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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Perseverance and Perspective: In Wake of Adversity, Vasquez Finds Meaning in Fellowship

Dr. Marissa Vasquez

Tears were flowing as Dr. Marissa Vasquez read the acceptance letter.

The assistant professor in the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education (ARPE) learned last month that she was named to the Faculty Fellows of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE). It’s a great honor and opportunity bestowed by an organization that once helped instill Vasquez’s belief that she could become a professor.

But that wasn’t the reason for her tears.

Drs. Chizhik, Brandon Work to Bring More Students of Color into Teaching

Drs. Estella Chizhik, Regina Brandon and SDSU students.

For much of her childhood, Dr. Estella Chizhik attended predominantly white schools and was taught by exclusively white teachers. That was until her father, a U.S. Army officer, was transferred to Fort McPherson in Atlanta. He decided to send Estella to attend 7th grade at Sylvan Elementary, a public school in the predominantly black neighborhood near the base.

“The whole time I was growing up, from kindergarten through 6th grade, I thought I wasn't very bright,” said Chizhik, who is black. “Ms. Maribel looked at me and she asked what reading level I was in. I said, ‘I don't know, I guess I'm in the low.’ She said, ‘Let’s give the high reading group a try. I think there's something more there.’”

Placed in the high reading group, Chizhik said she was positive she would fail. Instead, she excelled.

Joint Doctoral Program Students Funded for Innovative Projects

Students in COE's Joint Doctoral Program in Education.
From left: Terry Sivers, Reka Barton, Darielle Blevins and Asha' Jones.

Editor’s note (Dec. 23, 4:40 p.m.): An earlier version of this post included a list of proposed speakers for a student-led program providing a critical exploration of slavery and reparations. The student has since opted to revise the program. The following article has since been revised and will be updated if new information becomes available.  

Four students in the Joint Ph.D. Program in Education (JDP) offered by San Diego State University and Claremont Graduate University recently received $170,000 in funding from the Office of the Provost to bring programming designed to improve the experience of Black students to SDSU during the spring semester.

COE News in Brief

COE News in Brief graphic

Accomplishments, awards, events and more — here’s a glance at a few things you may have missed in the College of Education over the past month:

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Luke Duesbery

Luke Duesbery 7 Things Graphic

Dr. Luke Duesbery is an associate professor in the School of Teacher Education and co-directs the online master’s in teaching and directs our college’s Center for Teaching Critical Thinking and Creativity. But there is more to him than just that. Find out more about Luke in this edition of 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Faculty and Staff!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Liberal Studies Program Approved for CSET Waiver

Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan of SDSU liberal studies

The pathway to becoming a teacher has just become smoother and more affordable for liberal studies majors at San Diego State University. The Liberal Studies program was recently granted a waiver that will allow eligible students to bypass the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET) by proving their mastery of subject matter through classroom performance.

“I think (students) are excited; it's mainly because they don't have to take the tests, but another benefit I see is that it raises the bar,” said Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan, director of SDSU’s Liberal Studies program. “Students have to do well in their classes and I think our waiver program offers extra incentive for that. I want Liberal Studies to be a competitive and much-sought-after major — as such, I want it to be rigorous.”

Faculty Profile: Dr. Nellie Tran Embraces Disruption

Dr. Nellie Tran

Dr. Nellie Tran remembers being a new faculty member at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and seeing a Cambodian American student walk down the hallway outside her office, only to stop in her tracks.

“Is this you?” the student asked gesturing to Tran’s name plate?

Tran confirmed that it was.

“I've never seen a professor with this name,” the student marveled. “I get that reaction a lot,” Tran says after recounting the story, “Even here in San Diego where we do have a large Southeast Asian population. … It feels like I wasn't supposed to make it to this level.”

VIDEO: DLE Student is a Star on Stage and in the Classroom

DLE credential student Mariela Contreras in the studio

In our Student Spotlight series, Mariela Contreras — a credential student in the Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education — has a passion for music, teaching and keeping the Spanish language alive in schools.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Regina Brandon

Dr. Regina Brandon

You may know Dr. Regina R. Brandon as an associate professor in the Department of Special Education where she’s the coordinator of the Preliminary Special Education, Mild/Moderate Credential Program. But did you also know she’s a popcorn-loving world traveler who pledges allegiance to Raider Nation? Find out more about Regina in this edition of 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Faculty and Staff!

Ask an Alum: Melissa Navarro Martell ’18

Dr. Melissa Navarro Martell graphic

Dr. Melissa Navarro Martell (’18) began her career as a dual-language educator, inspired by passions to help others and speak out against injustice. These passions were the result of her lived experience — born in Tijuana, Mexico, Navarro Martell was 11 when she moved to Chula Vista, where she said she was “constantly swimming against the current of education” as an English language learner. But as a dual-language teacher, she soon became frustrated with schools’ limited resources available to teach content in Spanish — especially critical science. A desire to find solutions led her to pursue her Ph.D. in the Joint Doctoral Program in Education between San Diego State University and Claremont Graduate University.

Opening a Path to Employment for People With Disabilities

ARPE faculty members Sonia Peterson, Marjorie Olney, Chuck Degeneffe and Mark Tucker.
From left: ARPE faculty members Sonia Peterson, Marjorie Olney, Charles Degeneffe and Mark Tucker.
Faculty in the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation and Postsecondary Education received two U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration grants to help SDSU address the need for qualified vocational rehabilitation counselors.

Read the full story at SDSU NewsCenter.

COE News in Brief

News in Brief Graphic

Friday, November 8, 2019

Alumna Teacher Inspires With Viral Video

DorothyHoney Mallari dances with her class

A Bay Area elementary school teacher and graduate of San Diego State University has made national news after a video of her singing the hit Lizzo song “Truth Hurts” — modified with inspirational lyrics — with her students became a viral sensation. The video of DorothyHoney Mallari, a 2011 liberal studies graduate and a second grade teacher at Los Medanos Elementary School in Pittsburg, first hit social media in early November. 

Thursday, November 7, 2019

EDL Alumnus Honored with Rising Aztec Award

Rising Aztec awardee J.J. Lewis

SDSU Alumni has recognized J.J. Lewis, a 2017 grad in educational leadership and superintendent and CEO for Compass Charter Schools, as a Rising Aztec awardee. The award recognizes up-and-coming alumni who make support for SDSU and engagement with the university part of their lives and careers.

Read the full story at SDSU Alumni.

Monday, October 7, 2019

CFD Researcher Leads $3.3 Million Autism Intervention Study

A woman plays with a young child

Dr. Sarah Rieth, San Diego State assistant professor in child and family development, recently received a $3.3 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences to test an intervention that coaches parents of toddlers with autism.

Read the full story at SDSU NewsCenter.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Department of Education Grant Strengthens SDSU-Kumeyaay Partnership

CSP faculty, graduate students and community partners.
Department of Counseling and School Psychology faculty, grad students and partners.
Thanks to a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs, San Diego State University school counselor and school psychology graduate students committed to indigenous issues will gain experience serving the mental health needs of Kumeyaay youth in eastern San Diego County. The grant was co-authored by professor Carol Robinson-Zañartu, assistant professor Katheryne Leigh-Osroosh and associate professor Katina Lambros in the Department of Counseling and School Psychology.

Read the full story at SDSU NewsCenter.

SDSU Pride—In a Stockton Classroom

Alumna Aimee Islas and students
SDSU alumna Aimee Islas and her fifth graders from Taylor Leadership academy.

Yap, Villarreal Undertake New NSF-Funded Study on Women of Color in STEM

Drs. Melo-Jean Yap and Felisha Herrera Villarreal
Drs. Melo-Jean Yap and Felisha Herrera Villarreal.

Dr. Melo-Jean Yap acutely remembers the feelings of isolation she felt as young a woman of color studying biology — a discipline that is often very white and very male. The presumptions of incompetence she faced from faculty and peers, and the imposter syndrome that fed, still feel fresh.

One incident sticks out. As a graduate student, Yap took a coding course so she could learn to think like a programmer while working on bio-mathematical models. In the class of 30, she was one of five women and two women of color. And she didn’t just feel like she stood out, she felt singled out.

VIDEO: A Doctoral Student's Dream to Start a School

SDSU doctoral student Suparna Kudesia

In our Student Spotlight series, Suparna Kudesia — a student in the Ed.D. Program in Educational Leadership — discusses how her passion for justice in education was stoked on the streets of New Delhi.

Watch Suparna's video.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Tonika Green

CSP professor Tonika Green

You may know Dr. Tonika Green as a professor in the Department of Counseling and School Psychology (CSP). But did you know she’s also a Virginia-born vegetarian with a secret alter ego? Find out more about Tonika in this edition of 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Faculty and Staff!

Ask an Alum: Jonathan Villafuerte ’19

CSP alumnus Jonathan Villafuerte

Since he was a teenager, Jonathan Villafuerte ’19 has been inspired to empower young people who others might write off. As a freshman at Point Loma Nazarene University, he got involved tutoring first-generation college students. He later joined the staff of Reality Changers — a City Heights-based non-profit organization that supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds on their path to college graduation (Villafuerte is also a Reality Changers alumnus). In May, Villafuerte achieved one of his own academic goals, earning his master’s in school counseling from San Diego State University.

EDL’s Marshall Sets Global Standards for Development of Instruction

Dr. James Marshall, associate professor in EDL

One of the biggest trends in education over the past decade has been increasing movement away from face-to-face instruction and toward blended and online formats. This rapid rate of change, however, has outstripped the global standards that guide the development of instruction.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Two Alumni Named San Diego County Teachers of the Year

San Diego County Teacher of the Year winners.
SDSU alumni Hilda Martinez (second from left) and Don Dumas (second from right).

Two San Diego State University College of Education alumni have been honored as San Diego County Teachers of the Year. Don Dumas ’08, ’10, ’16 and Hilda Martinez ’98, ’01, ’16 were among the five recipients of the award on Sept. 7 at the 29th Salute to Teachers awards ceremony, presented by the San Diego County Office of Education and Cox Communications. The honor means they are now in the running for California Teacher of the Year later this year.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Welcome from Dean Chung

Dean Y. Barry Chung
It is with a sense of excitement and optimism that I welcome you to the 2019-2020 academic year! With the fall semester set to begin, we’re ready for the return of nearly 2,000 students into our classrooms, training sites, and online spaces as we continue to prepare quality teachers, clinicians, and educational leaders for our region, our state, and beyond. We’re also delighted to welcome four new faculty members into the fold, while celebrating the promotion and reappointment of 15 others

COE Abroad: Finding Hope in the Youth of Cambodia

CFD student Grace Megginson

By Grace Megginson 
Child and family development major 

The Mundt Peace Fellowship allowed me and eight other San Diego State University students to spend eight weeks working as interns in various NGOs in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. After traveling and working in Cambodia for two months, I discovered so much about the beauty of Cambodia, the Khmer culture, and its history, riddled with both suffering and resilience.

New MFT Director Hopes Her Students Will Imagine New Possibilities for Themselves

Dr. Sesen Negash, director of MFT

Over the summer, associate professor Sesen Negash became the first person of color to serve as director of the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program at San Diego State University. That would be a significant milestone in any program, but particularly in MFT — not only one of SDSU’s most diverse graduate programs, but one that trains clinicians to work with families in diverse communities.

Ask an Alum: Emelyn dela Peña ’98, ’09

Alumna Emelyn dela Pena

Emelyn dela Peña ’98, ’09 returned to the Golden State this summer to start her new position as Stanford University’s associate vice provost for inclusion, community and integrative learning. It is the next challenge in an impressive student affairs career that has included stops at Harvard University and Washington University in St. Louis. Emelyn was prepared for this journey at San Diego State University, where she earned a master’s degree in postsecondary educational leadership and instruction and a doctorate through its joint Ed.D. program. Recently, Emelyn chatted with us about her new position in Palo Alto, her passion for diversity and inclusion and her favorite SDSU mentors.

COE Abroad: Soaking up the Language, Culture and Home Cooking of Oaxaca

Graduate student Ed'd Bhagwandeen in Mexico

My name is Ed'd Bhagwandeen and I’m in the Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education’s Critical Literacy and Social Justice master’s program. I went to Oaxaca with credential and MA students this past June. It was my first extended study abroad experience.

VIDEO: Graduate Student Discusses his Passion for Special Education

Special education graduate student Alex Moreno

In our Student Spotlight series, Alex Moreno — a graduate student in special education with an autism emphasis — discusses his classroom motivation and the impact of his program.

Watch the video.

COE Abroad: Creating Unforgettable Connections in Thailand

Liberal studies major Sarah Jones

I am a planner. For the months leading up to my international experience, I researched and planned for every possible item I might need and for any issue that might come up. What I didn’t plan for though, was to completely fall in love with Thailand.

While Bangkok was a busy, bustling city, it was Chiang Mai where I found myself feeling the happiest. We stayed on a large property that serves a small province outside of Chiang Mai. The staff there worked closely with the local schools and surrounding mountain villages to collaborate with them and assist with their needs – not what outsiders believed their needs to be.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Leesa Brockman

ARPE department coordinator Leesa Brockman

You may know Leesa Brockman as the department coordinator in ARPE — and as the 2019 recipient of the Presidential Staff Excellence Award! But did you know she’s a farm-raised, Spock-admiring world traveler? Find out more about Leesa in this edition of 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Faculty and Staff!

New Faculty, Staff and Promotions for Fall 2019

various faculty
The College of Education is excited to welcome the new faculty and staff members joining us for the fall semester!

Honors and Achievements: August 2019

various faculty
The College of Education is delighted to congratulate the following members of the COE family for their recent achievements:

COE Abroad: A Mind-Opening Experience in Stunning Andalusia

Liberal studies major Alexandra Bahul in Spain

For my study abroad experience I decided to go to Granada, Spain. This quaint town soon turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime. Every corner that I turned was a new and exciting experience.

The city of Granada is filled with an immense amount of history that is just waiting to be discovered. One of the main highlights of this trip for me was being able to relax at the Mirador de San Nicolas. When staring out into the beautiful city all my stress and worries just melted away. I felt truly connected to the people and their culture.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

DEBER Initiative Opens Pathway to Diverse Teachers

Faculty from the Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education.

The Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education and three San Diego County community colleges have forged a federally-funded partnership to help close California’s teacher-student diversity gap and meet growing needs for bilingual educators.

Supported by a $3.7 million Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the five-year initiative will create a pathway for about 100 students per year from Southwestern College, San Diego Mesa College and San Diego City College who will transfer into San Diego State University’s bilingual credential programs.

Read the full story at SDSU NewsCenter.

Monday, July 29, 2019

STE Professor Leads Free Coding Workshop for Local Teachers

Participant at Coding for Teachers workshop shows off her evo robot.

Nearly two dozen San Diego-area educators took time out of their summer vacations to attend a free Coding For Teachers workshop led by Dr. Donna Ross, associate professor in the School of Teacher Education (STE). The weeklong professional development opportunity — which was inspired and funded by alumnus Michael Pack '70 — taught teachers the basics of coding so they could pass those skills on to young people in their classrooms.

 Read the full story at SDSU NewsCenter.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Swiss Students Visit SDSU to Explore Dual-Language Education

Swiss students visit a San Diego area school.

In July, faculty from SDSU’s Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education (DLE) hosted a group of students on an exchange from Lausanne, Switzerland. The Swiss cohort was here to learn how language education is taught in the U.S.-Mexico border region. Their weeklong experience included seminars and presentations with COE faculty and students, visits to area schools and even an excursion across the border into Tijuana. SDSU students will travel to Switzerland as part of the exchange in early 2020.

Read the full story at SDSU NewsCenter.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Three New 4-Year ITEP Pathways Approved

The EBA building.
Three new integrated programs have been approved by the California State University that will allow San Diego State University students to earn a bachelor's degree and teacher's credential simultaneously in just four years. Integrated Teacher Education Program (ITEP) pathways in multiple subjects, mathematics and chemistry will be available starting in fall 2020.

Read the full story at SDSU NewsCenter.

Learn more about ITEP at

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Meet COE’s New Associate Dean for Diversity and International Affairs

Dr. Cristian Aquino-Sterling

On August 22, Dr. Cristian Aquino-Sterling will become the inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity and International Affairs in the College of Education. The position represents a first not only for the COE, but for San Diego State University — both in having a dedicated administrator focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at the college level, and in its blending of diversity and international affairs responsibilities.

Aquino-Sterling brings perspective relevant to both aspects of the dual role. Born in the Dominican Republic, he came to the United States as an adolescent and attended public school in Manhattan. After pursuing undergraduate degrees in philosophy and Spanish literature at Fordham University, he obtained a master’s degree in Hispanic cultural studies and literatures at Columbia University, and an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at Arizona State University.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Master’s Student’s Graduation Photo Goes Viral, Reaches CNN

CSP graduate student Erica Alfaro and her parents.
The photo of CSP master's student Erica Alfaro and her parents that went viral.

It was three days after the San Diego State University College of Education commencement ceremony and Erica Alfaro was going about her business as usual. More than a week had passed since she had posted her graduation photo on Instagram — a remarkable shot of her posing in cap and gown in a strawberry field alongside her farmworker parents. She’d seen the hundreds of likes, given a few subsequent media interviews and then moved on with her life.

It was at a meeting of the public speaking organization Toastmasters International on May 22 that Alfaro, who is finishing up her Hybrid Online MA in Education with a Concentration in Counseling program this summer, realized something was up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Lamb Named 2019-20 Recipient of Alumni Faculty Award

Alumni Award recipient Dr. Lisa Lamb

Upon opening the notification e-mail, Lisa Lamb was sure someone, somewhere, had made a mistake. She even went back and re-read the message, just to be sure. But there’s no mistaking it: Lamb, Qualcomm Endowed Professor of Mathematics Education, has been named the College of Education’s 2019-2020 recipient of the Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Faculty Contributions to the University.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

VIDEO: Meet COE’s Outstanding Graduates for 2019

collage of graduates

Each year at Commencement, the College of Education chooses Outstanding Graduates from each of its departments. Learn more about the accomplished students from our Class of 2019 who will be on stage with their most influential faculty members during the ceremony at Viejas Arena on May 19.

COE Grads 2019: A Doubly Powerful Example

Class of 2019 grads Froylán and Ernesto Villanueva
Froylan (left) and Ernesto Villanueva. 

Dr. Froylán Villanueva just became the first person in his family to earn an Ed.D. Of course, that may be something of a technicality — he defended his dissertation just one hour before his younger brother Dr. Ernesto Villanueva.

“For purposes of accuracy, he was before me," says Ernesto with a smile.

That the brothers would take on this challenge — the Ed.D. Program in Educational Leadership with a PK-12 concentration at San Diego State University — together shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

COE Grads 2019: Pain and Perseverance

Class of 2019 grad Marina Sanchez

Many people would have been broken by the past few years Marina Sanchez just endured. The unimaginable heartbreak, the hardship, the misfortune. But Sanchez wasn’t.

Instead, she will don a cap and gown on Sunday and receive her bachelor’s degree in child and family development from San Diego State.

COE Grads 2019: A New Beginning

Cecilia Chung is looking forward to her second commencement ceremony at San Diego State University’s Viejas Arena — and a second chance at fulfilling her dream to be a teacher.

Chung’s first graduation day, as she received her bachelor’s degree in music education in 2006, was a bit of a blur. At the time she had young children in tow and an uncertain professional career on the horizon. This time, she’ll celebrate receiving her bilingual multiple-subject credential with her husband and two grown children cheering her on — and exciting possibilities in her future.

COE Grads 2019: Building Trust

Class of 2019 grad Cassandra Drake

As she started her teaching career in 2007, Dr. Cassandra Drake thought herself well-prepared to teach in a multicultural classroom. After all, she’d taken a course in multicultural education while earning her multiple stubject credential. It wasn’t until she started her first full-time position at a Sikh charter school in West Sacramento that she realized how much she didn’t know.

“I didn't have it covered — not at all,” Drake recalls. “I started to realize you can't just have multiculturalism or understanding diversity as this checklist you go through. And I had to start realizing that it wasn't like, 'Oh, I'm here to give back to this community.' No, if you are not from that community then you can’t actually ‘give back.’

“So you have to really invest yourself 100 percent and build trust. If children don't trust you, it's going to be really hard to teach them."

New Clinic Fills Gaps for Early Childhood Mental Health

Dr. Lisa Linder (left) and graduate student Briana Bashaw-Wood.
Dr. Lisa Linder and graduate student Briana Bashaw-Wood at the clinic.

In San Diego County’s most vulnerable communities, individuals seeking mental health services for their young children often deal with long waitlists caused by a lack of early childhood therapists. And because of this shortage, San Diego State University has often struggled to find quality early childhood mental health placements with supervisors trained in early childhood.

Into those voids stepped Dr. Lisa Linder, assistant professor in the Department of Child and Family Development (CFD). Supported by philanthropic funding, Linder was able to open an Early Childhood Mental Health Clinic last fall. Operating out of the Dede Alpert Center for Community Engagement in the City Heights neighborhood, the center has helped meet the community’s need for mental health services for families and children from pre-natal to 8-years-old.

Ask an Alum: Don Dumas ’10, ’16

SDSU alumnus Don Dumas

Don Dumas ’10, ’16 holds a few different titles at Bonita Vista High School. The graduate of SDSU’s single-subject teacher credential program and Master’s in Teaching Online Program is a history teacher, a varsity boys’ basketball coach and — as of two months ago — Teacher of the Year in Sweetwater Union High School District. We recently sat down with Don to discuss his path from a disaffected high school student to a mentor who inspires young people every day.

Honors and Achievements, May 2019

Honors and achievements graphic
The College of Education is delighted to congratulate the following members of the COE family for their recent achievements:

Thursday, April 11, 2019

STE Faculty Member Earns SDUSD Teacher of the Year Honor

Lecturer Kris Rodenberg


Dr. Kris Rodenberg vividly recalls bounding home from Kindergarten at age 5 and lining up her dolls in front of a blackboard in a laundry room.

The lesson for the day? Whatever she had learned in class.

"Instead of playing house with my dolls, I played school,” said Rodenberg, a lecturer in the San Diego State University School of Teacher Education. “I think I always wanted to be a teacher."