Spotlight on Success


Dr. Kohli College of Business

(November 30, 2020)

“Like everything else, this shall also pass.”

That’s what Dr. Chiranjeev Kohli, a CSUF College of Business and Economics marketing professor, tells his students when they worry about their immediate futures and long-term impact of the pandemic.

“Those concerns are justified,” said Kohli. “That said, the only way forward is increased diligence and an ability to persist. The ones who work harder will fare better.”

His students have a unique front row seat to what Dr. Kohli calls “disruption.” And if there is a perfect word to describe 2020, it’s disruption.

“Businesses should learn from their past experiences, monitor their environment closely, and be prepared for disruptions to the extent possible,” Kohli said. “Disruptions of one form or another will continue to happen. They should realize that another pandemic is almost certain—sometime in the future. After all, they are becoming more common, although one of this scale hasn’t happened in a century. They should be watchful of what’s going on and what could go wrong, so they can be better prepared, by doing things like being more agile, having enough cash reserves, and having access to capital.”

He teaches his students that disruption can lead to being creative and gutsy. For example, many retailers have already kicked off their “Black Friday” deals online, long before the traditional in-person chaotic shopping rush the day after Thanksgiving. This has been a welcome surprise for those consumers who are only buying online due to the pandemic. Another surprise, perhaps less welcome at first, may show up on receipts. Some businesses are needing to add a Covid-19 surcharge this holiday season. Kohli explains that this is also a tool that students can put in their toolbox for future disruptions.

“Businesses are suffering,” Kohli said. “The challenge for them is to minimize their risks without alienating their customers.” 

This is one of the reasons he teaches his students the importance of pricing. It can be the difference between a business staying open or closing down, especially during a pandemic. “Pricing has a direct impact on a company’s top-line and bottom-line,” argued Kohli and his co-author in a recent piece published in Business HorizonsPDF File Opens in new window . “Price is the sacrifice customers make to get the reward they want,” they explain. “If price has to be increased, then the customers’ reward also has to be increased, or an explanation is owed to customers.”

He says business owners can justify a COVID-19 surcharge as a safeguard to the customers’ health. This reassurance may even increase their visits. He adds that for businesses with reliable regulars, a surcharge can work as an appeal to their loyalty, explaining that the extra fee is needed to keep the doors open during this challenging time.

“Markets will continue to fluctuate because of pandemics or otherwise,” said Kohli. “But 2020 gave my students a unique experience. I feel confident that with preparedness and persistence they can manage this and the next adversity.”

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CSUF COMM Professors Give Students and Faculty Much Needed Break from Pandemic with Virtual Cooking Event

Dr. Seung in the Kitchen (November 23, 2020)

There’s a well-known rumor among students about the College of Communications professor and department chair for Communication Sciences and Disorders, Dr. HyeKyeung Seung: she’s a great cook. As rumors go, this one spread all the way to the Fullerton chapter of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NSSHLA). The organization’s president, Sheila Mathew, reached out to Dr. Seung to see if the rumor was true.

“I am sort of known for cooking among our students,” said Seung. “I use cooking-related analogies during my teaching, particularly in undergraduate teaching.”

Mathew asked her if she would share her cooking skills via Zoom with NSSHLA members, as well as members from Student Speech Therapists and Audiologists Nurturing Cultural Enrichment (STANCE), Students for Smiles (SFS), and Student Academy of Audiology (SAA). Dr. Seung was thrilled to accept. She knew cooking was more than sharing a recipe; it had the power to connect and comfort.

“I found cooking to be therapeutic by focusing on creating a meal and enjoy eating with family or friends,” said Seung. “When I do therapeutic cooking, I light candles, turn on peaceful music, and cook.”

Therapeutic cooking may be the cure to pandemic fatigue, which seems to be spreading as quickly as the COVID-19 virus. It’s probably why 90 students signed up for Dr. Seung’s cooking session. The group selected ricotta-stuffed portobello mushrooms with arugula salad (Click here for EatingWell recipeOpens in new window ). After Dr. Seung completed the lesson, the students broke up into small groups in Zoom breakout rooms, joined by Dr. Terry Saenz, faculty advisor of the NSSHLA and STANCE, and had a chance to chat.Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms

“I said to the students at the beginning of the cooking class, let’s use this time together for our engagement and not think about school work,” Seung said. “It was an attempt to engage students during this time when many feel disconnected from their peers and professors.”

Mathew said the class was a hit. 

“The response from students was highly positive, and many people thanked us for doing this event,” said Mathew. “The students felt connected during these difficult times, and they also appreciated learning something new.”

COMM Professor Tasting Food

Communications major Ruth Osornio agrees. She admits that she’s a terrible cook, but the class was a welcome break from the pandemic.

“It did help during this challenging time since the words of the instructor about all of us needing a break were super sweet,” said Osornio. “And I got a chance to talk to people in my major, which I missed.”

The event’s success inspired Dr. Seung’s colleague, Dr. Rahul Chakraborty, associate professor in communication sciences and disorders, to teach grad students and faculty how to cook a fusion dish of yogurt, garlic, salt, and chicken, accompanied by fluffy basmati rice (Downloadable PDF of recipe at end of article). He named it COMD Chicken, a nod to the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. This time students were encouraged to invite their family members to join in the fun.

“The student-teacher relationship is a life-long commitment,” said Chakraborty. “To instill multicultural respect, infusing cross-cultural culinary skill, enveloped in an informal milieu, is a passive way to challenge the conventional model of education and the mechanical relationship between knowledge-provider and knowledge-recipient. Education is not restricted to only a classroom and notes.”

Dr. Seung says there are plans for a future cooking class.

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COMD Yogurt Chicken RecipePDF File Opens in new window

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Dr. Habibi College of Business and Economics

(November 16, 2020)

The year 2020 has been hard. Between the pandemic and social unrest, and a divisive election, the country is exhausted. Now, the holidays are around the corner, and large family gatherings, according to the CDC, should be literally and figuratively off the table. Difficult times usually have a silver lining, but is a silver lining even possible?


Dr. Mohammad Reza Habibi, a marketing information technology professor from the CSUF College of Business and Economics, says if we look into the past, we’ll see a bright future.

“Based on my research on the past recessions, many major innovations come shortly after recessions,” said Habibi. “For example, after the recession of 2008, ‘sharing economy’ emerged. Businesses such as Airbnb, Uber, and other sharing platforms are now thriving. The number of new businesses launched in 2009, the toughest year of the recent economic recession, rose to 550,000. Entrepreneurship endeavors rose as well from which many currently well-known brands such as Uber, Airbnb, LendingClub, Turo, and so on were born.”

Go back even further to the great depression of 1873, and once again, you’ll find a wave of innovation. Dr. Habibi says the light bulb, telephones, electric power systems, phonographs, and urban transit were all developed.

“Innovation researchers have indicated the evidence of unleashing powerful technological innovations and systems after an economic downturn when the economy starts to recover. This is promising news.”

The economy during a pandemic seems to be following the same pattern.  

“Some businesses have thrived during the pandemic,” Habibi said. “Online businesses such as Amazon, Netflix, and the likes of them. In general, most businesses that don’t require physical presence and have less to do with location showed resistance. On the other hand, all businesses that needed people to gather, e.g., airline, hotels, restaurants, and so on, really were damaged.”

Dr. Habibi says it’s too early to know which innovations will come out of the pandemic, but office life for many businesses may never be the same.

“Remote working has become a norm, and online shopping has penetrated even more,” said Habibi. “Many companies are talking about the ‘workplace of the future,’ which means an environment in which workers have all the tools to be productive without the need to be physically present. We are seeing many trends, but which one will catch on, we have to wait and see.”

Dr. Habibi teaches his students how the businesses they work for or own someday can survive recessions and sudden pandemics by adapting to change as quickly as possible.

“I teach them to think of business organizations as live bodies that need to survive and thrive,” he said. “Companies that are good with their resources and can adapt quickly with the new environment will have a higher chance to survive and will be the winner of the post-pandemic situation because they come out stronger.” 

Students have shared with Dr. Habibi that his class talks are refreshing and help them stay focused on their futures during this challenging time.

“Students are in tough times now, and they need to work harder to enter the job market and be successful,” said Habibi. “Our class conversation and the emphasis I place on the  importance of their education is really helpful to them.”

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Creator of Equity Pilot Program

(November 9, 2020)

It surprised Dr. Michelle Ramos, assistant professor, Department of Child & Adolescent Studies, when some of her students shared why they didn't talk to their professors.

"They had never approached their instructor before about anything, let alone to let them know when they were struggling with the content," said Ramos. "They were either, too shy, too embarrassed, or did not really know they could or should talk to their professor.”

Ramos discovered this disconnect during the Faculty Community for Equity Practices Pilot Program, a cross-campus faculty effort to close equity gaps at the course level. Dr. Ioakim Boutakidis, Department of Child & Adolescent Studies, who led the program, said it was sparked by the Graduation Initiative 2025, an initiative that addresses equity and opportunity gaps in retention and graduation rates.

"When I would discuss the GI2025 work with faculty colleagues, they were often unaware of these efforts," Boutakidis said. "Furthermore, many of us were hearing reports that faculty did not feel fully included in the GI2025 push because it wasn't touching the classroom space. As it turns out, our previous provost, Dr. Pamella Oliver, was also hearing the same things. So, we began a conversation about putting together something that would be faculty focused and aimed at course outcomes, like grades, as the target."

Equity Pilot Team OneFaculty recruiting for the program began in Spring and Summer 2019. A total of 10 faculty across three colleges participated. Those faculty included: Dr. Bridget Drunken (Mathematics), Dr. Aitana Guia (History), Dr. Andrew Howat (Philosophy), Dr. Janna Kim (Child & Adolescent Studies), Dr. Maria Malagon (Sociology), Dr. Armando Martinez-Cruz (Mathematics), Dr. Gabriela Nuñez (Chicano Studies), Dr. Lidia Nuño (Criminal Justice), Dr. Michelle Ramos (Child & Adolescent Studies), and Dr. Ioakim Boutakidis (Child & Adolescent Studies). The pilot program took place during AY 2019-2020 (Fall 2019 and Spring 2020) and involved more than 550 students. 

"The program is measured by comparing grade point averages (GPAs), between students in historically under-served and under-represented groups and students who are not," said Ramos. "Faculty employ three predetermined, empirically supported pedagogical practices shown to be effective in reducing equity gaps." 

Pilot Team TwoThe three practices that Boutakidis chose were: 

  1. Consistently taking attendance and making it very clear to students that attendance was important and was being tracked. 
  2. Deploying a Growth Mindset and Belonging module that aimed to encourage students to develop a growth mindset and to feel that they belonged here at CSUF as student scholars.
  3. Realigning, as necessary, the balance of low stakes vs. high stakes assessment such that at least 50% of the final course grade was determined by low stakes assessment. 

He adds that the program also had to be manageable for faculty.  

"It had to focus on faculty pedagogy that was action-based, and not just about changes in attitudes or beliefs," said Boutakidis. "And finally, both the actions and outcomes had to be measurable or assessable in order to determine efficacy."

So, what did the data reveal?

"The data showed promising reductions in equity gaps as compared to historical averages of the same courses and faculty pre-intervention," Ramos said.

Pilot Team Three

Ramos added that something as simple as taking weekly attendance kept students accountable, which resulted in no mid-semester drop, which is typical. Sharing stories within the Growth Mindset module also had a significant impact on the class.

"This involved sharing stories about past--primarily academic--struggles or failures and how they were eventually overcome," Ramos said. "Students are invited to share with each other, and they write a letter as a reflection. But faculty share their story first."

Faculty sharing their personal stories about their academic challenges proved to be a game-changer.

"I had a student tell me that hearing about my own struggles as an undergraduate was the first time she felt that a professor could relate to her," Boutakidis said. "And perhaps paradoxically, she also stated that it made her trust my advice about how to improve her study techniques even more, given that experience."

As far as how the pandemic has affected the equity gap, Boutakidis and Ramos believe it's too early to tell.

"Many have predicted that existing student inequities would be exacerbated due to the pandemic and corresponding economic fall-out, and there's certainly historical evidence that widescale social and economic disruptions have that effect," said Boutakidis. "But we just don't know yet when it comes to our specific campus."

The Faculty Community for Equity Practices Pilot Program is expected to continue in Spring 2021 with the hope that more faculty will join.

"I really enjoyed the student connection and the learning environment that was fostered," Ramos said. “And to see that this translated into reduced equity gaps in my courses was a real bonus. One important thing that I noticed was that although the focus of the pilot program was to close equity gaps for under-represented students, I would say that all of the students in my course benefitted from these practices."

If you're a faculty member and have questions about the pilot program, please email Dr. Boutakidis at

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CSUF Writing Center Team

(November 2, 2020)

When the pandemic forced the campus to become virtual, Dr. Bonnie Williams-Farrier, associate professor and director of CSUF's Writing Center, thought first about the safety of the center's tutors. The tutors, after all, are students and were also adjusting to the sudden shift to virtual learning.

"For me, the most important thing is school, and I would never want work to interfere with our students' ability to meet the requirements of their courses and to develop their academic skills," said Williams-Farrier. "We spoke with administration, and we were able to come up with a plan to immediately switch from face-to-face tutoring and adopt online tutoring in a way that did not disrupt the tutors' learning or impose upon their privacy."

The center's supervisor and adjunct professor, Bruce Swanlund, said he and Williams were hesitant in the beginning to commit to virtual tutoring completely. They also didn't have the infrastructure to transition to online sessions instantly. So, they took advantage of Spring Break and regrouped.

"In April, we were able to roll out a completely online writing center through Zoom," said Swanlund. "Last summer, we really had the opportunity to test out new strategies. All of the summer tutors practiced new approaches, we rewrote sections of our manual, and we contacted our appointment software company to help us make better use of the online tools we already had."

There's no doubt that tutoring in person is ideal, but it turns out that a virtual writing center has some advantages. For example, if a tutor asks for a writing prompt or an excerpt of writing, a student can immediately access and share.

"If this were a face-to-face session, some students might not have access to their laptops or a sample piece of writing," said Williams-Farrier. "So, there have been some exciting occurrences that I had not thought about in a virtual tutoring environment." 

She adds that a key element of the tutors’ success has been the virtual equipment they need to provide learning support, something the University provided right at the beginning of virtual tutoring. At the same time, Williams-Farrier and Swanlund agree that a big part of the center's successful transition has been something beyond the technology: the tutors themselves being flexible and available.

"All of the tutors have been devoted to making sure that we continuously offer our services to CSUF students, especially during these times," Williams-Farrier said.

It's been eight months since the campus moved to virtual learning. Surprisingly, that temporary solution has evolved into permanent options that will be offered to students long after the pandemic.

"We now have the tools to continue to offer online options in the future, so we plan to carry on with that,” said Swanlund. “We also have learned about the benefit of offering asynchronous resources to our campus, so we now have some plans to create a CSUF Writing Center YouTube channel to host some recording of our workshops. Ideally, that should launch in mid-spring. We want students to know they can still get help, and we are still here to support them!"

Williams says she’s looking forward to the day when the team can return to the Writing Center.

"At the Writing Center, we are more than just a group; we are a family. And not being able to keep up with your family makes you miss them more! So, I look forward to coming back to campus and specifically back to the Writing Center, where we collaborate and build community together!"

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CSUF Dance Professors Say The Pandemic Closed Their Studios, But It Opened Up The Dance World For Students

CSUF Dance Professors

(October 26, 2020)

"What if this was your last day to dance in the studio?"

For years that is what associate professor Lisa Draskovich-Long would ask her dance students when they began to burnout during class. As a dancer herself, she knew that taking away a dancer's studio was equivalent to taking away a diver's oxygen tank. The mere thought was meant to motivate them to find their second wind. It usually worked. She had no idea, however, how that one question would take on a new meaning when Covid-19 struck, forcing the campus dance studios to shut down.

"It very quickly became a reality," said Draskovich-Long. "I guarantee that dancers everywhere are wishing they had even one of those days back when they were less than inspired in the studio."

Her colleague, dance professor Debra Noble, describes those initial days of the pandemic as, "A strange experience as if I was in a very bad dream."

Once the shock dissipated, both professors rallied and immediately transitioned their classes from the studio to Zoom.

"The balance between the rational mind and the perceptive mind is an aim of mine in the education of dance artists," said Noble. "I have added more assignments for the students on the writing of guided journals and reflection on quotations or viewings. These guide the students to think with more depth about dance and their role in the world today."

CSUF Dance Professor instructs student via zoom

The challenges were obvious: How do you hold dance class without a studio? How do you instruct students when you need to move a leg or an arm to correct form? How do you dance in a group when there is no group?

"Dance as a shared experience has a power that cannot be duplicated on the Zoom platform," said Noble. "I am constantly working to fill in some of what is lost by having students watch each other, collaborate on in-class projects, and reflect together on their real achievements in these challenging circumstances."

CSUF dance student Jonathan Banh says the pandemic has tested him as a dancer, both physically and mentally. 


"It is so challenging to stay motivated when you're in an empty room by yourself without the physical support of your peers," said Banh. "But the fact that I have continued training and advancing my technique, despite the circumstances, reminds me of how much dance means to me and is a part of me."

CSUF Dance Student Taking Class Via ZoomAs the students danced across their computer screens, something surprising happened--a portal into the dance world opened.

"Many dance companies exploded with free classes online, and that opened up opportunities for our dancers that we would never have dreamed," said Draskovich-Long. "Suddenly, they were able to take a class with the top dancers in the field, and everyone was in the same living room situation, so there was a global equalization that was quite beautiful."

"Currently, we have six guest artists from NYC working with them on pieces," Noble said. "This is only possible because we do not have to pay for their travel and hotel expenses. In addition, I can utilize Zoom break-out rooms to have multiple rehearsals occur simultaneously.  We would never have that many studios available at once during the Dance Repertory class time."

So, what do Noble and Draskovich-Long hope life will look like at this time next year?

"Throughout this crisis, I know that we are all looking forward to a time where we can share being human together in the same space without a machine between us," said Noble. "Until then, we all will do what can together to continue learning about and sharing in our dancing from afar."

"I hope we come out of this having built better self-care habits, more responsible tech usage, and better communication skills," Draskovich-Long said. "Next year at this time, I hope I'm alongside my students, drenched in sweat in the studio and creating choreography that sweeps from wall to wall and doesn't stop until everyone is exhausted."

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CSUF Engineering Professor Understood The Value of Virtual Teaching Long Before The Pandemic

Photo of Dr. Robson

(October 19, 2020)

We all know the feeling of logging into Zoom to learn something when what we’d really like to do is meet up in the hall and chat, or trade ideas in the classroom, or sit down for coffee with friends to catch up. Sometimes virtual learning just doesn’t seem ideal. But, as one professor discovered, ideal is exactly what it is for some future engineers.

Dr. Nina Robson from the College of Engineering knows the upside of virtual learning; it opens the door to the nation and the world. A wi-fi connection has the power to connect students and instructors from anywhere, creating a global classroom. Dr. Robson calls it IDEAL.

IDEAL, or Increasing Diversity in Engineering and Labor-force, is a three-week summer outreach program created by Dr. Robson. She initially designed it for middle and high-school female students, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER. Dr. Robson was awarded the grant in 2018. The program structure follows the model of a well-developed research-based course with active learning, including reading and discussing scientific publications and hands-on activities.

"The program introduces students to authentic early cross-disciplinary research experiences in Biomechanics and Bioengineering with the main objective to enhance the students' self-confidence and motivation in pursuing future STEM careers," said Robson. "These are important attributes for the 21st Century skills STEM workforce that include critical thinking, leadership, communication, and collaboration."

 Dr. Robson was inspired to create IDEAL after attending an engineering symposium. She learned about research that reveals that if programs emphasize engineering as a source of societal benefit, rather than on technology, they appeal more to women and underrepresented minority students.

 "Compared with the practice of law and medicine, mechanical engineers are often viewed as technicians instead of as creative practitioners of a profession that helps people," said Robson. "Clarifying the role of mechanical engineers will attract more diverse students, such as females and individuals with disabilities, to join the field."

 In 2018, the year IDEAL debuted, the program was taught in person and aimed at female middle-school and high school students. The following year it expanded to first-generation and underrepresented STEM students. It also was offered virtually for the first time. Students as far away as Ithaca, New York, were able to participate. Little did Dr. Robson know that experimenting with a virtual program would become an essential teaching skill in the summer of 2020.

 "The virtual format of the IDEAL program will hopefully allow for its future globalization, recognizing the participation of interested science and engineering faculty from any University and middle and high-students from any schools worldwide," Robson said.

 Graduate student assistants, Axel Alvarez, a Mechanical Engineering major, and Allison Serrano, a Biology major, helped teach IDEAL this past summer. Serrano said using Zoom to teach the course was easy for her, but due to the pandemic, she had to create videos as part of the program's material. The pandemic also sparked different questions from the students.

Student Allison Serrano

 "There were a few questions in the biomedical engineering portion of the program that were different from 2019," said Serrano. "I remember one of the students asked if nanotechnology can be used to attack viruses."

 Dr. Robson says the overall goal of IDEAL is to underscore that STEM research leads to societal benefits and meaningful careers. So far, the program is working. Entry and exit surveys assessed the outreach program's overall impact on the students' self-confidence and motivation in pursuing future cross-disciplinary STEM careers. The results revealed that the "21st Century Skills" section had the most radical improvement. The "Your Future" section of the survey showed that the students became very interested in Mathematics, Medicine, and Engineering.

 "These clearly show the impact of the program on boosting middle and high-school students' self-confidence and motivation in pursuing future STEM careers," Robson said.

 She said her team is looking forward to next summer's 2021 IDEAL program.

 "I see IDEAL as a completely virtual program in the future,” said Robson. “I expect that the next step for the IDEAL team would be working towards increasing the ethnic and gender diversity, while at the same time expanding the scope of the program to seamlessly incorporate the convergence of science and engineering for solving challenging global problems facing our society."

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CSUF Geology Professors Dug Deep And Transformed An Outdoor Class Into a Virtual Experience

CSUF Geology Professors Take Students on Virtual Field Trip

(October 12, 2020)

For geology students, Geology Field Camp is a rite of passage. Students spend their summer working outside in rough terrain for weeks--an ideal classroom for those who love to study rocks.

"Our students and faculty spend four weeks working on field-based projects," said Dr. Sinan Akçiz, Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences. "In recent years, we have been working in the Eastern Sierras and Joshua National Park."

His CSUF colleague, Dr. Kathryn Metcalf, Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences, says Field Camp is always a demanding capstone course, but it's worth it when a student has an "aha" moment and what they've learned suddenly clicks.

"I enjoy guiding students as they learn about deep time and reading the history of Earth written in the landscape," Metcalf said.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, threatened to cancel this year's Field Camp. So, how does a class that requires students to literally get their hands dirty transition to a virtual classroom?

Dr. Akçiz and Dr. Metcalf dug deep and figured it out.

"The first consideration was making sure everyone had the necessary tools," Metcalf said. "Every student had a rented iMac delivered to them, and we encouraged students to check out MiFi hotspots from the University if they were worried about the internet."

"I reached out to faculty from my department for ideas and suggestions," said Akçiz. "That's when the idea of presenting these modules as a reconnaissance report rather than an actual report came to light. It made the whole project more realistic."

The students had several tasks, including going on a virtual "field trip" of classic California geology using Google Earth.

"Each stop had pictures, information and questions, and sometimes links to additional information," Metcalf said. "Some locations we covered as a class, and others the students explored in breakout groups before discussing as a class."

Not being in the field was a huge challenge. Instead, they collected structural data using satellite imagery and topographic maps and identified faults by recognizing the repetition of units and their displacements. Ultimately, they produced a full geological reconnaissance report.

The professors also kept zoom on all day so students could drop in and out, working at their own pace. Akçiz admits the experience was hard on all of them. For example, finding a quiet space at home to do their work, making sure they had an internet connection and proper computer equipment were challenges that had to be overcome. But they did it. The class was still able to accomplish the goals of Field Camp, which is to incorporate many of the techniques, principles, and geologic phenomena from all past courses. This online achievement sparked a revelation: this class could become a virtual option.

"Some students have families of their own, so they can't leave for four weeks, and some can't leave their jobs for four weeks without pay,” Akçiz. “Physical disabilities may play a role as well since hiking and camping for four weeks can be physically and mentally demanding. And I think we now have a very good shot at considering such alternative classes in the future."

Akçiz says to make virtual Field Camp a permanent offering, the University would need to provide the necessary support to make it an even playing ground for all the students. Support includes the challenges mentioned above, making sure students have a decent internet connection and large computer screens. Last summer was a good start.

"The big challenge of creating the virtual class was to make sure that it met the learning objectives of the traditional field camp class," said Akçiz. "And I believe, except for recognizing the rock type of an outcrop or a hand sample, we managed to create a set of modules that meet all the learning objectives. For future classes, we will likely consider making hand samples delivered to students."

Both professors agree that their students' dedication and determination made the first virtual Field Camp possible.

"They gave us all they had during very difficult times when a lot was going on," Akçiz said. "I am very proud of every single one of them, and I can't wait to find out more about the paths they choose to pursue after graduation."

Dr. Metcalf agrees.

"When you can't physically be together during a chaotic, scary time, it's even more important to reach out and support each other," said Metcalf. "Be patient and creative, and the students will always surprise you."

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College of Health and Human Development Professors Figure Out a Virtual Way to Help Struggling Parents

and Children During the Pandemic

RFD Team Zoom

(October 5, 2020)

"For the first seven weeks of the program, she sat wearing a hoodie, barely showing her face, and did not communicate during our discussions."

Dr. Melanie Horn Mallers, a professor from CSUF's College of Health and Human Development, will never forget a mom from Head Start who she witnessed struggle with parenting. The woman kept to herself, never asking questions or sharing stories of her children.

"On the last day of class, she opened up," said Mallers. "She shared honestly and with vulnerability how she previously used heavy physical punishment with her children. She shared that this program changed her life and made her realize how she can change the way she was raised."

Lives changing for the better, that's why Dr. Mallers and her colleague, Dr. Kate Bono, chair for the University’s Department of Child and Adolescent Studies, lead a multi-disciplinary team that provides the Resilient Families Program (RFP) to the community. It's supported by a grant from the North Orange County Public Safety Task Force and through a contract from Orange County Head Start. Mallers and Bono implement the program in English and Spanish with multiple sites within Orange County Head Start, Fullerton School District, Fullerton College's Child Development Center, and recently, HIS House, a transitional homeless shelter in Placentia. The parent sessions include role-playing and craft activities, as well as yoga and mindfulness activities. Parents are also given assignments to complete at home to support their children.

"The Resilient Families Program (RFP) is a primary prevention program designed for young children and their parents that was created by Dr. Barbara Burns at Santa Clara University and adapted for use in Orange County by the two of us," Bono said. "RFP is an eight-week research-based intervention based on the neuro-psychosocial model of resilience that highlights three interrelated core pathways: (1) increasing parent-child attachment; (2) increasing stress management/mindfulness; and (3) increasing executive function skills among children through parent and child curricula."

Mallers and Bono have delivered the Resilient Families Program more than twenty times in the past five years. Last spring, they were beginning to implement RFP with three Head Start groups and a group from HIS House.

But then the pandemic hit.

"We had to discontinue all four of these groups because of COVID," Bono said. "Shortly thereafter, we began to brainstorm how we could continue the program from a distance."

Together with their team, Mallers and Bono modified the program to include weekly asynchronous video lessons and a once a week discussion session with an implementor. Trained teachers will deliver the child curriculum to all children in their classrooms regardless of whether or not their parents are enrolled in the program. All participating families and teachers will receive books, games, and art supplies required by the program. The virtual program will launch on October 19th.

Both Mallers and Bono agree that it's crucial, especially during the pandemic, to the community that RFP continues. Data collected both before and after participants completed the program shows significant improvements in parents' reports of depression, stress, mindfulness, child-parent relationship quality, and children's problem behaviors, social skills, and executive function. 

"Our program helps parents to not only manage their own stress and build healthy parent-child relationship quality but support their children to cope with stress and improve their behavioral, cognitive, and psychological outcomes related to stress," Mallers said.

She has seen this outcome firsthand with the woman she spoke about at the beginning of this article.

"She (the woman) mentioned she began going to church regularly with her children to create structure, reduce her own stress, and share the values important to her with her children. She reported she could see that her children could be successful and that she was capable of supporting her children to grow."

Mallers and Bono said the materials they developed in the transition to a virtual program will be valuable throughout the pandemic and even after it's over.


Please check out more Spotlight on Success Stories below.


CSUF College of Education Professors Create Anti-Racist Teaching Webinar Series

Dr. Linton and Dr. Tran

(September 28, 2020)

CSUF College of Education (COE) professor Dr. Antoinette Linton knows the damaging consequences of racist teaching. As an African American student, who spent her elementary school years in the early 1980s in Louisville, Kentucky, she encountered racism often. Some white teachers at her recently integrated school found cruel ways to let the black students know they didn't want them there. Linton's white third-grade teacher told her she should be in special education classes, even though she had high test scores. She also sent Linton to the corner so many times that she taught herself times tables from the poster she faced.

"Her method of teaching African American children was through humiliation and excluding students from the learning process,” said Linton. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck the nation, it exposed, once again, race-related health disparities. When George Floyd died, his death exposed, once again, racial injustice and systemic racism. That's when Dr. Linton knew it was time to expose, once again, another on-going issue: racist teaching. 

"As academics we decided that our voice and talents could make the greatest impact by working with the teaching community," Linton said. "We first had to define what we meant by anti-racism and what would an anti-racist education look and sound like."

Her COE colleague Dr. Natalie Tran had the same idea as she also watched the nation erupt in social unrest.

"We woke up in a nation full of grief, trauma, and suffering," said Tran. "More importantly, we recognize that we are responsible for this moment. We owe it to our ancestors, ourselves, and our children to give them the proper education that we all rely on."

Dr. Tran is Chair of the Department of Secondary Education and Director of the Ed.D. Program. Dr. Linton is the Subject Area Coordinator for Secondary Science Education. They teamed up with faculty in the College of Education and colleagues outside of CSUF to create Anti-Racist Teaching Webinars, a weekly webinar series open to faculty, students, staff, teachers, and the larger public. Linton and Tran had two goals: to provide a creative and informative outlet for those in education who wanted to dismantle racism and be anti-racist, and to build community with professors of the College of Education. 

"Teachers have a history of activism, a history of standing up for civil rights, and helping to integrate schools," Linton said. "There are teachers in our community who have mastered anti-racist teaching, providing opportunities for all students who get high outcomes from children. Their voices need to be heard, and the webinar series provides a way for them to share their expertise and their challenges with their peers."

The webinar doesn't just touch the surface of anti-racism; it dives deep into the following:

  • Teacher identity development grounded in anti-racism
  • Effective anti-racist teaching practices
  • Vetting curriculum that doesn't harm children of color
  • Facilitating the learning of children to form a supportive classroom community
  • Reliable and trustworthy pedagogy in an era of anti-racism
  • Anti-racist distance learning and technology
  • Anti-racist educational leadership

"Anti-racist teaching is not something that is ‘done’ to others," Tran said. "It is a transformation that must begin with our individual journeys. It is only through the collective wisdom and solidarity that we can transform individual and systemic practices that lead to nondiscrimination, non-harming to heal ourselves and our community."

The response to Linton and Tran's webinar series has been overwhelmingly positive. So far, more than 300 people have signed up, and they keep adding more every week. Nearly 100% of the participants say the webinar has been helpful. They've also had so many requests from other faculty members to use their webinar that they are now in the process of recording the previous webinars so the discussion can continue. 

"We hope that others will join us and be part of this conversation," said Tran. "Our future depends on our ability to work together and care for one another."

Linton knows that change is possible. After her white third-grade teacher used humiliation as punishment, her white fourth-grade teacher used encouragement to help her succeed. As a result, she thrived. 

"What you will see in my story is that a mishandled third-grader who was recommended for special education was able to overcome racist teaching through the dedication of teachers and mentors. You will also see the definition of anti-racism demonstrated here through the planning and enactment of learning experiences that close the opportunity gap between ethnic groups, and prepare the students to engage in a career of their choice."

Sign up here for the  Anti-Racist Teaching Webinars Series.Opens in new window


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The Academic Affairs' Space Management Team Moved Its Way Through the Pandemic

 Space Management Team
(September 21, 2020)

Typically, at this time of year, CSUF is buzzing with sounds of campus life and the chatter of busy students. But it's 2020. Last March, the pandemic forced Titans to push pause on academic life as we knew it. And although the campus has successfully transitioned to life online, some projects simply can't be done virtually, especially when they have hard deadlines. 

Enter CSUF's Academic Affairs' Space Management Team: Alyssa Adamson, Executive Director, Academic Finances and Space Management, Jacki Drumm, Associate Director of Academic Resource Projects, Cynthia Chandrasena, Assistant to the Associate Director, and student assistants, Andrea Diaz and Jason Solares. Without a pandemic, their projects are challenging. But, add a pandemic, and now their work is the equivalent of hiking up a mountain with a backpack full of weights--while wearing a mask. They had to figure out how to reach the top of each project's mountain safely. 

"The pandemic brought many challenges, but our team rose to those challenges," said Drumm.

"We have seen such an amazing level of commitment, empathy, and compassion for the University and each other," said Adamson. "This makes a day full of moves, walk-throughs, and zoom meetings worth every minute."

The Space Management Team oversees academic physical resource projects and major capital and minor in-house projects. They work alongside architects, construction teams, Capital Planning and Facilities Maintenance (CPFM), and Information Technology. They also support colleges with packing boxes and moving entire departments. They are literally on the job from the first day to the last day.

One major endeavor they had to tackle during the pandemic was the McCarthy Hall 2nd Floor Renovation move. The Space Management Team was tasked to move the entire floor by mid-summer so construction could begin. They collaborated with the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and administrators in managing the relocations of teaching labs, special collections, faculty offices, and administrative offices to service students in the fall. Not only did they accomplish their work while wearing masks and social distancing, they did it while using mostly the stairs, since all elevators but one was closed due to construction. Hiking with a backpack full of weights probably would have been easier.

"This took a lot of on-campus work, collaboration, coordination, negotiation, and long days while wearing masks, socially distancing, and walking up and down the stairwells," said Drumm. "We certainly got our steps in!"

They worked together like a gold-medal relay team; each person had a specific strength to push the team over the finish line.

"Cynthia served as the point of contact and communications specialist, and ensured organization of the schedule," said Drumm. "Andrea was the zooming bee who went from space to space, floor to floor, to answer questions, and to keep everyone on point. Jason was in charge of quality control as he inspected the spaces to confirm its vacancy or completion. Together, we pulled off a successful move, and in the midst of a pandemic!"

They also worked on the annual new faculty office preparation, prepared spaces for the Fire Life Safety Improvement Project, and updated the divisional space inventory. 

"Through it all, everyone always maintained the sense of urgency to the projects and the pandemic, but we never lost our sense of humor," said Adamson. "We love the ability to work with and get to know others. We have a heart of service and a commitment to our Titan family."

Pollak Librarians Are Unsung Campus Heroes 

Spotlight 3 photo

(September 14, 2020)

A university’s library is the center of campus life. It’s where lives change as students study their way to achieving their dreams. It’s a place of respite from loud roommates so students can hear themselves think. It’s where friends meet to offer each other support, many building lifelong friendships. But like so much in life right now, the pandemic changed that. The library doors closed, and Pollak’s faculty and staff scrambled to open virtually. It hasn’t been easy. How do you move a building of resources online and quickly? The Pollak faculty and staff found a way. 

Cotton Coslett is Pollak’s Online Learning Librarian. He creates websites, tutorials, guides, videos, and more for the library, other librarians, and instructors. He admits that the transition during the pandemic has been anxiety-inducing, but it’s also provided some unexpected opportunities, especially since online learning is his area of expertise.   

“It was a chance to really try out what I’d been working on with a much larger audience,” said Coslett. “One thing I’ve been especially proud of is the level of dedication shown by everyone involved, from the faculty to the students to the special services, everyone has rolled up their sleeves and worked to make sure that we are ready to serve the CSUF community.” 

Coslett is also the liaison with the Nursing and Public Health program. He meets with students every week who are working on the front lines of the pandemic.  

“Sometimes I meet with a nursing student who is spending their lunch break from a doctor’s office in their car talking to me in the parking lot,” Coslett said. “It means a lot to me that I can be helpful to anyone working that hard through this.” 

Michaela Keating, the Open Educational Resources Librarian, goes the extra mile to help students whenever possible. “My normal working hours went out the window sometime in April or May,” said Keating. 

Keating serves as the Subject Librarian to the Women’s & Gender Studies and Liberal Studies departments, and the Queer Studies Program and the LGBTQ Resource Center.  She also works with faculty to find open and zero-cost materials in place of traditional textbooks that can be expensive, a service that’s needed now more than ever. 

“As the majority of instruction shifted to remote, I knew faculty would need even more support finding alternatives to costly textbooks,” Keating said. “We all knew our students were hurting from pandemic-related layoffs, and I spent the majority of my summer reaching out to faculty and offering support to zero-cost and open educational resources as easy to adopt as possible.”  

Collection Development and Management Librarian, Keri Prelitz, monitors the collection and the materials budget for Pollak. She’s proud and grateful to be part of a team that successfully navigated so many unknowns as the pandemic unfolded.

“It was with serious consideration that the library decided to close,” said Prelitz. “And much preparation and weighing of perspectives and recommendations has gone into the decision on how best to re-open. In many ways, we were in a better position as our library has had a focus on e-materials for a long time.”

On a personal note, a positive that has come out of the pandemic is that her 4-year-old twin boys stopped fighting.

“Being without their other friends has really forced them to bond and appreciate each other and their differences. I wish this was the takeaway for the rest of society, to look out for each other, be kind and empathetic.”

Pollak Library Dean, Dr. Emily Bonney, says she’s incredibly proud of how her faculty and staff have met the transition challenges. Simply reading what her team accomplished is exhausting. 

“They supported the FDC in training faculty for a virtual environment, started getting print materials to patrons faster than almost any other library in the system, digitized almost 200 films for faculty in preparation for the fall, arranged a locker system for book withdrawal and return, and oversaw the installation and implementation of a new system for class reading lists,” said Dr. Bonney. “In addition, they moved hundreds of thousands of books in a full-court press to get all the library collections back to where people could get them, and they supported the creation of the study area on the first floor north. They are an amazing team.”  

For Coslett, he’s hoping that at this time next year, he’ll be back in the library working with students, going to lunch with colleagues, and visiting his parents. And if there’s another world pandemic a hundred years from now, he has some words of wisdom for those in the future. 

“Pay attention to the past! There are so many lessons from the pandemic of 1918 that were completely ignored because people think that what happened a hundred years ago wouldn’t be effective. But they were pleading with people to wear masks and wash their hands back then, just like they are now. Also, listen to your public health officials and make sure you take care of yourself.”  

 CSUF Deans Launch Academic Year Focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


(September 8, 2020)

The start of the new academic year looks and feels unlike any other in Cal State Fullerton's history. Woven into the usual excitement of new classes and new faces are the pandemic's uncertainty, social unrest, and a pending election. The Black Lives Matter movement brought to the forefront, once again, the ongoing social injustice in the black community, and the pandemic magnified the health inequities in minority groups. That's why when CSUF's deans recently met with their faculty and staff, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion were at the top of the list of discussion and goals. Below are the action plans each college and Pollak Library are instituting this academic year. 

College of the Arts

The College of the Arts (COTA) faculty and staff are explicitly focusing on inclusion and belonging in the arts. COTA invited Dr. Gina Garcia, a Cal State Northridge alum, to present a webinar at the college’s 6th Annual Faculty and Staff Convocation. Dr. Garcia is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research centers on equity and justice issues in higher education, emphasizing three core areas: Hispanic Serving Institutions, Latinx college students, and race and racism in higher education. COTA also invited the faculty and staff from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences to attend Dr. Garcia’s presentation. 

“We are committed to looking at decolonizing our curricula, which will, in turn, create a learning environment that is inclusive and liberating,” said Dean Dale Merrill. “We’ve got to work on disrupting the structure as Dr. Garcia put it.”

The COTA faculty and staff will approach their goal in phases, with the first phase concentrating on equity and inclusion.

College of Business and Economics  

The College of Business and Economics faculty and staff have made Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion a primary focus.

“It is one of the core values of the university,” Dean Morteza Rahmatian said. “We want all students to know that the College of Business and Economics is a welcoming environment for all Titans. I want to reinforce that when we listen to different perspectives, we learn from each other and grow.”

When the College meets for its “All College Forum” this October, faculty members and staff will discuss and create an action plan for the academic year.

College of Communications

“I want students, as well as faculty and staff, to understand that individual development toward anti-racism and toward diversity, equity, and inclusion is a life-long journey of learning and personal growth,” said Dean Bey-Ling Sha.

The College of Communications invited local non-profit Orange County Human Relations to present via Zoom at the college’s recent retreat. The organization develops and implements proactive human relations programs for schools and organizations. COMM faculty and staff learned about the history of racism and civil rights in Orange County, broke into facilitated small groups for discussion, and were given private time for individual reflection. They were also encouraged to create personal development goals. 

“This journey toward anti-racism and toward diversity, equity, and inclusion is a very long journey,” said Dr. Sha. “It’s also a critically important journey, as I truly believe that the future of our democracy as a fully functioning society depends on it. I hope that we will all have compassion for each other and ourselves as we collectively and proactively engage with this work.”

College of Education  

We want students to understand that we have to make changes,” said Dean Lisa Kirtman. 

Equity and inclusion have been part of the College of Education’s strategic plan since 2013, but in 2018 the College added on-going professional development around the concept of Just, Equitable and Inclusive Education (JEIE). Last year every faculty and staff member participated in at least four professional developments on JEIE and that education will continue in 2020 and beyond.

“In addition, with killings of African Americans across the country and the disproportionate rate of COVID-19 infections among communities of color, we have to address the underlying racist policies, practices, and ideas that impact schools and our programs,” Dr. Kirtman said. “Educators have to help to dismantle the system of racism that we find in schools and programs, as well as in society as a whole.” 

Dr. Kirtman adds that the faculty and staff have each created an “Individual Equity Action Plan.”

College of Engineering and Computer Science  

This summer was a busy one for ECS. Several faculty members attended webinars to learn about the best practices to increase equity in online teaching and improve online student attendance, participation and engagement.

“They are working harder than ever to adapt their course content and delivery to foster inclusivity in the virtual classrooms and to be effective instructors,” said Dean Susamma Barua. “We must strive to enhance learning environments for all students, particularly those who are historically underrepresented, first-generation and low-income.”

One of the primary goals for ECS this year is to create a college-wide committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, consisting of faculty, staff, and students.

College of Health and Human Development

When HHD faculty and staff recently met, they laid out a plan of action for this academic year. Their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work will concentrate on hiring processes, reviewing the curricula and Department Personnel Standards.

“We provided a professional development opportunity for all HHD faculty and staff to specifically help us to further our understanding of racism, oppression, Black Lives Matter, implicit bias, and how we can be more inclusive in our college,” Dean Laurie Roades said. “We are committed to critically examining where we are, what we’re doing well, and where we need to improve, and we will take action to follow up.” 

HHD will also host a Research Lunch-and-Learn series this year called, “Critical Conversations on Health Equity and Justice.”

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

The faculty and staff of the College of Humanities and Socials Sciences joined the College of the Arts for a webinar, “Transforming HSI institutions,” presented by Dr. Gina Garcia, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh. Dean Sheryl Fontaine said what Dr. Garcia presented in the seminar is a framework that the college can refer to throughout the year to discuss equitable pedagogy and institutional structures. 

“Equity and inclusion are and always have been values of our college,” said Dr. Fontaine. “Issues of equity and inclusion are not problems to be ‘resolved’ but are topics of ongoing conversation that must become part of the fabric of all that we do.”

Dr. Fontaine’s office and student success team are reading the campus read, The Unknown American, and discussing it together at their weekly staff meeting.

College of Natural Science and Mathematics

NSM faculty and staff began the academic year by having a college-wide conversation on the recently drafted NSM Principles of Practice at their August Convocation. It’s a framework for NSM’s core mission of inclusive and excellent education.  

“We don’t have all the right answers, yet, but we do have the right people,” says Dean Marie Johnson. “And we are creating space as a college for these conversations; Convocation was a down payment on the work to come.”

Dr. Johnson adds that NSM is constantly working to build the welcoming community that all students deserve, and that begins with reflecting critically on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

“Early on in the pandemic, I read something which stuck with me that said the virus didn’t break America, the virus revealed what was already broken,” said Dr. Johnson. “That means talking very plainly about equity and inclusion, systemic racism, privilege and identity, and how to strengthen our NSM community in this time of multiple crises.”

Pollak Library

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a top priority for the Pollak Library faculty and staff. They started the academic year with a webinar from the American Library Association, “When Antiracist Reading Lists Aren’t Enough.” Dean Emily Bonney said they know there is substantial literature about the racism inherent in traditional ways for delivering library services. Their goal is to change that and to make Pollak Library even more welcoming and inclusive than it already is.

“We want to go past a statement about DEI issues and to engage in a serious assessment of how we do our work,” said Dr. Bonney. “We are identifying ways to convey library services in a more inclusive way, that recognizes the diversity of experiences of the students that come to our library.” 

This fall, the team will participate in a series of webinars and workshops that their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee organized.


CSUF Faculty Members Discover Real Possibilities in Virtual Teaching

Dr. Kleinjans spotlight for 8/31/2020

(August 31, 2020)

"When you teach in the classroom, you are teaching in a bubble," says Kelly Ruppert, a CSUF Department of Geological Sciences lecturer. "For that hour or two, the rest of the world exists beyond your classroom walls."

But then the pandemic hit…the bubble burst.

The traditional classroom abruptly transformed into a computer screen, and the word "zoom" became woven into our daily conversations. Economics professor, Dr. Kristin Kleinjans, worried about losing that personal connection with her students, but it turns out that not even a virus can infect the strong bond between teacher and student.

"One advantage is that students seemed less rushed, albeit also for the wrong reasons since many had lost their jobs, and more open to engaging at a deeper level," said Dr. Kleinjans. "In a strange way, I also think that one-on-one interactions on Zoom can almost be more personal than in person. Maybe it's because it happens without the usual official trappings."

When CSU Chancellor Tim White announced that the CSU system would move to a virtual setting this fall, Dr. Kleinjans knew she needed to make sure her students still received the best class experience possible. She joined hundreds of other CSUF faculty members and spent the summer taking courses through the Faculty Development Center, focusing on the Canvas platform. Her instructor was Ruppert, who, in addition to teaching geology students, is also a 2020 FDC Workshop Facilitator.

"I really appreciated Kelly's careful explanations and patience with my many questions," Dr. Kleinjans said. "The course was super helpful and provided a lot of resources for what has to be almost every important aspect of virtual teaching and Canvas."

Ruppert facilitated "Teaching Remotely" workshops for 35-40 new faculty every week for ten weeks. The teachers became the students, learning the way everyone else learns these days, virtually.

"I have learned how dedicated and caring our faculty are," said Ruppert. "Many faculty members are going through their own struggles, including battles with cancer, yet they still are so worried about the CSUF students. I was also inspired by my spring semester geology students. I felt like my class didn't miss a beat. "

Dr. Kleinjans says the pandemic opened possibilities in teaching that never crossed her mind.

 "There has been no other time when all faculty stepped back and thought deeply about how to adapt their courses to a new environment. This has led me to rethink how I teach in 'normal times' as well," she said. "Many of the changes we are making now are here to stay, whether these are flipped classrooms, more interactive and engaging assignments, or less emphasis on exams."

 For Ruppert, helping faculty transition to virtual teaching gave her the unexpected gift of friendship with Dr. Kleinjans and other fellow faculty members.

 "I feel like I made some genuine friendships," says Kelly. "It's beautiful to see that these connections can be made online. I much prefer being face-to-face, but the human connection still can be made."

 For details on the courses offered at the Faculty Development Center, please visit