Student Success at Cal State L.A.

“At Cal State L.A., thousands of stories of determination, struggle, and achievement weave the fabric of a collective narrative that holds the promise of the future.”  -- William A. Covino (University Convocation, Sept. 23, 2013)

Angie Pak (history/Asian and Asian American studies)

Angie PakGrowing up as the youngest of four girls in a Korean American family, Angie Pak was always fascinated with traditional gender traits and gender roles specific to family order. Even though her family may have been influenced by conventional Confucius ideology, Pak’s parents conversely allowed her the freedom to explore different opportunities.

In fact, this motivated her to conduct a study on “Filial Piety in Korean Society: Importance in Recognizing the Imbalanced Gender Roles,” which is funded by an undergraduate research grant.

With a care-free spirit and a desire to help others, Pak joined the U.S. Navy after high school and eventually enrolled in East Los Angeles College. She transferred to Cal State L.A. in 2013, having just returned from a 13-month deployment to Kuwait. In addition to her studies, she continues to spend weekends training with the Navy Reserves as a petty officer second class.

Demonstrating leadership, she has recently been selected as The Pacific Century Institute’s Project Bridge Fellow, guiding a diverse group of high school juniors in workshops about Korean culture, language, education, community, and history. The fellowship will conclude with a 10-day study tour in Korea, where the team will visit various historical sites, major corporations, the U.S. Embassy, as well as the Demilitarized Zone.

On campus, she is involved with the Veterans Student Organization, helping to distribute food to homeless shelters in the local community. She plans to become a member of Salute, a national veterans honors society.

Upon completing her bachelor’s degree in history and Asian and Asian American studies at Cal State L.A., her dream is to travel to different places around the world, and hopefully work for a federal government agency or possibly establish a non-profit to support Asian American females in combat.


A few of the many
Golden Eagle achievements...

  • CSULA Formula Eagle team
  • Cal State L.A.’s award-winning Formula SAE team

CSULA research delegates

Cal State L.A. students selected to represent the university at upcoming CSU Student Research Competition



Alix Alcazar (finance)

Alix Alcazar is an exceptional student who has demonstrated talent, character, fortitude and a commitment to making a difference. She has overcome many obstacles and has emerged as a campus leader.

Originally from Mexico, Alcazar moved to Los Angeles at 14. She spoke only Spanish and was placed in an English Language Development group. Determined to realize her potential, she sought opportunities that would allow her to become more involved in school. She challenged herself by taking Advanced Placement courses, joining the water polo team, and getting involved with cross country/track and field. This is where her dedication to team work was born.

At Cal State L.A., she has taken on leadership roles, including serving as an Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) representative for the College of Business and Economics, a secretary for ASI, a student representative on the Resource Allocation Committee for the College of Business and Economics, and on the University-Student Union Board of Directors. Alcazar has been a member of the Hispanic Business Society, the Marketing Club and the Leadership Academy. She is currently vice president for finance and is the only woman on the executive board of ASI.

An Honors College student, Alcazar is also actively involved in a community engagement project, working with residents of the Wyvernwood community in Boyle Heights to help collect oral histories of the residents who will soon be displaced. Her goal is to pursue a career in law, politics and business.


Heather Fipps (TV, film and theatre)

Heather FippsFrom a young age, Heather Fipps loved hearing, reading and constructing narratives. She grew up surrounded by “creative ways to re-imagine old stories, tell new tales, and revel in nostalgic favorites.” Fipps—who works professionally in Los Angeles as a director, set designer, props master, and set dresser—is currently completing a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Television, Film and Theatre (TVFT).

Recently, Fipps won numerous awards, including a Best Shorts Award for directing and designing the web trilogy, Pan. Co-written by Fipps and her brother, James (a Cal State L.A. English major), Pan is a dark retelling of the classic tale of Peter Pan. The story is set in a “steam-punk” world where Peter Pan is the villain and Captain Hook is the hero of the story. The original soundtrack for Pan was played live by the Cal State Northridge Orchestra during a concert.

Fipps’ background also includes designing theatre productions for Cal State L.A., The Hollywood Fringe Festival, and the Los Angeles Theater Center. Her design for the Cal State L.A. production of No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre resulted in her invitation to the 2013 United States Institute of Technical Theatre Conference in Milwaukee. Fipps and her classmates also created a quirky web series, entitled Weather or Not, about a reality-style competition to be the next big meteorologist.

Upon graduation, Fipps will focus on a career as a production designer for film and theatre.


Rene Gonzalez (management)

Rene GonzalezRene Gonzalez, who is first in his family to attend college, was always interested in learning beyond the traditional classroom. So, he was thrilled to have been named a recipient of the 2013 Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The Gilman Scholarship Program aims to better prepare students to assume significant roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world. The program offers grants for U.S. citizen undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies abroad.

With the scholarship, Gonzalez had the opportunity to attend the business administration program at the University of Seoul in South Korea this past fall. The adventure enabled him to learn a new language, develop skills to communicate with another culture, and discover how business is conducted in a different country. Not to mention the added perk of discovering Korean music.

When Gonzalez graduates, he hopes to pursue a career in law enforcement. He believes the semester abroad will help prepare him as a police officer to work with people from different cultures, and help him better serve the community.

Gonzalez’s uncle, Sergeant Raul Lopez of Cal State L.A., inspired him to pursue a career as an officer, and he credits the business courses he took at Cal State L.A. for encouraging him to think globally.


Alan Ishii (music)

Alan Ishii’s piano composition, “Scorpio – SAGITTARIUS,” was recently premiered in China by the critically-acclaimed Zodiac Trio and will eventually be performed globally. A music major at Cal State L.A., Ishii won an international composition contest hosted by the Zodiac Trio, entitled “Zodiac: Across the Universe.” The contest selected 12 winning compositions to form a special musical piece, which highlighted each of the zodiac signs.

Ishii’s passion for music started when he received a keyboard for Christmas at 13. From that day forward, he spent hours playing songs and creating his own masterpieces. He grew up listening to country music and eventually branched out to jazz, classical and pop. Once he finished high school, he began to pursue a career in music, attending Pasadena City College before transferring to Cal State L.A.’s commercial music technology program.

At Cal State L.A., Ishii was a member of the Commercial Music Ensemble, performing as the band pianist and occasionally singing vocals. In July, Ishii performed one of his piano compositions at the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minnesota. Recently, he landed a gig at the Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood as part of the Young Artist Jazz Series. He is currently working on a composition to be submitted for performance at the Symphony in Seattle.


Anna Benavides (anthropology)

Anna BenavidesAnna Benavides, an anthropology graduate student, remembers that when she was growing up most kids in her working-class neighborhood didn’t get to go to the beach. Their lack of interaction with the ocean attracted Benavides to study how local communities are represented, or not represented, by various non-government organizations and local political organizations in drafting environmental policies.

At Cal State L.A., her M.A. ethnographic research investigates how activist groups get local communities involved in changes that directly alter the upland and ocean environments in which they live. She has also served as secretary of the newly-formed Association of Environmental and Social Justice Advocates, and has volunteered at the annual Great L.A. River Clean-Up.

Most recently, Benavides completed a 10-month stint with the California State University Council on Ocean Affairs, Science and Technology (COAST) work-study program. The COAST program works to increase the number of federally funded work-study students participating in coastal and marine research.

Under the COAST program, Benavides worked with Professor Kathleen Sullivan to learn advanced qualitative ethnographic methods for researching the political and social justice aspects of natural resource development. As a result of COAST, Benavides also has formulated her own uplands social science research project modeled after Sullivan’s marine politics research. She has also been analyzing the Los Angeles River through a sociological interpretative framework.


Ethan Min Chen (biology)

Ethan ChenIn 1995, Ethan Min Chen and his family migrated to the United States for a better future. He was three. Assimilating to life in the U.S. proved challenging to Chen. He often endured sickness as a child to avoid the financial hardships of medical bills or his parents missing work to take him to the doctor.

When he got older, his early high school years also presented their own challenges.  He had a hard time socializing and making friends. He became depressed and began to hang around the wrong crowd. But before hitting rock bottom, Chen decided to turn his life around. That started at school.

Now, he is a Dean’s List student at Cal State L.A. pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology. In addition to his studies, he has worked in the Neurophysiology Lab on campus. He has received an internship from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine to conduct stem cell research at City of Hope. He was formerly treasurer for the American Medical Student Association, president of the Neuroscience Club, and vice president for the Young Men’s Christian Association Service Club. He is also part of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program. Off campus, Chen volunteered with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization, mentoring elementary students.

Chen is committed to giving back to his community. Witnessing sick people in his community unable to pay for treatment motivated Chen to pursue a future in the medical field to help underserved populations. And, through the UCLA Summer Medical and Dental Education Program, and his job as a medical assistant at the John Wesley County Hospital Institute, Inc., he has gained more knowledge to help his community.


Monique Holguin (social work)

Monique HolguinMonique Holguin’s rich family tradition of caretaking has led her to a career in social work. She recalls her grandmother taking her on what she called her “missions” to Skid Row. Today, Holguin is working as program coordinator of transition-age youth services for Hillsides: Home for Children, a non-profit agency serving children and families. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UCLA.

To grow as a social worker and gain field experience, Holguin is currently completing her Master of Social Work at Cal State L.A. During her first field placement year, she interned with the Adolescent Medicine Division at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. This year, she obtained a highly-coveted internship with the Department of Mental Health, Office of the Director. This position has given her opportunities to gain knowledge from field leader and a better understanding of larger systems that shape and impact an individual’s health and wellness.

Holguin is also involved in various social justice efforts.  She is a member of the Los Angeles Coalition to End Youth Homelessness, and the Boyle Heights Health Neighborhood Collaborative. Her volunteer projects include serving on the UCLA Community-Based Outreach Program Committee, providing homeless outreach for Children’s Hospital Adolescent Medicine Division, and participating in the annual “Thanksgiving in the Park” through Union Station Homeless Services.

A Dean’s List student, Holguin has been a recipient of many awards and recognitions, including the California Social Work Education Center stipend and the Cal State L.A. Alumni Association Scholarship. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Golden Key International Honor Society.