The CHABSS Dean's Awards
2022 CSUSM President's Outstanding Graduate &
CHABSS Dean's Outstanding Student Award
Psychological Science major
- About Krystal and her accomplishments.
CHABSS 2022 CHABSS Dean's Outstanding Student – Krystal is bestowed with CHABSS' highest graduating student achievement award.
Her father always told her, “Yo trabajo con mis manos para que tu puedas trabar con tu mente”, and now Krystal Alvarez-Hernandez has earned the College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral and Social Sciences Dean’s Outstanding Student award, the highest award bestowed to a graduating student from the college. Krystal has also been awarded CSUSM’s top graduating student award, the President’s Outstanding Graduate award.
Krystal said that it was clear that her parents expected her to go to college, but it was a complete mystery to her about how she would get there. “I am Latina, a first-generation college student, and I gave birth to my son in my junior year of high school when I was only 16 years old. Statistically, there was a 98% chance that I would not attain a bachelor's degree, let alone a PhD,” she explained. Krystal’s academic journey has not been typical, but she found her way to becoming a top graduate at CSUSM, and she has been accepted to two highly competitive neuroscience PhD programs and is waiting to hear from a few more.
Krystal credits her parents and her support system of family, friends, and mentors for pushing her to persevere and graduate from high school as a teen mom and attend college. She began on her path to higher education through the community college system and earned associate degrees in psychology and sociology before transferring to CSUSM in 2019. “Community college was a humbling experience, and I believe the best way to have started my educational journey,” she said. “My peers were individuals I could connect with and relate to: recent high school graduates, young parents, grave shift workers, migrants, seniors, and various other individuals who shared a common interest, the pursuit of knowledge. These individuals represented my community and allowed me a safe space to explore my interests and the culture of academia at my pace,” she explained.
While in community college, Krystal had her first opportunity to engage in research and applied behavioral analysis. She worked as an early interventionist for children under five diagnosed with autism. At this time, she also obtained a certification to provide services in Spanish. “My primary focus was assuring parents felt in control and included in their child’s treatment plan. Forming relationships with children and their families in the community encouraged me to advocate for their well-being and stimulated me to ask questions that continue to influence my research objectives today,” she said.
At CSUSM, she became an undergraduate research assistant with psychology professor Dr. Kimberly D’Anna-Hernandez, examining mental health among Mexican mothers and their infants. Recognizing Krystal’s research talent and leadership, Dr. D’Anna-Hernandez appointed her to be the lab supervisor, and Krystal assisted with research related to the impact of COVID-19 on the well-being of Mexican mothers living in the U.S. Krystal’s research activities earned her much recognition: finalist for the 35th Annual CSU Research Competition; CSUSM’s Library Award for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity; a fellowship with UCLA’s Brain Research Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Experience; and a fellowship with Undergraduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement – to name a few.
“Krystal has numerous accomplishments in classroom work, research, and community service, which would be impressive for any student but are all the more remarkable given the challenges she has faced,” said Dr. Keith Trujillo, professor of psychology and the faculty member who nominated Krystal for the CHABSS Dean’s Outstanding Student award. “She is a first-generation college student from an immigrant family and had little support to help her navigate higher education. Needless to say, it has taken extraordinary motivation, hard work and persistence to simply survive university work, let alone thrive in this atmosphere. Everything she does is balanced with being the parent of an energetic young child with a disability,” Trujillo continued.
In addition to Krystal’s achievements in undergraduate research, she also volunteers on campus. She has served as treasurer for the CSUSM chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in the Sciences (SACNAS) and is currently the chapter president. In this role, she has worked to create space where students who are underrepresented in academia can access resources and opportunities to advance in their academic endeavors by facilitating workshops that provide student-parents with resources at CSUSM and in the community that include childcare options, family activities, funding opportunities, and professional development. “Stemming from my own life and college experiences, I am committed to creating spaces where underrepresented students have access to resources and opportunities to advance and be supported in their academic pursuits,” she explained. Outside CSUSM, Krystal has volunteered in a hospital, special education classroom, and orphanages in Mexico.
In selecting Krystal for the CHABSS Dean’s Outstanding Student award, Dean Matthews said, “Krystal has performed exceptionally well in the classroom and the lab environment. She has extensive research experience and is involved in the CSUSM and local (and international) communities. She has made the most of her opportunities and her time here at CSUSM. Her nominator, Dr. Keith Trujillo declares, ‘Given her inspiring path from teen mom to PhD-bound, she reflects the best of CSUSM’. I cannot agree more. I believe that she exemplifies the spirit of California State University San Marcos – intellectual curiosity, perseverance, dedication, compassion, community-mindedness, and motivation.”
2022 CHABSS Champion for Inclusive Excellence
Child & Adolscent Development major, Communication minor
- About Gabriel and his accomplishments.
He started at CSUSM feeling like he did not belong but CSUSM’s Early Outreach program turned that around. Now as he prepares for graduation, Gabriel Castellanos was named 2022 CHABSS Champion for Inclusive Excellence.
Gabriel, like many first-generation students, felt disconnected from the university and student life. He felt like he was going through the motions of being a college student and not fully embracing the experience. However, once he got involved with CSUSM’s Early Outreach program which meets with and provides college pipeline information to high school students in underrepresented communities, he started feeling enthusiastic about coming to campus and getting involved. “My professor, Marivel Rojas, was the assistant director of the Early Outreach program, and she connected me with all the mentors and peers who revolutionized how I saw the campus,” he explained. “As a freshman volunteer, I was able to learn the ins and outs of campus life, buildings, and the history of the university,” he said. Gabriel worked with a mix of high school students – some were eager to listen, while others ignored him completely. “I felt a huge sense of connection to those who chose not to listen since I was once in their shoes, rebellious and unaware of what the future holds. I got to show them that higher education has a place for everyone – an idea that I had a hard time believing myself when I first started,” he said.
Gabriel feels that his biggest contribution to the campus was volunteering with CSUSM’s Orientation and New Student Programs (O-Team). Through O-Team he was immersed in all things CSUSM – history, fun facts, campus programs and their locations as well as memorizing the student tour script. He enjoyed working with the different student populations but felt most useful being part of O-Team’s Spanish family orientations. “Only a few of us spoke fluent Spanish so I volunteered to lead Spanish-speaking tours for families. I witnessed a genuine appreciation from parents who looked to us as role models for their children. As a child of Latinx culture, I understand the significance of receiving assistance in your native language and having the ability to stay connected with your children in these major life steppingstones,” he said.
Gabriel is a child and adolescent development major with a minor in communication, and he is graduating Magna Cum Laude (Latin meaning with high honors). Psychology professor Aleksandria Perez Grabow, who nominated Gabriel for the CHABSS Champion for Inclusive Excellence award, was not only impressed with his community service but also with his coursework. “Gabriel went above and beyond to apply not only previous academic knowledge to his coursework, but also his personal experiences in community service,” she explained. “In one of his final papers about social policies for families, Gabriel discussed how his exposure to working with and supporting students in their transition to college informed his argument for the need for additional resources – for example, addressing mental health, food insecurity, house, and extending the age of certain policies, like SNAP, for college students. He received an A on the paper and in class, and I will be using his paper as a sample paper in future classes,” she said.
Following graduation, Gabriel will begin a master’s degree program at San Diego State University studying counseling with a concentration in marriage and family therapy. He hopes to become a licensed marriage and family therapist focused on building and repairing family relationships in multicultural homes. “Therapy is a life changer! I wish everyone could have the opportunity to openly express themselves with a mental health professional who looks like or can personally relate to them,” he said. Gabriel’s dedication and determination to the mental health field will allow him to break cultural barriers surrounding therapy services in low-income communities of color.
2022 CHABSS Champion for Scholarship & Creative Activities
Art, Media, and Design: Digital & Media Art major
- About Shelby and her accomplishments.
Shelby was a transfer student from MiraCosta college in the fall of 2020. Then the pandemic hit. She described herself during this time as being a discouraged student who believed engaging with campus life was impossible during the pandemic. Then, she took a digital drawing class with art professor Tony Allard and things changed. Things changed so dramatically that it led to Shelby’s selection as the 2022 CHABSS Champion for Scholarship and Creative Activities.
Professor Allard said this of Shelby, “I had Shelby as a student in two of my drawing classes, Digital Drawing and Drawing II. It was in my Digital Drawing class that I first got to know Shelby as an exceptionally gifted student and widely talented artist, particularly through her innovative uses of newly emerging digital drawing tools within virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) environments. In the Digital Drawing class, she also stood out as a nimble scholar and thinker.” Professor Allard went on to say that Shelby continued to excel technically with the more traditional medium of drawing and conceptually with her remarkable ability to unite formal elements with conceptual elements in highly complex compositions. “Shelby is in full possession of her own unique artistic vision that she confidently applied to all the projects I assigned to the class,” said Professor Allard.
Shelby made such an impression that Professor Allard invited her to be his student assistant and later his intern for the Digital Drawing Curriculum Development Team (DDCD Team). Shelby saw these opportunities as her chance to take control of her college experience and reinvigorate her engagement on campus. “I was able to forge unforgettable relationships with peers and an inspiring mentorship with Professor Allard that allowed me to experience the artistic community of this college in an even deeper way than I had at MiraCosta,” Shelby said. She helped Professor Allard rework the curriculum of Digital Drawing to maximize class time spent engaging with VR and AR art projects. Shelby’s own work and research in VR, AR, and other extended reality software assisted Professor Allard’s curriculum and expanded her own art portfolio.
During the peak of the pandemic, when in-person art labs in VR and AR halted, Shelby’s own art was an inspiration to students as they tackled the coursework at home using an Oculus Quest VR headset provided by IITS. “Seeing the experimental and unique art my students were able to create by referencing my first VR art project showed me how valuable my research has been in altering the learning experience of art students here at CSUSM”, she said. This inspired Shelby to create other AR artworks using and experimenting with emerging technologies. She then shared what she learned with her art class. “Using my piece as a reference, we introduced an AR art project to the Digital Drawing class with more inspiring student results,” she said.
As an intern for the DDCD Team, Shelby’s contributions helped develop the curriculum for an upcoming Advanced Digital Drawing course and inform curriculum development for future VR and AR courses. “As part of this internship, I continued to assist Professor Allard in the Digital Drawing class and VR art projects with our students. I also continued my VR and AR research project by exploring a VR art software focused on 3D modeling that can be used with Oculus headsets and iPads,” she said. “I have created multiple VR art projects to further my skills with this medium and demonstrate its relevance in other CSUSM art classes. The entire DDCD Team has been developing a presentation that compiles our research into VR and AR art and its successful application to art class curriculums,” she continued.
Shelby’s research and student assistant work bolstered her confidence to engage with other aspects of life at CSUSM, and she began a service learning partnership with the Sustainability Program. “I created six posters to be displayed on the side of the big belly trash cans across campus. Each set of posters, one for recycling and another for landfill waste, informed students of on campus and at home sustainable waste practices with themes that coordinated with events during the year,” she explained. “Creating these public artworks furthered my skills in graphic design and expanded my knowledge of sustainable waste processes at large organizations such as CSUSM,” she said. Shelby continues to collaborate with the Sustainability Program for other graphic design projects on campus.
After graduation, Shelby will further her knowledge of the hard work involved in the graphic design industry by designing and creating signs at a local sign shop. She is making a brief departure from her art career to work as an off-highway vehicle patrolperson for the U.S. Forest Service, maintaining trails and ensuring others’ safety in the mountainous landscapes she loves. Shelby plans to continue collaborations with Professor Allard and other extended reality artists as she seeks a permanent position in graphic design. In her free time, Shelby says she will produce fine artworks using chalk pastel, graphite, or conte crayon and show them in local exhibitions such as Campus Creatives currently on display at the Center for the Arts, Escondido.
2022 CHABSS Champion for Community Service
Political Science major, History minor
- About Samuel and his accomplishments.
He said that he was a decent student but did not have any strong interests, and he admits that he was lazy. When his grades did not get him accepted to CSUSM out of high school, he knew he had to put in some effort and figure himself out while going to community college. He transferred to CSUSM at the height of the COVID-19 when it was the norm to be disengaged from campus, but despite the pandemic, Samuel Witt excelled academically, became a community service leader on campus, and was recently selected as the 2022 CHABSS Champion for Community Service.
Wanting to make the most of his experience at CSUSM, Samuel, a political science major with a minor in history, became a member of the Tau Sigma National Honor Society, an academic honor society designed specifically to recognize and promote the academic excellence and involvement of transfer students. “I enjoyed it but wanted to take on more of a leadership role, so I ran and became the president of the organization. During my time as president, the organization had monthly meetings designed to get transfer students engaged with the university and was a place to share our similar experiences,” he said. He also joined the CSUSM Pre Law Society and eventually became its treasurer, handling the club’s finances and informing members of scholarship opportunities; and he became a member of the sustainability student organization, advocating for eco-friendly and sustainable practices for the university.
Samuel sought research and academic opportunities as well. “I was fortunate enough to become a research assistant and instructional student assistant for political science professor Xiaoye She. “If I had been told that I would be working with the university, helping students academically, and leading organizations that emphasize school spirit, I wouldn’t have believed it. Yet here I am taking part in all of it,” he said.
There was just one last thing missing for Samuel, the opportunity to study abroad. In August of 2021, the university offered a chance to study in Rome during winter break 2022. “I immediately applied, but because of the pandemic it wasn’t definite that it would happen. Well, it did, and I was finally able to cross that off my list,” he said. “While I was there, I even personally met the Pope, but more importantly, it reaffirmed my desire to work in a career centered around international relations, and travel around the world, which is possible with the education and knowledge that I have received from the university, he continued. Samuel is graduating Cum Laude.
Political science professor Xiaoye She, who nominated Samuel for the CHABSS Champion for Community Service award, said this of him, “I have known Sam very well academically and personally through teaching and research-related experiences. I am deeply impressed by his outstanding performance, strong work ethic, active community engagement, and a clear commitment to global and multicultural education and future career. Sam is one of the best students and research assistants I have encountered in my career. He received the highest grades in all the classes he has taken with me. Because of his strong work ethic, we made significant progress on the research project despite the challenges of the pandemic. He also serves as a role model for other transfer students, political science majors, and students in my classroom. He constantly reminds me of the great potential of CSUSM students and why I chose this campus as a faculty. I am inspired by his continued passion and dedication, and I believe his success story will greatly inspire our students here at CSUSM.”
Dean's Awards Eligibility
The College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral, & Social Sciences has four different academic awards that are bestowed to CHABSS graduating students earning a BA. These awards are merit-based and the student must be nominated by a faculty member. The Dean's Office will begin accepting nominations in January 2023.
CHABSS Dean's Outstanding Student Award This award is the highest honor bestowed upon one undergraduate student of the College in the graduating class of 2022/2023. The Dean's Outstanding Student Award winner goes on to compete for the University's highest student award, the CSUSM President's Outstanding Graduate Award.
CHABSS Community Champion Award recognizes a graduating student who is earning a Bachelor’s Degree and has demonstrated outstanding achievements in service to the campus and/or greater community during their tenure at CSUSM.
CHABSS Scholarship & Creative Works Champion Award recognizes a graduating student who is earning a Bachelor’s Degree and has demonstrated outstanding achievements in research and/or creative works during their tenure at CSUSM.
CHABSS Inclusive Excellence Champion Award recognizes a graduating student who is earning a Bachelor’s Degree and has demonstrated outstanding achievements in advancing the College’s commitment to inclusive excellence, equity, and social justice during their tenure at CSUSM.
The nomination period for these awards begins in January 2023. Students are encouraged to work with a CHABSS faculty member to submit a nomination. Nominations are due to the Dean's Office (SBSB 4115) OR electronically to Leo Melena by Monday, March 13, 2023.