News @ the Beach

Peace Corps Director to Visit CSULB Sept. 5

Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who was confirmed as director of the Peace Corps on June 5, will visit the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) campus on Friday, Sept. 5. Hessler-Radelet, along with CSULB President Jane Close Conoley and U.S. Congressman Alan Lowenthal, whose 47th District includes Long Beach, will speak at the event held in the University Student Union’s Beach Auditorium from 11 a.m.-noon, with a reception scheduled to follow.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet

All three will discuss the importance of public service and how individuals can make a difference around the world with the Peace Corps. In addition, there will be a Q&A session and Peace Corps volunteer Danica Campos of Garden Grove is scheduled to Skype in and share her experiences of living and working in Costa Rica.

Prior to the event, a Memorandum of Understanding signing is scheduled to take place. The agreement will establish a partnership between CSULB and the Peace Corps for a Master’s International Program. Graduate students accepted into the program study in either the M.A. in Geography or the M.A. in Linguistics (TESOL option). After finishing their primary coursework, participants will take a leave for a two-year assignment as a Peace Corps volunteer. Upon their return, they complete a community internship and finish their culminating thesis or project. Head up the effort of this partnership is Department of Geography chair/professor Paul Laris.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Peace Corps’ No. 2 volunteer-producing Hispanic-Serving Institution alongside U.S. Congressman Lowenthal,” Hessler-Radelet said. “Partnerships with institutions like CSULB help us ensure Americans from all backgrounds know about service opportunities with the Peace Corps.”

Hessler-Radelet, who served as acting director since August 2012, was nominated for her post by President Obama, and became the 19th director of the Peace Corps, which began on March 1, 1961.

“Beach staff and faculty work closely with students and the Peace Corps to encourage our graduating students and alums to volunteer for the amazing learning and service opportunities offered through the Peace Corps,” said Conoley. “Consistent with our long and distinctive history of community service, hundreds of 49ers have served. In fact, among Hispanic-Serving Institutions, we rank No. 2 in the nation with 31 alums serving in the Peace Corps. We are so proud of these alums who carry the message of compassion and the worth of every human being across the globe.”

Earlier this year, the Peace Corps released its 2014 rankings of the nation’s top volunteer-producing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and s Conoley noted, CSULB ranked No. 2 with 31 alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps. Among the top10 institutions ranked, seven came from the state of California.

Since the Peace Corps was established, 777 alumni from CSULB have traveled abroad to serve as volunteers. California produces more Peace Corps volunteers than any other state nationwide with more than 28,000 California residents having served overseas as volunteers and approximately 1,000 currently serving.

This summer, the Peace Corps announced historic changes to its recruitment, application and selection process to make applying to the organization simpler, faster and more personalized than ever before. The agency is revitalizing its recruitment and outreach and partnering with diverse institutions like CSULB so Americans from all backgrounds know about service opportunities with the Peace Corps.

During just this past year the Peace Corps also announced it is expanding its staff to include diversity recruiters in each of its eight regional offices to field a broader volunteer force that represents the very best of the United States. The agency also has an Office of Diversity and National Outreach that aims to recruit a diverse pool of volunteers and build an inclusive culture that welcomes applicants and volunteers from all backgrounds.

The Peace Corps has eight regional recruitment offices across the country that work closely with prospective volunteers. Interested students and community members can contact the Peace Corps’ Los Angeles Regional Office at for more information.

Posted in University News | Leave a comment

Cal State Long Beach Student Receives Prestigious CSU Trustees Award

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) student Lita Melissa Cahuana of Whittier will receive the California State University (CSU) Foundation Board of Governor’s Scholarship. She will be honored at the Sept. 9 CSU Board of Trustees meeting.


“I truly believe even just a small amount of peer guidance can go a long way,” she said after being notified of the award.

One student from each of the 23 CSU campuses annually receive one of these CSU Trustees’ Awards, which are among the highest student distinctions within the CSU with each recipient demonstrating superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need. Each Trustees Award is accompanied by a scholarship of $6,000 to $12,000.

“The compelling life stories of these extraordinary student scholars are a testament to the transformative power of public higher education,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “Through the generous support of our donors, many of whom are first-time contributors to the Trustees’ Award program, we are able to help these scholars create a bright and successful future.”

Cahuana with and her family migrated from Peru to the United States in the pursuit of the American Dream. The struggles her family experienced due to their low socio-economic status instilled a passion in her to pursue higher education in the hopes of being able to provide a better future.

She is a first-generation CSULB senior majoring in chemical engineering with minors in environmental engineering and chemistry. Serving as vice president for Society of Women Engineers, Cahuana has conducted the annual outreach program, Women Engineers at The Beach, which encourages young girls from various backgrounds to strive for careers in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. As a CSULB President’s Scholar and Hispanic Serving Institution STEM Peer Mentor, she has led campus tours, volunteered for the Long Beach Homeless Drop-In Center and tutored students in subjects ranging from calculus to organic chemistry.

Having worked as a process engineering intern for Tesoro Corporation, Cahuana plans to pursue a career in the same field with a focus in energy research and obtain an MBA.

In 2011, the CSU Foundation board committed to enhancing the value of the CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. Board Chair Ronald R. Barhorst generously stepped forward to inaugurate the effort with sponsorship of a $6,000 CSU Foundation Board of Governors’ Scholar. The scholar exemplifies significant achievement both academically and in service to community.

Through donor support, this scholarship program gives students who have faced educational barriers a chance to pursue a college degree, and use their life experience and classroom knowledge to affect social change in the world.  The Trustees’ Award program began nearly three decades ago with scholarships endowed by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. More than 250 scholarships have been awarded since the William Randolph Hearst Foundation initiated its endowment in 1984 to help high achieving students who have overcome adversity. Past honorees have gone on to attend prestigious graduate programs and even to serve on the CSU Board of Trustees. CSU Trustees’ Scholars are nominated by their respective campus presidents and are selected for designated awards by a committee formed by the CSU Foundation.

Posted in University News | Leave a comment

Cal State Long Beach Professor Receives $250,000 Grant to Study Brushfires

Cal State Long Beach Geography Professor Chair Paul Laris’ experience with burning brush recently the Northwest African country Mali earned him a $250,000 grant running through February 2016 from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant supports Laris’ research into “Coupling Burning Practices, Vegetation Cover Change and Fire Regimes to Determine Fire-Emission Dynamics.”


“I’m pleased to receive this grant because one of the things the NSF is interested in are fire emissions as they relate to climate change and global warming,” Laris said. “My first interest was in the human side of the burning practices that cover the Mali savannah every year. Now, I am trying to understand natural systems and the impact on those systems by humans.”

The goal of Laris’ study is the emission levels of smoke and gas emissions from the southern Mali fires.

“The big issue is the savannah,” he said. “The African savannah is so large that even small errors about the levels of emissions can balloon into really large numbers. In southern Mali about 50 percent of the savannah landscape burns every year and current estimates of emissions may be off by as much as 40 percent.”

Laris studies Mali because he has more than 10 years’ experience there. He has established contacts with experts there in fire and forestry research. His current team includes a geographer from Ivory Coast, a geographer fire ecologist from Mali, CSULB department of geography’s GIS expert Suzanne Wechsler and graduate students from Iran and South Korea.

Survey techniques range from face-to-face interviews with the farmers to satellite image analysis. “Our basic research has two components,” he explained. “One is when we go out in the field and set test fires. We hold a long tube right in the flames to pull out emissions and get readings for carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. We are measuring emissions right on the spot which I don’t think anyone else is doing.”

“There are early, middle and late periods in the Mali fire season,” he explained. “The early fires begin in November, the middle fires are in January and the late fires arrive in February. We set around two dozen test fires and collect the data. Each fire period burns a different vegetation and we hoping to determine exactly what burns when. Plus, we hope to bring to campus in January some of our Mali colleagues to conduct a workshop where they can present their data and its analysis.”

Laris’ research analyzes how fires spread and how they can be managed.

“Our data can show how the fire affects a particular area at particular times of year,” he said. “We discuss what is good about the fires and what is bad about their management. We are hoping for new ideas about experimental firefighting techniques. But the most relevant part of our research, as far as it relates outside of Mali, is trying to understand the amount of emissions. Africa is the continent that burns the most. It is the biggest contributor. It is interesting to compare outcomes between California and Mali.”

An early finding of Laris’ research was mildly shocking to his Mali colleagues.

“I don’t see the Mali burning as entirely negative,” he said. “It is only recently that a more positive view has been taken. Some burning is good and some is bad. Everyone worries about the changing global weather but I am not convinced that the fires in the West African savannah are effected that much, since fires are a largely a human driven phenomenon.”

Laris feels one reason the NSF recognized his research is the length and level of his experience, worked for 10 years with an integrated team of Africans and Americans. For instance, one study performed on Ivory Coast produced figures that are still used in calculations 20 years later. Also, his research has drawn support from several sources including the National Geographic Society.

“What was nice about the National Geographic grant was the seed money it provided to start my research,” he said. “They gave me a camera which I took out into the field. I got up close and personal with fire. I grew up near fire in Southern California and my mother’s house burned in a Santa Barbara fire. I feel I have a close relationship with fire.”

He said feedback has been positive, and that the people of southern Mali definitely want to understand fire better.

“They are growing different crops and they know they must farm differently. They recognize Mali is a place of serious droughts. They understand there is something called climate change. I think the people of Mali understand that what we’re trying to do is to see the bigger picture. They’re willing to help. But their main interest is how our research will help Mali,” said Laris.

Posted in University News | Leave a comment

Three Valedictorians from Long Beach Are Part of 20th Incoming Class of President’s Scholars at Cal State Long Beach

Altogether 25 from throughout the State Will Receive the $70,000 Scholarship

When classes start at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) on Monday, Aug. 25, three valedictorians from Long Beach Unified School District high schools will officially begin their collegiate careers as members of the university’s 20th incoming class of President’s Scholars. Altogether 25 from throughout the state have received the $70,000 scholarship. As part of the program, Roxanne A. Jacobs, Joshua M. Pignon and Allison L. Wall, all from Long Beach Unified School District, start at CSULB on full, four-year scholarships covering all expenses.

14-067_presidents_scholars_121 (2)

The incoming class of President’s Scholars are top row (l-r) Elyssa Lawrence, Elizabeth Tyler, Sabreen Thorne, Justin Cortina, Quentin Pestner, Amanda Burns, Marco Zamora, Erik Larsen and Tyler Wayne. Pictured on the bottom row are (l-r) Roxanne Jacobs, Christopher Fernandez, Alexis Wildman, Joshua Pignon, Miranda Horton, Ryan Florence, Hope Daley, Katelyn Campbell, Lea Fong, Nicolas Olenslager-Orton, Shealyn Engfer and Allison Wall. Not pictured are Scott Morris, Christina Tapia, Andrew Warren and Amy Yang.

The CSULB President’s Scholars Program was created in 1995 in an effort to bring valedictorians and national scholars from California high schools to CSULB. It is recognized as a premier program of its kind in the state, and more than 1,100 students from 42 of California’s 58 counties have been chosen for the program since its inception.

“Even after 20 years, the President’s Scholars Program at Cal State Long Beach continues to attract many of the brightest and most academically talented high school graduates in California,” said CSULB President Jane Close Conoley. “The program is extremely competitive.  Each year, we receive hundreds of applications for these scholarships, but this year only 25 students were selected to be part of this incoming group of scholastically outstanding individuals.”

The 25 students were selected for the program from an applicant pool of nearly 650 students statewide.

“Because of the efforts of hundreds of supporters who annually raise the necessary funds privately, we are able to offer these academically talented students a full scholarship and the opportunity to receive an outstanding education in a variety of academic programs at both the undergraduate and graduate level,” explained Valerie Bordeaux, director of the CSULB President’s Scholars Program.   “In return, they add a great deal to the stature of the university through their academic pursuits in research, academic competitions and other activities.  They also perform thousands of hours of community service and are outstanding representatives of the university wherever they go.”

Jacobs, a valedictorian for the Class of 2014 at Robert A Millikan High School, is the daughter of Eric and Charmaine Jacobs of Long Beach. Even though CSULB is less than a 10-minute walk from her home, she was pushed to look into the university and its offerings by her mother, an alumna of CSULB who graduated from the campus’ physical therapy program with honors.

“My mother rightly pointed out that this is a top program and that CSULB could provide many excellent academic and extracurricular opportunities. But who listens to their parents?” Jacobs wrote in her application essay. “Yet, as I researched colleges throughout the country, this university popped up time and time again. Normally, I hate it when she is right, but not this time. CSULB is a golden opportunity sitting right in front of my eyes, and I never realized this until I did my homework.”

Jacobs admits that she is not sure about what career to pursue, but she enters CSULB as a pre-civil engineering major. “Engineering sounded like an intriguing option because my dad is also an engineer,” she said.

Pignon, a valedictorian for the Class of 2014 at Lakewood High, is the son of Kelly and Lynn Pignon of Long Beach. Active in his church and Boy Scout Troop, Pignon will study criminal justice at CSULB with a career goal of becoming a lawyer or judge. Wall, also a valedictorian from Millikan High, is the daughter of Scott and Geralyn Wall. At CSULB, she will major in nutrition and dietetics with plans to become a clinical dietitian.

“This school is one of only 16 colleges throughout the state of California to have been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND),” Wall wrote in her application essay. “The dietitians I have spoken to say CSULB has the best to offer in this area.”

As President’s Scholars, Jacobs, Pignon and Wall receive full scholarships, covering their tuition and fees, an annual book allowance and paid housing in the campus residence halls for four years.  In addition, they receive priority registration, personal academic counseling and more. To be eligible for the CSULB President ‘s Scholars Program, students must be a senior class valedictorian, ranked No. 1 at their high school, a National Merit finalist or semi-finalist, a National Achievement Scholar or a National Hispanic Recognition Scholar. The benefits for qualifying valedictorians and national scholars from accredited California high schools are made possible through the support of the CSULB Alumni Association, President’s Associates and the Corporate Scholars Council.

Other recipients include: Amanda Burns, Sabreen Thorne and Justin Cortina, Palmdale; Katelyn Campbell, Fresno; Hope Daley, Torrance; Shealyn Engfer, Mariposa; Christopher Fernandes, Yucaipa; Ryan Florence, Big Bear Lake; Lea Fong, Auburn; Miranda Horton, Cool: Erik Larsen, Visalia; Elyssa Lawrence, Terra Bella; Scott Morris, Vacaville; Nicolas Olenslager-Orton, Tulare; Quentin Pestner, Corona; Christina Tapia, Rancho Cucamonga; Elizabeth Tyler, Merced; Andrew Warren and Tyler Wayne, Lancaster; Alexis Wildman, Colfax; Amy Yang, Rancho Palos Verdes; and Marco Zamora, Plumes Lake.

Posted in University News | Leave a comment