Monthly Archives: February 2017

Alumni Profile: Dustin Baumbach


PUC alum Dustin Baumbach is a Ph.D. student researching the hawksbill sea turtle. While documenting these endangered animals, Dustin and his research team found the documentation process frustrating. Instead of letting a small setback stop them, they developed an app to solve their problem, called TURT (Turtles Uniting Researchers and Tourists).

We asked Dustin to share about his experiences and how PUC helped give him the tools he needed to become successful.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Dustin Baumbach, a nature enthusiast, and academic. I enjoy scuba diving, snowboarding, and taking hikes through the forest. During the week, I enjoy working with colleagues to understand the ecology of hawksbill sea turtles and on the weekends, catching up with friends. I also enjoy the pursuit of learning something new and will never pass up the chance to do so, especially when it involves hands on learning. I am a technology geek and thus, enjoy technology based decision making using Geographic Information Systems. However, my interest in technology is not limited to this and also expands to any tool I can use to benefit my research or personal life.

What was your major at PUC?

I originally started off my first year as a biology major with a minor in computer science and then transferred into the environmental science program which was brand new the start of my second year and then realized chemistry would be a better minor to add with it.

What have you been up to since graduating?

After graduation, I immediately started graduate school at the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in the department of Earth and Biological Sciences. During my first year, I spent most of my time learning about hawksbills throughout the world and spent that summer in Honduras collecting data. I now spend my summers in the Caribbean, scuba diving, collecting hawksbill observation, and morphological data.

Where did you get the idea for your app?

We originally started distributing turtle sightings sheets to the dive shops within my field site but quickly noticed they only filled them out while we were in town and not there during the school year. This prompted us to create a web-based map the various dive shops could upload turtle sightings to on a regular basis. However, we realized those dive shops and tourists may not have access to a computer immediately after a dive and therefore would benefit from the creation of a smartphone application.

Describe your typical workday.

A typical workday is highly variable. I am currently working on assessing the caloric value of sea turtle food items at Cal State University San Bernardino two days of the week, working on mass spectrometry the other two days of the week, then I head home to read the current literature about hawksbill foraging behavior. When I am not doing any of these activities, I frequently help teach classes for my advisor, help other students, and write various grants and papers.

What is the most enjoyable part of what you do? The most challenging?

The most enjoyable part of my graduate study is by far my summer research. Doing three dives per day, getting to interact with hawksbills knowing we will aid to help its population recovery by understanding more about this critically endangered species. However, the most challenging part of this is understanding how to work with, and educate, the general public, who may be against the project. This has been a challenge we have been working on for the past four years, but plan to continue in order to promote awareness of sea turtles and the importance in understanding more about their ecology.


How did your time at PUC help prepare you for your career?

The time I spent at PUC was extremely valuable to help prepare me for graduate school. Several of my science classes taught me the self-motivation I needed to persevere in graduate school. Along with this, my biology and environmental science classes taught me the concepts needed to understand how to do research and how to think about an organism’s interaction with its environment. I appreciated how PUC required us to take a wide breadth of classes to increase life skills and general knowledge, helping me to deal with the non-biological portions of conservation biology.

What is the most important thing you learned during your time at PUC?

The most important thing I learned was the reward of self-motivation and hard work. I had to learn this the hard way (not meeting my expectations during my first couple of years), but with a little hard work and motivation, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. I know this sounds cheesy, but starting out with a GPA under 3.0 and then graduating with over a 3.0 is an example of this. A little hard work goes a long way.

Who was your favorite professor while you were at PUC and why?

This is a hard question, I had so many professors I feel were influential in my life but if I had to pick, I would have to choose Dr. Floyd Hayes. As one of the few students in the department of biology interested in attending graduate school in the natural sciences, he taught me how to do research by involving me in hands-on projects and helped me understand the joy of teaching by hiring me as his laboratory teaching assistant. I enjoyed learning in his classes and have always thought he deserves the Educator of the Year award! If students are struggling and come to him for help, he is very willing to work with the you, which is always something I have appreciated. To this day I still write to him asking for advice.

What is your favorite memory from PUC?

I have so many fond memories of PUC. However, my favorite memory from my time at PUC was watching the ‘pumpkin chuck’ during MOGtoberfest (Grainger Hall’s club). Living in the dorm and being a part of the Men of Grainger was such a fun experience. I met a lot of amazing, friendly people and have remained friends with some of them even after graduation. Other fond memories include going on hikes in the back 40, experiencing the beauty of fields of mustard and the blossoming trees, and, as every PUC student knows, eating at the amazing restaurants in the Napa Valley.

What advice would you give to young students?

My advice to students would be to never give up and to rely on your friends for support. Even though life may seem difficult and frustrating, keep your life goals in mind and know, as I stated earlier, with a little hard work and determination, it will all be worth it. Also, never pass up the opportunity to learn something new, you never know when it may become useful.

Dustin has also been featured in several articles by Loma Linda University. Read “Sea turtle app developed by student creates citizen-researchers” and “Loma Linda University researchers expand sea turtle research smartphone apps” to learn more about his process and how this app can help researchers around the world in their study of sea turtles.  

TURT (Turtles Uniting Researchers and Tourists) is available on iOs as well as on Android.


Being a Resident Assistant at PUC

By Andrew Mahinay

A single key has the power to open every single door in a residence hall. Out of the hundreds of residents living in a dormitory, only nine students wield this key. These individuals are the protectors of the dorm and the eyes and feet of the dean. The keepers of this powerful key are known as resident assistants.

As a current RA, it has been a privilege to serve the needs of residents in Newton Hall, one knock at a time. There is more to an RA then simply owning a key that opens every door. Some students believe an RA’s responsibility is to intrude into another student’s space. This is not the case.

The purpose of an RA is to check up on each resident’s wellbeing. As an RA, I truly care about my residents. I seek to give them praise when praise is called for and when they experience difficult times, I aim to provide them with valuable advice. One of the greatest things I am able to do as an RA is listen to what my residents have to say. Trust has developed as a result of listening to what my residents. One of the most significant connections to have with a resident is trust, since students are more willing to talk to you about their personal problems leading to the opportunity to serve them in the most effective way.    

It is not the role of a resident assistant to judge, but to assist and serve to one’s greatest ability. We are here to love the residents, to walk with them through the lows and highs of college life. Being an RA is no easy task and requires committed individuals who are willing to sacrifice their time in order to be a presence in the lives of their fellow students. “I invest in the lives of my residents and they tell me they are thankful for it,” said Alfredo Larranaga, another RA in Newton Hall.  

The most important responsibility of an RA is to represent Christ through one’s character and words. RA’s are to be great influential role models, with the ideal of showcasing Christ through their actions, thus bringing students closer to God.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1

Dean Hernan Granados with the resident assistants of Newton Hall.

Dean Hernan Granados with the resident assistants of Newton Hall.

Join PUC’s Newest Class: The Innovation Lab


This spring quarter, there’s a new class at PUC, called the Innovation Lab, which takes a unique approach to learning. We asked Dr. John Nunes, chair of the department of business administration and economics, to tell us more about the class and why students should be interested in taking it.

How did the idea for the Innovation Lab class come about?

Last summer, Mark Ishikawa, associate vice president of advancement and strategic partnerships, planned a meeting in the Silicon Valley at Google with PUC alumni who were working in tech in the Bay Area and the idea was sparked by a discussion on entrepreneurship we had with the group in attendance. We felt offering a class with a “shark tank” type competition would create an excellent experience for students and foster engagement on the part of our alumni.

What type of student should take the class?

Really anyone with a creative mindset. They need to be comfortable working with ambiguity (this isn’t a textbook answer class) and enjoy working collaboratively with others who possess complementary skills needed to make their idea a success. Other than that, we don’t care what major or class standing they have.

Why should someone take the class?

This class will simulate “real world” product and service ideation business planning and can be leveraged as effective experience in a for-profit or nonprofit setting.

Tell us about the structure of the class—how often it meets, how the groups are organized, etc.

The class is scheduled to meet on Tuesday and Thursdays from 2-2:50 pm, but will be project vs. lecture based. Students should assemble their own team of three people before the class commences so they can hit the ground running!

What other faculty members are helping with the class? How involved will they be?

Professor Michelle Rai, chair of the department of communication, and professor Milbert Mariano, chair of the department of visual arts, will both play a big role coaching written and visual messaging for the business plans students develop during the class. Depending upon technical requirements of the specific project, Dr. Aimee Wyrick, chair of the department of biology; Dr. Kent Davis, chair of the department of chemistry; Dr. Steve Waters, chair of the department of math, physics, and engineering; and other specialized faculty in other disciplines may be engaged as coaches. It all depends upon the needs of the projects students create.

What can students hope to gain from taking this class?

Regardless of major, almost every student is going to end up working for some sort of business enterprise, even if they are the proprietor. Gaining experience on how to create a new product or service and how to turn it into good currency is a critical skillset. In other words, being able to not just explore, but to exploit ideas to form solutions to make the world better is what this class is all about.

Tell us about the pitch process.

On June 4th, each three-person team will pitch their idea (probably 10-15 minutes each) to a group of venture capitalist and entrepreneur judges. They will evaluate the merits of each group to determine a winner.

What is the grand prize?

The guaranteed grand prize is $1,000 to the group with the best pitch. However, based upon merit, other prize money or seed money for the enterprise may be earned. It is even possible an incubator may be created on campus for a group that wishes to execute their business locally with free space for one year. However, only the $1,000 prize is guaranteed for winners.

Interested in signing up to take the Innovation Lab class? Stop by Irwin Hall to talk with Dr. Nunes during his office hours or email

Recent business graduate Michael Lawrence talks with Dr. John Nunes in the department of business.

Recent business graduate Michael Lawrence talks with Dr. John Nunes in the department of business.

My PUC Story: Alice Chen

By Andrea James

Alice Chen is a junior and business major at PUC. When she was little, she used to help with her mother’s business—people loved her and her cute smile. Alice loves business because “I get to serve people and get the satisfaction from helping customers.” She believes that everything is related to business. “No matter what you become, you’re going to always have to deal with money, so business is a life skill I think everyone should have and I want to focus on.”


Alice Chen at PUC’s Albion Retreat & Learning Center

Alice Chen transferred to PUC as a sophomore from China. Her family is Seventh-day Adventist and her brother attended the school first. He then recommended it to Alice because of her fervent belief in Adventism and her strong faith in God. She has become a very active member of the PUC community. For example, she’s the president of the Asian Student Association (ASA) and a member of the Student Senate. She recently tried to start up a new club celebrating multiculturalism. She also plays tennis, runs, and sometimes plays intramurals. How does she balance all of her responsibilities, all of the demands on her time?

She says, “I pray a lot … I try to do what I can do and take it one step at a time every day. I learned recently I should live in the moment and not look back at the past or worry about the future but enjoy what I have today … When you see everything all at once and what you have to do, it can be very overwhelming sometimes. Try to do as much as you can and give the rest to God.” She also exercises and tries to take care of herself as part of having a balanced life.

Alice enjoys the events at PUC and the many opportunities for service in the community. For example, she attended FUSION, a retreat for freshmen held during New Student Orientation in the fall despite transferring to PUC as a sophomore and greatly enjoyed it. She met many other Graf Hall residents at the event and generally got to know her fellow students. She also likes that there are mission and volunteer opportunities to help students not only grow academically but also as a person and a Christian.

The people at PUC have made a particular impression on Alice’s life and her PUC experience. Her friends at PUC became her family and her teachers became her mentors. When she was feeling the most down about herself, one professor told her not to focus on the big picture or overthink everything, but rather to break things apart into smaller, more manageable pieces. They recommended Alice “just do whatever you can, at this moment, today.” The speech resonated with her and helped her a lot. In the course of her time at PUC, Alice has gained a lot of confidence and become better able to handle stress and to destress.

“I know that I myself can be courageous. And I can be strong, as well, when I rely on God,” she says.

PUC Celebrates Black History Month

Pacific Union College has always been committed to diversity. Today, in celebration of Black History Month, we are honoring a few of the college’s many accomplished black African-American alumni.

Charles Kinney

Charles Kinney

Charles Kinney
Born a slave in 1855, Charles Kinney moved west and became an Adventist in 1878. Sponsors paid for him to study theology at Healdsburg College (1883-1885), now known as Pacific Union College. Kinney later became the first ordained black Seventh-day Adventist minister. He established regional conferences and oversaw much of the Church’s growth. When he joined the Church, there were only about 50 African-American Adventists. At the time of his death, there were over 25,000.


Frank L. Peterson

Frank L. Peterson
Frank L. Peterson, class of 1916, was the first African-American student to graduate from PUC. His long career of service began with teaching at Oakwood College (now University) and pastoring, but he quickly advanced. Peterson served for nine years as the president of Oakwood, and in the 1960s, became a vice president at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Arna Bontemps

Arna Bontemps

Arna Bontemps
Before he became a friend of Langston Hughes and a respected poet and novelist in the Harlem Renaissance, Arna Bontemps graduated from PUC in 1923. Bontemps studied English at PUC, and he also wrote for the Campus Chronicle, the college’s student newspaper. He is now best known for his novel Black Thunder, which tells the story of an 1800 Virginia slave rebellion. The Nelson Memorial Library at PUC owns a signed copy of this and other Bontemps works.

M. Inez Booth

M. Inez Booth

M. Inez Booth
Mary Inez Booth studied music at PUC and graduated in 1937. During her junior year, she was baptized into the Adventist Church. Booth’s dedication to her faith took precedence in all she did. She spent her career teaching music at Oakwood and she also founded the Oakwood Jail Band Ministry, which she led for 50 years. In 1983, she became a sheriff’s deputy, an honorary post she held until she was 90-years-old.

Ruth Frazier Stafford

Ruth Frazier Stafford

Ruth Frazier Stafford
When she graduated from PUC in 1938, Ruth Stafford didn’t know her nursing degree would take her all over the United States. Stafford served in hospitals from southern California to Chicago to Tennessee. She wrote a regular column for Message Magazine and taught nursing classes at Oakwood. While she earned a master’s degree from Columbia University, Stafford coordinated the nursing program for Meharry Medical Center.


Will Battles & Paul Cobb
Will Battles, Paul Cobb, and two other PUC students drove 2,400 miles from Oakland to Selma, Ala., to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on March 21, 1965. Cobb,class of 1965, convinced three of his PUC classmates to come along in his two-seater car. In this photo by Al Loeb, Battles (wearing a fedora) and Cobb (pencil behind his ear) are seated behind Dr. King as the marchers rest in a grassy area between Selma and Montgomery. You can read more about their amazing story in “A Journey and a March,” in a 2005 issue of the Adventist Review.

Photographs and information courtesy of the Nelson Memorial Library at Pacific Union College.