By Gus Ugalde
Helping veterans get through the rigors of college is what Francisco (Frank) Quiambao does best.
Quiambao is a former West Los Angeles College president and Harbor College interim president who wanted to give back to the students he has worked with in education for more than 40 years. Quiambao was born in Boston, but calls California home now and is much traveled.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degrees in counseling from California State University, Northridge, and earned his Ph.D. in education from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He specifically asked to come to East Los Angeles College to counsel military veterans prior to his retirement from the Los Angeles Community College District, where he has worked for nearly 38 of those years.
He is currently the Senior Advisor at the California Emergency Management Agency, and a loaned executive for the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attached to the U.S. Secret Service. His duties at the DHS include serving as the Senior Advisor for the National Education Security Initiative, a new program that is designed to protect American schools.
With all this on his plate, Dr. Q, as he is often called, calls counseling military veterans his passion.
“I’ve always liked working with students and wanted to spend my last year on campus here. I can’t think of a better assignment than working with the vets at ELAC.” said Quiambao. Quiambao said he wishes he had come here years ago and after speaking to interim-President, Farley Herzek and Student Services Vice President Oscar Valeriano, he found himself on campus.
“I made the right choice. The faculty, students and staff here are great. ELAC is embraced by this community, and this is not true of all community colleges,” said Quiambao. Quiambao brings a lifetime of experience to the table as he helps veterans find their direction in their post-military careers.
Many veterans come to ELAC unsure of what to major in. Many do not know how or where to start the registration process and that is when Quiambao goes to work. Former Marine Christopher Villalobos came back to ELAC after his military career to take advantage of a retraining program the government is offering.
Villalobos, who grew up in Lincoln Heights, last attended ELAC in 1982 and he “didn’t have a clue” where to begin when he stepped on campus. He had been unemployed for four years and was referred to Quiambao. Hw is now studying to become a substance abuse counselor.
“When I came here, I didn’t even know how to use a computer. Dr. Q. helped guide me through the process and with my education plan.” said Villalobos. Veterans say Quiambao’s counseling style is unlike other counselors on campus.
“He always had time for me. He made time for me. He also made suggestions and encouraged me to stay in school even though I wanted to get a job instead,” said Villalobos.
Quiambao’s dedication to the veterans of ELAC is deeply rooted in his childhood growing up like many children of the military.
His father served in the U.S. Navy during World War II where Quiambao grew up in military bases. In addition to his counseling duties, Quiambao is currently involved with the DHS in developing a new program designed to keep American campuses safe.
Thursday’s campus closure brought on by a threatening phone call to police near ELAC by a distraught Santa Monica City College student, is exactly the type of situation the program is designed to address. The initiative is designed to protect American schools by using the protection model used for nuclear power plants and applying it to schools, according to Quiambao.
“Nearly one-third of the 38 million people in California are students or work in education,” said Quiambao.
Because of security reasons, Quiambao could not go into too much detail about the initiative, but did say the government also plans to use lessons learned in combat to teach educators to respond in emergency situations. This includes training on how to recognize behavioral indicators such as strange behavior, sweat and drug use, and how to react in a crisis situation.
ELAC is the fifth LACCD college Quiambao has worked for that includes Valley, Mission, Harbor and West L.A. colleges.
He has served as teacher, counselor, dean, vice president, interim president and president during his tenure.