Commencement 2011 | Spotlight

Outstanding grads for CSULA’s Class of 2011

CSULA’s Commencement set for June 10-11

With pomp and circumstance, Cal State L.A.’s 2011 Commencement is a two-day festivity celebrating the academic success of more than 5,000 students who have triumphed and excelled to fulfill their college aspirations. Featured below are just a few examples of the remarkable students who will embark on their next journey to become an educator, doctor, administrator, chemist, nurse practitioner, sociologist, engineer, and civil advocate after graduation.

The Friday, June 10, 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 11, 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 CSULA Commencement:

College of Arts and Letters

All-American veteran student scores communication studies degree

Pictured: Miguel Cucue.
American hero, athletic champion and all-around good guy, Miguel Cucue will receive his bachelor’s degree in communication studies at CSULA this June. He earned All-America honors from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in 2009. A key part to his soccer team’s success, Cucue helped CSULA finish the 2009 season ranked 12th in the nation after capturing the California Collegiate Athletic Association South Division championship and advancing to the NCAA Division II West Region championship game for the third time in four years. He also earned All West Region Division II honors for his outstanding 2009 season at CSULA. Before transferring from Santa Ana College to CSULA, Cucue earned first-team All-Orange Empire Conference as a sophomore and second-team All-Conference honors as a freshman. Cucue is also an American “hero,” having served in the U.S. Army for six years. He was deployed to Iraq in 2005, searching and clearing IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) from the streets of Hila and Kerbala as well as raiding houses in search of terrorist activity. He was also activated to help battle the San Diego fires in 2007. With a big heart for helping others, he is now actively involved in serving the local community through the University’s Educational Participation in Communities program. A member of Lambda Pi Eta and Golden Eagle Vets, he is also community service chair for Hermanos Unidos at CSULA. After graduation, he plans to work in the non-profit sector, serving his community in Santa Ana and helping the residents of Los Angeles. Jorge Uranga, EPIC Director, said, “Miguel is an outstanding person, filled with the desire to make the world a better place, one person at a time, while being a leader in the EPIC Program. His commitment to CSULA is evident in his dedication to promoting our University as a place to fulfill dreams. He is a strong Golden Eagle advocate and his presence will be sorely missed on our campus.”

First Merkin Honors Scholar receives fellowship to attend Stanford

Pictured: Christine Chow.
Christine Chow, who will be graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in TV, Film and Media Studies at 18 years old, will head to Stanford University in the fall. A San Gabriel Valley resident, she was offered admission to Stanford’s University School of Education’s Learning, Design, and Technology program with a paid fellowship as well as internship opportunities. She was also accepted to Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Vanderbilt University Peabody School of Education and Human Development. Chow, who was admitted to CSULA through its Early Entrance Program (EEP) at age 15, is the first Merkin Honors Scholar at CSULA. Chow said, “It is an honor to be awarded the Merkin Scholarship. It is greatly inspiring and really encourages students to continue to pursue a high-quality education at CSULA.” A Dean’s List student and a member of the CSULA’s Phi Kappa Phi honor society, she was also a recipient of a Golden Eagle Award of Excellence. In addition to developing several film projects, she created a documentary about robotics and renewable energy vehicles in collaboration with CSULA instructor Zanj Avery. She currently serves as a teacher’s assistant for actress Nancy Kwan, who is a part-time faculty at CSULA. A regular contributor to the school newspaper, she also was a tutor for EEP and at the University Writing Center. Chow remarked: “CSULA opened many doors for me. In addition to a rich education, the University offered many opportunities for leadership, service, personal growth and development. The campus community is like no other. Its diversity presents the possibility to learn about different cultures and perspectives.” As a result of the support and knowledge she received from the faculty at CSULA and her interest in advancing the future of education, Chow indicated that her goal is to become an educator, working on the development and applications of media technologies that enhance the learning experience.

A role model for teens aims to become a sociologist

Pictured: Laura Jazmin Cortez.

With a passion to encourage teens to go to college and a commitment to serve her community, Laura Jazmin Cortez, a Spanish major, serves as a college prep mentor with CSULA Project GEAR UP. (GEAR UP is federally-funded college preparation program focused on assisting targeted first generation college-going middle school and high school students prepare for college.) Being the first in her family to attend, and now to graduate from college, she has mentored and inspired numerous students from Griffith Middle School, Garfield High School, and the Social Justice Leadership Academy at Esteban Torres High School in East Los Angeles. She has provided invaluable tutoring and advisement to help students that face the same obstacles she overcame to graduate from high school and become ready to enter college. According to Adam Ramirez, GEAR UP academic site coordinator, “Watching Laura work with students is a pleasure because she is able to relate to them on several different levels and help them see for themselves what they must/can do to improve their grades, go to college, and succeed.” Also, while at CSULA, as a part of one of her courses, Cortez helped to create an online magazine, Que Ondas, for which she still writes and contributes articles to. She continually pushes herself and is excelling academically, while also studying as an interpreter and working as a tutor. A Dean’s List student, she is a member of Asociación de Estudiantes de Español at CSULA. After graduation, Cortez is applying to graduate school next to pursue a master’s degree in sociology. Cortez, a Bell Gardens resident, said, “I plan to achieve a Ph.D. in sociology, so I can teach as well as research aspects to improve the social atmosphere for underrepresented youths.”

College of Business and Economics

Healthcare Management grad student to launch a clinical training school

Pictured: Margaret Eade.
Margaret Eade, who will graduate with a master’s degree in healthcare management, has formed an LLC (limited liability corporation) while at CSULA—with one of her classmates and two other friends—to start a school that teaches phlebotomy technicians in the State of California. She said, “We have applied for accreditation and will be receiving approval very soon. The school, called ‘Eade Clinical Training School,’ specializes in phlebotomy training. It is one of the most difficult accreditations to get, thereby giving us a strong competitive advantage.” When Eade begin her graduate studies at CSULA, she was working concurrently as a transplant administrator, overseeing heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas transplants, at the USC University Hospital. Eade indicated that was where she met one of her “greatest mentors,” Debbie Walsh, who happened to be a CSULA alumna. Walsh, CEO/president of USC University Hospital, was honored as a Distinguished Alumna for the University’s College of Health and Human Services in 2008. Eade also shared that one of the highlights of her master’s degree at CSULA occurred when she had the opportunity to research healthcare delivery in the California jails and prisons. As part of that project, she was able to have a personal interview with Sheriff Lee Baca. She noted: “I don’t know if many people in Los Angeles realize what a great man he is. He is also a graduate of CSULA.” Prior to CSULA, Eade earned her undergraduate degrees in nursing and business administration from the University of Washington in Seattle. She also attended the Executive MBA program at USC for one year. Eade, a South Pasadena resident, has recently started working as director of Heart and Lung Transplants at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. She said, “I am very grateful to Dr. Stephen McGuire, Healthcare Management Program director at CSULA, for helping to rearrange my schedule during my last quarter to allow me to pursue this job offer…My education at CSULA has been top notch.” With a lot of ambition and drive, she hopes to begin a Ph.D. in science education program next year at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.

Visually-impaired marathon runner to cross the graduation platform

Pictured: Adrian Broca.
Adrian Broca, who lost his sight due to a genetic condition during his senior year of high school, found himself depressed and suicidal. Eventually, he grew tired of feeling sorry for himself and decided to focus on “the things he could still do, instead of the ones that he could not do anymore.” With this new outlook, he began exploring his neighborhood in West Los Angeles, and he discovered how to use his limited vision to follow color contrasts and blurry shapes of objects to navigate his way through streets and around trees, people and vehicles. Empowered by the new sense of freedom and independence, he decided to sign up for and ran his first L.A. Marathon in 2001, by following the shadows of other runners. He completed that race in about three hours and 42 minutes. With four guides leading him through the course—and 26 marathons later—Broca has now lowered his personal record at the St. George Marathon in Utah to two hours and 50 minutes, which is only two minutes away from meeting the qualifying standard for next year’s U.S. Paralympic Team. Here’s a recent video of Broca finishing the L.A. Marathon: This June, he will complete a milestone in his academic journey by crossing the graduation platform in cap and gown. He will receive his bachelor’s degree in business administration. After graduation, his next steps will be to apply to law school, in order to become an advocate for individuals with disabilities. Broca said, “Just like running the marathon, pursuing my academic goals has forced me to prove my competence and has also pushed me to achieve in my everyday life.”

Charter College of Education

Joint doctorate in education ‘gets it right’
Pictured: Fredricka Brown.
With interest in improving inner-city school education, Fredricka Sennie Brown will be conferred a doctoral degree in educational administration and leadership during an official hooding ceremony at Cal State L.A.’s Commencement. The title of her doctoral dissertation is “Getting It Right: Inner-City Parents, School Involvement, and Student Academic Achievement.” Her goal is to develop parent involvement programs in inner-city schools that will promote better working relationships between parents and school educators, in order to promote higher student achievement among the students these communities serve. Brown—who earned her bachelor’s degree in English literature from CSU Long Beach and master’s degree in education administration at CSU Dominguez Hills—said, “The CSULA/UC Irvine Joint Doctoral Program provided the academic and scholarly approach for a diverse doctoral program experience, where I received the cultural and knowledge foundation that explored the educational leadership of urban communities. The opportunity to absorb the expertise of professors who were well versed in transformational leadership in urban communities was priceless.” A Corona resident, Brown has taught in the Compton Unified School District for many years, working as secondary teacher, language arts curriculum specialist, and principal. Her diverse academic background includes facilitating school and district staff development workshops, developing district-wide instructional guides, supervising a dual immersion program, and working with school tutorial program.

College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology

Computer science grad student makes ‘IMPACT’ on youths

Pictured: Victor Mejia.
Bringing hands-on activities related to his research into the classroom, Victor Mejia—who will receive his master’s degree in computer science—is an IMPACT LA Fellow at CSULA. As an IMPACT LA Fellow, he served as a visiting scientist at Roosevelt High School, partnering with school teachers to foster students’ interest and fascination in science, technology, engineering and math. (Part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) program, IMPACT stands for Improving Minority Partnerships and Access through Computer/Information Science/Engineering-related Teaching.) Mejia’s research was on the development of an object-tracking algorithm for real-time automated video analysis. At a recent CSU Student Research Competition, his research, entitled “Automatic Detection for Tracking Moving Objects in H.264 Video Sequences Using Multiple Features and Gaussian Approximation,” won second place in the graduate division of the Engineering and Computer Science category. The presentation was focused on developing an automatic and robust moving object detection and tracking method for high resolution video sequences that could be utilized in a wide range of areas: from video surveillance systems to autonomous robotic navigation. At CSULA, he is also a member of ACM (Association of Computing Machinery). After graduation, he will be working as senior engineer for Western Digital, known as the world leader in data storage. He also plans on pursuing further graduate studies and pursue a Ph.D. in computer science. Mejia, a Los Angeles resident, said, “I have learned so much in my graduate coursework; my advisor, Dr. Eun-Young Elaine Kang, has pushed me to do my best; and the IMPACT LA program has allowed me to grow both as an individual and a professional. These last two years has brought out the best in me and I feel better prepared for life.”

College of Health and Human Services

Trustee Ali C. Razi Scholar looking forward to nursing career
Pictured: Araciel Juarez.
Araciel Juarez, a nursing major, had to endure a trail that has had its share of twists and turns. As a young girl growing up in the San Fernando Valley, she took school very seriously, earned major academic honors, and wanted to become a doctor. However, when she was 15, she became pregnant. She indicated, “Instead of becoming just another teen-mother ‘statistic,’ I dedicated myself to caring for my daughter and continuing my education.” With limited support as a single mom, she prevailed. “I have learned that amid adversity you can often find the inspiration to persevere,” she said. “Today when people ask who inspires me, I tell them: ‘My dad and my daughter. My dad directed me, encouraged me, helped and supported me. My daughter, Jiselle, who is now 6 years old, makes me realize how important it is to focus on the future.’” A Pacoima resident, Juarez has volunteered at Olive View Hospital and at MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity), a non-profit that serves people in need in the San Fernando Valley. For her dedication in pursuing a college degree despite personal setbacks, Juarez was honored as a 2009 Trustee Ali C. Razi Scholar. The award included a $10,000 scholarship. Now, with degree in hand, she is within reach of her dream of a career in health care. After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing, she said, she plans to work at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles and, ultimately, become a nurse practitioner with a specialty in pediatrics. She also intends to help organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club and El Nido Family Centers.

Graduate makeover: Student returns to college for career change

Pictured: Jacqueline Kiwata.
Jacqueline Kiwata—who will receive a master’s degree in kinesiology at CSULA—returned to college to change her career path. Though she received her bachelor’s degree in computer science and was happily teaching fitness classes in the community, she wanted to advance further with a goal of becoming a doctor specializing in sports medicine. A Los Angeles resident, Kiwata said, ”I entered the kinesiology graduate program at CSULA as a first step in making a career change. My experiences at this University have only served to strengthen that decision. CSULA has provided a lively, scholastic environment in which to grow, and I am thankful for my experiences here.” While pursuing her master’s degree at CSULA, she also served on campus as a part-time instructor, teaching weight training, pilates or kickboxing, as well as a part-time personal trainer in a fitness studio. She also volunteered in the East Los Angeles communities, with LAC/USC teaching hospital, Heart of Los Angeles, and CoachArt. Under the direction of Biology Professor Edith Porter at CSULA, Kiwata conducted a human subjects study to test the hypothesis that moderate regular exercise increase the lipid mediated arm of natural defense, which has been recently unveiled as a novel arm of host defense. For her research focusing on biology/innate immunity, she won first place at the 2010 CSULA research symposium in her category and competed at the statewide meeting. She has recently presented the results of the research at an international sports medicine/ kinesiology conference, and is a coauthor on a publication for related work. Kiwata, a recipient of CSULA’s Alumni Certificate of Honor and Alumni Scholarships, noted: “One of the most influential professors I’ve had is Dr. Edith Porter. She has high expectations for her students… Besides being absolutely brilliant, she is passionate about research and dedicates far too much to us.” After graduating from CSULA, Kiwata shared that she will look forward to applying to medical school.

College of Natural and Social Sciences

Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellow heads to MIT for Ph.D. in oceanography

Pictured: David T. Wang.
Biochemistry major David T. Wang is one of only 57 students nationwide to be selected for the prestigious $5,000 Phi Kappa Phi Graduate Fellowship for the 2011-12 academic year. Wang—who will complete his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry this spring at 19 years old—will pursue a Ph.D. through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program starting this fall. A Dean’s List student, Wang is a recipient of the CSULA General Education Honors Progam’s 2008 Student of the Year and Honors Scholarship and the CSULA Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry’s 2011 Katherine Carter Award in Scientific Writing. Wang took advantage of CSULA’s Early Entrance Program (EEP) to start college at the age of 15. Also at Cal State L.A., Wang currently serves as vice president of the EEP student government and is a member of the Student Affairs Subcommittee in the College of Natural and Social Sciences. He has also been actively involved with the University’s Associated Students, Inc. and the CSULA Amnesty International. Additionally, he works as a research assistant in Professor Ellis’s geology lab at CSULA, leading a team in developing stable isotopes as tracers of chromium contamination in groundwater. He also conducted research on drug resistance in ovarian tumors with the Dorigo group at UCLA as a volunteer in the summers of 2008 and 2009, and as an Amgen Scholar in the summer of 2010. According to Ellis, “David is more than ready to take on a career at the forefront of academic research. His intellectual ability is second to none and he has been able to understand advanced concepts in isotope geochemistry with ease. I have no doubt that he will be competitive at any level and make unique contributions to the field.”

Health educator/youth counselor obtains biology degree to create a better and healthier world

Pictured: Trinidad Cisneros.
Trinidad Cisneros, who will graduate this spring with a B.S. in biology, will pursue a Ph.D. in immunology at Stanford University, with a focus on biomedical research. Before coming to Cal State L.A., Trinidad was a health educator with sex workers in Hollywood, and a counselor and tutor for institutionalized youth. His passion to help took him under freeway overpasses, remote hotels and the streets of Los Angeles’ Skid Row in search of homeless families that he could place in emergency housing. Cisneros’ efforts to create a better and healthier world led him to Cal State L.A. to study biology, where he is a Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Fellow and CSU-LSAMP (Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation) Scholar. Since the fall of 2009, Cisneros has been conducting research in innate immunology under the guidance of Professor Edith Porter at CSULA. In 2009, he was also an Amgen Scholar at the University of Washington, studying the roles of the protein CDC42 involved in cell migration and notochord formation during early embryogenesis of Danio rerio. In 2010, he was at Harvard working on a project to investigate a subset of individuals with autoimmune diseases that have defects in central tolerance. According to Cisneros, “My research experiences at UW, Harvard and Cal State L.A. have in aggregate fueled my commitment towards a career in science, as a professor, researcher and mentor. These experiences have guided me to pursue science, so that I can give back to the scientific community, my field of interest, and the public at large.”