Titan Magazine - Fall 2020

Page 1



FACE-TO-FACE WITH COVID-19 How the pandemic strengthened one student’s call to nursing

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE CONSIDERING WHAT THE TITAN FAMILY ACHIEVED this past spring — from a turn-on-the-dime transition to virtual modalities that bridged the digital divide with the dispersal of more than 1,000 laptops, MiFi hotspots and iPads, to a redoubling of our commitment to abolish privilege, eradicate systemic racism, and promote diversity, equity and inclusion far beyond the borders of our campus or region — a summer dip in productivity might be understandable, if not expected. Instead, on the heels of a virtual commencement celebration that recognized some of the highest GPAs, highest four-year graduation rates and lowest opportunity gaps in our 63-year history, our faculty, staff and students spent the next three months striving to get even better at teaching, learning and advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion in the “new normal.” So when fall semester hit, the questions again resurfaced: What does it take to continue sprinting in what was clearly becoming a marathon? What does it take to add to and enhance the Titan family legacy of continually reaching higher? As the semester unfolded, the answer to those questions became abundantly clear. It takes the perseverance and courage of students like Roxanne Aguirre who contracted COVID-19 on the front lines as a nurse assistant while continuing her academic journey toward becoming a registered nurse. It takes the faculty of the College of Education who are working to dismantle systemic racism and injustice in classrooms. It takes alumni like Nicole Rhoton, who is working with the U.S. Department of Defense to recover military personnel listed as prisoners of war or missing in action from past conflicts, giving the families of these fallen heroes closure and burial services with full military honors. In other words, It Takes a Titan. The faculty, staff, students and alumni featured in this issue of Titan magazine underscore the fact that in this unprecedented time and place, all of us can and must be the Titans that it takes — for each other, yes, but also for the state and nation who look to us for hope and inspiration. Indeed, we are the light at the end of the tunnel, and if we continue to persevere, press on and push through, we can and will illuminate the world.


Framroze M. Virjee, JD President California State University, Fullerton


Top Stories 2 Alumni News 9 Class Notes 22 5 Questions 28


After personally battling COVID-19, student Roxanne Aguirre is more determined than ever to become a nurse.


FALL/WINTER 2020 Volume 19, Number 2

© 2020 California State University, Fullerton Nonprofit standard postage paid at Santa Ana, CA. Report address errors to uarecords@fullerton.edu or 657-278-7917.







Two-time history alumna Nicole Rhoton ’06, ’09 is using her research skills to help recover America’s missing personnel.

College of Education faculty members share stories of addressing racism and injustice in the classroom.

A life-changing accident inspired mechanical engineering graduate Irwin Gill ’20 to design a new way to drive.


EDITORIAL Lynn Juliano ’05 Karen Lindell Valerie Orleans ’80 Debra Cano Ramos ’84 DESIGN Howard Chang ’00 Matt Gush ’12 Robert Rodriguez Mishu Vu PRODUCTION Sara King Michael Mahi ’83

Titan is the magazine of California State University, Fullerton, published by University Advancement for alumni, friends and the university community. We welcome your observations, news and comments. University Operator 657-278-2011 Titan 657-278-2414 2600 Nutwood Avenue, Suite 810, Fullerton, CA 92831 titanmagazine@fullerton.edu





Physical Master Plan Is a Blueprint for the Future A new physical campus master plan for Cal State Fullerton was unanimously approved in July by the California State University Board of Trustees. The master plan supports a vibrant residential life on campus, redevelops obsolete buildings and sites, and leaves room for future growth and green space. It has been more than 15 years since the university last completed this process, while the campus has seen its student population rise by 60% over the last 30 years.

Maximum 10-Year Accreditation Earned After a rigorous review process, Cal State Fullerton secured a full and maximum 10-year accreditation from the WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) Senior College and University Commission in March. The university was lauded for such areas as assessment infrastructure; campuswide commitment to student success; enrollment management; robust and successful shared governance; faculty member engagement; and physical campus master plan, comprehensive campaign and strategic plan development.

A Record-Breaking Year in Fundraising Cal State Fullerton achieved a record-breaking year in fundraising, raising more than $37 million in gifts over the 2019-20 fiscal year. This marks a 32% increase from the previous year and the fifth straight year with fundraising totals over $21 million. During the same time period, the university secured $31.5 million in grants and contracts, breaking the campus’ previous record of $27.4 million the year before.



Campus Ushers in Fall Semester With Two Convocations President Fram Virjee hosted two virtual convocations to kick off the fall semester — one for students and one for faculty and staff. Campus leaders welcomed new and returning students with an action-packed tour of the university and information about virtual activities, services, resources and programs. In addition, Virjee commended faculty and staff for their diligent work during the COVID-19 pandemic and shared with all groups his commitment to eradicating systemic racism.

Leon Panetta Speaks on ‘Challenges of Leadership in Democracy’

President Receives JUNTOS Humanitarian Award For lifting up the Hispanic community through humanitarian and philanthropic contributions, Northgate Gonzalez Market recently honored President Fram Virjee with the JUNTOS (“Together”) Award. Selected for the positive impact he and the university are making in the community, Virjee received $2,000 to benefit two CSUF programs: the Titan Dreamers Resource Center, which supports undocumented students, and the Male Success Initiative-Fullerton, which supports undergraduate men of color.

Campus Launches Institute of Black Intellectual Innovation A new Institute of Black Intellectual Innovation has launched at Cal State Fullerton to advance the support and inclusion of Black people and their culture. Envisioning the university as a place for Black intellectual development, the institute plans to support collaborative, innovative, anti-racist research opportunities and publications; creative arts initiatives; community-based social science and humanities programming; and events that promote cultural competency. The institute is led by Natalie Graham, associate professor of African American studies.

‘One Book, One CSUF’ Program Celebrates Diverse Stories As part of its Titans Together initiative to strive for justice, equity and inclusion, the university kicked off its “One Book, One CSUF” program this year. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters are encouraged to read “The Book of the Unknown Americans” by Cristina Henríquez, which focuses on immigrant families who share an apartment building and offers new insights on what it means to be American. The author met virtually with 400 campus readers in October to discuss the book.

Leon Panetta, former secretary of defense, CIA director and White House chief of staff, spoke on the “Challenges of Leadership in Democracy” as part of the inaugural “We Stand Together” speaker series hosted this fall by CSUF. The series is part of an initiative led by President Fram Virjee and other higher education leaders who are committed to eradicating discrimination and racism. “Our goal was simple,” said Virjee. “Find national leaders who are so authentic, so respected and so courageous that their message of hope and justice cuts through all divisive and hateful rhetoric spewing across our country.”

Titans Step Into Key Leadership Roles

CAROLYN C. THOMAS provost and vice president for academic affairs

TONANTZIN OSEGUERA vice president for student affairs



Prestigious Humanities Fellowship Is a First for the CSU System

$3.25 Million Grant to Support Underrepresented Nursing Students

Titans Turn Out to Vote

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences received a two-year postdoctoral fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies to support the hiring of a faculty member from a historically underrepresented group. With the goal of transforming the position into a tenure-track hire, the college has designated the fellowship in the Department of African American Studies. Cal State Fullerton is the first in the 23-campus CSU system to receive the postdoctoral position, which will be awarded in the 2021-22 academic year.

Amid deep health disparities illuminated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the School of Nursing has been awarded a five-year, $3.25 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to support scholarships for graduatelevel nursing students. The project, “Enriching Nursing Representation to Impact Community Health” (ENRICH), aims to increase the enrollment and retention of nursing students from underrepresented backgrounds, the number of nurses with graduate degrees in medically underserved communities and primary care settings, and the overall diversity of professionals in the nursing workforce.

Entire Men’s Basketball Team Registers to Vote

Economists Optimistic on Recovery From COVID-19 During CSUF’s 26th annual fall economic forecast, Anil Puri and Mira Farka, director and co-director of the Woods Center for Economic Analysis and Forecasting, predicted the nation’s real GDP will reach its pre-pandemic level by the end of 2021 and return to full employment by the end of 2022. Their optimism stems from the fact that the U.S. economy was healthy before the pandemic hit, many sectors have already bounced back and vaccines are on the way.



Several campus groups joined forces this fall to encourage CSUF students, faculty, staff, alumni and community supporters to vote in the 2020 general election. Among the events were a Constitutional Jeopardy tournament, a virtual civil dialogue modeling respectful conversations on contested issues, an online voter education series and the California Secretary of State’s Ballot Bowl competition — spearheaded by the university’s Government and Community Relations and Associated Students Inc.

When protesters across the globe took to the streets this year to demand social justice and racial equity, Cal State Fullerton’s head basketball coach Dedrique Taylor considered how he and the team might respond. Ahead of National Voter Registration Day, the entire team, coaches and support staff registered to vote in the Nov. 3 election. Titan Athletics also launched Voices of the Heard, an anti-racism initiative that spotlights student-athletes, coaches, administrators, staff and campus leaders.


President Fram Virjee, physicist Joshua Smith, the late Nicholas Begovich and First Lady Julie Virjee at the “It Takes a Titan” campaign kickoff in February

‘It Takes a Titan’ Swiftly Climbs Toward $200 Million Goal Cal State Fullerton, a national leader in providing quality education and equitable access and opportunity to students, faces the challenge of continuing to meet student needs amid declining state funding, a surging student population, aging campus infrastructure and now — the pandemic. To continue delivering on the promise of higher education, the university launched its first-ever comprehensive philanthropic campaign, “It Takes a Titan,” in March 2020. The $200 million initiative prioritizes investments in academic innovation, student empowerment, campus transformation and community enrichment. Jeffrey Van Harte ’80 (B.A. business administration-finance), chairman and chief investment officer at Jackson Square Partners LLC, has long been a fervent supporter of Cal State Fullerton. With a visionary gift, he jumpstarted Titan Capital Management, a program that provides students with hands-on investing experience.

He has also been active on CSUF’s philanthropic board since 2010. Van Harte’s new mission is to support “It Takes a Titan” and emphasize the importance of supporting public institutions like CSUF. “Public universities are a critical part of addressing economic disparity and offering the American dream of

79% TO GOAL More than $157 million of the university’s $200 million goal has been raised to support students. 662 DONORS Titans across the globe — from 29 states and five countries — joined the university’s first-ever day of giving on March 12, contributing $239,139 in just 24 hours.

equal opportunity,” he explained. “Cal State Fullerton achieves so much with the resources it has, but this is where our alumni and the private sector must help. Private universities have an established culture of alumni giving back, and it’s time we start a new culture of giving back to our public institutions.”

$10 MILLION GIFT The late Nicholas Begovich and his wife, Lee, kicked off the campaign with a $10 million bequest — the single largest gift in university history — to benefit gravitational-wave, engineering and computer science faculty and student research.





Merging Black Holes Plentiful in the Universe

Sports Car Collection Fuels Scientific Research

Titan physicists and their students contributed to the latest detection and analysis of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and European Virgo detectors. Their research is part of a new catalog, announced in October, that contains 50 gravitational-wave detections since 2015. The researchers contributed to a unique gravitational-wave discovery, announced in June, produced by a mashup of a black hole 23 times the mass of the sun, with an unknown, lighter object.

Longtime university supporter, the late Nicholas Begovich and his wife, Lee, made the single largest gift in Cal State Fullerton’s history earlier this year — a collection of 14 classic sports cars valued at $10 million — to support researchers in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and the College of Engineering and Computer Science. In recognition of the couple’s philanthropy, the university renamed one of its research centers to the Nicholas and Lee Begovich Center for Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy.

CSUF Is a Top-Ranked University

No. 4 among top public schools in the Western region U.S. News & World Report, September 2020



No. 1 in California and No. 2 in the nation for awarding bachelor’s degrees to underrepresented students

Top 5% of “Best Colleges for Your Money” Money, August 2020

Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, December 2019

N. Fischer, S. Ossokine, H. Pfeiffer, A. Buonanno (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics), Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) Collaboration

Computer simulation of the cosmic merger of a massive black hole with an unknown, lighter object


By the Numbers

40,000 students transitioned to virtual learning

3,500 faculty transitioned to virtual instruction

6,000 employees began telecommuting

$20.5 million in aid distributed from the CARES Act

$250,000 raised for the Titan Emergency Fund

1,395 digital devices distributed (cell phones, headsets, iPads, laptops, MiFi hotspots, webcams)

120 hand sanitizer dispensers installed

2,000 air filters replaced

65 electrostatic sprayers and foggers procured to spray approved disinfectant products



CSUF Leads the Way in Pandemic Response “We pivoted on a dime,” said Cal State Fullerton President Fram Virjee of the university’s rapid-fire response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 45,000 students, faculty and staff transitioned to virtual learning and telecommuting within days. The university supplied essential workers with personal protective equipment, and other employees and students with the technology they needed to function remotely. CSUF distributed $20.5 million in aid to students from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Virjee, who was recognized in the Orange County Business Journal’s “OC 50” for his leadership during the coronavirus crisis, put people first in all decisions and communicated regularly with the campus. Nearly every service the

university offers has continued to run in an online format. Students, faculty, staff and alumni across all disciplines stepped up to assist in the COVID-19 pandemic — from volunteering as disaster relief workers and assisting with novel research to supporting hard-hit communities through creativity and community service. Meanwhile, the university’s Small Business Development Center helped 10,000 small businesses obtain more than $280 million in relief. “We have done amazing things in the face of incredible adversity,” shared Virjee. “I am so proud of the way this campus came together under very trying circumstances.” The university began the fall semester with 97% of its classes being held virtually. The return to campus will be a phased process. C A LIFORNI A S TATE UNIVERSIT Y, FULLERTON TITAN


Honors and Awards Faculty

ARCHANA MCELIGOT professor of public health 2020 CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award

ROBERTO SOTO assistant professor of mathematics 2020 CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award


AN THIEN LE accounting major 2020 CSU Trustee Award for Outstanding Achievement

ISAAC ALFEROS business administration-finance major 2020 California Student Aid Commission



Grant to Train Special Education, SpeechLanguage Professionals

‘Think Like Einstein’ Course Receives National Support

Faculty and students from the colleges of Education and Communications are working together to support children who have intensive language and communication needs, funded by a five-year, $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. “Project Activity Based Communications” advances the training of 30 students studying early childhood special education and 14 speech-language pathology students to meet the critical shortage of professionals in these disciplines in California and the country.

Designed to prepare freshmen for the rigors of studying math and science, Cal State Fullerton received a threeyear, $962,361 grant award from the National Science Foundation to expand and support its “Think Like Einstein” course. The 16-week course, which enrolls more than 500 science and math majors each fall, has a unique format. Students receive instruction from a rotating roster of five faculty members representing biological science, chemistry and biochemistry, geological sciences, physics and mathematics.

Students Explore Career Possibilities on Roadtrip Nation Can a road trip in a green RV answer the age-old question: What should I do with my life? For students Ranela Sunga, Genesis Garcia and Cesar Romero, it certainly helped. In early 2020, the three Titans traveled throughout Southern California, talking with accomplished alumni such as Chris Salomone ’06 (B.A. business administration), owner of Foureyes Furniture. MORE roadtripnation.com/roadtrip/csuf

ALUMNI NEWS New Board Member Galvanizes Black Alumni Network

One of the newest members of CSUF’s Alumni Association board, Cydney Francois ’18 (B.A. American studies), is helping to lead the Black Alumni Network. The group aims to reach prospective students, increase the Black student population on campus, and encourage networking and mentorship among students and alumni. “My main goal is to help diversify CSUF and make it a campus where everyone feels welcomed, included and seen,” said Francois. Interested in getting involved? Contact Bill Cole at wcole@fullerton.edu or visit alumni.fullerton.edu.


Stay-at-Homecoming Feb. 16-20

Alumni Association Welcomes New Board Members CYDNEY FRANCOIS ’18 CSUF graduate student STEVE JACQUES ’92, ’07 director of analytics, insights and intelligence for Advantage Solutions LINDA VAZQUEZ ’09 assistant vice chancellor for state and federal relations, California Community Colleges

‘Cooking With a Titan’ and More Virtual Events to Come From bacon mac ’n cheese and almond shortbread to New Mexico Hatch chile verde, chili egg puffs and more, Titan chefs have been sharing their favorite recipes on CSUF’s “Cooking With a Titan.” The video series, available on the CSUF Alumni YouTube channel, features alumni, donors and staff members preparing recipes from their kitchens. The show is among a host of new virtual activities launched by the Office of Alumni Engagement, including The Titan Race, wine and beer tastings, and a voter education series.

KATHY YU ’10 national account manager in advertising sales at Hulu The CSUF Alumni Association accepts applications year-round to serve on the board of directors. MORE




“I try to treat my patients how I hope my grandmother was treated in her dying hours.” - Roxanne Aguirre, nursing student



A Virus Hits Home

She recovered from COVID-19, but her grandmother didn’t. Becoming a nurse now carries new meaning.


WHEN ROXANNE AGUIRRE BEGAN COUGHING, she knew she had contracted the virus. She had mild symptoms: a cough, chest pain and a sore throat at first. As the days progressed, she lost her sense of taste and smell. She monitored her vitals daily, but never spiked a fever or experienced desaturation in oxygen levels. Her fears were confirmed: She tested positive for COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has amassed to more than 60 million cases and 1 million deaths worldwide since its outbreak in December 2019. As a certified nursing assistant working in every area of the hospital from the emergency department and intensive care unit to the medical-surgical and COVID-19 units, Aguirre knew she was at increased risk for contracting the virus. She took every precaution she could to protect herself and her family, including donning personal protective equipment and socially distancing from those outside her immediate family. “Because I was working with COVID-19 patients, I mentally prepared myself for the possibility of contracting the virus. But actually contracting the virus was surreal,” she admits. After testing positive, Aguirre isolated for two weeks. Her husband, Robert, a civil engineer, also stayed home from work. He took over the household responsibilities, including cooking and getting their three daughters — Ruby, 10; Reyna, 8; and Rosy, 6 — ready for bed each night. Though she worried constantly, Aguirre’s husband and daughters never got sick.

“I struggled mentally and emotionally with the idea that I might pass the virus to them, but we were fortunate,” she says. Since recovering, she has returned to work and continues to use proper PPE precautions in the hospital. On top of all this, Aguirre has kept up with her coursework at Cal State Fullerton, where she is studying to become a registered nurse.

LOSING A LOVED ONE Looking back on her childhood, Aguirre remembers being raised by her grandmother, Julia Ortiz, while her mother worked night shifts and put herself through nursing school. “It was a pleasure being raised by my grandmother,” says Aguirre, admiring how the former seamstress worked 16- to 18- hour days in the Los Angeles Garment District to support her family. “My grandmother was an amazing cook, and my mother and I still use her recipes to this day.” Ortiz began to suffer from dementia in the last seven to 10 years. While living in a nursing home, she contracted COVID-19. But, unlike her granddaughter, Ortiz never recovered and died at the age of 92. C A LIFORNI A S TATE UNIVERSIT Y, FULLERTON TITAN 1 1

Cal State Fullerton student Roxanne Aguirre (left) is more determined than ever to become a nurse, after losing her grandmother (right), Julia Ortiz, to COVID-19.

“I was unable to see or talk to my grandmother before she died,” says Aguirre. “Knowing my grandmother died with only her nurse by her side, and that many other people have experienced the same type of death, makes me feel that nurses are of the utmost importance at this time,” reflects Aguirre. “As nurses, and even certified nursing assistants, it is important for us to empathize and have compassion for patients who can’t have family with them. “During those 12 hours that I care for them, I am their family. These patients are scared and oftentimes confused. I hold their hands, talk to them and try to make them feel as comfortable as possible. “I try to treat my patients how 12


I hope my grandmother was treated in her dying hours.” For those who shirk or downplay the pandemic’s effects, Aguirre is gentle: “It’s difficult for people to understand the severity of the pandemic until it personally affects you. Once you go through something like losing a loved one from this virus, or being physically sick yourself, it becomes real.”

TRAINING NURSES FOR THE FUTURE “It takes incredible bravery to choose to work with COVID-19 patients, to choose to risk your health and

possibly your life to help another,” says Kate Bayhan, lecturer in nursing and pre-licensure coordinator. “Roxanne is an example of the resilience of a Titan: She faces her fears daily and presses toward her goals. “More so, Roxanne is living in uncertainty — something we are all doing right now,” adds Bayhan, who works as an emergency nurse along with her teaching responsibilities. “It takes a toll on you to continue to push forward, especially when you have no idea what lies ahead.” At the beginning of the pandemic, all Cal State Fullerton nursing classes transitioned to virtual instruction and

Support the College of Health and Human Development campaign.fullerton.edu/hhd

clinical rotations were paused in an effort to preserve resources for frontline workers and to ensure student safety. The School of Nursing’s clinical placement team diligently worked to secure placements for the fall semester with such conditions as smaller groups, PPE provisions, strict screening and reporting. For additional hands-on training, some students have returned to the university’s Nursing Simulation Lab with increased safety precautions. “Nationwide, nursing schools are struggling with securing clinical placements,” explains Bayhan. “We still have a lot of clinical sites that are closed to us, but we have managed to secure some so our nursing students can continue their education.” Crediting CSUF’s top-ranked School of Nursing with launching her health care career, Aguirre completed her clinical rotations before the COVID-19 outbreak and was offered a certified nursing assistant position at the same community hospital. As a student, Aguirre has had opportunities to serve as the student representative of her nursing cohort and as a member of the National Student Nurses Association. “CSUF helps us, as students, build relationships with hospital staff and administrators, which makes us stand out when pursuing our careers,” she explains. “The university offers us great clinical sites and amazing instructors.” In fact, nine Cal State Fullerton faculty members have been serving on the front line during the pandemic, working in emergency departments and intensive care units while continuing to teach. “It’s wonderful that our faculty work in the field they teach — their experience comes from firsthand knowledge,” says Aguirre. During the global health crisis, nursing faculty members have been emphasizing the latest self-care practices, introducing students to the emerging field of telehealth, and engaging them in innovative COVID-19 research. Aguirre anticipates completing her Bachelor of Science in nursing by the end of the year. After graduation, she plans to take the National Council Licensure Examination to become a registered nurse, and hopes to one day pursue a master’s degree and become a clinical nursing instructor. “Anyone who knows me, knows that my biggest inspiration to pursue a nursing career has been my mother. Her hard work, compassion, and dedication to her family and career are what inspire me,” says Aguirre. “The pandemic only solidifies my decision to become a nurse. Caring for those in need, no matter what the disease, is my honor.” n











Nine nursing faculty members — many Cal State Fullerton alumni (degrees listed below) — have been working in emergency departments and intensive care units during the pandemic, including: 1 Barry Barnhill, lecturer in nursing 2 Kate Bayhan ’05, ’10, ’19 (B.A. English, B.S. and M.S. nursing, DNP), lecturer in nursing 3 Nick Bedolla, lecturer in nursing 4 Zenaida Co ’14, ’18 (M.S. nursing-nursing leadership, DNP), lecturer in nursing 5 Erin Greenberg ’09, ’13 (M.A. speech communication, M.S. nursing), lecturer in nursing 6 Susan Morales, lecturer in nursing 7 Sonya Sandhu ’12 (B.S. nursing, M.S. nursing-nursing leadership), lecturer in nursing 8 Christine Vu ’12 (M.S. nursing), assistant professor of nursing 9 Jennifer Wichman ’15 (M.S. nursing-nurse educator), lecturer in nursing

• • • • • • • • •

TOP-RANKED SCHOOL OF NURSING U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Graduate Schools ranks Cal State Fullerton’s School of Nursing among the top in the nation: Nurse anesthesia doctoral program, offered in partnership with the Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia, ranks No. 4. In the nursing-midwifery category, the Master of Science in nursing-women’s health care program ranks No. 21.

• •


• 828 Bachelor of Science in nursing • 75 Master of Science in nursing • 136 Doctor of Nursing Practice • 80 school nurse services credential (as of November 2020)


WHEN NICOLE RHOTON’S INVESTIGATION TEAM removed the top layer of dirt from a crash site in former East Germany, they immediately saw evidence of a full skeleton. The team decided to continue excavation until the remains were fully exposed, digging until 4 o’clock in the morning. The nearby town was overwhelmingly supportive, with the mayor and volunteer fire department providing a generator to keep the area well lit. Within the year, the remains were identified by circumstantial evidence and dental comparison as U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. John W. Herb, a serviceman missing since World War II.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense whose mission is to recover military personnel listed as prisoners of war or missing in action from past conflicts. In 2014, an investigation team led by Cal State Fullerton alumna Nicole Rhoton helped recover the remains of U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. John W. Herb, a serviceman missing since World War II. 14


A historian searches for evidence and memories of America’s missing personnel.


CASES TO REMEMBER More than 81,900 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and the Vietnam War — and it’s Rhoton’s job to find them. The Cal State Fullerton alumna is one of about 30 historians working with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense whose mission is to recover military personnel listed as prisoners of war or missing in action from past conflicts. In her decade of experience, she’s worked on approximately 500 cases and

conducted missions in seven countries. In the case of Herb, his P-51D Mustang aircraft crashed during an attempted landing in an open field southeast of Hamburg, Germany. A pilot assigned to the 368th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group, Herb was reported killed in action. But his remains were not recovered during the war. Six decades later, in 2014, Rhoton helped interview more than 10 people who had slightly different estimated positions of Herb’s crash site. Taking the average of those locations, the team determined its survey area.

After the remains were unearthed and identified by the DPAA laboratory, Rhoton met with the Herb family, shared the recovery story and even attended his burial with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. The Herb family story has a special place in Rhoton’s heart, but there are many others as well. Time, patience and “wrong” locations often are part of the recovery process, she says. “They make us better investigators.” In fact, patience sometimes is the only key, as Rhoton discovered when she met an elderly German man who C A LIFORNI A S TATE UNIVERSIT Y, FULLERTON TITAN 1 5

at first could not bring himself to disclose where he had dug two American airmen’s graves when he was just 10 years old. “He really did not — but also really did — want to tell me where he buried the two fliers,” says Rhoton. “I went to his house every day at coffee and cake time, and we sat there and pretended like we weren’t going to talk about the burials. “After a week of this, he told me.”

SEARCHING THE SOUTH PACIFIC In Papua New Guinea, where Rhoton currently specializes, approximately 3,000 individuals are still missing from the 6,000 killed in the area during World War II. Rhoton is responsible for research and investigation activities to locate these unaccounted-for soldiers, many of them airmen whose planes were shot down or crashed. The region’s inclement climate, mountainous terrain, steep valleys, and potentially lethal flora and fauna create a challenging environment for the fieldwork Rhoton conducts about a quarter of the year. Most of the time, crash sites are accessed only by helicopter, banana boat or foot. DPAA researchers like Rhoton must rely on the people of Papua New Guinea to help them navigate the sites.

“For the parents, spouses and descendants of the missing, these wars never came to a close.” - Volker Janssen, CSUF professor of history

Establishing trust is essential, she says, to getting reliable information. Before they even reach the field, Rhoton spends most of the year in the office conducting research and analysis to develop a case, which can include archival research, review of historical search efforts and analysis of geospatial data. Reaching out to contacts and friends established in the field often provides additional information that can help a case progress. “It’s my job to get us to a site. Then I hand it over to the archaeologist to

lead the survey at the site,” explains Rhoton. “The work that we do as historians and analysts informs every part of the process. “If we are able to advance a case to the point where we are ready to take it to the field, that is already a huge success,” she adds. “Sometimes we do not find what we are looking for, but even that negative confirmation provides us with information to revise our analysis of the case and look elsewhere.” A major challenge of the work is coordinating with different people in the host country on issues from land ownership and compensation to cultural practices and traditions. “One thing that we as an agency absolutely do not do is pay for remains. If we’re disrupting the land, we can provide some land compensation. But there are a lot of restrictions on what we can and cannot pay for,” explains Rhoton. “For the most part, we appeal to the humanitarian nature of our mission. “The sentiment — to bring them home — is respected and admired by many I have encountered in other nations.” During the process, DPAA analysts and historians like Rhoton meet with family members to provide case status updates. “It becomes really clear during those meetings that these losses are felt deeply and intergenerationally.”

HISTORIAN IN THE MAKING A two-time history graduate of Cal State Fullerton, Rhoton received her bachelor’s degree in 2006 and her master’s degree in 2009. Graduating on the heels of the Great Recession, with unemployment at 10% and an extremely competitive market, she cast a wide net in her job search.

Hoping to recover missing U.S. service members from World War II, an investigation team from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency talks to community members about possible aircraft crashes in Papua New Guinea. 16


One of those positions was a fellowship with DPAA, with the job location to be determined. Rhoton had no idea such a job existed — that historians helped the U.S. search for missing military members. Furthermore, she was surprised to land the position given her master’s thesis focusing on men who refused to register for the draft in World War II and her anti-war social media profile. “I was lucky that the people who reviewed my application were trained historians and were able to see the potential value I offered,” says Rhoton, crediting CSUF professors who challenged her to be a critical thinker, taught her to conduct research and helped develop her writing. While a student, Rhoton also served as editor of the university’s Welebaethan history journal. The journal has been named best in the nation by the Phi Alpha Theta national history honor society more than 30 times since 1974.

Nicole Rhoton ’06, ’09 (B.A., M.A. history) helps villagers in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea screen dirt from a possible aircraft wreckage site. Rhoton is a World War II historian and investigation expert for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

“In what was arguably the worst year to graduate and enter the job market in a generation, Nicole got hired and began one of the most meaningful and exciting careers any historian can hope for,” says Volker Janssen, professor of history. DPAA’s herculean work of reuniting the missing and dead with their families, he says, is one that has deep American roots. “Americans place great value on honoring their fallen by giving them a proper burial. This has been an American tradition since Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at the height of the

Civil War in 1863,” explains Janssen, who teaches the course “American Military History.” “When Nicole and her colleagues search for troops missing in action, they unearth not just bones and fragments of military garb and gear, but memories. For the parents, spouses and descendants of the missing, these wars never came to a close and their grief never got closure,” he says. “Their successful recoveries are somber triumphs — reminders of the sacrifice of service members, the pain and suffering of their survivors, and occasions for more peaceful relations with other nations.” n

Support the College of Humanities and Social Sciences campaign.fullerton.edu/hss C A LIFORNI A S TATE UNIVERSIT Y, FULLERTON TITAN 17


College of Education faculty share stories of dismantling racism and injustice in the classroom.

AMID RACIAL AND SOCIAL UNREST across the nation, Cal State Fullerton’s College of Education is taking action against racist policies, practices and ideas that influence schools, teachers and children. “The goal is to teach educators how to dismantle systems of racism and injustice, to call it out when they see it — and to work to change it,” says Lisa Kirtman, dean of the College of Education. “As educators, we need to think about and discuss how race and privilege play into a particular story and in our schools, and take action to do something about it.” Education faculty members share stories on how they have approached a classroom situation and turned it into an anti-racist teaching practice: “WHEN I TAUGHT sixth grade, I asked students to draw a picture of a scientist. The majority of students year in and year out would draw a white male. As the teacher, I engaged students in a discussion to ask ‘why.’ Are white men just smarter? No. It’s because over the years, society has made positive assumptions about white males and provided them with opportunities that society does not provide to people of color. In addition, history has tried to remove indications of the contributions of people of color. As a teacher, I would show my students examples of women scientists and scientists of other races, such as African Americans Alice Ball, 18


a chemist who was the first to develop the treatment for leprosy, and Percy Julian, whose work led to drugs to treat arthritis and glaucoma; or Latinx scientists like Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina woman to go to space, and Carlos Juan Finlay, a physician who first linked yellow fever to mosquitoes.” — Lisa Kirtman, dean of the College of Education

“AS A HIGH SCHOOL biology and chemistry teacher, I developed my own ways to empower students of color, as well as deal with those who were having challenges. One African American student, for example,

struggled with a scientific writing assignment. My response to this student was to work with him one-on-one. I used a conversational style of discourse and did not talk to him like he was incompetent or incapable. I posed questions to help him participate in discussion and understand the process of asking questions, developing hypotheses and telling what he learned. Taking a sociocultural stance to learning biology requires that teachers learn a great deal about their students and the communities in which their students reside to provide for, and support, authentic learning opportunities.” — Antoinette Linton, associate professor of secondary education

“COLLEGE STUDENTS REPORT instances where professors use inappropriate terminology when referring to ethnicities, such as calling students Orientals or Negroes. I instruct them to model the appropriate terms in their writing, during class discussions, and to use the American Psychological Association manual for politically correct terms in referring to diverse populations. I further encourage students to have a space where they feel affirmed and appreciated, such as a campus affinity group — as an act of resistance against racism. Encouraging such an inclusive environment provides the opportunity for authentic conversations about the discomfort caused by microaggressions.” — Vita Jones, associate professor of special education

“A FOURTH-GRADE TEACHER I frequently work with had a student ask why they didn’t have Columbus Day off. She truthfully answered that the school district didn’t consider it a holiday. The next day she gave her students an assignment titled ‘Should We Celebrate Columbus Day?’ Over the course of a few days, the students watched and discussed videos of Viking explorers in the Americas, Columbus’ encounters with the Indigenous peoples of Hispaniola and the observance of Dia de la Raza. Many students revised their own understanding of Christopher Columbus and answered ‘no’ to the question of celebrating Columbus Day. This is an example of a teacher engaging in anti-racist work by exposing students to voices that often are excluded from the teaching of this subject and pushing back on the accepted narrative. This lesson scaffolded the development of students’ critical thinking skills by guiding them through questions they might ask, showing them how to find information, and demonstrating how they might revise their own understandings and beliefs when confronted with new information.” — Laura Keisler, assistant professor of literacy and reading

Support the College of Education campaign.fullerton.edu/education C A LIFORNI A S TATE UNIVERSIT Y, FULLERTON TITAN 19


After a spinal cord injury, a mechanical engineering grad invents an innovative manual driving system.

MECHANICAL ENGINEERING graduate Irwin Gill grew up observing his father, a mechanic, repair cars. When he was 8 years old, he watched “The Fast and the Furious” for the first time. The action film about street racing got him hooked on fast, stickshift cars. Gill’s passion for all things automotive led him to major in mechanical engineering at Cal State Fullerton and join the Titan Racing Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) team. The student-led team designs, builds and races a formula-style car for the SAE International competition against other universities in the nation and world. During Thanksgiving break in 2017, Gill had a life-changing motorcycle

accident on a dirt racing track near Santa Clarita. He glided over a jump, lost control and slammed straight into a barrier. Gill catapulted 20 feet into the air, plummeted off his motorcycle and landed hard. He suffered a spinal cord injury and lost the use of his legs. Gill spent two weeks in a Santa Clarita hospital, followed by several more weeks in rehabilitation in Los Angeles. Despite his doctor’s recommendation to take a year off from college, Gill returned to campus for the 2018 spring semester and to his friends on the racing team. Because of the paralysis in his legs, he couldn’t drive his manual transmission truck, only a car with an automatic transmission. He bought a

Support the College of Engineering and Computer Science campaign.fullerton.edu/ecs 20


white 2001 Toyota Camry and installed portable hand controls he purchased for $200 on Amazon. The device allows drivers with disabilities to operate both the brake and gas pedal. It gave Gill his freedom back to drive, including to campus from his Long Beach home. But Gill missed the thrill of driving a car with a manual transmission — using a gear stick and clutch to change gears. With the knowledge he gained from his classes about engineering design processes, project management and testing, and hands-on experience on the racing team, Gill created an innovative way to drive a stick-shift. “As soon as my left leg started to regain function, I figured I could build my own hand control system to drive a manual transmission and use all three pedals — the clutch, brakes and gas.” Using scrap metal from a discarded roll cage, and his teammates’ welding

skills and encouragement, he designed, down to the right bolt size, hand controls to fit his 6-foot-2-inch frame. Gill installed his manual driving system in a black 2005 BMW 530i sedan with a six-speed manual transmission and 180,000 miles. He’s racked up 30,000 miles over the last two years — and his inventive hand control system has not failed. “My hand controls work by using my left hand to operate both the throttle and brake. My left palm activates the brake, and my left thumb actuates the throttle. My right hand does both the steering and shifting,” explains Gill, a Class of 2020 graduate who is pursuing a career in mechanical engineering. The hand control system is permanently mounted in such a position to

allow for the top of his left wrist to steer the vehicle and hold the wheel straight, while he takes his right hand off the wheel to shift gears.

IT TAKES TEAMWORK Being on the formula racing team is much more than tackling an engineering design problem from concept to functioning prototype, says Salvador Mayoral, associate professor of mechanical engineering and the team’s faculty adviser. Students learn the value of teamwork and become lifelong friends, and alumni return to mentor team members for the next race. “Irwin was very engaging in team meetings and always had an optimistic attitude that seemed to resonate with everyone,” Mayoral shares. “I would

regularly find him in the shop tinkering with the engine calibration and helping his teammates with their designs.” This past academic year, Gill was the team’s powertrain engineer, managing the components that generate power to the vehicle, including the engine and transmission. Due to the pandemic, the team did not compete in the Formula SAE California. For Gill, applying classroom and racing team know-how to find a real-world solution further fueled his passion for the future. “Driving a manual transmission car with hand controls that I built, made me realize that with some ingenuity, I could do almost anything an ablebodied person could do — and that has given me the confidence to go about my life with that mindset.” n

Alumnus Irwin Gill ’20 (B.S. mechanical engineering) designed a manual driving system for his 2005 BMW 530i sedan.




DONALD A. MIDDLEBROOK ’76 (B.A. biological science) was named vice president of clinical, regulatory and quality for Nevro Corp., a global medical device company based in Redwood City.

FRANK G. DAVIES ’79 (B.A. economics) is Orange County’s 12th auditorcontroller.


RICHARD N. AMBROSE ’82 (B.A. business administration-accounting) is a CPA, president and co-owner of Axia Wealth Management Inc., headquartered in Bend, Oregon.

PAMELA M. SCHWEITZER ’82 (B.A. biological science), retired assistant surgeon general and chief pharmacist officer for the U.S. Public Health Service, was named to the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs Foundation. HENRY D. TRAN ’84 (B.A. business administration-marketing) is a lecturer in marketing at Cal State Northridge. KENT ADEN ’85 (MBA), president of HomeFed Communities in Carlsbad, was inducted into the California Homebuilding Foundation’s Hall of Fame. ANTHONY K. ATLAS ’85 (B.A. sociology) was promoted to colonel in the U.S. Army.

SUSAN GILL VARDON ’85 (B.A. English) was named editor and general manager of the Ramona Sentinel, based in San Diego County. TAMI MANDEVILLE ’87 (B.A. English) joined Inkling, a global leader in digital learning solutions, as vice president of marketing. SCOTT MITNICK ’87 (B.A. political science) was named city manager of El Segundo. JAMES RIPLEY ’87 (B.A. business administration-finance) is a certified financial planner, accredited asset management specialist and president of RAI Wealth Management.

NASA astronaut TRACY CALDWELL DYSON ’93 (B.S. chemistry) has spent 188 days in space — the longest of which was a 174-day stretch aboard the International Space Station in 2010. Today, Caldwell Dyson continues her work at NASA as a capsule commander, the communications link between flight control and the astronauts. “After 20 years with NASA, I love being a part of its history. It’s gone from being a symbol to a world-class scientific laboratory.” Staying connected to her alma mater, this spring Caldwell Dyson recorded a video message to the graduating Class of 2020. “Being at CSUF offered me such a rich time of growth. You often don’t appreciate it when you’re in the middle of it. But when you reflect back, you see it.”



N A S A /A U B R E Y G E M I G N A N I

Astronaut Looks Back and Beyond

Your Savings. Your Legacy. There are two easy ways you can use your IRA to create your Titan legacy. The IRA Charitable Rollover allows you to take your required minimum distribution, skip the tax and make a meaningful gift to support Cal State Fullerton this tax year. Naming us as a beneficiary of your IRA is another way to establish your Titan legacy in the future. If we are a beneficiary in your plans, please let us know. For more information, contact Hart Roussel at 657-278-5429 or CSUFplannedgift@fullerton.edu.

GLENN KAWASAKI ’92 (B.A. business administration-marketing) was named vice president of consumer analytics for Mspark, a national advertising company. CHRISTY LANDWEHR ’93 (B.A. communications-public relations) is the CEO of the Certified Horsemanship Association, a nonprofit organization that promotes safety throughout the equine industry. STEVE KNOX ’94 (B.A. international business-Spanish) was named regional sales manager for Meese Inc., a designer and developer of plastic rotomolded products. ROBERT GAVELA ’95 (B.A. communications-radio/TV/film) was named chief people officer for Harvest Landscape Enterprises Inc., a landscape management and design company. RYAN LONGACRE ’95 (B.A. art) is principal of California Elementary School in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. ERIC WAGATHA ’95 (MBA), is head of consumer life, North America, for GfK market research company.

fullerton.edu/CSUFPlannedGift LEONARD BOYARSKY ’88 (B.A. art) is co-game director, creative director and co-creator on Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds. ROBERT GRAFTON ’88 (B.A. business administration-finance) is executive director of dealer development and strategy for Hyundai Motor America. BETH NISHIDA ’88 (M.A. communicative disorders) was named a 2020 fellow of the California SpeechLanguage-Hearing Association. Nishida is executive director of special education for the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District.


BILL DEVINE ’96 (B.A. English), senior vice president of the business capabilities office for Travelers Insurance, was named to the 2020 board of directors for the Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development.

JULIE HATCHEL ’92, ’96, ’12 (B.A. English, M.S. education-educational administration, Ed.D. educational leadership), lecturer in education, was named principal of Top of the World Elementary School in Laguna Beach.

JASON D. GILL ’96 (B.S. kinesiology), former Titan infielder, was named head baseball coach for USC.

TOBY HILL ’92 (B.A. communications) is editor in chief of Cycle Volta, an e-bike and electric two-wheel mobility website.

KEVIN MAYSE ’96 (B.A. music-music education, single subject credentialmusic) is chair and associate professor of music at Riverside City College.


MARK SCHOOLING ’96 (B.F.A. artcreative photography) runs Gondola Paradiso, a boat charter company that provides gondola cruises around Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. CASEY SHAY ’96, ’07 (B.A. business administration-management, MBAmanagement) joined SmartStop Self Storage REIT as a senior financial analyst. PIERO BROCCARDO ’97 (B.A. economics) was named chief financial officer-North America for software manufacturer Syspro USA.

JILL MOELLER ’97, ’02 (B.A. biological science, M.S. biology) is the owner of Simply Mindful Services, a Los Angeles-based company that conducts mindfulness classes and seminars. Moeller also is a teacher at Palos Verdes High School. MICHAEL J. KIRBY ’98 (B.S. kinesiology) is the 11th head baseball coach for New Mexico State University. LAARNI ROSCA DACANAY ’99 (B.A. communications-public relations) is a public relations and communications consultant with Comcast NBCUniversal.

CSUFCommunity Want to learn more about what’s happening at Cal State Fullerton? Sign up for the monthly e-newsletter:


You have the right to control whether we share your name, address and email address with our affinity partners (companies that we partner with to offer products or services to our alumni). Please read the following information carefully before making your choice below. YOUR RIGHTS You have the following rights to restrict the sharing of your name, address and email address with our affinity partners. This form does not prohibit us from sharing your information when we are required to do so by law. This includes sending you information about the Alumni Association, the university, or other products or services. YOUR CHOICE Unless you mark “NO,” we may share your name, address and email address with our affinity partners. Our affinity partners may send you offers to purchase various products or services that we may have agreed they can offer in partnership with us.



JENNIFER FRANKLIN ’99 (B.A. communications) joined Spotlight Marketing Communications, a marketing and public relations firm in Tustin, as managing director.


ANTONIA CASTRO-GRAHAM ’00, ’02 (B.A. American studies and political science, M.P.A.-public finance management) was named deputy city manager for Fullerton. NATHAN HAMBURGER ’00 (B.A. political science) was named city manager of Agoura Hills. NINA HSIEH ’00 (B.S. kinesiology) was named head athletic trainer for the Los Angeles Lakers. MICHAEL GOLEBIOWKI ’01 (B.A. business administration-marketing) is vice president of marketing at B. Braun Medical Inc. in Philadelphia.

TIME-SENSITIVE REPLY You may decide at any time that you do not want us to share your information with our affinity partners. Your choice marked here will remain unless you state otherwise. However, if we do not hear from you, we may share your name, address and email address with our affinity partners. If you decide that you do not want to receive information from our partners, you may do one of the following:

u Call this toll-free telephone number: 866-414-8136. v Reply electronically by contacting us at alumniprivacy@fullerton.edu.

w Fax this completed and signed form to the Cal State Fullerton Alumni Association at 657-278-7666.

x Send this form to California State University, Fullerton University Advancement 2600 Nutwood Ave., Suite 850, Fullerton, CA 92831

MOH H. MALEK ’02 (M.S. kinesiology) is associate professor of physical therapy at Wayne State University. CRYSTAL BORDE ’03 (B.A. communications-public relations) is vice president at Vanguard Communications in Washington, D.C., a public relations and social marketing agency. YENI “VIOLETA” GARCIA ’03 (B.S. biological science) is the executive director of Denver Urban Gardens, a nonprofit organization that specializes in creating sustainable community gardens. ERICA TJANGNAKA ’03 (B.A. business administration-accounting) is co-owner and pastry chef of Lit Cafe in Anaheim. THOMAS M. MONTES ’04 (B.A. psychology) is a school resource officer for Monrovia Unified School District. KARA PEWTHERS ’04 (B.F.A. artceramics) is owner of Kara Elizabeth Designs in Costa Mesa and a permanent artist at Cove Gallery in Laguna Beach.

HELP ADVOCATE FOR TITANS community.fullerton.edu/advocacy CARLO TOMAINO ’04, ’07 (B.A. political science, M.P.A.-human resources), was named assistant city manager for La Mesa. ANTHONY MERCADO ’05, ’16 (B.A. psychology, Ed.D. educational leadership) was named assistant principal of Mariners and Newport Heights elementary schools in Newport Beach.

RACHEL O’NEILL-CUSEY ’05 (B.A. communications) was appointed director of sales for Visit Dana Point, the destination marketing organization for the city of Dana Point. NATASHA SHORO ’06 (M.F.A. artdrawing, painting and printmaking) is a contemporary artist based in Southern California and an instructor at Orange Coast and Coastline colleges.

o No, please do not share my name, address or email address with your affinity partners. NAME








Please print clearly so we can accurately record your wishes:

Please allow 30 days for processing your opt-out request. You may want to make a copy for your records.


Leading Outfest Is a Dream Role Alumnus DAMIEN S. NAVARRO ’07 (B.A. communications-radio/TV/film) feels like he’s come full circle in his current role as executive director of Outfest, a Los Angeles-based arts, media and entertainment nonprofit that empowers LGBTQIA+ artists to drive change. “Helping represent, protect, and prepare current and future generations of queer storytellers and industry professionals — whilst building empathy through sharing stories with audiences worldwide — is a dream role,” said Navarro, who remembers going to Outfest while pursuing his bachelor’s degree. “One of the things I found out at CSUF was just how incredibly talented and experienced the professors were. I was so impressed with how much hands-on experience we got, which gave me an incredible leg up when I entered my professional career.”

ROBERT SANTANA ’08 (B.S. child and adolescent development) is CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast. ELIZABETH ANDRADE ’09 (B.A. sociology) was named CEO of Family Assistance Ministries, a San Clemente-based nonprofit offering counseling, food, shelter and career planning support.


MANDY KELLY ’10 (B.A. liberal studies), a sixth-grade teacher at Trabuco Mesa Elementary School in Rancho Santa Margarita, was named one of the five 2020 California Teachers of the Year by the California Department of Education. MATTHEW L. BERGER ’11, ’13 (B.A., M.A. English) and JENNI MARCHISOTTO ’13 (M.A. English) have purchased Mysterious Galaxy, a longtime San Diego bookstore that specializes in science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery. NICHOLAS HOLLOWAY ’11, ’14 (B.A. radio/TV/film, M.F.A. screenwriting) published his first novel, “The Loop,” a murder mystery involving a young writer. MARK ATALLA ’07 (B.A. economics) is the managing partner of Carlyle Capital, a private lender and asset management company.

CHANNING HUSSEY ’08 (B.A. business administration-business economics) is director of operations at Private Ocean Wealth Management in San Rafael.

JILLIAN NAKORNTHAP ’11 (M.A. artexhibition design) was named exhibits curator for the city of Chandler, Arizona’s Cultural Development Department.

ROBERT MILLER ’07, ’08 (B.A., M.A. history) is an associate at the Georgia-based family law firm Hedgepeth Heredia LLC.

ERIC PLUNKETT ’08 (B.A. history) is a middle school math and social studies teacher in the PlacentiaYorba Linda Unified School District and co-author of the Orange County Historical Society book, “The Portola Expedition in Orange County.”

NIMA VAHDAT ’11 (MBA-international business), was named executive vice president, general counsel and chief compliance officer for Americor, a debt relief company based in Irvine.

MARTIN WING ’07 (B.A. business administration-finance) was named senior vice president at Pathway Capital Management, a private market asset manager.



MARIE RICCI ’08 (M.P.A.-public finance management) was named assistant city manager for Palmdale.

SAM MOJABI ’12 (B.A. business administration-marketing) is an attorney at the Ventura-based law firm of Norman Dowler LLP.

LORENA MOLINA ’12 (B.A. art-studio, B.F.A. art-creative photography) is a multidisciplinary artist and assistant professor of art at the University of Cincinnati. DENNIS PHAN ’12 (M.S. accountancy) was named controller for Ware Malcomb, a design firm specializing in architecture, planning, interior design, civil engineering, branding and building measurement. LUCIO VILLA ’12 (B.A. communicationsphotocommunications) is design editor for The Washington Post. ERIKA PRIME ’13 (B.A. communications) is the digital and social strategy lead for Taco Bell, based in Irvine. JON SALAS ’14 (B.A. business administration-marketing) was named director of sales for Revive, an Irvine real-estate financial service. JESSE BEN-RON ’15 (MBA-finance) is vice president of economic and workforce development at the Orange County Business Council. LISA SNOWDEN ’15 (M.S. educationeducational administration) is a coordinator of career counseling in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. RACHAEL GARCIA ’16 (B.A. communications-journalism) is executive editor of the Record Gazette in Banning. AMBER LEWIS ’17 (B.A. child and adolescent studies) is a founding teacher at Excelencia, an independent charter elementary school in East Los Angeles. DAVID MORGASEN ’17 (M.F.A. screenwriting), lecturer in cinema and television arts, signed a deal with 20th Century Fox/Disney to co-write and produce the animated series “The Carringtons.”

RUFUS BONDS JR. ’19 (M.F.A. theater arts-directing) joined Syracuse University as a tenure-track assistant professor of musical theater. KATHLEEN GODOY ’19 (B.A. business administration) was named senior business analyst for Air 7, a private jet services company in Camarillo.

MARIA DEL CARMEN GONZÁLEZ ’19 (M.S. counseling) received the 2020 Outstanding Professional, Continuing and/or Online Education Student Award from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. ENZA ESPOSITO NGUYEN ’19 (D.N.P.) is an oncology diagnostic manager at AstraZeneca in Austin, Texas.

In Memoriam

JOSEPH “KIM” APEL, manager of physical and capital planning TONY BELL, professor emeritus of sociology PHIL BRIGANDI ’87 (B.A. history) JACK W. COLEMAN, vice president for academic affairs and professor emeritus of accounting CATHERINE CRANMER ’68 (B.A. sociology) MICHAEL J. DAVIS, professor emeritus of communication sciences and disorders CHARLES E. DELZER ’83 (B.A. business administration-finance) ROGER DITTMANN, professor emeritus of physics CHRISTOPHER J. DUFRESNE ’81 (B.A. communications) HUGO J. FABRIS, technician III emeritus, support services, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics NANCY FITCH, professor emeritus of history CHARLES A. FRAZEE, professor emeritus of history GEORGE L. FRIEND, professor emeritus of English and comparative literature WACIRA GETHAIGA, professor emeritus of Afro-ethnic studies JOHN W. GILLIS, director emeritus of testing HARVEY P. GRODY, professor emeritus of political science RENÉE ELENA BROUGHTON HERNANDEZ ’72 (B.A. sociology) JANE HIPOLITO, professor emeritus of English, comparative literature and linguistics ROBERT R. HODGES, professor emeritus of English and comparative literature JOHN S. HOFF ’71 (MBA-finance) JANE PAUL HUMMEL, professor emeritus of music PERRY E. JACOBSON, professor emeritus of sociology C. EUGENE “GENE” JONES, chair and professor emeritus of biological science MARILYN MEDLIN, desktop publishing graphics specialist emeritus JOSEPH NEVADOMSKY, professor of anthropology GERALD P. ROSEN, professor emeritus of sociology HERBERT RUTEMILLER, professor emeritus of management science VERA SIMONE, professor emeritus of political science BRENDA HENSLEY SPENCER, professor emeritus of elementary and bilingual education STEVE UDELL, accounting manager for Associated Students Inc. PAUL L. VOIDA ’81 (B.M. music-performance) DOLORES VURA, assistant vice president emeritus for institutional research and analytical studies EDWARD D. WATT ’81 (B.A. business administration-management) LAWRENCE RANDOLPH WEILL, professor emeritus of mathematics NATHAN WESTBROOK, lecturer in psychology JOHN O. WHITE, professor emeritus of English, comparative literature and linguistics C A LIFORNI A S TATE UNIVERSIT Y, FULLERTON TITAN 27


During tough times, a Titan alumna spreads hope through feel-good holiday stories.


‘Christmas Karen’ B Y K A R E N L I N DE L L / PHO TO S C OU RT E S Y OF K A R E N S C H A L E R

28 WINTER 2020 2 8 I TITAN FA LL /2020

WITH HER BIRTHDAY on Dec. 19 and a great aunt legally named Merry Christmas Day, it may not be too surprising that Cal State Fullerton alumna Karen Schaler ’87 — a.k.a. “Christmas Karen” — has made a career out of spreading yuletide cheer through feel-good holiday stories. Schaler’s original screenplay for “A Christmas Prince” (2017) became an overnight sensation for Netflix, spawning two sequels. She followed with her original “Christmas Camp” movie for Hallmark, two Lifetime Christmas movies and four Christmas books — all within three years. The double major in communications-radio/TV/film and sociology then brought the magic of her books and movies to life, holding “Christmas Camp” getaways in Arizona that feature culinary and wine tasting classes, holiday crafts and activities, movie nights and “Christmas Karen” chats.

HOW DID YOU GO FROM BEING A WAR CORRESPONDENT TO “CHRISTMAS KAREN”? After graduating from CSUF, I worked as a TV anchor and reporter in nine different markets. I won my first Emmys for the documentaries I produced and reported as the first correspondent embedded with troops in Bosnia (1995) and Afghanistan (2007). After Afghanistan, wanting to tell more uplifting and empowering stories, I quit TV news and created a Travel Therapy book and TV series. When a health issue forced me to slow down, I wrote my first Christmas movie, “A Christmas Prince.” As I wrote more holiday movies and books, the press nicknamed me “Christmas Karen.”

HOW DID YOUR CAL STATE FULLERTON EXPERIENCE INFORM YOUR CAREER? I credit Cal State Fullerton with teaching me to persevere and pivot quickly, which is something I’ve done throughout my career, and especially now during the pandemic. At CSUF, I found my true passion in the late Ronald Dyas’ screenwriting class. Dyas was a tough professor and realistic about the challenges of a screenwriting career, but he empowered us to try. He saw something in me and said I had a knack for screenwriting. When he gave me an A-, it helped me believe I could do what I loved, and I never looked back.

HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC CHANGED YOUR WORK? The pandemic changed everything. I had to suddenly leave New York City and address devastating health issues with family and friends. Professionally, all my projects were put on hold. What keeps me going is knowing the stories I write are uplifting. I’ve had people reach out saying they’re watching my movies and reading my books because it brings them some peace and comfort, and that’s the best compliment I could ever get right now.

WHAT ARE YOUR CURRENT AND UPCOMING PROJECTS? My fans have been asking for two things: more chats like those at Christmas Camp, and my next Christmas book. I launched a new show called “Christmas Karen: Behind the Story,” where I talk to the writers, directors, actors and producers who help create TV Christmas movies. They share their own personal journeys,

Support the College of Communications campaign.fullerton.edu/comm

inspiring tips and advice. My book “Christmas Ever After” just published, and to make that happen, I had to start my own publishing company. Learning a new industry has been intense, but now I can donate part of the proceeds from each book sale to help support libraries and independent bookstores. For Christmas Camp, we’ll be offering a few safe, modified versions in 2020, and we’re already planning for 2021. I’m also in development for my next Christmas movie and writing the movie version of “Christmas Ever After.”

HOW DO YOU THINK THIS HOLIDAY SEASON WILL BE AMID THE PANDEMIC? The holidays this year are going to be more important than ever to give us hope. Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, Kwanzaa or the Chinese New Year, I believe the holiday season is universal in how it celebrates and embraces family, friends, faith, community, hope and happiness. The holidays bring us together, and even if we can’t physically see each other, we’re together in our hearts and memories. It’s a comfort to know we’re not alone — we’re connected throughout the season and always. n

CHRISTMAS KAREN’S FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SHOWS Classic Christmas movies have inspired Schaler, and the shows that she enjoys watching are those filled with heart, hope and the belief that anything is possible at Christmas.

on 34th Street” • “Miracle a Wonderful Life” • “It’s the Grinch Stole Christmas” • “How (1966 original) Holiday” • “The • “Love Actually”

Holiday” • “Last Frost” • “Jack • “Elf” four finale of “Schitt’s Creek” • Season (“Merry Christmas, Johnny Rose”)





University Advancement 2600 Nutwood Avenue, Suite 850 Fullerton, CA 92831

Change Service Requested Family members, please note: If recipient is no longer at this address, please send his or her current address to uarecords@fullerton.edu or call 657-278-7917.


Cal State Fullerton is the catalyst for Titan-sized transformations, inspiring students’ paths, launching careers and improving lives.

“It Takes a Titan,” the university’s first comprehensive philanthropic campaign, is an opportunity for you to be the difference in elevating the potential of our remarkable students and the future of our communities.

Learn more at campaign.fullerton.edu.

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.