Michael Castro has been working as the Enrollment Services Coordinator for San Jose City College for the past several years.
His penchant for technology—and his grasp of the ways in which that technology can be utilized to carry out a mission—makes him a strong asset to the SJCC team.
Having worked in Higher Education for private and public institutions for over a decade now, Castro is widely versed in the areas of admissions, enrollment, and financial aid counseling.
There is no doubt about the impact that Castro’s presence has made.
In a recent email, one parent wrote: “Please be sure SJCC knows my appreciation for Mr. Castro. He has been a true Godsend during this summer to help answer all my questions and get my kid through summer school.”
Although his official role is that of Enrollment Services Coordinator, Castro’s background and knowledge have fully equipped him to also do outreach, financial aid, and even IT work at the Extension.
"When students come to me, I’m a one stop shop. I can get them what they need or get them steered in the right place,” said Castro.
Based out of the SJCC Milpitas Extension site, Castro thrives on his interactions with students, parents, and others in the community.
“That’s part of why I do what I do,” said Castro. “I’m a social person. I love people. I love having that interaction.”
And so it came as no surprise that when the pandemic hit, and SJCC facilities and campuses were swiftly closed down, Castro found it challenging to suddenly be disconnected from the community. He’s eager to return to campus, but at the same time, he knows that safety is of the utmost importance.
While working from home, however, Castro feels well at ease, as most of his duties are of a technical nature...
"I had a lot of my functions automated,” said Castro. “Before the pandemic, I was already moving on automation of a lot of things. I just need my computer and a couple screens…”
Castro’s position has evolved during this time to encompass tech training. As the enrollment and registration process has moved completely online, students are trying to figure out how to engage with it there. Castro started creating videos and email instructions to aid students in becoming more knowledgeable about the online tools they’re using.
"I embrace the opportunity. We’re doing it and it’s going great,” said Castro. “We’re also teaching students how to use Canvas, our learning management system.”
Online registration has certainly made things a lot more efficient and navigable on Castro’s end. A couple years ago, during the summer, the Extension had a huge crowd of students and parents show up for registration day. The crowd lined up outside the building and through the parking lot.
Castro couldn’t believe his eyes. He sat at a table and spent the entire day registering student after student, without taking any breaks. That was his second year as part of the SJCC team. Castro believes that it was during this time when people were really starting to understand the unique opportunity that was available at the Extension.
"People suddenly caught on that high school students could register for college classes,” said Castro. “And they came in droves. They were lined down the block. It was madness. We vowed never to do that again.”
Since that hectic day, Castro started working with Extension Director Michael Mooney to come up with solutions for ensuring that would never happen again. They quickly agreed that automation and online registration were the keys. And so they got to work on planning out a new way of doing things.
“Michael Mooney and I and the whole team decided to automate it to make it as easy as possible,” said Castro. “We decided to do all the backend stuff to make it more customer friendly.”
They worked with the IT department to help create that function. And by using a program called Sales Force, they were able to automate a great deal of the work. That would not have been possible without the expertise of Castro guiding the process.
“Michael exemplifies student service and innovation in all of his actions. It’s in his DNA. It would be impossible for the Extension to succeed as much as it has without his leadership and work,” said Mooney.
After months of preparation, the new online registration process was ready to go. They were able to test it out on students for this past year’s Spring semester.
Things flowed smoothly with the new online process. All high school students were able to register online, though the process of turning in documents was all still manual, and had to be done in person.
"As long as we had the permission form, students could register themselves online,” said Castro.
The permission form he’s referring to is the R40 form, which must be signed by the high school in order for students to register for college classes.
However, due to COVID-19, the college had to adjust its policy on receiving forms.
"The college, in the past, wouldn’t allow an electronic version of these forms,” said Castro. “You’d have to print them out and get them signed. Since the pandemic, the college has had to change course on a lot of things. And I’m grateful. I honestly believe we should be automating all of this stuff and making it digital. I think we won’t go back now.”
The college is using tools like Adobe Sign and DocuSign to create a streamlined process for receiving documents. In the future, Castro hopes to connect these forms to Sales Force and have them queue automatically.
Amanda Gross, Assistant Principal at Milpitas High School, has worked closely with Castro on making sure high school students were successfully signed up for this summer’s unique Math Jam program.
Gross mentioned that it was quite a challenge juggling all of the different items that students were approaching them with during the registration process.
“I was concerned Michael would feel bombarded by all the emails from the students,” said Gross. “But Michael was so gracious and kind and humorous. And I thought, this guy likes working with kids. And he’s really classy with everything he does.”
Teresa Paiz, Admissions and Records Director for San Jose City College, also appreciates the set of talents and experience that Castro brings to the table. “Michael is a great addition to the SJCC Admission and Records team,” said Paiz. “His commitment to our students is very evident in his work. It's a pleasure working with Michael every day.”
During the Fall, San Jose City College will hold all its classes online. All classes that would normally be housed in Milpitas shall now be housed through the main college. Castro guesses that enrollment might stay the same, yet potentially go lower due to the new circumstances.
As the coming school year begins, Castro sees himself working on the training side of things, and continuing to support students with becoming familiar with navigating their online platforms.
After nearly five years of working for San Jose City College, Castro has no intentions of going elsewhere.
"I don’t see myself leaving. I love San Jose City College and the equity it brings to everybody, including staff, faculty, and students. I’m really happy and proud to be an employee of San Jose City College,” said Castro. "They practice what they preach. We care. We care about our community from the top down.”