2022-23 CREATE Awardees

Five proposals from faculty teams were selected for funding in the 2022-2023 academic year. These dynamic programs will impact student success and will help the CSU reach its Graduation Initiative 2025 goals.

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

Our program will decrease graduation gaps by taking a holistic approach that centers social justice and requires inclusion of university stakeholders including students, staff, and faculty. We will tackle equity gaps through a two-semester online program including (1) training in intergroup dialogue (IGD) (Gurin, Nagda, & Zuniga, 2013; Zúñiga et al., 2014; Kelly, et al., 2022), which is grounded in contact theory (Alport, 1954) and social justice education, and (2) action implementation to move the needle toward higher degree completion at the 10 Southern California CSU campuses. IGD can equip students, faculty, and staff with skills to not only critically recognize barriers that result in achievement gaps, but empower collective action to address these gaps. Participants trained in IGD will affect many other constituents at their campuses by carrying out action projects to tackle the Graduation Initiative 2025.

Manpreet Dhillon Brar, Ph.D. 

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

Dr. Manpreet Dhillon Brar (pronouns: she/her) is a trained facilitator of intergroup dialogue and passionate educator. She has a doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in Education with an emphasis in Human Development and Psychology (2020). She has published and presented her work on civic engagement, dialogue, societal “isms” and intergroup relations. Having completed training for intergroup dialogue facilitation at the University of Michigan (2013) and at UCLA (2015), Dr. Dhillon Brar has facilitated workshops, classes, and training on diversity, equity, inclusion, and intergroup issues at multiple colleges, schools, community and private institutions. Dr. Dhillon Brar’s intergroup dialogue work includes addressing global and international audiences as well such as through educational study abroad trips with undergraduate students to conflict-ridden regions in the Middle East (2017-2019) and fellowship with the United Nations Development Programme in India (2017). Dr. Dhillon Brar is currently an Assistant Professor of Child Development at California State University, San Bernardino, where she serves majority first generation college students in hopes of reducing equity gaps and advancing inclusion through mentorship, teaching, and advocacy. As a diversity thought leader with a decade of experience, Dr. Dhillon Brar continues to serve as an equity and inclusion consultant for various projects and entities such as the City of Los Angeles and UC Adolescent Consortium. 

Stacy Morris, Ph.D. 

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

Stacy Morris, Ph.D. (pronouns: she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Child Development at California State University, San Bernardino. She has a doctorate from Boston College in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Arizona State University in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics. She has received training in intergroup dialogue through the Universal Human Rights Initiative (2022) and has done work in university settings on examining and addressing inequities. Dr. Morris’ research and community involvement centers on supporting community engagement in adolescents and young adults and working toward dismantling inequities through building understanding of systems of inequity and motivating collective action. She has taught, published, and presented on issues related to equity, first-generation college students, and fostering an understanding of critical societal issues. 

Jessica Morales-Chicas, Ph.D. 

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

Dr. Jessica Morales-Chicas (pronouns: she/her) earned a Ph.D in Education, with an emphasis in Human Development and Psychology, from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Currently, she is an Associate Professor at Cal State LA in the Child and Family Studies Department. For the past 15 years, her work in education spans from working with preschool age, elementary, middle school, high school, and university-level students. At Cal State LA, she teaches courses on life span development, diversity and resilience, research methods, and child and family advocacy. Additionally, Dr. Morales-Chicas’ research uses a developmental lens to examine the role of ethnic diversity and curricular opportunities on motivation, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Aligned with her research interests, Dr. Morales-Chicas’ community work revolves around closing equity gaps, improving academic success, and increasing access in STEM and beyond. For example, she has directed various STEM programs that teach adolescents STEM skills (e.g., coding, virtual reality, and robotics) and entrepreneurship. She also co-developed an academic success program called CHDV Connect to advance the goals of the 2025 Grad Initiative in her department. Dr. Morales-Chicas has also served on various committees, boards, and is the current Co-Director/Advisor of the MA in Child Development program at Cal State LA. Finally, Dr. Morales-Chicas’ research skills and content expertise have allowed her to serve as a research and equity consultant for various projects and entities

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

Graduation rates among Apparel Merchandising Management (AMM) Under-Represented Minority (URM) students and Non-URM students convey equity gaps in success rates for 4-year and 6-year graduation among freshmen and transfers. Key strategies were identified by the Huntley College of Agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona in Spring 2022 to accelerate graduation and equity, including innovation in teaching-learning, and expanding special support for learning.​ Our CSU CREATE project aims to address these two strategies 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 goal is to improve persistence and reduce equity gaps among URM students enrolled in AMM courses. The program will be available for all AMM faculty to participate and can reach all students enrolled during the program implementation in Spring 2023.

Dr. Helen Trejo 

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

Dr. Helen Trejo received her PhD and Master of Arts in Apparel Design from Cornell University, and her bachelor’s from UC Davis. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Apparel Merchandising & Management, and teaches textiles, apparel construction, footwear materials, and research courses. Her research interests include exploring the intersections of fibers, fashion, agriculture, and technology to support a local clothing and textiles economy. Dr. Trejo is also interested in innovative pedagogical approaches to enhance student engagement and help reduce equity gaps in her courses. She has received several internal grants and a HSI USDA NIFA Education grant to support her efforts. She has also served as committee chair for 3 Master’s of Science graduates in International Apparel Management, which was initiated at Cal Poly Pomona in 2020.

Dr. JC Cañedo 

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

Dr. JC Cañedo holds a doctorate in Business Administration, a Master’s degree in Human Resources, a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership, and a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Cal Poly Pomona. He has over 15 years of management experience in retail operations and retail distribution. He also has over 11 years of instruction experience at the collegiate level and serves as a consultant on various business projects. Dr. Cañedo is committed to giving the best possible learning experience to his students. The foundation of his approach has been his experience as an academic scholar and his professional career in management.

Dr. Claire Whang 

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

Dr. Claire Whang is an assistant professor of the Apparel Merchandising and Management department at the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona​. She holds a Ph.D. in the area of Retail Merchandising and Consumer Studies from the University of Minnesota. Her primary research interest lies in understanding "how the new technology influences the way individuals think, feel, and behave." Her research topic includes social media marketing, personalized advertising, and voice shopping. 

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

Learning Assistants (LAs) are “near peers” who facilitate active learning through small group discussions in courses they have taken previously. In the national LA model, these undergraduates, who are pedagogically trained, meet with faculty at least once a week and support faculty in their efforts to implement active learning. Our project builds on the LA model by adding an element of faculty support. Faculty working with LAs will have the option of participating in a one-day “Faculty Retreat” or a “Faculty Academy” (held over the course of each semester) where inclusive, equitable, engaging and active learning strategies will be discussed. We will also discuss how to foster partnerships with LAs, to leverage their knowledge as students to make more student centered changes, and to create novel, more accessible relational structures in the classroom. This project will immediately impact undergraduate students, LAs, faculty in Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Biology, Math, and Computer Science across our three CSU campuses: San José, San Francisco, & Cal Poly SLO, as well as help chart productive, equitable pathways forward in implementing sustainable LA models at other CSU campuses.

Dr. Cassandra Paul 

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

Cassandra Paul is an associate professor at San Jose State University in California and a faculty member in both the Department of Physics & Astronomy and the Science Education Program where she teaches college physics classes, and master’s level science education theory and research courses. She previously championed reform efforts in the physics department by implementing the Collaborative Learning through Active Sense-making in Physics (CLASP) curriculum, an interactive model-based introductory physics curriculum for non-majors. Her research interests include equity in student assessment practices and instructor professional development for active-learning environments. She is a co-creator of two web-based classroom observational protocols for research and professional development, the Real-time Instructor Observing Tool (RIOT), and the Student Participation Observation Tool (SPOT). She is currently the PI for the NSF HIS grant 1953760: “Transforming Undergraduate Teaching and Learning Through Culturally Sustaining, Active, and Asset-Based Approaches to Introductory Science Courses.” Dr. Paul is also an advocate of work-life balance, and loves running, hiking, camping, reading science fiction, and parenting her three young children.

Dr. Resa Kelly 

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

Professor Kelly is in her 16th year on the faculty of San José State University where she has achieved the rank of full professor. She is the Chair and Director of Science Education and teaches General Chemistry as well as graduate courses in Science Education. Professor Kelly’s research interests involve studying how students learn and modify their understanding of chemistry concepts and mechanisms through molecular visualizations. She uses animations and activities to enhance students’ understanding of chemical reactions. Dr. Kelly’s work in chemical education research has garnered her an international reputation for excellence. Her service at the national level of the American Chemical Society has involved serving as Secretary and Councilor for the Division of Chemical Education. She has also served as a member of the Membership Affairs Committee and currently is a member of the International Activities Committee.

Dr. Kim Coble 

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

Coble has expertise in physics and astronomy education research and extensive experience teaching reformed introductory physics and astronomy classes. Her research centers on creating innovative, active learning environments that engage students in realistic scientific practices and foster a sense of belonging, recognizing the strengths that diverse learners bring to the classroom and to STEM professions, and understanding students’ ideas about modern topics and practices in science. She is the co-founder and director of the SFSU LA program, teaches the LA pedagogy course, and has worked with LAs in her classes for over 15 years. At SFSU she is a faculty collaborator with the Center for Science and Math Education, a member of the Faculty Agents of Change, and teaches the pedagogy course for graduate teaching assistants. She has served as the chair of the Education Committee of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), as well as a number of other committees and task forces related to education and equity. She was formerly a Professor at Chicago State University, an NSF Astronomy and Astrophysics Fellow and obtained her PhD from the University of Chicago.

Dr. Gina Quan 

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

Gina Quan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at San José State University. Prior to coming to San José State University, she earned her PhD in Physics (specializing in Physics Education Research) from the University of Maryland, College Park and was a Research Associate at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her current research studies the design of sustainable, supportive learning environments and how these environments impact students’ long-term engagement in physics. She is also a co-founder of the Access Network, an NSF funded research-practice community dedicated to fostering community and supporting inclusion efforts in undergraduate physical science programs.

Jennifer Avena 

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

Dr. Jennifer Avena is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Science Education Program at San José State University (SJSU). She received her B.A. in Genetics and Psychology at Ohio Wesleyan University and her Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) at the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder, and she completed her postdoctoral work in Science Education.  The courses she teaches include genetics, quantitative and qualitative data methods and analysis, and science pedagogy.  Her research interests include student conceptual understanding and problem solving in biology, supports for students in engaging in applied computing in biology, instructor and peer instructor (i.e., learning assistants) professional development, and practices that support an inclusive science community.

Dr. Laura Ríos 

Dr. Laura Ríos | Co-Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor
Department of Physics
California State Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo CA

Laura Ríos is currently an assistant professor of physics at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo CA. Laura received a B.A. in Chemistry from Oberlin College in 2012, and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from University of California, Irvine in 2017. At UC Irvine, Laura studied single molecule dynamics on surfaces using a scanning tunneling microscope in ultrahigh vacuum (UHV-STM) and Raman spectroscopy, and dabbled in computational investigations. Laura was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship during her graduate studies.

Laura went on to study physics education research (PER) in a postdoctoral appointment at the University of Colorado Boulder, focusing on assessment of lab course-specific learning goals and broadening participation of marginalized students in STEM.

In her current work, Laura combines her love of experimentation and instruments with learning science (e.g., experiential learning theory) to realign assessment structures with learning goals for upper-division physics laboratory courses. Laura also invests significant time bolstering the nascent Learning Assistant program in the physics department, hoping to help create a community of young leaders and teacher-scholars dedicated to equity in science and in the classroom.

In addition to her scholarly pursuits, Laura serves on the Executive Committee of the American Physical Society Forum on Education and the Committee on Physics in Undergraduate Education for the American Association of Physics Teachers.

In her free time, Laura enjoys the typical California fare: surfing and tacos.

Developing Instructional Cultures that Support Student Motivation in Math

In this project, we 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. Research indicates that instructors’ learning mindsets, or beliefs about students’ motivation, are important predictors for student success in math. Early math courses have been identified as bottlenecks that constrict degree progress for a wide range of students.  By equipping instructors with the knowledge and tools for how to frame messages and adapt learning materials that support students’ motivation and learning mindsets, we can make progress toward the GI2025 aims of improving students outcomes and closing equity gaps in foundational math courses.

Dr. Dustin Thoman 

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. Dustin Thoman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Education at San Diego State University. His scholarship is grounded in social psychology, diversity science, and a social-contextual framework of motivation. He studies how motivation can be supported or disrupted by the social and cultural contexts in which interests are sparked, developed, and ultimately become (or not) lifelong pursuits. He and his research teams have secured over $9M from NSF, NIH, and private foundations such as the College Futures Foundation to support research on equity and inclusion in education, particularly broadening of participation in STEM education. Through a wide range of program development, consulting, mentoring, and advisory board activities at SDSU and other organizations across the country, he utilizes insights from motivation science to identify and remove institutional and social-contextual barriers that impede the development of educational and career interests for students from marginalized and historically underrepresented backgrounds. 

Dr. Paul Beardsley 

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. Paul Beardsley is Director of the Center for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and a Professor in Biological Sciences at Cal Poly Pomona. He has taught biology over 27 years, from middle school through postdoctoral students. He is committed to inclusive pedagogy that motivates learners in accordance with Robert Frost who said, “‘I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” Dr. Beardsley is PI for the Polytechnic for All: STEM Success via an Inclusive institutiON (PASSION) NSF HSI project, was the Research Director and Co-PI of the NSF-funded Reinvigorating Elementary Science through a Partnership with California Teachers (RESPeCT) project which developed teacher leaders of science in K-6 grades in a large, high needs school district, and has led projects at CPP to develop teaching interventions to support all students, receiving over $11.4 million in funding. He has developed biology curricula for K-college, including projects funded by NSF, NIH, USDoE, NASA, private foundations, and HHMI. Highlights include being the lead curriculum developer for the Learning Unity and Diversity in Alabama NSF project, the Teaching Evolution through Human Examples AP Biology NSF project, the lead developer of HHMI BioInteractive’s online professional learning Evolution course, and PI and lead author of NIH’s Evolution and Medicine curriculum supplement. He is the coordinator for the introductory courses for biology majors at CPP, an HHMI BioInteractive Ambassador, and is the director and originator of the Biology Learning Assistant program.

Dr. Allison Vaughn 

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

Dr. Allison Vaughn is a Professor of Psychology and the Associate Director for the Center for Teaching and Learning at San Diego State University. She is a product of the CSU – obtaining her B.A. from Cal Poly Pomona and her M.A. from SDSU. In her scholarship, she examines social relationships, stigma and health and mentors students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. She is also a Co-PI on Developing institutional cultures that support student motivation (College Futures Foundation). She serves as a Faculty Fellow in recruiting and training faculty at SDSU on evidence-based motivational strategies. Her teaching philosophy is built on a foundation of diversity, equity, inclusion, and empowerment of students. From GE courses to research methods and health psychology, she uses the principles of psychology to better the academic lives of students while supporting and prioritizing their mental and physical health and social relationships. In her role at CTL, she has prioritized the teaching development of graduate students in inclusive pedagogical practices and is focused on supporting faculty more holistically. Her service and leadership are wide ranging at the department, college, and university level – earning her the Faculty Diversity Excellence Award. She has served two terms in the senate, chairs the College of Sciences Diversity and Inclusion committee, is a diversity liaison on the Inclusion Council, helped develop and run the SafeZones@SDSU program since its inaugural training class, and mentored Psi Chi - the international honor society in psychology - for 12 years, earning international recognition for that work.

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

 This initiative aims to improve the retention and advancement of Black students at Cal State Monterey Bay (CSUMB) by addressing student re-engagement and promoting equitable learning environments - key GI2025 priorities. The project brings together the African Heritage Research Collaborative (AHRC) and the Mandla Mentoring (MM) program. It supports students by engaging them in collaborative faculty-led research projects that examine inequities and differential experiences of Black students and provides mentoring aimed at supporting the academic and social acclimation of Black students. The close collaborative relationship between AHRC and MM is intentionally designed to create a supportive network of engaged faculty and staff to promote student retention, well-being, and academic success.

Dr. Vanessa Lopez-Littleton 

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
Cal State Monterey Bay

Dr. Vanessa Lopez-Littleton’s area of expertise is health equity and seeking solutions to problems rooted in connections between health and sociopolitical factors. She is a racial equity scholar whose work focuses on advancing critical consciousness and erasing anti-Black racism in nonprofit organizations and local governments. She is the recent author of Structural racism and social environmental risk: A case study of adverse pregnancy outcomes in Louisiana, a chapter in Three Facets of Public Health and Paths to Improvements: Behavior, Culture, and Environment. Dr. Lopez-Littleton holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs with an emphasis in health services management from the University of Central Florida, a Master of Public Administration degree from Louisiana State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Northwestern State University. Dr. Lopez-Littleton is a U.S. Army veteran and registered nurse.

Dr. Dennis Kombe 

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

Dr. Dennis Kombe is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education. His work focuses on making rigorous mathematics accessible to a wide range of learners. He challenges pre-service teachers to alter existing assertions about teaching in order to reach an increasingly rich, and diverse student body. His scholarly interests explore ideas on teacher preparation, beliefs on mathematics and science teaching and learning, pedagogy, as well as student-teacher interactions. He brings with him diverse collegiate and secondary teaching experiences -- having worked with high school and college students drawn from rural and urban school settings in Kenya and Botswana, as well as South Carolina and California. He is a graduate of Clemson University in South Carolina.