Program Speakers

Isaac Alferos 

Isaac Alferos

President, Cal State Student Association

Isaac Alferos serves as the 2021-2022 President for the Cal State Student Association (CSSA). Born and raised in Buena Park, CA, Isaac is a data-driven, higher education equity advocate and organizer in his community. Before coming to the CSU, Isaac worked in his community training young leaders, organizing protests, and lobbying local officials for increased investment and support of underfunded schools. He brings this energy with him into the CSU through his work as an educational researcher and advocate. Isaac began his journey in student government as a Lobby Corps Coordinator where he became a staunch advocate for educational equity, educating systemwide leaders on voter suppression, histories of voting in communities of color, and using an equity lens to expand civic engagement. Through his work as a student at-large at CSSA, he spearheaded support of AB 1460 and pushed for greater investment into basic needs infrastructure throughout the system. Through this, Isaac was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in July 2020 to serve as the next CSAC student representative, where he oversaw financial aid for all 3 million students in California and continues to push for equitable investment into CA students. Outside of student government, Isaac is the Executive Director of the Black + Brown Healing Project and a proud member of MSI Fullerton, as well as CA Forward's Young Leaders Advisory Council.

Ji Y. Son 

Ji Y. Son

Professor, Psychology, Cal State Los Angeles

Dr. Ji Y. Son is Professor of Psychology at California State University at Los Angeles and director of the Learning Lab at Cal State LA. She is a co-author of the interactive textbook "Introduction to Statistics: A Modeling Approach" published using CourseKata.org.

Dr. Son is interested in how basic cognitive and perceptual processes foster rich and transferable learning. The central idea behind Dr. Son's work is that learning changes the way we see the world, and she examines methods of applying psychological insights at scale to issues like mathematics remediation and student success. Through directing wise interventions at Cal State LA, she has helped develop and validate materials to help students achieve higher and persist longer. Dr. Son earned her Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and Psychology from Indiana University, Bloomington. Her adventures in research and life can be followed on Twitter @cogscimom.

Joseph I. Castro 

Joseph I. Castro

Chancellor, California State University

Dr. Joseph I. Castro serves as the eighth chancellor to lead the California State University (CSU). He is the first Californian and first person of color to serve in this role. The grandson of immigrants from Mexico and the son of a single mother, Dr. Castro was the first in his family to graduate from a university. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in higher education policy and leadership from Stanford University. He is a renowned and gifted scholar in the fields of leadership and public policy, and has mentored hundreds of other scholars and practitioners, including many university presidents and senior officers.

Prior to his appointment as CSU chancellor in September 2020, Dr. Castro served as president of California State University, Fresno, beginning in 2013. He also worked in the University of California system for 23 years, serving as vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs and as professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco from 2006 to 2013. Earlier in his career, he held faculty or administrative leadership positions at four other University of California campuses: Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Barbara.

Dr. Castro formally assumed the CSU chancellorship in January 2021. The California State University is the nation's largest and most ethnically and economically diverse four-year university, comprised of 23 campuses with more than 485,000 students and 53,000 faculty and staff. The university is nationally recognized for its emphasis on student success and boasts more than 3.8 million living alumni around the world.

Dr. Castro's leadership has been recognized by many different or ganizations. In 2019, on behalf of Fresno State, he received his fifth Excellence and Innovation Award from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. In 2018, he was named CSU President of the Year by the California State Student Association, and the City of Fresno District 4 Man of the Year. In 2017, he received the Mayor of Fresno's Community Partnership Award. In 2016, he received the Alumni Excellence in Education Award from the Stanford University Graduate School of Education and the Ohtli Award, which is the highest honor granted by the Government of Mexico to leaders in the United States.

Sylvia A. Alva 

Sylvia A. Alva

Executive Vice Chancellor, Academic and Student Affairs, The California State University

Dr. Sylvia A. Alva is the executive vice chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs for the California State University. Dr. Alva joined the CSU Chancellor's Office from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where she served as provost and vice president for academic affairs. In her role as provost, Dr. Alva led the strategic and academic direction of the campus's Division of Academic Affairs. She also held a faculty appointment in the Psychology Department.

Dr. Alva began her career in higher education as an assistant professor of child and adolescent development before being promoted to associate professor and professor at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). While at CSUF, she served in a number of administrative roles, starting as the educational equity coordinator for the College of Health and Human Development and culminating as associate vice president for undergraduate programs. She joined California State University, Northridge, where she served as dean of the College of Health and Human Development before assuming her role at Cal Poly Pomona.

Dr. Alva is a first-generation college graduate and a product of the CSU, having earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from California State University, Los Angeles. She earned a master's and Ph.D., both in psychology, from the University of California, Los Angeles.



Please contact us at GradInitiative2025@calstate.edu