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CSUF Shines Spotlight on Its ‘Brightest Stars’ at University Awards Program

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The campus community gathered for a star-studded University Awards Program to celebrate Cal State Fullerton’s stellar staff and faculty.

The 2024 “Honoring Our Brightest Stars” program on April 18 recognized Titan superstars for their achievements and contributions to the university.

“Today we shine a spotlight on Titans who have demonstrated exceptional talent, creativity and resilience in overcoming challenges,” said CSUF President Sylvia Alva.

“From groundbreaking innovations to acts of extraordinary kindness, our honorees’ stellar performances have made a difference in the fabric of our workplace.”

Wearing sparkly and showy attire, including a brilliant orange suit, two-time alum Tim Alexander was a shining star of the program as master of ceremonies. He wowed the campus crowd with his Titan spirit, lighthearted humor, and as host of the “The Prize Is Right ” game-style show, where employees competed for Titan swag.

Alexander ’15, ’17 (B.F.A. theatre arts-acting, M.S. education-higher education), an alumnus of the Guardian Scholars Program, shared how CSUF shaped his life and gave him the opportunities to succeed.

“This year’s theme of honoring our brightest stars is very fitting,” Alexander said. “When I think back to some of my darkest times, this Titan family illuminated my life like stars to guide and support me.”

The university’s “Opportunity” video officially debuted at the start of the awards program. The video illustrates how Titans create opportunities and discover their passions at CSUF.


Saluting CSUF’s Stars

Elizabeth “Liz” Morales, a 33-year employee, was honored with the 2024 Titan of the Year Award. Morales, administrative support coordinator for the Department of Computer Science, was among three employees chosen for the Titan Excellence Award.

The award recognizes staff and faculty members who dedicate themselves to a job well done and are committed to the university’s mission and values. 

“Liz is the soul of the department, has a great deal of emotional intelligence, and helps faculty and students alike,” said Doina Bein, professor of computer science, who nominated Morales for the top honor. “She is an inclusive and supportive staff member who goes beyond the call of duty to support the department.”

In addition to Morales, the other Titan Excellence Award winners are Sampson Akwafuo, assistant professor of computer science, and Taylor Gonzales, admissions representative in the Office of Admissions. 

This year, 506 Titans were honored for their years of service in five-year increments. Two instructors celebrated 45 years of service to the university: Cherlyn Converse, lecturer in mathematics and recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Lecturer Award, and Aubrey LeBard, lecturer in marketing. 

University Awards

One team and an individual were lauded with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award for their success in fostering a more diverse, equitable and inclusive campus community. 

The Titan Card Preferred Name Implementation Team took action to allow students and employees to use their preferred first name on a Titan Card without requiring legal documentation. 

Team members are Nat Betancourt Arellano, Sharnette Underdue and Vincent Vigil of Student Affairs; Cathy Barrad, university counsel; John Beisner, Cecil Chik, Tara Gallivan-Garcia and Philip Vasquez of Human Resources, Diversity and Inclusion; Shelly Hsu, Academic Affairs; Joe Luzzi and Sahar Nia, Information Technology; and Capt. Scot Willey, CSUF Police Department.

Justine Budisantoso, administrative analyst specialist in Alumni Engagement in the Division of University Advancement, also received the DEI award. Budisantoso is a leader in alumni DEI programming within the California State University system and a driving force behind implementing recommendations from the Alumni Association DEI Taskforce.

Two teams were honored with the Teamwork and Collaboration Award, which recognizes faculty and staff demonstrating cooperation, collaboration and communication to work together on a project or significant effort that advances college, department or university goals. 

The Graduate Titan Degree Audit Team created, launched and maintained the Titan Degree Audit for master’s and doctoral students to reduce barriers to student success. The project moved degree audit operations from paper to online to provide students with an evaluation of their coursework and degree requirements. 

Team members are Stephanie Nguyen, Karolyn Lee, Yessica Penate, Susan Saikaly and Lynn Winter (retired) of Graduate Studies; Lyzette Hingco, Information Technology; and Abril Vega, Office of the Registrar.

The CSUF Mobile Crisis Team also won praise for creating a new approach to handling mental health crises on campus. The CSUF Police Department and Counseling and Psychological Services partnered to enhance inclusive services to the university’s diverse community while reducing the stigma often associated with mental health assistance. 

Team members are Vincent Vigil, Myesha Dunn, Karla Perez, Jaime Sheehan and Kevin Thomas of Student Affairs; Chief of Police Anthony Frisbee and Capt. Scot Willey, CSUF Police Department; and Alexander Porter, Division of Administration and Finance.

For more about these winning stars and those who earned college degrees, completed the Inclusive Champion Certificate Program and were recognized by the Staff Development Center, visit the HRDI website.

Debra Cano Ramos