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Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders Shines the Spotlight on Two Outstanding Grads

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The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is proud to highlight two of its remarkable graduates from the Class of 2021:

Christopher Quintana ’21 (B.A. communicative disorders)

Department Commencement Speaker (see video)

Growing up, Christopher Quintana was interested in storytelling and planned to become a broadcast journalist to tell stories to the masses. When he met Ms. Sandi, a speech-language pathologist who was helping his younger brother, though, something shifted. Quintana noticed Ms. Sandi’s intentionality and saw the empathy in her eyes as she worked to provide his brother with a voice. He realized that as a speech-language pathologist, he could give people the power and agency to tell stories on their own accord. 

Quintana attended “Welcome to CSUF Day” in 2017, and felt a strong sense of community and support. He knew that Cal State Fullerton was meant to be his home for pursuing his communicative disorders degree. 

The Class of 2021 graduate made the most of his time at CSUF, serving as president of the university’s chapter of the National Student Speech Language and Hearing Association and as a board member for the university’s Center For Children Who Stutter. He initiated such large-scale events as the inaugural “CSUF Beyond the Classroom Conference” and was one of only four undergraduates nationwide to attend the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Minority Student Leadership Program. Quintana also led two groups to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the needs of clinicians and patients. 

Inside the classroom, he thrived with the support and challenges put forth by faculty members Terry Saenz, professor of communication sciences and disorders, and HyeKeung Seung, chair and professor of communication sciences and disorders. As a member of the University Honors Program, Quintana worked closely with Saenz on his senior honors project titled, “The Importance of Recruitment and Retention of Minority Student Leaders and the Impact of Student Leadership on Professional Readiness.” 

In his senior year, Quintana was accepted to a number of graduate programs for speech therapy. However, the pandemic gave him space to rethink his plans and consider other interests and passions. He decided to accept a full-time position with Universal Studio Group’s communications and marketing team, where he will explore another type of storytelling.

Mercedes Mendoza ’21 (M.A. communicative disorders)

Mercedes Mendoza is a first-generation college student who came to Cal State Fullerton after earning her bachelor’s degree at Cal State Long Beach. Initially she had a difficult time academically. However, faculty members in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (Ying-Chiao Tsao, Terry Saenz and chair HyeKyeung Seung) spent time meeting and encouraging her. 

Mendoza was selected to participate in the Health Careers Opportunities Program, a federally funded program to increase the number of underserved students in health-related careers, including speech-language pathology. During the program, she discovered her passion for medical speech-language pathology. In fact, she chose to extend her graduation date from December 2020 to May 2021 in order to complete a medical internship at St. Joseph Hospital. 

The Class of 2021 graduate experienced the difficult loss of her father in fall 2020.

“There were many days where I wanted to give up, but then I remembered how much my parents sacrificed for me to make it this far, ” she shared. “I also wanted to inspire current first-generation college students and individuals facing challenges to keep striving toward their academic goals.”

With true Titan resilience, Mendoza finished her degree and now is pursuing a clinical fellowship position at the City of Hope Hospital.

Karen Lindell