working in data entry was unfulfilling, neither was pursuing a degree in fashion merchandising at Pierce College. A career assessment test pointed her to Parks and Recreation, so she decided to change her major.

Around the same time, she began to focus on training in the fitness center and the pool. The discipline led to making the swim team and added to her personal growth. “I was becoming a strong woman, and I liked it. This would prove to define who I was. Even today, I continue to train in all aspects of fitness,” she said.

Before graduation, someone suggested she try out as a firefighter. She had never seen a female firefighter before and did not know if it was something women could do in the first place. Subsequently, a seed was planted, but left dormant while she moved on with life.

But what she learned while training in the fitness center also shaped her. “During my time there, I realized some of my potential — gaining confidence, purposefulness, leadership, commitment and the power of setting goals,” Leming said.  

In 1986, five years after graduating and getting married, she again felt something was missing in her career in data entry and working for Parks and Recreation. When she heard that Pierce County Fire District 7 was looking for volunteer firefighters, she remembered the seed that was planted and decided to try out for it.

A year later, Leming was in the recruit academy. Entering a male-dominated field was not easy she said. “I had to work hard, earn respect, earn trust, and stand out because I would be under scrutiny.”

People she knew were not as supportive as her husband, yet she kept pursuing her training. Her message to the students reflected her spirit of never giving up. “The opportunities are there for you if you are willing to pursue them,” she said. “Sometimes even if it is intimidating, you have to follow your heart and see where it goes.”  

Matt Wuscher / Courtesy Photo
Dr. Stan Fleming's older brother drove him down to Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, walked him into the admissions office and signed him up. Fleming says that that's where the journey really began for him.

The last speaker is a humble pillar in the community, Dr. Stan Fleming. He noted that all three speakers had a common thread, even though they did not plan it. They all wanted to talk about servant leadership and dreaming dreams.

For Fleming, part of his message he wanted to emphasize was the power of having a dream. “You gotta start with daring to dream dreams because if you don’t have a dream, you don’t get a vision, you can’t set a course. You will never get where you want to go or hope to go as you grow up.”

In his experience, he saw that every dream begins with a conviction of what is capable. Sometimes that conviction is shaky. “You have to convince the person in the mirror,” he said.

Fleming also stressed the importance of career identity in life. He said he sees titles as nothing more than a short form of a job description. It is not as important to get the title or degree; what matters is what is done with it.

He summed up his speech by encouraging students to have a vision. “Do dare to dream dreams because the possibilities are really unlimited. The only thing that will keep you from achieving your dream and your goal is yourself,” Fleming said.

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom President Medically Retires


“I needed to make a choice,” Yochum said.

Denise Yochum, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s now-former president, has medically retired due to her ongoing battle with metastatic breast cancer. After multiple surgeries and a month-long hospitalization, she realized she could not get healthy and give the college her best work.

“I needed to make a choice,” Yochum said. “I chose to work to get healthy and to let the college move forward.”

Yochum served as president for 13 years, but her work at Pierce was cut short; she said she was expecting to work for another 10 years.

Deidre Soileau will serve as interim president for Pierce College Fort Steilacoom until June 30, while Chancellor Michele Johnson directs a national search for a new, permanent president.

Yochum sent an email to the college district announcing her retirement Wednesday.

“It is with a heavy heart that I write to all of you today,” Yochum stated in the email. “I am medically retiring, effective January 2, 2019.”

Her message included the college’s achievements throughout her time at Pierce and her hopes for future developments. One of the college’s achievements she is most proud of is Pierce placing in the top ten for the Aspen award this year.

Soileau, former Vice President for Strategic Advancement, worked with Yochum often.

“We served on the district’s executive team together for over five years, and we worked closely on a number of projects,” Soileau said. “She was a colleague first, and she has become a valued friend.”

Student Life Revamps Campus Laser Tag Event


Tournament Features Half the Gear, but Double the Space

Jorge Higuera / Staff Photo
Dylan Harris, Student Ambassador from the Student Life office, watching for potential opponents during the individual free-for-all portion of the laser tag tournament at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s campus November 27, 2018.

Opposing teams gathered in front of camouflaged tents and listened intently to the rules of the competition.

Once the players were briefed, the referee activated red and blue laser guns and distributed them one by one.

Each team of five dispersed to their home bases to power up before starting the game.  Unlike traditional laser tag venues, no chest pieces were issued. Despite this bare-bones operation, the laser guns were high-tech, costing $2,000 a piece.

However, in comparison to the last Laser Tag Tournament at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom in 2016, this year it was significantly more budget-friendly and spacious, utilizing two rooms instead of one.

Jorge Higuera / Staff Photo
Halle Walker, Student Life’s Clubs and Organizations Senator, moves forward as she fires on opponents during Pierce College Fort Steilacoom campus’ laser tag tournament November 27, 2018.

Student Life pulled off this event under budget with innovative thinking from the Entertainment and Recreation Coordinator Yajahira Dominguez, accompanied by Special Events Coordinator Eli Ellis. Most of what took place during the event was Dominguez’s own ideas, Ellis added.

“We create a culture of doing things fresh, rather than using a cookie-cutter sheet of events that passed,”  said Ellis, who helped bring Dominguez’s plans to fruition.

There were five teams of five registered to play, but only four teams showed up. Only two teams competed at a time inside the dark room filled with strobe lights.

Competitors toted their G3 taggers, which had a maximum range of 100 yards. Light music played in the background as players from both teams engaged in laser combat. Josh Guidry, the equipment overseer and referee, determined the winning team.

Jorge Higuera / Staff Photo
Team Laminated (Top: Christian Brown, Zachary Gonzalez Bottom: Kennady Sawyer, Tate Talbot, Lydia Dahlke) won the team tournament during Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s campus Laser Tag Tournament November 27, 2018.

Pierce College student Christian Brown, 16, was part of the winning team. He went on to compare his experience in the tournament to the Call of Duty video game series, saying, “It was a run-and-gun type deal” that contributed to his team’s success.

Student Life officers are hired annually, and it’s up to the new entertainment and recreation coordinator to decide if the laser tag event will happen again.

“The success of this event makes it a candidate for the future,” Ellis said.

This year’s tournament will go into Student Life’s binder of events as a reference for the up and coming entertainment and recreation coordinator. It’s up to them to modify or create their own way, as Dominguez has.

Watch a highlight video from the event!

Jorge Higuera / Staff Photos

‘The Walking Dead’s’ formulaic approach becomes show’s greatest shortcoming

AMC’s long running series suffers from slow pacing, controversial narrative changes, dull characters


AMC’s “The Walking Dead” recently premiered its 6th season’s part 2. This show that has been running since 2010 has had its ups and downs, but the downs have become the most glaring as of late. Though the show has many likable characters, villains, and ideas, these are overshadowed by behind the scenes changes, unsatisfying resolutions, and the show’s overall slow and stretched out pacing.

The show follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), as he and his group tries to survive in a world infested with the reanimated dead, called “Walkers.” The core group of survivors are Rick, his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride), and Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan). These are the current surviving characters that have been around since season 2, since the series has fluctuated with characters dying. But therein lies one of the divisive issues with the series: the show has strayed far from its graphic novel roots, and has been trying to fill in those changes ever since.

Characters who died much earlier in the graphic novels are still around in the latest season, and other characters have been killed off in the show, where they are still alive in the comics. Some characters have been altered to fill in those empty roles, despite their lacking personalities.

The character Michonne (Danai Gurira) is bland, no matter how much the show tries to portray them otherwise. The character Carol, however, who was quiet and depressed in the graphic novels, has become a dangerous and effective character in the television adaptation. The character Daryl is a brand new character who exists in the show exclusively. Though these characters, along with the main character, Rick, remain intriguing, it is the show’s formula that has held the show back from great potential.

The show has entered a predictable cycle since season 3, where it would have a first and second half with typically 8 episodes each, and the halves would be separated by roughly 3 months. The divisive issue lies in how the show’s quality seems to suffer for viewers. The formula is that the show will begin its new arc, with subtle changes to the original story, be moving at a glacial pace in terms of exciting events, then end with a sort of “part 1 finale,” where the intriguing story and action ramp up. The 3 month wait occurs, then it is the second half that is far more jam-packed and consistent with its pacing.

Season 6 was the worst casualty of this, where the group has settled down in their new home “Sanctuary,” with Rick taking more of a charge over the town after the last season ended with him proving to the town’s leader, Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh), that they need to be prepared for any threat that comes their way. The first half deals with multiple threads the previous season left open, but they all end abruptly.

There is a threat of some psychotic survivors called “the Wolves” who have various traps and ways of sabotaging settlements so that more of the living can join the dead. But these “Wolves” soon attack the town, and are then quickly disposed of. The group clears the town of the Walker “herd” that had infested the town, and even though there were some losses, the emotional attachment audiences had toward these characters varied from minimal to non-existent.

There was one character in particular, Sam (Major Dodson), who was an innocent kid who had to witness some gruesome deaths of many people around him. Sam shuts down or talks too much when he is scared, but this led to him becoming nearly insufferable with how much of a detriment he was.

If a character is defenseless but still has redeemable characteristics, then they are deserving of sympathy from the audience. But if a character is bordering on useless and only annoys the audience every time they open their mouths, then the viewers are quick to call for their demise. This dissonance is very specific to forms of fiction. Since the audience knows the story isn’t real, seeing irredeemable, unbearable characters whom the show wants people to root for, becomes impossible to do.

“The Walking Dead” has many issues, but still remains a pretty enjoyable show. If it can break free from its slow first-half, great second-half cycle, this otherwise fascinating series can continue to thrive in the seasons to come.

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