Student Success at Cal State L.A.

January 30, 2014

“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)

Andre Goodridge (civil engineering)


Andre Goodridge

Cal State L.A. student Andre Goodridge is passionate about how water works and how it sustains life. He is also committed to creating solutions for dealing with water-related challenges. Andre, who is currently interning at the L.A. City Bureau of Sanitation’s Wastewater Engineering Services Division as well as the Industrial Waste Management Division, is immersed in the study of water resource issues caused by population growth, land development, climate change, global warming, aging infrastructure, and water scarcity. There, Andre authored a paper, entitled “Sustainable Management of Water Resources: A ‘One Water’ Approach,” which focuses on improving the development, management and distribution of water, land and any related natural resources. Andre describes the “one water” approach as an integrated system that requires stakeholders and decision-makers to work collaboratively to increase the conservation of water, improve recycling of runoff and stormwater more effectively, and maximize wastewater usage. This research paper earned him the California Water Environment Association (CWEA)’s Best Student Paper Award in the undergraduate level. In addition to his internship, Andre is a member of the student chapters of American Society of Civil Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, and Engineers without Borders on campus. Andre, who will present his paper at an upcoming CWEA meeting in August, will earn his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Cal State L.A. this fall. He is the first in his family to attend college. Andre hopes to be hired full-time by the city after completing his internship, and also to work on obtaining an Engineering in Training certification.


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




Paul Adam Quiros (business administration; economics)


Paul Quiros First in his family to graduate from college, this spring Paul Adam Quiros will receive a bachelor's degree in business administration with an emphasis on operations and supply chain management and a minor in economics at Cal State L.A. A few years back, Paul would never imagined himself as a college student or even graduating from high school. He was shy and uncertain of his future, but today he is recognized by his professors and peers as “a great leader.” Demonstrating strong leadership and organizational skills, he has helped set up workshops, find guest speakers for lecture series, and seek corporate sponsorships as director of public relations for the Hispanic Business Society student organization. Additionally, he was responsible for coordinating the university’s Corporate Night, which is an annual professional event where students meet with representatives of companies to receive career tips and advice. Paul chose to attend Cal State L.A. because of its reputable business college. He believes that he has benefited from all the professional development events as well as the career fairs offered on campus. He recently served an internship at Dreamworks, where he even further enhanced his skill set and got important exposure to the fast pace of a thriving enterprise. Throughout his time at Cal State L.A., Paul learned the value of networking and developed a strong self-confidence. After graduation, he is ready to enter the workforce and pursue a career in operations management or manufacturing business. His goal is to one day manage a manufacturing companya goal he is well prepared to fulfill.



Nancy Aragon (liberal studies)


Nancy Aragon Nancy Aragon is not only a high-achieving honors student at Cal State L.A., she is also a campus and community leader who advocates for the rights and visibility of women, LGBT people, and immigrant workers. She immigrated with her family from El Salvador to the United States when she was a young girl.  Although her family entered the U.S. with legal visas, their status changed because her parents could not afford to hire an immigration attorney. Because she was undocumented, Nancy was ineligible for financial aid to attend college, so, she worked three jobs in order to pay her tuition fees. She attended Pasadena Community College and then transferred to Cal State L.A. to pursue a bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies.  Nancy has since legalized her immigration status but the challenges she faced made her all the more determined to struggle for the rights of other marginalized groups in U.S. society. As vice president of the Cal State L.A. chapter of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, Nancy has not only brought visibility to many issues on campus, but also has made an impact off-campus.  Last year, Nancy volunteered for the "Raise L.A. Campaign," a citywide effort by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy along with a coalition of community organizations, religious leaders, and labor unions to raise the minimum wage for hotel workers in Los Angeles.  In support of this campaign, she volunteered on a city council campaign, and later led a highly successful delegation of Cal State L.A. faculty and students to City Hall to advocate for the economic needs of immigrant hotel workers. This June, she is graduating magna cum laude.



Fernando Vargas (chemistry)

Fernando Vargas A first-generation college student, Fernando Vargas is graduating with a bachelor's degree in chemistry and heading to a Ph.D. program in biological sciences at UC San Diego this fall. His future goal is to work for a pharmaceutical company to develop drug therapy that will help treat diseases. Born in Mexico, Vargas always wanted to help people and his community. In response to the 9/11 incident, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps to serve his country. When he returned from active duty, he enrolled in Glendale Community College with support from the GI Bill and became interested in pursuing a possible career in health care. However, through the MORE Programs at Cal State L.A., he was exposed to the realm of possibilities in science and found his true calling in research. He enjoyed working in the lab studying protein enzymes under the guidance of Professor Jamil Momand. Also, the opportunity to participate in a summer internship in Princeton studying molecular biology with Professor Mark Rose further catalyzed his passion in science. On campus, he served as president of the Cancer Research and Awareness Society. This year, he volunteered to help out with the "Cal State L.A., Here We Come!" event, where he presented a scientific magic show to young children from his neighborhood in East Los Angeles. He wanted them to understand that science is "cool" and that they can be a scientist too.  


Telma Cea (family and child studies)


Child and Family Studies major at Cal State L.A., Telma Cea has demonstrated a true spirit of resilience and grace throughout her academic career. She began her studies at UC Riverside but had to delay her dream of completing a college degree so she could return home to help her mother care for her siblings. Telma's dedication to her family is mirrored by the depth of her commitment to her educational goals. Even through extreme financial hardship, where Telma and her family became homeless for approximately one year, she never wavered in her aspiration to pursue a higher education. Once she helped stabilize her family's economic and housing challenges, she returned to school. Now, in addition to her studies and two part-time jobs, she also serves as an academic guide for the Pathways to Graduation program in the University's Department of Child and Family Studies. In this capacity, she is responsible for working with 30 undergraduates and providing the academic and social support services that promote the achievement of each student.  Her department faculty and staff find her to be an inspiration to the students she interacts with and believe that because of her persistence and steadfastness, Telma will become an active Cal State L.A. alum after graduation. This summer, she will begin working in the early education program at the Children's Institute International.



Deeksha Lakshmi (information systems)
Deeksha Lakshmi, who is originally from India, moved to the U.S. after getting married to pursue potential career opportunities. She spent a year exploring before deciding to enroll in Cal State L.A.'s master's degree in information systems. With her previous work experience in the field of information technology, it seemed like a natural fit. And, now that she is graduating this June, Deeksha is happy that she made the decision to go back to school. She described her education at Cal State L.A. as a "very enriching experience." She credited the faculty and the diverse student body for introducing her to the vibrant life in the city of Los Angeles. As part of her research project, she was able to successfully learn and work on Big Data technology. This led to the publishing of a paper, entitled "Analysis of MovieLens database using Hive," in the ARPN Journal of Science and Technology, under the guidance of Professor Jongwook Woo of the University's College of Business and Economics. She indicated that the valuable academic guidance she received from her professors in the Department of Information Systems also helped lead her toward a path of success. With expertise in the latest technologies, she has just landed a job as a Big Data engineer with Yahoo! Inc. 



Krystal Card Flores (rehabilitation counseling)


Krystal Card Flores With a strong desire and passion to assist adults with disabilities, Krystal Card Flores will complete her master's degree in rehabilitation counseling this spring at Cal State L.A. and then pursue her professional clinical counseling license. After graduation, she plans to work at a state hospital serving adults with mental illness and developmental disabilities so that she may gain actual experience before applying to medical school to become a psychiatrist. She started her academic career at Cal State L.A. where she achieved her B.A. in Urban Learning with an option in special education, and was awarded the Student Leadership Award of Excellence. Hoping to make a difference by helping others on campus, she was a member of the Office for Student with Disabilities Committee as well as the Assistive Technology committee. Currently, she teaches American Sign Language to adults with developmental disabilities as an alternative form of communication and expression. She also completed an internship at High Road Developmental Services, Inc. as a job coach for adults with dual diagnoses (developmental disabilities and severe mental illness), where she helped clients with behavior modification as well as life and vocational skills. With patience and attentiveness, she currently teaches a reading and arts class to adults with developmental disabilities. Committed to serving the community, she has volunteered for the Special Olympics for the past three years and has participated in the Revlon Walk the last four years. A Dean's List student, Krystal has garnered the Graduate Equity Fellowship Scholarship as well as the Charter College of Education Graduate Scholarship.



Angie Pak (history/Asian and Asian American studies)

Angie Pak Growing 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, Angie’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, Angie 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.


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, Alix 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. Alix 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, Alix 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 Fipps From 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.” Heather—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, Heather won numerous awards, including a Best Shorts Award for directing and designing the web trilogy, Pan. Co-written by Heather 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.

Heather’s 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. Heather 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, Heather will focus on a career as a production designer for film and theatre.


Rene Gonzalez (management)

Rene Gonzalez Rene 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, Rene 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 Rene 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.

Rene’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., Alan 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.

Alan’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., Alan was a member of the Commercial Music Ensemble, performing as the band pianist and occasionally singing vocals. In July, Alan 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 Benavides Anna 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 Anna 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, Anna 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, Anna 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, Anna 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 Chen In 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 Ethan. 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, Ethan 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, Ethan volunteered with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Organization, mentoring elementary students.

Ethan is committed to giving back to his community. Witnessing sick people in his community unable to pay for treatment motivated Ethan 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 Holguin Monique 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, Monique 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, Monique 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.

Monique 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, Monique 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.