Arcidiacono bucks the status quo

Brooke Samson, Staff Writer

Cathie Lawrence
LMC speech professor Marie Arcidiacono speaks at the lectern during a debate in the Pittsburg City Hall Oct 30, 2015.

After a long day of grading papers and preparing for meetings with Los Medanos College’s health and wellness committee, Speech Professor Marie Arcidiacono leaves for a run and ends her day enjoying a chocolate donut and sitting down to watch the hallmark channel. When she isn’t reading Harry Potter or considering ideas for her own books, Arcidiacono dedicates herself to making LMC a better place.

Graduating as Valedictorian of Pittsburg High School, she had a lot of people all trying to tell how what direction her life should go in. Her decision to attend Cal State East Bay after high school confused many in her life, but for her it was the best educational and financial decision. People often asked her why she didn’t want to attend a more prestigious school, but it came down to the fact that East Bay would allow her to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in only three years. Coming from a close-knit family, East Bay also put her near enough to her loved ones to be comfortable but just far enough to remain independent. Nevertheless, many tried to pressure her into attending a more prestigious college.

“I think there will always be people who are disappointed with your decisions but you should feel confident in your choices. Know who’s input to take into consideration. I don’t regret attending East Bay,” She said.

Most importantly to Arcidiacono was being close to Los Medanos College. Her end goal has always been to come and give back to a community that helped her parents, both LMC alumni. She is a full time speech professor, co-director of forensics, chair of the health & wellness committee and member of the Honors Advisory Board as well as the Debate Team coach. Debate became a passion for Arcidiacono while attending East Bay. Her professor Terry West relentlessly pushed her to join the debate team and she reluctantly agreed. After that, she was hooked. She and her partner Eric Brinkley made a great pair. Arcidiacono had the presentation skills and Brinkley had the political knowledge to take them though tournaments.

While traveling to all of their debate tournaments, she and Brinkley would spend all of their time reading through books, articles and newspapers for any information on relevant topics. Having a wide array of knowledge is necessary for all debaters because they do not know the topic of the debate beforehand.

Arcidiacono and Brinkley would stay up for hours looking for any information they could find on possible debate topics. Once off the plane, the two of them would pass out in the car on the way to tournaments. For them, research was a workout.

Her love of debate came with her to LMC and she began coaching students on the debate team in Fall 2013.

Arcidiacono provides her students with all of the tools they need to succeed.

“What I try to do is make sure I have a variety of resources I can pull from. The best way to offer assistance to a student is to find out what they need. I don’t mind going out of my way researching what they need,” She said, adding, “I keep close ties with other faculty members from other schools to help make connections between them and students.”

Fellow Speech Professor Star Steers was a recipient of Arcidiacono’s help. Steers was interested in becoming a debate team coach but feared that she lacked the background in the sport to help any students. Arcidiacono swooped in and went from being simply a colleague to Steers to being a close friend. Arcidiacono offered Steers any and all information she needed along with a lot of strong support to get her to join the debate team as a coach.

“She provided me with tons of resources and reading material. She even went so far as to let me use the office with her. It was important to her that I feel like part of the team and a professional,” said Steers.

Steers became a debate team coach during the Fall of 2016 and was able to aid students alongside Arcidiacono at the Dominican Debate Tournament.

When she is not coaching the debate team every Wednesday night she can be found in her offices on the Brentwood and Pittsburg campuses. Her office in Brentwood has become her highly organized space. Framed pictures are evenly spaced on the walls and colored post-it notes keep track of all of her ideas and plans for the next few days.

“Being organized is my creative process. Post-its and lists are a tangible way to keep things in order. I like to feel like I can get stuff done.”

Arcidiacono’s Brentwood Office really showcases her creativity. On her desk sits decorative pink lilies with a framed poster from the movie Mean Girls resting on top of her bookshelf. The shelf is crammed full of books about communications.

She sat upright in her chair next to her computer and thought carefully about her many hobbies, aside from teaching and being organized.

“My mom was a huge marathon runner. I come from good athletic stock. My dad was a body builder and both of my parents were arm wrestlers,” She said.

“I was not into running while I was in high school. I was super active in basketball and volleyball, all of the field events.”

Her mother always hoped that the running bug would bite one of her children, but Arcidiacono had no motivation to begin running until 2011. She went out on a walk with a friend and discussed the Nike Women’s Marathon. All runners who joined were entered into a lottery to win Tiffany’s jewelry and that was all the motivation she needed to start running. Her mother created a training regimen and by October of the same year she had ran a half marathon for the first time. She didn’t win any jewelry, but acquired a love for a new hobby that wasn’t watching romantic comedies on the Hallmark channel.

From there, she was hooked. Arcidiacono runs marathons not only to earn medals but to make vacations out of her travels. She ran in Disney World Wine and Dine half marathon in Florida, the Dumbo Double Dare, running 19.3 miles in 2 days. Most notably she and a friend flew to Washington D.C. to run in the Nike Women’s half marathon in 2014. They ran to monuments and all the way to Arlington National Cemetery. While on the trip, Arcidiacono wanted to be able to run through the White House and it just so happened that her and her friend ran by as white house staff were passing out tickets to tour the White House Garden, an event that only takes place twice a year. She and her friend took the tickets and were able to, not run, but peruse the lush garden First Lady Michelle Obama planted. She makes the best out of all of her travels and not only uses them to accumulate great experiences in fitness and tourism, but to find the best donuts the United States has to offer.

Her favorite donut shop is the Donut Bar in San Diego. Every debate tournament trip to San Diego sends Arcidiacono and her team to the shop so she can sit down with her favorite treat, a caramel latte donut. While going to East Bay she went to Indiana with some of her sorority sisters and walked from where she was staying to a shop called Dancing Donuts, proudly wearing a tank top that read, “I run because I love donuts.” She and her sisters wound up walking a seven mile round trip for those donuts.

Running and fitness is a big part of Arcidiacono’s life, leading her to take on the role as the Chair of LMC’s Health and Wellness Committee. While she is organizing events to aid faculty with creating healthy sleeping schedules, she remembers that it is OK to enjoy the sweeter parts of life even when on average a donut has 195 calories each and 11 grams of sugar.

Aside from finding the best donuts in the greater Bay Area, Arcidiacono’s life goals are to dedicate herself to making LMC a better place. Her end goal during her educational career was to teach at LMC. After teaching at East Bay and Contra Costa College, she was brought on as a part time speech professor at LMC. She now pursues tenure and has big plans for the future of the communications program.

“I would like to have a communications class for the CTE program. The electrical training industry needs employees with communications skills and LMC offers the only ETEC and PTEC program in Northern California. I want to provide students with the speaking skills they need to succeed in any kind of job, even ones that are more blue collar. “She said.

As for what is in the more immediate future, she is currently waiting and hoping for the approval of a TED-X license as a way to present LMC students with opportunities that other community colleges wouldn’t offer. She also hopes to help students make the best decisions for themselves.

“I want to make sure that I make an impact in people’s lives. My main motivation towards success is knowing that I’m in an occupation where I have the opportunity to do good. I like to help people.”

As for in the far future, she has been considering writing a book. Be on the lookout for her future bestseller.