Faculty Fellows

ITLP draws upon the expertise of current faculty to disseminate innovative and inclusive practices across the system, including teaching first-generation college students and creating equitable teaching environments.

Student Mental Health and Wellbeing

In spring 2020, Professors Bonnie Gasior, Ph.D., and Darci Strother, Ph.D., planned to offer Mental Health First Aid workshops for faculty on several CSU campuses. When the CSU transitioned to remote teaching and learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they developed two webinars to prepare faculty, as well as student support professionals, to become virtual mental health allies.

Now that the National Council for Mental Wellbeing has converted MHFA certification for online delivery, Dr. Gasior and Dr. Strother are offering the training to faculty across the CSU.

Bonnie Gasior, Ph.D. 

Bonnie Gasior, Ph.D.

Professor of Spanish
CSU Long Beach

Dr. Gasior's ten-year term as an undergraduate advisor in her department was the impetus for pursuing MHFA certification, which complements her view of mental wellness as an extension—if not a significant determiner—of student success. A graduate of CSULB's President's and Provost's Leadership Fellows Program, whereby fellows collaborated across divisions to realize campus-impacting projects, Dr. Gasior strives to empower faculty as Mental Health First Aiders, to serve students in academically adjacent ways, and to ultimately advocate for a scaffolding approach to address students' mental health challenges. She currently serves on CSULB's Training/Evaluation Mental Health Working Group, has given webinars such as “Mental Health Matters: Enabling Faculty to Support E-Learning Students in the Covid-19 Era,” and has presented at venues such as the CSU Student Success Network, the CSULB Learning Community, and the CSULB Advising Institute. Dr. Gasior’s efforts in these areas earned her a 2019 CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award (FILA).

Dr. Gasior is a first-generation college student and former Division-I athlete who hails from Pittsburgh, PA. She earned her MA and PhD in Spanish Literature from Purdue University. Her paraprofessional and scholarly interests serendipitously coalesce in two recent publications that broadly explore mental health in early modern Spanish literature: “Women's Mental Health Advocacy in Lars and the Real Girl and the Don Quixote Connection" and “La locura como crítica social: reexaminando el cuento del loco de Sevilla (Don Quijote II.1).” Dr. Gasior’s favorite forms of self-care include gardening, indoor cycling, hiking, and travel.

Darci Strother, Ph.D. 

Darci Strother, Ph.D.

Professor of Spanish
CSU San Marcos

Dr. Strother is honored to serve as a Faculty Fellow for Student Mental Health and Wellbeing. Following an undergraduate career as a double major in Psychology and Spanish (UPenn), and several years working in the mental health field, Dr. Strother pursued Spanish as the primary discipline for her MA and PhD degrees (UC Irvine), and has taught in the Modern Language Studies Department at CSUSM since 1993. She has also served as the Vice President for the CSU World Language Council, the Vice President for the Association of Hispanic Classical Theatre, and the Director of the North County Higher Education Alliance, among other roles. Her time as a department chair and as an ongoing faculty mentor convinced her that she needed to broaden her skill set to support student success, and that knowing how to address her students' mental health needs better would make her a more effective educator.

Dr. Strother designed and taught a course called Literatura y salud mental (Literature and Mental Health), and directed a Faculty Learning Community at CSU San Marcos on the topic of Mental Health First Aid. She has provided faculty workshops both in the U.S. and in Latin America on the topic of mental health in higher education. Dr. Strother is grateful to Dr. Bonnie Gasior for having first introduced her to Mental Health First Aid, and appreciates the support of the Chancellor’s Office in bringing this training to faculty throughout the CSU.

Sailesh Maharjan, M.S. 

Sailesh Maharjan, M.S.

Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology
CSU San Bernardino

Sailesh Maharjan has been an adjunct professor at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) since 2017. He is experienced in mindfulness meditation and delivers talks on Buddhist Philosophy focused on applying Buddhism in everyday life. Sailesh is a doctoral student at CSUSB focusing on Higher Education Leadership and has been selected as one of two Holmes Scholars from Cohort 16.

Sailesh was a Theravadin Buddhist monk for 16 years. He spent 12 years in Sri Lanka. He has earned one bachelor's degree in Buddhism and Pali Studies and one in Psychology from the University of Peradeniya. In 2010, he also received the Royal Pandit (Rājakīya Pandita) Degree in Pali, Sanskrit, and Sinhala from the Oriental Studies Society of Sri Lanka.

In 2012, he came to the United States as a religious worker to serve at Sambuddhaloka Buddhist Vihara Inc. in Moreno Valley, California. He traveled across California, Las Vegas, Texas, Arizona, Chicago, and Virginia as a spiritual guide and Buddhist speaker for several years before pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at CSUSB.

As a professor, he incorporates modern technology and novel evidence-based tools in his classes. He intends to use technology and research findings to address student mental health challenges, equitable assessment tools, student readiness, resource accessibility, and inclusiveness in higher education. He also focuses on incorporating mindfulness in higher education to develop programs to bolster faculty success in delivering quality education. Sailesh plans to use his doctoral training to identify problems and implement solutions within and beyond the college, county, and state education system.

Sailesh Maharjan loves woodwork, painting, cooking, and gardening with his wife and daughter.

Teaching First-Generation College Students

Professors Maria Estela Zarate, Ph.D., and Rebecca Gutierrez Keeton, Ph.D., developed an online seminar on teaching first-generation college students by drawing on cultural strengths. As of summer and fall 2022, 150 faculty from nineteen CSU campuses participated in the course.

In summer and fall 2020, as the CSU prepared to continue teaching in primarily virtual formats in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty participated in the seminar, which emphasizes using digital tools to engage first-generation college students in any learning environment.

The seminar's strengths-based approach to promoting achievement and engagement was refined in two summer institutes offered by the Faculty Development Center at Cal State Fullerton. They were also invited to teach a pre-conference session at the NAPSA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education annual conference.

Rebecca Gutierrez Keeton, Ph.D. 

Rebecca Gutierrez Keeton, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership
California State University, Fullerton

Dr. Keeton has dedicated her career to the California State University, having worked in student affairs for 26 years at Cal Poly Pomona. She now uses an equity and social justice lens to teach the next generation of student affairs professionals at Cal State Fullerton. She also coordinates the master's of science in higher education program that serves diverse cohorts of primarily underserved, first-generation, low-income students of color. The program has balanced gender representation and no statistically significant differences in graduation rates, based on gender or race.

Keeton's experiences and commitment to social justice inform her research agenda, which includes the persistence of underrepresented students and student affairs professionals in higher education and identity development work that honors intersectional identities. She earned a bachelor's in music education from Chapman University, a master's in student development from Azusa Pacific University, and a doctorate in higher education administration from the Claremont Graduate University.

Maritza Lozano, Ph.D. 

Maritza Lozano, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Leadership California State University, Fullerton

Dr. Lozano is committed to the improvement of learning experiences for ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse youth. Her scholarship seeks to disrupt hierarchical systems of education, sharing concrete tools and processes that can be used in the transformation of systems. Lozano brings together learning and participatory design perspectives to examine the systemic nature of educational injustice and leverages the use of Improvement Science methodology to target improvement efforts. Lozano has worked with public school communities across the United States for the past 25 years. Lozano began her career as a bilingual elementary school teacher, instructional literacy coach, and literacy content expert, for the Los Angeles Unified School District, later becoming a Teaching Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh, and a fieldwork supervisor for California State University, Dominguez Hills. Lozano has also consulted for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in Palo Alto and the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. A first-generation college student, Lozano received a B.A. in Spanish Literary Studies from Occidental College, an M.A. in Education with an emphasis in Reading, K-12, from California State University, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Past Fellows

Fellow for Equitable Teaching Environments

In spring 2019, Marcella De Veaux, Ph.D., offered a workshop titled “Exploring Bias to Build Equity-Minded Learning Environments" on three CSU campuses. Created for Faculty Development at CSUN, the workshop creates a dynamic space for faculty to explore, through self-reflection and introspection, their own bias and learn strategies for creating equitable environments for learning in and beyond the classroom.

Maria Estela Zarate, Ph.D.  

Marcella "Marcy" De Veaux, Ph.D.

Professor of Journalism
Director, Special Projects for Faculty Development
California State University, Northridge

As director of special projects for Faculty Development at CSUN, Dr. De Veaux facilitates the Institute for Transformative Teaching and Learning, which aims to close opportunity gaps among students by engaging faculty in self-reflection and professional learning about equity-minded practices. De Veaux is an ambassador for a variety of issues related to diversity, inclusion and cultural competence at CSUN: She serves on President Dianne Harrison's Commission on Inclusion and Diversity Initiatives; conducts a workshop based in the science of unconscious bias for university faculty and staff entitled “Rooting Out Unconscious Bias: How Do You See the World?"; and serves as chair of the Educational Equity Committee, whose projects include mentoring faculty through the retention, tenure and promotion process as an avenue to retaining educators of color.

De Veaux earned her doctorate in depth and liberation psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Depth psychology involves techniques for exploring motives that underlie conscious awareness. Psychologies of liberation emerged from depth psychology with a focus on ethnically diverse and indigenous communities. She also holds a master's in human resource management from Lesley College. Both degrees support her work addressing unconscious bias in the workplace.

Maria Estela Zarate, Ph.D. 

Maria Estela Zarate, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Educational Leadership
Coordinator, Preliminary Administrative Services Credential Program
California State University, Fullerton

Dr. Zarate's research addresses the trajectory of immigrant students in U.S. schools, including the education of English language learners and the connections between schools and families. She has also examined issues influencing college access and persistence for first-generation college students and students of color, including academic preparation and support. Overall, Zarate's work points to the role that educators and institutions play in determining students' success. In higher education contexts, faculty are a critical determinant of students' learning and engagement.