Julian Jeffries Teaching

Champion for First-Generation Latino College Students Recognized for Innovation and Leadership


CSUF News Service


CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award

  • 26 faculty members, including campus teams, across the California State University are being recognized with the inaugural award.
  • As part of the recognition, awardees receive a $5,000 cash award and $10,000 is allocated to their academic department to support ongoing innovation.
  • The College Futures Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation fund the award.
  • Award recipients will be formally honored in mid-October at the upcoming Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium in San Diego.

 About Julián Jefferies

  • His research interests focus on the lived experiences and identity development of Latino immigrant youth in the U.S. and Mexico, and in particular, adolescents who have been historically underserved in education.
  • As a Fulbright García-Robles Scholar, he recently spent six months in Guadalajara, Mexico, to study the experiences of adolescent migrants who have returned to Mexico, their reintegration into school and teacher perceptions of these students.
  • He served as faculty coordinator from 2015-17 of CSUF's Elevar Scholars Program to improve the experience of historically underserved communities in graduate school, funded by the SOAR grant.
  • He received the 2016 Steward of Place Award from CSUF's Center for Internships and Community Engagement for "Best Community Engagement Teaching, Puerto Rico International Education Program."

Cal State Fullerton geography major Gemayel Goxcon had never been out of the country until he studied abroad in Puerto Rico  as an undergraduate.

The out-of-classroom experience took him beyond his comfort zone and opened his eyes to see the world. Goxcon participated in a community service-learning project that sparked his desire to continue to help others; he renewed his appreciation and pride for his cultural and linguistic identities; and set higher education and career goals, including earning a master's degree — and a doctorate.

"Participating in the Puerto Rico International Education Program was a life-changing experience," said the alumnus, who graduated in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in geography and is now a second-year graduate student at CSUF.

For Julián Jefferies, associate professor of literacy and reading education, this is the student outcome he is most proud of as coordinator and instructor of the Puerto Rico International Education Program and Guadalajara Transnational Migration Program.

The study abroad collaborations introduce first-generation college students to experiential learning experiences in a global setting. Jefferies goals are to connect Latino students with their first language, history and culture, as well as foster the possibilities of advanced degrees and careers.

For his work to mentor students like Goxcon and scores of others to complete their degrees, Jefferies is a recipient of the California State University's inaugural Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award for his commitment to student success. The first-ever systemwide award recognizes faculty who are implementing innovative practices that significantly improve learning and course outcomes.

Jefferies, a Fulbright García-Robles Scholar, has created a learning community that includes novel service-learning study abroad programs, courses such as "Literacy Education for Social Change," community-based research and partnering with CSUF's Career Center.

"With the mentorship of Dr. Jefferies, the study abroad program staff, and my professors, I wouldn't be where I am today — in graduate school," said Goxcon, the first in his family to pursue a master's degree. He also has been selected as a 2018-19 Sally Casanova Scholar in the CSU's California Pre-Doctoral program to prepare for doctoral studies.

"I appreciated the ingenuity of the study abroad program for not only for showing me how to navigate higher education effectively, but also for fostering my cultural, professional and emotional growth."

Jefferies, who joined the university in 2011 and earned his doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Boston College, is a first-generation college student who left his family in Argentina to pursue higher education in the United States. He knows firsthand of the challenges, sacrifices and plight of being undocumented in a new country — and is not only passionate, but also determined to do whatever he can for students to help them learn and thrive in higher education.

"We've created a purposeful partnership with the Career Center and faculty members to best serve first-generation Latino students," said Jefferies, who became a U.S. citizen in 2013. "I haven't done it alone. I've had a lot of support from a lot of people. One of things I'm most proud of is helping these students navigate college and earn a degree." 

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