2018 University Achievement Awards

Dr. Lesley Farmer, Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling

Since taking her first steps on campus in 1999, Dr. Lesley Farmer has always found ways to make an impact at Cal State Long Beach. Her years of hard work and passion on campus echo into the community and around the world.

“She generously gives her time serving local, national and global professional organizations,” said College of Education Dean Shireen Pavri. “Above all, Farmer is a knowledgeable and passionate advocate for preparing school librarians in Southern California and across the globe.”

Over the past 19 years, Farmer persistently juggled her role as an advisor with her research, consulting, chairing several committees and much more. Her most notable achievement at the College of Education is expanding the Librarian credential to a Master’s degree program.

During her first year, Farmer created effective online and hybrid classes and designed a website for students.

She continued using and building on this model over the years, which was particularly helpful for English learners. She has expanded her research to more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and 30 books.

Farmer has also served as representative for the California State University advisory panel where she focused on revamping the state standards for teacher librarian preparation programs for the first time in nearly 20 years. The regulations were first approved at CSULB’s program and were eventually adopted beyond the U.S. to several other countries.

Jennifer Moran, Administrative Analyst/Specialist, University Relations and Development

Jennifer Moran goes above and beyond her regular job – she is an advocate for her students and colleagues alike. She serves as president of the campus chapter of the California State University Employees Union, as well as a staff department representative on the Academic Senate and Chair of Staff Council.

Moran’s commitment to CSULB is demonstrated through 11 years with University Relations and Development. She is also an auxiliary board member of the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music Opera Institute.

“Jennifer is an unparalleled champion of staff rights, equity, and diversity on campus and in the community,” said Martin Brenner, Instructional Technology Specialist at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music.

As the College of the Arts’ Development Coordinator, Moran successfully connects and engages alumni and donors with CSULB arts programs. In addition to her regular duties and volunteering, she temporarily assumed many of the Director of Development‘s duties when her successor unexpectedly passed away in August. By taking on this role, Moran has greatly helped the College of the Arts continue fundraising endeavors.

Moran’s efforts are not only limited to the campus, they stretch across the California State University system. She makes frequent trips to Sacramento to lobby state representatives on issues close to staff and other CSU stakeholders, including funding. Moran also mentors and works with disadvantaged youth from families with incarcerated parents.

“Jennifer is a valued asset to the Department of Music and for more than ten years has generously assisted in outreach and donor relations,” said Kate Gillon, the Performance Coordinator at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music “She is an essential component of our connectivity to our patrons.”

Dr. Huong Tran Nguyen, Teacher Education

Being a professor goes beyond teaching lessons. Dr. Huong Tran Nguyen had the privilege of preparing teacher candidates for 21st-century urban classrooms as well as and being educational leaders. In developing her curriculum, she keeps diversity in California schools at the forefront of her work with a focus on culturally and linguistically diverse students and underrepresented groups.

She empowers candidates to confront and transcend cultural hegemony traditionally found in curriculum content and classroom instruction. In doing so, future teachers can develop social consciousness, intellectual critique, and personal efficacy to guide the next generation in becoming civic-minded and committed to improving their lives and the lives of others.

“Nguyen is a great role model and truly radiates grace and self-respect,” said Heather Park, one of Nguyen’s students. “Her positive yet powerful demeanor demands respect, but she still makes you feel comfortable and safe enough to confide in her.”

Nguyen immigrated to the United States during the Vietnam War in 1971. After facing racism and discrimination in her early years as an American and aspiring teacher, she vowed to use these experiences to transform her classrooms into safe spaces where all voices are cultivated and honored to foster civil discourse.

With a passion to impact lives, Nguyen dedicated her career to assisting students from all faiths, heritage backgrounds, life experiences, immigration, and socio-economic statuses and political a›liations. She continues to mentor and advocate for students in underserved communities, who are English language learners and those at risk of failing.

“Students who grow up in well-to-do families and attend schools with a homogeneous population tend to think that they represent the standard of ‘normalcy’,” she said. “I strive to educate students about acknowledging and accepting that the world encompasses all.”

Dr. Douglas McAbee, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Dr. Douglas McAbee spent the past 21 years as Biochemistry professor at Cal State Long Beach. During that time, he has served as department chair and as an advisor for the MS Biochemistry and BS Biochemistry programs.

“Advising is an area where faculty can positively impact student success,” said Curtis Bennett, Dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Dr. McAbee is a standout example of an advisor who goes out of his way to ensure appropriate services for graduate and undergraduate students.”

McAbee was a graduate advisor from fall 2008 through spring 2012. Over the past few decades, the master’s biochemistry program has evolved into a regionally recognized program for 30-40 students. McAbee’s guidance and expertise contributed to its development by recruiting and providing general advisement for students in the MS program.

Since 2012, he has been the BS Biochemistry program advisor, shepherding more than 260 undergraduates in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. He was also instrumental in getting the BS biochemistry program accredited by the distinguished American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

“McAbee is not only an innovative and very effective academic advisor, but he goes out of his way to help our students succeed. He is the go-to person for all questions about classes and transferring,” said Kris Slowinski, Associate Dean for Academic Programs. “He works tirelessly for our students.”

According to Jason Schwans, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, the most visible features of McAbee’s role is his familiarity with curriculum, and his desire to continually improve course plans.

During his academic career, he has published more than 20 research articles that cover his interest in hepatic iron metabolism, cell membranes, and endocytosis. 

Dr. Mariah Proctor-Tiffany, Art History

Mariah Proctor-Tiffany lived in New York City at the time of the attacks of September 11, 2001. She watched the news unfold with the rest of the world and was horrified. She also immediately noticed a change in the culture of the city and the nation.

“I was stunned as people stereotyped Muslims in the press and media,” she said. “The depictions contradicted what I knew about Muslim culture and art.” Proctor-Tiffany, then an educator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was inspired to train docents about Islamic history and culture. She decided to add Islamic art and architecture as a secondary area of study in graduate school.

She joined CSULB in 2013 after finishing her PhD at Brown University and teaching at Rhode Island School of Design. Proctor-Tiffany seeks to increase cross-cultural understanding by programming events on campus. For example, in 2014 she helped produce a film series of Middle Eastern and Middle East-American works, “From Riyadh to Detroit and Beyond.”

Her years of research and experience create environments for students to discuss and share ideas. Her research focuses on European medieval women who married men in other countries, and continued to exchange manuscripts, jewels, textiles, and reliquaries with friends and family, creating cross-cultural exchange in the arts. Her first book was “Gothic Art in Motion: The Inventory, Identity, and Gift Giving of Clémence de Hongrie,” published by Pennsylvania State University Press. She is also co-editor with Tracy Chapman Hamilton of “Moving Women, Moving Objects (500-1500),” which will be released in late 2018 through Brill Press.

Proctor-Tiffany believes one of the best ways to break down racial stereotypes is living in another country. When she received the 2017 Professors Around the World grant, she traveled to Morocco to set up a CSULB study abroad program, which she is now developing.

Proctor-Tiffany is also the faculty coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, a new $442,000 grant at CSULB helping underrepresented students earn PhDs in the Humanities and become professors. “College students are at a highly formative time of their lives,” she said, “so I enjoy my work and take it seriously in helping them develop the skills and perspectives that greatly impact their futures.”

Dr. Charles Slater, Educational Leadership

Dr. Charles Slater has extensive experience in educational leadership and has connected educators from across the world.

He is a founding member of the International Study of Principal Preparation, a collaboration of researchers who study the challenges of beginning principals in 15 countries. He is also a member of the International Study of Leadership Development Network, a national scholar community promoting social justice leadership in schools.

“His outgoing nature and genuine interest in other cultures helps him understand educational opportunities and issues in di¦erent countries,” said Anna Ortiz, Educational Leadership department chair. “He brings strong organizational skills and moves projects forward, which in my view has made them successful.”

Most recently under Slater’s coordination, the network produced four peer-reviewed articles geared toward impacting education in Costa Rica, Spain, Mexico and the United States.

Slater collaborates with faculty colleagues, and mentors several faculty and students around the world. Slater’s robust ability to build strong professional relationships has advanced the careers of faculty colleagues and former students.

Dr. Guido Urizar, Psychology

When faculty combine their research to impact a neighborhood – remarkable change can happen. Dr. Guido Urizar’s had this in mind in 2006 when he set out to improve health outcomes in medically underserved populations with his PRO-Health Research Program.

Urizar has worked with his research team in low-income neighborhoods over the past 11 years and has collaborated with several di¦erent community organizations, health clinics and universities to provide free health programs for Los Angeles County. Students in PRO-Health helped design and test the e¦ectiveness of a parental stress management program, which aims to reduce stress hormones known to cause health problems in mothers and infants. The program has demonstrated promising results and is now adapted for low-income African American mothers and children.

His community program centers itself on psychosocial, behavioral and physiological factors associated with mental and physical health in low-income homes. It provides resources to promote stress management and exercise.

Urizar’s vision came to fruition when he, alongside a team of faculty, was awarded a $24 million BUILD grant, the largest grant CSULB has ever received. This funding helped train over 250 underrepresented research students and helped make them competitive for doctoral programs in diverse areas of health-related research.

“He involves students in every important step in the research process,” said Psychology Chair Dave Whitney, “Dr. Urizar seeks to provide research training opportunities to his students pursuing careers reducing health disparities in underserved communities.”

During his tenure at CSULB, he has mentored and supervised more than 135 research students, many of whom helped deliver health programs to more than 200 mothers, while successfully presenting and publishing their work in prominent health journals in interdisciplinary research fields. Many of these students continued their education in some of the top doctoral programs in the nation.

“Dr. Urizar brings a deep and consistent commitment to student success at CSULB,” said David Wallace, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “He is not only a consummate classroom teacher, but also a dedicated mentor of students.

Dr. Kristin Powers, Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling

Over the past 15 years as a professor at CSULB’s College of Education, Dr. Kristin Powers has earned the university nearly $5 million through five grants. These grants have not come without persistence, commitment and a willingness to turn a negative into a positive.

The training grant, awarded to Powers and Psychology Professor Dr. Kristi Hagans, was from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation. The team’s proposal for the five-year training grant included a 50-page narrative, detailed budget report, letters of support and much more.

“Writing a grant application of this size is difficult,” she said. “Dr. Hagans and I applied five times before we were finally successful.”

They were approved in 2008, five years after their first attempt. When the award was coming to an end in 2012, the duo reapplied, only to be denied.

“It’s crushing to find out your proposal will lose funding after putting in so much time to it,” she said. “But we eventually succeeded, far beyond our expectations.”

Powers refused to let her hard work go to waste, and used her sabbatical in 2014 to work on two new applications with Hagans and Dr. Edwin Achola, an assistant professor in Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling. Both were approved, and each earned the College of Education more than $1 million.

“Like many things in life,” Powers said, “success brings more success.”

Her expertise in research has also expanded to publications. While at CSULB, Powers authored or co-authored 20 peer-reviewed articles, some of which were published in the “Journal of Educational Research” and “Exceptional Children,” a widely circulated special education journal. She also wrote eight book chapters and one book. 

Dr. Matthew Simms, School of Art

Professor Matthew Simms’ passion for art isn’t limited to appreciating pieces of artwork; he strives to understand the artists themselves.

As a trained specialist in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century art, he reached out in 2010 to renowned post-war artist Robert Irwin. His years of research are behind Irwin’s very first biography: Robert Irwin: A Conditional Art.

“It was astonishing to learn such an influential artist had not been the focus of a book,” Simms said, “He played such a pivotal role in the Light and Space art movement.”

Simms also published two books on this project, and another is currently in the works, which is a spinoff of his original research. Over time Simms has become an expert on Irwin’s art and continues to receive requests to write essays and speak at college campuses.

He also coordinated the University Art Museum’s exhibition “Site Determined,” which he designed to draw attention to Irwin’s on-campus piece from 1975, “Window Wall.” It’s the first museum presentation to display his drawings and models. 

"Matthew is a prolific scholar and a generous colleague and teacher,” said Cyrus Parker-Jeanette, Dean of the College of the Arts. “His presentation on artist Robert Irwin at our University Art Museum so completely transformed and deepened my experience of the exhibit.”

Simms’ work with Irwin led him to expand his expertise to younger artists. In 2015 he wrote a scholarly article “Market Street Program,” a curatorial program from 1971-1974 by one of Irwin’s students.

Simms is currently writing another book, which is being co-authored by members at the Archives of American Art.

Matthew Lyon Hazzard, Choral Conducting

Matthew Lyon Hazzard, a first-year student of Music Choral Conducting, has made his mark during his short tenure as a graduate student.

“Without question, Hazzard is the most accomplished and lauded student in the Master’s conducting program at the Bob Cole Conservatory,” said Jonathan Talberg, director of choral, opera and vocal studies. “His published choral works, along with his recent awards in several high profile competitions, have brought national attention to the conservatory.”

According to Talberg, what makes Hazzard special is his level of commitment to his unique composition and his excellence as a conductor, teacher, and mentor to CSULB undergraduates.

Hazzard earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree and Master of Arts Teaching degree East Carolina University (Greenville, SC). He taught at Greene Central High School for four years, where his award-winning choirs performed at Carnegie Hall and received consistent superior ratings.

Hazzard served as a conductor-teacher of Cantus — Bob Cole's tenor and bass choir — and assistant conductor of the University Choir. Notably, he has gone above and beyond being an instructor, conductor, and administrator. In addition to conducting Cantus' pieces at the 2017 Winter Concert, Hazzard conducted the 200 CSULB choir singers in an arrangement.

He took the top prize in two prestigious national choral composition contests and has had two significant performances by professional choirs since coming to CSULB. His work, Peace Flows Into Me, won the American Choral Directors Association Raymond W. Brock Memorial Student Composition Competition, a highly-competitive national contest.

Hazzard successfully auditioned into Choral Arts Initiative, an institution for young musicians as a bass, and is now one of 21 members.

Elaine Chen, German Studies

In 2016 Elaine Chen received a BA in German and minor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Cal State Long Beach. Chen returned in Fall 2017 to pursue a Master’s in German Studies. She is president of the German Club, and has served as one of the main organizers of the September event, "500th Anniversary of the Reformation," and the "Marx-Nietzsche-Freud-And?" conference in November.

“Chen has been an important contributor to our program since her arrival,” said German Studies Chair Je¦rey High. “She has coordinated, hosted, moderated, presented and acted at numerous events.”

At the Marx-Nietzche-Freud Conference, Chen was the only CSULB student to present in a group of internationally renowned scholars. Of the conference's many scholarly and creative successes, she delivered a paper on Nietzsche's drama theory, which was praised as among the best papers delivered.

Chen has been invited this summer to serve as the assistant to theater director and scholar Louis Fantasia for a series of workshops on Shakespeare at UCLA. Next fall, she will go to Salzburg, Austria on a Fulbright Combined Research Award to complete interdisciplinary research on the influence of German author Heinrich von Kleist on Austrian author Stephan Zweig. 

Liam Twight, Chemistry

Liam Twight, a 4.0 GPA undergraduate research student, is in his third year in CSULB’s chemistry program. “I’ve worked many hours performing experiments,” Twight said. “Along the way I’ve agonized over difficult topics and experienced failure, which sometimes made me doubt my path in Chemistry. But my successes have confirmed that I am cut out for research in chemistry. ”

Over the past three years, Twight finished two research projects and is now working on his third. His first project was a collaborative project with the Orange County Water District. This was a completely new project to Dr. Stephen Mezyk’s lab, but Twight took charge of building the experimental apparatus, measuring standards, and collecting and analyzing data.

"Twight is an outstanding CSULB President's Scholar who has been performing undergraduate research for over two years now,” adds Stephen Mezyk, chemistry and biochemistry professor. “In addition, he has been extensively involved as a Leader for Supplemental Instruction for both chemistry and biology."

The project is almost complete, and now Twight is writing a journal manuscript based on his results. He has also presented his research data at two national American Chemical Society meetings.

For his second project, Twight went on six separate research trips to the Radiation Research Laboratory at the University of Notre Dame, performing investigations into making nuclear fuel recycling more efficient.

Twight’s data was combined with studies at Idaho National Laboratory, as well as a mass spectroscopy laboratory in Germany. All the data was jointly written up for publication in one of the premier journals in the nuclear reprocessing field. This manuscript has now undergone its first peer review. Twight was the only student involved in journal manuscript. He now has two future conference presentations on his findings at one of the top conferences in the nuclear field.