Cal State LA announces Outstanding Professor Awards

OPA 2016


Cal State LA recognized six faculty members for excellence in the classroom and service to the community during the 2016 University Convocation at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex.

Four Outstanding Professors and one Outstanding Lecturer were honored for excellence in teaching and significant achievement in scholarly inquiry or creativity, as well as professional activities and community service, during the festive ceremony on August 18.

A President’s Distinguished Professor Award was also presented to a previous outstanding professor recipient. This award recognizes the faculty member’s superlative teaching and exceptional commitment to students, as well as professional accomplishments and services.

The six awardees are:


José Cruz González is a professor of theatre in the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, which is part of the College of Arts and Letters.

González is an acclaimed playwright and director whose academic career has focused on reaching and inspiring young people with artistic experiences.

He is coordinator of The John Lion New Plays Festival at Cal State LA, which he created in 1997 to stage the best student works in his playwriting classes. Since 1990, he has helped mentor students and foster their love of the arts as a principal academic adviser and a member of the master’s thesis committees for the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance.

Raised in Watsonville in northern California, Gonzalez's plays have been produced nationally and include American Mariachi, The Astronaut Farmworker, The Long Road Today, Waking Up in Lost Hills and The Magic Rainforest.

His published works consist of a collection of his plays, Nine Plays by José Cruz González: Magical Realism & Mature Themes in Theatre for Young Audiences. He also has written for PAZ, the Emmy Award-nominated television series produced by Discovery Kids for The Learning Channel.

González has received awards including the 2015 Orlin Corey Medallion by the Children’s Theatre Foundation, 2012 Ann Shaw Fellowship by Theatre for Young Audiences/USA, 2010 Kennedy Center National Teaching Artist Grant, and 2009 American Alliance for Theatre & Education Distinguished Book Award. He received his M.A. from Arizona State University and M.F.A. from UC Irvine.



Oscar Bernal is a professor of physics and astronomy in the College of Natural and Social Sciences.

Bernal is an expert in the field of experimental condensed matter physics. He studies and analyzes electronic states of matter found in superconductors and quantum magnets.

Bernal spent a year conducting research and scholarly work at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland, University of Kyoto in Japan, and the National High Magnetic Field Lab in Florida. He has authored and coauthored 63 peer reviewed publications.

A Manhattan Beach resident, Bernal is the principal investigator for the Cal State LA and Penn State Partnership for Research in Education and Materials. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), which supports cutting-edge research in materials science and the participation of underrepresented groups in the field.  

Bernal has served as program director for the NSF and worked in the foundation’s Division of Materials Science as one of the managers of the Condensed Matter Physics Program.

At Cal State LA, Bernal has served as associate chair, acting chair and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He obtained his M.S. in physics from Cal State LA and his Ph.D. from UC Riverside.


Meredith Greenburg is a professor of theatre in the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, which is part of the College of Arts and Letters.

She has been a professional stage manager in theatre and opera for more than 25 years. Greenburg is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association and the American Guild of Musical Artists. She lives in Los Angeles' Northridge neighborhood.

Greenburg teaches courses in stage management and theatre production at Cal State LA. She has been the production manager for the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance since she arrived at the University in 2001. Her former stage management students can be found all over the country working professionally in theatre, dance and opera.

Since 1999 Greenburg has been a member of the stage management team, working on more than 20 productions for the Los Angeles Opera. She is the production stage manager for the Hollywood Bowl’s Broadway Musicals, and has worked with Deaf West Theatre.

She has also managed productions for the LA Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Center Theatre Group, as well as the Spotlight Awards for the Music Center of Los Angeles County.


Mark Tufenkjian is a professor of civil engineering in the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology.

He has more than 25 years of experience in geotechnical engineering and is often called upon to provide his expertise to state and federal agencies. Tufenkjian received his Ph.D. in civil engineering from UCLA.

Since joining the Cal State LA faculty, Tufenkjian has maintained a high level of teaching and research excellence through his curricular development in the field of geotechnical engineering, as well as through his student involvement in research and mentoring with his federal research grants. He has garnered more than $3 million in grant funding from the Office of Naval Research, Department of Defense and the Federal Highway Administration.

He has authored or co-authored 30 publications related to seafloor engineering, earth retaining structures, non-destructive and laboratory test methods, and engineering education.

At the University, he has served as the college's representative to the Academic Senate and on the Educational Policy Committee. He is currently chair of Department of Civil Engineering.

A resident of Pasadena, Tufenkjian volunteers as a STEM teacher at the city's public schools, and he is as an assistant scout master for Boy Scout Troop 4 in the city. He is also a 17-year volunteer member of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association.


Angela Vergara is a professor of history in the College of Natural and Social Sciences.

A social and labor historian, Vergara has conducted research and presented lectures on topics including labor and social movements, occupational health, mining and transnational history.

Her current research focuses on Chile’s modern social and labor history. In her latest book project, Work and Citizenship in Depression-Era Chile, she is exploring the impact of unemployment on workers’ political culture and identity.

She is the author of Copper Workers, International Business, and Domestic Politics in Cold War Chile (2008) and co-editor of Company Towns in the Americas (2011) and the special issue of Radical History Review, “The Other 9/11: Chile 1973 – Memory, Resistance and Democratization” (2016).

A professor of history at the University since 2006, Vergara teaches courses in Latin American and world history. She is a recipient of Cal State LA’s 2015 Distinguished Women Award. She received her B.A. in history at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, Chile and a Ph.D. in history at UC San Diego.



Kamran Afary is a communication studies lecturer in the College of Arts and Letters.

Afary is a dedicated teacher who brings a breadth of interdisciplinary knowledge and years of experience in journalism, community activism and drama therapy to his students.

He has taught more than 20 different courses in rhetoric, cultural studies and performance theory during the past decade. He has also helped to organize University-wide town hall meetings and student performance showcases. 

He is the author of the book, Performance and Activism: Grassroots Discourse after the Los Angeles Rebellion of 1992. His research documents the emergence of grassroots social justice movements and development of intersectional identities in the context of a changing political economy.

Afary was born in Tehran, Iran, and has lived in the United States since the mid-1970s. He received an Associated Press award for “Best Radio Documentary Feature” and served for many years as a public affairs reporter for Pacifica Radio, KPFK.

A West Los Angeles resident, he received his M.A. in speech communication from Cal State LA and his Ph.D. in performance studies from Northwestern University.


For a listing of past award recipients:

Photo: Left to right,  President Willim A. Covino, Kamran Afary, Meredith Greenburg, Mark Tufenkjian, Alan Bloom, Angela Vergara, José Cruz González, Oscar Bernal, Veena Prabhu, and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lynn Mahoney. (Credit. J. Emilio Flores/Cal State LA)

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Cal State LA is a university dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 27,000 students and 247,000 distinguished alumni, who are as diverse as the city we serve. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Cal State LA has long been recognized as an engine of economic and social mobility. Led by an award-winning faculty, the University offers nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and the humanities.

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