2021 University Achievement Awards

Anna Ortiz, Educational Leadership

Dr. Anna Ortiz embodies the professorial ideal with her contributions across all three areas of faculty work. Ortiz is not only an exceptional instructor but an exceptional instructional leader, having served as the director of the first doctoral program on campus and the founding chair of Educational Leadership. In these roles, she built a culture blending rigor with high levels of student support and success. As a scholar, she is a leader in the field, with significant productivity sustained even in her leadership roles. Moreover, most of those publications are with current or former students, and/or more junior faculty colleagues, demonstrating Ortiz’s intentionality in mentoring future generations of scholars.  

Ortiz is deeply committed to service in general, and service which advances equity in particular. She currently co-leads the President’s Commission on Equity and Change and serves as a Faculty Equity Advocate. She has been engaged in a host of other high-impact service efforts over the course of her career. Most notably, Ortiz weaves her commitment to advancing traditionally marginalized groups to create a sense of belonging for all. She serves as a model of what a professor can be. 

Submitted by Don Haviland 


Kelly Young, Biological Sciences

In her time at CSULB, Dr. Young has proved to be an exemplary researcher, mentor, and professor. She earned her PhD in 2000 and joined the faculty at CSULB in 2003 and was awarded early promotion to full professor in 2013. She has earned numerous awards within the University during her tenure. She serves as the college's new faculty mentor and runs the BUILD faculty mentor training. Young is committed to research and supporting her students through their studies. As such, she has also published 40 papers in peer-reviewed journals, most with undergraduate co-authors. She and her students have presented research findings 100 times at professional meetings and many of them earned awards for their efforts. Young has brought to CSULB over $2M in external funding. She is active serving the department, college, university, and her community. 

Submitted by Dessie Underwood 


Paul Weers, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Since he joined CSULB in 2003 Dr. Paul Weers has been a model of faculty excellence. In his teaching, Weers strives to show respect for his students and enthusiasm for the material. Students in his graduate class learn how the structure of proteins affects human health and disease. Weers led the revision of the key biochemistry lab class that really makes a student a biochemist. He devised a series of experiments featuring a single protein that allowed students to explore all the key laboratory techniques in biochemistry.  

Weers’ research is focused on the structure and function of apolipoproteins as they play a crucial role in many human diseases. Students in the Weers lab learn through a multidisciplinary approach combining molecular biology, biochemistry, spectroscopy, and thermochemistry. In addition to coauthoring most of Weers 30 research publications, his students have made more than 85 conference presentations at scientific meetings. Weers’ research has been continuously supported by major funding from NIH. Weers, a former vice-chair and leader in the department can always be relied upon to do a thorough and excellent job.          

Submitted by Chris Brazier 

Deborah Hamm, Teacher Education

Dr. Hamm has been on campus since 1985 and served as a leader on numerous campus councils and committees. She demonstrates exceptional leadership on our campus by not just serving, but leading with a commitment to make CSULB a better and equitable campus to all. 

Since 2001, Hamm has been an Academic Senator representing Lecturer Faculty and serves on the Academic Senate Executive Committee. She has served on the Curriculum and Educational Policies Council as secretary, Chair of both the Campus Climate Committee and Teacher Preparation Committee, and co-President of the California Faculty Association, Long Beach Chapter.  

Her commitment to equality is demonstrated by her lead on the Campus Safety Committee, which had been dormant until she pushed to restart the group because of various campus incidents that affected faculty across the university community. Hamm stands for lecturer working conditions by serving as CFA Faculty Rights Representative for Lecturers.  

She leads in her College of Education by serving on Department Curriculum, Faculty Council, Admissions and Standards Committee, and Assessment and Program Improvement Committee. 

Her long-term and dedicated service continues to make significant contributions to the principle and practice of shared governance at California State University, Long Beach. 

Submitted by Kelly Janousek 

Aili Malm, Criminal Justice

Dr. Aili Malm is a world-renowned scholar with expertise in the fields of policing (particularly in the area of body-worn cameras) and illicit networks. In her distinguished career she has published more than 30 articles in top national and international journals, as well as numerous monographs, book chapters, and research reports. She has also written two books, including Cops, Cameras, and Crisis, published by NYU Press in 2020. She regularly presents her research at regional, national, and international conferences, and has given 19 invited presentations and plenaries in the U.S. and across the globe. 

One of the pioneers in applying social network analysis (SNA) to help understand illicit networks, Malm has leveraged her expertise to obtain over $5 million in funding to complete research and sponsored projects. Most recently she was awarded a $995,490 grant from the National Institute of Justice to conduct the project, “Using Social Network and Spatial Analysis to Understand and Address Fentanyl Distribution Networks in America’s Largest Port City.”  

Through her collaboration with other scholars, community partners, and CSULB students, Malm’s research and scholarship has a wide-ranging impact. She is well-deserving of this award. 

Submitted by Christine Scott-Hayward 


Darren Johnson, Biological Sciences

Dr. Darren Johnson is an esteemed research and educator. He joined the faculty in 2013 and earned tenure in 2019.  He has published 14 papers in high impact journals most with CSULB students as co-authors. As a statistician he typically assists graduate students of other faculty in their data analysis and interpretation. He recently developed a graduate course in statistics that forms part of the core in our MS program. 

Submitted by Dessie Underwood 


Shahab Derakshan, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Dr. Shahab Derakhshan is a curious and innovative researcher and professor. His research in new materials and much of their characterization has been carried out by 50 undergraduate and 14 graduate research students. Derakhshan has developed multiple collaborations with other CSULB faculty in both the chemistry and physics departments leading to joint publications with seven different faculty.  

His research has led to more than a dozen publications in major research journals virtually all featuring CSULB students as co-authors. Derakhshan’s research has been continually supported by major grants and he has also been highly effective in obtaining collaborative grants to support student research. For instance, as co-PI for a new $2M grant from NSF, he’s able to develop a research program to train the next generation of highly skilled Hispanic scientists and engineers. Students will work directly with a faculty mentor and an industry mentor on an applied research project designed to benefit society. Derakhshan has developed a well-earned reputation as a leader in the field of solid-state chemistry among comprehensive university faculty. 

Submitted by Chris Brazier 


Shadnaz Asgari, Biomedical Engineering

As a Chair and an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering (BME) and a faculty of Computer Engineering and Computer Science department, Dr. Shadnaz Asgari is committed to excellence in research and scholarly activities promoting strong reputation for high-quality research and education at the CSULB college of Engineering. 

Asgari’s research is multidisciplinary. She employs signal processing and artificial intelligence to solve various problems, especially those related to healthcare. Her extensive peer-reviewed publication records include 37 journal papers and 49 conference papers or abstracts. Most recently, she and few of her colleagues published a paper on the improvement of Engineering online instruction during COVID-19 pandemic in PLOS One journal. Asgari has been recipients of several awards including 2011 UCLA Brain Injury Research Young Investigator Award, 2015 CSULB Excellence in Early Academic Career Award and 2018 Google explore CSR award. 

She also received a 2020 CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award for significantly increasing female representation in the fields of engineering and computer science. Under her leadership, the newly-created BME Department has more than doubled its enrollment, with women making up 50 percent of BME majors—remarkable for a field that typically averages less than 25 percent female students. Through a multidisciplinary approach, Asgari has dedicated her profession to making the field more accessible for women and other underrepresented groups in STEM.  


Maria Claver, Family and Consumer Sciences

Dr. Maria Claver is a fantastically active, collegial, and productive faculty member who excels in the area of teaching. Beyond her exceptional SPOT evaluations, she is an “out of the box” thinker who approaches pedagogy seriously, but with a flair for engagement and student participation.  

Claver incorporates technology, and state-of-the-art applications into the classroom. In one innovative approach, Claver introduced “aging suits” to simulate aging; allowing 20 -year-olds to physically feel the effects of aging (vision issues, joint pain, hearing loss, mobility issues, etc.). She developed Perspectives on Aging - a GE class which fills nearly 20 sections each semester (several offer a service-learning component). Perhaps her most notable recent achievement is the creation of a cutting-edge class – Women and Aging: Lessons from The Golden Girls, in which students view one episode of the sitcom, and discuss the primary issue (e.g. sexuality, death, HIV, menopause, etc.). This class received local and national radio and television news coverage.  In one class period, one of the original producers of the show attended class and brought her Emmy to show the class. Overall, she demonstrates the passion, creativity, and innovation that make up an accomplished professor.  

Submitted by Wendy Reiboldt 


Ragan Fox, Communication Studies

Dr. Ragan Fox has been a dedicated professor in the Communication Studies department for 15 years. During that time, he has used creative and thoughtful innovations in his research and teaching to impact his field and the lives of his students.   

Fox has produced award winning scholarship including: Book of the Year (2019): Inside Reality TV: Producing Race, Gender, and Sexuality on “Big Brother” and two Best Article of the Year awards for: “Re-membering Daddy: Autoethnographic Reflections of my Father and Alzheimer’s Disease” (2011) and “Skinny Bones #126-774-835-29: Thin Gay Bodies Signifying a Modern Plague” (2008). His work has provided a point of identification and life-affirming equipment for living for his colleagues and students alike.    

Fox brings the same life-affirming ethos into his classrooms by including the voices of women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ people. He constantly looks for ways to improve his classes and uses both technology and countless office hours to support student success. It’s no wonder he was voted “Most Inspirational Teacher (2010), One of the 10 Best Teachers in Long Beach (2009), and Senior Class Favorite Faculty Member (2009).   

In sum, Fox is a gifted educator, a consummate professional, and an inspirational mentor. 

Submitted by Jennifer Asenas 


Deborah Fraser, Biological Sciences

Dr. Fraser has been a dedicated member of the CSULB community for a decade, joining in 2011 as faculty and earning tenure in 2017. She has taught seven courses for the department, regularly participating in our lower division introductory biology series and other core courses. Her course "Biology of Cancer" is one of most popular upper division courses in the department.  She also participates in the College's Freshmen Success Series. Her research lab attracts numerous undergraduates every year and she is known for her empathy and providing excellent student training experiences. 

Submitted by Dessie Underwood 


Andrea Johnson, Mathematics & Statistics

A CSULB graduate herself, Andrea Johnson has taught mathematics everywhere from Sacramento to Malawi, and it to CSULB’s good fortune, returned in 2014 to serve students. Johnson’s repertoire spans from remedial math to calculus for engineers through 400-level Math Education courses. Her warmth and rapport with students are extraordinary, and student success rates in subsequent STEM classes are impressive. 

Johnson has led a broad spectrum of cross-disciplinary initiatives, including the Beach Engineering Student Success Team, STEP into STEM, STEMx, a CNSM Faculty Learning Community, a summer course to introduce language learners to American mathematics language and notation, and yoga classes at the Student Rec Center. The unifying theme in her work is building programs and opportunities for students to embrace challenges, make mistakes, and sharpen their own curiosity. She gives her students the ability to take responsibility for their own growth and knowledge that everyone can find satisfaction in mathematics. Students from all majors and levels find a sense of belonging in her programs and among her spectacular teaching.  

Submitted by Will Murray 


Toni Espinoza-Ferrel, Health Science

Professor Espinoza-Ferrel has been a Lecturer in the Health Science Department since 1997 and served in an advising role for the past 20 years. She has provided direct advisement to over 1,400 HSC Graduate Students, served as the undergraduate Health Science Student Association Advisor for 13 years and mentored and advised approximately 91 Health Science Student Association Board Members.  

She has written over seventy letters of recommendation, which have resulted in students being offered internships, professional positions, scholarships, and entry to MSN, MSW, MPH, Ph.D. and M.D. programs throughout the country. She has mentored over 100 students with their professional goals by reviewing resumes, cover letters and practiced interviewing skills so that they can find employment once they graduate. In addition, she has trained over 50 students in the past 15 years to build skills in data collection, database creation, data entry, data analysis and report writing. She has served on numerous committees such as the Grad Council, Body Positive Advisory Board, and the University Student Union Board of Trustees, a CHHS senator, the nomination committee and served on and chaired several HSC Department committees such as the Graduate Program, Curriculum, Awards, Scholarship, and Accreditation Committees. She demonstrates exemplary commitment to student success and mentorship. 

Submitted by Kamiar Alaei 


Christine Whitcraft, Biological Sciences

Dr. Whitcraft is passionate about supporting, guiding, and mentoring students, and works diligently to help them succeed. joined the faculty in 2008 and was promoted to full professor in 2019.  She has over 35 publications most with CSULB students as co-authors. She currently serves as mentor to eight MS students and has one of the largest research labs in the department. During her tenure, she has graduated 19 MS students and mentored over 90 undergraduates. She encourages all of her students to present research findings at professional meetings. She also serves as the Director for Environmental Science and Policy and informally advises many of these students. 

Submitted by Dessie Underwood 


Deepali Bhandari, Chemistry & Biochemistry

Dr. Bhandari was awarded early tenure and promotion last year, a rare honor. A major reason for this success was her outstanding mentoring of students in her research group. Bhandari made multiple efforts to learn how best to establish an independent research program, attending a CUR Research Institute and CSUPERB workshops, and setting up several collaborations with other faculty. Bhandari has already mentored 20 undergraduate research students and 11 graduate students. Six of her undergraduate researchers completed theses as part of university or department honors programs.  

Bhandari encourages her students to seek out scholarships and present their results at scientific meetings. The excellent mentoring that Bhandari provides extends beyond graduation as she makes a strong effort to remain in contact with former students and continue to provide advice and encouragement. Bhandari’s students have made more than 70 presentations, 27 of them winning awards or honors for their work, an outstanding example of how she mentors her students and provides them opportunities to further their own scientific careers. As a result, ten students from her group are now pursuing PhD degrees, most at highly prestigious institutions. Bhandari’s commitment to her students is clear. 

Submitted by Chris Brazier 


Praveen Shankar, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering  

Dr. Praveen Shankar is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. He joined CSULB in 2011, and has been an academic advisor and research mentor to a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students. He has been the BS Aerospace Engineering advisor for seven years, MS Aerospace Engineering advisor for two years, MAE Honors advisor for three years, and BSME Advisor for the Antelope Valley Engineering Program (AVEP) for seven years.  

He has mentored many undergraduate students from College of Engineering in national engineering competitions and research and honors theses while supporting several MS and PhD students as their primary thesis advisor. Shankar’s focus on improving student success through effective advising and mentoring has had a positive impact on students from both the MAE Department and the College of Engineering. His advising and mentoring MAE and COE students has led to a great the impact on their success.  

Submitted by Jalal Torabzadeh 


Ezra LeBank, Theatre Arts

As the Head of Movement and Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at CSULB, Ezra LeBank is passionate about physical theatre performance and innovation. An author, researcher, and performer, LeBank has traveled around the world teaching others about his art and productions. As the Founder & Director of Bossy Flyer, his original acrobatic theatre productions Flight, Back Left, Terms & Conditions, Extinguish, and THREE have toured across North America, Europe, and Australia to critical acclaim including an Off-Broadway run at the historic Barrow Street Theatre.

He is recognized internationally as a specialist in Biomechanics, Partner Acrobatics, Contact Improvisation & Somatic Practice, Stage Combat, and Clown. He also served as the editor of the national periodical for the Association for Theatre Movement Educators ATME News. His book CLOWNS: In Conversation With Modern Masters is available from Routledge Publishing, UK. LeBank’s passion for the arts, and arts education, shines in everything he does. 


Amber Johnson, Health Science

Dr. Amber Johnson has excelled in teaching, research, and professional and community service. She has directly mentored over 50 students through research mentorship, serves as an advisor to the Black Student Union, and worked in administrative positions through BUILD and McNair research training programs. She has been successful in pursuing both internal and external grants to focus her research on Black health, particularly focusing on understanding cardiovascular disease disparities and advancing Black health equity.  

To that end, she was actively involved with the City of Long Beach’s Framework for Reconciliation in which she completed a qualitative analysis of the City’s townhalls and listening sessions. This analysis contributed to the development of the City of Long Beach’s Racial Equity and Reconciliation Initiative, Initial Report. Lastly, she has been working with CHHS and the City of Long Beach to develop Black Health Equity Townhalls. These townhalls focus on health education and raising awareness of the work of Black serving organizations, such as addressing health inequities among Black Long Beach residents amidst COVID-19. 

Submitted by Kamiar Alaei 


Justin Gomer, American Studies

Dr. Justin Gomer has exceeded all expectations and became the first tenure-track hire in the growing interdisciplinary American Studies Program at Long Beach State. He has created new and exciting courses for American Studies, including The Suburbs, Race and Hollywood, and The American Studies Mixtape, all of which include innovative assignments that promote students' content knowledge while giving them relevant skills for lifelong success.  

He has been an exemplary colleague, serving on virtually every department committee as well as providing service to the College of Liberal Arts through the Faculty Council Executive Committee and to the profession as President of the California American Studies Association. Gomer is also a major emerging scholar, interrogating the meanings and dimensions of race and neoliberalism in his important 2020 book White Balance: How Hollywood Shaped Colorblind Ideology and Undermined Civil Rights (University of North Carolina Press) and in other scholarly articles, book reviews, media appearances, and op-ed pieces. Gomer's excellence in teaching, scholarship, and public engagement has brought positive attention to Long Beach State, making him an exemplary recipient of this university achievement award. 

Submitted by Brett Mizelle  


Joe Kalman, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Dr. Joseph Kalman is an experienced researcher, professor, and mentor as an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department. He joined CSULB in 2018 after serving as the lead researcher in the Combustion Sciences lab at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division-China Lake. He has taught courses in the areas of combustion and propulsion, started a new graduate specialization in the area, and mentored over 30 students in the lab. His students have gone on to win awards (e.g., Best Student Paper, McNair Scholar, Outstanding Graduate) and have been admitted to top mechanical and aerospace graduate programs.   

Kalman’s research at CSULB has led to over $1.5M in grants, eight peer-reviewed papers accepted or under review and 13 conference papers/presentations at regional, national, and internationally attended scientific meetings. He was integral in re-establishing a COE Safety Committee, is a founding member of the COE Laser Safety Committee, and has served on several other committees. Kalman serves as a Reviewer for top combustion and propulsion journals and has been an invited speaker for two seminars and two internationally attended workshops on energetic materials. He received his B.S. and M.E. degrees from Rutgers University in 2008 and 2010, respectively, and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2014, all of which in mechanical engineering. 

Submitted by Jalal Torabzadeh 


Bita Motamedi, Physics & Astronomy

Bita Mehr Motamedi is a passionate researcher, bringing creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to her research. She earned her BS physics degree in 2002 at Payam-e Noor University of Mashad in Iran. She joined the CSULB Physics Master’s program January 2018 and earned her degree in May 2020. During this period she was a teaching assistant in various undergraduate laboratory classes, while completing her thesis research, and working alongside Dr. Zoltan Papp.  

In this context, she began her research on creating new methods for solving quantum mechanics equations. This approach results in creative solutions, and the ability to solve equations which were impossible to solve before. Motamedi made significant contributions to the work of her research group, and has been published in top peer-reviewed journals. Motamedi is hard working, passionate about education, and dedicated to advancing the field.  

Submitted by Zoltan Papp 


Everett Delfel, Psychology

Everett Delfel is a 2nd year student in the MA in Psychological Research (MAPR) program in the CSULB Psychology Department. Delfel’s high degree of motivation has led him to work in four unique labs, and through this process he has gained training in multiple subareas of Psychology including clinical, social, and biological. Delfel stands apart through the breadth of his training and the skills he has acquired.  

Beyond this, Delfel has been tremendously productive as a researcher. He has nine oral presentations (five as 1st author) and 12 posters (five as 1st author) at prestigious local, regional, and national conferences. He is also currently working on a manuscript. Delfel’s accomplishments have already been recognized with several awards including the prestigious Sally Casanova California Pre-Doctoral Scholarship. Delfel is currently involved in several research projects, and his thesis examines biological, psychopathological, and neuropsychological variables to help better understand the relationship between psychopathy and crime.  

Delfel’s goal is to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and subsequently become a clinical researcher with a neuroimaging and neuropsychology emphasis. 

Submitted by Bill Pedersen 


Emily Wysocki, International Studies

Emily Wysocki’s project, “The Disappearing Morality of International Relations: On Morality, Warfare, and the Rights of Nations from Kant’s On Perpetual Peace to the United Nations Charter,” is an eloquent, compelling, and timely undergraduate research project. Her thesis advisor, Dr. Jeffrey High, succinctly summarizes its impact: “Her thesis thus constitutes an entirely original contribution to scholarship on a topic that has always been of the utmost importance, and could hardly be more relevant than it is right now, namely, the human struggle for autonomy and the function of an eternal state of war in reducing the most vulnerable individuals to a state of internationally sanctioned heteronomy.”  

Furthermore, Wysocki’s thesis represented the Honors Program at the 2020 National Collegiate Honors Council’s Portz Scholars’ Competition, in which she earned a coveted finalist’s spot. In other words, her thesis was considered one of the best research endeavors by a baccalaureate student nationwide. As an undergraduate—she is currently in the MA program in German at CSULB— Wysocki boasted a near-perfect GPA (3.9) and was a President’s Scholar. In sum, Wysocki’s efforts embody the mission of Honors Program, which is to cultivate globally awareness, develop leaders, promote civic engagement and of course, encourage research endeavors (such as this one).  

Submitted by Bonnie Gasior 


Ian Holmes, Mechanical & Aerospace

Mr. Ian Holmes exemplifies the best of CSULB – honor, integrity, ingenuity, commitment, and excellence. Since his first day, Holmes is passionate about engineering, and how it can best serve people. For any team project, he leads or follows, whichever is required, and never shies away from lending a helping hand. As a freshman, he was hired into a research team where he has won several accolades. These include the BUILD research grant for three years, attending several conferences on his research, including the 2020 SPIE professional conference for top scientists and researchers, and most recently, a full scholarship for a PhD at Texas A&M, one of the most prestigious universities in aerospace engineering. He will graduate from CSULB as a leader.  

Holmes talents and commitment to this university have truly been unique, one among thousands, to make a lasting impact at CSULB and worthy of the highest accolade.  

Submitted by Daniel Whisler 

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