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Gossage Engineers Employee Of The Month Honors

Published: November 15, 2010

Lily Gossage, director of recruitment and retention for the College of Engineering, was named by her co-workers as Employee of the Month. Friendship Walk was renamed Lily Gossage Lane for the month.

Gossage, who joined the university both as a student and as a staff member, was caught off guard by her distinction. “I was very pleased and surprised to be recognized,” she said. “I never believed I would be honored by such an award. I really enjoy working here and I’m surprised that there are awards for people who enjoy their jobs.”

CSULB President F. King Alexander praised Gossage’s contributions to the campus. “Lily always goes above and beyond the requirement of her job description providing a valuable service to our students and the department staff,” he said. “One of her biggest successes is the annual Women Engineers @ The Beach which attracts around 400 young girls from Southern California elementary, middle, and high schools to explore careers in engineering or the sciences. Lily is a great leader, a wonderful role model and an inspiration to all she contacts.”

Gossage served in the Peace Corps in East Africa’s Eritrea on the horn of Africa from 1996-97. She attributes her ability to successfully negotiate the challenges with working in diverse communities and situations where resources are scarce to both her Peace Corps experience and her own background. She comments, “Living in a mud hut for over a year, experiencing starvation and the impact of war on people’s lives, has changed my outlook on life. Having served in the Peace Corps, being an immigrant from post-war Vietnam, and growing up in a single-parent household, I know how to extend resources and do a lot with a little. My mother is my role model and mentor and she taught me to value every human condition and extend empathy to everyone.”

Prior to working in the College of Engineering, Gossage also had experience teaching every grade from kindergarten through 12th grade AP Biology. She believes her teaching experience, coupled with her Peace Corps experience and background, has helped her tremendously in her current workplace.

Her responsibilities in the College of Engineering include making sure students graduate on a timely basis. She also oversees freshman cohorts on their way into the college. “One particular aspect of my job involves mandatory advising,” she explained. “We reach out to students prior to matriculation and carry them through a full year of mandatory advising. This is critical, especially for high-unit prerequisite-driven majors such as engineering. I also oversee the college’s annual Open House, prospective admissions inquiries, our approaching academic probation program and the Women-in-Engineering Outreach program, as well as a number of other services. A broad spectrum of student success resources is offered by the College of Engineering.”

Her CSULB connection is a family affair. Her mother, Isabel Le, worked in the University Library for years and she met on campus her husband, Greg, who also graduated from CSULB. The couple married in the Japanese Garden. “Add to that the fact that both my siblings graduated from CSULB, with one marrying another CSULB graduate, and this campus has become my home away from home,” she said.

She received a bachelor’s degree in medical microbiology and chemistry in 1995 and went on to earn a master’s in educational management from the University of La Verne. She currently pursues a Ph.D. at Walden University in higher education with emphasis in qualitative research.

In addition to her work, she is the diversity chair for the national organization WEPAN (Women in Engineering Program Advocate Network) and continues to do research on the paucity of women in engineering. WEPAN is a national not-for-profit organization with more than 600 members from engineering schools, small businesses, Fortune 500 corporations and non-profit organizations. WEPAN works to transform culture in engineering education to attract, retain and graduate women.

Gossage Engineers Employee of the Month Honors
Photo by David J. Nelson
Lily Gossage flanked by College of Engineering Dean Forouzan Golshani (l) and President F. King Alexander.

Gossage began her professional association with CSULB in 1999 in the College of Engineering where she has remained. One of her proudest achievements is the building of the recruitment and retention center from the ground up. “Prior to that, there was no centralized service for engineering students until I was brought in by the college’s then-seven chairs,” she said. “I’ve been proud to see and shape this center as it metamorphosed into its current state. Now the students have a home base, a sort of one-stop shop, and any issues or questions that they may have can quickly be addressed. We continue to improve it year by year.”

She also is proud of the College’s Women-in-Engineering Outreach program. “It began with 90 students and, over the years, it has become as long-running in its way as ‘Cats’ was on Broadway,” Gossage laughed. “It is the longest-running Women-in-Engineering program with the largest audience in the USA and I am very happy to be part of it.”

The Women Engineers @ the Beach is another highlight that offers a one-day transformative event for girls in middle and high schools. Since its founding in 2001, Gossage has inaugurated a sister program, Engineering Girls @ The Beach, aimed at girls in grades four through six. “The goal is to inculcate confidence in young girls,” she said. “This university is the first to offer something like this for girls in the fourth grade and girls need to know when they are very young that they can indeed become engineers.”

She enjoys working in the College of Engineering. “The people here are wonderful,” she said. “I came to CSULB as a 16-year-old and worked a number of different student assistant jobs throughout campus, including the Electrical Engineering department. In many ways, I grew up at CSULB and there are several long-timers who see me as a niece or a daughter.”

Even though she is tenacious in her determination to make positive change, over the years, she has learned to recognize and accept that change can be slow.

“The key to social change is patience and persistence,” she said. “In all the 10 years that I have overseen the Women-in-Engineering Outreach program, I have had to scrape up every dime of support myself. I have donated and so has my family. It is an all-volunteer effort; a majority of faculty, staff, and many students and alumni continue to support it, and I am grateful to them for that. That’s one reason I feel great coming to work. It’s like coming to a second home 50 hours a week. I never expected recognition so I was surprised to receive it. I continue to be excited coming to work every day. I expect to be as excited on the last day as I was on the first.”

In addition to seeing Friendship Walk re-named in her honor, Gossage received several gifts including a CSULB sweatshirt, a $20 gift certificate to Jimmy’s Fish Market and Grill, two coupons for the Original Tommy’s World Famous Hamburgers and one free Whopper from Burger King.

–Richard Manly