News Release| Commencement; Diversity; CSULA; Cal State L.A.; Los Angeles; CSU

Note to editors and news directors: Wherever news breaks in the world, there’s almost always a local angle in Los Angeles; conversely, in Cal State L.A.’s Class of 2009 are many “local” stories from around the world, as demonstrated in this media advisory. Presented below the release, some sidebar statistics offer additional context.

Grads from across the globe to gain CSULA degrees

Roots range from L.A. to Afghanistan, from China to Croatia, and beyond

LOS ANGELES – Their stories began far away, and for some long ago. Their next chapters begin this weekend with Commencement ceremonies at California State University, Los Angeles.

Cal State L.A.’s Class of 2009—with more than 5,000 graduates receiving bachelor’s or and master’s degrees—represents the University’s growing legacy of diversity with excellence. Among those earning bachelor’s degrees will be a man born in China 87 years ago and a girl born in Croatia 17 years ago. Their brief profiles—along with those of other graduates from Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Afghanistan—are provided below.

Cal State L.A.’s 2009 Commencement will be a two-day festivity—Friday, June 12, and Saturday, June 13.  The Friday 5 p.m. ceremony will honor graduates in the Charter College of Education; College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology; and College of Health and Human Services. The Saturday 8 a.m. ceremony will honor the graduates in the College of Arts and Letters; College of Business and Economics; and College of Natural and Social Sciences.

A global sampling of Cal State L.A.’s Class of 2009:


Elmira Baisetova, who will be receiving her MBA with an option in management at the Saturday Commencement, comes from Kazakhstan. A Dean’s List student, she also works part-time on campus as a graduate assistant in the College of Business and Economic Dean’s office. Finance Professor Taewon Kim said, “For a woman from central Asia, she had a rare, successful career in the hospitality industry in Kazakhstan and was recognized by her government with an award before deciding to come here to study. …She shows wonderful leadership in and out of classroom.”


Richard YaoTang Chen—at 87 the eldest graduating senior at this year’s Commencement—will be receiving his bachelor’s degree in Chinese this spring and completing his bachelor’s degee in criminal justice this summer. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1991 from Shanghai, China, where he was a lawyer. Not one to slow down, Chen volunteers in the Chinatown community of Los Angeles. He recently returned from Seoul, Korea, where he served as a judge for the International Martial Arts Federation’s World Championship. At Cal State L.A., he received the Kylie Hsu Endowed Scholarship and first prize in the advanced level of the University’s annual Chinese Poetry Contest. He will march at the Friday Commencement.


Adolfo Escobedo and his wife, Amber, will both celebrate their six-month wedding anniversary at the Saturday Commencement by receiving his and hers degrees. Adolfo’s will be in mathematics, while Amber’s will be in liberal studies. Each entered the University as a President’s Scholar, a distinction given to a select group of roughly eight incoming freshmen who, based on exemplary high school academic performance, each year receive $5,000 annual scholarships renewable for up to four years while they attend Cal State L.A. Adolfo, who was born in Guatemala, came to the U.S. with his family in 1995. After graduation, he will be completing an accounting certificate and applying for law or graduate school to pursue his goal of becoming a legal accountant. Adolfo graduated from San Pedro High School.


Ataklti Hagege Hailu, a diplomat of his country, will be receiving a master’s degree in public administration (MSPA) at the Saturday Commencement. He currently serves as consul of the Consulate General of Ethiopia in Los Angeles. Despite his diplomatic workload, Hailu completed the MSPA comprehensive exam and finished top of his class of about 20 MSPA students. He also received a Special Recognition in Graduate Studies award at this year’s Honors Convocation. Political Science Professor Siegrun Fox Freyss said, “Faculty members like to have smart, quick-minded, and thoughtful students with well-honed critical thinking skills in their classes. Mr. Hailu excelled in all these areas. He also showed a quick wit and great-self-deprecating humor. It was a pleasure to have him in class.”


Suzana Karim, who will receive her bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in mathematics at the Saturday Commencement, comes to Cal State L.A. from Bangladesh. Overcoming her family’s resistance and cultural traditions, she came to the U.S. and achieved academic distinction. Her participation in Cal State L.A.’s economics projects have contributed to the Los Angeles and campus community. For example, she collected economic data for Professor Dang Tran’s forecasting project, entitled “Preliminary Los Angeles County Regional Econometric Model.” She also helped with another model, forecasting the trend of U.S. economic growth. A Dean’s List student, she received the Korean Real Estate Brokers Association of Southern California scholarship.


Andrea Kulier—at 17 the youngest graduating senior at Cal State L.A.—will be receiving her bachelor’s degrees in physics and math at the Saturday Commencement. She will be heading to Princeton University this fall to focus on theoretical cosmology research. Admitted to the Princeton astrophysical sciences department with paid tuition and $33,000 fellowship, she was also accepted to Ph.D. programs at UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, Harvard, UC Santa Cruz, Caltech, and the University of Chicago. With the advantage of starting college early, Kulier was admitted to Cal State L.A. at the age of 12 through the University’s Early Entrance Program. Currently a resident in the city of Placentia, Kulier and her family immigrated to the U.S. from Croatia 13 years ago.


Overcoming culture shock, language barriers, and loss of two parents, Soliman Wahab will earn a bachelor's degree in computer information systems with an option in information technology this spring. He and his family emigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan 10 years ago to pursue their American dream. He lost his father to a heart attack soon after arriving to Los Angeles, and his mother died of cancer three days later. Focusing on a better future, he worked to help support his sister through college, and now he will be realizing his own college aspirations. A Dean’s List student, Wahab will honor his parents as he marches at the Saturday Commencement. This fall, Wahab will attend Cal State L.A.’s MBA Program. With big hopes and plans, he said he is determined to “solve the problems of ineffective and underperforming states.” Describing his experience at Cal State L.A. as “nothing short of extraordinary,” he also indicated, “I am a firm believer that Cal State L.A. is where the leaders of tomorrow are made.” Wahab has served as president of the Association of Information Management, an on-campus organization empowering members to solve real-world problems for local businesses and gain real-world experience. He currently resides in Laguna Niguel with his sister, Yasmine.


A quick glimpse at Cal State L.A.’s global context:

  • While slightly more than 80 percent of the regularly enrolled students at California State University, Los Angeles, are United States citizens, 19.2 percent are non-citizens, the highest rate of any California State University campus (fall 2008:


  • Collectively, these 3,980 students represent 142 different countries. Here are the top ten countries (with number of students): Mexico (847), People’s Republic of China  (424), India (296), Philippines (222), El Salvador (185), Taiwan (180), Vietnam (176), South Korea (129), Iran (127) and Hong Kong (99). (fall 2008:


#  #  #

Working for California since 1947: The 175-acre hilltop campus of California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles’ civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 205,000 alumni—with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds—reflect the city’s dynamic mix of populations. Six colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to a unique university center for gifted students as young as 12. Programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include an NEH- and Rockefeller-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a growing forensic science program, housed in the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center.