Middle Leadership Academy Trailblazers Fortify Student Outcomes and Achievement

A cross divisional team of CSULB staff and faculty participated in the CSU system-wide, Middle Leadership Academy (MLA) this 2022-23 academic year. The MLA program, created by the CSU Student Success Network, was designed to provide opportunities for middle leaders to grow in their roles and bring back insights to their respective campuses.

Selected by CSULB Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Karyn Scissum Gunn, participants included members of Faculty Affairs, Enrollment Services, Students Affairs and Academic Affairs, as well as a Beach graduate student. The MLA team was co-led by Director of Faculty Affairs Dr. Ennette Morton, and University Registrar Meghan Griffith. Together, they helped guide the team as they attended a series of 3-day sessions to practice team building, collaborate in a supportive environment, and solve common issues related to equitable student learning, engagement, progression, and completion.

Throughout the course of this year-long program, and under the direction of Morton and Griffith, the MLA team established a project entitled “Equity-Minded Strategies to Reduce DFW Grad Rates.” This effort explored the high frequency of DFW grades for first-year students who are underrepresented minorities, Pell-eligible, and first-generation in lower-division communications, English, and mathematics courses. 

The team centered their project around this critical topic because data suggests that students with these factors who receive DFW grades in these specific courses drop-out at higher rates in their first year of enrollment, when compared to other students.

To bolster retention efforts and improve equitable student outcomes, the CSULB Middle Leaders’ project aims to empower faculty to provide culturally conscious and relevant referrals, resources, and interventions.   

During the Academy sessions, our Beach Middle Leaders worked to develop assessments for faculty and students, interventions, and a resource repository for faculty. The assessment used both qualitative and quantitative approaches as well as incentivized participation among key stakeholders.

Project Co-Lead, Meghan Griffith shares that with this project, the team “hopes to build an empowerment toolbox as opposed to [using] a deficit-based model to share amongst our faculty.”

From this project, the team aims to share their insights with existing programs that support faculty learning with the hopes of creating meaningful change across The Beach.

The Middle Leadership Academy not only helped CSULB leaders develop an equity-focused approach to address DFW rates, but also provided an opportunity for our MLA team to develop their own leadership skills, build cross-campus and system-wide collaborations, and learn from each other’s differing perspectives.

Co-Lead Dr. Ennette Morton says, “participating on the CSULB MLA team was a wonderful opportunity that allowed me to expand my knowledge of our campus operations and connect with a network of committed educators and administrators across the CSU system." 

Griffith goes on to echo Dr. Morton by saying this process was “really beneficial to gain other vantage points and to see how CSULB fits into the entire CSU system.”

The Beach has a close connection to the Middle Leadership Academy, as Dr. Aimee Arreygue, the Associate Director of Educational Partnerships at The Beach served as a CSULB Co Lead for MLA in a prior year and now supports this initiative as an MLA group facilitator.

Dr. Arreygue’s continued support and work with MLA was greatly appreciated by the team, with both Co-Leads expressing their deep appreciation for the MLA facilitators as they “helped our project team through this year-long process.”  

The Beach is grateful to our mighty MLA team who have supported each other throughout this entire program and helped to collectively find solutions to relevant issues facing our students from diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Learn more about the Middle Leadership Academy program here.

Meet the MLA Team

Megan Griffith

Meghan Griffith (AA) - University Registrar

Meghan Griffith serves as the University Registrar and leads teams such as Registration & Records; Transfer, Graduation, and Athletics Evaluations; Academic Scheduling; and Student Records Systems within Enrollment Services.  She has been with CSULB almost 16 years and is a proud graduate of CSULB, earning both a History BA and an Education MA (Social and Cultural Analysis of Education) at The Beach. 

Ennette Morton - Headshot

Ennette Morton (AA) - Director, Faculty Affairs

As the Director of Faculty Affairs for California State University, Long Beach, Dr. Morton supports academic personnel process, policies, and procedures for tenure track, retired, and lecturer faculty on campus. She has 10 years of professional experience in higher education, specifically in faculty administration. Ennette is passionate about working on how universities can provide access to quality education to students in historically underserved communities and support their academic success and well-being.

Lynisha McDuel - Headshot

Lynisha McDuel (SA) - Interim Director, Veterans Services

Lynisha McDuel has been a part of California State University, Long Beach family since 2005. Dedicated to supporting all learners, Lynisha has primarily served veterans and other military-affiliated students at CSULB.  As Interim Director of Veterans Services, Lynisha leads a team providing student services including academic support, benefits certification, and advocacy for military-connected campus community members. Having spent over 20 years in higher education, Lynisha has held many positions and served on the boards of several committees dedicated to equitable access to resources and support. Throughout her career Lynisha has worked with a diverse range of organizations to provide resources for active-duty military, veterans and their dependents, foster youth, and pregnant and parenting youth.

Shabnam Sodagari (AA) - Associate Professor, Computer Engineering & Computer Science    

Dr. Shabnam Sodagari is an Associate Professor of Computer Engineering and Computer Science. She received her Ph.D. from Penn State (The Pennsylvania State University). She is a senior member of IEEE and a founding member of IEEE Women in Engineering Coastal LA. She has been on the Editorial Board of IEEE Vehicular Technology Society Open Journal since 2019 and has several publications at impactful journals and major conferences, besides organizing technical workshops and conferences.

Jessica Wood - Headshot

Jessica Wood (SA) - Associate Director, Bob Murphy Access Center

Jessica is a two-time CSULB alumna having received her bachelor’s degree in Philosophy with coursework in Cell and Molecular Biology, and a master’s in Secondary Education Curriculum and Instruction, along with a single subject teaching credential in Foundational Science. Jessica currently serves as BMAC’s Associate Director, and previously held the roles of Support Services Coordinator and Alternative Media Specialist within BMAC/AIM Center and served as a middle school science and math teacher in Long Beach Unified School District. She additionally serves on the Division of Student Affairs’ Equity and Inclusion Task Force and is committed to fostering a campus environment and culture that celebrates equitable access, inclusion, and Universal Design for all students.

Balakrishnasai Yarra - Student Representative