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Cohort 3

The Innovation Hub introduced the new faculty fellows of Cohort 3! We recognize the important role that these exceptional individuals are poised to play in furthering the frontiers of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. With a shared resolve to challenge norms, cultivate fresh perspectives, and reshape the very contours of innovation, these leaders are ready to influence innovation within our community.

College of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (CSTEM)

Erika Diaz

Erika Diaz - Assistant Professor, Biology
Innovation Project: The Milpa Hub

Dr. Díaz is a microbial ecologist who investigates anthropogenic stress impacts on coastal microbial diversity. She holds a Master's degree in Marine Biology and Limnology from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, where she focused on algal symbiont thermotolerance in corals. She earned her Ph.D. in Biology from The Pennsylvania State University, studying climate change acclimation. At Emory University, she conducted research on gut microbe symbiosis with agricultural pests and studied experimental evolution of microbial symbionts. Her work also includes investigating the microbial diversity in soil of crops grown together in the agroecological practice known as Milpa. Prior to joining CSUSM, she was an Assistant Professor at New College of Florida, where her research focused on the microbial ecology of coastal ecosystems, working with managers to improve decision-making.

As a Faculty Innovation Fellow, Erika will create The Milpa Hub. This project aims to cultivate mini milpas—traditional agricultural systems—to promote environmental and community resilience. Through environmental science initiatives, social media outreach, and community events, the project will increase access to this Indigenous technology and facilitate connections among community members (students, faculty, staff, and local non-profits) involved in milpa-related work. The Milpa Hub aims to empower communities to rediscover their cultural heritage, serving as a platform for interdisciplinary research and community engagement.


College of Business Administration (CoBA)

Meegan Feori-Payne - Assistant Professor, Marketing
Innovation Project: Empowering Students through Case Study Competitions

Dr. Meegan Feori-Payne is a creative and supportive educator who is passionate about andragogical innovations and determined to be a catalyst for collaboration in San Diego's fashion sector. She obtained her Ph.D. in Apparel Merchandising and Design from Iowa State University and her MS in Instructional Design and Technology from California State University Fullerton. Dr. Feori-Payne's research explores the intersection of marketing, product development, and sustainability, particularly in the creative industries. Her research can be found in journals such as the Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, the International Journal of Fashion Design Technology and Education, and the Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal.

As a Faculty Innovation Fellow, Dr. Feori-Payne is piloting case study competitions to empower students and encourage innovation. She will mentor students competing in the Fashion Scholarship Fund and explore the viability of case study competitions as part of the regular curriculum. She will also foster collaboration with local community colleges and fashion businesses, strengthening transfer pathways and career opportunities for students respectively. Through this initiative, CSUSM can connect and contribute to the vibrant and innovative fashion sector of San Diego.

Meegan Feori-Payne


College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral & Social Sciences (CHABSS)

Matthew C. Atherton

Matthew C. Atherton - Associate Professor, Sociology

Matthew Atherton is an Associate Professor in the interdisciplinary Social Science Program. He earned his Ph.D. in Crime, Law, and Justice from The Pennsylvania State University. His research centers around pedagogical innovations and student outcomes in higher education. A desire to increase student success and support underserved populations influences his scholarship, service, and pedagogy. As Associate Director for Teaching and Learning at the CSUSM Faculty Center he supported teaching innovation through the development of professional development programing such as the Summer teaching Institue. His recent research has focused on the use of different theories (threshold concepts), technology (podcasting), and literature (graphic novels) to improve student learning. 

As a Faculty Innovation Fellow, Dr. Atherton is aiming at increasing students' awareness about punitive attitudes, the justice system, and civic engagement among students. He will be piloting and rethinking mock juries and ethical scenarios as a way for students to understand and discuss the concept of justice through experiential learning. This innovation aims to create co-curricular collaborations across camps as well as with the surrounding community.