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Speaker Bios

About The Speakers

2019 Speaker Bios 

 Dr. Mohamed Abumaye

Mohamed Abumaye

Mohamed Abumaye, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at California State University, San Marcos. His work centers on the intersections between military and police violence. He investigates the San Diego police department’s unit of counter-terrorism and U.S. military drone attacks in Somalia as the transnational circuits of violence that shape Somali refugee flight. What distinguishes his project from other works on police is that he focuses on the militarized aspects of policing, and does so with an emphasis on the refugee. He centers the role of Somali youth activists in exposing the relationship between U.S. militarism in Somalia and hyper-policing in City Heights, San Diego. Mohamed’s work interrogates City Heights as a translocal space by interweaving the fields of Black Studies, Critical Refugee Studies, and Carceral Studies. 

 Dr. Rafael Hernandez

Rafael Hernández

Rafael Hernández, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development, teaches Multiculturalism, Diversity, and Social Justice. He has published research on student persistence in higher education and strategies for dealing with institutional and interpersonal racism experienced as microaggressions. His scholarship also engages community cultural wealth and Indigenous knowledge to promote critical consciousness, college-going culture, and creative expression for local multicultural youth. 

 Dr. Kelsey M. Jones

Kelsey M. Jones

Dr. Kelsey M. Jones received her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, where she also completed a postdoctoral fellowship working with the Racial Empowerment Collaborative and the department of Human Development and Quantitative Methods. She holds bachelor of arts degrees in Psychology and English from Williams College and a master's degree in Childhood Special Education from Long Island University.  As a former special education teacher, Kelsey pursues participatory and qualitative scholarship that focuses on dis/ability and giftedness in the narratives of and about Black and Brown youth, the racialized school-to-prison pipeline, and racial literacy education as healing for children and adults in stressful teaching and learning environments.  Her current research focuses on the development of accessible racial literacy materials for children, adolescents, families, and educators under the Preparing Educators to Address Racial Literacy and Stress (PEARLS) Program.

 Floyd Lai

Floyd Lai 

Floyd Lai is the Associate Director of the Cross-Cultural Center at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). Since coming to CSUSM in 2011, Floyd directs the center to focus on four key programmatic areas: advocacy and activism, developing multicultural competency, critical engagement across social identity groups, and the retention of students from underrepresented/underserved backgrounds. He facilitates several workshops and trainings on diversity as well as supports cultural student organizations on campus. He has worked in higher education for almost 20 years, first at Alliant International University and later at his alma mater, the University of California, Irvine (UCI). He received his Master of Education in the Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs (PASA) program at the University of Southern California and his Bachelor of Science degree in environmental engineering at UCI. As the first-born son of Chinese immigrants, he chose a different path from the one that was planned for him and went into higher education. An active member of NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, he is committed to the success of the next generation of students interested in pursuing a career in the field of student affairs. 

 Dr. Raj Pillai

Rajnandini Pillai

Dr. Rajnandini “Raj” Pillai is a Professor of Management at CSUSM. She received her doctorate in 1994 from the State University of New York at Buffalo in Organizational Behavior. Her dissertation focused on the contextual factors that facilitate or retard the emergence of charismatic leadership. Her areas of teaching and research interest are leadership, organizational justice, and cross-cultural management. Over the course of her career, Dr. Pillai has received numerous awards for teaching and research including the Harry E. Brakebill Award, CSUSM’s highest faculty honor. She is also co-founder and director of the Center for Leadership Innovation and Mentorship Building (CLIMB).

 Tyler Rolling

Tyler Rolling

Tyler Rolling is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. She works as a Health Educator specializing in nutrition and sexual violence prevention. She received her Bachelor's in Nutrition and Dietetics from Florida State University and completed her Masters in Nutrition Science from San Diego State University. Tyler is passionate about facilitating positive behavior change and motivating students to take charge of their health. She helps design and implement nutrition programming on campus, including the, “Live Well Aztecs Approved” food labeling initiative, which aims to make healthy food choices easier for students. She provides one-on-one nutrition education sessions and hosts hands on cooking classes, utilizing Mobi, The Mobile Demonstration Kitchen (for which she wrote and received the Aztec Parents grant for). Tyler also works alongside the Trader Joe’s store on campus to provide grocery store tours for students and trains our Peer Health Educators (PHEs) in nutrition basics and intuitive eating. In addition, Tyler facilitates the SISSTER Training Course (Sororities Invested In Survivor Support Training and Ending Rape Culture), which aims to train sorority women to be successful leaders in sexual violence awareness, prevention, intervention, and survivor support. Fun fact: When she’s not working with the SDSU community, you will find her in the pool performing synchronized swimming for the Aqualillies, an LA-based water entertainment company!

 Donna San Miguel

Donna San Miguel

Donna San Miguel is the Associate Dean of the CSUSM Temecula Campus. As the associate dean, she advocates for higher education in the Temecula Valley. She is responsible for the oversight of the two campuses in Temecula, program development, community and business relationship development, as well as oversees a team dedicated to student services. She has been in higher education for over fifteen years, with twelve of those years at CSUSM. Donna enjoys working with students and helping them reach their academic goals. She is always looking for a way to help students connect to the local community whether it be for an internship, volunteer work or get their career started. Donna earned her Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary studies from Arizona State University, the first in her family to attend college. She later went on to receive her Masters of Arts in Education from San Diego State University and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Leadership Studies at the University of San Diego. She currently serves on the Board of Director for the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce (TVCC). She is also the Education Chair for Valley Young Professionals, a division of TVCC. She is responsible for creating educational series for the future leaders of the Temecula Valley. Donna is also the Treasurer/ Secretary for the Temecula Education Foundation and is the newest addition to the JDS Creative Academy Board of Directors.  Donna is a thoughtful advocate for students, a courageous change leader and catalyst for promoting excellence in the field of education.

 Dr. Theresa Suarez

Theresa Suarez

Dr. Theresa C. Suarez is an Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University San Marcos. Professor Suarez earned a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from UC San Diego in 2008, and an MA in Asian American Studies from UCLA in 1997.  Dr. Suarez’s research is broadly concentrated on the racialized militarization of gender, family, and migration in the Pacific. Her academic specializations include:

  • Asian American Studies
  • Critical Race Studies
  • Ethnic Studies
  • Filipino American Studies
  • Gender, Family, & Migration
  • Postcolonial Studies
  • Transnational Studies
  • U.S. Militarization in the Pacific

At CSUSM, Dr. Suarez teaches courses focused on Inequalities, Qualitative Methods, Race & Ethnic Relations, Race & Identity and Advanced Seminars in Sociological Research and Community Service.

 Adrienne Tucker

Adrienne Tucker

Adrienne Tucker is a Business Intelligence Analyst at CSUSM.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in 2018 from Southern New Hampshire University in Computer Information Technology. Throughout her career, Adrienne has received awards for customer service, management, and operational results, most notably for managing a $3 million flagship store for Starbucks in New York City’s Times Square. As a Campus Connect alumni, SAND committee member, and former LGBTQ FSA board member she is highly engaged with the campus community. She is also passionate about teaching others and has facilitated training in many areas including skills to successfully transition across industry roles.

 Cathy Wong, keynote photo

Catherine Wong  (Keynote)

Catherine Wong, Director, Urban Outreach Initiatives, Lynch School of Education, Boston College, oversees the Donovan Urban Teaching Scholars’ Program, an intensive one year M.Ed., cohort-based program in teacher preparation leading to licensure, the College Bound Program, a pre collegiate youth centered out of school time program that uses scientific inquiry to address social and environmental justice issues, as well as facilitates a series of cross university, school and community collaborations.  In her work, Catherine leads teams of faculty, college students, community activists, K-12th grade students and their families to build innovative partnerships that address the most prevalent urban challenges in their school districts and communities. Her approach involves schools and community stakeholders working courageously together at the boundaries of their disciplines. By integrating multiple perspectives and knowledge that arise from their own lives, cultural identity and educational underpinnings, these teams effect change agency for themselves and for succeeding generations.

 Catherine’s work also focuses on social emotional learning with an equity and culturally responsive teaching stance, which dates back to her early career days as a school counselor, where she collaborated with teachers to incorporate curriculum development and instructional strategies that utilized student’s lived experiences as strengths toward achieving academic success. Today, Catherine is part of the design team for the Massachusetts Consortium for Social Emotional Learning in Teacher Education, and is on the Board of Directors for Our Restorative Justice. OurRJ provides marginalized youth and young adults with an alternative approach to justice that disrupts the cradle to prison pipeline. Catherine is also the Chair for the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers’ (IRT) Consortium of Colleges and Universities. IRT empowers talented underserved and underrepresented aspiring educators to teach and become leaders, so as to have a direct and lasting impact on addressing the diversity and opportunity gap within our schools and universities.

 Catherine is a cross-cultural consultant who brings together interdisciplinary teams to enhance their capacity to lead and learn from a culturally competent, social justice and equity framework. Highlighted consultancies have included; the Domestic Violence Unit-Massachusetts Department of Social Services, WGBH-PBS Television, the Human and Civil Rights Division-National Education Association, the U.S-Middle East Partnership Initiative, and the School of Education-Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Catherine is a former school counselor and director, School Counseling Program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Catherine earned her graduate degree in Counseling Psychology with a specialization in Cross Cultural Counseling from Boston University.

 Catherine was raised on the island of Oah’u, Hawai'i and grew up with the dramatic storytelling of her great grandmothers and extended family. Their stories of bringing disparate groups together despite prejudice and stereotypes instilled in her the desire to become a cultural bridge builder. Catherine honors her ancestors’ legacy, as she continues to grow and refine her craft as a consultant and educator.