Dean's Corner
September 2020
To all NSS’ students, faculty, staff, and supporters, welcome to a new academic year! My hope is that this year finds us safe and healthy, and brings us all prosperity and academic success.

The past months have been nothing short of unprecedented. The COVID-19 epidemic has impacted every aspect of our lives, and the recent social unrest in defense of Black lives has reminded us that there is much work to do in achieving justice and equity. Furthermore, the recent fires are another constant reminder of the pressing need to address the climate crisis in innovative ways. As a result, the college's role in providing access to education and preparing our students to address these societal issues is even more critical.  

During the spring semester, Cal State LA took some measures to meet the needs of our students, faculty and staff as the University began transitioning to remote learning. Emergency grants, laptops, mental health services, academic support and more were provided to aid students in need. The college held virtual open forums for faculty and staff as an opportunity to connect with one another, provide updates on campus activities, receive feedback, build community, and share best practices for remote teaching. Similarly, the college also held three open forums for our students to address their needs and to receive feedback on their experiences with remote learning. Our ability to address the issues and pivot in new directions will facilitate new and inventive pedagogical approaches not only during these times, but also in the future.

Over the summer months, 363 NSS faculty members participated in programs offered by the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning (CETL) Summer Institute in order to further their professional development in alternative instruction. In fact, one of our faculty members, Marla Parker (political science), was recently featured for her innovative approach to teaching in the new semester. I am proud of our faculty members’ continued quest to provide high-quality education for our students – whether in-person or in an alternate format.

To keep students engaged and motivated, the college hosted a virtual open house for incoming students (both freshmen and transfers). Our academic advisors, department chairs, college staff, and associate deans were present to answer any questions from incoming students, or to address any concerns and apprehension. The history department hosted Virtual King Hall, a seminar series for interested students. Additionally, more than 50 incoming freshmen participated in the Freshmen Fellows program, a three-week multi-disciplinary program designed to familiarize the students with college coursework, networking with fellow classmates, and the interdisciplinary approaches to education within the college. Along with this program, the college also supported the Big Data Project SEEDS scholars who interned with non-profit organizations and conducted research for these organizations using big data. I encourage all to visit our Cal State LA Big Data page and read more on these innovative projects. We welcome our new Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program fellows and look forward to their research project at the year’s end under the guidance of its new faculty coordinator, Mark Wild (history).

I am also happy to welcome Alma Nieto to the NSS Dean’s Board of Advisors. Our board has been working closely with the myself and the college’s director of development, Marissa Garcia, to promote NSS' activities, advise on college programming and current workforce trends, and actively seek resources for student success. If you would like to give back to the college as an alumni in any capacity, please reach out to Marissa at [email protected].

Though this academic year may feel a bit different, I am excited for the year ahead. I empathize with the anxiety felt by students, faculty and staff, because I feel the same. However, despite all, I know that we will make a difference for our students and ourselves. Our commitment and vision have not changed. We (faculty and staff) are all excited for our incoming students who are starting on their academic journey. We welcome our new faculty and are excited for members of the college who will undoubtedly impact the lives of our students and the larger community. While many of us are working or attending school from the safety of our homes, I look forward to the upcoming virtual events and workshops from our faculty and staff. Please be sure to follow our social media channels to stay up-to-date with these events. 

As always, I thank you for your continued support of the college’s activities and students. Let’s continue to look out for each other. This is our extended season of grace to one another.  Be safe and well! 
NSS Freshmen Fellows Program
More than 50 freshmen participated in the college’s Freshmen Fellows program over the summer months. The three-week-long program introduced incoming students to college-level courses, and a virtual space to network with faculty members and students alike. The program’s focus on pandemics (more specifically COVID-19) provided the students an opportunity to gain research skills in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), access a variety of campus resources, gain study skills useful over the course of their academic career, and information on navigating CANVAS, the University’s online course management system. Faculty members from across the college facilitated robust discussions on the impact of the pandemic through an interdisciplinary approach under the coordination of Professor Melanie Saldana (anthropology). The program culminated with a panel discussion from Cal State LA alumni, Willie Zuniga, president of Grifols Biological Inc., and Alma Nieto, founder of the Law Office of Alma Rosa Nieto. 
SEEDS Program
Eleven students were selected for the Social Equity Engagement geo-Data Scholars (SEEDS) program as part of the University’s Big Data Project. The program, which is open to students who have previously taken courses on big data, provides a paid internship experience for these students to work with local non-profit organizations to leverage their new-found knowledge of the City of Los Angeles’ open data portal (GeoHub). Students such as Jorge Rodriguez and Paola Castro worked with the California Elder Justice Coalition (CEJC) to determine the effects of COVID-19 on older adults. Using GeoHub, they visualized the disproportionate impact of the pandemic utilizing median income, internet access, and race in their analysis. Other student projects included an overview of street safety in the city of Wilmington for LA Walks, challenges faced by LGBTQ youth and families for Latino Equality Alliance, and tracking asthma pollution if the LA harbor for SmartAir LA. For more on the SEEDS scholars and their projects, please visit the Cal State LA Big Data page
2020-21 ASI Representatives
Meet the new Associated Student, Inc. (A.S.I.) representatives for the College of Natural and Social Sciences, Emily Sandoval and Kristy Lam (pictured below, left to right). For inquiries on ASI upcoming activities, please contact them at [email protected] or [email protected]
Always a Golden Eagle (Alumni News)
Mayor Eric Garcetti selected Capri Maddox as the new executive director of the City of Los Angeles’ new Civil and Human Rights department. According to the Office of the Mayor, the new department will be tasked with protecting all who live, work, or visit the City of Los Angeles from discrimination that denies equal treatment in private employment, housing, education, or commerce. The department will initiate and investigate complaints, and enforce the Los Angeles Civil and Human Rights Ordinance. Maddox graduated with a Master of Public Administration from Cal State LA in 1995. 
Join the Cal State LA Alumni Mentoring Program
Do you wish you had a mentor when you were in college? Join the Cal State LA Alumni Mentoring Program to network with fellow NSS alumni and help current students with their career questions.

For more information and to sign up, visit or contact the Office of Alumni Relations at [email protected].
Staff and Faculty News
Okezie Aruoma's (chemistry and biochemistry) article, "Suggestions for Combatting COVID-19 by Natural Means in the Absence of Standard Medical Regimens," was published by the Journal of American College of Nutrition.

James Brady (anthropology) was one of 25 educators across the California State University (CSU) system to receive the CSU Faculty and Innovation Leadership Award

Ramani Durvasula (psychology) was featured in Vice for her article on “How to Argue with a Narcissist.” She was also keynote speaker at the virtual 2020 American Psychological Association (APA) conference. Her presentation focused on gaslighting, grief and narcissism.

Kirsten Fisher (biological sciences) and her former student, Jenna Ekwealor, were featured in the New York Times for a surprise discovery in the Mojave Desert.
Ashley Heers (biological sciences) co-wrote a chapter on "Early-Flight Study: Methods, Status, and Frontiers," in Pennaraptoran Theropod Dinosaurs Past Progress and New Frontiers.

Silvia Heubach’s (mathematics) latest article on integers was published in the Electric Journal of Combinatorial Number Theory.

Discover Magazine interviewed Christine Lee (anthropology) on her favorite discovery: ancient Mongolian women who may have participated in habitual warrior activities. Her research led to the discovery of skeletons of women who rode horseback and practiced archery indicating their ability to defend themselves and their families.
Dean Pamela Scott-Johnson was a featured panelist on Overcoming Barriers for Women of Color in STEM Fields. The event doubled as a book reveal for Overcoming Barriers for Women of Color in STEM: Emerging Research Opportunities in which Dean Scott-Johnson was a contributor. 

Eric Wood's (biological sciences) research on street trees and the important habitat for birds in urban areas was profiled in Audubon.

For more NSS faculty accomplishments, visit the University Reports page.
Upcoming Events

Are you an NSS student? Are you interested in joining a club? Join your NSS ASI representatives for an upcoming virtual club fair.

When: September 18, 2020
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Zoom ID: 490-650-6427
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