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August 2018 Newsletter

News from the Office of Undergraduate Studies

August 2018

From the Dean's Desk

Welcome to the new academic year! I do hope you that each enjoyed a restorative summer.  To our new faculty and graduate students who will be teaching, I want to extend a special welcome. The Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUGS) very much looks forward to our continued partnerships with you as together we work to support our students’ academic success.

With this newsletter, the OUGS team’s goal is simple: we encourage you to promote to your students the Centers for Learning and Academic Success Services (CLASS)—that is the Academic Success Center, Academic Success Center, Math Lab, STEM Student Success Center, and Writing Center—as appropriate in your courses. To assist, see the red box below with suggested language for your syllabi and Cougar Course containers.

Why? Check-out the video below! National and campus research show us that learning centers staffed by trained peer educators move the dial on students’ academic success.  Peers are powerful complements to classroom instruction (e.g., Topping, K.J., 1996, 1998, 2005; Colvin, J.W., 2007; Corbett, LaFrance, and Decker, 2014).  Last year, CSUSM students made more than 48,0000 visits to the centers. And we welcome more!  On our campus, students who make five or more visits to a center during a semester tend to earn higher grades.

To those of you teaching first-year students, our campus research shows us that students’ academic success in the first semester is the most powerful predictor of graduation.  Thank you for helping your students learn how to make participation in CLASS a habit.  It is sure to serve them well.

Academic success requires engaged classroom learning plus support! Thank you to each of you for encouraging your students to experience the power of peer-supported learning on their journeys to graduation.

Cheers to an engaging year ahead,


ATTN FACULTY:  Would you like to include language in your syllabi for one or more of the learning success centers? Check out our language suggestions!  

Centers for Learning and Academic Success Services

 Meet our Newest Team Members!

Over the past year, OUGS expanded its support  for CSUSM students’ academic success thanks in large part to grants, several of which were faculty-led.  We invite you to meet our newest staff who have joined us this past year.

Jackie Duerr, M.Ed.

Senior Co-Director of CLASS, Professional Programs, Humanities, Arts, Behavior and Social Sciences (PPHABSS)

Director, Academic Success Center

I am happy to join the CLASS team, coming from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where I worked as the Coordinator of the Multicultural Engineering Program. My strengths are creating support programs for underserved students and transfer success. 

Contact Jackie at

Suzanne Hizer, Ed.D.

Senior Co-Director of CLASS; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathmatics (STEM)

Director, STEM Student Success Center

Content hereI am a proud CSUSM alumna who came to campus in 1997 and never left! I have held many jobs on this campus as a researcher, lecturer, and staff. I love CSUSM and our shared dedication to student success. 

Evan Smith, M.A. 

Director, Writing Center

I am a CSUSM alumnus from both a Bachelor’s and Master’s program in Literature and Writing Studies. As a former Writing Center tutor and composition instructor, I am passionate about helping students write toward success!

 Contact Evan at

Sarah Gomez, M.S.

STEM Student Success Coordinator & McNair Student Advisor  

I’m a parent, veteran, alumni that wants to empower those following behind me. 

Contact Sarah at

Francine Singson, B.S.

STEM AmeriCorps VISTA, STEM Student Success Center

I am currently serving under AmeriCorps VISTA as the STEM Tutoring and Supplemental Program Project Coordinator at the STEM SSC. I recently moved here from Virginia after graduating with a Bachelor’s in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University.  

Contact Francince at


Ashley Gragido, M.Ed.

Student Success Facilitator, Office of Undergraduate Studies

I am a passionate student advocate that believes in students using their voices! I have my Master’s in Counseling and about to start my Doctorate in Educational Policy & Leadership with a focus on Diversity and Equity in Education. 

Contact Ashley at

Tasos Lazarides, Ph.D.

Academic Innovation Specialist, Office of Undergraduate Studies

I am from Cyprus, a tiny island half-a-world away. I have a Ph.D. in literature, a degree and training in engineering, and I have been working as a mobile gaming journalist, experiences that allow me to help students explore interdisciplinary pathways.  

Contact Tasos at

Ray Malforvan-Borja, Ph.D.

TRIO McNair Project Coordinator, TRIO McNair Scholars Program

I am half-Mexican & half-Chamorro. I am also a proud alum of Palomar Community College, CSU San Marcos, and the University of Washington. 

Contact Ray at

Grant Submissions & Awards


Drs. Suzanne Hizer, Wesley Schultz, & Dawn Formo | Office of Undergraduate Studies and Office of Graduate Studies and Research | National Science Foundation | California State University Fullerton | INCLUDES | Collaborative Research: NSF INCLUDES Alliance: Southern California Alliance for STEM Transfer Success (SoCASTS): An Extended Network. 


Drs. George Vourlitis, Edward Price, Tracey Brown, Chuck De Leone, Suzanne Hizer, and Denise Garcia | CRESE | Howard Hughes Medical Institute | Inclusive Excellence Grant 2018.