Campus: Fullerton -- September 21, 2006

Cal State Fullerton History Major Receives Hearst/CSU Award for Outstanding Achievement

Growing up in Sonora, Calif., Ben Davis always thought that he would be a teacher - a role he has taken to heart. Even before earning his bachelor's degree, he taught at a local elementary school, as well as in Africa and China.

Today, as a graduate student studying history at Cal State Fullerton, the Costa Mesa resident is pursuing his goal of becoming a college professor.

Davis is among 19 student recipients of the 2006-07 William R. Hearst/California State University Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement. The awards were presented yesterday during a meeting in Long Beach of the CSU Board of Trustees.

The annual award provides $3,000 scholarships to students who have demonstrated financial need, experienced personal hardships and have attributes of merit, including superior academic performance, exemplary community service and significant personal achievements.

Davis, 25, began working in a small, family-run restaurant at 14, taking on additional responsibilities as the years passed and becoming manager by his senior year at Summerville Union High. He jokes now that he had the keys to the restaurant before he had his driver's license.

After playing basketball for four years in high school, Davis left Sonora and moved to Orange County to attend Vanguard University. He had learned that a former UCLA Bruin was coaching at the Costa Mesa college and was planning to try out for the team. To pay his way through college, Davis got "a cool job teaching" at Sonora Elementary School, a kindergarten- third-grade school in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

"This was my favorite job," said Davis. "I really enjoyed working with the children because they are smart, acute and provide unique observations into overly complex scenarios that adults often fail to see, even though the solution looms right in front of us. I learned so much from them."

While attending Vanguard, Davis also began volunteering on Skid Row, having been inspired by a woman who signed up to take part in a mission trip in which he was participating. Davis still works with her as part of a church ministry in Watts.

"The work [on Skid Row] helped pave the way for the mission trip to Mozambique, Africa, in December of 2001," said Davis. "The following summer, I left to teach English in China, which proved to be one of the most fulfilling jobs in my life."

Davis, who completed his bachelor's degree in 2003 with aspirations to teach high school, began his graduate studies at Cal State Fullerton last fall. Now, he has set his sights on teaching at the college level.

"I love being in the history master's program," he said. "Its perfect for what I'm doing."

Contact: Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs at (714) 278-4852 or

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