Daily Pilot: Chef ‘Ambushes’ Student, President at Vanguard

By Brittany Woolsey


Kristina Kuzmic believes anyone can cook.

The host of “The Ambush Cook” proved her theory when brought her show’s theme to Family Weekend at Vanguard University on Saturday.

Kuzmic, a 2001 theater alumna, won the “Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star” competition in 2010. In her show, she teaches unsuspecting people how to cook. She said these people, from new moms to bachelors, needed to know how to cook.

At Saturday’s demonstration at the Costa Mesa campus, Kuzmic invited unsuspecting Vanguard freshman Erika Gray, 17, to the stage to learn how to cook a caramelized onion butternut squash tart.

Erika’s mother, Tiana Gray, entered her in a competition to learn to cook with Kuzmic after Erika failed to make brownies from a box.

Kuzmic also asked Vanguard President Carol Taylor to learn how to make the dish, which Kuzmic refused to follow a recipe for.

“Cooking shouldn’t be about copying someone else,” Kuzmic said. “You should be creative.”

Although the stage lacked an oven, Kuzmic made a makeshift one to show Erika and Taylor how to make the tart.

“My true desire is for people to let loose in the kitchen and enjoy the cooking process,” she said.

Kuzmic also shared some of her cooking secrets. She said always having chocolate around can make the cooking experience more enjoyable, so she frequently spoon-fed Erika Gray and Taylor some Nutella during the demonstration. She also said she uses goggles to prevent tearing up while cutting onions.

About a half hour after the demonstration started, Kuzmic presented the crowd with a tart, which she said she prepared the night before. While she shared the tart with Erika Gray and Taylor, Kuzmic said there was not enough to around for the audience members.

“This isn’t like Oprah,” she said jokingly. “Not everyone gets some. You don’t get a car either, so sorry.”

Erika Gray said her experience was “surprising.”

Tiana Gray said she was impressed with her daughter and that she expects her to make the tart for Thanksgiving.

Kuzmic said she enjoyed sharing her talents at her alma mater.

“[The experience] was so neat,” she said. “It was like a full-circle moment. I loved my experience here at Vanguard, and this meant a lot.”

Read the full story on DailyPilot.com

Forbes recognizes VU as one of America’s Top Colleges

Vanguard University is proud to be recognized in Forbes 2012 “America’s Top Colleges” list.  Given that there are over 4000 colleges and universities in the country, this means that Vanguard is in the top 10%.  These statistics are exciting as they are not about reputation, but educational outcomes and Vanguard has succeeded. Click here for the full profile on Forbes.com

Jeff Hittenberger, Provost/Vice President for Academics Affairs is thrilled with the acknowledgement and proudly states, “Vanguard has been recognized by Forbes as being among the top 10% of colleges and universities in the United States based upon our students’ post-graduation success, our students’ satisfaction, their relatively low levels of debt and default compared with students at other comparable colleges and universities, their four-year graduation rates, and the prestigious awards they earn.  Vanguard has accomplished these great things while strengthening our emphasis on our mission: ‘To equip each student for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service.’”

The rankings, which are compiled exclusively for Forbes by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity, focus on the things that matter the most to students: quality of teaching, great career prospects, high graduation rates and low-levels of debt.

The rankings are based on five general categories: post graduate success (32.5%), which evaluates alumni pay and prominence, student satisfaction (27.5%), which includes professor evaluations and freshman to sophomore year retention rates, debt (17.5%), which penalizes schools for high student debt loads and default rates, four-year graduation rate (11.25%) and competitive awards (11.25%),  which rewards schools whose students win prestigious scholarships and fellowships like the Rhodes, the Marshall and the Fulbright or go on to earn a Ph.D.  The complete methodology is available here.

To see the complete list of schools from Forbes.com, click here.

About Vanguard University

Vanguard University is a private, Christian, comprehensive university of liberal arts and professional studies equipping students for a Spirit-empowered life of Christ-centered leadership and service. The U.S. News & World Report has ranked Vanguard among the best baccalaureate colleges in the west in their 2011-2012 rankings of colleges and universities and The Princeton Review named VU a 2011-2012 “Best in the West” College. Vanguard is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

Interview with Vanguard’s Director of Global Center for Women and Justice

Sandie Morgan is the Director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice and teaches Women’s Studies, Family Violence, and Human Trafficking at Vanguard.  As a Registered Nurse, Sandie served on the Board of the International Nurses Association in Athens, Greece where she lived for ten years.  It was there that she discover human trafficking wile doing a story for Lydia Living magazine and working on reducing violence against women. Below is an interview by Terence Loose telling more insight about Sandie and her life work.

This educator and nurse is fighting the modern-day slave trade, which exists even here in the OC.

BY Terence Loose

If you’re like most Americans, you are under the impression that slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation – and the Civil War – in 1863.

But you’d be wrong. Slavery still exists. In fact, the U.S. State Department says there are 27 million victims of human trafficking worldwide – 100,000 or more in the United States and some even in Orange County. These unfortunates are sold into everything from the sex-slave trade to the restaurant industry.

But there is hope, and one big reason for that is Sandra Morgan, director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University. Recently, she also served as Administrator for the Orange County Human Trafficking Taskforce, which battles against the modern slave trade. In addition to teaching at Vanguard, she hosts a podcast called Ending Human Trafficking.

Her conviction is obvious to anyone who listens. She speaks with a knowledge and passion for the issue of human rights that is only found in someone committed to changing a seemingly unchangeable problem. And she says that this is part of her mission.

“Our mantra here is study the issue, be a voice, make a difference. I live by that myself. I do the research so I have an answer for people when they ask about this issue,” she says.

So we asked.

How common is human trafficking in Orange County?
Our Orange County human trafficking taskforce has served over 100 certified victims of human trafficking. Those are only the ones we’ve been able to get certification for so we can provide them with services.

Does one stand out in your mind?
I met one young girl named Shyima who was brought here from Egypt to be a household slave at age nine. For three years she lived in a $1.6 million Orange County home, only she slept in the garage and was up from early morning until late at night doing all of the cleaning and taking care of two small children. Her life was the life of a slave. She never went to school, she never got to play, she never went to the doctor or the dentist.

How was she rescued?
A neighbor noticed a child who never went to school and they called the authorities. [The national human trafficking resource center hotline is 888.373.7888.] Now, Shyima’s doing great. In fact, in November she got her U.S. citizenship. As for the family who had enslaved her, they were convicted, spent time in prison and then were deported.

Movies like to depict victims as being kidnapped into this life. Is that common?
No. Most of the media over-glamorizes the idea of force. People being kidnapped is pretty rare. More often you have people who are in a compromised position without any options and someone offers them a job or opportunity and they take it. In the area of our American children, the majority are kids who come from dysfunctional families – they’ve been in group homes, in foster care, they don’t have a home to run back to. So someone takes them in and the grooming process begins. They’re recruited and sold for sex.

A sex slave trade right here in Orange County?
Yes, we have several cases ongoing of juveniles who were being sold for sex right here in Orange County. That raises the question: Who in Orange County is buying a child for sex? And what other kinds of jobs are we talking about? The one that gets the most attention is the sex trade, but we also have victims that have been household servants, worked in eldercare facilities, in restaurants, hotels, magazine sales.

What keeps them loyal?
If you get down into basic child psychology and the way a child’s brain is developing, we are hard-wired to have a family. And even if that family is a gang or a pimp and three women he’s exploiting, at least you have someplace to go home to. So there’s this sense of belonging. In fact, often when the police show up to rescue them, they don’t want to be rescued.

What happens in that situation?
Fortunately, if they’re under 18 they don’t get to choose. We take them and help them. Many times, it takes months before young women and boys can go through restorative services. In fact, in Las Vegas, a judge pointed out that 85% of the juveniles they save run away, so they put them in juvenile detention.

There is also the situation of debt bondage. Can you explain that?
A trafficker tells a victim something like, “We have a restaurant job for you and you’ll be able to send money home to your family.” The [victim] says they don’t have money to get across the border. So the [trafficker] will say, “That’s OK, you’ll owe us.” So the victim comes across and earns little to nothing and what they do make goes to pay their debt. They’re charged for the place they’re sleeping – which is often nearly inhabitable – their groceries, exorbitant interest and other things, all at outrageously high prices. After a few weeks, the victim begins to understand there is no way out, and they’re threatened with being turned over to the cops so they’ll never see their family again, or even with harm to them or their family. So people could be human trafficking victims and right in front of you, but they’re afraid to self-identify.

Why did you first get involved in fighting human trafficking?
I was living and working in Greece in 2000. In Greece prostitution is legal and so I walked past brothels all the time. But I noticed that a lot of the girls in the doorways were very young and not Greek, so I started asking questions. That was the beginning of my journey. When I found out more, and how horrible the problem was, I tried to figure out how to change it.

And you now teach on a bigger scale at Vanguard University.
That’s why I love my position and what we’re doing here. I realize my limitations. I’m only one person; I can only do so much. But every semester, when I teach my students, I multiply myself 30, 40, 50 times. In that way, I hope I can really make a difference.

Full Story

OC Register Recognizes Vanguard’s Veterans Courtyard of Honor and Dedication to Veterans

Vanguard’s Veterans Courtyard of Honor was dedicated yesterday with many veterans, community members and Vanguard staff, faculty and students present.  View photos from the event here, and watch a recap film from the celebration here. The Veterans Courtyard of Honor was built to serve as an enduring symbol of gratitude and commitment to honor the service of military personnel and veterans and is a beacon at the entrance to the University.  The university itself is built on the land where the former Santa Ana Air Base was located.  In 1943 the college received recognition by the government for the training of military chaplains.  Vanguard University trained chaplains who have served in WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Vanguard’s Veterans program gives veterans meaning and purpose in their life.  Many of the 30,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who return to California each year experience challenges when transitioning from military to civilian life.  Unemployment rates are high and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and other transitional challenges have led to an alarming spike in suicides.  Every 80 minutes an Iraq or Afghanistan Veteran commits suicide.  Education is the best transitional bridge for veterans because it provides hope for a better life through increased employability, higher income potential, and restored purpose and meaning through self-discovery.

Sgt. Brent Theobald, USMC, director of Veterans Affairs for Vanguard has many memories and has had much influence on the veterans program and resource center.  His reflective words bring a veterans perspective to the Veteran’s Courtyard of Honor. “Some of my closest comrades are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  I recently visited Washington D.C. and the cemetery, where memories of serving as a marine in Afghanistan and Iraq flooded back.  Each veteran has his or her own memories that are as fresh as the day they were made.  Some memories we would like to forget, others stand as reminders of the greatest fraternity in our lives. Emotion overwhelmed me as the sun set across the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery.  This is a great nation and I am thankful for the men and women who will raise their right hand to continue the legacy of service. Vanguard University is committed to honoring the legacy of all veterans while preparing the next generation as they transition out of the military during this difficult economic time.  Thank you to all of those who gave to make this Veteran’s Courtyard of Honor possible to serve our nation’s veterans.”

Below is an article by The Orange County Register in response to this momentous event at Vanguard.




The Veterans Courtyard of Honor is a dream come true for Vanguard University President Carol Taylor, who began to dream of how to better serve veterans three years ago.

“Today, the dream became reality,” Taylor said during Courtyard of Honor dedication ceremonies Thursday at the Costa Mesa university.

More than 100 veterans and local supporters joined Brent Theobald, the Universities director of veterans affairs, government and community relations, and Vanguard’s Veterans Advisory Board to celebrate the new courtyard and to honor donors who made it possible.

Speakers, specials guests and the unveiling of “value pillars” dedicated to those who served in uniform were also part of the ceremonies.

Vanguard University is a private liberal arts university that is one of the few schools in the nation to have a courtyard specially dedicated to veterans, Taylor said.

“This is a space that visually says to veterans, ‘Welcome home. You are welcome here, and this now your home,’ ” Taylor said.

Read the full OC Register story.

Vanguard University Student Victoria Fry Receives Heart of the Teacher Award

Britney Barnes

Daily Pilot

Victoria Fry is turning her school struggles into inspiration for the next generation of students who feel they are failures too.

The 21-year-old Costa Mesa resident’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

Dixie Arnold, chairwoman of Vanguard University’s Liberal Studies Department, presented Fry, who recently finished her bachelor’s degree there, earlier this month with the school’s Heart of the Teacher award. The award was created almost a decade ago and describes the love a future teacher has for people, Arnold said.

“She just shines,” Arnold said. “There is just this excitement for working with children.”

Fry said her “passion for teaching is rooted in the experiences I’ve had with other teachers, and also the experiences I’m having in the classroom rooting on those kids, encouraging them, saying, ‘This feels like an uphill battle, but trust me, you can do it.’”

Fry is staying at Vanguard to get her teaching credential and then a master’s in education.

Miguel Alaniz said in an email that Fry volunteers in his sixth-grade class at College Park Elementary School. She not only tutors the students, but also mediates group discussion with girls about social issues and helps resolve urgent problems while he teaches, he said.

She is a shining beacon of demonstrating that knowledge is power, Alaniz said.

“Victoria is a smart, kind and energetic volunteer who is willing to jump right in, be it teaching a science lesson, photocopying or helping a student one on one,” said College Park first- and second-grade teacher Susan McGuire in an email. “Miss Torrie, as she is called by my students, is a natural teacher.”

Fry’s decision to become an educator wasn’t a straightforward one.In elementary school, she felt incapable and inadequate. She would go home and cry.

She spelled words backward. Reading was a challenge, but she didn’t understand why.

“For me it was just like so discouraging, and it was such an uphill battle that I felt like a failure,” Fry said.

It wasn’t until high school that her problems were given a name: dyslexia. She was also diagnosed with a processing disorder.

But Fry overcame her struggles, graduating from Monte Vista High School at 16.

At Orange Coast College, though, she didn’t know which path to follow.

“I kept bouncing back and forth between a major in psychology and a major in education, because truthfully, all I really wanted to do was help people. That was it,” she said. “Whatever career I went into, I just wanted to do the most good.”

It wasn’t until she went to Vanguard — after turning down a scholarship from Chapman University — and met Arnold that she knew teaching was her calling.

Yet despite a nagging voice that questioned whether someone with learning disabilities should teach, she discovered that was the very reason she needed to.

“Within my time at Vanguard University, I really felt that that is why I should be an educator,” she said. “Because I know what it is like to fail miserably. Because there are so many kids in our school systems today that are failing and they need that hope, need that light to say, ‘No, no, no. You can get through this. You can climb this mountain.’

“I did it. I’ve been there.”

Read this article and other stories on The Daily Pilot’s website.