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Statement-from-CSU-Chancellor-Jolene-Koester-Regarding-Roe-V-Wade-Supreme-Court-Decision.aspx
  
6/25/2022 8:29 AMKelly, Hazel6/24/20226/24/2022 5:35 PMRead CSU Chancellor Jolene Koester's statement on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.LeadershipStory

The f​ollowing statement can be attributed to California State University (CSU) Chancellor Jolene Koester:

"Today's Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade strips away the hard-earned protection of an inherent fundamental human right that has been guaranteed for 50 years.

"I am profoundly saddened and deeply concerned about the impact this decision will have, not only on people's ability to make informed decisions about their personal health, but on their agency to pursue educational and occupational opportunities. I am equally distressed by the broader implications of today's decision that threaten other fundamental freedoms we hold dear – including additional privacy rights and marriage equality – with particularly ominous potential impacts to the LGBTQIA+ community.

"Freedom – at its foundation – is about the removal of barriers. The CSU exists to remove barriers to knowledge, understanding, prosperity and the fulfillment of one's potential. Today's decision is indeed antithetical to the CSU's ideals. Our mission is to empower students from all backgrounds to freely pursue their personal and professional dreams as part of a fair and just society. The California State University community remains steadfast to that mission, and will strengthen our collective commitment to our core values."  ​


college students walking on a campus with the words chancellor statement over it
CSU Statement on Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Decision
Letter-From-Chancellor-Koester-June-23-2022.aspx
  
6/23/2022 2:44 PMRuble, Alisia6/23/20226/23/2022 11:30 AMChancellor Koester sent a message to the California State University community with regard to efforts to ensure that campuses are safe and welcoming environments.LeadershipStory

​​The following message was sent to the California State University community June 23, 2022:​


As you likely know and as recent media reports have made painfully clear, the California State University has fallen short in our effort to ensure that our campuses are safe and welcoming environments where students, faculty and staff can thrive personally, professionally and intellectually, free of discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct.

The CSU's Board of Trustees and its senior leadership – like the entire Cal State community – hold our institution's core values dear and have acted quickly, calling for a systemwide assessment of our Title IX policies and practices. While I am pleased with the Board's fast action, I also want to communicate more clearly to the CSU's stakeholders regarding what that assessment will look like – and about the principles and values that will inform and guide our efforts.

So today, on the 50th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX, please allow me to do so. I'll begin with a few words about what I bring to this effort.

When I assumed the presidency at CSUN in 2000, I inherited a number of Title IX issues, but they were all related to gender equity in intercollegiate athletics. We were out of compliance with regard to participation, scholarships and overall funding. Equity in sports is what Title IX meant to me. While there have been cases extending Title IX to sexual harassment since the late 1970s, it really wasn't until the Obama administration and the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights issued its landmark “Dear Colleague Letter" of 2011 – as I was retiring from the CSUN presidency – that universities' responsibilities around sexual harassment and misconduct under Title IX were made clear.

So, I am not a Title IX expert. I am a 74-year-old white woman who has had many privileges in life. But while I have not experienced what could be described as sexual violence, I certainly have faced gender-based discrimination, and I have experienced sexually inappropriate behavior and physical intimidation. And I know unequivocally that how people are treated – how we treat people, as universities and a university system – matters. In fact, it reflects all that we stand for.

The CSU is at an inflection point, with a unique opportunity to fundamentally change the way we treat people: our diverse and talented students, our world-class faculty and staff, our partners and friends. To approach the systemwide Title IX assessment as some sort of bureaucratic check-the-box exercise would be to squander that opportunity.

That will not happen.

This assessment is not a mere checklist audit of our Title IX offices, ensuring that we do a better job dotting our i's and crossing our t's as we investigate and adjudicate cases. Meaningful change is much bigger. It is more comprehensive. Indeed, it is cultural.

The firm we have hired to conduct our assessment – Cozen O'Connor – understands this. They understand that, on our campuses and systemwide, we must build and sustain two separate yet related cultures: a culture of compliance and a culture of care.

Beginning with Fresno State, teams from Cozen O'Connor will move from campus to campus and to the Chancellor's Office, conducting methodical and comprehensive analyses of our systems of compliance and systems of care.

We will act upon their recommendations to tighten up our culture of compliance – developing, communicating and implementing clear policies related to misconduct, investigations, adjudications and sanctions. We will work to remove barriers to reporting, better educate constituents regarding their Title IX obligations, address instances of retaliation and ensure access to survivor advocates, effective employee assistance programs and physical and mental health care services – both on campus and off.

But simultaneously, we will strengthen our culture of care. That means ongoing prevention programs, awareness campaigns and bystander education. And it means striving to dismantle rape and sexual violence myths and seeking to address the underlying social issues that contribute to the persistence of sexual violence: sexism, harmful gender norms and stereotypes, heterosexism and ignorance around LGBTQIA+ issues.

It's easy to see how the cultures of compliance and care are complementary and interrelated. Students and employees who see positive outcomes and accountability and who understand that they will be supported by their community if they come forward – and not be marginalized – are more likely to report. And a more educated and enlightened campus community is less likely to engage in sexual misconduct, and more likely to intervene when they see it.

As the nation's largest, most diverse and most consequential university system, we have a great obligation and opportunity. If we get this right – and we will – we can serve as a model for higher education as we live out our core values. And as we immerse California's future leaders in an authentic culture of care, our graduates will carry the impact of our work far beyond our campus borders – into every business sector and community in our great state.

I'm not naive. I am fully aware that this work is hard and that it seeks to address longstanding systemic problems as well as deeply rooted attitudes and behaviors. It will take time, requiring diligence and persistence and continuous self-assessment and improvement.

But we have been called to action – and we will answer that call. We must. Our students, faculty and staff – indeed, all our constituents – demand it. And our mission and core values require it.


Sincerely,

Jolene Koester

Interim Chancellor


If any member of the CSU community has experienced sexual discrimination or sexual violence – or knows anyone who has – we encourage them to contact their campus Title IX office​.

A photo of a large steel and glass building with the words chancellor statement over it
An Important Message from CSU Chancellor Jolene Koester
CSU-Juneteenth-Symposium-2022.aspx
  
6/22/2022 2:08 PMRuble, Alisia6/22/20226/22/2022 8:00 AMUniversity leaders call for systemic change to improve outcomes for Black and African American students at the inaugural symposium.DiversityStory

​The California State University convened its inaugural biennial Juneteenth Symposium June 15-16, hosted by CSU Dominguez Hills, to celebrate African American history and achievement and promote and sustain the anti-racism work underway across the CSU's 23 campuses.​​​​

The hybrid in-person/virtual symposium featured keynotes from nationally renowned speakers including philosopher, author and activist Cornel West, Ph.D., California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, Ph.D., and San Diego State Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity/Chief Diversity Officer J. Luke Wood, Ph.D.

Breakout session topics included how to leverage CSU data to improve outcomes for Black students, the importance of innovative and culturally competent teaching and instruction and examining the trajectory of Black male students through an ethos of care, hope and healing.

In conjunction with the symposium, the university launched its CSU ACTs​ (Acknowledges, Commits and Transforms) initiative, which tasks campuses with developing a preliminary set of goals, measurable objectives and action steps to advance Black and African American student access and success. 

“Beyond providing academic and co-curricular spaces for students to cultivate their intellectual potential, our roles in the CSU system are to prevent wings from breaking, and mend those that do," said CSUDH President Thomas Parham. “I encourage all of us to collectively provoke, instigate and inspire change; develop new, substantive programs that demonstrate our commitment to the true needs of students, staff, faculty and administrators of African descent; and examine and transform the policies and practices that inhibit rather than facilitate Black excellence."

Juneteenth marks the moment on June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers marched into Galveston, Texas, to free the last enslaved people of the state—more than ​two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. It is recognized as a consequential day of reflection and is​ commemorated in communities across California and the nation.

CSU campuses have celebrated Juneteenth with performances, displays, lectures and more that recognize the history and achievements of Black students, faculty and staff, but the symposium marked the first time the university came together as a system to evoke systemic change.

The idea for the symposium came after national civil unrest shed light on the inequities that exist for Black and African American people in the United States. It was championed by Student Trustee Emerita Maryana Khames in March 2021 during her time serving on the Committee on Educational Policy and advanced by the full CSU Board of Trustees in May 2021.

“This is no time for complacency," CSU Chancellor Jolene Koester said during the symposium. “To improve the experience for Black students and faculty on CSU campuses, the university must aggregate the data, look at pedagogy in the classroom, talk about racism and examine policies and practices in place."


​​a man speaking from behind a podium

​​​​CSUDH President Thomas Parham urges symposium attendees to collectively provoke, instigate and inspire change.

​Building on Prior Work

Black and African American students, faculty, staff and alumni have made and continue to make vast, meaningful and lasting contributions to the CSU and the state of California, but they continue to experience disproportionately greater inequities in college preparation, educational access and attainment.

As the nation's largest and most racially and ethnically diverse university, the CSU continues to promote the principles of inclusive excellence and embrace its role as a transformative institution that advances the upward mobility of millions of students and their families.

The CSU has made significant progress to increase graduation rates for all students while working to eliminate opportunity and achievement gaps through its Graduation Initiative 2025 (GI2025). In fall 2021, the university doubled down on eliminating equity gaps, announcing five equity goals to prioritize success for students, especially those from underserved communities and who have been historically underrepresented in higher education.

An integral effort to reach GI2025 goals is the CSU Certificate Program in Student Success Analytics, a professional development program that empowers faculty, staff and administrators to work collaboratively on understanding and addressing the factors that perpetuate equity gaps in higher education. The program fosters equity-minded and data-informed action to close equity gaps and support students on their way to a college degree.

The CSU serves more than 19,000 students who identify as Black or African American, and it awarded more than 4,300 undergraduate degrees and more than 800 graduate degrees to Black and African American students in 2020-21.


​​two men and a young woman pose with a framed document

​​​​CSUDH President Thomas Parham, Student Trustee Emerita Maryana Khames and CSUDH Vice President for Student Affairs and Master of Ceremonies Dr. William Franklin, from left to right, pose with a framed copy of the resolution that established the symposium.

Increasing Enrollment and Belonging

CSU trustees recently voted to make amendments to Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations to remove SAT and ACT standardized tests from the undergraduate admissions process in a continued effort to level the playing field and provide greater access to a high-quality college degree.

Additionally, the CSU partners with churches, PK-12 schools, community organizations and non-profit organizations to increase preparation, enrollment and graduation rates for students from underserved communities through programs such as Super Sunday.

Once students are enrolled at the CSU, campuses provide a variety of culturally-specific resources to Black communities to increase students' sense of belonging and improve persistence rates. These resources are in addition to myriad cultural fraternities and sororities, clubs, living-learning communities and more.

CSU campuses also empower men of color through 'brotherhood' programs, which are funded in part by GI2025 and campus Student Success Fees. These programs place male students of color in cohorts as they go through its powerful mix of academic support, mentoring, community service and professional development.

In 2019, the CSU Young Males of Color Consortium launched a two-year plan designed to improve outcomes for men of color in the CSU. The plan was centered on four pillars intended to help build capacity among CSU campuses and improve programs designed to support the matriculation and development of men of color.


​​four people sitting in chairs on a stage engaging in a panel discussion

A panel discussion with University of California, Los Angeles Professor of Education Dr. Tyrone Howard, University of California Office of the President Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs ​Dr. Michael Brown, CSUDH Director of the Toro Reengagement Program Dr. Sabrina Sanders and Cosumnes River College President Dr. Edward Bush.

​Developing Culturally Sensitive Faculty

The CSU promotes the highest standards of university teaching and fosters faculty professional growth and collaboration through CSU Innovative Teaching and Learning Programs (ITLP). Many of its initiatives are focused on improving equity in the classroom through culturally responsive pedagogy.

Additionally, the CSU announced the Creating Responsive, Equitable, Active Teaching and Engagement (CREATE) Awards​ program in June 2022, which aims to reinvigorate faculty commitment to the system's GI2025 efforts by increasing their sense of responsibility to each student's progress toward graduation.

CSU trustees also approved an ethnic studies and social justice general education requirement, which will go into effect for the 2023-24 academic year to allow time for faculty to develop plans and coursework that best meet the unique needs of their students and communities. CSU leaders say this amendment will help students become leaders in creating a more just and equitable society.

The CSU Chancellor's Doctoral Incentive Program prepares future faculty who are needed to teach the university's diverse student population. The program aims to recruit future faculty, mostly from among the university's own undergraduate and graduate programs and increase the representation of faculty of color. 

Another way in which the CSU can improve equity on campuses is hiring more faculty, staff and administrators of color, and establishing support on campus to improve retention of those employees. San Diego State, for example, recently did a cluster hiring of people who demonstrate a focus on supporting specific student populations, such as Black students or Indigenous students, to promote a more inclusive, culturally competent faculty and staff who will better support the diverse students and communities served by SDSU. The campus is also home to 16 employee resource groups that serve 900 employees and are available to meet with prospective employees during the hiring process.


​​A smiling man standing behind a podium

​​​​SDSU Vice President for Student Affairs and Campus D​iversity/Chief Diversity Officer Dr. J. Luke Wood presents a keynote on "Racelighting," which Dr. Wood says occurs when a person of color begins to question their own reality because they are manipulated by others.

​Improving the Pipeline

Research has found that students perform better when they can identify with their teachers and that teachers of color can play a key role in students' self-image of success. To that end, campuses are building a diverse educator workforce to increase representation in PK-12 education, especially in STEM fields. As the state's largest preparer of PK-12 teachers, the CSU can make a significant impact on equity in those classrooms by training more teachers of color.

The CSU also announced the creation of the CSU Center for Transformational Educator Preparation Programs (CSU CTEPP), which will leverage the successes of the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI) with a focus on recruiting, preparing and retaining Black, Indigenous and other teachers of color to serve California's diverse students and families.


​​a woman talking into a speaker at a podium

​​​​CSU Chancellor Koester closes out the symposium by underscoring the crucial need for systemic change to improve outcomes for Black and African American students.

Doubling Down

Despite these efforts, inequities continue to exist for Black and African American students in higher education, and Chancellor Koester leads the charge in committing to do more.

“Together we can—we must—​summon the full power of education to ensure that every member of the Black and African American community has the abundant opportunity to live their dreams," Koester said. “We must start by ensuring that every CSU campus is a place of growth, support and belonging—a place that feels as natural as home."


Learn more about CSU campus efforts to improve educational equity for Black and African American students and see social media coverage of the symposium. 

Three people sitting in chairs on a stage engaging in a panel discussion
CSU Juneteenth Symposium Reinvigorates Efforts to Improve Black Student Success
CSU-CREATE-Awards-2022.aspx
  
6/21/2022 2:17 PMKelly, Hazel6/21/20226/21/2022 8:00 AMFive proposals chosen to receive funding for the upcoming 2022-2023 academic year.Student SuccessStory

​In a continued effort to accomplish the CSU Graduation Initiative 2025 goals, the CSU Chancellor's Office issued a call for proposals in March 2022 for the Creating Responsive, Equitable, Active Teaching and Engagement (CREATE) Awards program. The inaugural program aims to reinvigorate faculty commitment to the system's student success efforts by increasing their sense of responsibility to each student's progress toward graduation. By recognizing the vitally important role faculty play in providing high-quality instruction and highlighting those transforming the student experience, the CREATE Awards program offers an opportunity for CSU faculty to make a sustainable change in student success for years to come.

In June 2022, the CREATE Awards Program Selection Committee chose five proposals to receive funding for the upcoming 2022-23 academic year. Funded by the College Futures Foundation, the five winning proposals will receive awards ranging from $48,000 to $222,000. Selected based on the creativity and innovation of their proposals, these programs showcase teaching practices and research-backed interventions capable of increasing the number of bachelor's degrees awarded, while also reducing equity gaps.

CSU Director of Research & Student Success Initiatives, Chenoa Woods, Ph.D., touches on the benefits of the program, not only for students, but also faculty. "The CREATE Awards Program allows faculty to think differently about student success and have a large-scale impact while drawing from their areas of expertise. It highlights the importance of using research-based practices in innovative ways to close equity gaps and impact student success." 

Although each proposal illustrates a different approach, they collectively promise the improvement of overall student success and a reduction of equity gaps across the CSU system.

THE WINNING PROPOSALS

Decreasing Equity Gaps in Degree Completion by Empowering CSU Students, Faculty, and Staff through Action Projects informed by Intergroup Dialogue

The two-semester online program will include training in intergroup dialogue (IGD) at the 10 Southern California CSU campuses. Participants trained in IGD will affect many other constituents at their campuses by carrying out action projects to tackle Graduation Initiative 2025.


Dr. Manpreet Dhillon Brar | Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor
Department of Child Development
Cal State San Bernardino

Dr. Stacy Morris | Co-Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor
Department of Child Development
Cal State San Bernardino

Dr. Jessica Morales-Chicas | Co-Principal Investigator
Associate Professor
Child and Family Studies Department
Cal State LA​


​​Developing Culturally Relevant Activities to Support Undergraduate Persistence: A Pilot Study with Supplemental Instruction & Grad-to-Undergraduate Peer Mentoring

This project aims to improve persistence rates and reduce equity gaps among underrepresented students enrolled in Cal Poly Pomona's Apparel and Merchandising Management program (AMM). It will address innovation in teaching and learning and build on existing departmental and university efforts from the Fearless Classroom initiative through the development of pilot Culturally Relevant Supplemental Instruction (CRSI) activities, and graduate-to-undergraduate peer mentoring. The program will be available for all AMM faculty to participate in and can reach all students enrolled during the program implementation in Spring 2023.


Dr. Helen Trejo| Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor
Apparel Merchandising and Management
Cal Poly Pomona

Dr. JC Cañedo | Co-Principal Investigator
Lecturer
Apparel Merchandising and Management
Cal Poly Pomona

Dr. Claire Whang | Co-Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor
Apparel Merchandising and Management
Cal Poly Pomona​


Agents of Change: Faculty-Learning Assistant Partnerships Supporting Active, Engaging, Equitable Learning Environments

This project builds on the faculty learning assistants (LAs) model by adding support, such as participating in a faculty retreat or academy where inclusive, equitable, engaging and active learning strategies will be discussed. The project will immediately impact undergraduate students, learning assistants and faculty in physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, math and computer science across three CSU campuses: San José, San Francisco, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, as well as help chart productive, equitable pathways forward in implementing sustainable LA models at other CSU campuses.


Dr. Cassandra Paul | Principal Investigator
Associate Professor, Physics & Astronomy | Science Education
San José State University

Dr. Resa Kelly | Co-Principal Investigator
Professor, Chemistry & Science Education
Director, Science Education Program
San José State University

Dr. Kim Coble | Co-Principal Investigator
Professor
Department of Physics and Astronomy
San Francisco State University

Dr. Gina Quan | Co-Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor
Department of Physics and Astronomy
San José State University

Dr. Jennifer Avena | Co-Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor Department of Biological Sciences
Science Education Program
San José State University

Dr. Laura Ríos | Co-Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor
Department of Physics
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo​


​Developing Instructional Cultures that Support Student Motivation in Math

This project will deliver and evaluate the impacts of a professional learning course, called the Motivating Learners Course (MLC), to mathematics instructors at two CSU campuses: San Diego State and Cal Poly Pomona. By applying research and equipping instructors with the knowledge and tools for how to frame messages and adapt learning materials that support students' motivation and learning mindsets, this program will make progress toward the GI2025 goals of improving students' outcomes and closing equity gaps within foundational math courses.


Dr. Dustin Thoman | Principal Investigator

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and the Center of Research in Mathematics and Science Education
San Diego State University 

Dr. Paul Beardsley | Co-Principal Investigator
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences Director of the Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching
Cal Poly Pomona 

Dr. Allison Vaughn | Co-Principal Investigator
Professor
Department of Psychology Associate Director, Center for Teaching and Learning
San Diego State University


 The AHRC/MM Project: Supporting Black Students Through Research and Mentoring​

This project aims to improve the retention and advancement of Black students at CSU Monterey Bay by addressing student re-engagement and promoting equitable learning environments, which are key GI2025 priorities. By bringing together the African Heritage Research Collaborative (AHRC) and the Mandla Mentoring (MM) program, students will engage in collaborative faculty-led research projects that examine inequities and differential experiences of Black students, while also providing a supportive network of engaged faculty and staff to promote student retention, well-being and academic success.

 

Dr. Vanessa Lopez-Littleton | Principal Investigator
Associate Professor of Public Administration and Nonprofit Management and Chair of the Department of Health, Human Services, and Public Policy Chief Assistant to the Dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services
CSU Monterey Bay

Dr. Dennis Kombe | Co-Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education and the Secondary Education Program Coordinator, Department of Education and Leadership
CSU Monterey Bay

 

To learn more, please visit the CREATE Awards website.​​

Pictures of faculty award winners
Professor and student
CSU CREATE Awards Support Faculty in Advancing Student Success
turn-your-tassels-class-of-2022.aspx
  
6/20/2022 8:04 AMBarrie, Matthew6/20/20226/20/2022 2:45 PMAfter two years of navigating campus life amidst a global pandemic, the 2022 graduating classes of all 23 CSU campuses were able to toss their caps at traditional commencement ceremonies surrounded by family and friends.CommencementStory

Turn Your Tassels, Class of 2022!


After two years of navigating campus life amidst a global pandemic, the 2022 graduating classes of all 23 CSU campuses were able to toss their caps at traditional commencement ceremonies surrounded by family and friends.

Photos courtesy of: Juan Rodriguez/CSU Bakersfield, Jason Halley/Chico State, Sean DuFrene/Cal State Long Beach, Joe Johnston/Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

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Turn Your Tassels, Class of 2022!
How-the-CSU-Transformed-Them.aspx
  
6/14/2022 9:48 AMRuble, Alisia6/14/20226/14/2022 9:45 AMRead about a few CSU student leaders from the people who know them best.CommencementStory
How-the-CSU-Transformed-Them

How the CSU Transformed Them

Read about a few CSU student leaders from the people who know them best.


jump to main content  

The California State University conferred an estimated 134,000 degrees on graduates from the Class of 2022 this spring, welcoming them into an alumni family that is already more than four million strong. These graduates are California's next leaders—in policy, philanthropy, science, social justice and moreand behind every one of them is a parent, mentor or friend who cheered them on and stood in awe of their achievements.

Learn how the CSU transformed these student leaders from those who helped them on the path to graduation.

KRYSTAL RAYNES

Krystal Raynes
CSU Student Trustee Emerita

Campus: CSU Bakersfield
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

From her early days at CSU Bakersfield, Krystal Raynes showed signs of becoming a strong leader and student advocate, eventually being appointed the first student from CSUB ever to sit on the CSU Board of Trustees. In that role Raynes had a powerful impact on policies that will impact students for generations to come.

“When we talk about a transformative education and how the CSU provides a launching pad for success, Krystal is the face of that," says her mentor Ilaria Pesco, CSUB Assistant Vice President for Student Success & Student Affairs and Executive Director of Associated Students, Inc. (ASI).

Lacking family support, Raynes experienced food and housing insecurity that caused her to consider leaving school, but she leaned on CSUB support services, as well as the support of her mentor. Pesco worked with financial aid to classify Raynes as an independent student and helped her secure emergency housing and food benefits through the Basic Needs Initiative and CSUB Food Pantry.

“She is the perfect student leader because she has a deep understanding of the struggles many college students experience, especially as a first-generation student of color, and she uses her story to advocate for more support for future students," says Pesco.

Raynes served several positions in CSUB's Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) before representing CSU students systemwide as a Cal State Student Association Social Justice and Equity Officer. This role gave her the opportunity to meet with legislators in Sacramento and advocate for more funding for the CSU, and eventually led to her appointment as a student trustee.

Pesco says Raynes'​ success is a combination of her skills and tenacity, campus mentorship and leadership opportunities presented by the CSU, all of which helped to build her self-confidence.

“Krystal is incredible—a fierce leader—and I truly think she will transform California."

Building on her experience, Raynes will take part in the Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program, where she will serve as staff member to an Assembly member or legislative committee, before attending Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to pursue a master's degree in public policy and management.


ISAAC ALFEROS

Isaac Alferos
2021-22 Cal State Student Association President

Campus: Cal State Fullerton
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration

As Cal State Student Association president, Isaac Alferos represented the needs of nearly half a million CSU students. But in addition to advocating for additional resources for those students, he also inspired many of them to take up the torch.

One of Alferos's key strengths is bringing people together and uplifting them, according to long-time friend and classmate Dixie Samaniego, who was recently elected CSSA Vice President of Systemwide Affairs for 2022-23. “Isaac is the reason I went to Cal State Fullerton, and why so many of my peers and I decided to join student government," she says. "He makes people see their value."

As a freshman, Alferos became involved with CSUF's Male Success Initiative, which empowers men of color to achieve their potential. He says he found the program provided the support he needed to pursue his passion for social justice in higher education. "The CSU brought me an education unlike any other, one in which mentors invested in me and faculty and staff worked tirelessly to see me succeed," Alferos says.

He was later appointed to the California Student Aid Commission by Governor Gavin Newsom, where he advocated for affordable higher education for all Californians. He found his calling and encouraged his fellow students to do the same.

“Isaac is amazing at organizing and building communities to make real change, and he single-handedly encouraged and mentored the next two years of student leaders at CSUF," says Samaniego. "He made us believe we could enact change and helped many of us overcome Imposter Syndrome."

Alferos also served as a research assistant and project lead for CSUF's Center for Research on Educational Access and Leadership (CREAL), a Panetta Congressional intern and a CSSA social justice and equity committee member. He was later elected CSSA president, which exposed him to systemwide, state and federal higher education policymaking.

“If you have the absolute privilege of meeting and speaking with Isaac, there's this warmth you can just feel," says Samaniego. "I am most proud of him for his courage—to be authentic; to be genuine; and to love."

Alferos plans to continue working on higher education policy and wants to eventually earn a Ph.D. in social policy. He recently published his first book, "Prayer Song: Love, Healing, and Ancestry."


Firozeh Farahmand 

Firozeh Farahmand
2021 CSU Trustee Scholar

Campus: Cal Poly Pomona
Degree: Master of Science in Biological Sciences

Firozeh Farahmand began attending Cal Poly Pomona as a freshman with a passion for science, but she felt a little lost pursuing a pre-med degree.

"My mom got her master's degree when I was in fifth grade and I loved to go to the lab with her and just sit in the corner and watch her work. That's where I found out I wanted to study science," says Farahmand. "But CPP really helped me become ready for my major and prepared me to work in a lab."

As an undergraduate student, Farahmand became heavily involved in campus activities. She joined several clubs, including Alpha Xi Delta and the Biotechnology Club, served as president of the Greek Council and competed in track and field. But it was while conducting research at CPP's Steele Lab under Andrew Steele, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biological sciences, that Farahmand found her direction and changed career paths.

“Firozeh loves being a leader, and CPP gave her opportunities to develop her leadership skills even more," says her mother Mina Fakhary, principal scientist for Pharmavite, a company that makes vitamins, minerals and supplements.

Undergraduate research opportunities helped Farahmand build her skills and believe in her own ability to be a successful woman in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). While completing her master's program in fall 2021, she was nominated for a CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement, the university's highest honor reserved for a student.

“Receiving that award showed her another angle of herself and proved to her she was on the right pathway," Fakhary says. “It built her confidence and inspired her to go even further than she thought she could."

Though commencement was a few short weeks ago, Farahmand has already secured a job working for a biotechnology company called SD Medical System, Inc. She would like to eventually earn a Ph.D. and become an adjunct faculty member to teach and mentor the next generation of students pursuing careers in biological sciences.

Her family could not be more proud, Fakhary says. "I see her as an accomplished young lady who is definitely ready to fly to her next journey."


Fabiola Moreno Ruelas

Fabiola Moreno Ruelas
2021-22 Cal State Student Association Vice President of Systemwide Affairs

Campus: San Diego State
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science

Resilient and selfless. That's the best way to describe Fabiola Moreno Ruelas, according to mentor Randi McKenzie, Emerita Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at San Diego State.

“Fabiola is a very powerful young woman who is, in some ways, driven for success, but also in giving back," says Mckenzie.

Moreno Ruelas learned about San Diego State through the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) in high school and eventually graduated from mentee to peer mentor as she pursued her bachelor's degree. During her time at SDSU, McKenzie watched with pride as Moreno Ruelas found ways to help support her fellow students, from serving on the California Governor's Council for Post-Secondary Education Intersegmental Working Group on Student Basic Needs to being elected CSSA VP of Systemwide Affairs.

“The CSU provided Fabiola, who has a deep passion for helping people, the platform to mentor students like herself who come from underserved backgrounds," says McKenzie. “Her position with CSSA enabled her to advocate on behalf of CSU students systemwide, within the university itself and in the legislature."

“SDSU and the CSU have transformed my life," says Moreno Ruelas. “Being a first-generation, low-income student was not easy, but knowing the CSU community was there to support me along my journey allowed me to reach my fullest potential. I am proud to be a product of the CSU."

And Moreno Ruelas is paying it forward, not only through mentorship, but by helping students pay for college. As a teen, she was awarded a small settlement following a car accident, money she used to start the Ruelas Fulfillment Foundation. The foundation has awarded scholarships to more than a dozen graduating high school seniors from Moreno Ruelas' hometown of Gonzales, California.

“Fabiola is a person who has always sought ways of giving back to other people," says McKenzie​. “There's never any self-centeredness about her."

Up next: Moreno Ruelas will participate in the Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program beginning in September, which she says will allow her to continue to serve others throughout the state.


Read about more inspiring graduates from the Class of 2022.

How the CSU Transformed Them
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6/9/2022 1:07 PMGonzaga, Miko6/7/20226/7/2022 1:00 PMMeet a few inspiring graduates from the CSU's Class of 2022 who let nothing stop them from earning a degree.CommencementStory

Each spring, thousands of California State University students celebrate the remarkable achievement of earning a college degree, reflecting on the journey and all they have accomplished along the way. The road was tougher for some of those students, though, who came to the university with a heavier load to bear and needed a little extra push to make it to the end.

With the support of CSU programs and opportunities to get involved on campus, these students soared above the clouds, and now stand ready to guide those who come after them.

Meet just a few of the CSU's outstanding graduates from the Class of 2022 and discover how the university helped put them on the path to success.

​Name: Roda​isha James
Campus: Chico​ State
​​Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration

Though Chico State graduate Rodaisha James was orphaned at the age of 15, she never lost sight of the goal her mother set for her long before her death: Go to college. Through College Track, aRodaisha James smiling for a photo program to help Bay Area underserved youth earn a bachelor’s degree, Rodaisha was introduced to the university’s Promoting Achievement Through Hope (PATH) Scholars program for current and former foster youth, which she says is the reason she chose to be a Wildcat.

With the support of PATH Scholars, Rodaisha excelled in college, taking advantage of travel abroad opportunities, becoming involved in student organizations like Just Unity Sistas; the Association for Women in Business; and First Generation and Proud, and holding leadership positions for Chico State’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers for three years.

Rodaisha earned not one, but two degrees this spring, and has already secured a job as a project manager for ServiceNow, a software company that helps manage digital workflows for enterprise operations. She says she looks forward to helping pave the way for other African American women in a traditionally male-dominated space.

Read more about Rodaisha James at Chico State Today.


​Name: Lukas Daniels

Campus: CSU Dominguez Hills
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Anthropology

​The transition from in-person to remote learning during the pandemic was difficult for many students, but for CSU Dominguez Hills graduate Lukas Daniels, who had just transferred to theLukas Daniels smiling for a photo university in 2020, it was just one more complication. He lives with Hyper Mobile Joint Disorder, which causes chronic pain in his joints, fingers and limbs, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which can impact his speaking, writing and research.

Despite these limitations, Daniels quickly became a standout scholar, working with CSUDH associate professor of anthropology Sarah Lacy, Ph.D., to conduct research focused on the queer community as underserved or marginalized communities, which he says is informed by his status as a trans man. He credits his success at CSUDH to his mentors and his extra-curricular activities. Daniels served as president of the Anthropology Club, as editor-in-chief of the anthropology student journal and as a student leader in the Queer Culture & Resource Center (QCRC).

Daniels will begin a master’s/Ph.D. program at Washington University this fall, focusing on biological anthropology research.

Read more about Lukas Daniels at the CSUDH Campus News Center.


​​Name: Steven Hensley

Campus: Fresno State
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Pre-Law Option and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science

Before he was even old enough to vote, Fresno State graduate Steven Hensley’s future looked bleak. He was incarcerated at age 17, but it was during his time behind bars that he set his sights onSteven Hensley smiling for a photo attending Fresno State. Hensley became involved with the university's Project Rebound program, which helps incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students navigate college, and even completed credits while serving his time.

Once at Fresno State, Hensley became a student coordinator for Bulldogs for Recovery, a Student Health and Counseling Center program concerned with recovery from addiction, co-founded a nonprofit to help at-risk and formerly incarcerated youth called Youngsters for a Change, and serves as co-chair of the Fresno County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and on the board of directors for the ACLU of Northern California.

The 2022 Fresno State Undergraduate Deans' Medalist plans to attend the University of California, Berkeley for law school this fall with the goal of helping incarcerated youth like him, those in the LGBTQ community and those who grew up in poverty.

Read more about Steven Hensley at Fresno State News.


Name: Scott Azevedo

Campus: Sacramento State​
​Degree: Bachelor of Arts in History and Painting

Sacramento State graduate Scott Azevedo says his childhood was filled with rejection by his parents. His father suffered from alcoholism, and his mother eventually kicked him out of her home when he was aScott Azevedo smiling for a photo teenager for wanting to live as openly gay.

Over the next few years, Azevedo experienced homelessness, homophobia and ageism as he tried to find his footing at several universities. He enrolled at Sacramento State in 2020 where he says he found professors who exhibited great passion for their work and supported him as both an artist and a person.

His art tackles issues such as racism and colonialism, challenges that, as a gay Latinx man, he has experienced directly as part of a culture in which, he says, homophobia and colorism are common.

Azevedo earned two bachelor’s degrees, in art history and painting, and received the Dean’s Award for the College of Arts and Letters, an honor reserved for the college’s top graduating student. He will soon have one of his pieces displayed in the University Union Gallery and plans to pursue his Master of Fine Arts.

Read more about Scott Azevedo at the Sacramento State Newsroom.


Name: Carmen Wardwell

Campus: Cal State San Bernardino
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology

Being a mother of four and a full-time student is anything but easy, but Cal State San Bernardino graduate Carmen Wardwell counts her children as her biggest inspiration for returning to school. In fact,Carmen Wardwell smiling for a photo she chose her field of study, exercise and fitness, after dealing with significant weight gain and postpartum depression following the birth of her firstborn.

While at CSUSB, Wardwell served on a research team led by CSUSB assistant professor of kinesiology Sang Ouk Wee, Ph.D., working on various studies including one in collaboration with Casa Colina Healthcare Centers.

Wardwell was named CSUSB’s College of Natural Sciences Outstanding Undergraduate and will attend California Baptist University in the fall for its kinesiology/exercise science master’s program. She then hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical exercise physiology, a new doctoral program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and wants to eventually pay it forward to future generations of kinesiology practitioners as an adjunct professor.

Read more about Carmen Wardwell at Inside CSUSB.


Name: Krystal Alvarez-Hernandez

Campus: CSU San Marcos
Degree: Bachelor of Science in Psychology

CSU San Marcos graduate Krystal Alvarez-Hernandez’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico to offer their children a better life and the chance to earn a higher education. Those dreamsKrystal Alvarez Hernandez smiling for a photo were almost derailed when Alvarez-Hernandez found herself pregnant as a junior in high school, but her son’s birth—far from causing her to drop out—resulted in her becoming laser-focused on education.

During her time at CSUSM, Alvarez-Hernandez became an undergraduate research assistant under the mentorship of psychology professor Kimberly D’Anna Hernandez, Ph.D., where she says she found a home amongst other Latinx researchers like herself. She also became connected with the U-RISE (Undergraduate Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement) program, which provides professional development and research opportunities to students from underrepresented groups, and participated in the UCLA Brain Research Institute summer undergraduate research experience (BRI-SURE).

Seven years after telling her parents of her unexpected pregnancy, Alvarez-Hernandez got to tell them she was the most decorated graduate in the entire CSUSM Class of 2022, out of almost 4,500 students. And she’s not stopping at earning a bachelor's degree. In August, Alvarez-Hernandez will move with her husband, Alfonso, and their 7-year-old son, Santiago, to Chicago so she can begin a Ph.D. program at Northwestern University.

Read more about Krystal Alvarez-Hernandez at the CSUSM NewsCenter.


Meet many more inspiring graduates from the CSU’s Class of 2022.

Special thanks to CSU campus writers and photographers: Nick Bulum, Nathan Brown, Jason Halley, Brian Hiro, Blair Houk, BoNhia Lee, Jonathon Morales, Sean Murphy, Andrea Price and Robert A. Whitehead.

A smiling person wearing a graduation cap and gown
No Mountain Too High
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6/17/2022 10:42 AMRuble, Alisia6/6/20226/6/2022 3:00 PM​Judy K. Sakaki, Ph.D. announced that she will resign as president of Sonoma State University effective July 31, 2022.LeadershipPress Release
​Judy K. Sakaki, Ph.D., announced today that she will resign as president of Sonoma State University (SSU) effective July 31, 2022. The CSU Board of Trustees will thereafter begin a national search for the eighth president of SSU. An interim president will be announced shortly. 

“Serving as Sonoma State President has truly been an honor. After thoughtful reflection and discussions with my family, I made the decision to step away as president of this wonderful campus,” stated President Sakaki. 

“I care deeply about Sonoma State and believe this choice will allow the campus community to move forward in a timely manner. I am incredibly grateful to the entire SSU and the North Bay communities for the opportunity to serve during such a challenging and transformative time at Sonoma State. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners have been exceptional, and I will forever treasure my time serving as SSU President. I am humbled and honored to have led this campus for the past six years.” 

Sakaki leaves a legacy of accomplishments at SSU. She became the seventh president and the second woman to have served as president in its 62 years. She is also the first Japanese American woman to serve as a university president in the United States. During her tenure, she transformed Sonoma State into a student success focused campus. First year student graduation rates have steadily improved, and the 2-year transfer graduation rate is the highest in the California State University. In her first year, SSU gained federal recognition as an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and secured a Department of Education $2.75 million grant to Prepare Underrepresented Educators to Realize their Teaching Ambitions (PUERTA). She led the campus in the aftermath of the destructive Tubbs wildfire where 80 faculty, staff and students lost their homes. President Sakaki lost her home, possessions and nearly her life. After the fires, the campus re-opened with a Gratitude Gathering and she is proud of the culture of care that enabled all affected by the fires to resume their studies and work at the campus. 

During her tenure, Dr. Sakaki strengthened community engagement at the university, including at the Green Music Center. She opened the Wine Spectator Learning Center and championed the Wine Industry Scholars Program (WISP) where family members of vineyard workers are encouraged to attend college and are provided with 4-year scholarships. President Sakaki developed a partnership with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria Tribal Council that enabled the expansion of the Summer Bridge Program and other initiatives. She created the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and prioritized diversity and inclusion efforts on campus. Under President Sakaki’s leadership the Center for Transfer and Transition Programs, Dream Center, Lobo’s Pantry, Military and Veteran Resource Center, Seawolf Service Center and the Center for Academic Access and Student Enrichment (CAASE) were all created to better serve students. Additionally, philanthropy and grant funding support all have grown during her tenure.

Dr. Sakaki has dedicated her distinguished career to service and leadership in public higher education. She has served for over 40 years in various administrative positions in the California State University (East Bay, Fresno, Chancellor’s Office) and in the University of California (Davis, Office of the President). At her Presidential Investiture, then Ohio State President and now UC President Michael Drake, a mentor of Dr. Sakaki’s, praised her as “one of the bright stars of the education galaxy.” In 2017, President Sakaki was named “President of the Year” by the California State Student Association (CSSA). CSSA President David Lopez said, “Dr. Sakaki’s compassion and human touch, along with her stellar leadership, set her apart.” She was also honored as a National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) “Pillar of the Profession” in 2017, an award given to exemplary individuals who have served as leaders, teachers and scholars in student affairs and higher education. Additionally, Dr. Sakaki was a founding board member of Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education (APAHE), received the NASPA Region VI President’s Award in 2018, and was the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Legislative Caucus honoree for Excellence in Education in 2020.

Dr. Sakaki is a double alumna of the CSU, having earned both a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and master’s degree in Educational Psychology from CSU East Bay. She holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Berkeley.

“As someone who grew up in East Oakland, who was a first-generation college student, whose parents and grandparents were forced into internment camps because of their Japanese ancestry and who later earned the opportunity to become the first Japanese American woman to lead an American university, I am living proof of the power of higher education. I look forward to my continued involvement in opening doors and transforming the lives of individuals, families and communities through education,” said Dr. Sakaki.

“Throughout her career in higher education, President Sakaki has demonstrated a steadfast passion for the transformative power of a college degree,” stated Chancellor Jolene Koester. “We are grateful for her many years of service in higher learning including at Sonoma State and Fresno State.” 

Wenda Fong, Chair of the CSU Board of Trustees stated, “President Sakaki broke the leadership glass ceiling in academia by being the first Japanese American woman to serve as a university president in the United States. We thank her for the contributions she has made to student success at Sonoma State University and wish her the very best with her coming endeavors.”

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About the California State University
The California State University is the largest system of four-year higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, 477,000 students and 56,000 faculty and staff. Nearly 40 percent of the CSU's undergraduate students transfer from California community colleges. Created in 1960, the mission of the CSU is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of California. With its commitment to quality, opportunity and student success, the CSU is renowned for superb teaching, innovative research and for producing job-ready graduates. Each year, the CSU awards more than 132,000 degrees. One in every 20 Americans holding a college degree is a graduate of the CSU and our alumni are 4 million strong. Connect with and learn more about the CSU in the CSU NewsCenter.
A woman wearing a suite jacket standing in an office
Dr. Judy K. Sakaki Resigns as 7th President of Sonoma State University
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6/4/2022 7:38 PMRuble, Alisia6/3/20226/3/2022 9:00 AMGovernor Gavin Newsom appointed Diana Aguilar-Cruz to the CSU Board of Trustees on June 1, 2022. Board of TrusteesStory

Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Diana Aguilar-Cruz to the California State University Board of Trustees on June 1, 2022. 

Aguilar-Cruz, 20, is a resident of Baldwin Park and is a third-year student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona majoring in biology with a career goal of obtaining an MD in pediatric neurosurgery and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. She has served as the officer of academic affairs for Associated Students Inc., Cal Poly Pomona, and as a member of the CPP Pre-Medical Student Association, the Mexican-American Student Association and Delta Epsilon Mu, and was a participant in the Cal Poly Pomona Achieve Scholars Program. She is currently conducting research on gestational diabetes in underrepresented communities, as well as Alzheimer's disease.

A first-generation college student, Aguilar-Cruz was born and raised in Mexico City and immigrated to the United States in 2015 as a non-English speaker. She is the co-founder of Nezahualcoyotl, a volunteer-based organization, has served as a recruitment and social media coordinator for the COPE Health Scholars program, and as a student advisor for Hermanas Unidas Inc.

“As a future physician, I want to save minds and hearts one patient at a time, and the same applies for our students," Aguilar-Cruz said. “I hope that every student has the privilege to hear their first and last name as they walk in their graduation ceremony, and to tell their loved ones, 'We did it! Sí se pudo!'"

Beginning on July 1, 2022, Aguilar-Cruz will serve a two-year term on the CSU Board of Trustees – the 25-member board that adopts regulations and policies governing the CSU system. As a student trustee, she will represent the CSU's 477,000 students.​

Cal Poly Pomona Student Appointed to the CSU Board of Trustees
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6/20/2022 3:44 PMGonzaga, Miko5/31/20225/31/2022 11:10 AMThe 36th Annual CSU Student Research Competition showcased the CSU’s innovative scholars.ResearchStory

Bright Minds of the Future

The 36th Annual CSU Student Research Competition showcased t​he CSU’s innovative scholars.


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On April 29-30, 2022, student researchers from across the CSU presented their work at the 36th Annual CSU Student Research Competition, hosted virtually by San Francisco State University.

“Many of our students work closely with faculty mentors to explore topics ranging the arts, humanities, behavioral sciences, and science and engineering,” says Ganesh Raman, Ph.D., assistant vice chancellor of Research at the CSU Office of the Chancellor. “The event, which showcased both undergraduate and graduate research, scholarship and creative activity, was truly a delight to watch and exemplified the CSU’s 'learn by doing' approach to learning.”

Meet a few of the competition’s first-place winners.

Madison Stewart

​Madison Stewart

Campus: CSU San Marcos
Major/Program: Biotechnology, Senior
Project: Defining the Relationship Between the Soil Microbiome and Crop Nutritional Content

Working with Biological Sciences Professor Matthew Escobar, Ph.D., and research partner Sheyenne Black, Madison Stewart studied if a soil’s microbiome—its ecosystem of bacteria, fungi and other organisms—affects nutritional content in crops, specifically tomatoes.

“The larger goal of this project is to figure out if there is a relationship where we can alter the nutritional content of these tomatoes using a process called biofortification—which is biotechnology, agricultural practices or selective breeding to increase crop nutrition—because a lot of people are nutrient-deficient in the U.S.,” Stewart says.

For the project, Dr. Escobar gathered five soil samples from across Southern and Central California, which were then split in half. The first half kept its live microbiome, while the other half was steam-sterilized to kill the microbiome. The team then grew micro tomato plants in each, as well as in a steam-sterilized potting mix. The resulting tomatoes were then freeze dried, ground into a powder and analyzed for nutrient content.

The study confirmed the team’s hypothesis that a relationship exists between the soil microbiome and the crops’ nutritional content—and earned Stewart first place in the Biological and Agricultural Sciences (Undergraduate #1) category. Since then, the team has conducted further analysis and found high levels of ectoine—a compound plants do not produce, but may increase their drought resilience—in tomatoes grown in soil with live microbiomes. Future research would investigate how the microbiome changes the tomatoes’ nutritional content.

“This ectoine content might be beneficial in times of drought, and if we knew [the relationship], we could pass on [the knowledge to] farmers,” Stewart says. “As for human consumption, it's a little bit further in the future, but if we can figure out which specific bacteria cause specific nutrient changes, you might be able to engineer a soil microbiome to get a desired crop.”

Following graduation, she’ll begin a Ph.D. program at University of California, Davis to study stem cells and regenerative medicine.

Madison Stewart watering the micro tomato plants.

Nikita Mishra

Nikita Mishra

Campus: Cal State Los Angeles
Major/Program: Biochemistry, Computation Biology and Bioinformatics minor, Senior
Project: Computational Characterizations of Binding Affinity in SARS‐CoV‐2 Variants to the Human ACE2 Receptor

Nikita Mishra earned the top spot in the Engineering and Computer Science (Mixed) category for her research with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Negin Forouzesh, Ph.D., modeling mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

“In the past year, we've been hearing a lot about [COVID-19] mutations—Omicron, Delta, Gamma—but what we are struggling with right now is that the variants are hard to predict,” Mishra says. “My research is trying to build a tool that can analyze these different mutations of the virus to see how damaging a given mutation will be should it occur in the virus and then infect the human body.”

Using a computer model of the virus protein, Mishra manipulates the amino acids (protein’s component parts) that bind to the human ACE2 receptor. The strength of this binding affects how quickly the virus spreads between people and how severe it is. These models help predict the effects of potential variants and how to defend against them.

“The virus continues to evolve as time goes on; it's not stopping and it's not going away for the foreseeable future,” Mishra says. “Having this tool to understand what mutations could be next should help scientists in terms of vaccine development and booster development.”

Mishra will continue working with Dr. Forouzesh during the summer to automate the mutation prediction tool before beginning her master’s in bioengineering at Stanford University.

Diagram of the SARS-CoV-2 virus binding with the human ACE2 receptor

Justise Wattree

Justise Wattree

Campus: San José State
Major/Program: Humanities, African American Studies and Public Health minors, Senior
Project: The Two‐Front War: Self‐Help, and Black Health Activism during The Spanish Flu, HIV/AIDS, and COVID‐19

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed health disparities or health inequities [by race and ethnicity] a lot more than what we've seen before,” Wattree says. “I saw the attempts to counter these disparities in the Black community within the Black church and within activist groups … and I was wondering if the community mobilized itself the same way during past pandemics—during HIV/AIDS and during the Spanish flu.”

For this project that won Wattree first place in the Humanities, Arts and Letters (Undergraduate #1) category, he compared the Black health activism carried out during the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, the HIV/AIDS epidemic beginning in the 1980s and the COVID-19 pandemic. The research involved archival work, reviewing Black newspapers from 1918 and newspapers and photographs from the 1980s and 1990s. He then conducted an interview with a public health official and obtained resources from local activist groups in the Bay Area about the current pandemic.

One interesting finding included a fashion campaign in the Black community during the 1918 pandemic to encourage women to wear masks, in hopes they’d influence their families. In addition, Wattree found that the Black church—while usually a strong agent of public health activism—did not respond as quickly to the HIV/AIDs epidemic due to the taboos associated with its transmission. The latter leads into his next research project on how the Black church’s connection to local activist groups impacts its response to pandemics, namely the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“It's important to investigate health activism as an avenue for addressing health disparities because health activists may have access to resources or connections with the people that the public health infrastructure wouldn’t have,” Wattree says. “Some of it has been in community groups, but it’s also Black churches. I think Black churches or religious organizations in the Black community should be mobilized to the fullest capacity to counter health disparities.”


Mauricio Gomez Lopez

Mauricio Gomez Lopez

Campus: Cal State Fullerton
Major/Program: Physics, Mathematics, Senior
Project: Studying the Material Properties of an Active Suspension of Swimming Bacteria

There is a phenomenon known as a starling swarm, or starling murmuration, when a flock of hundreds to millions of these birds form changing shapes and patterns as they fly. Scientists have noticed such motion patterns reflected at the microscopic level.

“You see those same dynamics, that same kind of motion from the microscopic scale with E. coli all the way up through birds,” says Mauricio Gomez Lopez. “So that makes us think that there might be some physical laws determining these sorts of motions.”

Taking first place in the Physical and Mathematical Sciences (Undergraduate) category, Gomez Lopez studied how E. coli particles move in response to force, seeing if and how they follow these movement patterns. Working in the SLAM Lab with Assistant Professor of Physics Wylie Ahmed, Ph.D., Gomez Lopez programmed an infrared laser, called optical tweezers, to direct force on the particles, documenting the resulting motion. In the videos taken under the microscope, “it almost looks like this dense crowd, and someone trying to get through.”

The hope is understanding the particles’ reaction will help scientists figure out how to harness the energy generated by the moving particles to produce power.

“When we think about renewable sources of energy, we can see bacteria and E. coli being a possible new energy source,” Gomez Lopez says. “We were able to show that there is this transfer of energy, so the idea now is how can we engineer something to extract that energy and use it to power stuff we use on a daily basis.”

Gomez Lopez will continue his research as he works towards his master’s in physics at Cal State Fullerton.

Mauricio Gomez Lopez looks through a microscope in the lab.​​​

See the complete list of this year’s CSU Student Research Competition winners, and view more coverage from CSU campuses.

Bright Minds of the Future
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5/23/2022 11:01 AMBeall, Alex5/16/20225/16/2022 8:10 AMHow CSU alumni shape California’s parks and recreation industryAlumniStory

Alumni At Play

How CSU alumni shape California’s parks and recreation industry

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With one in 10 employees in California holding a CSU degree, alumni have made their mark across the state’s industries—with many entering the vital parks and recreation space for conservation work, parks management, communications and beyond.

During the COVID-19 pandemic when people had nowhere to go but outside, outdoor spaces became more important than ever. A report from the Outdoor Foundation found that 7.1 million more Americans participated in outdoor activities in 2020 than the year before.

Meet five CSU alumni who have used their expertise to serve these important natural retreats.


Nancy Fernandez
Stanislaus State (2015)

As a park ranger with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nancy Fernandez serves in a communications role for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Through the organization’s online presence, Fernandez helps the local community connect with the four nature preserves in the complex: the Tijuana Slough, San Diego, San Diego Bay and Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuges.

“If we're not physically out there in person, the local community can see what we're doing through social media and our websites.” Fernandez says. “It's another way for us to stay connected, share with the public what's happening around the refuge and keep the dialogue going with people.”

Fernandez graduated from California State University, Stanislaus in 2015 with an anthropology degree, interested in studying how different cultures live harmoniously with nature. She originally thought she would need to live in other countries to work in the field, until she completed a training at Grand Teton National Park through the Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) National Park Service Academy.

“I realized I can do something here in the States,” Fernandez says. “I don't have to go that far, and it's still going to be a meaningful change in people's lives and in wildlife conservation.”

Her current work also takes Fernandez into the field to run events, teach school groups about land conservation and participate in wildlife surveys—such as a survey of San Diego County’s butterfly population in April 2022.

“I did not graduate with a biology or a zoology-type background; this is stuff I've been learning through work,” she says. “The job I do connects me with people who are experts in the field. It's fun being around these people who are always teaching me things, and then I can also share that with others.”


David Annis
Fresno State (2008); CSUN (2012)

David Annis grew up just outside Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest, where his family would hike, ski and take part in other outdoor activities. This early love for the great outdoors set him on a path to a career in the U.S. Forest Service.

“I’ve always been vested in public lands and maintaining them to be open and accessible, and that led me to follow the path of geology,” Annis says.

His first step was to join the Navy as a land surveyor. After leaving the Navy, he became the first in his family to earn a college degree, completing a bachelor's in geology at California State University, Fresno. While in school, Annis met an adjunct professor who had spent 40 years with the U.S. Forest Service. “He was that bridge who got me into the Forest Service and helped me understand what geologists do,” Annis says.

Annis then began his master’s in microstructural geology at Fresno State, but transferred to California State University, Northridge when he got a job as a forest geologist in the Angeles National Forest. He served in several other geology-related forestry positions before his current role as a regional geologist and certified mineral examiner for the U.S. Forest Service. In addition to studying forests’ landscapes as a geologist, Annis reviews large mine reclamation plans and performs geological and economical assessments of mines that predate protected wilderness areas.

Much of his work also focuses on reviewing the after-effects of wildfires as part of the burn area emergency response team. That includes assessing the risks of flooding, debris flows, landslides and rock falls, as well as monitoring abandoned mines and understanding the stability of the land if structures need to be rebuilt.

“We're the science team that comes in behind the firefighters and looks at how the fire impacted the landscape and watershed—with the goal of guarding the safety of Forest visitors and employees and protecting federal property, water quality and critical natural or cultural resources from further damage after the fire is out,” Annis says.


Bethany Szczepanski
CSUN (2016)

Though Bethany Szczepanski has long appreciated the national parks since visiting them as a child with her family, it was a meandering road to her current role at Channel Islands National Park. After she completed an undergraduate degree in theater, she worked as a costume designer, makeup artist and cake decorator before starting a master’s in recreation and tourism management at CSUN.

“In one of my courses, we were talking about national parks, and I always really liked them,” Szczepanski says. “I'm outdoorsy, I love hiking and then I started going down that path from there.”

During her master’s program, she interned in the education department of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, becoming an early participant in the National Park Service’s Every Kid Outdoors internship program (previously Every Kid in a Park). “They have a great program, and now I'm hiring interns in my position and one of them is currently an Every Kid Outdoors intern with the Santa Monica Mountains.”

The position prepared her for life as a park ranger, which started upon graduation in 2016 with her first six-month seasonal job at Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Montana. Returning to California, she bounced between seasonal positions as an education park ranger at the Santa Monica Mountains and a park guide at Channel Islands National Park until becoming a permanent park guide for the latter in 2020.

Since beginning as an educational technician in 2021, she’s worked to provide the Channel Islands National Park’s education programming for students between third and 12th grade, including field trips to the islands or the visitor center in Ventura, the junior ranger program, ranger visits to local schools and online distance learning programs for classrooms.

“It's so important to connect the next generation of stewards of these public lands to their national parks, because most of the children who we bring in have never been to the beach, have never been on a boat or have never been to a national park before,” Szczepanski says. “Giving them those opportunities is what inspires me to do what I do. … We emphasize that national parks belong to you, they belong to everyone, and it's our job to take care of the special places so they can remain for another 100, 200, 300 years.”


Deanne Dedmon
CSU Dominguez Hills (1996)

Perhaps most surprising about Deanne Dedmon’s role as a superintendent for the City of Los Angeles’s Department of Recreation and Parks is that her responsibilities stretch well beyond the city’s neighborhood green spaces. Dedmon oversees the budget, staffing and programming for the facilities in the Pacific region—one of four regions in the city—which include sports fields, gymnasiums, classrooms, senior centers, summer camps, museums, swimming pools, a cemetery and a beach.

“With this pandemic, you saw the difference made by what we do and the spaces we provide, the extracurricular activities, that getting outdoors is not only good for mental health, but for your physical health as well,” Dedmon says. “Working in recreation, it's something we're always challenged to try to prove, that parks, open space and activity in general is wonderful for society.”

In college, Dedmon decided to follow in her mother’s footsteps, majoring in recreation administration at California State University, Dominguez Hills and working part-time as a recreation leader for the city of Torrance developing after-school drop-in programs.

“My mom worked for the city of LA and then also the city of Torrance when I was young, so I grew up in the system and enjoyed it,” she says. “I always wanted to find something that was fun to do. You're looking for a career you want to be able to do it for the rest of your life. Then when I got to college, I was like, ‘Wow, there's actually a major!’”

After graduation, Dedmon accepted a full-time position for the City of Los Angeles, where she’s steadily grown her career—though her favorite part is still teaching preschoolers.

“Especially in the morning, I can still sit in a classroom, hang out with little kids, listen and be a part of that, but it's rare,” Dedmon says. “That's something I definitely miss being in the position I am now. But as you move forward, you get to that point when you need to be the one helping make the decisions: Which direction are we going? How are we going to fund it? What should we start? … You're mentoring and you're teaching other people. Because if you're the only one who does the work and there's no one else behind you, then what's going to happen when you leave?”



James Newland
San Diego State (1988, 1991)

A double alumnus of San Diego State University—with a B.A. in social science and an M.A. in public history—James Newland has spent 26 years as a historian for California State Parks with his hands in myriad projects, from developing educational resources to historic​ preservation to community engagement.

“I've always figured if you can get people to care about their history, they'll care about their community,” Newland says. “[It’s about] trying to help people understand every place has history and sometimes the history is tough history.”

Newland’s California State Parks career began as a state historian focused on cultural resource management, working on preserving historic resources and creating exhibits in visitor centers. In the years since, he’s served as a supervisor and manager of cultural and natural resources, interpretation and sensitive park planning staff and projects—as well as superintendent of Crystal Cove State Park in Orange County. He’s also written four books on local history.

In addition, he’s preserved and restored about a dozen national registered properties for State Parks, including the Crystal Cove Historic District Cottages and Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades​.

“I get to be the historian who digs in the archives and helps others dig in the archives to do research, but then [we figure out] how we apply that into better interpretation (education), better exhibits and better engagement with communities,” Newland says.

He’s also dedicated to ensuring all peoples’ perspectives are represented in the historical narrative. About 17 years ago, Newland helped write his department’s policy for Native American consultation before such policies were required by law. “We need to have their voice, concerns and cultural imprint on how we help preserve and interpret their resources and culture.”

Now working with the Department’s Innovation Unit, Newland has piloted and expanded the agency’s Relevancy and History Project to better collaborate with academic partners—particularly the CSUs and the UCs—in order to bring in the next generation of experts, research and education techniques as well as engage the community for their perspectives and participation in these efforts.

“It's allowing us to address some of the concerns State Parks have in outreach to underserved and underrepresented communities who may have never come to a state park, don’t think their history is included or relevant or feel unwelcome due to barriers, whether cultural, social or financial​,” he says.


Learn more about the impact of the CSU’s four million-strong alumni network.

Alumni At Play
Governors-May-Revision-Maintains-Increase-in-Recurring-Funding-for-CSU.aspx
  
6/6/2022 10:54 AMRuble, Alisia5/13/20225/13/2022 11:00 AMGovernor Gavin Newsom shared his May Budget Revision including proposed funding for the CSU.BudgetPress Release

California Governor Gavin Newsom shared his May Budget Revision including proposed funding for the California State University (CSU). The May Revision maintains the same level of unallocated, recurring funding for the CSU—or $211.1 million—​that the governor had proposed in January while providing additional one-time funds for campus-specific initiatives.

"While predictable levels of funding in the future are welcome and appreciated, in light of the unprecedented surplus of state funding next year, it is disheartening to learn that the May Revision proposes no additional recurring funding for the CSU above the January budget proposal," said CSU Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester. "Time and again the CSU has proven to be one of the state’s best investments. With many economic challenges such as inflation impacting every dollar earned by our talented and dedicated faculty and staff, it is imperative that we receive additional funding to better support them and their families by providing appropriate compensation while they work to fulfill the university mission. As the budget process moves into the final stages, we will intensify efforts to work alongside our partners to ensure that our elected leaders are apprised of the university’s critical needs to ensure student achievement."​

The May Revision includes the following one-time funding proposals for the CSU:

  • $67.5 million for CSU Fullerton’s Engineering and Computer Science Innovation Hub. 
  • $80 million for a new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) facility for the San Diego State University Imperial Valley campus.
  • $25 million for equipment and infrastructure improvements at the university farms located on the Chico, Fresno, Pomona and San Luis Obispo campuses.
  • $1.5 million for First Star Foster Youth Cohorts at the East Bay and Northridge campuses.  

​# # #

About the California State University
The California State University is the largest system of four-year higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, 477,000 students and 56,000 faculty and staff. Nearly 40 percent of the CSU's undergraduate students transfer from California Community Colleges. Created in 1960, the mission of the CSU is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of California. With its commitment to quality, opportunity and student success, the CSU is renowned for superb teaching, innovative research and for producing job-ready graduates. Each year, the CSU awards more than 132,000 degrees. One in every 20 Americans holding a college degree is a graduate of the CSU and our alumni are 4 million strong. Connect with and learn more about the CSU in the CSU NewsCenter.

the California capitol building with the words budget news over it
Governor’s May Revision Maintains Increase in Recurring Funding for CSU
CSU-Flexible-Courses-Equitable-Learning-2022.aspx
  
5/11/2022 11:15 AMKelly, Hazel5/11/20225/11/2022 8:35 AMDedicated CSU faculty and staff continue to employ flexible pedagogy and leverage technology to support more equitable learning, both online and in person. Student SuccessStory

​Online learning. In-person classwork. Hybrid and multimodal courses. Wherever students are learning today, the California State University is making strides to meet them where they are. Across the CSU's 23 campuses, faculty and staff are learning new ways to embed equitable learning practices into their teaching and course design to address students' diverse learning needs.

During the summer of 2021, the CSU Chancellor's Office Academic Technology Services and Innovative Teaching & Learning Programs engaged consultant, author and long-time San Francisco State faculty lecturer Kevin Kelly, Ed.D., to develop and facilitate the Flexible Course Experience Institute for CSU faculty and staff to learn strategies for increasing flexibility in course structure, managing multiple technology platforms and workloads, and creating equivalent learning experiences for students engaging at different times and places.

“Flexible courses support teaching and learning across multiple delivery methods, and the combinations of methods differ by campus and instructor," says Dr. Kelly. Various flexible course delivery combinations can now be found throughout the university.

Kelly created the Flexible Course Experience curriculum on Canvas Commons for all CSU campuses, who may adopt or adapt it for their own trainings. Kelly also helped launch the Flexible Course Delivery website, designed to support faculty and staff as they explore flexible, multimodal courses. 

​What Makes a Course Flexible?

Instructors can make courses more flexible by combining two or more delivery methods at once, such as in-person, real-time remote, or online on your own time. But the delivery method is just the starting point of flexible teaching and learning, Kelly says.

“We can consider the course delivery method as a start, and we can build on that by creating flexible ways of teaching and learning within the course elements, activities and assessment," he says.



“The course delivery method is a start, and we can build on that by creating flexible ways of teaching and learning within the course elements and activities.”
—Dr. Kevin Kelly​, San Francisco State


​Kelly explains that beyond the modality of a course there are other fundamental values to consider, including the need to create equivalent experiences for students, no matter which modality they are using. “How do we change the way we deliver content to students, so that it's just as easy for a 35-year-old parent who's got two kids and is working full time and needs to learn asynchronously—not by choice, but because that's the only way to continue on their academic path to support their social mobility goals."

It should be noted that creating and facilitating flexible courses requires real effort by faculty and campus staff alike.​

​Flexible Learning Anywhere

The beauty of flexible learning pedagogy is that many of the principles can benefit all learners, whether in a traditional face-to-face class or learning asynchronously on their own time, or somewhere in between.

As an example, Kelly points to the use of social annotation/reading tools as a flexible practice that can take place in any learning modality. Social annotation enables students and teachers to have conversations in the margins of digital texts, fostering a deeper understanding of readings while building a sense of community in the classroom—whether online or in-person.

Social reading tools allow instructors to provide prompts for the students so they understand why they are reading a particular text, what they are supposed to take away from the reading and how they might get there with a set of inquiry-based questions, he says.

“It's providing structure around activities that are pretty status quo and extending them by making them collaborative instead of individual," Kelly says.  

Collaboration and building community are key facets of flexible course pedagogy. In fact, Kelly says one of the top questions instructors have is how to create opportunities for students to connect with students who may be in a different place or a different time—or both.

“You have to create reasons for students to make these connections," he says. “If you're going to have small group activities, make sure that you're allowing for the fact that some students are parents or fully employed and aren't going to be able to participate in synchronous activity, so there should be an asynchronous pathway for students to contribute."

​Preparing Flexible Learners

Can we prepare students to be better online/flexible learners? Kelly says we should be supporting students to become better learners—period—regardless of the modality.

Kelly teaches a course at SF State called “How to Learn with Your Mobile Device," which helps students use technology to enable metacognitive strategies—such as using an app to master the Pomodoro Technique.



“When we are teaching in flexible methods, we need to prepare students by letting them know what to expect, how to be successful and then supporting them.”
—Dr. Kevin Kelly, San Francisco State


​To set students up for success, Kelly recommends that instructors are upfront about the modalities they'll be using, and then give students strategies that will help them be successful. “When we are teaching in flexible methods, we need to prepare students by letting them know what to expect, how to be successful and then supporting them."

CSU Campuses Flex

Many CSU campuses are also creating their own campus-specific professional development programming to expand flexible course options. In 2021, Chico State launched a pilot program called ChicoFlex, in which faculty taught students in person (roomers) and students online (Zoomers) at the same time. ChicoFlex classes are offered in special classrooms configured with cameras that follow the instructor around the room, microphones for Zoomers to hear voices in the classroom and speakers so roomers can hear Zoomers when they speak. ChicoFlex instructors are encouraged to attend GoFlex, a five-day professional development session that provides hands-on practice teaching in a specially equipped classroom to both in-person and online participants.

Several Chico State instructors have shared their experiences after attending GoFlex and posted videos with their takeaways. Katie Mercurio, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Chico State College of Business, shared her reflections in an August 2021 video: “The value of GoFlex is that it forces you to think more deeply about achieving learning objectives—not only for the people who are in room, but also for the people who are attending on Zoom. I need to create an equitable learning environment and I need to create equitable assignments for the students."



“It forces you to think more deeply about achieving learning objectives—not only for the people who are in room, but also for the people who are attending on Zoom.”
—Dr. Kate Mercurio, Chico State


​“I feel incredibly fortunate that I have this opportunity to use the flex technology because I truly believe this is going to become the dominant teaching modality of the classroom as we move into the future," Mercurio said.

“This new flexibility that we're all evolving into is going to allow me to better serve my students," said Chico State lecturer Adrienne Edwards in her GoFlex learning recap video. “It will offer them greater flexibility, more learning options, modes of instruction, and skills that can carry into the future, not just in the field of teaching, but also for skills that the students are going to take away from college as well."

With a focus on student success, more flexible course options provide new learning pathways for students who have competing obligations like going to work or caring for children. The CSU remains committed to providing more equitable access to high-quality education for all students.

 

Learn more about Flexible Course Delivery at the CSU.

 

​Opening the Door for Innovation

During the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, faculty and staff across the CSU heroically converted more than 70,000 course sections over a two-week period. “This really opened the door for future innovation," says Emily Magruder, Ph.D., director of CSU Innovative Teaching & Learning Programs. “We now have a deeper understanding of what can be accomplished when flexible courses are thoughtfully designed ahead of time, and a broader understanding of learning design for all modalities."​



students sit in an innovative classroom setting
The Future is Flexible
Student-Success-Analytics-Certificate-Program-Open-Fall22-Enrollment.aspx
  
6/6/2022 10:52 AMRuble, Alisia5/10/20225/10/2022 10:50 AMHigher education professional development program shifts to semi-annual schedule due to unprecedented demandStudent SuccessPress Release

With its Spring 2022 cohort serving over 500 participants from campuses across the California State University and the nation, the demand for access to the CSU Certificate Program in Student Success Analytics has never been higher. In keeping with its commitment to support university faculty, staff and administrators in their efforts to close equity gaps for historically underserved students, the program will open its doors again to a new round of participants this fall. 

Many higher education institutions are seeking ways to deploy data-informed and innovative solutions that promote equal educational outcomes for their students. With its equity-focused and evidence-based curriculum, the CSU Analytics Certificate Program has empowered countless campus teams over the last five years to turn these insights into action.

“Our team was stimulated to consider how analytics could impact student success and the dashboards provided varied perspectives for the data we may need," said Dr. Doris Hill, dean at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Dr. Bonnie D. Irwin, chancellor of University of Hawai'i at Hilo, added, “The combination of the data exercises and hearing from student success professionals in both academic and student affairs inspired and energized our team to improve the culture of data on our campus. Our students will benefit from all we learned!"

In addition to enrolling cross-divisional teams of university faculty, staff and administrators, the program also encourages intersegmental collaborations, which promote seamless transitions for students in pursuit of a college degree and can help institutions become more student-ready.

Recent successful partnerships include California State University Channel Islands and their local community college feeder school, Oxnard College. As a result of their joint efforts, the two campuses drafted educational partnership and data-sharing agreements that would cement their continued work together.

“CSU Channel Islands' participation in this program with our community college partner engendered a sense of shared purpose and familiarity with one another and our data. This intersegmental partnership allowed campus leaders to strengthen cross-institutional communication and learn together," said Dr. Jessica L. Lavariega Monforti, vice provost, CSU Channel Islands.

To learn more about this professional development program at the intersection of equity and evidence, please contact AnalyticsCertificateProgram@calstate.edu. The 2022 Fall cohort begins on August 26, 2022, and runs through November 18, 2022. A certificate is awarded to all participants who successfully complete the program. Registration for CSU and non-CSU course participation is now open and closes on July 29, 2022.


# # #​

About the California State University
The California State University is the largest system of four-year higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, 477,000 students and 56,000 faculty and staff. Nearly 40 percent of the CSU's undergraduate students transfer from California Community Colleges. Created in 1960, the mission of the CSU is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of California. With its commitment to quality, opportunity and student success, the CSU is renowned for superb teaching, innovative research and for producing job-ready graduates. Each year, the CSU awards more than 132,000 degrees. One in every 20 Americans holding a college degree is a graduate of the CSU and our alumni are 4 million strong. Connect with and learn more about the CSU in the CSU NewsCenter.

woman typing on laptop computer
CSU Student Success Analytics Certificate Program Now Open for National Fall Enrollment
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5/16/2022 3:29 PMGonzaga, Miko5/4/20225/4/2022 2:00 PMIn celebration of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month, some of the CSU's campus leaders reflect on their journey and inspiration.LeadershipStory

The California State University is comprised of some of the most academically, economically and ethnically diverse students, faculty and staff in the nation. Its 23 campus presidents not only reflect the unique identities of community members, but they also work to promote equity and inclusion, acting as servant leaders to empower those who come after them.

While Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) individuals account for less than 5 percent of four-year college and university presidents in the United States, APIDA leaders make up about 17 percent of the CSU’s campus presidents. To mark the occasion of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month, we asked the CSU’s APIDA campus presidents to share their journey and what inspires their work.

Read thoughts from Stanislaus State President Ellen N. Junn, Sonoma State President Judy K. Sakaki, Cal State Fullerton President Framroze Virjee and CSU Channel Islands President Richard Yao.

Ellen Junn smiling for a profile picture Ellen N.​ Junn, Stanislaus State President
First Korean Ame​​​rican Wo​man in the U.S. to Lead a Four-Year University

As one of a small number of APIDA university presidents in the U.S., what motivated you​ to keep pursuing new and higher roles when you didn’t see people like yourself in leadership positions?

In all candor, I must admit that I never realized that there were so few APIDA individuals represented at the top levels of higher education administration until I became a university president. I had not contemplated this fact because I had never imagined or set a goal of becoming a top-level administrator in academia—possibly due to a range of cultural, societal and demographic factors.

In terms of cultural influences, among several Asian countries such as Japan, Korea and China, educators are accorded very high societal respect and the pursuit of and respect for education is a cultural norm. In my case, my father was the first in his family to go to college from his remote, poor South Korean island farming community because my grandfather made it a priority.

As a result of my father’s passion for higher education and fervent desire to live in a truly democratic society, he emigrated from South Korea to America after the Korean War to seek and obtain his master’s and doctorate degrees in the U.S. He eventually became a tenured university professor of political science. I absolutely loved learning, and after completing my bachelor’s degree in cognitive psychology, I moved onto a doctoral program to delve more deeply into human cognition and development.

It never dawned on me that there were not many APIDA in higher education leadership positions because APIDA faculty represent the largest proportion of minority faculty in the professoriate in universities, relative to other groups such as African American, Hispanic or other traditionally underrepresented faculty. For example, I have strong memories of having had one or two APIDA faculty who were my professors when I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. I also remember seeing other APIDA faculty across campus, and many were concentrated in the sciences, engineering and sometimes business.

I was successful and happy in my role as a tenured professor but, over time, I started getting nominated for progressively higher academic leadership positions. I found it rewarding and exciting to be able to work in these positions that enabled me to enact greater policy and infrastructure changes and to have control over resources that could improve student and faculty success. I did not feel alone or unusual because I loved the work I was doing as an administrator.

After I was appointed president of Stanislaus State, I was startled to realize that I was the first Korean American woman president appointed at a four-year college or university in the U.S. Even more surprising to me was that this is especially the case for APIDA women. To my knowledge thus far, it appears that there have been only 13 APIDA women presidents appointed to lead four-year comprehensive colleges or universities in the U.S. since 1998. ​Furthermore, this APIDA leadership gap, sometimes referred to as the “bamboo ceiling,” is not limited to academia, since there are similar gaps in other professions. This “bamboo ceiling gap” persists ​to this day.


How does your unique APIDA heritage and your lived experiences shape your leadership style?

The other interesting fact is that many Americans see APIDA as a homogenous group of Asians. The truth is that this APIDA group, while sharing many underlying similarities, come from completely different and separate countries with entirely different languages, religious affiliations and political, societal and historical trajectories. On top of these differences among Asian countries of origin, once Asians emigrated to the U.S. and were assimilated in varying degrees to become “Asian American,” the heritage and lived experiences become even more complicated and nuanced. Therefore, each of us has a unique cultural, historical and generational background that is often hard to explain in predictable ways.

My lived experiences growing up in America as an APIDA in the “melting pot” assimilation ethos of the Midwest, with a brief stint in the deep South shortly after the era of civil rights and during the emergence of women’s rights, all had a profound and transformative effect on my perspectives and view of the world. Not surprisingly, my parents fully embraced assimilating to the American way of life by naturalizing as American citizens, changing their names to Bob and Sue to sound more American and giving their children American first names. They were proud to let go of their prior Asian traditions and raised us to become American. So, in many ways, while I am very proud to be APIDA, I do not have strong identification to my country of origin. Where I grew up, we were the only APIDA family in our entire town, and we were proud to call ourselves “American.”

Nonetheless, I can say that some enduring APIDA cultural values continue to be core values for me today. These values include honoring family and family relationships, demonstrating respect for elders and community, showing respect for the value of higher education and valuing the importance of hard work, perseverance, humility, integrity and deference. Many of these values are reflected in my leadership style. In contrast, however, there are other more traditional Asian attitudes that often favor a more authoritarian style of communication or governance and many Asian cultures still have a strong tendency to favor a male-centric approach. As a woman APIDA leader, I have consciously worked to use a much more gender-neutral, proactive, open, collaborative and consultative style in my interactions, communications and relationships, which I believe have been very beneficial skills as an APIDA leader in higher education.


How do you use your leadership platform to inspire and empower students, faculty and staff to dream big and pursue their goals? What inspires you to do this important work, day in and day out?

I have an enduring and deep commitment to upholding and supporting a culture grounded in diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice (DEISJ) philosophy and action steps. I am inspired to support and build an inclusive, just and welcoming environment for the community at Stanislaus State and every CSU campus where I had the good fortune to work.

As an example, after coming to my campus, my staff and I worked with members of our APIDA faculty and staff to establish our first Asian Pacific Islander Faculty & Staff Association (AAPIFSA), and other ethnic organizations like the​ Chicanx/Latinx Faculty and Staff Association (CLFSA) and the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA). We also provide funds from the President’s Office and the President’s Commission for Diversity and Inclusion (PCDI) to fund Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month events, cultural commencement receptions and other ethnic social events and activities. I am also fortunate that my cabinet and campus community have supported efforts to combat anti-Asian hate, as I have publicly commented on this t​roubling trend in recognition of our APIDA students, faculty and staff.


Judy Sakaki smiling for a profile picture Judy K. ​Sakaki, Sonoma State President
First Japanese American Woman in the U.S. to Lead a Four-Year University

As one of a small number of APIDA university presidents in the U.S., what motivated you to keep pursuing new and higher roles when you didn’t see people like yourself in leadership positions?

The lack of people who looked like me was and continues to be a strong motivation for my career trajectory, but it did not come without sacrifice. When so many of my colleagues were men, and I was a single mother raising two boys, I had to make sure I was in my office early enough for meetings that were scheduled without concern for parental duties. And I had to work to find common areas of discussion with men who came into the office ready to discuss the latest basketball or football game. In the early days, I really had to adapt to the existing culture to move up within it.

​Now, things have changed some, and for the better, but women, who comprise approximately 50 percent or more of college students, are represented by about a third of presidents in higher education. And digging down into those statistics, among Minority Serving Institutions (MSI), only 12 percent have female presidents. APIDA presidents constitute a very small percentage of all higher education executive leaders, and that is not even broken down by gender.

When I was appointed president of Sonoma State in 2016, I was the first Japanese American woman in the U.S. to head up a four-year public university. Had I not lived the life I did, I would have found that flabbergasting. This was before the publicity of the anti-Asian hate was fomented by the pandemic. Although even back in 2016, I and the university received several hateful comments directed at me as a female APIDA president.

All of this keeps me going and keeps me faithful to opening as many doors as I can to talented individuals of color, especially women, who are not moving rapidly enough or painlessly enough through the leadership pipeline. I know there are many who believe that it is not the responsibility of people of color to get that pipeline working more efficiently, but until I see enough allies who are really acting on behalf of talented staff, faculty and executive leaders of color, I will do what I can, in whatever way I can, to help.


How does your unique APIDA heritage and your lived experiences shape your leadership style?

Both my parents and grandparents were interned in camps during World War II, something that they never talked about, but which shaped all of our experiences in the years that followed. I only knew that my parents worked extremely hard, that they were concerned about their children’s ability to support themselves, and that we maintained a kind of resilience that I compare to stalks of bamboo, which can bend almost to the ground without breaking or losing integrity.

I was a first-generation college student, despite being told by my high school counselor that I would be well-suited to retail sales. The evolution of my thinking and experience was due in large part to mentors—often women who encouraged me to push the boundaries of what I was expected to do and what I could do. And, I always had those values from my parents that I should not give up, so I continued along my career path, working to understand and negotiate the professional cultures along the way.

Some may see that as stereotypical of Asian cultures, but we need to remember that different groups have adapted to discrimination, racism and racist violence in ways that help ensure their survival. I don’t think of my personality or background as stereotypically anything, but I do recognize that the conditions in which I grew up helped shape me, and necessitated methods of managing that aligned with values and ideals from my family, community and experience.

In terms of my leadership style, the cumulation of those experiences and values is that I tend to be very consultative in my decisions. I solicit input from key stakeholders, and I truly enjoy talking to students, staff and faculty about what their experiences are like and what we can learn from each other.

After the 2017 [Tubbs] fire, in which I lost my home and almost lost my life, a strong sense of community on campus really kept me going. My focus on resilience became important in a new way. And there was just so much shared empathy because so many had suffered loss during that time. That experience taught me an invaluable lesson about the importance of engagement as both a formal and informal ideal.


How do you use your leadership platform to inspire and empower students, faculty and staff to dream big and pursue their goals? What inspires you to do this important work, day in and day out?

Because I am a product of public education and grew up in East Oakland, I try to give back to the organizations that helped me on my way. I speak at events, work directly with student groups both on campus and in the community and am passionate about recruiting and retaining more diverse faculty, staff and students to Sonoma State.

I have contributed some family items to an exhibit, “From Suffrage to #MeToo,” at the Museum of Sonoma County, hosted fellows from the American Council on Education (ACE)—a program that was incredibly helpful for me—​and currently serve on the ACE Women’s Network Executive Council. I was a founding board member of APAHE (Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education) and have consulted with myriad universities, including Yale, on how to strengthen their support for students, especially students from historically marginalized groups. And I take to heart Ella Baker’s admonition to “lift as you climb.”

It is such a pleasure to see diversity become more and more institutionalized on our campuses, because the richness of everyone’s experience is so much deeper. And to see our students and colleagues of color dream big is central to my professional satisfaction. ​I believe in the Japanese saying: “Tsumoreba Yama to Naru.” It means that even the finest particles of dust, when gathered together, can allow those that come behind you to climb higher and see further than they dreamed possible.


Framroze Virjee smiling for a profile picture Framroze Virjee, Cal State Fullerton President
First Indian American Person to Lead CSUF

​As one of a small number of APIDA university presidents in the U.S., what motivated you to keep pursuing new and higher roles when you didn’t see people like your​self in leadership positions?

As a first-generation student and an immigrant to this country, I have always been inspired by the ideas and ideals that we, as Americans, espouse around equity, inclusion, opportunity and social justice. Though they did not experience higher education, my parents clearly understood its value; the trajectory it provides for social mobility and equity. That meant, in our home, there was no space for "I can’t" or "It's not fair." Roadblocks were viewed as made for removal, systemic barriers were viewed as obstacles to navigate and actualizing your dreams was viewed as a window to success.

As someone who is half Indian and who identifies as such, but who easily presents as white, I did not face the same barriers Mom and Dad did, or that we did together as a family.  Instead, the further I traveled from the wonderful home they provided, the easier it was for me to access the privilege that is inherent in our society for some, but at the expense of others. That was a motivator to take on new and more advanced roles in my career—to pursue leadership opportunities, but to do so with a mindset of a wedge to open the door, a catalyst to make change and a leader to insist on equity, inclusion and social justice.


How does your unique APIDA heritage and your lived experiences shape your leadership style?

My dad was a Merchant Marine Sea captain, so I grew up on a ship. I had seen half the world by the time I was six and moved to the U.S., which included not only the experience of many cultures, but the enriching traditions of family and faith that were shared with me deeply and regularly by my Zoroastrian fa​mily. Religious and calendar celebrations, prayers and rites of passage, food and family; these all shaped me, teaching me values, the beauty of faith, the joy of service and the strength of tradition.

As I rose to adulthood, the concepts of social justice, equality, unalienable human rights, care and compassion that were shared with me by my parents informed who I would become as a leade​r, as did their historical and cultural perspectives and their experiences in our new home. It was this exposure to my heritage and my lived experiences that drove me to the law, and to all it can and might do to further these values. Within the law, these same cultural and lived experiences worked as a magnet to attract me to the concepts of non-discrimination, freedom from harassment and the exercise of basic rights that find root in constitutional and labor and employment laws. And as I came to represent educational institutions, and then to teach within higher education, I found that the voice of these lessons could be magnified, multiplied and melded through education to further the very aims they represent.

Today, as a leader in higher education, my lived experiences implicate my leadership in everything I do. Building consensus rather than directing; seeking common ground rather than slipping into the chasms that can divide us; running the marathon of leadership and legacy, rather than the sprint of quick fix and fabrication; and always knitting into the moral imperative of what is right, what is just and what will provide the opportunity for all to find not just a seat, but a voice at the table.


How do you use your leadership platform to inspire and empower students, faculty and staff to dream big and pursue their goals? What inspires you to do this important work, day in and day out?

Most of the time I enjoy the privilege of forgetting my personal identity and focusing on the leadership of CSUF. I work, play, participate and wade into the Titan community focused on the future we seek and charting a path that will assure that we reach that destination. And then the signposts come: I catch a glimpse of my hands on the keyboard and realize they are as brown as Dad’s. I speak with a student who is intent on and demanding equity and opportunity for their community and I see my heart reflected in their eyes. I watch the first-generation student crossing the quad, backpack filled not only with books and computer, but also with Mom and Dad, sisters and brothers, and I can sense the palpable yearning to belong. These signposts and markers implicate and vindicate. They move and motivate. And with that motivation, with that sense of urgency and purpose, I renew my attempt to lead and empower all in our community—faculty, staff and students—to not only dream big, but actualize those dreams.

Members of the Titan community regularly ask me about my job: What is it you actually do? I tell them that with infrastructure, housing, energy, retail, construction, contracts, transportation, law enforcement, marketing, communications, etcetera, I run a medium-sized city of almost 50,000 people. And then there is our business, our calling of education. But really, amongst all the administration, finance, philanthropy, enrollment management and more, the real job is to inspire. To inspire all in our community to personal success, sure.  But just as important, to inspire us to cultivate and build the success for all in our community. To not only be the best that we each can be, but to ensure that all members of our community have that same opportunity. For me, that is both the definition and definer of successful leadership for our university and, as such, for me as its presi​dent.


Richard Yao smiling for a profile pictureRichard Yao, CSU Channel Islands President
First Person of Color to Lead CSUCI

A​s one of a small number of APIDA university presidents in the U.S., what motivated you to keep pursuing new and higher roles when you didn’t see people like yourself in leadership positions?

The students have been my motivation since the beginning of my career. I was motivated by and pursued positions that served underrepresented students, including our APIDA students and our first-generation students. As I came into leadership roles in higher education, I began to better understand the magnitude of being an APIDA-identifying leader. I recognize now that I stand on the shoulders of those who came before me, who carved the path to allow me to be in this position. I recognize the responsibility I have to represent our APIDA community, and that recognition starts with our students. Representation matters and engaging with our APIDA community reminds me of how we can further support and serve our APIDA students.


How does your unique APIDA heritage and your lived experiences shape your leadership style?

While growing up, my family didn’t talk about what it means to be APIDA, and we didn't discuss race and ethnicity and the impact it had on our individual life experiences. Then growing up in settings that were not diverse, and not having those developmental conversations about identity, I experienced so much turmoil. It wasn't until recently that I recognized how much of my struggle stemmed from a lack of understanding and clarity of what being APIDA meant to me.

I recognize how everyone has their own path to learning to appreciate their racial identities, and now that I have a better understanding of the necessity of talking about our narratives, experiences and intersecting identities, I hope to help facilitate those discussions on our campus. Knowing that we all must challenge ourselves to take that journey, and that a leader's responsibility is to facilitate movement on that journey—fulfilling diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) goals along the way—influences my leadership style. Individual actions help us advance toward our DEIA goals, which in turn facilitates the systemic and policy level changes that are required for long-term change. Everyone must be willing to take the journey to better understand themselves and others through DEIA work.


How do you use your leadership platform to inspire and empower students, faculty and staff to dream big and pursue their goals? What inspires you to do this important work, day in and day out?

I recognize how important it is to model behavior for our students. How I navigate and cope with adversity, continue to learn and grow as a leader and communicate with others are all part of that process of facilitating others on their leadership journey. I need to be right there with them, taking that extra step to offer support and empathy with all members of our campus community and beyond. This also leads to discussing how not everyone is going to agree when a decision is made, but if we can have an open conversation about the rationale, context and thoughtfulness behind these difficult decisions, we can come to a respectful resolution that builds those partnerships and makes us stronger.

The students inspire me every day, and their success is at the forefront of my mind. I am deeply aware of the magnitude of this position and how my leadership impacts our students' success. Our campus partners' hard work and dedication inspires my work, and these opportunities for collaboration across divisions maintain that inspiration. The ability for our students to feel a sense of belonging and pride in our university, and that their identities are valued and embraced, is the greatest inspiration as president.


The CSU partners with APIDA communities to increase the college preparation, enrollment and graduation rates of those students across the state of California. Learn more about these efforts.​


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