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Alumni - Tori Bennett

Alumni Spotlight - Tori Bennett

by Dr. Erika Daniels

Tori enrolled in the Reading, Language, and Literacy  (RLL) program because she is passionate about literacy and wanted to make sure she was giving her students the best educational experience she could. Throughout her time in the RLL program, Tori was able to immediately implement her learning through action research and experimentation in the classroom. The impact she saw on her students was meaningful, and she has been able to transform her classroom routines and curriculum to meet student needs. Tori felt that her professors were helpful and insightful, taking the time to listen and offer relevant suggestions that impacted her practice. We are excited that Tori is using what she learned from the RLL program to lead a year-long professional development course for the lower elementary teachers at her school (1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade) on implementing and refining small group reading instruction to improve fluency, prosody, and comprehension strategy instruction. We love this focus on the fundamentals of literacy! She is also coordinating with the Assessment Manager at her school to streamline assessment practices and progress monitoring in language arts. Her project was published in the American Montessori Society Fall 2022 Research Digest. Go Tori!

Take a look at Tori's project on ScholarWorks!
Reading Comprehension Strategy Instruction as Part of a Balanced Literacy Approach in Montessori

MA Reading, Language and Literacy (RLL)

RLL Monthly Newsletters


Chris Drumm in front of Olympic Circles in Tokoyo

Alumna Lives Olympic Dream as Softball Umpire

CSUSM graduate Christina Drumm has officiated numerous prestigious events during her career as a softball umpire, including the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.



Student William Felty - MSW Veteran-22pushup

Pushup Challenge a Nonstop Cause for CSUSM Student, Marine Vet

Twenty-two days of pushups soon became 50, then 100, then 500. He still hasn’t stopped. On Wednesday, William, now a second-year Master of Social Work student at Cal State San Marcos, did 22 pushups for the 745th consecutive day.

“I plan to do it until I see the suicide numbers start to fall,” he said. “And even then I think I’ll still do it.”

Detten Alma[2]

Alma Detten is recognized as a 2017-2018 County of San Diego Volunteers of the Year

Alma Detten, CSUSM’s Public Health alumna, was one of few to represent the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency’s (HHSA) North County Regions as a 2017-2018 Volunteer of the Year, and she has also been offered a new position with HHSA Aging & Independence Services (AIS) which she will begin this summer.

 Learn More about Alma Detten

mom and son graduates

Mom and Son Share Commencement at CSUSM

“It’s pretty cool to graduate with your son,” said Arevalo, 39.

“No question,” agreed Angel, 22. “I’m really proud of what we’ve both done.”

Read More about Mom and Son Commencement



Overcoming Adversity to Earn Degree

Riley Bender grew up in Orange County, but it’s difficult for her to pinpoint a specific city.

There was Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Irvine, Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Tustin, the list is seemingly endless.

There were periods of being homeless when her mom would park their station wagon near the Newport Harbor docks. The longest stay she had anywhere was living on a 42-foot boat in Newport Harbor.


HD Democracy in action

Spring 2018 Democracy in Action launched by CSUSM and City of San Marcos

On Tuesday, February 13, Democracy in Action (DIA) was launched by CSUSM and the City of San Marcos at the local community center.  This collaboration provides opportunities for CSUSM students to engage with their community while learning about city government.

City officials offer their expertise and students gather research and data for city projects that haven’t yet been addressed or completed.


Ericka Martinez

Finding Purpose From Difficult Times

Erika Martinez had been through these kinds of nights before.  Her father high or drunk, throwing whatever he could get his hands on, waking up the neighbors in the middle of the night with his yelling.

But something changed for Erika on this particular August night in 2016.


Nursing student

COMMITMENT TO SERVE Student Veteran Juggles Busy Schedule While Giving Back

Catalina Melendez isn’t fazed by a daunting schedule.  “It’s challenging, but it’s not unbearable,” said Catalina, who will graduate from Cal State San Marcos in May with a bachelor’s in speech-language pathology.  Being a full-time student is just one aspect of Catalina’s busy life. She is raising three children – 16- and 11-year-old daughters and a 9-year-old son.  She is in the Navy Reserves, eligible to be called to active duty any time now that the three-year exemption since her last active tour in Afghanistan ended in 2014.



Tomas T. Simunovic Jr. awarded 2018 CEHHS Outstanding Graduate Award

Tomas T. Simunovic Jr. received his undergraduate degree here at CSUSM in 2013, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development, followed by completing a Multiple Subject and Mild/Moderate Education Specialist Teaching credentials this year.  This month, Tomas will be joining graduates walking across the Commencement stage when he graduates with a Master’s of Arts in Education Program (Special Education Option.)
Learn more about Tomas...

CEHHS Dean's Award 2016-2017

E. Mendez

Edith Méndez, B.A. Human Development
Dean’s Award, College of Education, Health and Human Services

A first-generation college student whose parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico, Edith wants to pursue a career that will allow her to provide guidance to underprivileged college students.

Edith said CSUSM’s Human Development program allowed her to have a well-rounded understanding of how individuals develop throughout their life and how that knowledge can be applied in a human-service setting.

Among Edith’s notable accomplishments was a trip to Australia in January for a study-abroad program in which she helped create hand-made toys for Syrian refugee children.  Her work on behalf of Syrian refugees also included participation in a mural painting project.

Edith was one of six outstanding graduates
 honored by President Haynes in 2017 at a special awards dinner.

CEHHS Dean's Award 2015-2016

2016 CSUSM President's Awardee and CEHHS Dean's Awardee

Six standout graduates from the Class of 2016 were honored at a special awards dinner for their academic achievements and service to the community while overcoming sometimes seemingly overwhelming challenges.

Jamaela Johnson, B.A. Human Development
President’s Outstanding Graduate
CEHHS Dean's Award

Honorees were nominated by faculty or staff and endorsed by their college’s dean.  Read more about Class of 2016

Surf Research Leads to Hurley

Hurley Internship
The Hurley International Icon Internship Program is competitive.  Only 37 coveted spots are filled from among 2,000 undergrad applications, and CSUSM graduate Makenzie Stade ('15) landed one of them.  Her surf research in kinesiology helped to prepare her for a summer position on the innovation and design team at the famed Nike subsidiary.

School of Education Bilingual Credential Candidate Receives Award

Ingrid De Alba

Nineteen years old and new to Mexico City, Ingrid De Alba became an English teacher because it was one of the few jobs that she could find.  Very quickly, the work became much more than a way of earning a paycheck.  The joy of seeing a student’s face light up with understanding and the realization that she could make a long-lasting impact on lives eventually led De Alba to CSUSM’s School of Education (SoE).

“Teaching is really a passion for me.  It’s about being a participant in your students’ development. It’s about nurturing their inquisitive minds,” said De Alba, who grew up in Calexico.  “You are an influential person in their lives.”

A bilingual authorization and middle level/multiple subject credential candidate at SoE, Ingrid has won the California Bilingual Education Association’s (CABE) 2015 Teachership.  The award recognizes outstanding bilingual teacher candidates in California and comes with a $2,000 scholarship.  De Alba will be recognized at the Educator and Parent of the Year Awards Luncheon on March 5 at the CABE Conference in San Diego.  She is one of five credential students in the state to receive the Teachership this year.

It was Ana Hernandez, professor of Bilingual Education at SoE, who encouraged De Alba to apply for the CABE award.

“Although Ingrid is an outstanding teacher candidate in the School of Education at CSUSM, she is also very accomplished in the area of bilingual education,” Hernandez said.  “She has lived and worked in several Spanish-speaking countries and these experiences have provided her with opportunities to use her bilingual skills professionally and in her personal life.  These rich linguistic and cultural global perspectives are the ideals she wants to instill in her future students.”

Sayuri Fujita Chosen for Cal State DC Program

Sayuri Fujita

While on a visit to Washington D.C. last year, Sayuri Fujita was a little disappointed when she didn’t get to see the magical spring time display of cherry blossoms in the city.  However, it was not a wasted trip. Back in her hotel room, as Fujita gazed at the Capitol dome from her window, an idea began to take root. What would it be like to work in the iconic building?

That idea has now come to fruition.  Fujita, a Human Development major and Political Science minor at CSUSM, will travel to the nation’s capital in January to spend a semester as a Cal State DC scholar.  She will be an intern at the office of Congressman Jared Huffman who represents California’s 2nd District. Fujita will also have the opportunity to earn up to 15 credits while she attends a lecture series, takes a nonfiction writing class and learns about the workings of the city.

“I am really excited,” Fujita said. “I hope to build on my knowledge on how the government works. I want to network, get to know people.  I will be gaining some great work experience.”

Fujita, who is the only CSUSM student chosen for the spring Cal State DC program, plans to explore the Smithsonian museums, the Library of Congress, Kennedy Center and other cultural attractions in the city. Her goal is to continue living and working in the nation’s capital after her May graduation from CSUSM. She is also preparing to apply to graduate school to study public health.

The Cal State DC program, administered by Cal State Fullerton, was established a decade ago to support students from all 23 Cal State campuses who choose to do internships in the government agencies, think tanks and non-profits in the nation’s capital.  The program assists students in finding housing and internships, and provides the information they need to make the best use of their time in D.C.

Leo Melena, Student Services Professional at the CSUSM College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral and Social Sciences (CHABSS), advises CSUSM students on the Cal State DC program.

“Washington is a great metropolis,” Melena said.  “Students experience life in the East Coast, learn how to get around in a big city, network and explore the cultural richness of D.C.”

The Cal State DC program is open to upper division and graduate students across all majors. For more information about applications and requirements, contact Melena at

Nurturing the Scientists of the Future

Since 2006, the fall Nu Upsilon Research Conference at CSUSM has given Kinesiology and Human Development students the opportunity to present the findings of their undergraduate research before an audience of peers and faculty.

The 2014 conference, held in early December at the Student Union, featured the work of more than three dozen students in classes taught by faculty members Elizabeth Bigham, Kathy Fuller and Yujiro Shimagori.  The presentations spanned a wide array of research interests, from attitudes toward disabilities to stress triggers for college students, from the impact of caffeine on well being to the relationship between fast food and sleep.

Bigham, a Human Development lecturer, launched the conference in 2006 to give undergraduate students in her Applied Research class a chance to present the results of their projects before an audience.

“The conference gives students the opportunity to discuss their work with peers and faculty, and gain recognition for their work,” Bigham said.  “It increases their confidence in understanding the research process and they obtain additional mentoring from faculty.  Many students have commented that the experience of presenting at the conference encouraged them to consider advancing to graduate school.”

Featured speaker Tiffany Tooley, an honor student who is working toward degrees in Human Development and Medical Anthropology, shared her inspirational story of hard work and persistence.

“A test that I took told me I was not smart enough to take college courses.  My heart told me otherwise,” Tooley told her cheering audience.  “Whenever I got down I would always remember what my mother told me. She would say, "As long as you try your hardest, you shall never fail.”

The conference was also an opportunity to recognize fall graduates.  Among them was Lorena Davies, a Human Development major.

“The event was a really fun way to present the research that we have been working on all semester,” Davies said.  “It was a great way to celebrate all the hard work we have done together.  As a graduate this fall, I felt honored to have attended the event and I thank Dr. Bigham for encouraging us to attend.”

Kappa Omicron Nu is a national honor society of students in human sciences. The CSUSM Nu Upsilon chapter was established in 2006.  Membership is open to Human Development and Kinesiology majors with a GPA of at least 3.28 and who have completed 45 semester units.  For more information, contact Elizabeth Bigham at

College of Education, Health and Human Services Kinesiology Student Elected as Next ASI President!

Haley Perko
Haley Perko, a third year Kinesiology student, has been elected as the next Associated Student, Inc. President.  Hayley says she has had great opportunities since coming to CSUSM.  Her freshmen year she volunteered at Campus Recreation and applied for a position as a resident advisor (RA) at the University Village Apartments and is currently serving in her second year in that role.  She has also been a part of the ASI Board of Directors for the past two years; last year as the representative for the College of Education, Health and Human Services.  She is also an active member of Alpha Omicron Pi.  She is looking forward to continuing to work for ASI next year as the next ASI President, and is excited to continue to advocate and represent the College of Education, Health and Human Services and the students of the university as a whole!