Ed.D. in Educational Administration & Leadership, 2006
School of Education
May 1, 2008
Gayle B. Fenton, Ed.D., 2006 Graduate of the CSU/UCI Joint Ed.D, Serves as Special Assistant to the Vice Provost for Student Success and Director of Student-Athlete Services at California State University, Long Beach
When Gayle Fenton entered the CSU/UCI Joint Ed.D. in Educational Administration and Leadership in 2003, she brought to her doctoral studies a background rich with diverse experiences. Born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1944, she moved to Miami, Florida, in the same year and then to Southern California in 1951. She comments, “I never saw snow falling until I was in my 40’s.” Gayle attended Beverly Hills Schools and received, in her words, “a phenomenal education. However, my father died when I was 15, so I could only afford to attend a California Community College when I graduated from high school in 1962.” Gayle attended Los Angeles Community College for two years, then enrolled in UCLA for two more years as a student in Radiological Technology. “I earned my license as an X-ray Technician — liked the education, but hated the career.”
Gayle married Bruce Fenton in 1965 and was a stay-at-home mother to a son and daughter until 1981, when she enrolled in Orange Coast College to begin the steps toward a baccalaureate degree. In 1985, she transferred to CSULB as a Psychology major and completed her BA in Psychology in 1990. A Master of Science degree in Counseling, Student-Development in Higher Education, followed in 1993; and she completed the CSU/UCI Joint Ed.D. in Educational Leadership in 2006.
While pursuing her educational goals, Gayle sought out employment opportunities to support her studies and her family. “In 1989, my daughter was excelling in ballet and the costs of her training and supplies gave me the incentive to look for a part-time position at CSULB. I saw a flyer in the Psychology Department for a student-assistant position as a peer advisor in the Academic Advising Center (AAC). It changed my life! I had found my calling: helping undergraduate students navigate the educational bureaucracy of higher education.” Gayle continued as a peer-advisor for the next four years and was appointed to the position of Assistant Director of the Academic Advising Center in 1993 after completing her MS degree. In the spring of 1995, she was appointed to a dual position as Assistant Director of SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration).
By the summer of 1995, Gayle had been appointed to the full-time position of Director of Student-Athlete Services at CSU Long Beach. She had inherited a “Center” that consisted of a Director and three student-assistant peer-advisors, with a student-athlete graduation rate of 23%. Over the last 12 years, Gayle has increased the staff to 11 staff professionals; and the graduation rate improved 156% to a student-athlete graduation rate of 59% “and climbing”.
In 2005, while a doctoral student at UC Irvine, Gayle was offered the opportunity to add the position of Special Assistant to the Vice Provost for Student Success to her position as Director of Student-Athlete Services. This additional appointment gave her the ability to chair campus-wide committees (University Advising Council and Enrollment Planning Subcommittee on Student Success). In addition, she began working on projects that involved faculty and professional staff advisors.
When asked about her experiences earning the Ed.D. at UCI, Gayle commented:
I have no doubt that my ability to move into additional higher education academic areas beside Student-Athlete Services came from my outstanding educational experience in the CSU/UCI Joint Doctorate in Education. Dr. Dawn Person, CSULB Co-director, told me that “I would not be the same person after completing the doctorate.” I knew that I would have the credentials I needed to move in the direction to make positive changes at the university from my unique perspective of being an adult-reentry student. However, this terminal degree has provided me with advanced tools in critical thinking, awareness of K-16 issues that affect students all along the education pipeline, research skills that I use daily in moving student-success initiatives forward, and the confidence to tackle myriad higher education issues.
In 2007, Dr. Gayle Fenton was appointed to yet another part-time position as Senior Director of Advising for the Division of Academic Affairs. After attending a NACADA (National Academic Advising Association) Institute for Advising Administrators, she began the process of transforming academic advising at CSULB from one that was decentralized to one that is a “coordinated decentralization” with an advising policy and mission statement connected to the university’s core ideals. “With encouragement from my advising colleagues, I look forward to the challenge that should bring positive results for student success.”