Determined to Make a Difference: Cari Paganini
State Supervision Online (SSO) Alumni

Article Access Magazine,Summer 2014 Issue

Cari Paganini knows exactly where she wants to go. A recent graduate of Sac State’s State Supervision Online (SSO) program, she’s aiming for the top. “I want to take all of this knowledge and eventually work for CalPERS or CalHR,” she says. “I know a lot more about the law and how to help people in disciplinary settings now. I feel I have tons of stuff in my toolbox to offer future employers because of what I’ve learned through SSO.”

Working for the Department of Developmental Services with the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) in Eldridge, California, 73 miles from Sacramento, Paganini completed the online SSO courses while wrapping up her associate’s degree at Santa Rosa Junior College and carrying a full workload. “I would never have had the opportunity to take this training in a traditional classroom setting,” she explains. “It would have been too far to drive.”

Paganini, who leads SDC’s hiring unit, position control unit and examination unit, and oversees a team of seven people, started out as an office tech 14 years ago, got her foot in the door as a personnel specialist and subsequently procured a lead position. She loves working in the HR arena. “It has been a rewarding experience,” she says, “but I knew I still needed to grow even more, which is why the SSO training was so valuable.”

So valuable, that when her employer’s budget couldn’t cover the cost, Paganini enrolled on her own dime, fueled by a penchant to acquire skills that could help with her current workload and her future aspirations.

A veteran of online learning before jumping into SSO, Paganini was familiar with the format and found the program’s online design to be extremely user-friendly and engaging. “I had no idea the program was so new, because it was conducted so professionally,” she says.

“I like how you read the material and then had an activity assigned to carry out at work. I am a hands-on person and if I don’t do an assignment, I won’t remember to employ what I’ve been taught,” Paganini explains. “I liked being able to put the precepts to a test and try what I’ve learned with others at work. At that point, it didn’t even feel as if I was training—it just felt real.”

After applying the assignments in real life, Paganini reported the result back to her instructors and other class members through the online discussion forum. “I had never been taught anything about meeting protocols before—about how to get and maintain respect, observe interpersonal behaviors, make sure the focus of a meeting stayed on track, steer a meeting back to its original purpose or maintain an agenda. SSO gave me tools to do that. I had a huge meeting a month later and I got to reinforce the stuff that I learned in the class. That was simply awesome.”

Admitting the program was no cakewalk, Paganini is also grateful for the support he received when she fell behind. “The instructors could tell nearly in an instant when I was overwhelmed,” she says.

“Sometimes, they would call me and offer to extend an assignment deadline or lend assistance in understanding and applying a concept. It was just the best support you could ask for.”

That support is something she plans to pay forward. “The SSO courses touched on everything a supervisor might encounter in the course of her leadership—even things I had never anticipated. Now I have the confidence to train others around me in what I have already learned, so the benefit can reach far beyond one person taking this program.”