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Titans Celebrate Talent at 2023 University Awards

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Cal State Fullerton’s annual University Awards Program featured a talent show, awards and a moving tribute to retiring President Fram Virjee.

Lynn Winter, an evaluator in graduate studies, was chosen as Titan of the Year, and two teams were honored for going above and beyond in meeting the needs of students, faculty and staff. The winner of the Teamwork and Collaboration Award was the HEERF (Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund) Collaboration; and the recipient of the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Award was the Health and Human Development LEARN (Learning for Equity Ascend Research Network) team.

President’s Award of Distinction

Joe Camacho receives award from David Forgues and President Virjee
President Fram Virjee; Joe Camacho; David Forgues, vice president for human resources, diversity and inclusion

Joe Camacho, Titan equipment manager, was this year’s recipient of the President’s Award of Distinction. Working in Cal State Fullerton Athletics since 1990, Camacho manages all the apparel and equipment needs for the Titan athletic teams.

“Joe runs the show,” said Virjee in making the announcement. “He knows where everything is and you do NOT want to rummage through the equipment room. He makes sure everyone around has everything they need.”

Titans Got Talent

FREDIA TRAVIS performs song
Fredia Travis

A new addition this year was the Titans Got Talent portion of the event. Three staff members, who were semi-finalists of the Titans Got Talent audition, were invited to entertain the crowd. Tabitha Cervantes (Talent Acquisition) performed “Fíjate Que Sí,” Leanna Jasek Rysdahl (Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Programs) performed stand-up comedy after teasing the crowd that she was going to play cello, and Fredia Travis (Housing and Residential Engagement) sang “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” At the end of the program, Travis was chosen as the Titans Got Talent winner based on audience voting.

Years of Service

This year’s ceremony honored 564 Titans for milestone years of service in five-year increments. 

RAUL CAMACHO hugs Fram Virjee
Raul Camacho

Those celebrating 30-year anniversaries were John Beisner (Risk Management), Raul Camacho (Auxiliary Services), Mikyong Kim-Goh (Social Work), Martin Lorigan (Art), Gail Matsunaga (Undergraduate Academic Programs) and Jennifer McCormick (Auxiliary Services).

LYNNE FUNK with David Forgues and Fram Virjee
David Forgues, Lynne Funk, Fram Virjee

Those celebrating 35 years of service were Enrique Chavez (Facilities Management), Ning Chen (Computer Science), Lynne Funk (Research and Sponsored Projects) and Darlene Ocadiz (Theatre and Dance).

Mikel Hogan

Titans celebrating their 40th anniversaries included Bunny Casas (Undergraduate Academic Programs), Maqsood Chaudhry (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Mikel Hogan (Human Services) and Kristi Kanel (Human Services). 

Titan Excellence Winners

Three Titan Excellence winners were honored during the University Awards Program, with Lynn Winters recognized as the Titan of the Year. 

Lynn Winter, evaluator II, graduate studies, academic affairs

Lynn Winter

Winter has worked as an evaluator in graduate studies since 2011, helping to facilitate and review graduate curriculum changes, and review all graduate student study plans to ensure students are on track to graduate. She has extensive knowledge of academic policies, knows the details of very intricate program requirements and has the ability to spot problems before they happen. 

Winter has also taken on many complex initiatives that weren’t explicitly named in her duties. She decided to “clean up” the university degrees database, which can easily be outdated because of frequent curriculum and program changes. 

She helped facilitate close to 50 program changes in preparation for the degree audit and was instrumental in a major revision to the graduate policy. Winter works to eliminate barriers and increase transparency in the curriculum and internal processes for a more equitable campus. 

Stephanie del Rosario, administrative analyst/specialist, physical plant administrator

Del Rosario has established a culture of sustainability at CSUF, bringing together student organizations, faculty and staff through events, projects, grants and other activities that all lead to an inclusive, dynamic learning and action community. She was the primary organizer for Cal State Fullerton’s annual Earth Month celebrations in 2021-23 and the Campus Sustainability Month in 2021-23. Working closely with the CSUF Center for Sustainability, the campus was able to operationalize the CSUF Campus Garden. She helped develop and implement CSUF’s first student sustainability literacy assessment, and she applied for and received an Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning grant to initiate the project and conduct a pilot study in fall 2020, which will serve as the basis for campuswide implementation in fall 2023.

STEPHANIE DEL ROSARIO with David Forgues and Fram Virjee
David Forgues, Stephanie del Rosario, Fram Virjee

Every three years, CSUF participates in the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), an endeavor that provides evaluation of CSUF’s efforts to incorporate the principles of sustainability across operations, academics and student affairs. Del Rosario has spearheaded this effort, resulting in CSUF receiving a Gold rating for the first time. 

Berna Torr, chair and professor, sociology

Torr has served as the Department of Sociology graduate program adviser, vice chair and chair; continuously serves on university committees, task forces and searches; and volunteers her time on community work related to the Holocaust. 

BERNA TORR with David Forgues and Fram Virjee
David Forgues, Berna Torr, Fram Virjee

She received a Graduation Initiative 2025 grant to implement a Transfer Student Learning Community incorporating high-impact practices. She has implemented a First-Year Student Learning Community that has been proven to reduce time toward graduation, improve two-year graduation rates, reduce equity gaps, respond to bottleneck courses and incorporate mandatory advising. She also supported the development of a sociology peer mentoring program and supported faculty in creating research experiences for students. As graduate program adviser, she developed teaching internships by partnering with local community colleges. Torr taught study abroad in London and co-created two new courses. She has also been integral to the recruitment and hiring of diverse faculty and staff. 

Teamwork and Collaboration Award Winners

HEERF (Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund) Collaboration

  • Alyssa Adamson, executive director, academic resources, academic affairs
  • John Beisner, executive director, risk management, human resources, diversity and inclusion
  • Monica Coloso, associate director, financial aid operations, student affairs
  • Lynn Ganac, senior director, accounting services, administration and finance
  • Laleh Graylee, senior associate vice president, financial services, administration and finance
  • Dawit Haile, accountant III, administration and finance
  • Janet Le, information technology consultant, information technology
  • Nelson Nagai, senior director, contracts/procurement, administration and finance
  • Melda Navarro, finance manager, administration and finance
  • Christine Quach, administrative analyst/specialist, administration and finance
  • Oliver Ravela, senior budget analyst, administration and finance

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress authorized the creation of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to provide support to institutions of higher education. Out of that fund, the Department of Education awarded $242 million to CSUF with $100 million designated to provide emergency grants directly to students, and the remaining $142 million given to CSUF to mitigate the pandemic’s impact. 

David Forgues, Lynn Ganac, Alyssa Adamson, Laleh Graylee, Oliver Ravela, Nelson Nagai, Dawit Haile, Melda Navarro, Monica Coloso, Fram Virjee, Janet Le, John Beisner, Christine Quach

Initially, HEERF funding was available through June 2022 but was later extended to June 2023. The short timeline required institutions to act quickly or otherwise lose much-needed resources. Institutions were required to publish quarterly reports on their websites and provide detailed annual reports analyzing HEERF funds’ impact on student outcomes. HEERF funds were also restricted for specific uses that directly related to the institution’s efforts to continue providing a quality education while mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on students, faculty and staff. CSUF needed to rapidly create a new administrative structure for logistical and regulatory compliance needs.

The individuals nominated represent a sample of the collaborative effort undertaken across the university. 

Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Award Winners

Health and Human Development LEARN

  • Kate Bono, chair and professor, child and adolescent studies
  • Jackie Blyleven, lecturer, public health
  • Kevin Cummins, assistant professor, public health
  • Joyce Lin, assistant professor, child and adolescent studies
  • Lohuwa Mamudu, assistant professor, public health
  • Pamella Oliver, professor, child and adolescent studies
  • Shauna Pearce, lecturer, nursing
  • Michelle Ramos, associate professor, child and adolescent studies
  • Sasha Zeedyk, associate professor, child and adolescent studies
  • Shelli Wynants, chair, online education

Eliminating disparities in educational attainment through equity-oriented approaches is a goal of California State University’s Graduation Initiative 2025 and is woven into the values of CSUF’s strategic plan. Higher education research provides evidence that inequitable classroom experiences contribute to disparities in academic outcomes, especially those from underrepresented demographic groups. In spring 2022, the College of Health and Human Development created an opportunity for faculty to participate in the Learning for Equity Ascend Research Network (LEARN) Community of Practice (CoP). Participants used student feedback to tailor their teaching to make students’ experiences more equitable, more engaging and more conducive to their success. Anonymous student feedback is obtained using an online survey tool (called ASCEND) to collect data throughout the semester. The survey results specifically provide data on students’ experiences of identity safety, social belonging, social connectedness, institutional growth mindset, self-efficacy, and trust and fairness. The ASCEND survey produces an automated report that breaks down the results by demographic group and highlights critical disparities. 

David Forgues, Shauna Pearce, Shelli Wynants, Lohuwa Mamudu, Joyce Lin, Fram Virjee

Ten faculty are continuing this pilot project past its first semester (the majority are in their third semester of participation). Together, they have created an “Advanced” CoP this spring 2023 semester to delve deeper into diversity, equity and inclusive teaching practices and identify additional data collection elements that can triangulate outcomes. From community-level data collected from the anonymous ASCEND survey, overall semester improvements were noted by students, with 81% rating identity safety positively, 90% rating institutional growth mindset positively, 74% rating self-efficacy positively, 80% rating social belonging positively, 74% rating social connection positively, and 96% rating trust and fairness positively.

Valerie Orleans