Monishia Miller Named Outstanding Lecturer
Monishia “Moe” Millerʼs dedication to her students and passion for inspiring future community leaders have earned her recognition as Cal State Fullertonʼs 2020-21 Outstanding Lecturer. Miller, lecturer in criminal justice, has taught at Cal State Fullerton since 2011.
Known affectionately by students and faculty as “Coach Moe,” Miller, Ph.D., is dedicated to preparing and equipping students with the critical thinking, writing and communication skills needed for the criminal justice field. Miller teaches courses such as “Introduction to Crime, Law, and Justice,” “Foundations of Criminal Justice,” “Juvenile Justice Administration,” “Theories of Crime and Delinquency” and “Minorities and the Criminal Justice System.”
Miller also has a background as a district school safety officer for Chino Valley Unified School District, a volunteer and community liaison for the Los Angeles and Orange County Probation Departments and a youth advocate for Anaheim nonprofit Higher Ground Youth & Family Services.
Her community work enhances the lessons she provides her students. For example, Miller often sets up community learning activities so her students become comfortable interacting with one another and participating in ways that are similar to duties that occur in the field.
“This award means so much because itʼs more than acknowledging my work on campus but about my dedication to make our campus a place for our students to learn and grow,” Miller said. “I am honored to be on the list with so many other outstanding lecturers.”
Miller earned a bachelorʼs degree in sociology from the University of California, Irvine, and a masterʼs degree in criminal justice administration from California State University, Los Angeles. Her research interests include juvenile justice reform, trauma and delinquency, youth services programs and school districtsʼ policies on discipline.
Stacy Mallicoat, professor of criminal justice, said Millerʼs extensive field experience makes her a valuable resource for students.
“Her work and experiences, which are rooted in the communities and systems that she serves, provide students with a unique insider view of the criminal and social justice systems,” Mallicoat said. “Students frequently comment on her enthusiastic lecture style as one of the strongest assets of the class. She is always ready to take on a new topic, prep a new course and incorporate new materials into her classes to keep the students engaged.”
Millerʼs volunteer work includes serving as a faculty mentor with the universityʼs Guardian Scholars Program and a lecturersʼ representative for the California Faculty Associationʼs Fullerton Chapter. She has also worked extensively with the universityʼs Criminal Justice Student Success Academy. She is involved in professional associations such as the American Society of Criminology, Western Society of Criminology, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Global Youth Justice and National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice.
Miller was previously named Cal State Fullertonʼs 2018 Outstanding Lecturer.
Kristin Rowe on Hair and Body Politics
“Body politics are key because bodies are battlegrounds for so many tensions and debates both locally and globally. Bodies are key to how we come to understand ourselves--especially as raced, gendered, and sexualized subjects. Bodies exist in a larger particular political, social, and historical context, yet we as individuals exercise agency every day in how we choose to move, carry, and adorn our bodies. We cannot understand any of the most pressing issues of our time around medicine, health, race, sex, gender identity, violence, sexual orientation, size, dis/ability, and more without understanding embodied experiences and body politics.”
Kristin Denise Rowe, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of American Studies, studies Black feminism, beauty, and Black popular culture. Her research examines cultural representations of Black women, specifically questions around standards of beauty and depictions of Black natural hair.
“At the intersection of social media usage, a trend in organic products, Black female celebrities “going natural,” and a widespread interest in do-it- yourself culture, the late 2000s opened a space for Black American women to stop chemically straightening their hair via products known as “relaxers” and begin to wear their hair natural,” states Rowe.
This trend has resulted in an Internet-based cultural phenomenon now known as the “natural hair movement.” Within the context of this natural hair movement, new conversations around standards of beauty, hair politics, and Black womenʼs embodiment have flourished within the public sphere— largely aided by new media. Roweʼs research maps these conversations by exploring contemporary expressions of Black womenʼs natural hair within cultural production.
Using textual and content analysis, Rowe investigates various sites of inquiry: natural hair product advertisements and Internet representations, as well as the ways Black womenʼs hair texture is evoked in recent song lyrics, television scenes, and non-fiction prose by Black women. Each of these sites of inquiry—“hair moments”—offers a complex articulation of the ways Back women experience, share, and negotiate the historically fraught terrain that is Eurocentric standards of beauty and racialized body politics.
The project sits at the intersection of many still developing ideas and trends: the Internet-based contemporary Black womenʼs natural hair movement; the relationship between social media and cultural representations; and an interdisciplinary melding of pop culture studies, gender studies, and Black Studies. Ultimately, the project uses hair as a vehicle for recovering agency and interiority (the quality of being focused on oneʼs inner life and identity) within Black womenʼs uses of their bodies, within a cultural landscape that constantly tries to tell them who and what they are.
Something that has surprised Rowe is the variety of people who are intrigued by her research on beauty culture or have it resonate with them somehow. “I have always expected and experienced that certain populations -- especially women of color -- will be interested in my work. However, people of many races, genders, sexualities, and backgrounds have commented on how they connect to the work. It turns out, many of us grapple with questions around beauty norms and culture, the politicization of bodies, and our place within all of this “stuff.” It has been really rewarding and humbling,” she explains.
Rowe traces her interest in these questions around body politics, beauty culture, race, and gender back to her childhood. “I was a dancer, as well as a Black girl in a racially diverse college town (Newark, Delaware). Being a young Black female dancer meant that I was already always thinking about bodies,” she explains.
While an undergrad at the University of Delaware, Rowe left North America for the first time to study abroad in Accra, Ghana (West Africa). “The studies of gender, politics, and womenʼs political organizing,” she mused, “ pushed me out of my then humanities-based comfort zone. New concepts around international relations and political science challenged me for the better.”
“Be open to feedback and learning more; yet, trust your own vision and follow your own passion…Do not allow trending topics in academia, your professors, or your colleagues to tell you what you should care about researching or writing. Be prepared for deep thought, study, and introspection--We live in a society of short attention spans, where deep reading and study is sometimes foregone in favor of hot takes and quick recaps.”
Angela Davis, bell hooks, and the women in her family are heroes to Rowe. “All of the above demonstrate love in action through their work.”
Robert Voeks awarded Mary W. Klinger Award
The Society for Economic Botany announced that the Mary W. Klinger Award, recognizing an outstanding recent book in the field of ethnobotany or economic botany, has been awarded to Robert A. Voeks’ The Ethnobotany of Eden: Rethinking the Jungle Medicine Narrative.
The Ethnobotany of Eden questions the popular belief that tropical rain forests are a particularly rich source of medicinal plants, in the process debunking both historical and modern misconceptions. Subjects addressed include Western perceptions of tropical forests and peoples, the history of biopiracy, the effects of migration on knowledge, and the importance of gender.
Robert Voeks, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Geography & the Environment at CSUF. His research emphasizes the African diaspora and South American ethnobotany.
Voeks became interested in this research many years ago while working on a medicinal plant project in Brazil. He noticed that most of the species he collected with local healers were not from primary tropical forests, but instead were collected in humanized spaces—especially home gardens, forest paths, and secondary forests that had in the past been cut and burned. This was inconsistent with what was widely touted as an important environmental narrative of the time, that is, that primary tropical forests were fonts of indigenous medicinal plants and that in the past many of these had been developed into life-saving pharmaceutical drugs, and consequently, these possible miracle cures were being sacrificed by the widespread deforestation that was occurring in Brazil and other tropical countries.
“I later termed this the ‘jungle medicine narrative.’ Over the years, I came to understand that much of what Westerners know about nature and people in tropical landscapes was, in fact, culturally constructed by outsiders—naturalists, travel writers, and missionaries—and often with hidden agendas,” says Voeks. Over the years, Voeks carried out further research on this topic in Brazil, as well as, in SE Asia and East Africa, which eventually culminated in The Ethnobotany of Eden.
“The big-picture message is that people relate to compelling stories much more than facts and figures. And in this era of so many pressing environmental challenges, it is tempting to fit the reams of data, which no one wants to hear, into stories (environmental narratives), with good guys and bad guys, possible calamitous outcomes, but with the chance for positive resolution if we all pitch in and do the right thing. My message is that stories are a very constructive way to make science and social science comprehensible to the general public, but it is critical to get the science right. Because once an environmental story enters into collective wisdom, for example, that the Amazon Forest is the green lungs of the world, which is nonsense, it is nearly impossible to eradicate.”
Though working in tropical forests all of his academic career, Voeks comments ironically, “I’ve always been extremely afraid of snakes. And outside of stepping on two venomous snakes in Borneo, I’ve never had a bad encounter.” To students he urges, “don’t let your fears and phobias stop you from pursuing your dream.”
Voeks is currently working on an etextbook project for use in the California Geography class. The book, California Dreamin’: A Geography of the Golden State is being written collaboratively with his colleague at CSU Stanislaus, Dr. Jennifer Helzer. Most importantly, the book will be open source and free to all students and faculty who choose to adopt it.
Bringing Soldiers Home
When Nicole Rhotonʼs investigation team removed the top layer of dirt from a crash site in former East Germany, they immediately saw evidence of a full skeleton.
The team decided to continue excavation until the remains were fully exposed, digging until 4 oʼclock in the morning. The nearby town was overwhelmingly supportive, with the mayor and volunteer fire department providing a generator to keep the area well lit.
Within the year, the remains were identified by circumstantial evidence and dental comparison as U.S. Army Air Forces 2nd Lt. John W. Herb, a serviceman missing since World War II.
Cases to Remember
More than 81,900 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and the Vietnam War — and itʼs Rhotonʼs job to find them.
The Cal State Fullerton alumna is one of about 30 historians working with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), an agency within the
U.S. Department of Defense whose mission is to recover military personnel listed as prisoners of war or missing in action from past conflicts. In her decade of experience, sheʼs worked on approximately 500 cases and conducted missions in seven countries.
In the case of Herb, his P-51D Mustang aircraft crashed during an attempted landing in an open field southeast of Hamburg, Germany. A pilot assigned to the 368th Fighter Squadron, 359th Fighter Group, Herb was reported killed in action. But his remains were not recovered during the war.
Six decades later, in 2014, Rhoton helped interview more than 10 people who had slightly different estimated positions of Herbʼs crash site. Taking the average of those locations, the team determined its survey area.
After the remains were unearthed and identified by the DPAA laboratory, Rhoton met with the Herb family, shared the recovery story and even attended his burial with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
The Herb family story has a special place in Rhotonʼs heart, but there are many others as well. Time, patience and “wrong” locations often are part of the recovery process, she says. “They make us better investigators.”
In fact, patience sometimes is the only key, as Rhoton discovered when she met an elderly German man who at first could not bring himself to disclose where he had dug two American airmenʼs graves when he was just 10 years old.
“He really did not — but also really did — want to tell me where he buried the two fliers,” says Rhoton. “I went to his house every day at coffee and cake time, and we sat there and pretended like we werenʼt going to talk about the burials.
“After a week of this, he told me.”
Searching the South Pacific
In Papua New Guinea, where Rhoton currently specializes, approximately 3,000 individuals are still missing from the 6,000 killed in the area during World War II. Rhoton is responsible for research and investigation activities to locate these unaccounted-for soldiers, many of them airmen whose planes were shot down or crashed.
The regionʼs inclement climate, mountainous terrain, steep valleys, and potentially lethal flora and fauna create a challenging environment for the fieldwork Rhoton conducts about a quarter of the year. Most of the time, crash sites are accessed only by helicopter, banana boat or foot.
DPAA researchers like Rhoton must rely on the people of Papua New Guinea to help them navigate the sites.
“For the parents, spouses and descendants of the missing, these wars never came to a close.” - Volker Janssen, CSUF professor of history
Establishing trust is essential, she says, to getting reliable information.
Before they even reach the field, Rhoton spends most of the year in the office conducting research and analysis to develop a case, which can include archival research, review of historical search efforts and analysis of geospatial data. Reaching out to contacts and friends established in the field often provides additional information that can help a case progress.
“Itʼs my job to get us to a site. Then I hand it over to the archaeologist to lead the survey at the site,” explains Rhoton. “The work that we do as historians and analysts informs every part of the process.
“If we are able to advance a case to the point where we are ready to take it to the field, that is already a huge success,” she adds. “Sometimes we do not find what we are looking for, but even that negative confirmation provides us with information to revise our analysis of the case and look elsewhere.”
A major challenge of the work is coordinating with different people in the host country on issues from land ownership and compensation to cultural practices and traditions.
“One thing that we as an agency absolutely do not do is pay for remains. If weʼre disrupting the land, we can provide some land compensation. But there are a lot of restrictions on what we can and cannot pay for,” explains Rhoton. “For the most part, we appeal to the humanitarian nature of our mission.
“The sentiment — to bring them home — is respected and admired by many I have encountered in other nations.”
During the process, DPAA analysts and historians like Rhoton meet with family members to provide case status updates. “It becomes really clear during those meetings that these losses are felt deeply and intergenerationally.”
Historian in the Making
One of those positions was a fellowship with DPAA, with the job location to be determined. Rhoton had no idea such a job existed — that historians helped the U.S. search for missing military members. Furthermore, she was surprised to land the position given her masterʼs thesis focusing on men who refused to register for the draft in World War II and her anti-war social media profile.
“I was lucky that the people who reviewed my application were trained historians and were able to see the potential value I offered,” says Rhoton, crediting CSUF professors who challenged her to be a critical thinker, taught her to conduct research and helped develop her writing.
While a student, Rhoton also served as editor of the universityʼs Welebaethan history journal. The journal has been named best in the nation by the Phi Alpha Theta national history honor society more than 30 times since 1974.
“In what was arguably the worst year to graduate and enter the job market in a generation, Nicole got hired and began one of the most meaningful and exciting careers any historian can hope for,” says Volker Janssen, professor of history.
DPAAʼs herculean work of reuniting the missing and dead with their families, he says, is one that has deep American roots.
“Americans place great value on honoring their fallen by giving them a proper burial. This has been an American tradition since Abraham Lincoln dedicated the Soldiersʼ National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at the height of the Civil War in 1863,” explains Janssen, who teaches the course “American Military History.”
“When Nicole and her colleagues search for troops missing in action, they unearth not just bones and fragments of military garb and gear, but memories. For the parents, spouses and descendants of the missing, these wars never came to a close and their grief never got closure,” he says.
“Their successful recoveries are somber triumphs — reminders of the sacrifice of service members, the pain and suffering of their survivors, and occasions for more peaceful relations with other nations.”
¡El Grito Para La Igualdad!/The Cry for Equality!
Monique Garcia, MMUF Scholar and History and Chicana/o Studies major, interned this last summer at UCLAʼs Chicano Studies Research Center. Her research explores the marginalization of minorities and their fight for civil rights. She focuses on a Pro-Chicano youth activist organization, the Brown Berets, whose efforts and campaigns took place in the context of the Chicano Movement. Specifically, she examines the roles that young Chicanas had within the movement and how they navigated the patriarchy within the Brown Berets organization. Through this internship, Garcia had the opportunity to learn about digital archives, preservation, data entry, and “a sense of the work that goes into making archives fully accessible to the public,”
Garcia created her digital exhibit,“¡El Grito Para La Igualdad!/The Cry for Equality!” for the UCLA, Chicano Moratorium 50th Anniversary, based entirely off of her MMUF research at CSUF.
“Being accepted into the second cohort of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) has been my most impactful undergraduate experience,” states Garcia. The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship pushes to diversify the faculty at Universities by assisting minority students with the desire and dream of becoming a professor. “I feel that this fellowship is vital, especially with todayʼs social and political climate. After years of institutional racism within the United States, academia has suffered from its effects.” According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 41% of full-time professors are white males, 35% are white females, 6% are Asian males, 5% are Asian Females, and 3% are Black males, Black Females, Hispanic Males, and Hispanic Females. Garcia remarks, “Being a Hispanic female, this is disheartening; however, with programs like MMUF, this gap will hopefully be lessened in the future.”
Garcia says, “Throughout my early educational career, I was taught a white, nationalistic, and biased view of history. Not until attending CSUF did I become aware of this.” In her research of the Brown Berets organization, she found a representation of strength, unity, and pride for the Chicano culture. Many Brown Berets were her age. “I wanted to know what inspired them to take part?” she adds.
This past summer Garcia also interned at CSUFʼs Chicano Research Center, where she transcribed three Oral Histories on David Sanchez (the founder of the Brown Berets). Garciaʼs current research studies how the “church” assisted the Brown Berets organization in the fight to end injustice. She plans to pursue a Masterʼs degree and then a Doctorate with the hopes of becoming a history professor.
“I hope to be able to integrate the knowledge that I have gained in the study of the history of minority groups in order to influence current discrimination and prejudice. I can help society grow by educating future historians.
Although it may be dark and morbid, sometimes, learning the history of humanity gives me hope that the human race will continue to grow. We can prevent mistakes that happened in the past from happening again.”
McNair Scholar Studies the Effects of Belittlement on Women
Varvara Gulina is testing whether men’s perceptions about what makes a woman attractive hinder a woman’s ability to speak up for herself when she is disrespected. “In my life as a young adult, I have become acutely aware of the external and internal forces pressuring me to conform and to tolerate negative behaviors. Over time I noticed how these forces shaped girls and women around me,” says Gulina. She realized that many women struggle with making their own decisions and are often unaware of the coercion. She adds, “I became interested in understanding the gaps in academic research surrounding the massive numbers of female victimization.”
In her research, Gulina considers if a women’s desire to be perceived as attractive plays a role in her tolerance for disrespect. Finding scant information on belittlement in academia, she conducted her own experiment. As a McNair Scholar, under Dr. Carrie Carmody's supervision Varvara started a new research project where she worked with her fellow lab-mates to create a unique experiment, wrote the IRB proposal, conducted interviews, and collected data.
Gulina’s findings are still preliminary, but the hypothesis is that women, who are primed with fabricated information about men’s preference for passive women, will speak up less frequently when they are belittled. “There is some early indication that some women choose not to speak up for themselves, not to appear rude. I am very excited to run the analyses and see what we find,” she adds. Gulina dedicated hundreds of hours to this research. When Covid-19 struck, she had to re-imagine a way to continue the experiment in an online format.
Gulina was born in an impoverished part of Russia—about 40 miles from Moscow and saw no examples of women that exemplified how an educated or scientifically driven woman looked. “A woman’s desire for education was routinely devalued and discouraged. At one point, I abandoned the possibility of higher education altogether, harboring a deep-seated shame about who I thought I was,” she states. Now, she is not only pursuing a Ph.D. but plans to develop violence-prevention programs that focus on educating and empowering women in diverse countries and is proud of her Russian-Ukrainian background.
As a young mother raising a little girl, her work has filtered into her personal life. “I was driven by a notion that I am called to contribute to something greater than myself. “Through my own example, I hope to inspire girls and women to never settle for mediocrity and to pursue a life of their own making confidently,” she exclaims.
Gulina found the McNair Program to be one of her most impactful experiences at CSUF. “The program is intense. It was painful at times, but it transformed me into a scholar who can think clearly and write more effectively. I owe everything to the faculty that invested so heavily in me,” she says. The Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program prepares students from underrepresented, first-generation, and low-income students for doctoral studies. McNair Scholars participate in a range of research and scholarly activities, including completing a “McNair thesis” under a faculty mentor. The McNair Scholars Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education created to honor Dr. Ronald E. McNair, Challenger astronaut, and physicist.
Gulina plans to continue to conduct research that focuses on examining the underlying psychological processes of women who find themselves amidst interpersonal violence and sexual victimization in Eastern European. Her cultural background and academic education put her in a unique position to bridge the gap and develop programs using a culturally-integrative approach. “I dream to one day see a world where all women are respected and protected.”
Gulina was recently awarded the Sally Casanova Pre-doctoral Award. Sally Casanova Scholars have unique opportunities to explore and prepare to succeed in doctoral programs. Scholars receive one-on-one guidance provided by faculty members within the CSU and the opportunity to work with faculty from doctoral-granting institutions. Students receive a $3,000 scholarship with funding for visits to doctoral-granting institutions, travel to national symposiums, and conferences.
“Both of these awards are important to me because they indicate to me that there are people who not only support my educational endeavors but also believe in me as a leader,” says Gulina.
Student Imagines a ‘Society of Last Dreamers’ in Creating Zine
English major and fantasy writer Mervae McCormack put her imagination to the test by creating her first zine, “Society of Last Dreamers,” about how Earth is destroyed by climate change and human impact.
McCormack, who aspires to become a published writer and is writing a fantasy trilogy, created the zine for the “Zines to the Future! (Re)making SoCal Futures” virtual exhibit project at Cal State Fullerton’s Pollak Library. Pronounced “zeen,” short for magazine or fanzine, a zine is a small, handmade (or digital) booklet.
The exhibit, themed “Imagining Diverse Futures,” was directed by David Sandner, professor of English, comparative literature and linguistics.
Art, African American studies and English majors are involved in the zine project, including making and writing zines, creating art or installing the physical exhibit.
What do you find fascinating about zines?
As a writer, zines allow me to create in a way that I otherwise couldn’t. Zines allow absolute freedom. Making things with your hands and being able to see and touch them is vastly underrated and is slowly on the decline. The multitude of forms that a zine can take depending on how it’s folded is incredible; a story can suddenly be told in a variety of ways depending on how the reader chooses to unfold it. The best part is that zines create an opportunity for voices that would not otherwise be heard, and writers get an audience for their ideas. Zines encourage people who aren’t necessarily writers to create, write and tell stories.
How did you come up with the idea for your zine?
I wanted to write a story about our future and what could happen if we don’t make changes and find solutions to climate and other societal issues. If we don’t address climate change, coral reefs and rainforests will be destroyed. In the “Society of Last Dreamers” I tell the story of how the world has been left a wasteland. The air isn’t breathable because of pollution so humanity sought refuge under the ocean. People live in a dome city called “Last Home.” There are no trees under the ocean and oxygen is running out. Humans don’t dream about a future because there is no future for them. My main characters call themselves the “Society of Last Dreamers” and steal paper from the government in order to create the last book on Earth.
What do you hope people learn from your zine?
I hope people take away the message that we need to change the way we’re going about doing things now, not only as consumers, but as producers as well. We need to switch to sustainable methods of production, like bamboo, and we need to invest in our future before we don’t have one.
Why did you want to be a part of the exhibit?
I was so excited for a chance to be a part of this exhibit because giving young people a chance to be heard and celebrated by their school is important. I hope to learn more about what my generation imagines when we think of the future, especially as we go through a pandemic and the future sometimes looks bleak. I’m a writer, so any chance I have to practice and experiment with the craft of writing is a chance I jump at taking.
Why are you drawn to fantasy writing?
Fantasy involves total imagination as a reader and as a writer. When I am reading, I love the immersion involved; a good fantasy book makes me feel like I have explored it rather than read it. I want to offer that same feeling to my readers. I write fantasy because the only limit is my imagination, and I am drawn to the strange, the magical and the weird. For me, fantasy acknowledges the tragedy in the world, and offers a sense of indomitable hope and endurance — and that is something the world needs more of. The plot of my trilogy, “The Adamantine Chronicles,” is about death and the afterlife. The underworld is controlled by tyrants who take away people’s memories when they die. There are three stories in each book: a ghost who attempts to solve her own murder; a woman who, trying to absolve herself of guilt, ventures into the underworld to retrieve a ring; and an adventurer who travels the world searching for artifacts made of adamantine, and fights pirates, goblins and ghouls, oh my! When the characters in each story eventually meet, they want to liberate the underworld of its tyrants so that humanity can spend eternity with their loved ones.
David Sandner, Ph.D., professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics, was recently awarded a $5,000 Cal Humanities grant for the “Zines to the Future!: (Re)making SoCal Futures” project.
Sandner has been conceiving projects with the amazing science fiction archives in Special Collections for a few years and was aware of some very rare zines hidden there. “I have had students make zines before, but I noticed that more were making zines as a reaction to our digital world. So, I followed the trend and wanted to teach new 'zinesters' about their roots,” he explained
Students are welcome to be involved. The project is a collaboration with Cliff Cramp in Art and Natalie Graham in African American Studies. “The content, words, and images responding to our theme, is what matters--and this requires student creativity at a time when they are trapped and might need outlets...and might have the future on their minds,” says Sandner. Student work will be archived in the project online in Special Collections as a “snapshot of our crazy times.”
“The zine project is another way for me to get students to open up and stop thinking about their writing in limited ways. Good writing is a scarce commodity, on the web as well as elsewhere. They should be the content makers, from zines to the internet. It will require their creativity, critical thinking skills, and ability to be flexible,” adds Sandner.
University Launches Institute of Black Intellectual Innovation
“Systemic racism exists and terrible things can and do happen. Black students, faculty and staff may be depressed or angry. But what if we could focus on creating something of beauty? Or have a space to explore our culture and achievements? In the back of my mind, I wanted to create something that would build community and networks.”
What would it be like to create a Black arts institute? To offer a space for intellectual study … a think tank for creatives? A place where students could write or edit a journal, develop creative arts and activities, learn more about African American culture, deepen their intellect and understanding? Where senior faculty members and the Black community could welcome and mentor newer faculty members?
The more that Natalie Graham, associate professor of African American studies, thought about it, the more compelled she became to create such an environment.
“Over the years, I watched what was happening in higher education,” she said. “For us, there was a push at the CSU level to develop an ethnic studies requirement, but then I also heard that many of our Black students felt like they didnʼt belong. They would sometimes talk about being visible and invisible — they might stand out as the only Black student in their classes, but they often felt that their voices werenʼt being heard. Weʼd hear about achievement gaps, retention gaps — and how this disproportionately affected Black students.
“I want Cal State Fullerton to be a place where Black students feel welcome and can thrive. We have taken steps to achieve this, but we know there is more to do.”
So how could the university achieve this goal? The result is the Institute of Black Intellectual Innovation. The institute was recently approved by the universityʼs Planning, Resource and Budget Committee and will support students and faculty, campuswide, by institutionalizing the support and inclusion of Black people and Black culture, creative arts and intellectual history through collaborative, innovative, anti-racist research opportunities and publications; creative arts initiatives; community-based social science and humanities programming; and events that promote cultural competency.
“Our goal is to see students and faculty fellows collaboratively conducting research, centered on assessing and dismantling persistent legacies of institutional, anti-Black racism in higher education,” said Graham. “I see CSUF as a place for Black intellectual development. Thatʼs what we can be known for — increasing achievement. I want people to understand that thereʼs something happening here. I think developing a cultural, intellectual space is a great step in that direction.
What if we could focus on creating something of beauty? Or have a space to explore our culture and achievements? … I wanted to create something that would build community and networks.
“I want to say to students and faculty, ‘Come here and create a community.ʼ Understand that reactive politics arenʼt sustainable,” she said. “But that said, we still havenʼt gotten out of an era of trauma. Protest is necessary.
Pointing out systemic racism is necessary. I envision the IBII as a space to think and move forward. My goal has always been to be proactive, not reactive.”
Recognizing the significance of the institute for faculty, students and staff, Sheryl Fontaine, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, reached out to donors for their support. Howard Seller, professor emeritus of English, very quickly made a choice to donate $35,000 to assist in developing the institute.
“I was extremely impressed by the IBIIʼs goals and clear plans for development,” Seller said. “The multiple contributions the institute will make to students, faculty and the general community are especially relevant and timely. It seems clear to me that this endeavor is precisely what the College of Humanities and Social Sciences should be promoting and supporting.”
“We also want to support teaching initiatives that provide creative, experiential learning models for CSUF students exploring topics in African American studies,” Graham said. “Finally, we want to integrate community and academic leadership to mitigate barriers to well-being, retention and achievement for Black faculty at CSUF. Weʼre hoping to offer mentorship to faculty by looking beyond the university to community, corporate and academic leaders from across Southern California.”
A primary goal during the first five years is to support the recruitment and retention of high-quality and diverse faculty and staff. The institute hopes to identify and select IBII advisory board members from the campus and beyond; develop a regional journal that centers on issues related to history, arts, culture and contemporary affairs of Black people in California; provide programs, events and conferences; and assess systems within the university that contribute to racist outcomes. They will also create a student research consortium and engage in fundraising to help support these goals.
A central space for IBII will be located in the Pollak Library, where Graham envisions an open area for students and faculty to meet, study and hold small events and lectures.
For more information, contact Graham at email@example.com.
To donate to the institute, use the CSUF giving page.
Center for Oral and Public History’s New Space Preserves Stories for Future Generations
There are few places that have documented Southern California history as in-depth as the Lawrence de Graaf Center for Oral and Public History at Cal State Fullerton.
COPH, which is part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, maintains one of the largest oral history archives in California with over 6,000 recorded interviews, photographs and materials. It is well known for its Japanese American collection specializing in World War II, Richard Nixon collection, Mexican American collection, its El Toro Marine Corps Air Station Project and its Women, Politics, and Activism Project.
It also stands out for its focus on underrepresented communities and grassroots organizing, along with student-driven projects.
COPH Move In
This spring, COPH moved into a new space on the sixth floor of the Pollak Library’s south side. It is more than double the size of the center’s previous 5,000-square-foot location.
The center’s new space will open to students and the public as soon as public health guidelines allow. Its upgrades include an archive with temperature control settings, a reading room for researchers, a collaborative workroom for students, a community room for events and exhibits, a processing room for handling and organizing new materials, a project room for student assistants and interviews and a recording room.
Natalie Garcia working in new COPH Lab
Natalie Garcia, COPH archivist, said there were collections in the previous center that had yet to be digitized, like reel-to-reel audio tape recordings. They were deteriorating faster than anticipated due to the fluctuating environmental conditions in the archives.
Garcia said the center’s new dedicated HVAC, or heating, ventilating, and air conditioning, system means she does not need to worry as much about the center’s irreplicable audio recordings as they will be preserved under proper environmental conditions.
“Even after my time, they will still be in a good place to be digitized,” Garcia said. “Students well in the future will still have access to these resources.”
Natalie Fousekis, Ph.D., COPH director and professor of history, said the center is the only place in Orange County where you can hear people speak about the region before the 20th century.
“Many of these early interviews tell stories that you can’t get anywhere else,” Fousekis said. “We’re following the best practices of historic preservation and archives in this new space that we were not able to do before.”
When conditions are safe again, Fousekis said she looks forward to students using the center’s new collaborative space for laying out exhibitions, preparing for oral history interviews and working together on projects.
She also looks forward to welcoming students, faculty and the public to its community room for workshops, lectures, receptions and events related to the center’s oral and public history projects.
“All of that will allow students to get hands-on experience in ways they can add to their resume when they go out into the workforce,” Fousekis said.
Prestigious Fellowship Awarded to College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Cal State Fullerton’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences has been selected to receive a postdoctoral fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. Fullerton is the first CSU to be awarded a postdoctoral partnership with ACLS. This will allow the college to fund a two-year position for a faculty member from a historically underrepresented group, with the ultimate goal of transforming this position into a tenure-track hire. These positions are within the field of humanities and the college has designated this position to the Department of African American Studies.
Criteria for receiving this funding are that the universities and colleges are committed to increasing the diversity of their faculty.
“The college continues to focus on the recruitment and retention of a high-quality and diverse faculty and staff, with the goal of becoming a model of faculty and staff inclusivity, diversity and engagement that will better serve our diverse student population,” said Sheryl Fontaine, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “In the last three years, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences has hired 21 new tenure-track faculty; of the 21 new positions, women hold 13 and 11 are held by individuals from underrepresented populations.”
The new fellowship will be awarded in the 2021-22 academic year.
A call will be posted for an ACLS postdoctoral position in African American music and performance.
Moot Court Team Ranks Among Nation’s Best After Shift to Virtual Competition
In a highly-competitive tournament where reading body language, perfecting persuasion techniques and surveying a crowd are required, Cal State Fullerton’s Moot Court team earned top scores at the 2021 American Moot Court Association National Championship Tournament.
Twelve Cal State Fullerton students across six teams competed against the top 100 Moot Court teams in the country and brought home seven awards from the Jan. 22-24 tournament, which was held virtually this year.
Four students received National Oral Advocacy Championship awards: Jennifer Nakano and Zach Zirzow in seventh place and Khira Mistry and Ian Finley in 28th place.
Six students received National Brief Writing Championship awards: Isaac Gonzalez and Navdeep Sidhu came in second place as petitioner, Kristin Sinks and Amaris Aloise earned fourth place as petitioner and Noah Zepeda and Emily Higgins earned ninth place as respondent from over 350 briefs submitted.
Navdeep Sidhu also placed in 29th out of the 200 speakers ranked in the tournament’s Individual Orator Rankings.
“We had tremendous success,” said Pamela Fiber-Ostrow, professor of political science and coach of the Moot Court team at Cal State Fullerton. “Accomplishing this during a pandemic is just beyond extraordinary given the extra challenges our students faced. Our program is ranked third in the nation for our combined skills in oral advocacy and writing because of the talent and perseverance of our extraordinary Titans”
Moot Court team members said preparing for the virtual competition came with both expected and unexpected changes. Isaac Gonzalez, a junior majoring in business, created a mini studio in his bedroom for practice using books as his laptop stand and a bed sheet as his background.
“I like making eye contact and gauging the reactions of people whenever I speak,” Gonzalez said. “However, on Zoom, I’d have to constantly stare at the green light next to my camera to present a strong virtual eye contact. Seeing the reactions of judges from the corner of my eyes made it slightly more difficult to measure how my presentations and answers to questions were received.”
Gonzalez said one benefit from this past year was that the team was able to practice at nearly any time by dropping a Zoom link in their group chat for anyone who was available.
“Even though I spent little time in person with the team, I still grew close to them,” Gonzalez said. “The virtual setting also didn’t stop us from doing warm-up dances or team cheers before our tournaments.”
Amaris Aloise, a junior majoring in public administration and anthropology, said she had to adjust how she used body language and eye contact in her argument. Looking directly at the camera on her computer limited her ability to see how judges reacted.
“Having discussions through Zoom can be very difficult — it’s harder to get your message across and feel passionate when you’re talking to a screen,” Aloise said. “However, we worked together to figure out ways to feel comfortable in a virtual setting. Our coaches and mentors helped foster a sense of confidence in our abilities and our virtual courtroom demeanor.”
Aloise said she looks forward to future competitions when she can safely travel around the country with her teammates and show support for them in person. Until that time comes, Aloise said she is still gaining valuable experience.
“As an aspiring attorney, I know my Moot Court experiences will stay with me for the rest of my life,” Aloise said. “It has really helped me develop my sense of public speaking and presenting, as well as my skills in legal writing. Not to mention, I made great connections with alumni who are in the legal field themselves.”
Ian Finley, a junior majoring in political science and Spanish, said his team’s preparation approach hasn’t changed too much aside from its virtual setting, since it still requires reading many cases and practicing speaking for long hours.
“It’s one thing to get up early on the weekends to go see my friends at Moot Court practice, but it’s a whole different thing to get up early on the weekends for hours-long Zoom calls after Zooming all week for classes,” Finley said. “I genuinely loved Moot Court practice even in the virtual setting, but our team had to have a lot of endurance and fortitude this year.”
He said it was also easier for former Moot Court competitors, lawyers, judges and alumni from across the country to help the team during practices in 2020.
“If you told me last year that I could make friends with people that I would meet on Zoom, I would have laughed,” Finley said. “Now, I count these as some of my most valuable college friendships.”
In 2020, Cal State Fullerton ranked sixth among the nation’s top programs, placing third in Brief Writing and 19th in Oral Advocacy.
Nine New Scholars Join College of HSS
Representing the humanities and the social sciences, nine new faculty members joined Cal State Fullerton's College of Humanities and Social Sciences in the fall of 2021.
Christine Capetola, Assistant professor of African American Studies. Ph.D. in American Studies from University of Texas at Austin. Recipient of the ACLS (American Council of Learned Societies) postdoc appointment
Research interests: queer theory, Black studies, sound studies, affect theory, performance studies, gender & sexuality studies, popular music studies.
Brian Chung, Assistant professor of Asian American Studies. Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan
Research interests: Ethnic Studies, urban studies, leisure culture and cities, race and housing, popular culture and placemaking, and media studies.
Manuel (Manny) Galaviz, Assistant professor of Cultural Anthropology, Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from The University of Texas at Austin
Research interests: Immigration; Undocumented Populations; Borderlands; (Dis)Placements; & Racialization
Asya Harrison, Assistant professor of Psychology. Ph.D. in Education and Psychology from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
Research interests: Racial Socialization, Parenting, Ecological Systems, Racial Identity Development, Adolescence, Developmental Psychology, and Educational Psychology
Tavleen Kaur, Assistant professor of Asian American Studies. Ph.D. in Visual Studies from the School of Humanities at the University of California, Irvine
Research interests: Art, architecture, and urbanisms of Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American (APIDA) communities, APIDA film and media, pan-ethnic solidarity, contemporary South Asian migration, Punjabi and Sikh Diaspora Studies, and Desi ecologies
Márlen Ríos-Hernández, Assistant professor of Chicano/Chicana Studies. Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Riverside
Research interests: Chicanx Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Cultural Studies with an emphasis on Film, Critical Ethnographies, Sound Studies, Hemispheric Punk Movements and Policing “Post”-COINTELPRO, Feminist Musicology, Punk Pedagogy and Archival Research Methods.
Davorn Sisavath, Assistant professor of Asian American Studies. Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego
Research Interests: U.S. militarism, science, technology and warfare, environmental pollution, Southeast Asian and Asian American histories.
Ashley Woody, Assistant professor of African American Studies. Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Oregon
Research interests: Structural Racism; Emotions; Resistance; Urban and Suburban Inequality; Race & Space; Qualitative Research Methods
Nadia Zepeda, Assistant professor of Chicano/Chicana Studies. Ph.D. in Chicana and Chicano Studies from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Research Interests:Chicana Feminisms, Healing Justice, Transformative Justice, Community Wellness, Community Accountability, Healing and Self-Care, Oral History, Chicana/o/x Student Movements, Chicana/o/x History, Women of Color Feminisms, Chicana Indigeneity, Chicana Spirituality.