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College district accounting tech garners employee-excellence award

Posted on: Jul 19, 2012 1:00:00 AM

Contact: Della Elliott (619) 644-7690

    EL CAJON –Kasi Althaus, a Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District accounting  tech  with a dedication to service and  a joie de vivre that lifts the spirits of all around her  was lauded at this week’s Governing Board meeting with an award for worker excellence.

    Always eager to volunteer her time and energy in support of colleagues and students, Althaus serves on  a laundry list of committees and special-event teams, pitching in on such projects as organizing a float entry in the annual Mother Goose Parade, raising funds for college scholarships, and helping new students during orientation. Off-campus, she channels a creative bent, transforming discarded pill bottles into whimsical clay figurines to bring a smile to the faces of local cancer patients.

    “Kasi is the epitome of value and support of employees,” said Yvette Macy, an executive officer of the GCCCD Classified Senate, which co-sponsors the Chancellor/Classified Senate Award, a quarterly commendation presented to outstanding classified, or non-teaching, staff. Macy works in the same district services building as Althaus and nominated her for the award. “She has worked on events that embrace unity between staff, faculty, students and the community.”

    And always with a cheery smile. With a penchant for karaoke and wearing ballet slippers to the office, the eight-year district employee defies the stereotype of the somber, buttoned-down accounting professional. A bust of Elvis that she painted and a Tinker Bell desk set adorn her cubicle at work.

    During these times of financial uncertainty as California’s budget crisis continues to decimate public education funding, Althaus’ sunny disposition and engaging ways are welcome stress-relievers to her co-workers. Macy recounted how she was persuaded to join Althaus in putting on a karaoke tutorial during Classified Staff Appreciation Day, a day set aside each year for classified employees to participate in a variety of workshops and activities.

   “Where does it say you can’t have fun while at work?” said Althaus whose introduction to Grossmont College came as a summer-session student during the years she attended San Diego State University, initially as a zoology major before career considerations prompted a switch to business. “Karaoke can help build self-confidence and help weaken public-speaking anxiety.”

    But don’t mistake the El Cajon native’s affinity for singing Elvis and Neil Diamond tunes for a cavalier attitude toward work and life in general. She graduated fifth in her class at El Cajon Valley High School, holds a bachelor’s and an MBA from National University and has been a member of her labor union’s eight-person contract negotiating team for the past seven years. 

    Chancellor Cindy L. Miles praised Althaus for promoting the importance of higher education and called her a role model for students and staff.

     “She has supported students on campus by volunteering her time on a year-round basis from orientations at the start of the semester on through commencement,” Miles said. “We appreciate Althaus’ talents and giving nature as a member of the college district family.”

    The chancellor/classified senate award also recognizes the recipient’s contributions to the community. As a member of the San Diego Polymer Clay Guild, a group that works with the plasticized clay to sculpt charms, artwork and other crafts, Althaus is involved in community outreach efforts, including Bottle of Hopes. Old medicine bottled are collected and transformed into miniature art creations, each bearing an uplifting message and donated anonymously to patients at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. A newsletter plea last year for donations of empty bottles yielded hundreds sent to her office via campus mail.

    “We also are involved in the Beads of Courage program that gives children with health issues different color beads representing different treatments – a glow-in-the-dark bead for radiation and a brown bead if they lose their hair,” Althaus said.

           Althaus said accounting suits her because she is detail-oriented and has always been good with numbers. Whenever she feels the urge for some adventure, she and her husband, Ryan, a custodial supervisor at Grossmont College, jump into the car for a road trip. Althaus has been traveling since her teens – back then, it was with her mother. She’s been in every state in the continental U.S. and when she got married, she hit her 50th state – Hawaii, where she and her husband went for their honeymoon. Next month, the two plan to celebrate their 10-year anniversary in Germany, France and Italy.

          “No, I wouldn’t say I’m a typical accountant,” she said “Perhaps this is one of the reasons I love to volunteer, so I can explore my more creative side and see that my behind-the-scene s work does affect students and staff. I think that is my passion – trying to enrich others and even myself by using my resources, knowledge and skills while learning from others.”

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