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Cal State LA's outstanding grads look to the future

April 4, 2017

Two-day Commencement festivities set for June 15-16, 2012

With some triumphant in fulfilling their college aspirations as others anticipate continued academic success, Cal State LA’s Class of 2012 is ready to don caps and gowns while looking forward to their next journey. Whether it is a future as a music conductor, fashion designer, lawyer, educator, engineer, social worker, public health advocate, archaeologist or sociologist, Cal State LA will congratulate its more than 5,000 students for their educational achievements at the University’s 65th Commencement.

With pomp and circumstance, the Friday, June 15, 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, June 16, ceremony will honor graduates in the College of Arts and Letters, College of Business and Economics, and College of Natural and Social Sciences.

For more about the Cal State LA Commencement:

College of Arts and Letters

Cal State LA’s eldest 2012 graduate keeps on learning and teaching

Frederick L. Adams, at 72, might be the oldest graduate in Cal State LA’s Class of 2012, but Adams doesn’t let age deter him from learning, teaching and contributing to the community. With his contagious energy and drive, Adams is a stellar example of scholarship for the young and old. He will fulfill all his coursework toward a Master of Music in choral conducting this June, but will complete his graduate thesis in the fall. He already holds an A.B. in natural science from Seton Hall University and an MBA from CSU Fullerton. A retired public high school teacher, he is currently working as a substitute teacher, and in the summer, he will teach accelerated high school biology at Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth in Baltimore, Maryland. A Hacienda Heights resident, Adams also directs music at St. Thomas Episcopal Church and sings in the Gay Men’s Chorus Los Angeles. Adams’ professional career spans from working as a U.S. Air Force navigator and United Airlines instructor, to a maintenance administrator and facility manager for Hewlett Packard and Sanwa Bank, respectively. With a long-time passion for music, Adams explained, “When I retired, I had the time to go back to school and fill in the holes in my music education. One thing led to another, and it turned out the logical thing was to go all the way to a degree.” He said he chose Cal State LA because “when I interviewed the school, Professors Belan and Connors were very encouraging. Other schools not so much. A friend also had gotten a piano performance degree here and I was always impressed with her.”

Swedish student moves to L.A. to become fashion designer

With her line of 1950s-inspired hand-crochet bathing suits, Alexzandra Granath has been described by her professors as having the skill to make it in the fashion design industry. Granath—who will receive a bachelor’s degree with an option in fashion and textiles with summa cum laude honors and a certificate in fashion merchandising this spring—started designing wedding dresses at an early age. A native of Sweden, Granath worked in a carrot factory, fabric shop and ski rental store throughout a period of four years before she saved enough money to move to Los Angeles to connect with the fashion industry. Granath, who received a scholarship from the Swedish government, attended Santa Monica Community College before transferring to Cal State LA. At Cal State LA, she works part-time as a fashion and textiles lab assistant and is also the secretary of FADS (Fashion Association of Design Students). A Westwood resident, she will also participate in the upcoming “Infinite Encores” exhibition at Luckman Gallery, the undergraduate exhibit in the Cal State LA Fine Arts Gallery, the Cal State LA Senior Fashion Show and other industry-related events. “Alexzandra is an outstanding designer…and her garments are well-executed,” said Professor Carole Frances Lung. “She works hard and is very smart.” After graduation, Granath plans to stay and work within the fashion industry in Los Angeles. Her ultimate dream is to design a line under her own label. Here’s a blog featuring Granath’s fashion creations:

College of Business and Economics

18-year-old Phi Kappa Phi Fellow heads to Harvard for law degree

Business administration major Daniel Pyon, who resides in Montebello, is selected for the University’s Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship for the 2011-12 academic year. Pyon—who will complete his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a pre-law option this spring at 18 years old—will pursue a Juris Doctor degree at Harvard Law School starting next fall. A Dean’s List student, Pyon has also received the Golden Key Business Achievement Award, the Korean American CPA Society of Southern California Scholarship, the Youngnak Academic Scholarship, first place in Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Paper Contest, and “Outstanding Delegate” at UC Riverside’s 2011 Model United Nations Conference. Wang took advantage of Cal State LA’s Early Entrance Program (EEP) to start college at the age of 14. Pyon currently serves as vice president for finance for Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) campus government and academic chair of the EEP Club. He previously served as the chief justice and associate justice for ASI and as a mentor for the EEP Club. He is also an active member of the Mock Trial Club and the Chemistry and Biochemistry Club. Off campus, he has volunteered for LOVE LA: Food for the Homeless and AWANA (church youth group). “Daniel is one of the youngest student leaders that I have the honor of working with, and he demonstrates a standard of leadership within ASI that is respected by fellow student leaders and staff,” said Cal State LA’s Intef W. Weser, ASI executive director.

Charter College of Education

Razi Scholar, who is legally blind, is among the first to receive doctorate degree

A recipient of a $10,000 CSU Trustee Ali C. Razi Scholarship in 2010, Robert David Black will be conferred the University’s first Ed.D. in educational leadership during an official hooding ceremony at Cal State LA’s Friday Commencement. The independent Ed.D. program was launched at Cal State LA in fall 2009 with an inaugural cohort of 20 students. The title of his doctoral dissertation is “Universal Design for Learning for a More Inclusive Environment in Higher Education.” A certified rehabilitation counselor, Black focuses on students with special needs and working in support services. Black, who resides in Baldwin Park, came to California several years ago with a bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University. While considering graduate programs, Black’s eyesight began to fail, and after six operations, the end result was blindness. Undaunted, Black was determined to pursue his career in counseling and education. Wasting little time, Black immersed himself in studying Braille and learning other tools and techniques designed for visually-impaired. Within two months, he enrolled at Cal State LA in a graduate program to study rehabilitation counseling. In 2008, Black earned his master’s degree in counseling with a 4.0 GPA. While in graduate school, he was inducted into the University’s Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and served as its student vice president. He also worked as a recruitment officer for Cal State LA’s chapter of the Rehabilitation Counseling Association and was a member of its national association. “While my blindness has presented—and will always present—unique challenges,” said Black, “it has also led me to meet some remarkable individuals whose perspectives have helped me to see life and opportunities in new ways.”

College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology

Triple degrees for mechanical engineering major

When Emerzon Antonio Cruz Guandique graduates this spring, he will be “triple” ready to enter the workforce. Not only will he achieve three degrees—an M.S. and B.S. in mechanical engineering and a B.S. in engineering with a special option in manufacturing engineering—he will also be equipped with the experience, knowledge and skills that he received through hands-on industry projects, conducted as part of the University’s Professional Practice Program. Cruz, who is a recipient of a Boeing Scholarship, said, “The best part of Cal State LA was having the opportunity to interact with industry liaisons, to be able to get a firsthand look at what was actually needed and required from new engineers in the workforce.” He was a member of Cal State LA’s NASA Research Team and Human-Powered Vehicle Team. While conducting his capstone/senior design project, his team was awarded second place in the Cal State LA Student Research Symposium. Demonstrating leadership, he served as vice president for Cal State LA’s chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. A Dean’s List student, he is also a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering, the Engineers Without Borders (EWB), and the Society of Hispanic Engineering and Science Students. Making a difference on campus, he was involved with the Rehabilitation Engineering Lab, working with a team to create an orthotic hand for a staff member at the University and a separate team to create a bath transfer system for a child of another campus employee. Currently, Cruz is an intern for American Technical Service Inc. at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division. A South Los Angeles resident, he is the first in his family to graduate from college.

College of Health and Human Services

Social work major draws from extreme challenges to motivate others

After overcoming a history of domestic violence and a 28-year heroin addiction, Monique Nobriga is finally achieving her dream of a college degree this June. In addition to being a single mom and caring for her ailing mother, she will be receiving her bachelor’s degree in social work with cum laude honors. With pride, she shares that she was not only accepted into Cal State LA’s graduate program, specializing in forensic social work, but she is also celebrating seven years of sobriety. Using her life experience to help others, she is currently working on a field internship at “A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project,” a non-profit organization in South Los Angeles that helps women and girls break free from criminal activity and lead healthy and satisfying lives. Providing hope to those suffering from domestic violence or substance abuse, Nobriga also regularly gives motivational presentations—geared toward employment, career success, college education, health and personal safety—at various community agencies, including Angel Step Inn in Pico Rivera and Children’s Institute in Torrance. A Dean’s List student, Nobriga’s accolades include Cal State LA’s College of Health and Human Services 2011-12 Certificate of Honor, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning’s 2011 Learner of the Year Award, the 2008 Women’s Soroptimist Award, and the Assistance League of Whittier Scholarship for 2007 and 2009. “In both field internship and in classroom discussions, Monique demonstrates leadership combined with inclusiveness and humility altogether, and she has been observed serving as an informal mentor and tutor among student peers,” said Cal State LA’s Professor Joanne Altschuler. Nobriga is a Whittier resident.

Military veteran earns his own Father’s Day gift

It might not be decorated with a ribbon and gift wrap, but Troy L. Pierce will be getting an early Father’s Day gift on June 16. Adorned in gold and black commencement regalia instead, he will be receiving a bachelor’s degree in health science with an option in community health at Cal State LA. Pierce, who has two children—ages 6 and 10, hopes to motivate them and others to take advantage of any given time to pursue their educational goals and aspirations. And, he is described as an inspiration to them in more ways than one: for his role as a father figure as well as a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. While in the Marine Corps, Pierce was stationed at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center-Twentynine Palms and Marine Corps Logistics Base-Barstow in California. He served as a communications center operator for logistical communications between the U.S. base and other military facilities. He shared that his passion for health science stems from his training in the nuclear, biological and chemical unit while serving his country. Concurrent to his studies at Cal State LA and commitments at home, he served as a political coordinator as well as first vice president of the staff guild of the Los Angeles Community College District. He also served as a member of the Safe and Non-Violent Schools Committee of the California Federation of Teachers, which drafted the language for AB211 signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2010. Despite obstacles along the way that delayed his graduation, Pierce is pleased that he is finally completing the task that he started. After spending summer vacation with his family, he plans to apply to graduate school and continue working on health promotions for AIDS awareness and child care safety and hygiene. Pierce is a resident of Los Angeles.

College of Natural and Social Sciences

Cotsen Fellow receives full funding for Ph.D. programs in anthropology

Amira F. Ainis, who will be graduating with a master’s degree in anthropology with a focus on archaeology, was recently admitted with full funding to Ph.D. programs in anthropology at the University of Oregon and the University of California, Los Angeles. Ainis, who conducts ongoing academic research focusing on island and coastal archaeology, participated in the award-winning San Nicolas Island Field School, funded by the U.S. Navy and the Department of Anthropology at Cal State LA. An Alhambra resident and a mother of a 4-year-old daughter, she was a recipient of the prestigious Cotsen Fellowship for three consecutive years. A Dean’s List student, she also received many other awards and recognition, including the Cal State LA Alumni Association Scholarship, the Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholarship, the CSU Chancellor’s Office Pre-Doctoral Summer Internship Grant, a Special Recognition in Graduate Studies, and the Outstanding Graduate Student of 2011-12. While at Cal State LA, she also organized and chaired a symposium at an international conference, delivered research presentations at multiple professional conferences, published several papers in peer-reviewed academic journals, and worked as an archaeological technician on the island of Tutuila, American Samoa. After graduation, she plans to continue her research on the Channel Islands while pursuing a doctoral degree to become an anthropology professor.

First-generation college grad adopts younger brother

First in her family to attend college and achieve a degree, Desiree Chagolla shared that it is an honor to make her family proud, specifically her grandmother who raised her, and to prove to herself that she can do anything once she puts her mind to it. Juggling a busy work and school load, Chagolla will complete her bachelor’s degree in sociology and a minor in social gerontology this spring. Chagolla, who works part-time for a federally-funded teen center geared toward disadvantaged youth, became a caregiver for her 6-year-old brother after he was placed in the foster system due to child neglect. Most recently, Chagolla adopted her brother and said she wouldn’t have to think twice about acquiring permanent custody of him. She explained, “The whole process has not in the least been easy, but just seeing how happy and healthy my little brother is, and how much he has improved, really makes it all worthwhile. I don’t regret my decision to take my little brother in.” After graduation, Chagolla plans to apply to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in social work. Cal State LA’s Professor Roseann Giarrusso said, “Desiree has the drive, the persistence, and the caring nature needed to succeed... It is amazing to me that a woman in her early 20s has shown such resilience in her family life while simultaneously working and going to school.” Chagolla is a Monterey Park resident.

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