Nursing Alumni Spotlight

Dr. Barbara Talento, RN-BSN 1976

I am probably the oldest living graduate of the School of Nursing. I have always wanted to be a nurse from earliest childhood. As a kid I would make a nurses cap out of newspaper and pretend to take care of my patients…a dog named Peppy and several dolls and they all survived. It wasn’t until much later that I found out what a problem those caps would be when giving care at the bedside. Mine was always falling forward or being caught in the curtains surrounding the patient. As a kid I loved science. When I was ten I received a microscope for Chanukah. I stuck my finger a hundred times so I could see blood cells in my ‘scope. A couple of years later, I got a chemistry set and never blew our house up. When I graduated high school in New York City and hoped to go to a diploma program in a hospital, fate stepped in and foiled my plan. My extended family disapproved since nice middle class girls did not touch naked bodies. The options were to be a teacher, bookkeeper or wife, that was the right thing to do. So I became an awful bookkeeper. Soon after that we moved to California. Again I wanted to be a nurse and junior colleges were offering A.A. programs to that end. I was accepted into Compton Junior College but before I could finish my 1st year, my Dad had a stroke and I needed to get a job.

Fast forward 25 years, when my youngest child went to first grade I applied and was accepted into the nursing program at Fullerton Jr. College. I was rather an elderly student but it was great. I loved every minute of it. I took the exam, passed it and received my license to practice; I was a RN and was so happy. I decided to work at what is now UCI Medical Center. I chose to work there because of the diversity of patients, some poor and without insurance and some fairly wealthy but needing the expertise of the attending physicians. Since it was a teaching hospital, we saw a broad spectrum of diseases. I saw things my biology teacher said we would never see. This was bizarre, but there is a disease called schistosomiasis. The only place you can get it is from a snail that lived in the Nile River in Egypt. I had a patient with that disease. All new hires worked the night shift and I was really miserable. As soon as possible I applied for the day shift and found my home on the medical floor. I did have the opportunity to work in rehab, the burn unit, obstetrics, and surgery. I loved O.B but there was a waiting list to work there. On the med floor, every patient was different and challenging. On any single day I could have a patient with diabetes, a staph infection, a drug overdose, a suicide attempt or cirrhosis. It was challenging and I loved it. In July , the hospital got a new collection of interns and we nurses loved it, They hadn’t gotten the “God Complex” yet and looked for the RN to tell them about the patient. We even got to teach them how to give a shot or how to draw blood! In September we received a new collection of nursing students who wanted to learn everything we could teach them. I loved teaching and my job. I am not saying life was easy but it was fulfilling. Working 40 hours a week and 3 week-ends a month put a strain on home life. Dinner was often soup and sandwiches. Housekeeping was last on my list of chores; kids were first, then friends and family. One day I came home to find a note written in the dust of a table. It read, Dust me.” I wrote back, “It is not my dust.” My husband and I sat down to discuss a division of chores picking the one that were most important to each of us. He got the dusting, I got the laundry.

Moving ahead a couple of years and fate intervened again. My husband suffered a fatal heart attack. It was devastating. I was scared. While I grieved his loss, I had three kids to raise by myself and I was overwhelmed. While my job offered a welcome distraction it was also a problem. I could not find any home aides willing to work my hours. No one wanted to work 3 week-ends a month. I needed to look for an alternative. Fortunately, I heard of CSUF’s brand new wonderful way of taking AA nurses and making them into BSN nurses in 2 years, which was very innovative at that time. I was able to work for a registry and choose my hours with them, so I could earn money, working hours compatible with raising my children and still go to school. What made the program so appealing was that I could get the degree in 2 years (which offered different employment options ), I didn’t have to repeat what I already knew because the program was designed to build on the skills we already had. Wilma Traber designed the program after one in Northern California. The first class accepted 40 students. I was number 41 and worried about getting in. However one lady dropped out so I made it in. It was difficult. To start with you had to take bio-chemistry and anatomy and physiology and other hard core classes. Some never made it through the first year. Actually of that class only 12 of us graduated in 2 years. We called ourselves, “The Dirty Dozen” a popular movie at that time.

All this time I was also working through the registry as I could chose my time to work and the place I wanted to work at. For the most part I worked on a psych unit at a place called Canyon Hospital which later was taken over by Kaiser Permanente. Luckily, Fullerton liked me and my psych skills as I understood group process so they hired me to work part time as a seminar leader. They warned me that if I wanted to keep the job, I needed a master’s degree fast. I went to Cal State L.A and was lucky that the state needed psych nurses and offered scholarships to those who qualified. I was awarded one until I graduated with a master’s degree. Then, CSUF hired me full time but told me I had 7 years to get a PhD in order to become a tenured professor. I enrolled at Claremont University for several reasons. I decided to get my doctorate in Education, not nursing, for several reasons. One was that Claremont’s classes were in the late afternoon so I could work and classes were only a couple of days a week so I could keep up with my children’s schedules. Secondly, I was interested in teaching and research in that area appealed to me. At Claremont I decided to major in Life Span Development which was the study of the necessary tasks that people have to accomplish to move from one stage of development to the next, successfully. It was very applicable to nursing and certainly to my teaching at CSUF as we covered the life span in our classes. When I graduated Claremont, my kids were old enough to buy me car license plates which say Dr. Mom E. You can still see them on my car.

I worked here for 20 years and loved almost every moment of that time. Seeing my students struggle to get through the spectrum that I had , school, work and family was sometimes difficult and I would often tell them that they did not have to get an A in every part of their lives. They could choose which was the most important, usually family, and then be content to do their best with the time and energy they had left. It gave me great pride to go to graduation and see them getting their diploma and then meeting with their families. Being part of the faculty meant that you were expected to serve on campus committees. I was selected to serve on a new group called CLE Continuing Learning Experience because my specialty was life span development. Their brilliant chair felt that older people loved to learn and where better than on a college campus. Leo Shapiro sold his idea to the continuing education department as CLE was to be self supporting. He raised millions of dollars to build RGC and CSUF provided the land to build it on. Once built, CSUF owned the building. The rights to the use of the rooms and auditorium were to be negotiated. It was the best committee I ever served on with dedicated people working extremely hard to accomplish the task. CLE started out with less than 100 people and is now called OLLI with 1700 people selecting from 120 courses a semester. Since I had access to these wonderful people I decided to do my dissertation research based on the life satisfaction of older learners as compared to the same age folks enrolled at Senior Centers. Turns out that the retired learners across age and education levels were happier involved in learning at CLE than doing other activities at senior centers. During my teaching years I was encouraged to become involved in the community. I served as the local representative to the California Nurses Association, and the Health Care Council of Orange County. I also served on the committee called California Health Decisions that helped developed the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. It took many months working with physicians, nurses, lawyers and citizens before we came up with the document that was approved in Sacramento.

Finally, a bit of history about the nursing program which started in the 1970’s. Many faculty on campus did not want to approve it because it was expensive, the student –faculty ratio was 1-10 and some did not see nursing as a “profession.” We did get approved and gained the respect of many but we still had deniers. Over the years we proved ourselves with BRN approval and accreditation by educational standards boards. Then came the late 1990’s and the state budget bottomed out. Funds to the state universities were severely cut. Faculty were urged to take early retirement so the schools could save of tenured salaries and hire part timers at half the costs. Since I was old enough to collect a pension I agreed to retire. Immediately after I retired, the associate dean of the school decided that the nursing department had to go. The nursing faculty called me to a meeting and said, “Since you are retired they can’t fire you so what can you do to help save the program?” Because I had been so involved with health leaders throughout the county I had the opportunity to get them involved. We developed a letter outlining the work our graduates were doing throughout the county and passed it out to legislators, directors of nursing, hospital administrators and public health workers. We said look what our nurses contribute to your facilities. You really don’t want to lose this program. Please write to the president of CSUF telling him how important this program is to your facility. Fortunately, they all agreed and did send letters to the President. One day at OLLI where President Gordon was giving out an award, he came up to me. He looked at me with really angry eyes and said, “Do you know what my desk looks like?” I said,”No, what?” He said, “I have letters from all over the state covering my desk talking about the nursing program.” So I said, “Good, I hope you listen to them.” He did and ultimately the assistant dean lost her job. I shed no tears. From that shaky start, look at what we have accomplished from entry level to doctorate in nursing. From 12 graduates to thousands practicing and making a difference in so many lives everywhere. I hope you see that Dreams do come true with hard work and caring people.



Evan Scheier is a Titan. For Evan, having received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2014, returning to CSUF’s School of Nursing to obtain his Master’s in Anesthesia was a no-brainer. Based on the quality education, location, and affordability, Evan chose to return to his alma mater and enter the nurse anesthesia program run in partnership with the Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia (KPSA). Evan describes the faculty at CSUF’s School of Nursing as “phenomenal,” having found the curriculum of the RN-BSN program to have enhanced his ability to understand advanced aspects of physical assessment, pathophysiology, nursing leadership, management, nursing ethics, and the importance of attending to the needs of the community. The campus-based Anesthesia program promotes optimal hands on learning experience which suits Evan perfectly; he describes the education he has received from KPSA as not only exceptional, but unsurpassed. Evan takes pride in the fact that his faculty members are nationally recognized clinicians and educators who are genuinely committed to his success. Evan comes from a family of healthcare professionals, his mother being a perinatal nurse educator and his father a practitioner of family medicine. Evan will complete his Master of Science in Nursing in August 2016.


Ruben Macias graduated from California State University, Fullerton's Entry-Level BSN Program in 2011. He has since earned a master’s degree in epidemiology from Columbia University and has worked at a number of world-class institutions including the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, NYU Langone Medical Center, and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Ruben began his nursing career as an RN on the pediatrics floor and has spent most of his time in the pediatric CTICU since; he has recently returned to academia and is working on another master’s degree, this time from the USC Keck School of Medicine, in nursing anesthesia.




Shayna McDaniel received her Bachelors of Science in Biology and returned to school to obtain her Masters of Science in Nursing four years later. Upon entry into the School of Nursing’s EL-MSN program, Shayna volunteered as a research assistance for a longitudinal study on fibromyalgia with the CSUF Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Center where she was introduced to Dr. Rutledge. Throughout Shayna’s nursing journey, Dr. Rutledge has been there through it all – as the primary investigator on the fibromyalgia study, the School of Nursing faculty whom she chose to complete an independent study with, and as her master’s project chair. It is her relationship with Dr. Rutledge that Shayna cites as the highlight of her time in the program, and makes a direct correlation between her mentor’s influence and her success. Shayna has completed two peer-reviewed abstracts, as well as presented at the Western Institute of Nursing and Sigma Theta Tau International conferences. Her master’s project was a correlational analysis on physical activity and depressive symptoms in persons with fibromyalgia, in addition to a qualitative investigation on nurses’ and nursing assistants’ reflections on inpatient falls. Shayna hopes to one day return to school to pursue her Doctorate in Nursing Practice.

Rosette Martinez, MSN-Leadership 2008

I come from a family of Titans. My husband, daughter, mother, sister in-law and countless other friends and family are graduates of California State University, Fullerton. In the late 80’s, I received my first college degree from CSUF in Physical Education. At that time, I was convinced I wanted to be in the sports medicine field. Looking back at that time, I enjoyed courses like exercise kinesiology and biomechanics. When I was just about to graduate from CSUF, I was introduced to the field of Chiropractic. I spent one more year taking the required courses for Chiropractic school and entered the program.

For the next decade or so, life took many twists and turns. Marriage, children, various jobs, I never really practiced as a Chiropractor, but I never lost my zeal for wanting to improve the health of others. My husband suggested that it was time to return to my first interest – providing health care to those in need. I looked at my options and decided to go to nursing school. Because of my numerous courses in the health field, I was eligible for and was accepted into an accelerated Bachelor’s program in Nursing at California State University, Long Beach. The year and a half flew by and before I knew it, I was working as a nurse at Kaiser Permanente in Baldwin Park.

Because this was a second career for me, I decided to jump start my nursing career and immediately applied and entered the Master’s Degree Program in Nursing Leadership at CSUF. I had many wonderful instructors like Dr. Rutledge, Dr. Garon, Dr. Weismuller, Dr. Robertson and Dr. Vaughn to name a few.

The lessons I learned while taking courses like Theoretical Basis of Leadership, Nursing Research and Vulnerable Populations were great, but were only part of the curriculum. I also learned discipline, prioritization and focus.

The lessons I learned while taking courses like Theoretical Basis of Leadership, Nursing Research and Vulnerable Populations were great, but were only part of the curriculum. I also learned discipline, prioritization and focus. These traits would serve me well in the nursing field. While I was in the Master’s Program, I became a Charge Nurse on the Med/Surg/Telemetry floor in which I worked. I was able to immediately put into practice all the coursework from the Leadership Program. After completing my Master’s Degree, I decided it was time to take on more challenges within the nursing field.

I became the House Supervisor at Kaiser Permanente Downey. This position exposed me to hospital operations, hospital flow and how all the different departments work together to provide care for our patients. I held this position for five years when it was time again for progress. I am currently the Clinical Director for Nursing Practice and Innovation. This position is challenging, exciting and the education I received from CSUF has once again been invaluable to me personally and professionally.




I always had nursing in mind as my career of choice because my great-grandmother was also an RN. Like many others, my nursing journey has been filled with unforeseen occurrences including financial hardships, pregnancy during nursing school, as well as major health issues. However, my dedication and determination to be a part of this wonderful profession has helped me survive even the toughest times. After completion of my ADN at El Camino College-Torrance, I decided to return to school right away to pursue my BSN. Cal State Fullerton was my top school of choice, because of their dedication to assisting students through this rigorous degree program. Additionally, the campus is one of the most diverse in the CSU system. I am grateful to Cal State Fullerton and all of the staff and professors who assisted me in obtaining my BSN. Through my experience at Cal State Fullerton, I have decided to continue my education, and I am looking forward to returning to CSUF for my MSN. I am thankful that I can be a role model for my daughter and hope that she will pursue a career in healthcare too!


"It’s the experiences that you have that prepare you."

Adriana Velez returned to CSUF after she obtained her bachelors in Kinesiology to receive her Masters of Science in Nursing in 2015. Adriana contributes a great deal of her success to the inspiring people around her starting with her cohort; though a small group, everyone got along very well and she found support from them as they pushed and encouraged each other. Adriana was also fortunate enough to find a mentor in faculty member Dr. Rutkowski, who was instrumental as her advisor during the process of completing her final project, "A program to reduce musculoskeletal injuries and promote wellness in nursing students." Adriana’s program is a curriculum for nursing students that focuses on safe body mechanics and strength in order to prevent injuries and prolong the careers of registered nurses. She presented her work at the STTI Odyssey Conference 2015 and has co-authored a manuscript with Dr. Rutkowski on the subject of her master’s project. Her success has continued since graduation as the manuscript has been submitted and accepted to the Journal of Nursing Education and Practice. Adriana currently works at St. Joseph Hospital on the medical telemetry unit where she remains active in health promotion and advancing her skill sets, as well as continuing to pursue new research while educating those around her. Adriana is also a certified athletic trainer (ATC) and hopes to one day utilize her knowledge and skills from both professions in one setting.

ELLEN GRUWELL, Rn-BSN 2005 & MSN Leadership 2008

"Education rekindled my passion for nursing and reinforced the importance of evidence-based practice as the foundation for patient care."

Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing was an idea I had contemplated for some time. I investigated several programs and even received application materials in the mail. However, one day at work, in 2002, I saw a flyer posted on a bulletin board that grabbed my attention. It was a notice advertising the RN-BSN distance education program offered through Cal State Fullerton. Classes would meet one day a week on the hospital campus over a period of 2 ½ years. I was thrilled, for the program was exactly what I was looking for! Not only was the format designed for the working RN, but there was also was something to be said about beginning the journey with a group of my friends. In 2005, we became the first cohort from my hospital to graduate.

What I discovered in the undergraduate program was the magnitude of the nurse’s professional role. Education rekindled my passion for nursing and reinforced the importance of evidence-based practice as the foundation for patient care. Faculty members provided guidance and support every step of the way. It was their influence that changed my worldview and factored into my decision to enter the graduate Nursing Leadership Program. In 2008, I obtained my MSN with the idea of entering academia. Advised to go even further, I would ultimately pursue my PhD.

I was blessed with professors who encouraged intellectual discourse, curiosity, and professional growth. It has been inspirational to witness career achievements of my peers in the clinical, educational, and management settings. None of this would have been possible without taking the first step, making the first decision and listening to that still, quiet voice within.



Rinna Harper dreamed of being a Titan and now she is. Most of Rinna’s friends and co-workers have come to CSUF’s School of Nursing to obtain their degrees and she finds them to be the most knowledgeable and caring nurses she has ever met. Inspired, Rinna returned to school in pursuit of her Masters of Science in Nursing with a concentration in Leadership. Rinna speaks positively of her experiences with the School of Nursing where she has developed lifelong friendships with her classmates, worked with and been educated by the excellent instructors, and been guided by supportive staff members. Rinna completed the program with hard work and perseverance, she was honored to be asked to deliver the MSN Commencement speech, and she was the recipient of the Collegiality Award.


Andrea Brycsak graduated from California State University, Fullerton’s RN-BSN program in the spring of 2016. Speaking of her time in the program, Andrea contributes much of her success to the immeasurable delivery of education, support, and professionalism provided by the School of Nursing faculty. She cites Dr. Elaine Rutkowski as being the most influential person to her journey, someone whose attributes include professionalism, poise, beauty, and grace. Beyond the classroom, where she felt supported and respected by the most humble and professional faculty, Andrea was always encouraged to strive for more; utilizing the tools and resources learned from the RN-BSN program she has embodied the characteristics she most admired in her nursing instructors and embraced a new attitude which she has brought to her role as a RN in order to serve the public with grace. Despite the challenging atmosphere of the classroom where the faculty had set the bar high, Andrea felt privileged to attend classes and work to not only meet but exceed expectations. Andrea’s future ambitions include working in the field of Obstetrics and returning to the CSUF campus to complete a master’s degree in education.

Maryia Mashketava, LVN-BSN 2016

When Maryia Mashketeva’s mother was diagnosed with cancer she realized that her educational path wasn’t right for her any longer. She was missing an important sense of fulfillment in her life. Having been inspired by the care and thoughtfulness of the nurses whom she encountered during her mother's treatment, Maryia switched career paths and decided to become a nurse.

Maryia desires to become the kind of nurse that goes above and beyond their duties to care for patients, treating them with the utmost respect, and making them feel special, unique, and important. Maryia plans to eventually continue her education and earn her Master’s in Nursing while contributing to the growing nursing profession utilizing her passion for research and helping others. Maryia is thankful for the opportunities she has been afforded at Cal State Fullerton and she is excited to dedicate her life to the nursing profession.

Ruben Macias graduated from California State University, Fullerton's Entry-Level BSN Program in 2011. He has since earned a master’s degree in epidemiology from Columbia University and has worked at a number of world-class institutions including the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, NYU Langone Medical Center, and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Ruben began his nursing career as an RN on the pediatrics floor and has spent most of his time in the pediatric CTICU since; he has recently returned to academia and is working on another master’s degree, this time from the USC Keck School of Medicine, in nursing anesthesia.

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