CSUN Magazine Spring 2024

Page 28

Going for Gold Matador Paralympians pursue greatness for Team USA. 20 SPRING 2024 30 Years Since the Earthquake 12 Black Joy, Black Excellence 26 Matador Style Inspo 11

Miss You, Matadors

emember this face (and all of her furry friends)? New buildings may rise, student fashions and slang may change, but one campus creature persists across the generations: the CSUN squirrel. Perhaps related to rodent cousins on campuses around the nation, the CSUN squirrel is especially fond of Doritos, french fries and just about anything students are eating outside the Sierra Center or on the quads. Campus photographer Ringo Chiu made friends with this one on a recent misty April morning. Squirrel looked ready to strike a graduation pose ... but she forgot her cap and gown!

20 12 11 Spring 2024 RUNNERS: GETTY / GARETH COPLEY / STAFF, FRONT COVER: GETTY / HARRY HOW / STAFF; BACK COVER: GETTY / SANDY HUFFAKER / CONTRIBUTOR FEATURES 20 Red & Black & Gold World-class Matador athletes prepare for the 2024 Paralympic Games. 12 Shifted by the Quake Reflecting on the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, 30 Years On 26 Black Joy Key resources and mentors foster Black Excellence, Joy and student success. DEPARTMENTS 5 This is CSUN News from Northridge 8 New Digs Meet Maple Hall 11 Quad Style Stylish Students. 36 Athletics Inside CSUN Athletics 38 Matador Matters Alumni news 46 Class Notes & In Memoriam Contents

Pomp and Circumstance

As we prepare to celebrate another joyous commencement season, the CSUN community is thinking about our past, present and future.

First, the present. We are so proud to share our beautifully redesigned magazine, the result of many months of creative work — by our talented writers, editors, graphic designers and photographers, many of them CSUN students and alumni. With an elegant new masthead, new cover format and even new fonts throughout, we hope you’ll agree this publication is a perfect fit for our Matador community.

This is also my favorite time of the academic year, when I have the profound honor of congratulating our graduates as they cross the commencement stage to a life forever transformed by their CSUN degree. As we honor the class of 2024 this spring, we catch a glimpse of our shared future as we celebrate with thousands of students and their loved ones, so proud of all they’ve accomplished and eager for the new opportunities that await them.

In this issue of CSUN Magazine, we share the moving story of one of those graduates, Yahya Kedir, the son of immigrants and the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. Yahya shares his story of Black joy and Black excellence, alongside the story of Charli Givings, a student in the Black Scholars Matter program who has reached the midpoint of her undergraduate career here on campus. We are also inspired by the stories of three alumni athletes who are, at press time, working to qualify and train for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris.

And last but not least, this year we reflect on the past as we mark three decades (how is it possible?) since the Northridge earthquake forever changed the San Fernando Valley region. We reflect on the bold leadership of thenCSUN President Blenda J. Wilson, who guided our campus through the cataclysm that both challenged and strengthened the indomitable spirit of the Matador community. We hope you, too, will be inspired as you read the accounts of those who experienced the Northridge earthquake on Jan. 17, 1994, and their moving stories of recovery and rebuilding in the years since.

With gratitude,


Nichole Ipach

Vice President for University Relations and Advancement, and President of the CSUN Foundation


Associate Vice President, Strategic Communication and Brand Management

ADVISOR Diane Wai Director of Strategic Communication

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Olivia Herstein


Page 33 Studio Art Direction/Design


Jacob Bennett Development Communications Officer Nick Bocanegra Assistant Director, Sports Communications

Carmen Ramos Chandler Director of Media Relations

Ringo Chiu ’01 Photographer

David J. Hawkins ’16 Photographer Naz Keynejad ‘95, M.A. ‘16 Alumni/Annual Giving Communications Associate Kevin Lizarraga ’01, M.A. ’04 Director of University Marketing

Matt Monroe Associate Athletics Director, Sports Communications

Marco Ortiz ’21 Web Producer

Josselyn Partida ’16 Social Media Editor/Writer Kimon Rethis Senior Web Producer

Carissa Rhoads Administrative Analyst Javier Rojas Media Relations Specialist

Andrea Shelkey Administrative Analyst

Jesse Spero Lead Web Content Writer

Jenny O’Mara Steinbeck ’90, B.A. ’91 Writer/Editor

Editorial Student Assistant Ruby Durant

Student Writers Kaley Block, Sydnee Roddy, Analisa Venolia, Tyler Yamauchi Student Photographer Sonia Gurrola

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4 President’s Letter NUMBER 78, SPRING 2024
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1 3 2 This is CSUN News from Northridge
1 Joshua Bell and Jolene Koester inspire at The Soraya | page 9 2 Michelle Mizner wins an Oscar | page 7
3 Andrew Anagnost, David Nazarian, Debra Farar, and Robert Taylor receive honorary doctorates | page 7
In this edition


Growing Together

CSUN Partners With


CSUN is partnering with the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and the Tataviam Land Conservancy to battle the impact of climate change in disadvantaged communities throughout the San Fernando Valley, by establishing “urban forests.”

With the support of a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, university officials and tribal leaders plan to tap into the tribe’s traditional ecological knowledge to establish tribal nurseries and workforce development programs. They will focus on growing and planting culturally significant native trees in low-income communities that are disproportionately burdened by multiple sources of pollution.

“As the caretakers of our native land in the San Fernando and Antelope Valleys, this grant will enable us to use our traditional ecological knowledge, in tune with current climate data, to bring back the

to Build Urban Forests

forest and breathe new life into our communities,” said Tribal President Rudy Ortega Jr. “We will do this by engaging with our Elders, tribal citizens and other stakeholders to ensure that the trees we plant are sustainable and resilient.”

“Our efforts are geared toward enhancing the urban tree canopy,” said professor Crist Khachikian, one of the project’s leads, “which is essential for cooling our cities and mitigating the effects of climate change in vulnerable communities.”

CSUN is taking the lead in the project, in close collaboration with the Tataviam, but the project is designed to be collaborative, said communication studies professor Daisy Lemus. “We coexist in a large urban region that is their ancestral home and encompasses CSUN’s campus, a region that is also particularly susceptible to urban heat island effects — while also presenting sizable urban reforestation opportunities,” Lemus said.

Who We Heard

We got “caked” by Steve, laughed with Margaret and were empowered by Danny.


Steve Aoki

The Japanese American DJ and music producer headlined Associated Students’ annual Big Show on Saturday, April 6. The University Library Lawn transformed into a rave festival as Aoki —

known for his remix of “Pursuit of Happiness” by Kid Cudi and his feature on “Mic Drop” by BTS — gave an electric performance.


• establishing a tribal nursery of culturally appropriate and sustainable species;

• developing a regional network with partnerships that promote the benefits of native trees in the region

• planting 750 trees in disadvantaged communities while engaging community members in tree planting and maintenance education

• creating and implementing a nursery training program.


Margaret Cho

A packed house greeted comedian and actress Margaret Cho on March 27 in the Library’s Ferman Presentation Room, where she regaled students, faculty and fans about her 2022 raunchy romantic comedy, “Fire Island.” The Queer romcom is based on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

6 This is CSUN

And the Oscar Goes to…

Alumna Wins for ‘20 Days in Mariupol’ Doc

Michelle Mizner ’07 (Cinema and Television Arts) is now an Oscar winner, after the film she produced and edited won “Best Documentary Feature” at the 96th Academy Awards on March 10.

“20 Days in Mariupol” is an account of the first days of war after Russia invaded the Ukrainian city. It documents the experiences of Associated Press video journalist Mstyslav Chernov and a team of journalists who arrived in Mariupol hours before Russian troops landed.

Mizner, along with her colleagues, accepted their awards on stage at the glittering awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Chernov gave an emotional speech about his homeland and the war that began in February 2022.

Mizner, a producer and editor on the film, is a senior documentary editor and producer at the PBS series “Frontline” in Boston. She has produced numerous projects for the series including podcasts and interactive documentaries, of which three have been News and Documentary Emmy award winners. The film was a joint production of the Associated Press and PBS.

senior documentary editor and producer, PBS series Frontline

CSUN’s Strength United and partners in the Family Justice Center celebrated the center’s decade of service to the community by unveiling a new mock courtroom earlier this year, which will help victims of abuse, assault or domestic violence by giving them a chance to get accustomed to a court setting before they must testify.

It also serves as a training space for forensic nurse examiners, law enforcement and others who’ve never testified or have little courtroom experience.

CSUN is ranked the No. 1 college for diversity in the Western U.S. and No. 3 in the nation, according to the Wall Street Journal/College Pulse 2024 Top Colleges in the Western U.S for Diversity.

Student satisfaction with opportunities to interact with people from different backgrounds was a factor, along with data from the U.S. Dept. of Ed. around ethnic diversity among students and faculty. Students from low-income backgrounds, those with disabilities and international students also factored in.

CSUN has moved back into the top 10 universities in the nation for boosting the social mobility of its students , according to the 2023 Social Mobility Index from CollegeNET.

The university was previously 15th on the list, which measures the success rates of universities that educate economically disadvantaged students at lower tuition points and graduate them into well-paid jobs.

The transformative impact of a CSUN education also has been recognized recently by the national nonprofit Excelencia in Education

Four Alumni Receive Honorary Doctorates

The university conferred honorary doctorates on four distinguished alumni at CSUN’s commencement ceremonies this spring. At press time, CSUN leaders were preparing to honor and celebrate Andrew Anagnost ’87 (Engineering), CEO of Autodesk; Debra Farar ’75 (English), M.A. ’87 (Early Childhood Education), CSU trustee emerita and education consultant; David Nazarian ’82 (Business Administration), CEO and founder of Nimes Capital; and Robert Taylor ’82 (Engineering), president and CEO of Centinela Capital Partners.

Anagnost and Taylor received an honorary doctorate of humane letters during the commencement ceremony for the College of Engineering and Computer Science and College of Science and Mathematics on May 17.

Farar received an honorary doctorate of humane letters during the commencement ceremony for the Michael D. Eisner College of Education on May 18. Nazarian received an honorary doctorate of humane letters during the ceremony for the college that bears his name, the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, on May 20.

csun magazine SPRING 2024 7
C S U N C O M E N C E M E T S P R GNI 2 0 2 4

Meet Maple Hall

CSUN’s First New Academic Classroom Building in 15 Years

Ah, that new classroom smell. CSUN Magazine got a sneak-peek tour on March 11, with Callie Juarez, of CSUN’s academic resources and planning department, as well as a “hardhat tour” during construction in fall 2023 with Noah Rubin, campus architect and director of design and construction. Here’s the scoop:

What can students most look forward to inside Maple Hall?

Its best feature is the huge three-story atrium and common space filled with natural light, Rubin said. The brand-new, modern building features cutting-edge lecture halls and classrooms. It boasts some of the most (if not the most) air-conditioned student hangout spaces on campus, plus plenty of comfortable furniture, group study rooms and collaborative spaces — and a huge, multi-stall gender-inclusive restroom. There’s even a lactation room upstairs.

When did classes move in?

Juarez and team pulled off the massive feat of mov-

ing 433 classes from the 1960s-era Sierra Hall into Maple Hall. Students started enjoying Maple Hall’s many indoor and outdoor study and hangout spaces on March 25, when classes commenced in the new digs.

What’s our favorite part of the new Maple Hall?

Rubin and our editorial team agreed: the three-story atrium, which features entrances from three sides of the building.

“We paid particular attention to building in student collaboration spaces into the lobby, the corridors, the waiting areas — we built in seating, so students aren’t sitting on the floor,” said Ken

Rosenthal, associate vice president of facilities development and operations, when CSUN broke ground on the building. “These are inspirational rooms. They’re daylit, they’re flexible, they have the latest AV.”

What’s next?

Maple Hall’s opening clears the way for the renovation of its older counterpart, Sierra Hall — as classes there are shifted to the new building — but approval and funding for Sierra renovation is still pending, Rosenthal said. “As a building with general-purpose classrooms, all colleges may use the new rooms [in Maple Hall],” he said. “It takes all the [Sierra Hall] classrooms and frees them up to be used as ‘swing space.’ ... We will be studying options for Sierra Hall renovations. Faculty offices, laboratories and administrative offices will remain in Sierra Hall.” — Olivia Herstein


square feet of space

open to campus project financed by CSU state funds

years to construct

-square-foot lecture hall, with two smaller lecture halls and two seminar rooms

March 25 $49.9 M 2 2,980 SUSTAINABILITY SPECS

Maple Hall employs a “heat recovery chiller” that takes excess heat from the campus’ central chilled water system and uses it to provide the building with free heating, saving energy.

The building also takes advantage of natural light, LED lighting and drought-tolerant, native plant landscaping around its exterior.

New Digs

Who We Heard


The community organizer, writer, photographer and past MacArthur Fellow discussed her work documenting the efforts of African Americans in the South and Chicanos in the Southwest to take charge of their own communities and bring about social change, on March 26 in the University Library.


Danny Trejo

On Nov. 16, hundreds of people filled the University Student Union Northridge Center, eager to hear from Trejo, an entrepreneur and actor known for films including “Machete,” “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “Spy

Kids.” At Associated Students’ Big Lecture, Trejo reminisced on his upbringing and stressed the importance of kindness and helping others.

To make a gift in support of the new Jolene Koester Music and Arts Education Endowment, please call The Soraya at (818) 677-8877.

Playing it Forward

The Soraya Honors Jolene Koester and Joshua Bell, Establishes Arts Education Fund

New CSUN Podcast Series!

“CSUN Conversations” is a new series of podcasts featuring conversations about CSUN, its faculty, students and alumni.

“Matador Memories” explores CSUN’s unique history and drops on the first Monday of each month. “Diving into the Discourse” features discussions with faculty and staff on a variety of topics — it drops the third Monday of each month. Both are available on YouTube and Spotify. Check them out at csun.edu/ csun-conversations

A joyous and wildly successful April 4 gala at the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts featured tributes to two key figures in the history of the sparkling arts venue — CSUN President Emerita and former interim CSU Chancellor Jolene Koester and virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell. Bell, who led the Academy of St Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra in a breathtaking performance that evening, has made nine appearances on The Soraya stage — largely as music director of the London-based chamber orchestra — making him one of the venue’s most beloved artists.

The fundraiser benefitted the new Jolene Koester Music and Arts Education Endowment, and it was a grand success. The gala realized more than $2.5 million to sustain a program that provides K-12 students in the region with enriching experiences such as matinees and in-class workshops, as well as master classes and other opportunities for CSUN students. An initial gift of $500,000 from the Perenchio Foundation was announced at the gala dinner.

Koester, who served as CSUN president from 2000-11, is credited with driving the project to build the center and getting buy-in from community leaders. She reflected on a vision come to life. The connection between The Soraya and the programs in the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication endures to this day, as does the university’s mission to serve the region, bringing the world’s greatest artists to the stage.

“My … moment of pure thrill and satisfaction is to be able to stand up at the end of the performance and turn around and look at this hall filled with people, because they, too, have felt the muse of the arts and have experienced The Soraya as a pulse and heart,” Koester said.

That legacy includes the thousands of K-12 students who will be engaged through the arts, noted Soraya Executive and Artistic Director Thor Steingraber.

csun magazine SPRING 2024 9
3.26 Maria Varela GIVING

What’s Your Inspo?

To capture the diversity of styles donned by CSUN students, photographer Sonia Gurrola and writer Analisa Venolia (both grad students) roamed campus in late Dec. 2023 and chatted up students about their fashion inspirations.

Exploring Disability

CSUN has launched the first disability studies minor in the California State University system, with the first students being admitted to the program for fall 2024.

“CSUN has the largest population of self-identifying disabled students in the system,” said Jeffrey Reeder, dean of the College of Humanities, where the program will be housed. “Additionally, our university is known for a strong tradition of advocacy and scholarly inquiry research into identity, standing as fourth in the nation in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in fields of ethnic studies, cultural studies, identity studies and gender studies.”

“Part of the work of the minor and, perhaps this is the earliest work that we must do, is to educate our students, faculty and administration on the sociocultural history and multiplicity of meanings bound up in the disability identity.”

The newly developed minor in disability studies is an 18-unit program made up of three core classes and three electives drawn from more than 20 departments across the university. Many of the courses available to the students also will count for general education credit.

“Part of the work of the minor and, perhaps this is the earliest work that we must do, is to educate our students, faculty and administration on the sociocultural history and multiplicity of meanings bound up in the disability identity,” said English professor Leilani Hall, director of the new program. “Disability studies examines the social, cultural, historical and political structures that inform disability.

“Because disability is an identity one may acquire at any point in life — whether at birth or later by disease, accident or advanced age — it is the largest minority in the world,” she continued, “an identity which intersects with any other identity marker, such as race, gender, sexuality or class. This is what makes disability studies so very necessary to the academy. We need to prepare graduates who are excited to build a more inclusive world.”

To learn more about the new minor in disability studies, visit: csun.edu/ humanities/ disability-studies

“My style icons are Tiana Taylor, A$AP


10 This is CSUN
Rosalie Adebiyi ’27 CINEMA AND TELEVISION ARTS Rocky Rihanna.”

Liia Opanasiuk ’25

“I draw a lot from my Ukrainian heritage for my fashion, and I generate a lot of ideas myself.”

“I love

“I get inspiration from goth and streetwear styles. I also love stars!”



csun magazine SPRING 2024 11
Dev Thompson ’27 PSYCHOLOGY outfits inspired by punk and goth fashion, and techwear.” Maya Xavier ChaumetteBrown ’26 PSYCHOLOGY streetwear.”


Quake Quake

Reflecting on the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, 30 Years On

“I came up Nordhoff and faced the parking structure as I was coming onto the campus, and it was flat. I lost control of my limbs. I pulled the car over.”

As told to Danielle Fairlee

Blenda wilson was president of CSUN when the devastating quake struck at 4:31 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 17, 1994, and she led the university through the first five critical rebuilding years, including the all-hands-on-deck aftermath. When the temblor hit, she and her husband were staying at their mountain cabin near Bakersfield. Their phone rang before dawn.

“Our best friends in Atlanta were calling to say, ‘You’ve got to get up and look at the television, see what’s happening with Northridge,’” Wilson recalled in a 2013 oral-history interview. “So we got up, and like everyone else, got glued to the television; to be able to see the familiar things of your campus, the science building burning, the library falling apart, the parking structure flattened.”

The photographs featured in this story were taken by Edward Alfano,


in an

CSUN professor of art & design. His photos featured exhibit titled “When the Clock Stopped” in The Soraya’s Art Gallery.

Wilson rushed to reach campus, but due to extensive freeway damage, driving the usual route was out of the question. She had to fly by helicopter from Bakersfield to Long Beach, rent a car and then drive north to CSUN, where she got her first glimpse of what the quake had wrought on the campus: Parking Structure C, originally located at Zelzah and Plummer, had folded in on itself and flattened like a crepe. “I came up [Zelzah from] Nordhoff and faced the parking structure as I was coming onto the campus, and it was flat,” she said. “I lost control of my limbs. I pulled the car over.”

Recalling her initial survey of the damage, Wilson expressed relief that the quake took place during winter break. “There were two students who were killed — not on the campus, they lived in an off-campus apartment [Northridge Meadows],” she said. “The timing — for the school calendar, and the time of the morning, and that it was a holiday weekend [Martin Luther King Jr. Day] — was a real blessing. It would have been a horrible scene otherwise.”

The university community rallied around rebuilding efforts, Wilson said (pictured above on phone). “An educational institution never goes backwards. We’re going forward,” she said, recalling her motto for CSUN: Not Just Back — Better! “You have an earthquake, and suddenly people can get it, that whatever goal we’re going to have, if we’re going to have a university, it has to be single-mindedly: Get a campus back, get students back, get courses back, in the quickest time possible.”

In 2014, marking 20 years since that seminal event, CSUN dedicated the Blenda J. Wilson Courtyard near the Donald E. Bianchi Planetarium on campus — in recognition of Wilson’s leadership in the wake of the earthquake. In a Jan. 31, 2014, story in the Daily Sundial student newspaper, Wilson thanked the university but emphasized that recovery and planning after the earthquake was a team effort: “I have to believe that whatever you say about the buildings, the earthquake and work is far secondary to the human relationships and bonding that occurred among us when we were here together.” »

commemorating the one - year anniversary of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, President Bill Clinton spoke at CSUN on Jan. 17, 1995. Clinton held up the university as a model in disaster recovery — campus reopened and classes resumed after just two weeks — and he praised federal, state and local agencies for their recovery efforts on campus and throughout the area devastated by the quake. Clinton spoke on campus in front of a large black-and-white photograph of a CSUN parking structure that had partially collapsed during the early-morning temblor. ¶ Vice President Al Gore had visited the campus in 1994, immediately after the earthquake, promising federal aid. At his speech one year later, Clinton praised CSUN staff and faculty for demonstrating the strength to move forward after the devastating earthquake. The late Bill Krohmer, who served as longtime manager of technical services and safety for the Department of Biology, earned special recognition from President Clinton for his tireless work as a senior member of the University Emergency Response team, managing the decontamination, repair and renovation of campus science facilities. ¶ The 6.7-magnitude temblor and subsequent aftershocks caused destruction throughout the San Fernando Valley and across the region. “When the dust settled, 57 people had died — including 33 from fallen buildings. Of those, 16 were killed when the 164-unit Northridge Meadows apartments collapsed atop its downstairs parking garage,” reporter Dana Bartholomew wrote in the Los Angeles Daily News, in a 20-year retrospective article. Two of the victims were CSUN students living in Northridge Meadows (see remembrance, page 18). ¶ Numerous buildings and parking structures on CSUN’s campus sustained severe damage, including the iconic University Library, whose east and west wings were badly damaged.

Through new interviews, a review of the recorded oral histories of numerous CSUN leaders and by highlighting some gems of CSUN’s digital archives, CSUN Magazine looks back over three decades — offering a glimpse at how the university responded to, recovered from and, ultimately, thrived after the 1994 earthquake. »


believe in the power of community, and I believe in the ability of government to get things done. I hate that often, it is a crisis that is the catalyst for getting things done. But I’ve seen it enough times now, and much of it started from my experience of going through that earthquake.”


“The quake really was an intense dividing line between two different lives for me.”

As chief innovation officer for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Steven Parker ’94 (Political Science) frequently calls on his skills as a former corporate lawyer, political campaign director and survivor of the Northridge earthquake. “CSUN was my training ground for all things leadership development,” said Parker, who was president of Associated Students at the time of the quake.

In the aftermath of the temblor, which he likened to a “living horror movie,” Parker worked closely with then-President Blenda Wilson on recovery and communications efforts, becoming a spokesperson for the student body. “Dr. Wilson allowed me to do TV spots and news interviews,” he said. Parker also helped Wilson greet visiting elected officials as they toured the quake-damaged campus, using the opportunity to pass out his resume. “Vice President Al Gore came,” he said. “Senator Barbara Boxer was there. [Los Angeles] Mayor Richard Riordan toured the campus.”

Parker’s networking paid off. The savvy senior snagged an internship in then-Mayor Riordan’s office, sparking a lengthy career

in public service that has included serving as political director for the campaign of U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia, one of the most-watched and high-stakes Senate races in recent history (with a runoff in early January 2021), and serving as Ossoff’s deputy state director.

Now at the TSA, Parker said his quake experience was a lesson in leadership and coalition-building. “The Associated Students knew we had to get money into students’ hands for books and supplies, and we moved quickly to make that happen,” he said. “We learned how to work through conflict with grace and learned how to get things done in unconventional ways.”

Parker said the initial recovery period showed him what elected officials and government leaders can do in the face of adversity. “I believe in the power of community, and I believe in the ability of government to get things done,” he said. “I hate that often, it is a crisis that is the catalyst for getting things done. But I’ve seen it enough times now, and much of it started from my experience of going through that earthquake.” »

4: 31 AM

Time of the 6.7magnitude earthquake that struck the San Fernandino Valley and surrounding region.

Acsun journalism student during the Northridge quake, Kevin Harris said the experience made him a better reporter. “Anything that gives you that kind of empathy, where you have to go through something that you might be covering,” he said. “Oh yeah. That’s gonna help you as a journalist.” In the weeks following, Harris penned a striking first-person account of his quake experience that ran in the Feb. 15, 1994, issue of the Daily Sundial student newspaper:

“I was rudely awakened at 4:31 a.m., Jan. 17, to find the four-bedroom house I moved into a week earlier, near Zelzah Avenue and Nordhoff Street, in shambles and quickly getting worse,” he wrote. “In my panic (and my underwear), I did a perfect Jerry Lewis imitation by falling over unpacked boxes while sprinting to the door. After stepping on broken glass, I realized I needed shoes and pants before getting out. After falling face first three more times over the rubble, I crawled under the kitchen table, just as something large crashed on top of it. My roommates and I met outside, underdressed and shaken, not stirred.”

Harris recalled that he and his neighbors banded together to share resources, camping outside while aftershocks rattled the area. His experience exemplified the “spirit of the Matador” and fellowship shared not just around campus, but across Los Angeles. “What they offered me was friendship, companionship and generosity in the wake of a natural disaster,” he wrote of his next-door neighbors. Harris now thinks of the quake as a period that began a series of big life changes. “I started seriously dating the CSUN student who would later become my wife and the mother of my kids, although we’ve since divorced,” he said in a recent interview. “My best friend was shot and killed during a robbery that year, and then a year later, my dad died unexpectedly. I had just started seriously working toward a career in journalism, and it just felt like everything was kind of turning in my life. The quake really was an intense dividing line between two different lives for me.” »

“You had faculty standing outside saying, ‘That’s my life’s work in there!’ You know, their labs, their papers, everything.”

Living in an on-campus apartment when the quake struck, then-Provost Louanne Kennedy jumped into action to assess the damage: “We got into this golf cart and we drove around,” she recalled in a 2013 oral-history interview. “The science buildings [now known as Live Oak, Eucalyptus, Citrus and Magnolia Halls] were on fire. The library sides had separated. The [Fine Arts] building, at the ‘L,’ had completely separated and moved onward. And when they put the fires out in the science buildings, they would go to the next thing that was an emergency. But then, the fires would come back because of the chemicals that were in there. And you had faculty standing outside saying, ‘That’s my life’s work in there!’ You know, their labs, their papers, everything.”

Administrators worked rapidly to set up temporary offices, Kennedy said. “We had a walkie-talkie kind of system — there were no phones working anywhere,” she said. “This was before cell phones. The next day, we started working out of an RV on the campus. We put up army tents.” When aftershocks inflicted additional damage to campus buildings, Kennedy remembered then-President Blenda Wilson calling for trailers to serve as temporary offices and classrooms. “What the faculty did, they were just remarkable,” Kennedy said.

“We continued to operate the administrative offices out of trailers and domes — these huge plastic [Mylar] domes,” she recalled. “You would have the entire academic affairs senior administration, which was technology, graduate studies, undergraduate studies, counseling, you name it — we were all in it. There was no ceiling except in my office — I had the only ceiling. And so, the din out there was incredible, and everyone just got used to it.” »



Campus recovery and rebuilding was still in progress when Jolene Koester took over the helm in 2000, as CSUN’s fourth president. “I officially began at Northridge on the first of July,” Koester recalled in a 2013 oral-history interview. “Northridge at that point was still in the work of earthquake recovery. The president’s office was still in a double-wide trailer. The administrative staff was still primarily in Mylar domes.”

Koester praised her predecessor. “The previous president, Blenda Wilson, to whom I will always feel indebted, had done a remarkable job in saving the university, in assuring its very existence,” Koester said. “And more importantly, what I think a lot of people really don’t understand, is that [Wilson was] courageous enough to rethink how the university should look physically, how parts of the university should be arrayed in relation to each other. And that planning took time, and it meant that the buildings weren’t immediately reconstructed or built — but it meant that ultimately, the university I was able to work at and served was physically a better place.” »

“My first view of the library was from the north side, and it was so broken, so devastating, so dark…”

Susan curzon , then-dean of the University Library, rushed to campus as soon as dawn broke after the quake, fearing the worst. “I came to campus, because I just had a bad feeling, a really bad feeling,” Curzon recalled in a 2017 oral-history interview. “And indeed, my first view of the library was from the north side, and it was so broken, so devastating, so dark, it did look like a ruin, actually. Those were my earliest memories of it. It was sad. There was no communication, so we didn’t know the extent of it. We only knew that our immediate environment was very bad.”

Working out of temporary facilities in the aftermath, Curzon and team focused on restoring the library collection and rebuilding the library. “We began to strategically think about what the library needed, what needed to be rescued, what was the extent of the damage, how could we provide library service without a library?” she said. “Because we knew by that


As dawn broke, Library staff found scenes like this inside the stacks.

time, we couldn’t — a lot of it was covered with asbestos, and the library itself was not safe. We retrieved what we could retrieve, what we knew we were going to be able to do. We had massive rescue work to do in the archives and special collections, because unfortunately, it was all rain-damaged (from water incursion through the crippled roof and wings) — you know, the most valuable books. People just did whatever they could, they just pitched in.”

CSUN leadership exhibited overwhelming support for rebuilding the University Library right away because of its critical role in academia, she said. “The thing that helped us the most is [then-President] Blenda [Wilson] held a vote, and the faculty senate voted unanimously that it was the library that was the most important thing to restore first. And that’s when you really do understand the meaning of the heart of the university.” »

Jaime Reyes and Manuel Sandoval

Remembering 2 students who perished in the collapse of the Northridge Meadows apartments off campus.

CSUN student Manuel Sandoval, 24, was spending his first night in his new, first-floor apartment at the Northridge Meadows apartment complex — on Reseda Boulevard, one block from campus — when the Northridge earthquake struck, according to the Feb. 7, 1994, issue of the Daily Sundial. He was one of two CSUN students, along with 14 other people, killed when the structure collapsed.

Sandoval’s younger brother, Juan DeDios, told the Daily Sundial that Manuel pushed his siblings to get an education. At CSUN, Sandoval developed a passion for teaching, working as a tutor with the Operation Chicano Teacher Recruitment and Support Program and using his math and science knowledge to assist future teachers. “He was always into school, but when he started tutoring, he found he really liked it,” DeDios told the Daily Sundial.

Also killed at the apartment complex was student Jaime Reyes, 19, whom loved ones remembered for his commitment

to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) Summer Bridge Program for academically at-risk students. Reyes’ sisterin-law, Marina Reyes, told the Daily Sundial that Jaime loved CSUN. “Oh, how much he wanted to come to school,” Marina said. “He had been told many times that he wasn’t college material. He was determined to prove them wrong.”

CSUN Associated Students established memorial scholarships in Reyes’ and Sandoval’s names. The scholarships “are humanitarian awards from students of this university to future CSU Northridge financially need-based students,” according to My Matador Scholarships.

With 16 of the 57 deaths attributed to the earthquake occurring at Northridge Meadows, lawmakers and civic leaders called for the retrofit of similar structures and for increased building safety. Months after the earthquake, crews razed the damaged complex to make way for the Parc Ridge Apartments. »

“The 1994 Northridge earthquake [was]…a force of nature that was no match for the indomitable spirit of this campus.”

Thirty years after the Northridge earthquake, President Erika D. Beck recalls its lasting impact. On this year’s anniversary, she noted that it was “one of the worst natural disasters ever to strike an American university.” The resilient Matador spirit, Beck said, could not be extinguished by a natural disaster.

The 1994 temblor “reduced much of our campus to rubble in the blink of an eye,” Beck said, marveling at the quick reopening of campus under the bold leadership of then-CSUN President Blenda J. Wilson. She added that the quake was “a force of nature, but it was no match for the indomitable spirit of this campus, which stood united — with thousands of volunteers from across the country — and executed a feat of physical reconstruction that is hard to imagine, with makeshift classrooms, modular trailers and a semester that began a mere two weeks late.”

In the same speech, Beck noted that the global COVID-19 pandemic required a similar tenacity when it came to serving students remotely and then repopulating the campus. The pandemic was “a time of incredible hardship, as faculty and staff balanced their own well-being with an unwavering commitment to serving our students and the community that depends upon us, finding new ways to advance our educational mission in seemingly endless iterations of virtual, hybrid, in-person and ‘hy-flex’ (hybrid flexible) formats.” »


The spring 1994 semester began just 2 weeks late, as students and faculty adjusted to makeshift classrooms.


“We were coming here as professionals trying to create a college experience, and we were still filing FEMA claims for our own homes. It was personal and professional. We were working on both those fronts and trying to project a level of calm and can-do to provide students with some stability.”

As a freshman at what was then San Fernando Valley State College in 1971, William Watkins ’74 (Urban Studies) lived through the 6.5-magnitude Sylmar earthquake. Decades later, as CSUN’s assistant vice president for Student Life, he survived the 6.7magnitude Northridge earthquake and helped inform students about the rebuilding process. “One of my primary roles was assembling student leaders and leaders of clubs and organizations to inform students about what was going on,” Watkins said. “We were having these meetings, open forums and town halls out under trees and in very makeshift kinds of ways.”

Today, Watkins serves as dean of students and vice president for Student Affairs. Reflecting on the Northridge earthquake, he said the rebuilding effort brought students, faculty and administrators together in a common vision for the university. He recalled the special challenges faculty and staff faced at the time. “We were coming here as professionals trying to create a college experience, and we were still filing FEMA claims for our own homes,” he said. “It was personal and professional. We were working on both those fronts and trying to project a level of calm and can-do to provide students with some stability.”

Unlike the recent global pandemic, which forced people to stay apart, Watkins said, a key aspect of CSUN’s successful recovery from the earthquake was the ability to be together. “I’m absolutely confident that part of what permitted us to get through the Northridge earthquake was the fact that we could be in community, as imperfect as it was,” he said. “We could hear from each other. We could encourage each other. We could be in those spaces together. Not so with the pandemic.”

In the aftermath of the 1994 quake, students faced “a pretty rugged existence,” Watkins said. “It was just a little city of bungalows with rows of asphalt. It was a pretty spartan life. We have always revered the ruggedness and the resilience of the students who made it through that experience.”


Gravity betrays you, and the ground beneath your feet is no longer reliable. What happens next?

This was the inspiration for “Existencia,” a new piece created by Diavolo dance company that had its world premiere Jan. 17 and 19 at CSUN’s Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya).

The special event commemorating 30 years since the Northridge earthquake showcased the dance company’s athleticism and “unique brand of spectacle, as well as its humanity and grace,” according to the Soraya’s artistic team.

Joining the dancers on stage were drummer Antonio Sanchez and vocalist Thana Alexa. The jazz duo created a new score and soundscape in collaboration with Diavolo, also inspired by the personal impacts of earthquakes on their families in Mexico City and Croatia.

In 1994, in the wake of the earthquake, Diavolo — then a fledgling company — set up shop in Northridge, founded by recent CalArts graduate Jacques Heim. The company was inspired to meet the moment of the quake’s aftermath, they noted, with daring and innovative works that celebrated the human spirit.

In 2011, when the university first opened The Soraya’s doors (then known as the Valley Performing Arts Center), it took center stage as the cultural heart of the region, and Diavolo quickly found a regular home there.

This winter, Diavolo and The Soraya joined forces again to craft and premiere “Existencia,” a reflection on how a community resets and evolves in the face of disaster. Beyond destruction, the work examined the resilience, humility and selflessness that surfaced as the community faced the unknown and wrestled with mortality.

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Mind, Body, Spirit , to Spirit in Motion — to better celebrate the uncompromising drive of each athlete, the forward progress — exceeding what others thought possible.

It’s that iron will, that drive — that spirit — to run, leap, dive, shoot beyond expectations that may best define the elite athletes of the Paralympic Games. A nearly universally recognized TV juggernaut, the Olympic Games return to primetime late this July in Paris. And a few weeks later, in a long-overdue but most welcome development for popular culture and global audiences, the Paralympic Games will have their due on NBC, Peacock and other platforms, Aug. 28-Sept. 8.

A quadrennial event like the Olympics, the Paralympics include athletes with physical, vision and/or intellectual impairments. Growing awareness and commitment to inclusion and accessibility this century no doubt boosted widespread interest, but it’s also more straightforward: Paralympians inspire. This is must-see TV (and social media).

A lengthy roster of Matadors have competed on the elite global Paralympics stage — and a number are training for Paris 2024. Many started at California State University, Northridge as student-athletes focused on one goal, only to succeed in an entirely different arena. Here are three who embody Spirit in Motion.


Katie Holloway Bridge ’08 (Sociology) is a two-time Paralympic gold medalist who was named MVP of the Tokyo 2020 Games, as Sitting Volleyball team captain. In 2004 however, when she arrived on the CSUN campus, she was a journalism major and member of the Matador Women’s Basketball team. Bridge was born with fibular hemimelia — without a fibula bone — in her right leg, which led to amputation of her foot and ankle at age 2. Wearing a prosthetic leg, she went on to excel at basketball and volleyball.

“Once I was fitted with a prosthesis, I never knew anything different,” Bridge said. She grew up in Lake Stevens, Wash., playing numerous able-bodied sports, and she fell in love with basketball, volleyball and softball. When she graduated from Lake Stevens High School, CSUN recruited her for women’s hoops.

As an undergraduate, Bridge happened upon a sitting volleyball practice in Redwood Hall, in one of the many gyms adjacent to what’s now known as Premier America Credit Union Arena. In sitting volleyball, players are on the floor and must maintain

/ ‘12 / ‘16 / ‘20

contact with it at all times, including at least one part of the bottom when hitting the ball. At the time, Bridge introduced herself to the coach and soon joined the team.

“At first, it seemed like it would be less challenging than what I was currently doing,” she said, “but the opposite is true. You are playing on your butt and using your whole body in a different way. And at first it was scary, because I had to take off my prosthetic and play in front of thousands of people. But I totally fell in love with the sport.”

Bridge went on to train with the U.S. Women’s Sitting Volleyball team at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, and she’s competed as outside hitter in four Paralympic Games. At the 2008 Games in Beijing, Team USA reached the gold medal match and lost to China, bringing home silver. Team USA went head-to-head with China twice more, and at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, finally took the gold. The team repeated in Tokyo, where Bridge was captain.

“It had to be the best women’s sitting volleyball game I’ve ever played in or seen,” she said. In total, Bridge counts two silvers and two golds in her display case. She’s not done, but her world has changed since Tokyo. “I had my baby after the Tokyo Games, and now I’m hoping to qualify for Paris,” she said. Daughter Claire is now a year old.

Rome hosted the first Paralympic Games in 1960, and it has been a long road to recognition. Now that viewers can watch Paralympic events on TV and streaming platforms, the excitement and opportunities have multiplied, which she hopes will lead to further growth and resources, Bridge said. Her experience at CSUN fostered determination and taught her the value of hard work, she added.

“Playing college basketball as an amputee is not easy, and what I have pulled from my time at Northridge is an extreme work ethic,” Bridge said. “One of my coaches, Carla Houser, and I had a love-hate relationship, meaning she pushed me to my capacity, and always had my back. If I had never learned just how hard I could go, I wouldn’t have known I could do it.


“And now, I can love myself as an athlete with a disability, which also is tough in the U.S.,” she continued. “Although USA Volleyball helps support us, other countries fund their Paralympic athletes full time.” Bridge, 37, now works for a tech company, Teamworks, and lives in Palo Alto, Calif., with her husband and daughter.

Jamie Whitmore ’98 (Criminology and Corrections) always wanted to go to the Olympics and has been “extremely athletic” since age 5, she said. Born in Sacramento, Whitmore competed in track and field and attended CSUN on a scholarship. After graduation, she competed in triathlons — including the grueling Wildflower Triathlon in Central California — then discovered mountain bike racing.

She found her sweet spot in the XTERRA Triathlon, an extreme event that combines swimming, mountain biking and running. Whitmore was world champion in 2004, and by 2008 had 37 wins, six national titles and the XTERRA world title. When she returned home from the 2008 World Championships in Maui, though, something was off.

“I took some time off and when I started up again, there was this weird tightness in my hamstring,” Whitmore said. “I couldn’t run at first, then it got so bad that I couldn’t ride — or even sit — without pain. That’s when I knew something was wrong.” She went to several specialists, who diagnosed

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'08 • Beijing

Katie Holloway Bridge, sitting volleyball, USA

'12 • London

Katie Holloway Bridge, sitting volleyball, USA

Wesley Williams, blind guide, track and field, USA

'16 • Rio de Janeiro

Katie Holloway Bridge, sitting volleyball, USA

Jamie Whitmore, road and track cycling, USA

Wesley Williams, blind guide, track and field, USA

'20 • Tokyo

Katie Holloway Bridge, sitting volleyball, USA

Jamie Whitmore, road and track cycling, USA

Wesley Williams, blind guide, track and field, USA


'88 • Seoul

Dave Stephens javelin, USA

Bob Samuelson volleyball, USA

'96 • Atlanta

Dave Stephens javelin, USA


'76 • Montreal

Julie Brown 800meter dash, USA

Sandra Howard USA

Pam Spencer-Marquez high jump, USA

Kathy Weston

800-meter dash, USA

overuse, a ruptured disc, even ovarian cysts (and at one point was told she simply had a low pain threshold) before landing at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, where doctors diagnosed her with spindle cell sarcoma.

'80 • Moscow, USSR

Julie Brown 800meter dash, USA*

Pam Spencer-Marquez high jump, USA*

*Did not compete due to U.S. boycott

'84 • Los Angeles, Jodi Anderson USA

Jeanette Bolden

4x100-meter relay, USA

Valerie Brisco-Hooks 200- and 400meter dash, USA

Alice Brown 4x100-meter relay, USA

Florence GriffithJoyner 100- and 200-meter dash, 4x100-meter relay and 4x400-meter relay, USA

Pam Spencer-Marquez high jump, USA

'88 • Seoul

Valerie Brisco-Hooks 4x100-meter relay, USA

Alice Brown

4x100-meter relay, USA

Florence GriffithJoyner 100- and 200-meter dash, 4x100-meter relay and 4x400-meter relay, USA

'92 • Barcelona

Sandy Myers, 200and 400-meter dash, Spain

'16 • Rio de Janeiro

Lynda Moralies volleyball, USA

Hafsatu Kamara 100-meter dash, Sierra Leone

'20 • Tokyo

Samantha Dirks 4x100-meter relay, Belize

“They found a huge tumor growing through my pelvic area,” Whitmore said. “It looked like a butternut squash, and the x-ray didn’t show it because it was within the pelvic bone.”

‘This was a pivotal point for me,’ Whitmore said. ‘It gave me hope to forge on and find a new way to compete.’

An initial surgery left Whitmore’s left leg paralyzed, but she was able to learn to walk again. Within two months, however, the tumor returned and grew bigger. A second surgery took 12 hours and removed part of Whitmore’s tail bone, the rest of her sciatic nerve and her left gluteal muscle. She also faced nearly fatal sepsis and had a drain in her back for 10 months before she was strong enough for chemotherapy.

Later, a third surgery moved her left kidney to her right pelvic area, and she was feeling pretty good for a while. One day, Whitmore started getting queasy again and thought the cancer had returned.

“Turns out I was pregnant with twins!” she said, laughing. She’s now remarried and the mother of 14-year-old twin boys.

While Whitmore was recovering from the first surgery, she got a call from Bob Babbitt, co-founder of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a nonprofit that supports people with physical challenges to pursue active lifestyles and competitive athletics. “There’s always Paralympics,” Babbitt told her.

“This was a pivotal point for me,” Whitmore said. “It gave me hope to forge on and find a new way to compete.”

And it’s clear that Whitmore must compete. Just three years after her first surgery, she was back on her bike. With support from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, specialists fitted Whitmore with an Allard AFO brace that allows her to cycle by transferring the work from her foot and lower leg to her quad muscle. She started competing in paracycling road and track events, medaling in both. At the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Whitmore won gold in the road race and silver in the 3,000-meter track event.

As a track and field student-athlete at CSUN, Whitmore learned independence and the value of teamwork, she said. After graduation, “the XTERRA games taught me how to endure and adapt to difficult situations,” she added. “Rarely do those races go smoothly! You have to decide whether to quit or fight to the end.”

Whitmore, 47, still has to qualify for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. There are three qualifying events: two World Cup races in Europe in May, and a final race in July in Loma Linda, Calif., where the U.S. team will be announced. If she makes it back to the Paralympic Games, she’s hoping to bring her family. “The boys were there when I competed in Rio, and it was incredible,” she said.

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COUNT * - 2Williams competes as a guide with Paralympian Lex Gillette WESLEY WILLIAMS ’05

For guide runner Wesley Williams ’05 (Graphic Design), competing became a labor of love. Williams, an All-Big West Conference selection in 2004 as a sprinter for CSUN, had lofty aspirations for competing after graduation. But life stepped in, and there were bills to pay. He was working at Enterprise RentA-Car when his friend and fellow Central California track star Jerome Avery told Williams about his experience as a guide runner in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens.

Williams idolized Avery, who’d competed in the 2000 Olympic Trials. “[I’d] never heard of the Paralympics,” Williams said in a 2021 interview with CSUN. “[Avery told me], ‘You wouldn’t believe what I just came back from. This is phenomenal. These blind athletes, they get busy.’” (For the record, Williams also idolized Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson.)

In 2005, thanks to his friend’s connection, USA Paralympic Track and Field “started flying me all over the place,” Williams said. “At first I did it because I could still train and compete at a high level on my own. Then, I started working with the runners, went to my first Parapan American Games in 2007, and realized the importance of [the guide’s] role. I just loved the guys and wanted to do the best I could for them.”

Williams moved to Chula Vista, home of the summer Olympic Training Center. He worked with many athletes, but once he met blind athlete Lex Gillette, something just clicked. By 2009, the pair were working together full time.

“He is definitely a force, and has amazing drive,” Williams said of Gillette. “And ability — he plays baseball. People wonder how, but Lex can do it.” Gillette has written a couple of

books, including one titled “Fly,” the mantra Williams chants as Gillette runs toward his takeoff spot in the long jump.

Gillette focuses on the 100-meter dash (sprint) and the long jump, where he’s dominated in U.S. competitions for 20 years. But as dedicated and respected as he is, the top global prize has eluded him: Gillette has yet to win Paralympic gold.

“It’s crazy,” Williams said. “He broke the world record, is a five-time Para World champ and has won so many medals, but has only gotten to silver at the Paralympics.” Gillette’s most recent shot at it was the Tokyo 2020 Games (postponed to summer 2021), where he won silver, again, in the long jump.

The relationship between a blind athlete and their guide is built on trust, the pair said. Williams’ and Gillette’s personalities complement each other, with Williams’ humor making him a fan favorite. For the 100-meter sprint, Williams and Gillette are tethered, with a lanyard just short enough that they stay within two lanes. For the long jump, they count off eight steps from the start to the launch point, and Williams uses vocal cues to his jumper.

Williams’ motivation, he said, continues to be the sense of pride he feels knowing he’s a crucial part of Gillette’s journey. The pair aims to qualify for the Paris Paralympics — and medal in the 100 meters (“Guides don’t get medals for the field events, but they do in track events,” Williams said, laughing). And, perhaps, that elusive gold in the long jump. Williams, 41, said this will be his last Games. After the late summer games, he’ll serve as a brand ambassador for Almond Rx. “But Lex will keep on going,” he said — with a new guide as wingman.

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when yahya kedir was 17, his AP English Literature teacher at Palisades High School, Todd Wilkinson, posed a simple question without a simple answer:

“How are you feeling?”

Most of the seniors in class scribbled a one- or two-sentence answer, but the question ignited something in Kedir. Already fond of journaling, collecting inspirational quotes and especially writing out his goals, he poured out his heart and filled the page with a vision statement:

“My current stress level is high, but not because of school. I have been dealing with family issues and dealing with trying to be more safe in my neighborhood,” wrote Kedir, who grew up in inner-city Los Angeles, in between Jefferson Park and Vermont Square. He and his twin sister spent four years rising at 5 a.m. and commuting 26 miles each way by school bus to Pali.

“I think I am ready for college,” he continued. “I cannot wait, honestly. Four more years in a better environment is a reality I thought I would never see due to all the young people in my neighborhood that died recently, or are in jail. Palisades has shaped me to be a better person and has motivated me that I can live as great as the

richer kids if I work harder than anyone else. … I plan on using all the resources I can at the college I go to. I hope to beat the odds of overcoming… God got me. Always.”

Kedir handed in his vision statement, and the next day, his teacher returned it with a few phrases circled and underlined. In his view, the high school, like many schools, didn’t have enough resources available to support him. He’d written in the topright corner: “You deserve the credit.”

Kedir snapped a photo on his phone, to remember.

“I have a screenshot of that,” he reflected this past winter, more than four years later. “I look at it sometimes, and I’m pretty proud of where I’m at now. I remember that moment. I answered that really honestly, to let out what I really felt. I wanted to use better resources in college and, ultimately, change my life in a positive way.”

meetings and helping organize programs. There’s a chill in the air outside, and Kedir is prepping for his penultimate final exams and winter break. A senior majoring in systems and operations management with a minor in information systems in the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, he’s busy. Very busy.

It’s late November 2023, and Kedir sits in the conference room of CSUN’s Black House, where he works as a student assistant, greeting other students, scheduling

When not working at the Black House a center for Black student life and clubs, tucked away on Halstead Street between CSUN’s Lab School preschool and its Glenn Omatsu House for Asian and Asian American studies Kedir serves as co-president of the Habesha Student Union (HSU) for Matadors of East African descent, as well as on the campus’ Black Student Success Council and as journalist for the Black Student Union. The Black House is a nexus, and his experience there as well as with key mentors across the university is indicative of the army of people working to foster Black joy, Black excellence and Black student success at CSUN. Newer recruitment and retention programs such as Black Scholars Matter (see sidebar, p. 43) have joined forces with foundational programs and orgs (the Black House, Black Student Union, Africana Studies and more). The work goes on.

Kedir lives adjacent to CSUN in a two-bedroom apartment with his childhood best friend (and fellow Matador) Million Mebratu, in a place they’ve dubbed “The Palace.” It’s just 30 miles as the crow flies from their neighborhood but Northridge might as well be a different planet.

“Where I come from, I never thought I’d be doing anything like this,” said Kedir, 22, the son of Ethiopian immigrants. “As a kid, at 16, 17, I never thought I would be in these positions working at the Black House, president of HSU. I do want better for myself. That’s what I live for every day. There is more to life than just the inner-city more to life than just South Central L.A. I want my experience to motivate others that there is a way out.

“There’s a lot of people from L.A. that do end up in college, but not many make it. Not that many that stay and persevere,” he said. “When I came back after COVID [when campus reopened for in-person learning in early 2021], I had pride within myself that I’m still one of the people standing here. I’m proud of all my friends, too even the ones that dropped out, they’re still doing good. It’s a lot to process we [Black students] have the highest dropout rate, the highest lack of retention. I didn’t need to see a statistic or percentage to understand how it felt. A lot of my friends left to pursue art and fashion. Some kids ended up having babies. Some of my friends passed away. And I ended up staying here.

“It’s a big sacrifice. People don’t talk about that enough, to make it through fouryear university especially if you start as a first-year student, and if you’re a first-generation student,” he said, noting the stereotypes and assumptions people (even relatives) made about what he would do or choices he’d make associating with gangs or drugs in his neighborhood, like too many peers. “I always had to fight for my spot in school, in my community, and say, ‘That’s not who I am.’”


Kedir’s father fled Ethiopia amid political upheaval in the 1990s. Later, with Kedir’s mother, he found safe harbor as a refugee in Nairobi, Kenya, and then emigrated to Southern California. The couple eventually settled in Los Angeles, where he worked as a taxi owner and driver, and she as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Focused on education, Kedir’s mom, Hamzia, ran the gauntlet of the LAUSD lottery system and enrolled her twins not in their neighborhood schools but closer to where she worked, at Palisades Charter High School.

In eighth grade, Yahya had argued with his twin sister about high schools: He wanted to go to Fairfax High, where his friends were going for basketball, and she’d set her sights on Hamilton High School. Hamzia urged a compromise and insisted: “My mom said Pali was our best bet,” he recalled. Kedir already had distinguished himself as a gifted student, taking GATE (gifted and talented education) classes throughout elementary and middle school including geometry in eighth grade and Algebra 2 in ninth grade. By high school, “I recognized that I was one of the only Black students in the math classes I took,” he said.

Playing basketball, things started to go sideways for Kedir in his freshman year of high school. He sustained a leg injury during a game and had to have surgery during his sophomore year.

“I was on crutches for four months. I missed a lot of class. That time was very frustrating. The teachers weren’t really understanding my situation,” he said. “I still had to take the bus, with the crutches. My parents tried to adjust their work schedules as best they could and give us rides.”

Between doctor and hospital appointments, he struggled to keep up. Especially in pre-calculus. “At that time, I had a D in the class I was missing homework,” he continued. “I was the only Black student in the class, and there was maybe one Hispanic student. The rest were white students. My teacher treated me far differently than the other students in her class. I had the brainpower, but that adversity held me back. Ultimately, I had to take that pre-calc class again, but with a different teacher. And I did pass that time.”

Another factor that set him apart from his high school classmates that teachers didn’t understand: no internet at home for periods of time. It just wasn’t something the family could afford consistently. As a younger child, Kedir went to public libraries to access the internet and do homework, but as he started middle school, his parents made a crucial decision that Kedir now recognizes as a turning point on his road to college: They sent him to Educating Young Minds’ afterschool tutoring program. The nonprofit, located in the Crenshaw Corridor, was Kedir’s first experience with mentoring, he said.

“That tutoring place saved my life at that time. Through all that madness, that was the one place where I had a lot of community,” he said. “My best friends are from there I grew up with them for about seven or eight years straight. I had a safe and stable place.”

He credited CEO and founder Angeles Echols-Brown for regularly checking in and keeping it real about the challenges and pitfalls on the road to higher education and careers. “She would say, ‘There is gangbanging, drugs, all of that.’ She would be in our head about that often that was a key factor for us [staying in school]. … I was going there in 10th grade, even with the crutches. I was behind, and they helped me get back in the headspace for school.

“I knew my problems were a lot more different than the average student [at Palisades]. I stayed strong through it. I wouldn’t change that experience for nothing. Ultimately, when I did go to college, that set the tone for me. Everything here [at CSUN] is, regardless of where you come from, whether your parents have [money] or not, it’s ultimately up to you to show up and go through your college experience.”


Kedir barely graduated from Palisades. Although college counselors and Educating Young Minds helped him apply, with his checkered high school academic record, CSUN was the only university to accept him, he said. He was thrilled to enroll in fall 2019, reuniting with some of his closest friends from Palms Middle School, and


making the huge life transition with his best friend and fellow alum from Educating Young Minds, Million.

Student housing room and board was out of reach for the pair, so they rented a studio apartment at Meridian Pointe in Northridge. A first-generation student, Kedir didn’t know what he didn’t know at the time, he said, he and his family lacked awareness about the campus’ myriad resources for Black and low-income students at the university level beyond his financial

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aid package (his twin sister had enrolled at a community college).

“The problem I [had] was, I was just like a wild goose, loose on campus. I had no clue what to do,” he said. “I just stopped going to one of my classes. I was distracted. Things like that it’s not like high school, where there’s a set program. You have every period, attendance matters. Nobody was holding me accountable. I didn’t have a job, I was relying on financial aid. ... I didn’t have a car. It took me some time. It took until COVID hit, for me to really understand.”

In his freshman year, without a car, Kedir went home about once a month relying on Metro buses and trains. His mom cooked up large batches of pasta and rice, and sent him back to his apartment with food. His dad, a lifelong entrepreneur and optimist, encouraged him: “My dad always told me, ‘Just do what you gotta do, stay focused. The ones who stay focused usually are the ones who have a better outcome.’”

dorms, along with most universities and institutions around the world. “Freshman year was so weird in March 2020, everyone just left. At that time, I was thinking, ‘Where did all my friends go?’ After that, everything changed,” Kedir said. Many of his closest friends dropped out of school, but Kedir persisted, taking classes online and staying the course. He hustled, working two jobs, bagging online orders at Whole Foods and working retail at Kohls.

“My mindset was, I’m going to work hard, I’m going to save my money, so that when I go back to college [once campus reopens in-person], I’m going to enjoy myself and finally experience just being a college student,” he said. On weekends, Kedir spent time with his childhood friends, fostering hobbies such as photography and modeling for local L.A. brands. As for many people, for the 19 year old, it was a time of introspection.

“I had a lot of resources and people rooting for me in L.A., but I was very nervous about my community here at CSUN,” he said. “It was one of those ‘look in the mirror’ moments: Who are the friends I want around when I graduate? How many people can I say I impacted, and who’ve impacted me? At that time, the answer was: not many people. Maybe Million and the friends I was making freshman year. I wanted to expand. When I came back, my mission was to take over CSUN, get it going here branch out.”


In early 2021, CSUN fully reopened for in-person learning and programs, and Kedir was ready.

One of Million’s friends connected Kedir with his dad, Omar Galvez, district manager for Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services (aka Matador Eats, CSUN’s campus dining service). Galvez offered Kedir a job as a line cook at G’mos, the bustling main cafeteria in the heart of student housing, and as a cashier at the Matador Mercado convenience store. Kedir said yes to every job and opportunity, taking extra shifts in catering at campus special events and clocking 30 (and sometimes up to 40) hours per week. He schmoozed and quickly became a familiar face to faculty and administrators alike including at concessions for the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts.

you don’t know what it’s like. All the work I’ve done at CSUN has developed me as a well-rounded individual.”

Fate also seemed to take a hand, proffering another strong and nurturing mentor for Kedir: Lory Espinosa, his boss in catering at the Orchard Conference Center. He credited his parents and his late uncle with instilling in him a strong work ethic and positive attitude, but Espinosa became a trusted adult on campus.

“You need that trusted adult mentor,” he said. “I’ve luckily stumbled across many of those people here at CSUN, including [Espinosa]. She gave me great advice. She changed my life. She was great at acknowledging my growth, too, because I’m very hard on myself. She was one of those few nurturing people. She could see my drive, and she reassured me that I could be where I am right now.”

By his junior year, student clubs and campus life were making a comeback, and Kedir found the Black House where he


In March 2020, the pandemic swept the globe, shuttering CSUN’s classrooms and

“That was my way of getting to know the campus better,” Kedir said. “Food service, it makes you humble. Until I got behind that counter or wearing that apron,

became a regular at “Barbershop Talks” programs, a safe hangout space for Black male students. “I was really vocal, it was really fun. … That’s how I built more good Black male friendships here. This was a place where I felt everyone could sit down and be who you are. A safe space.

“The stigma with Black students, at least men, is always prideful, high ego. So, at least this was a place where you could sit down, have mutual respect,” he said. “Luckily, we have the advantage of having a lot of direct, one-on-one mentoring. That gives students a lot more comfort.”

He took on leadership of the Habesha Student Union (HSU) a whole new role for Kedir. “I was not the most confident with my speaking skills,” he said. After organizing a regional picnic for East African students with HSUs from Cal State L.A., UC Irvine and other schools, though, his confidence grew.

“My parents were really proud. My mom was proud of that title of ‘presi-


dent’ of a student club, that really meant something to her she tells her friends about that,” he said, grinning. “I finally had some real accomplishments at school to tell them about.” Million, his ride-or-die, serves as the club’s vice president, and they’ve embraced their senior-year activities.


As a Black man, Kedir knows he’s a rarity in his major, systems and operations management that’s why he chose it. He wanted a degree in a high-demand field where he could enter the business world well-prepared, he said. He has his eye on a corporate job, potentially in the entertainment industry, Downtown L.A. or even in his dream city, New York.

“It’s going to be a big step when I graduate. I’m finally going to have a little bit more time,” he said. He’s learning how to maintain balance. “[It’s] been hard keeping up my passions, keeping my money flow, keeping the leadership. All of that is so hard to do at once. I’ve been doing it all for a few years now, but it can be easy to want to crash out. I’ve learned that you have to pick and choose. That has been a big focus for this last year not spreading myself too thin. Not working so many jobs, just trying to balance with school.

“I was doing almost 30 hours, sometimes 40 a week, working, while being a full-time student,” he said. “Now, I’m [only working] at the Black House. This year I’m prioritizing trying to have the best grades. It’s a privilege to just be a student. I want to graduate with a great alumni network, with the peers I’ve had here.”

In addition to the HSU and his work at the Black House, Kedir serves on CSUN’s Black Student Success Council, paying it forward to freshmen and future Black Matadors. He remains introspective, reflecting on his journey thus far.

“Black students need that boy-toman transition, and girl-to-woman transition. You do need that person who has that experience to come and really guide you,” Kedir said. “I wish I’d known that earlier, I could have done better my first year. That’s why I’m so active [on campus], because I know I’m the face now for some of these programs. I have that background, I know the hardships, I know how it feels to be that Black student. The Black House if students come early, I guarantee students will stay. That sense of community is really important. This is the place where you can be authentically Black.”

charli givings performed in musical theater and choir throughout her years at L.A.’s Hamilton High School. But off stage, she struggled to find her voice.

“I was definitely shy in high school. If I was confused, I would never speak up. I would just suffer in silence,” Givings said. But two years later, thanks to personal determination and CSUN’s Black Scholars Matter (BSM) program — a recruitment, retention and empowerment program for Black students from three Los Angelesarea public high schools — she’s coming out of her shell and thriving on campus.

“Even just speaking up in class — it’s those small steps toward change,” said Givings, 19, a sophomore and part of the program’s first cohort. “I can see that change and maturity in myself. Black Scholars Matter has really helped with that. They leave space to talk. They encourage open communication with everyone.”

Black Scholars Matter, a merit- and financial-based initiative now in its second cohort year and recruiting its third, works with Black students, parents, counselors and advisors at Alexander Hamilton (Givings’ alma mater), Birmingham Community Charter and William Howard Taft Charter high schools to curate relationships with the high school constituencies, facilitate BSM applications and interviews, and share information about financial aid as well as resources and services at CSUN. Students may apply to Black Scholars Matter and CSUN simultaneously, but must be accepted to CSUN before they’re admitted to BSM. The program helps students get oriented, prepare for university life, find on-campus work and resources and — most important — offers academic, social, emotional, mentorship and tutoring support from the first day of school to graduation.

“A lot of Black students don’t really have a place where they belong. They don’t feel like they matter at college, because there isn’t someone checking on them — asking, ‘How are you doing in your classes? How’s your mental health? Is there anything you need help with?’” said Givings, a psychology major with a child and adolescent development minor. “That’s a lot of the reasons why Black students don’t finish college. BSM’s mission is to support us and get us through these four years — and even support us beyond graduation.

“BSM has helped me so much with college in ways that I never thought. … They encourage being more involved on campus — doing research about different organizations and clubs,” she continued. “We [scholars] also have community engagement, which is volunteering. They want us to go out and change the world — to help out environmentally, locally. Last semester we planted trees around the city, and we did a Heal the Bay beach cleanup.”

The program also helped her land an on-campus job with Matty’s Closet, a free clothing resource for students — for job interviews and internships — as part of CSUN’s Career Center. Givings started volunteering there and loved it (she loves fashion and helping other Matadors), so she joined the small staff as a paid student assistant this school year. “I love my job!” she said, grinning.

The program has opened so many doors and opportunities for Givings and her fellow scholars, she said — but if not for outreach by Theresa White, BSM director and professor of Africana studies, and a push from her college counselor at Hamilton, Givings might have missed it. CSUN was not her first choice, but it turned out to be the right one.

“I wasn’t as involved in the Black community in my high school,” Givings reflected, during a late fall interview in the University Library. “I had doubts about my Black identity, I didn’t really feel like I fit in because I didn’t look like or talk like other Black people — I didn’t feel like I belonged. It wasn’t until George Floyd (in 2020) and the Black Lives Matter movement, that I did some research and got educated.

“I wanted to educate myself about Black history, and I spent time with my aunt, she’s very educated,” she said. “We watched some


“My college counselor at the time, Jocelyn Monroy-Saavedra, really pushed me to join this program. She said, ‘Charli, I know you’re going to CSUN — you should take advantage of this program, it would be really good for you,’” Givings said. “When I got the acceptance email [for BSM], I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ I didn’t know what to expect, but just knowing I was going to have a community of people here at CSUN — I felt so relieved. College is new for everybody. It’s a whole new world, and it’s so different from high school.”

She’s never looked back. Givings is studying hard, performing in CSUN’s Vocal Percussion Radio a capella group and happily living in the dorms — a spacious apartment in north campus’ University Park, which includes a kitchenette. “I’m learning how to cook, very slowly. I love to make breakfast for my friends,” she said.

Black movies and TV shows that she loved when she was growing up. After that, I wanted to learn more and be around people who looked like me. I didn’t get that chance in high school.” As a senior, she also took a Black literature class (focused on Black authors and voices) at Hamilton, which further inspired her to apply to an HBCU (Historically Black College and University).

Givings, a mezzo soprano who spent four years in choir and performing arts at Hamilton, did not get accepted to the HBCU — but she did get into the highly selective Berklee College of Music. “But I didn’t get a scholarship — and it was so far away, in Boston,” she said. “Going across the country to college by myself, it would be hard and we couldn’t really afford it. We don’t know anyone in Massachusetts — I really would have been on my own.”

After “a really long talk” with her mom and grandmother, Givings chose CSUN, the first college acceptance email she’d received. Its proximity to her home in South L.A. (an hour in traffic) and its familiarity, as alma mater to many of her family friends, sealed the deal.

As a BSM scholar, highlights have included her University 100 (freshman seminar) course about the history of San Fernando Valley State College (now CSUN) — including watching and discussing “The Storm at Valley State,” the film that documented the tumultuous fall of 1968 and winter of 1968-89, when Valley State members of the BSU and Students for a Democratic Society led a student walkout and organized a strike on campus. The strike led to a “takeover” of what is now Bayramian Hall to demand the creation of Afro-American and Mexican-American studies departments, and the expansion of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). The following spring, in 1969, the Valley State administration approved the formation and curriculum development of those departments, now known as Africana and Chicana/o studies.

“I loved learning about how we got a BSU, a Black House and all the organizations for students of different ethnicities and races to feel included in college,” Givings said. “For colleges that are as diverse as CSUN, it can be hard to find community, and to find the group of people you want to spend the rest of your years with. BSM provides me that, and not a lot of colleges offer that type of opportunity.”

She’s exploring various career paths, but she’s leaning toward work as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). Her aunt, Jasmin Carnelus, the same one who helped her explore Black history and films — is an LMFT, and they’re close. At the halfway mark of her undergraduate journey, Givings has hit her stride.

“I’m so grateful for BSM, and grateful that my college counselor in high school pushed me to join this program,” Givings said. “I have no regrets. I feel like I belong here.”


CSUN offers a network of resources and programs committed to Black Student Success. Here are just a few.


csun.edu/black-scholars-matter @csun_bsm

DEPARTMENT OF AFRICANA STUDIES csun.edu/social-behavioralsciences/africana-studies

THE BLACK HOUSE csun.edu/blackhouse


BLACK ALUMNI ASSOCIATION csun.edu/alumni/blackalumni-association




csun magazine SPRING 2024 35

Home-Field Advantage

Matador Field renovation and expansion accelerates Athletics

t’s time for Matador Baseball! Gather your hat, sunscreen, peanuts and glove, CSUN fans. Your home field is leveling up.

CSUN is accelerating its sparkling renovation and expansion of Matador Field, a $27 million initiative that will transform player and fan experiences and enable broader community access to the only Division I baseball program and field in the San Fernando Valley.

Upgrades to Matador Field, originally built in the 1960s, are underway. This spring, CSUN installed a new Daktronics video scoreboard — a high-tech addition that will amplify the fun. The Matadors also recently enhanced the playing-field surface, which is now among the best on the West Coast.

Much of the funding is already in place for an enhanced audio system and field lights that will exponentially increase access to baseball in the Valley. The lights will enable the Matadors to play night games at home for the first time in school history, and youth leagues will gain year-round access to the field. CSUN is raising funds to complete these projects and many other exciting changes. A new clubhouse, enhanced seating and other upgrades will make games even more enjoyable for players and fans.

Philanthropist and alumnus Irv Zakheim ’71 (Physical Education) provided momentum for the enhancements. His recent support includes a $500,000 gift (plus an additional $50,000 gift that


As CSUN Baseball builds for the future, we never forget where we came from: Founded as San Fernando Valley State College in 1958, “Valley State” was officially renamed CSUN in the 1970s. This season, Matador sluggers (and even our backstop) are sporting a retro look. Whether you’re an alum, a parent, proud Valley Girl or just a fan, get your own “Valley gear” at the Campus Store Complex or visit  bkstr.com/csunorthridgestore

36 Matador Matters

was matched by the CSUN Foundation). In 2016, Zakheim made the $1.5 million cornerstone gift to fund the lead-off updates to the stadium, including the renovated entrance plaza.

Zakheim, the founder, chairman and CEO of Zak Designs, a global distributor of fun mealtime products and drinkware, was the starting second baseman for CSUN’s 1970 Division II National Championship team. He played in the Chicago White Sox minor league system after graduation.

The renovation will boost player recruitment for an ascendent Matador team competing for championships in the Big West. Under skipper Eddie Cornejo, who succeeded retiring head coach Dave Serrano at the close of the 2022 season, CSUN Baseball in 2023 recorded the most wins since 2002, with 34. The team finished second in the Big West Conference, just one game short of the Big West title.

They led the Big West with a team batting average of .311, the 16th-best in the nation — and the Matadors set a team record with 10 Big West All-Academic Team honorees.

CSUN also had two Major League Baseball Draft picks, the most since 2018. Lucas Braun, a right-handed pitcher, was drafted in the sixth round by the Atlanta Braves — the highest-drafted CSUN player since 2006.

In 2024, the Matadors have dominated at home once again, with a 28-17 record at press time.

University leaders are focused on developing a beautiful, modern Matador Field that serves the wider community and fosters pride in the Valley. Fans interested in contributing to the growth of the CSUN Baseball program can learn more at GoMatadors.com or by contacting (818) 677-7586.

Men’s Basketball Wins Big in Big West Tournament

One of the most thrilling CSUN Men’s Basketball seasons in years came to an end March 14 as the Matadors fell to Hawai’i 75-68 in the quarterfinals of the 2024 Hercules Tires Big West Men’s Basketball Championship.

Before the season, the Matadors weren’t expected to make the eight-team tournament. Instead, the team earned its most wins (19) since the 200708 season, upset UCLA at Pauley Pavilion and won its first postseason game since 2014. Now the future looks bright under new coach Andy Newman, who brought a running, attacking style of play.

Against Hawai’i, first-team All-Big West forward De’Sean Allen-Eikens scored a team-high 22 points and nine rebounds in his final collegiate game while All-Big West honorable mention guard Bostck added 18 points. Forward  tallied 15 points and 10 rebounds. On March 13, CSUN outlasted defending Big West champion UC Santa Barbara, 87-84 in overtime, to win a game in the Big West Basketball Championship tournament for the first time since 2014.

The future looks bright for this squad, New man said after the tournament.

CSUN Welcomes New Women’s Soccer Head Coach

In late February, CSUN welcomed Gina Brewer as Women’s Soccer head coach. A veteran coach at the Division I level, Brewer spent the ’23 season as assistant coach at UCLA, where she helped guide the Bruins to the Pac-12 Championship and a 16-2-1 record.

Previously, she coached and served on staff at Santa Clara, Loyola Marymount, Hawaii Pacific University, University of Hawai’i, Utah State and University of Idaho. A forward, she played at the University of Washington from 1998-2001, helping lead the Huskies to a Pac-10 Championship and NCAA quarterfinal appearance in 2000. Her Husky teams played in the NCAA Tournament three times during her career.

Junior forward Keonte Jones goes for a layup in CSUN’s 87-84 win over UCSB, its first win in a Big West Basketball Championships game since 2014.

A Seattle native, Brewer earned her bachelor’s in sociology with a minor in communications from UW in 2002. She went on to earn an M.Ed. in physical education and health from the University of Idaho in 2005.

Beyond collegiate coaching, she serves as the Olympic Development Program West Region girls technical advisor, a U.S. Soccer coach educator for the National B and C coaching licenses, and a U.S. Soccer Youth National Team scout — she holds a USSF “A” Coaching License.

Nick Bocanegra

csun magazine SPRING 2024 37

Matador Matters

1 After four long years, our beloved CSUN Night at Dodger Stadium made its comeback on Sept. 2, 2023. Matadors cheered on the Boys in Blue as they faced off against the Atlanta Braves. Our very own Irv Zakheim ’71 (Physical Education), who was the starting second baseman for Valley State’s 1970 Division II National Championship team and played in the Chicago White Sox minor league system, threw out the first pitch!

2 Continuing a decades-long Matador tradition, CSUN Alumni gathered at the Hollywood Bowl for an early Independence Day

celebration on July 2, 2023. The evening started with schmoozing and picnicking with fellow alumni, followed by The Beach Boys in concert and legendary Hollywood Bowl fireworks!

3 The 2023 CSUN Alumni Association Student Scholarship Celebration recognized and celebrated the extraordinary work of 15 students and the generosity of our donors. To learn more and donate to the Alumni Association Scholarship Fund, visit engage.csun.edu

4 The Alumni Association hosted the annual Distinguished Alumni Awards in October 2023. Honoring Matadors who exemplify impactful professional leadership and thoughtful community involvement, the event celebrates respected innovators who have elevated CSUN’s reputation and visibility with their commitment to their communities. Honorees David ’86 (Theatre) and Wendy Knoller ’87 (Radio/TV Production) and Fred Rivera ’90 (History) credited their CSUN education for their career (and life!) successes.

5 T he university’s Public Health program celebrated its 50th Anniversary in November 2023 with faculty, students and alumni. The event featured guest speaker and Public Health alumna Angela Padilla ’10 (Psychology), M.P.A. ’22 (Health Administration), joined by her husband, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla.

6 CSUN Alumni joined the university’s annual Bike Fest on Oct. 22, 2023, hosted by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. The free event featured bike repair stations, outdoor spin classes, food, music and giveaways.

2 3 1 5 6 4

Extra! Extra!

Want to find more ways to plug in to your Matador community? Read on!


The official crowdfunding platform for student projects, CSUN Funder, is designed to leverage the power of our Matador community. CSUN Funder helps students and departments share their grassroots fundraising projects with donors who can make a direct impact on their projects. Help us build a brighter future for our students and the CSUN community!

To learn more, apply for a page or donate, visit: csunfunder.csun.edu


CSUN is thrilled to recognize alumni authors and catalog their work. CSUN authors: This is a great opportunity to promote your publications! Fill out this form:  library.csun.edu/csunalumni-authors-form

YEAR 2 | 2024

$525,000 and counting

YEAR 1 | 2023 $236,000

Love for CSUN on Giving Day

Alumni, students, faculty, staff donate to their favorite programs.

Returning after a successful 2023 debut that raised more than $236,000 for CSUN, Giving Day 2024 came back even stronger, raising more than $525,000 and counting for the university. The 36-hour, Matador-powered campaign, held March 6-7, invited students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff, friends and neighbors to raise funds for — and give money to — their favorite CSUN colleges, programs and causes.

“Giving Day provides a platform for people who know of the transformative impact of CSUN to tell their friends and neighbors about all the ways our programs changed their lives for the better,” said CSUN President Erika D. Beck. “By sharing inspiring stories from CSUN with people across the country and around the world, we provide the opportunity for them to make further impact toward a brighter and more equitable future for us all.”

Small gifts made an especially big difference on Giving Day this year. With the majority of all donations totaling $50 or less, Giving Day demonstrated the collective impact of donations of any amount. Programs like student clubs and organizations reaped the benefits of Giving Day, raising nearly $20,000 for various initiatives during the campaign.

Part of the excitement on Giving Day comes from dollar matches and donor-count challenges established by generous donors, who provide opportunities for supporters to increase the impact of their giving to CSUN

programs. This year, alumnus Milt Valera ’68 (Journalism), Hon.D. ’23 and his wife, Debbie Valera, established a donor-count challenge in support of the EOP Milt and Debbie Valera Resilient Scholars Program, which unlocked $50,000 after 25 donors gave to the program during Giving Day.

“Through our challenge gift, we hoped to motivate everyone who has been inspired by the Resilient Scholars Program to give a gift of any size to this incredible program, which is building the leaders of tomorrow,” Valera said.

Giving Day allows individuals and generous donors like the Valeras to raise money for the CSUN programs they care about most, said Nichole Ipach, vice president for University Relations and Advancement.

“The beauty of Giving Day is when our supporters share personal stories about their time at CSUN or the ways the university made a difference in their community,” Ipach said. “Giving becomes personal on Giving Day, because people donate to the CSUN programs nearest and dearest to their hearts, whether that’s the CSUN Food Pantry, the Pride Center or one of our scholarship funds, to name just a few.”

While the final 2024 Giving Day donation stats are still being calculated, the proven campaign brings together the power of social media and networking with fundraising, Ipach said. Plans are already underway for Giving Day 2025, she noted. “We are looking forward to another record-breaking year of sharing our love for CSUN.” — Danielle Fairlee

csun magazine SPRING 2024 39

Empowering the Future

Alumni Connect Students to Career Success

Looking back on their college years, CSUN alumni remember the academic challenges, personal growth and lifelong friendships that propelled them to successful careers. Recognizing the unique value that a CSUN education brings to the table, our alumni reach out and recruit interns and future employees in all sectors. For students, these connections offer a strong support system as they start their career — as well as shared history and a sense of belonging. In return, alumni gain access to new generations of Matadors and a more diverse, inclusive hiring pool.

One of the most effective and rewarding programs offered by the CSUN Alumni Association is Corporate Connect. Current students may visit CSUN alumni workplaces in a variety of industries, from entertainment to insurance, to learn and network with professionals who have a vested interest in their success. Since its inception in 2017, Corporate Connect has hosted more than 700 students at 50 organizations including Warner Brothers, Kaiser Permanente, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Sony, Bank of America and Children’s

Hospital Los Angeles. The tours and networking have yielded numerous internships and entry-level positions for our students.

Corporate Connect’s success has inspired companies such as Corebridge Financial and NBCUniversal to recruit from CSUN’s talented student body. In spring 2023, alumnus Stuart Levine ’86 (Journalism), vice president, editorial and media relations for NBC Entertainment at NBCUniversal, Inc., hosted 12 students (several pictured below) and a cadre of executives in Universal City, where students learned about the intricacies of working for an entertainment giant.

Gessele Malubag, a journalism/ public relations major graduating this May (below, center), joined the company’s L.A. intern team in September. Malubag credited Corporate Connect for being a “helpful and eye-opening” experience and said she was thrilled to parlay the visit into a dream internship with the strategic communications and scripted publicity team.— Naz Keynejad

To learn more about recruitment via Corporate Connect or to host a panel at your company, contact Cristina Bernstein at the Alumni Association: cristina.bernstein@ csun.edu or call 818677-CSUN (2786).

Extra! Extra!


Share your commitment to CSUN by Paving the Way! In partnership with the University Library, the Alumni Association is offering the opportunity to purchase a paver on the Library’s iconic and newly renovated South Portico. With a $5,000 donation, you may honor a classmate, commemorate a milestone, or pay tribute to an alum, family member, faculty, team, campus organization or employee. Proceeds will benefit the University Library and the Alumni Association Student Scholarships fund.

For more information and to donate, visit:  library.csun.edu/give/ pave-the-way

40 Matador Matters

With a world-class education and a passion for meeting today’s needs to support tomorrow’s dreams, the possibilities are unlimited between Premier America and CSUN.

Premier Plus Checking

Earn More. Live Better. With a Premier Plus Checking account, you can earn above-average dividends, get up to $20/mo in ATM fee rebates1, and show off your CSUN pride.

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csun magazine SPRING 2024 41
1) Premier America Credit Union will not charge a fee for accessing your funds at a non CO-OP network ATM owned and operated by another financial institution or business, but you may be charged a fee by the ATM owner/operator. This account will be eligible for up to $20 each month in ATM fee rebates to be credited to your account nightly. 2) To qualify for the $100 New Premier Plus Checking Account Bonus, new account must have an ACH Direct Deposit (minimum single deposit of $250), be opted in to eStatements, and conduct 10 debit and/or credit card transactions within the first 60 days of account opening. Offer subject to change or end without notice. Members with open or converted checking account not eligible for account bonus. Federally insured by NCUA. Equal Opportunity Lender. PROUDLY SERVING AS THE EXCLUSIVE CREDIT UNION OF CSUN ALUMNI ASSOCIATION! PremierAmerica.com/CSUN PLUS! Earn a $100 bonus2 with an active Premier Plus Checking account! Scan the QR code to get started - enter code CSUN Show off your school spirit with a CSUN branded Debit and Credit Card!

Carpe Diem

Foundation makes CSUN home for students’ ambitions

ANGELINA ZUNIGA KRAMER was one of 20 freshmen selected for CSUN’s first cohort of CREA Scholars.

As a high schooler, Angelina Zuniga Kramer accompanied her stepfather to construction sites where he worked, and it inspired her to dream big.

She saw how small companies could contribute to huge public-works projects, such as highways and bridges, and she decided: She wanted to be a civil engineer. She learned that women are still underrepresented in the field, but she knew she was capable.

Her family’s financial struggles had made it difficult to settle in one place, and Zuniga Kramer’s grades had suffered, she said. Before starting her junior year at Edward R. Roybal Learning Center in Los Angeles, she dedicated herself to boosting her grades, taking online and weekend classes.

In 2023, she was accepted to CSUN and its Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), and she enrolled for the fall semester. A first-generation college student, Zuniga

42 Giving

Kramer applied for a scholarship from the CREA Foundation, which aims to support students who reside in affordable housing communities for families with low incomes.

“I knew I had potential in me,” the freshman reflected recently. “I explained to [the scholarship committee] that going to college is the biggest opportunity because I’m the first ever in my family to go to college, or to even finish my high school credits. So, I saw it as an opportunity where I just don’t want to go to college, but I want to finish college.”

The scholarship already has made a huge difference in stabilizing her living situation and her academic life. It helped cover the cost of her dorm room at CSUN. She used to do her homework on her phone, and the glitchy formatting on documents could cost her points on her grades, she said. But with the scholarship funds, she was able to purchase an iPad.

Zuniga Kramer was one of 20 freshmen in fall 2023 selected for CSUN’s first cohort of CREA Scholars, established through a $260,000 contribution from the CREA Foundation. Matching funds from the CSUN Foundation through its recent Matador Match Challenge initiative doubled the number of available scholarships for fall 2023.

The CREA Foundation is an extension of the Indianapolis-based CREA, LLC, which finances the development of affordable-housing communities for families across the nation. California represents the second-largest concentration of CREA communities in the United States.

CSUN is just the second university in the nation with a CREA Scholars Program, following the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis program established in fall 2022. CREA Foundation chose CSUN for its proximity to CREA communities and its longstanding success in supporting students who face socioeconomic barriers — so they can persist and graduate.

The CREA Foundation scholarship at CSUN is renewable and provides, on average, $5,000 annually. The scholarship is available to students who qualified for one of three CSUN programs that expand access to historically low-income, educationally disadvantaged, first-generation students, helping them enter college and thrive: EOP, EOP’s Milt and Debbie Valera Resilient Scholars Program, and the EOP/TRIO Student Services Support Program.

These programs provide comprehensive services that assist students throughout their college journey, including academic and emotional support, financial literacy and career assistance.

“The CREA Scholars Program is an amazing opportunity for students,” said Shiva Parsa, CSUN’s EOP director. “CREA did a great job communicating to the students that

“I saw it as an opportunity where I just don’t want to go to college, but I want to finish college.”
Angelina Zuniga Kramer, engineering major and one of 20 freshmen in fall 2023 selected for CSUN’s first cohort of CREA Scholars



The CREA Foundation Scholarship at CSUN is renewable and provides, on average, $5,000 annually.

CREA Foundation chose CSUN for its proximity to CREA communities and its longstanding success in supporting students who face socioeconomic barriers — so they can persist and graduate.

Learn more at creallc.com/ foundation

not only do they have EOP behind them, they have CREA behind them as well.”

The scholarship already has helped freshman Lucio Aranda prioritize his studies. He came to CSUN to study psychology, and he wants to provide a safe space for therapy for people with similar backgrounds to his, Aranda said.

Before receiving the CREA Scholarship, Aranda had worried about his family’s financial situation, he said. When he started at CSUN, he was living in East Los Angeles, commuting on public transportation two hours each way. The scholarship allowed him to move to an apartment near campus, freeing up time to study. “It definitely made a big difference,” he said.

CREA Foundation Executive Director Arvetta Jideonwo said the program is designed to disrupt cycles of poverty by providing access to education opportunities.

“All these students have ambitions, they have things they want to do in life,” Jideonwo said. “We’re not only helping them immediately and helping them as individual students, but we’re also helping their families for generations to come.”

CREA also boasts some proud Matador connections — CREA, LLC’s co-president, Charles Anderson, and its account manager vice president, Asia Williams, are CSUN alumni. Anderson grew up in affordable housing, and CSUN’s business program was the catalyst for his career, he said.

“CSUN has a special place in my heart,” Anderson said. “Everybody needs opportunity in order to succeed, and our goal and sincere desire is for each of the CREA Scholars to grasp this opportunity and make the most of it.” —Jacob Bennett

csun magazine SPRING 2024 43

Northridge Notes


JUDY BACA ’69 (Art), M.A. ’80 (Art), HON.D. ’18 , a past Distinguished Alumni Award winner, has her first solo exhibition at LACMA. Between 1976-83, she and other artists from the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), an organization she co-founded, painted The Great Wall of Los Angeles, a massive and stunning public mural that pays homage to California history. The Great Wall is located near Valley College, in the flood control channel of the Tujunga Wash in North Hollywood. Baca plans to expand this mural to add representation of the 21st century. The LACMA exhibition, which opened in October 2023, highlights the mural as well as never-before-seen archival pieces. The solo exhibition, “Painting in the River of Angels: Judy Baca and the Great Wall,” runs until June 2.


MICHAEL MCCLISH ’72 (Music), ’74 (Secondary Teaching Credential), M.A. ’78 (Music), released his first CD, “Flights of Fancy,” in 2022, and celebrated the premiere of his latest large work for chorus and orchestra, “Ascension Mass,” in 2023. A baritone, he has been a regular soloist at churches and synagogues in the L.A. area

for more than four decades, and he taught math, music and technology in the Los Angeles Unified School District from 1984-2012. Two of his major works, “Requiem of Remembrance” and “Magnificat and Gloria,” have been honored by the annual nonprofit national competition The American Prize. As a student at Valley State, he had leading and supporting operatic roles with what is now known as the CSUN Opera Theater. He also won the San Fernando Valley Symphony Young Artist Award and was the L.A. District Winner of the Western Regional Auditions of the New York Metropolitan Opera.

BRUCE BABCOCK ’74 (Music), M.A ’75 (Music) is an Emmy-winning composer for TV, film and the concert hall. His music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Boston Metro Opera, the Santa Barbara Chamber Music Festival (as composer-in-residence) and the Beverly Hills International Music Festival. Babcock has won awards from The American Prize and The Global Music Awards, as well as eight Emmy nominations and eight TV/film awards for Broadcast Music Inc.

DIANE WARREN ’78 (Music) received an Oscar nomination for the song “The Fire Inside” for the film “Flamin’ Hot,” directed by fellow CSUN alumna EVA LONGORIA ’13 (M.A., Chicana/o Studies). Warren is a Grammy, Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner

for songwriting. Previously, Warren penned memorable hits for and with pop music’s top artists, including Lady Gaga, Elton John, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Beyoncé, Cher, Aerosmith and Celine Dion.


NANCY EDWARDS ’82 (Radio-TV-Film Production) published her first novel, “Good Ol’ Boy: Bad Sheriff.” Prior to becoming a published author, Edwards worked in the film industry for 30 years as a producer and 1st assistant director. She wrote, produced and directed the festival award-winning documentary “Certain Adverse Events.”

ED ABELE ’8 3 (Economics) was re-elected to the Rancho Simi Recreation and Parks District Board of Directors. He serves as the board vice chair for 2024 and is slated to take over as board chair in 2025. Abele has served on the board since 2017. He spent more than 31 years as a deputy district attorney for the County of Los Angeles before retiring in 2019. During his career, he was honored as Deputy District Attorney of the Month and presented with a certificate of recognition from the FBI.

DAN ELLER ’84 (Health Science), M.P.H. ’87 is a professor emeritus of public relations in the Department of Journalism at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Eller is the former director of communications at Hearst Castle.

MICHAEL SELLARS ’84 (Communication and Media Studies) was elected for a third term as president of the

Los Angeles Police Reserve Foundation. He retired as a police officer after 26 years of service and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the LAPD in 2019. Prior to his career in law enforcement, Sellars worked in the film industry as a buyer for movies and music, and as executive director of sales for Lionsgate Films.

Please submit notes for future publication to magazine@ csun.edu

SUSAN (AZIMZADEH) BOYER ’85 (Radio-TV-Film) made her literary debut in 2022 with the young adult novel “Jasmine Zumideh Needs a Win,” a light satire about what happens when an international incident crashes into a high school election. Her second novel, “The Search For Us” — about a brother and sister who have never met joining together to find the father they never knew — was released in October 2023. After graduating from CSUN, Boyer studied screenwriting at UCLA and was accepted to the Sundance Producers Conference, where she was inspired to write, produce and direct an independent feature film in 2008 about Alzheimer’s disease, starring Academy Award nominee Shirley Knight. After nearly 20 years in the Bay Area, Susan lives in the Coachella Valley with her husband, Wayne.

MICHAEL COPELAND ’85 (Business Administration) has worked as a commercial real estate broker for the past 38 years with Cushman and Wakefield, Colliers International and CBRE. He also has written more than 300 lifestyle articles and personality profiles for magazines throughout the country. He was named chairman of the board of directors

for Discovery Counseling Center, a nonprofit mental health agency supporting the community and local school district in the San Ramon Valley, Bay Area.

ANDY M. WEISSER ’85 (Journalism) is a communications and public relations consultant. One of his recent clients is “Trustworthy,” a documentary that explores media, trust and democracy. The film’s tagline is: “If journalism declines, democracy declines.” Weisser helped organize a screening and panel discussion at CSUN on March 5, co-sponsored by the Department of Journalism. Weisser also organized recent screenings and discussions at the Skirball Cultural Center in L.A.; the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Conference in Washington, D.C.; the Society of Professional Journalists national convention in Las Vegas; and the Journalism Education Association/ National Scholastic Press Association National High School Journalism Conference in Boston.


DAN MCCRORY ’92 is producing a labor- and unionthemed show, “Working Voices,” on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles. The show launched in November and airs on Tuesdays at 5 p.m.

ALAN PERSON ’99 (Music) is the chief financial officer (CFO) of the independent record label Hopeless Records. As CFO, he is responsible for all company operations including the supervision of staff, business and legal affairs functions. During his career, he has guest lectured at CSUN, USC and UCLA, among others. Person also has overseen

the creation of The Hopeless Foundation’s Sub City nonprofit, which has donated more than $3 million to charities and causes connected to the artists with which the label works.


RINGO CHIU ’01 (Special Major –Journalism), a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, has joined CSUN’s Department of Strategic Communication and Brand Management team as Senior Photographer. Previously, he worked as a freelance photographer for the Associated Press, Reuters, Getty Images, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Business Journal, Zuma Press and more. In 2021, Chiu was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in the Breaking News category for his coverage of Los Angeles protests after the murder of George Floyd in 2020.

DAVID KANO ’03 (Broadcast Journalism), M.A ’17 (Mass Communication) had his first book, “Hendo: The American Athlete” distributed by Simon and Schuster in October 2023. Kano co-wrote the autobiography with two-time Olympian and UFC Hall of Famer Dan Henderson.

CHRISTINA HASSIJA ’04 (Psychology), ’06 (Clinical Psychology) was named dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Cal State San Bernardino, and she will hold an academic appointment as a tenured, full professor in the university’s Department of Psychology.

DEVIN ROBERTS ’04 (Art) released a documentary, “Great Time Reset,” featuring CSUN’s Prasad Choudhary, Department of Physics and Astronomy chair. The full documentary, which focuses on different aspects of time, was published on YouTube and has been accepted into the “Three Acts of Goodness Micro Film Festival.”

BRAD SMITH ’07 (Journalism), ’08 (History) joined the board of the Greater Los Angeles Veterans Research and Education Foundation, supporting the nonprofit’s mission of building partnerships to advance research and education for the health of our nation’s veterans. Smith is communications manager for Northrup Grumman in Redondo Beach and an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Navy. He has three decades of experience as a journalist and media relations/public affairs manager, in the public and private sectors. This includes working as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers in Los Angeles and Sacramento, as a media relations specialist for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, and as a public relations director at UCLA.

SARAH ERICKSON JOHNSON ’09 (M.A., Educational Psychology and Counseling) is the lead sustainability specialist and acting director

of CSUN’s Institute for Sustainability. She started working with the institute as the administrative coordinator immediately after completing her graduate program at CSUN. Over the past 14 years, she has taken on many roles and responsibilities working with people across campus and beyond, to implement initiatives and work toward achieving CSUN’s sustainability goals. A few highlights from her career at CSUN thus far include: leading coordination efforts on both of CSUN’s sustainability plans, including the new Road Map to Sustainability; coordinating annual fruit harvests in the campus Orange Grove to benefit the food insecure;

csun magazine SPRING 2024 45

helping launch “Go With the Flow,” a menstrual equity initiative, and MataBites, a new program to combat hunger and food waste; and serving as advisor to the student Environmental Club. When she’s not at CSUN, she enjoys hiking, gardening and going to the beach with her family.


(Political Science) is a teambuilding and leadership trainer for FamiLEAD Management Consulting. He has served as a board member for JCI USA, a national nonprofit that provides leadership development opportunities for young leaders ages 18-40. He has been recognized as a “40 Under 40” award recipient in the Santa Clarita Valley. As an undergraduate, he served as a New Student Orientation leader, senator for Associated Students and member of the Filipino American Student Association.

ALEX STOWELL ’09 (History) is the co-founder of the photo agency Venice Paparazzi. After attending community college, Stowell earned a scholarship to the University of New Mexico. He later enrolled at CSUN to complete his bachelor’s degree. In 2003, he set up a small photo booth on the Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles with his wife, where they sold photo keychains and frames. Their tiny enterprise eventually expanded into a full-time job, growing to include mobile photo booths and parties.


VICTOR GUERRA ’11 (Management) is the head of compliance at Dinara, a platform to manage cryptocurrency and fiat (aka regular currency) assets. Previously, he was chief compliance officer at PrePaid-USA.

MIHRET SIBHAT ’13 (Political Science) released her debut novel, “The History of a Difficult Child,” published by Viking in June 2023. The “tragicomic” novel follows an Ethiopian girl and her remarkable family saga set in the country’s communist period of the 1980s. Sibhat was born and raised in a small town in western Ethiopia, before moving to California when she was 17. After CSUN, she earned an M.F.A. from the University of Minnesota and served as a 2019 A Public Space Fellow and 2019 Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grantee.

HANNAH LABRA ’17 (Finance), MBA ’21 joined CSUN’s Alumni Relations and Engagement team as an alumni chapter associate. She is overseeing the department’s 25 alumni chapters, including coordinating programs and events to promote alumni and student engagement through mentoring, continuing education, networking and more. She also volunteers as vice president of CSUN’s Nazarian College Alumni Chapter.


ABIGAIL SALMON ’22 (Cinema and Television Arts) is a video production coordinator and video editor in CSUN’s Department of Strategic Communication and Brand Management, as well as a production designer and scenic/ prop artist freelancer for independent films and theatre. As a student, she was president of the Screenwriters Club, student coordinator for a peer education program and won the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and

Communication Dean’s Scholar Award for her graduating class. In January 2024, Salmon had her senior thesis film, “Dahlia’s Monsters,” which she wrote, directed and co-produced, premiered at the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills. She will be submitting the film for festivals nationwide.

HABEBA MOSTAFA ’23 (M.A., Mass Communication) is a multimedia journalist at The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, where she has covered events such as local visits by celebrities Shaquille O’Neal and Kevin Hart. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from UCLA in 2018, with a minor in religion. She pursued photography after college, inspired in part by her experiences working as a photographer for the student newspaper The Daily Bruin. Later, she lived in Egypt for several months, teaching high school English, before returning to California to pursue her master’s degree at CSUN. She was part of the multimedia team at The Sundial, participated in NPR’s Next Generation Radio program for new journalists and interned in talent relations at Fox Entertainment. She also worked as student assistant in CSUN’s Department of Strategic Communication and Brand Management to create content for the university’s social media platforms and write for CSUN Today (now CSUN Newsroom). For her graduate thesis project, “A Symbol of Freedom: The Power of Hijab-Wearing Women in America,” her evocative photos were displayed in Manzanita Hall’s second-floor gallery.

Matador Milestones

LEE CHOO ’10 (M.F.A., Visual Communication) retired in June 2023, after 32 years as CSUN’s campus photographer. A native of Singapore, Choo started his career at CSUN in 1991. Most recently within the Department of Strategic Communication and Brand Management, he was proud to have worked from the same photo studio in the University Library for more than three decades. Choo was well-known by many on campus, including the past four university presidents. His dynamic photographs of the university, including countless images for this magazine, total more than half a million! Choo’s time and dedication to the university leave a legacy for Matadors and the CSUN community. In his active retirement, we expect to find him enjoying his camper van and pursuing his passion for astrophotography in the high desert and remote spots around the world.

ANDREW MARTINEZ ’12 (Management) & JESSELL (MAQUINDANG) MARTINEZ ’13 (Kinesiology) welcomed their daughter, Isabella Maxine Martinez. In addition to her work in physical therapy, Jessell Martinez co-founded The Martinez Casita on Instagram and TikTok, which has gained thousands of followers by creating DIY home improvement content. Their content has been featured on “The Rachael Ray Show” and Target’s official Instagram.

46 Northridge Notes

In Memoriam


R. DIANNE BARTLOW (Gender and Women’s Studies), filmmaker, professor and former chair of the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, died Sept. 8, 2022, in Los Angeles. She was 67.

A three-time Emmy Award winner, Bartlow’s career in television began at KCBS producing lifestyle and public affairs programming. After spending more than a decade in broadcast journalism, Bartlow worked as a freelance producer and was an active member of the Directors Guild of America’s African American and Women’s steering committees.

Her prolific scholarly works focused on representations of African American women in popular music, culture and film; 19th-century Black feminism; pedagogy and diversity; mothering, and violence against women. She also wrote articles for publications including Ms. Magazine and chapters in the 2011 book “The 21st Century Motherhood Movement.”

She is survived by her daughters, Yazmin Monet Watkins-Vieux and Jade Sprague; grandchildren Miles and Lily Sprague; beloved siblings, nieces, cousins, friends and colleagues.

JOHN BROESAMLE (History), professor emeritus of history, who authored the in-depth history of the university, “Suddenly A Giant: A History of

California State University, Northridge,” in 1993, died on June 17, 2023. He was 82. Broesamle taught at CSUN from 1968-2002 and served as associate dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences from 1973-76.

He was an accomplished scholar and distinguished teacher, winning the Outstanding Teacher Award in 1973. His book “Reform and Reaction in Twentieth Century American Politics” earned him CSUN’s Scholarly Publication Award. Among his proudest accomplishments on campus, he said, were his support of the Departments of Pan African Studies (now Africana Studies) and Women’s Studies, as well as championing academic freedom, free speech and the faculty union.

In addition to his academic career, Broesamle was an activist in his hometown of Ojai Valley. He served as president of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and led a successful campaign to preserve 1,700 acres of wildlands.

Broesamle is survived by his wife, Kathy, children Carolyn and Robert, and grandchildren Aiden, Tyler and Brady.

JENNIFER ELLIOTT ’11 (Religious Studies), a longtime administrative assistant in the College of Humanities, died suddenly in late 2022. She was 59. Elliott provided years of critical administrative assistance to faculty and students in the Department of Religious Studies, and she worked tirelessly as an active member of the campus’ California State University Employees Union. Over the years, Elliott served as the

local chapter 312 secretary and vice president. She made multiple trips to Sacramento, where she met with state leaders and lobbied on behalf of thousands of employees across the CSU system.

ICHIRO HASHIMOTO (Electrical Engineering), who taught for 50 years in the College of Engineering and Computer Science — from 1968 until his retirement — died on March 30, 2022. He was 85.

Hashimoto served as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering for a year, and in 1990, he received the Engineering Merit Award for Outstanding Engineering.

But his first teaching love, it seems, was table tennis. Hashimoto earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from UCLA. There, he began training players in table tennis, which led to a teaching job at Hollywood Table Tennis Club, and then at Santa Monica College. For more than 30 years, he produced tournaments at Santa Monica College. Later, he served as regional director for the USATT and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame for Table Tennis.

Hashimoto is survived by his wife, Margaret; brother Toji; sisters Midee and Kimiko, and nieces Fuyumi and Holly Ann.

WILLIAM (BILL) HOSEK (Economics), former dean of the David Nazarian College

of Business and Economics, passed away June 10, 2023. He was 86.

Hosek served as college dean from 1988 until he retired in 2002. Prior to CSUN, he taught economics at the University of New Hampshire for 11 years and served as a department chair at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Through his teaching and as dean at CSUN, Hosek positively impacted the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of students, staff and colleagues.

His former colleagues noted his commitment to CSUN and the Nazarian College, his dedication to students and preparing them for success, and his value as a friend and coworker.

BERTRAND JAMES “JIM” KELLENBERGER (Philosophy), who taught in the College of Humanities from 1967-2008, died on March 27, 2022. He was 83.

Kellenberger joined the university’s faculty in 1967, after completing his Ph.D. at the University of Oregon. He also earned a B.A. in 1960 from San Jose State, and an M.A. in 1962 from UC Berkeley. In the years between his master’s and doctoral studies, he served in the Peace Corps in Africa.

San Fernando Valley State College (later, CSUN) students admired Kellenberger for his brilliance, clarity and sympathy. They recognized him as an “hon-

est dude,” former colleagues noted. As a colleague, he was an ideal committee member — generous, thorough and thoughtful. “He was sharp but kind-hearted, funny but modest,” said former colleague Pat Nichelson.

As a philosopher, Kellenberger specialized in religion and ethics — and he lived it. A deeply religious and ethical person, he devoted himself to exploring the tension between faith and knowledge, the problem of evil, moral relativism, wisdom, and our relationships to God, nature and human beings.

JOHN G. KROLL JR (Public Affairs), a writer, editor, lyricist and former public affairs staff member, died on Oct. 12, 2023, at an assistedliving facility in National City, Calif., from COVID-19. He was 79.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., his early years were spent in Irondequoit, N.Y., a Rochester suburb. In 1951, after John’s parents divorced, his mother moved him and his younger brother to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Kroll graduated from Amherst College, where he was a top editor of the Amherst Student newspaper.

He began his professional life as a high school English teacher in Honolulu. His career turned to communications, with stints at several institutions and outlets (including E! Entertainment Television and Showtime), eventually joining the public affairs team at CSUN.

Please submit tributes and notes for future publication to magazine@ csun.edu

Kroll had lived with Kennedy’s disease, a genetic neuromuscular disorder, since a diagnosis in 2006, but that didn’t stop him from traveling the world in retirement, including two trips to India.

csun magazine SPRING 2024 47

JOSE FRANCISCO (FRANK) MUNIZ ’80 (Mexican American Studies), M.P.A. ’12, longtime director of CSUN’s TRIO Student Support Services Program — and lifelong advocate for social justice and educational equity — died at his home in Acton on Jan. 15, 2024, surrounded by his family. He was 66.

Muniz was born in El Paso, Texas. The fourth of five siblings and raised in East Los Angeles, he understood the value of education from a young age. He attended Benjamin Franklin High School, where he excelled academically and demonstrated his leadership skills, graduating in 1975.

Following in the footsteps of his late brother Mario, Frank came to CSUN as an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) student. During his undergraduate years, he was an active member of organizations such as Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano De Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A.), Theatro Aztlan and Ballet Folklorico Aztlan.

Perhaps most important, he met Elva Rangel (Muniz), a fellow student. Their friendship blossomed into a profound and loving relationship, leading them to exchange vows in 1982. They were married for more than four decades.

Frank Muniz dedicated his life to empowering others. He touched numerous lives as an adjunct faculty member for Chicana/o studies, leading the Chicano Outreach Fieldwork class. As a founding member of the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference, he impacted thousands of firstgeneration high school students, instilling in them the spirit of resilience and the courage to pursue their dreams.

From 1981-83, he served as director of CSUN’s Retention Referral Center, where he focused on supporting students in their journey toward degree completion. Next, he held roles as coordinator of Retention Services: Student Affirmative Action, and as supervising counselor at the Advising Resource Center. He also coordinated the university’s Faculty Mentor Program.

His latest and longest role, from 2010-24, was director of TRIO, where he played a pivotal role in empowering students from underserved communities.

He cherished and prioritized time with his beloved children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces and nephews. His loved ones, colleagues and students recalled his vibrant personality, infectious laughter and quick wit.

Muniz is survived by his wife, Elva; their two children, Rosario Muniz and Francisco Muniz Jr.; and six grandchildren: Genesis, Linda, Rosemary, Francisco, Mario and Yosiah.

Kroll is survived by two nephews, David Kroll and Stephen Kroll; Stephen’s wife, Sarah, and children, Basil and Sage; sister-inlaw Suzanne Kroll and her partner, Jeanne Samuel; a half-brother, Michael Kroll, and his wife, Penny; and his cousin, James Bock.

LUCIANA LAGANA (Psychology), a researcher, filmmaker and past winner of the Outstanding Faculty Award, died on Jan. 20, 2023, of breast cancer. She was 62.

Lagana held multiple doctoral degrees, postdoctoral degrees, and specializations in experimental and clinical psychology. For more than 20 years, she served as a professor of psychology, women’s health, gerontology and sexuality. She was an enthusiastic teacher and mentored many students from several campus departments.

Since 2002, she’d also been conducting National Institutes of Health-funded research on the physical, psychological, social and sexual health of ethnically diverse, low-income, older women. Lagana had accumulated 46 peer-reviewed publications and delivered more than 120 conference presentations. At CSUN, she won the 2017 Exceptional Creative Accomplishments Faculty Award for production of anti-bias feature films and shows, as well as the 2011 Preeminent Scholarly Publications Faculty Award and the 2008 Visionary Community Service Learning Faculty Award.

Born and raised in Italy, Lagana was a multilingual, accomplished performer who grew up singing, dancing, acting and modeling. She also studied acting, hosting and filmmaking in Los Angeles.

While on faculty, Lagana studied film production in the Department of Cinema and Television Arts, mentored by professor and colleague Nate Thomas, film production head. She went on to direct and produce several films and series.

TYLER (Tseng College), executive director of program advancement in the Tseng College and professor emerita of marketing and public relations, died on Aug. 31, 2023. She was 83. Tyler, who also co-founded the CSUN Innovates affinity group, was a relentless relationship builder, the ultimate storyteller and a true champion for student success, her colleagues said. “She left a significant mark on the campus and our hearts, and we will be forever grateful to Marcella Tyler for her vision and extraordinary contributions,” her Tseng College colleagues wrote in tribute after her passing.

She served as president of the University Club (formerly the Faculty Club) three times, and she was always involved on campus. She was also passionate about the arts and a patroness of The Soraya.

Tyler, nee Leonetti, was a proud Italian American who had served as the National Italian American Foundation’s regional vice

president for the Far-West Region South.

The San Fernando Valley Business Journal honored Tyler with the “Women Who Mean Business Award” in 2003, and she received the Phi Beta Delta “International Scholars Award” in 2005 and the “Excellence in Public Relations and Marketing Award” from her university peers in 2008.

Tyler lived in Sherman Oaks. She is survived by her husband, Dick Tyler, a wellknown Los Angeles public relations executive, and their four children. A celebration of her life is planned for fall 2024 on campus, and CSUN has created a Marcella Tyler Memorial Fund for The Soraya.

(Accounting), a professor of accounting and auditing in the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics for more than 31 years, died on July 2, 2023. He was 74. Stone, nicknamed “Mr. Rolodex” by his colleagues, taught at CSUN from 1986-2017. During his long career, he built a reputation of integrity and was a nationally recognized expert in accounting and law for homeowner’s associations. He developed a specialty in forensic fraud investigation and was often called to testify as an expert witness.

The true core of Stone’s work, however, was helping students succeed in their careers. He mentored countless students and kept in touch with many of them throughout their careers. Dozens of Nazarian College alumni refer to him


as a “legend” and credit his contributions and advice as vital to their success. A colleague noted that Stone may be one of the most beloved and professionally influential accounting faculty members for CSUN students within the past 40 years — a tribute to his lasting impact.

SHIRLEY SVORNY (Economics), who taught health, labor and urban economics in the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, died on Oct. 20, 2022, after fighting multiple myeloma for more than seven years.

In 1978, she began teaching at CSUN, where she served until the university granted her emerita status in 2013. During the 1980s, she took leaves of absence to do economic analysis for Getty Oil and Security Pacific National Bank. In 1996, she founded CSUN’s San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center and served as director for four years. From 2003-09, she served as chair of the Department of Economics.

As a scholar and researcher, Svorny focused on health policy. In 2018, two years before the COVID-19 pandemic roiled the globe, she created a study that argued for removing regulatory barriers to telehealth — and testified on the topic on Capitol Hill.

In tributes, colleagues remembered Svorny as a generous person with a sharp and humble mind, who was passionate about economic liberty. She is survived by her husband, Robert C. Krol, a professor emeritus of economics at CSUN, and two children.

FARRELL J. WEBB (Health and Human Development), former dean of the College of Health and Human

Development, died on Nov. 14, 2023. He was 67. At the time of his passing, Webb was serving as provost of the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Webb served at CSUN from 201623. Previously, he served as associate dean at Cal State L.A.; as well as in various roles at Kansas State and Penn State.

A California native, he brought more than 21 years of public and academic administrative experience to CSUN. He was known for his engaging and approachable style. After many years in the classroom and working side by side with undergraduate and graduate students, it was clear that he was much more comfortable telling stories about students’ and professors’ work than discussing his own awards.

His office in Sequoia Hall was open and busy with student assistants. It was crucial, Webb said, to let students know that faculty and academic leaders like him were interested in them and that they were there to support students’ progress, success and aspirations.

“I do help people because I know what it’s like to be in the position where you want to get somewhere, but you don’t know how to do it,” he said.

As a scholar and researcher, Webb focused on the statistical analyses, research methodologies and interplay of human sexuality, gender, race and ethnic relations, health, poverty and inequality on well-being. He was a lifetime member of Phi Kappa Phi and earned numerous academic and teaching awards throughout his career.

LAIRD “LAD” DOCTOR ’66 (Physical Education), died on Jan. 28, 2023. He was 80.

Doctor is the subject of a biography by Stella Brooks, “Grounded: How One Man Made it Through the Unimaginable,” from Ingram Publishing. The biography shared the story of the Vietnam veteran and airman, who survived a horrific crash in a Navy Warbirds airshow in 1999 and leaned on his Christian faith to adjust to life as a quadriplegic.

At the time of the crash, he was director of chief pilots for the Cavanaugh Flight Museum.

ERIC J. LAWRENCE ’19 (M.A., English), a beloved public-radio personality and renowned music librarian at KCRW — and former graduate student and teaching assistant in CSUN’s Department of English — died on Feb. 7, 2023. He was 52.

Lawrence was a respected and admired member of the English department, where his expertise as a teacher, graduate assistant, and scholar of American Literature, noir and pop-culture studies complemented his encyclopedic knowledge of music.

As an on-air personality for UCLA Radio and host of the long-running show “Dragnet” on KCRW, he developed a cult following, sharing his outstanding musical knowledge and taste with the greater Los Angeles community for decades. He also served the public radio station (based at Santa Monica College) as one of its most knowledgeable music librarians. In person and over the airwaves, Lawrence had the unique ability to create a shared community of love for and about music and media. He was a teacher and scholar both in the classroom and in our culture, and the care that he gave to his audiences and in-class students established an ongoing legacy, English department colleagues noted.

CAROL A. PARISH ’65 (Elementary Education/ Teaching Credential), M.A. ’74 died on Dec. 11, 2022, after seven years battling ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease). She was 86.

After graduating from L.A.’s Hamilton High School in 1954, she earned an associate degree at Los Angeles City College in 1956. She married Phil Parish and supported them both as a dental assistant while he finished his final year at UCLA. After the birth of the couple’s first child, Carol resumed her higher education, enrolling at San Fernando Valley State College. While continuously enrolled in day and night classes at Valley State,

she welcomed two more children, before completing her B.A. and an elementary school teaching credential. She began her full-time teaching career in Camarillo and enrolled again at Valley State, this time to earn an M.A., which she accomplished in 1974.

Equipped with the Pupil Personnel credential she earned along with her master’s, Parish became a school psychologist in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she worked for seven years. She moved to the Conejo Valley School District, where she served as school psychologist until her retirement in 1996.

As the beneficiary of a hard-earned, graduate-level education, Parish and her husband emphasized the importance of education to their three children, who went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees at CSU and UC campuses: UCLA, UC Davis, UC Berkeley and Cal State Dominguez Hills.

csun magazine SPRING 2024 49

Better Than Ever

he five-story University Library suffered catastrophic damage in the 1994 earthquake. Destruction was widespread across CSUN, but faculty and students voted: The library was the first and most important building that must be restored. After just 68 days, the core building was restored to service in August 1994. The library’s east and west wings had to be partially torn down and rebuilt, however, finally reopening in 2000. In the renovation, CSUN found a silver lining: Architects added an iconic “grand staircase” — which later debuted as “Starfleet Academy” in 2009’s “Star Trek” reboot and Disney’s 2005 flick “Sky High.” In real life, the library remains the heart of campus.


Wesley Williams ’05 (right), a guide runner for USA Paralympic Track & Field and former All-Big West sprinter for CSUN, confers with longtime partner Lex Gillette in practice. Gillette, a blind athlete and reigning silver medalist in the long jump, is chasing gold in the long jump and 100-meter dash this year. On the front cover, Williams’ fellow alum Jamie Whitmore ’98 is also training for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. Read about their quest on page 20.


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