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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

City College operations technician retires after 35 years

Karen Chewning, retired in May after 35 years as an operations technician, stands outside her now former office at City College Monday, June 1, 2020. (Sara Nevis/[email protected])

In the 35 years Karen Chewning has spent as operations technician for City College, she has seen the campus through more than most. Almost every relocation, renovation, addition or demolition the school has faced, Chewning has, too. As Chewning retires at the end of May, she takes with her extensive knowledge and history of the college 

Chewning came to work at City College in October 1984. She recalls the portable building where the reprographics building now stands, which at the time was called the men’s faculty Shack, only allowing male faculty inside. In 1989, the operations office was relocating due to remodeling, and the chosen location was the men’s faculty Shack.

Chewning remembers going into the building one day to plan for the relocation and being confronted by one of the more misogynistic teachers who said something along the lines of, “You’re not faculty and not a man, so get out.”

Chewning wasn’t fazed and was tickled with her response. 

“Operations is moving here, and I’m planning my floor space, so you get out,” Chewning remembers saying. 

Chewning started at City College after applying for a position as a temporary employee. The benefits were great, she says, City College seemed like a good work environment, and the thought of assisting people with their education appealed to her. She started as the maintenance and operations clerk, but 15 years later as the college continued to grow, Chewning’s job was reclassified as operations technician.

“The job has so many facets. You never have a reason to get bored, and you’re doing something different all the time,” explained Chewning via email. “There is so much going on and so many people depending on you to help them. That is a great feeling—knowing that what you do positively impacts your coworkers.”  

As operations Ttchnician for City College, Chewning’s day-to-day activities have consisted of a bulky to do list. Nonetheless, Chewning has been content in her role in City College’s ecosystem. 

“You don’t stay at a company for as long as I have unless you enjoy what you do and who you work with,” said Chewning. “I have loved my time at Sacramento City College and am sad to go, but feel it is time. There are so many good people here who strive to assist both students and staff and take pride in what they do. That’s the kind of environment that everyone should be able to experience when employed.” 

Chewning was at City College in 1986 when the school got its first computers—processing units with a keyboard and a screen,  “one of those old 40-pound things,” Chewning recalls.

The computers were old fashioned with “black screen, green lettering, really basic,” Chewning says. Operations had asked for printers as well, but were told to just practice with the computers, and they’d receive the printers in six to eight months.

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“You can imagine what happened next,” recalled Chewning via email. “I’m not sure how many administrative assistants marched [into] the IT dean and president’s office, but there were a lot. We got the printers within three months.” 

Chewning also remembers when the school only had 25 outgoing phone lines and 30 incoming lines, which meant only 25 people could call off campus at one time, and only 30 could call in.

“When the switches would get stuck, I would go over to the phone room, find the row that had a light on at the end of it, find the stuck switch, then hit it on the side,” Chewning recalled. “It would release, and we were back in business.” 

As operations technician, Chewning was responsible for maintaining a variety of variables essential for the City College to run efficiently, from handling regulatory and safety programs, coordinating projects and campus emergency response and waste pickup to record shredding, window covering and flooring purchasing, among many other duties.

For Chewning, whose job revolved around the maintenance of the more complex aspects of the campus, it’s the simple things she’ll miss most about City College.

 “Seeing the students enjoying themselves in the quad on a warm spring day. Talking with a new employee who is lost and being able to direct them to help, or help them myself. Watching my coworkers laugh. Being assigned a new project and being able to see it come to fruition,” Chewning remembers.

Though August is usually a time for back-to-school preparations with the buzz of the new semester approaching, this August will signal a new wave of excitement for Chewning and her husband.

“We bought 20 acres of trees and rolling green hills in the Appalachian foothills of Virginia,” Chewning said via email. “Our house is being built and will be finished in August, so we will be moving there. I am looking forward to doing crafts, being a country farmer, and hopefully soon, taking care of grandbabies.” 

Moving to Virginia will allow Chewning to support her family there, as well as to grow her own food. Chewning is looking forward to “getting up on a cool morning and sitting on [my] front porch, looking over the property with a hot cup of coffee.” 

Chewning admits that she knows parts of the campus that most people will never set foot in and holds memories of City College that many will never experience. Though she is leaving City College, she hopes the college and its community will continue to thrive.

“I hope that Sacramento City College carries on as one of the best community colleges in California, and that my work family have great lives and futures,” said Chewning. “I hope that our students see that their education is so important to their future. I hope everyone finds their way through this current crisis, and are able to come through on the other end stronger, happier and more aware of their impact on our planet.” 

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  • R

    Raul JaimeSep 5, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    Hi Karen

    I worked as a Campus Police officer at Sacramento College for approximately ten years. I enjoyed working with you (1989-2000). You were always very cordial when I visited the Operations Department. Enjoy your retirement.

    Rick Jaime