Dean's Corner
July 2021
Black female with shoulder length black hair. She is wearing glasses, a black jacket and black and white printed shirt
To the Class of 2021, I offer my heartiest congratulations! This last calendar year has been unprecedented, arduous, and revolutionary, and I commend every Cal State LA student and recent graduate for their resilience in the face of adversity. To celebrate your accomplishment, the University will hold in-person college-based commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 on July 21-23 and 26-29 at Reeder Field (Cal State LA). For more on the ceremonies, please visit the Commencement website.

While the COVID-19 pandemic altered the University’s operations, I remain incredibly proud of our students, staff, faculty, and various NSS stakeholders; our students remained steadfast in their pursuit of higher education, our staff and faculty worked tirelessly to deliver high-quality programming and education, our partners provided opportunities for our students to supplement their educational experiences, and our alumni and friends continued to provide financial support which facilitated the college’s strategic goals. These efforts illustrated the importance of community in achieving our mission and vision.

During the 20-21 academic year, the college took measures to meet the needs of our students, faculty, and staff to ease the transition to remote learning. The college provided resources to students such as emergency grants, mental health services and offered professional development opportunities for faculty and staff in alternate instruction. The college also hosted virtual events commemorating Black History Month and Women’s History Month with distinguished panelists, and a series of COVID-19 talks to educate stakeholders on the impact of the pandemic on our collective mental health, and the myths, fiction, and facts of the available vaccines. As NSS prepares for the fall semester and the return to in-person instruction, I am confident that the lessons learned during the last year and the opportunities for innovation the pandemic offered will increase the educational experiences of all Cal State LA students.

With that said, it is bittersweet to inform you that I have accepted a position to join Monmouth University in New Jersey this fall as its provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. The last five years at NSS have been insightful, strategic, joyous, and overall impactful. I thank all the staff, faculty, alumni, and most importantly, students for their spirit of collaboration in the pursuit of excellence.

I look forward to cheering the accomplishments of NSS from afar in the years to come.

I wish you all a happy and restful summer!
Student Spotlight - Angel Chavez
Man wearing an orange shirt with glasses.  He has a beard and black hair.
After Angel Chavez’s mother expressed disappointment in his poor grades during high school, Chavez vowed to improve his performance and work towards a better academic future. Chavez, the youngest of three children, understood that education is essential in upward mobility and realizing his dreams. He enrolled at Cal State LA as an undergraduate and was introduced to Professor Daphne Liu, a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics. With her encouragement, he applied and was accepted to Cal State LA’s NASA Data-Intensive Research and Education Center in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (DIRECT-STEM) program, where he developed his research interest under the tutelage of Professor Liu. The program recruits highly competitive and historically under-represented students to provide NASA research experience in scientific computing and data analysis. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he continued studying as a graduate student in the department’s master’s program and the NASA DIRECT-STEM program.

“The DIRECT-STEM program provided me with ample network opportunities. Through the program, I interned at NASA-JPL and UC Irvine, which greatly expanded my network,” says Chavez.

He also credits the program in expanding his knowledge of other STEM fields.

“The program offered monthly seminars where we learned about other subjects, not just math. For example, I gained knowledge in data science and weather science, which I think will make me a more rounded future scientist.”

This fall, Chavez will continue his graduate education at the University of Minnesota, where he will pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics. He aims to become a professor and establish a version of the NASA DIRECT-STEM program where he teaches.

“I owe part of my success at Cal State LA to Dr. Liu. She was a strong guiding hand who was always patient and understanding with me. When I felt like slacking off, she was there encouraging me to keep going. I aspire to be like her,” he adds.

While Chavez will miss the familiar atmosphere at Cal State LA, he is excited to begin the next chapter of his academic career. He is also encouraged to face any future challenges due to the training he received at Cal State LA. Above all, he takes pride in fulfilling the promise he made to his mother years ago as he views his academic progress as the fruit of her labor. 
Recognizing NSS Graduates
The University recognized the outstanding achievements of the Class of 2021 with a virtual commencement featuring graduates’ names, photographs, and degrees on slides that can be downloaded and shared on social media. Additionally, the University will hold in-person college-based ceremonies to celebrate the outstanding achievements of the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 on Wednesday, July 21, through Friday, July 23, and Monday, July 26, through Thursday, July 29, at Reeder Field. Please visit the Commencement page for more details on the virtual and in-person celebrations.
Urban Food Garden Program
Professors Barry Hibbs (history), Choi Chatterjee (history), Alexander Wright (biological sciences), Amanda Hillstrom (kinesiology) received a $274,924 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture for the project, “Growing Food in the City: Urban Food Gardens for Research and Education.” The project expands the number of Cal State LA students involved in training and education in nutrition and urban natural resource management, enhances the understanding of food gardens through a multi-faceted training and research program, creates a forum for evaluating outcomes for use during policymaking, and develops a pipeline of students interested in natural resource management. The grant also permits building an on-campus garden to facilitate training and education. The multi-disciplinary nature of the project provides a unique approach to tackling critical issues of food insecurity in under-resourced neighborhoods. 
LEEAF Program at Cal State LA
Cal State LA received a $1 million grant from Wells Fargo to launch a new program supporting student entrepreneurship and help communities recover from the effects of the pandemic. In partnership with Community Health Councils and the Los Angeles Small Business Development Network, the Leading for Equity in Entrepreneurship Accelerator and Fellowship (LEEAF) program at Cal State LA will provide a unique paid opportunity for students to develop entrepreneurial skills and plans. The program will also help existing women business owners thrive, resulting in a more diverse, equitable, and just economic landscape. Professors Marla Parker (political science) and Dmitri Seals (sociology), and Veena Prabhu (management) serve as co-directors of the program. 

NSS Virtual Events Wrap-Up
During the spring 2021 semester, the college hosted a series of panels commemorating Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and informative COVID-19 talks. For more on the panels, watch the videos below. 
Faculty News
Julie Albright (sociology) secured a $30,000 grant from Infrastructure Masons (iMasons). The award provides $500 scholarships for students who completed Albright’s civic learning courses. 

Kristen Discola (sociology) was featured in a Forbes article on gender bias in relation to Happy Meals boxes. Discola also authored the book, Redefining Murder, Transforming Emotion: An Exploration of Forgiveness after Loss Due to Homicide, which investigates the ideas and experiences of individuals who have lost loved ones to homicide to advance the understanding of the emotional transformation of forgiveness. 

Ashley Heers’ (biological sciences) article, “Multiple Functional Solutions During Flightless to Flight-Capable Transitions,” was published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. The article was co-authored by three Cal State LA undergraduate students: Stephanie Varghese, Leila Hatier, and Jeremiah Cabrera. Heers also authored “Waxing and Waning of Wings”. 

The West Big Data Innovation Hub featured Khadija Monk (criminal justice and criminalistics) and Theodoric Manley (sociology) in their History in the Making series for Black History Month. Monk and Manley, who participate in Cal State LA’s Big Data Project, reflected on their life’s work and the role of big data in equity.

An interview with Stan Burstein (emeritus, notable scholar, and former chair of the history department) was published in World History Connected.

Silvia Heubach’s (mathematics), article, "Squares with Large digit Average, and mathematics problem on Cyclic Subtraction Set Games", was published in Crux Mathematicorum

NSS faculty Juan A. NealZoila M. Estrada-TobarFrederick WadeAron Judd P. MendiolaAlexander MezaMariel MendozaPaul S. Nerenberg, and Cecilia I. Zurita-Lopez co-authored the article, Phosphoserine inhibits neighboring arginine methylation in the RKS motif of histone H3.”

Gloria C. Preza (biological sciences) penned an article on the medical laboratory scientist (MLS) or clinical laboratory scientist (CLS) profession and the MLS/CLS program at Cal State LA. Clinical laboratory scientists are highly skilled scientists who test for the presence or absence of disease and provides data to help physicians determine diagnoses and treatment for patients.

The National Science Foundation awarded Professor Yixian Wang (chemistry and biochemistry) for the project, “Career: Development of New Plasmonic Electrochemical Microscopy Centered Techniques for Advancing Single Entity Analysis.”

For more NSS faculty accomplishments, visit the University Reports page.
In the News
Cal State LA alumnus, Jennifer Taylor-Mendoza, Ph.D., (B.A., psychology, 2001) was named president of the College of San Mateo.

Professor Emerita Sandra B. Sharp (biological sciences) and NSS alum, Barbara Hunt, Ed.D., (chemistry and biochemistry) were selected to serve on the Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI) Board of Directors.

Professor Daisy Camacho-Thompson (psychology) was featured in an LA Times article on return to campus for high school students.

NSS alum, Professor Thomas Janoski (M.A., sociology, 1979), published three books in the previous year: The New Handbook of Political Sociology (Cambridge University Press, March 2020), Framing and Managing Lean Production (Routledge, November 2020), and The International Handbook of Lean Production (Cambridge University Press, March 2021).
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