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Nine Students Honored With Prestigious CSU Pre-Doctoral Scholarship

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From a young age, psychology major Kristen Moreno had a dream to obtain her doctorate. That dream is now coming true. Moreno has been named a Sally Casanova Scholar by the California State University system. She is one of nine Cal State Fullerton students chosen for this pre-doctoral program that aims to increase access for underrepresented students to earn advanced degrees.

Despite Moreno’s parents never finishing high school and being unable to guide her through higher education, Moreno maintained a strong determination to receive a doctoral degree in whatever career path she chose. “It was always in me to complete my education — all the way,” said Moreno. 

Her path to being named a Sally Casanova Scholar began with participation in the McNair Scholars Program, which prepares underrepresented students for doctoral studies. Seven out of the nine students named a Sally Casanova Scholar are in the McNair program, which is not unusual, since both programs prepare students for advanced degrees. 

While struggling to find her path in academia, Moreno received valuable advice during her CSUF orientation: “Everyone who presented stressed the importance of utilizing our resources. When I received an email to join the McNair Scholars Program, I believe I sent in two applications because that is how eager I was.”   

Moreno’s research interests include work ethics and workload on health care employees and how they impact patient care quality. She got the inspiration for her current research after working as a certified nursing assistant and volunteering at local hospitals. Moreno’s study is titled “Moral Dilemmas in Hospitals: Students’ Moral Views and Personal Choice of Action,” under the guidance of her faculty mentor, Douglas J. Navarick, professor of psychology.

“My study focuses on the different biases that may impact judgment and decision-making in a hospital,” Moreno said. “For example, two patients come in with the same condition and they both seek immediate care. However, limited resources are available, such as hospital staff.” 

Now with COVID-19 making these situations a reality, Moreno’s research is more important than ever. 

Moreno plans to obtain a doctorate in industrial/organizational psychology and work with organizations to improve the work environments for health care employees and increase the quality of patient care.

“The McNair Scholars Program has provided me with abundant resources, such as improving my writing, reaching out to faculty on campus and off-campus, funding, networking, counseling and workshops. Most importantly, the McNair Scholars Program continuously motivated me to stay focused on my academic journey,” continued Moreno.

She will now use the Sally Casanova resources to take her one step further to achieve her goals. 

“I don’t think I could have accomplished everything I did if it wasn’t for the McNair Scholars Program and the amazing staff,” said Moreno.

Students in the CSU Pre-Doctoral Program are designated Sally Casanova Scholars, named after Sally Casanova, a member of the CSU Office of the Chancellor’s staff during the 1960s. The program, launched in 1989, helps underrepresented students achieve doctorates and increase the pool of faculty members willing to teach in the CSU system.  

The 2020-21 Sally Casanova Scholars from CSUF are: 

  • Patrick Babb, mechanical engineering*
  • Daisy Gomez-Fuentes, Chicana and Chicano studies and sociology*
  • Alan Guandique, psychology*
  • Varvara Gulina, psychology*
  • Kristen Moreno, psychology*
  • Paula Margarette Ong, graduate student, counseling
  • Teresita Ramirez, physics*
  • Jennifer Sanchez, physics*
  • Angelina Zuelow, graduate student, biology 

 * Student is an undergraduate and in the McNair Scholars Program

Each student will receive a $3,000 scholarship and funding for activities such as visits to doctoral-granting institutions, travel to a national symposium, professional meetings or conferences and more. 

Visit the CSU website to learn more about the Sally Casanova Scholars program. For more information about the McNair Scholars Program visit their website.