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Cougar Spotlight

The Staff Center highlights an employee from CSUSM so their colleagues can learn more about them and their role on campus. Jump to: Previous Spotlights

Josh is a blue polo shirt smilingJoshua Foronda

Success Coach
Office of Success Coaching
Student Affairs

How long have you been with CSUSM?

I graduated from CSUSM, and it's hard to believe that I've been working as a student professional staff member for five years now since October. Time really does fly!

What is one memory you have of your time at CSUSM that makes you smile?
As a CSUSM student and later as a student professional at CSUSM, I have two cherished sets of memories. One involves all the dance performances and leadership retreats, where I formed many valuable friendships. Additionally, I recall the hours spent in late-night dance practices at the parking structure to refine our performance, along with the enjoyable moments spent with friends at the Cross Cultural Center. The other memory is realizing during the pandemic that becoming a success coach was my true calling in higher education, as it allows me to inspire and guide students

If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
One defining trait of mine is my competitiveness. I'm highly competitive, constantly striving to improve both in my professional and personal life. When it comes to holiday party games, I'm the one who takes them quite seriously, always eager to win. If, by chance, I end up losing, I'm not shy about expressing my emotions – you might even catch me laughing about it.

Josh lifting weightsHow do you like to spend your downtime when you have it?
Exploring new dining experiences, partaking in a variety of activities, and watching the sunset are the things my partner and I cherish. We're big fans of ramen, and in my free time, I like to unwind by playing pickleball and hitting the gym.

Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role on campus, what would you say?
I'm Joshua Foronda, and I serve as a Student Success Coach. Our core mission is to support the academic and personal growth of first-year students by tapping into their potential. To achieve this, we engage in one-on-one meetings with students, whether they prefer a virtual or in-person format. During these sessions, we conduct a needs assessment to identify specific areas where students require assistance. Time management is a common issue students face, and in response, we offer valuable tips and organize workshops to help them master this skill.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I'd like to give a big shout-out to our outstanding team members, student assistants, and our interim director, Jennie Ruiz. They are approachable, open to new ideas, and offer various perspectives, which makes the office culture we're cultivating truly exceptional. What I appreciate most about my job is connecting with students who are genuinely enthusiastic and eager to participate. These little reminders underscore the meaningful impact of my work.

Josh, Marcus and SeamWhat is a fun fact people might be surprised to learn about you?
After college, I delved into my creative side, embarking on a journey into videography alongside my friend Alan Brown, who was formerly the videographer/photographer for CSUSM. With the assistance of another CSUSM alumni, Sean, we aimed to craft short documentaries showcasing individuals who confronted unique challenges with remarkable resilience.

Our first subject was Jeff Mata, a visually impaired jiu-jitsu champion. We documented his daily life and allowed him to narrate his own story. For our second documentary, we turned the lens on Martin Levya, former Project Rebound coordinator. He candidly shared his experiences in prison, insights into his culture, and his pursuit of higher education, aiming to inspire others who've had to face similar challenges.

Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
Prioritize self-care and seek out your own community. In my case, joining the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Faculty and Staff Association has been invaluable. I've had the chance to connect with amazing individuals, gain insights into their work and passions, and create a safe space to bond with those who share my cultural background. Building these connections and forming meaningful friendships can be incredibly rewarding.

Previous Spotlights

  • Megan Lombardo - Operations and Work Control AnalystFacilities Development and Management - Finance and Administrative Services

    Megan in a pink sleeveless blouseMegan Lombardo
    Operations and Work Control Analyst
    Facilities Development and Management

    How long have you been with CSUSM?
    It’ll be 2 years on December 1st.

    If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
    Approachable! When I arrive at work, I focus on keeping a positive attitude and helpful personality. Although I am still learning, I always want to be welcoming to my teammates in case there is anything I can help them with.  I feel that many people on 

    my team feel comfortable with coming up to me to ask questions or to have conversations about work. I go that extra mile to help my teammates, ensuring that we are all on the same page and working towards a common goal.

    Megan's husband and two daughters

    How do you like to spend your downtime when you have it?
    Currently, I play on an adult kickball team and beach volleyball team with my friends. I first started playing kickball when I was living in Arizona and when I moved to California, I kept up the tradition. Also, I like going to the beach and walking on the pier and exploring different parks and community events with my husband and daughters.

    Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role on campus, what would you say?
    I recently started a new position which is a hybrid role between being an Operations and Work Control Analyst in the Facilities Department. Our department is responsible for maintaining campus buildings and assisting individuals with maintenance issues or problems on campus that needs to be addressed. Currently, I help organize incoming work orders to ensure the problem gets prioritized and resolved as soon as possible. Additionally, I assist with budgeting and the coordination of travel for the professional development activities of our sub-division.

    Four smiling people posing in front of a tree

    What do you enjoy most about what you do?
    I love the relationships that I have built over the years with the people in my department. They are like a second family, and it is great to be working with people who care and want to help you succeed in your role. I always like a challenge and look for opportunities to learn new applications or programs daily.

    clogging shoesWhat is a fun fact people might be surprised to learn about you?
    Starting at the age of 2, I spent my childhood competing/touring the country Clogging with a group called the Arizona Pride Cloggers with my 2 sisters. For those who don’t know, Clogging is a mixture of tap, Irish step dancing, and hip hop, and no, although you may be thinking that clogging is the type of dance with the big wooden shoes, that is not the case. For clogging, the shoes are like tap shoes, and the only difference is that in clogging, the shoes have two taps nailed together instead of just one, that creates an extra jingling sound. Over the years, Three young girls our team won 5 national championships and I even clogged for the former president Bill Clinton and 6 other world leaders.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    In any role, there is a lot of work that needs to get done and information that you need to learn and process. Try to take each day as an opportunity to improve and be willing to ask questions when needed. At the end of the day, no matter what task is on your plate, you have the tools and skills to complete it and you have a team to support you in moving forward.

  • Pete Felix - Senior Prospect Research Analyst - University Advancement

    Pete taking a selfiePete Felix
    Senior Prospect Research Analyst
    University Advancement

    How long have you been with CSUSM?
    Just over a year! It has gone by very quickly.

    If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
    Verdant. This word encapsulates my desire to remain curious about the world, always seeking to deepen my understanding of other people and the broader world. I hope to cultivate a life that is vibrant, evolves, and is rich with experiences.

    Pete in front of his gardenHow do you like to spend your downtime when you have it?
    I love the rewarding struggle of organic gardening and have built a small but very peaceful little meadow in my backyard. It is full of wildlife year-round. I do best to provide food and habitat for our native mason bees and get the side benefit of harvesting produce and flowers for myself.

    Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role on campus, what would you say?
    I like to think of myself as an information resource, someone who can find the information CSUSM needs to assist in effective decision making around outreach and development efforts. I gather information and analyze data to support our efforts in securing funding for various projects and initiatives.

    What do you enjoy most about what you do?
    I deeply enjoy being on the back end of a dedicated team that is deeply committed to the ongoing success of our university and its mission to serve our students and community. It is an honor for me to contribute in my own small way to an organization that is tirelessly focused on creating an enriching environment for personal growth while fostering the social mobility of our students as they embark on their life journeys. My good feelings toward CSUSM are confirmed every day.

    Pete spinning a rope dartWhat is a fun fact people might be surprised to learn about you?
    During the slow times of the pandemic, I purchased a small laser cutter and have been learning to become more proficient in customizing and creating things.  My favorite thing to do is to make ornate craft projects, jewelry, and gifts. I enjoy experimenting with unusual or found materials.

    Another fun fact is my ongoing practice of spinning a rope dart, essentially the practice of skillfully maneuvering a weight on a long rope around oneself in a controlled and efficient manner. Use of the rope dart originated in martial arts, but I mostly spin for exercise, relaxation, and occasionally in attempts to impress my friends by spinning fire in the desert or at OB.

    Pete posing for a selfieDo you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    I think most of the special moments in my life have in some way had their roots in my willingness to put myself out there at least momentarily and being willing to maybe look a little silly in the pursuit of learning something new. Society often presses the belief that we either need a high level of proficiency or the ability to generate money to validate openly loving doing something creative. I would offer the counter advice that life is finite and little compares to the sheer pleasure of doing something skillfully for the first time after much practice, especially if you are only doing it for yourself and because it makes you feel good. Websites like YouTube have made it easy to learn about getting started in almost any pursuit that provokes thought or curiosity.

    I also often think on writer Kurt Vonnegut’s advice on noting life’s truly happy moments and making a consistent practice of holding onto them in your mind. From there we can work and orient ourselves towards those things and people. This is an encouragement to find beauty and positivity in unexpected places and to embrace the moments of respite and contentment that life offers, even in the face of its challenges.

  • Talisha St. John - Business Operations Analyst - Associated Students, Inc.

    Talisha St John

    Talisha St John
    Business Operations Analyst
    Associated Students, Inc.

    How long have you been with CSUSM?
    I am Cougar³. I graduated in 2016 with my bachelor’s degree in Communications, started in my staff role in 2018, and just received my master’s degree from CSUSM this year.

    If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
    Motivator – I thrive on inspiring and uplifting other people. I believe in supporting and encouraging others and helping them see the value in themselves even when they don’t.

    How do you like to spend your downtime when you have it?
    I am a football mom. My time is spent on the field, and I really enjoy spending time with my two boys.

    Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role on campus, what would you say?
    I help with process improvement, identifying and improving operational inefficiencies, and ensuring compliance with up-to-date policies and procedures. I also actively contribute to budgetary processes. I think of myself as a valuable resource who enjoys assisting others on campus as well.

    Talisha walking down the steps of the Commencement stage.What’s it like working for Associated Students, Inc (ASI)?
    It is like working for a mini corporation. The executive board is completely run by students and the department’s staff back the students. It’s really cool to watch how these students are learning and growing with the skills they obtain in ASI.

    As the Black Faculty and Staff Association president (BFSA), why is the BFSA vital to our campus community?
    We provide a strong support system for Black Identifying faculty and staff. We believe that engaging and strengthening our community is essential for the growth of our association. We are also here to provide support and guidance for our Black students.

    Congratulations on getting your master’s degree! What motivated you to return to school for a graduate degree?
    I have set several goals for myself and obtaining my master’s was one of them. Working in higher education motivated me to pursue this goal sooner. I also realize the value in education and the knowledge is an achievement that cannot be taken away.

    Talisha leaning against a silver railing

    The title of my thesis is “Our Skin is Not Our Sin: Black Women and Their Mental Health”.

    What is a fun fact people might be surprised to learn about you?
    I love dogs and am afraid of cats. I’m also a huge Michael Jackson fan. My favorite song from him is “Human Nature.”

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    I strongly encourage you to pursue your aspirations and goals. Despite the challenges we may face, there is always a path to “keep moving forward”. Remember that true joy starts from within, so it’s important to pursue what genuinely brings you happiness. Stay focused on the things that matter and are the most important to you.

  • Edith Nuno - Policy Analyst - Finance and Administrative Services

    Edith Nuno

    Edith Nuno
    Policy Analyst
    Finance and Administrative Services

    How long have you been with CSUSM?
    I’ve been with CSUSM for almost 2 years. I started in November 2021.

    If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
    I would say resilient. I am very grateful to have overcome many things and proud to have accomplished the goals I’ve had for myself.

    Desserted road headed towards a barren hill.

    When you have downtime, how do you like to spend it?
    Honestly, I like relaxing at home with my husband and two dogs. I enjoy trying out new recipes, too.

    Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role on campus, what would you say?
    My job as the policy analyst is to help policy owners manage and keep their policies up to date and in compliance with external/internal requirements. I also try to be a resource for anyone in the CSUSM community regarding the policy process and research/development. 

    Deserted ghost town with run town wood house and school bus.

    What do you enjoy most about your role?
    I am a policy nerd. I enjoy helping anyone better understand policy and how it can impact them day to day.

    What are some fun things that people might be surprised to learn about you?
    I love road trips. It’s all about the journey for me. You get to see and explore the places that you’d never get to see flying.

    Edith and her husband kissing in front of chapel.

    I also got married at Nelson Ghost town, Nevada in an abandoned chapel. It was a spooky and different experience; there was a woodpecker pecking during our entire wedding ceremony.

    And, I am finally going to Europe for the first time! My husband and I are travelling to Barcelona for a late honeymoon.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    Don’t be afraid to seek the assistance of others. There are a lot of great people on campus who are always willing to help.

  • Danielle Tildahl - Fitness and Wellness Coordinator - Campus Recreation - Student Affairs

    Dani TidahlDanielle Tildahl

    Fitness and Wellness Coordinator
    Campus Recreation
    Student Affairs

    How long have you been with CSUSM?
    I have been with CSUSM nearly 10 years. I was originally recruited to run Track and Cross Country for CSUSM and never imagined still being here 10 years later. I came in as a student back in 2013, and graduated with my Bachelor's in Kinesiology Exercise Science, and then in 2017 I was hired on as the Fitness and Wellness Coordinator with Campus Recreation. I then returned to CSUSM one more time to pursue my Master's in Kinesiology and graduated in 2021. I like to say that I have basically grown up on this campus.

    If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
    Eccentric…iykyk lol. We could say I am a vibrant, fun, outgoing person.

    When you have downtime, how do you like to spend it?
    I love spending my down time in the gym…ironically, lol, I love working out. Exercise has always been a huge passion of mine and has helped shaped me in many ways. I was an athlete for many years and was able to continue that passion through exercise and working out. I continue to be an active runner and partake in a few marathons each year. I also love the beach,Dani underwater diving waving at camera so if I am not in the gym or out running, you could probably find me at the beach. I have also been known to dabble in a few other extracurricular activities such as scuba diving, and some world travels here and there.

    Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role on campus, what would you say?
    I would say my role on campus is the Chief Fitness Influencer! My role on this campus is to get everyone up and moving and promote living a healthy active lifestyle.

    Are staff able to take advantage of any of the Campus rec programming?
    Yes! Currently we offer an array of Group Fitness Classes to the campus community! Outdoor Adventures showcases Dani celebrating completing a assortment of workshops on campus, and Intramurals offers competitive small group sport tournaments. Check out our website for more information.

    What do you enjoy most about your role?
    I am truly passionate about fitness and helping others find their health and wellness path. My greatest pleasure in this role is helping others find their passion in the fitness world and create an active healthy lifestyle. I have had the pleasure to watch many students and staff/faculty walk into one of our Group Fitness Classes and come out finding a new passion that allows them to be active and healthy. Whether it’s a yoga class to one of our weight lifting workshops, I love helping others find their health wellness journey.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    Three simple words…”Find your Fit” whether you enjoy then gym and lift weights, playing sports, or getting outside for a hike, find your personal health and wellness journey.

  • Frances Almario - Registar - CSU Shiley Haynes Institute for Palliative Care

    Francis AlmarioHow long have you been with CSUSM?
    7 years

    If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
    I think the best word that describes me for now, is “Adaptable”. It describes me both, professionally and personally, because of my willingness to take on new responsibilities when needed. I’m also open to learning new things as well as taking on new challenges. This applies to what is going on currently with learning new technologies, reviewing processes for improvements, adjusting plans in response to strategic priorities and policy changes.

    When you have downtime, how do you like to spend it?
    Downtime? What is that? Ha.

    When I’m not working, I love spending time with my family. I love planning mini vacations with my husband, my 2 sons and twin daughters. I also love our reading hour and cuddle sessions before bedtime.

    How would you describe the Institute’s role for the CSU?
    We are celebrating 10 years this year. The institute is a CSU systemwide initiative that helps train healthcare and other professionals how to deliver palliative care. Palliative care is a specialized type of care that supports those with serious, life-limiting illnesses so they can live their best lives possible for as long as possible. More and more people need this kind of care, but there aren’t enough professionals to provide it. The Institute offers online palliative care education and helps CSU campuses implement palliative care curriculum to help close that gap.

    Francis and her family outdoors.Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role on campus, what would you say?
    I manage many of the systems needed to deliver our online palliative care courses, such as student enrollment and registration, scheduling courses and paying our instructors, issuing course certificates, making sure we’re in compliance with various contracts and agreements. I also help organize our annual in-person symposium, which draws hundreds of healthcare professionals, academics, researchers and other leaders who are working to advance palliative care.

    Nothing is impossible. The word itself says I'm possible.

    What do you enjoy most about your role?
    What is special about my role is that I get to work with amazing individuals in different departments here on campus. I enjoy learning from them and it’s inspiring to see how everyone contributes to the success of our administration and students. It feels good to see how the work we do can effect change that improves the lives of those we educate.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    I recently bought a little picture for my kids to read on our wall. It said, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m Possible”. I thought that was such a great message for anyone who has a dream or a goal to do something they think is unreachable.

  • Erika Vasquez - Success Coach - Student Affairs

    Erika Vazquez

    How long have you been with CSUSM?
    I started right after received my undergraduate degree in 2009. It’s been 13 years.

    If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
    Dedicated - I take pride in my professional and personal work as well as supporting our students with their goals.

    When you have downtime, how do you like to spend it?
    My family enjoys spending time together in nature. It lets us unwind and relax. I also enjoy reading. Right now, I am reading Total Meditation: Practices in Living the Awakened Life by Deepak Chopra.

    Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role on campus, what would you say?
    I proactively connect with first-year students to support them in their transition to CSUSM and provide resources that are tailored to meet their academic, engagement, and holistic goals.  I address an array of success coaching topics that build on their academic success. Students self-assess on areas of growth and further development to find solutions to challenges and be on track to meet their SMART goals.  To engage, motivate and empower students, I share holistic resources for college success. In addition, students are provided with tools to plan, reflect, and learn effective strategies that allow them to thrive in and outside the classroom.  When needed, I refer students to our campus resources for additional support. I also work with my team on assessment initiatives and design thinking projects. And collaborate with our campus partners to expand on our programming efforts as well as shared goals.

    What do you enjoy most about your role?
    I really enjoy working with a supportive and dynamic team. It is a family atmosphere that allows us to grow. It is also very rewarding to see our students grow and reach their goals.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    Be collaborative, spend time on professional/holistic development, network, and invest time on your wellness.

  • Kimberly Askew - Sponsored Projects Analyst - CSUSM Corporation

    Kimberly Askew

    How long have you been with CSUSM Corporation?
    I’ve been with the Corporation since September 2018. It’s hard to believe I’m working on my fourth year now.

    If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
    Assertive – I am comfortable expressing my thoughts and feelings most of the time. I am like two different people at home and at work, but I am assertive in both settings. I’m a direct person, sometimes to a fault, however, I think if you asked anyone that knows me, they would think this was a pretty fair assessment.

    When you have downtime, how do you like to spend it?
    I love to travel, experience new things and different cultures. My favorite destination to visit is the Caribbean because I love the water in the Caribbean- warm and clear. I try not to visit the same place multiple times because there is so much to see but I wouldn’t mind visiting Jamaica again. I really enjoyed my time there, but it doesn’t matter where I go, even domestic. It could be to Vegas or on a trip with my family, I just love to travel.

    The other thing I like to do in my downtown is spend time with my family. We (I) like planning stuff for us to do as a family even around the house. We are all pretty close and spend a lot of time together.Kimberly posing in front of a beautiful waterfall in Costa Rica.

    Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role on campus, what would you say?
    Anytime someone gives money there’s usually strings attached. Principal investigators are faculty members who have secured external funding.  My role on campus is to help the Principal Investigators manage those funds. It is my job to ensure expenditures are in line with sponsor guidelines as well as our internal policies and procedures. I’m responsible for submitting financial reports required by the sponsor, reviewing contracts, issuing subawards, taking care of any invoicing for the project as well as re-budgeting as necessary. Of course, this is just a glimpse of a day in the life of the Office of Sponsored Projects.

    What do you enjoy most about your role?
    Professionally, I enjoy order. It’s nice to help others navigate the complexities associated with rules, regulations, and compliance; helping to bring order to what was once, or had the potential to be, chaos.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    Understand people have different perspectives and challenges than you may have. Being respectful and attentive goes a long way with building relationships and creating a positive environment.

  • Rochelle Smarr - Director, Service Learning & Civic Engagement - Office of Undergraduate Studies

    Rochelle SmarrHow long have you been with CSUSM?
    I’ve been on campus since Nov. 2019, so a little over two years. 

    If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
    Resilient – I always try to bounce back and figure out a way to manage whatever is thrown at me. 

    You forgot that Monday is a holiday and have nothing planned, what would you do?
    I would go to the dog park. I could be outside in nature and spend time with my dog. 

    Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role on campus, what would you say?
    I connect students to opportunities to learn beyond the classroom and with the community. In my role, I connect students to community service projects to address local social concerns and connect them to local city governance opportunities to foster civic engagement. Service learning opportunities are different than internships because they connect academic learning with a meaningful related community project. Students reflect in-class and at their community partner sites on their understandings of social issues. Service learning completes 15-25 hours a semester, along with earning class credit. Academic Internships integrate the student’s academic study with hands-on, professional experience in a cooperating organization related to the student’s career interests. 

    What do you enjoy most about your role and/or your time here at CSUSM?
    I enjoy working with people, on and off campus, who are passionate about community engagement.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    Reach out, connect and collaborate outside of your bubble, network outside of your department, and be open to new ideas.

  • Kevane Coleman - Administrative Support Coordinator - Art, Media, and Design Department/Dance Studies Program - School of Arts

    Kevane ColemanHow long have you been on campus? 
    My first day on campus was March 16, 2020. I completed my sign-in documents with HR and spent about a half day training in the CHABSS Dean’s Office and then about 30 minutes in my actual office before we were sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I was on campus a handful of times during the Fall 20/21 semester. Working remotely, in many ways, has been a blessing because it has allowed me to care for my mother who is in a memory care facility in Charlotte, NC with dementia and offer additional support to the rest of my family.

    If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would that word be and why?
    Caring – I understand the importance of possessing empathy- putting myself in someone else’s shoes provides me with a deeper understanding of what they are going through and it is something that is very meaningful to me. Being a caring and thoughtful person has allowed me to create and nurture relationships, so that I am better poised to adapt, approach, and support our faculty, staff, and students.

    When you find that you have some extra time in your day, how do you like to spend it?
    When I find extra time in my workday, I participate in CSU Learn trainings for professional development and explore the CSUSM website to familiarize myself with the campus, various departments/offices, and to learn more about how in my role and within the School of Arts, I can support student success in the best way possible. Family is one of the most important things to me and when I find that I have extra time outside of work, I utilize that time in the best way possible-nurturing and caring for my family members. I am also a professional actor, singer, and dancer and apart from being in a pandemic over the past two years, I perform throughout the country in musicals and plays. I have even had the incredible opportunity of dancing with the Boston Ballet for four years while I was an undergraduate at Boston College.  

    Let’s say you have 30-seconds in an elevator and are asked to describe your role in the School of Arts, what would you say?
    I am an ASC for the Art, Media, and Design Department as well as the Dance Studies Program in the School of Arts. I have also been temporarily supporting Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I partner and collaborate with my Department Chairs and Program Directors to ensure that we are operating the departments/programs in the most efficient way possible and that our faculty have the resources that they need to provide our students with the best education possible.

    What do you enjoy most about your role and/or your time here at CSUSM?
    The familial nature of our campus. CSUSM is a family and even though I have only been on campus a handful of times, I feel that the organization really cares about me and appreciates the work that I am doing. I can also see that my work contributes to the overall mission of the university and it feels wonderful knowing that what I do every day makes a huge difference. Since coming to CSUSM, I have felt very accepted, acknowledged, appreciated, and heard and that goes a long way to making this community feel even more like a family.

    What would you say has been the most challenging for you given that much of your time here at CSUSM has been spent working virtually?
    It has been a challenge trying to understand and learn all the processes and procedures. Everyone has their own unique way of completing tasks. I’ve had to learn CSUSM processes from many people and then compile all that knowledge to figure out my own process/procedure. It is very important to me to have clarity with everything that I am responsible for. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge all of my colleagues- the other ASC’s within Academic Affairs because they have been a great resource and I have learned that they are always willing to go the extra mile to help someone in need and I truly appreciate that.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    CSUSM is a family and that’s important to remember. At the end of the day, we are all in this together. Lean on each other, collaborate, and partner within your departments and outside of your departments. Don’t be afraid to take on additional things outside of your job description, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Know your bandwidth and boundaries.

  • Martin Leya - Project Rebound Coordinator - Student Support Services

     Martin LeyvaHow long have you been on campus?
    I was a graduate student at CSUSM from 2016-18 and once I graduated, I then started my career as a lecturer teaching courses that I know well. This led me to my position with Project Rebound.

    What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t helping our students?
    I have lots of hobbies, but my favorite thing to do right now is power lifting. I am new to the sport and it is part of my self-care. I also enjoy creating art using different mediums like jewelry making and word working, painting, and installation art. 

    What is your favorite memory of CSUSM?
    My favorite memory is the day I graduated with my Master’s degree. My mom was there and after I walked across the stage, she handed me an eagle wing. The eagle is strong medicine that takes our prayers up to the Creator, it was such an honor having her hand that medicine to me. She always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself, and that day, I was able to make her proud. It was especially meaningful because she passed away a couple months later. I am happy she was able to be there that day. I was happy that she saw me go from Prison Uniforms to a master’s cap and gown.

    What is your elevator pitch for Project Rebound?
    Project Rebound is a necessity for our students. There is a stigma attached to those who have been marginalized most of their life, especially those of us who were in prison. We Martin with his mother during Commencement after giving him eagle wings.need a home and support from like-minded individuals who they can relate to. Our goal is to help our students graduate, move beyond their past challenges, like incarceration and addiction, and find success. We also offer them services and support that they may be embarrassed or not know how to ask for like financial support, mental and emotional support, mentoring, tutoring and help with record expungement. Our program helps our students build confidence, self-esteem and value.

    What would you say has been the most rewarding aspect of coordinating Project Rebound?
    The imposter syndrome is strong among many who are formerly incarcerated. They find themselves with a new set of challenges and don’t always believe that they can live up to expectations or even graduate. It’s hard to explain, but it is so rewarding to watch as their confidence grows, and they start to believe in themselves.

    Martin with his two daughtersWhat have you found to be most challenging over the past year?
    Usually the program has a 100% retention rate. This year, two of our students decided to take the semester off. A lot of our students have found the past 15 months challenging. At the beginning, it seemed easy for our students because this was something they were familiar with.  Though as time went on, our students started to feel lonely. Campus is a safety net for them. When they couldn’t leave their homes, it brought them back to those feelings of isolation and being incarcerated. We heard words like “lock-down” and those words have trauma attached to them.

    What have you enjoyed most over the past year?Martin and his mother while he was in prison.
    Virtual meetings are not always the best, but the conversations I am having with my students and future students are still making a difference. I have enjoyed finding creative ways to make my classes more interactive as well. Also, in these challenging times, with my own depression and anxiety, I have enjoyed getting to know a new me, a better me, and working on myself even more. Healing is so important, and it becomes a great teacher. And, spending more time with my daughter and pup is beautiful.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    We are all in this together. Learn how to take care, respect and honor yourself. We must be good to ourselves to be good for others. We deserve to treat ourselves well. So, do it. 

  • Marilyn McWilliams - Administrative Assistant - Office of Inclusive Excellence

    Marilyn McWilliamsHow long have you been on campus?
    23 ½ years – Jan 1998 – Present

    Have you held any other positions on campus?
    Life at CSUSM started as an Administrative Assistant with the first preschool/childcare Early Learning Center (ELC) in Associated Students Inc. (ASI). During that time, we were not located on campus, but offsite about a mile and a half away. We then moved right off Barham, yet closer to campus but still offsite. I then left ASI ELC to become the Administrative Coordinator, still within ASI but now I was on campus working directly with the students. Once the Office of Diversity, Educational Equity and Inclusion was established in 2011, I became the first Administrative Assistant, in support of the office which is now named the Office of Inclusive Excellence.

     What is your favorite memory of CSUSM?
    A memory that I can really remember, that turned into an embarrassing moment, was when I serenaded the Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services, Neal Hoss on his 50th birthday. As I finished singing “Happy Birthday Mr. Vice President”, Marilyn Monroe style, I noticed that the President of the University, Dr. Karen Haynes was standing in the crowd. Oh my, all I could do was exit quietly and then proceed to let my supervisor know just what had happened. Needless to say, that is a memory that will never leave me. Although fun, at the time, it was an embarrassing moment, and believe me, there have been many more throughout my 23+ years at CSUSM.

    If you had to describe your role on campus in one word what would that be? Why did you choose that word?Teamwork - I strive to be the best team player I can be. I will roll up my sleeves and assist wherever I can to make sure an event, a program, a meeting, a student, and even visitors feel supported.

    What is your favorite thing about working in OIE?
    The inaugural All People’s Luncheon that was held in October 2015. Our keynote speaker was Dr. Shirley Weber who was then the 79th Assembly District Member and now appointed to become California’s first Black Woman Secretary of State. The theme was Diversity Matters and she spoke from the heart and touched many students, faculty and staff. The ASI President, during that time, was Tiffany Boyd and after she graduated from CSUSM in 2016, she became a Fellow in Dr. Weber’s office. She was then hired as a Legislative Aide and then promoted to Dr. Weber’s Deputy Press Secretary.

    That was definitely a moment of pride being the catalyst that introduced Tiffany to Dr. Weber.

    What are you looking forward to most about returning to campus?
    Being connected back with colleagues and students. Shaking up the campus halls and offices with my booming and boisterous voice making sure that everyone is alert. Creating a campus climate that is inclusive, equitable and an enjoyable experience for all.

    Do you have a favorite place to go or favorite thing to do during the summer?
    Spending time with family and going to Disneyland with the grands. I also loved to go to the movies, alone for some me time, but not sure when I’ll pick that back up.

    What are your favorite movies to watch?
    I love oldies, like When Harry Met Sally. That infamous “lunch scene” was my favorite part of the movie. A good horror is also on my list, like Candyman. I used to scare my daughter all the time by saying his name in the mirror three times. I also love a good thriller, drama, and comedy. Nothing is off limits. I’ll watch just about anything.

    What have you enjoyed most about working for CSUSM for over 23 years?
    The people. I have been able to meet so many different people through the years and many of them have become family. When I first started on campus in the ASI Early learning Center, I really enjoyed having fun with all the kids. Then, when I moved to campus, I was able to meet our students and watch how they flourished during their time with us.  There are so many different people on our campus and I enjoyed meeting as many as I could.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    Make sure to laugh and be supportive of one another. Always remember to stay positive and know that we are all in this together. Life is about what you make it, so make the best of every opportunity you have to help someone. Smile if you can’t laugh and just see the joy in someone else’s achievements, accomplishments, milestones, and face when you do. 

  • Rosa Solorio - Custodian - Facility Services

    Rosa SolorioHow long have you been on campus?
    In December, it will be three years.

    What is your favorite thing to do when not working?
    I love to hike and spend time with my family. One of our favorite places to hike is Daley Ranch in Escondido.

    What is your favorite memory of CSUSM?
    My favorite memory is when I worked Commencement in 2019. I helped direct students and parents away from the pathway that leads to McMahan House. I really enjoyed working with all the CSUSM staff as one big team.

    If you had to describe your job in one word, what would that be?
    Active. I am always moving around and willing to help however I can. My phone keeps track of my steps and I usually reach close to 10,000 steps before I go home.

    It’s Commencement Season, what is your favorite thing about this time of year?
    I really enjoy watching all of the graduates come to campus to take their photos. It is fun watching them celebrate with their families and reflect on their accomplishments.

  • Perla Rivas - Counselor - TRIO Support Services

    Perla RivasHow long have you been on campus?
    If you include my time as a student assistant, I have been on campus for 18 years.

    What is your favorite memory of CSUSM?
    Commencement is my favorite. Every year, we celebrate the resiliency and success of our students. It is a big deal, especially for our first gen students who are not only fulfilling their own dream of finishing college but of their parent’s as well.

    And I love seeing the diversity of families celebrating student success, student’s honoring their parents, and I love how our students decorate their caps to share their challenges and successes. 

    If you had to describe your role on campus in one word what would that be? Why did you choose that word?
    Passion. It was between four words, but I went back to my life’s purpose which is to empower, mentor, and help our student’s find their own passion and accomplish their dreams.

    You have many different roles on campus. You are a TRIO Counselor, a CSUSM Corp and Student Affairs staff member, the Secretary for LAFS and a Staff Center Committee member. What do you like most about your many different roles on campus?
    I love how each role allows me to work with different people and enhance the resources and knowledge I have to help my student. It also helps me be a better ambassador for our campus and our mission.

    What do you enjoy most about working with students?
    It is very rewarding contributing to their academic path and getting to know their stories. I learn about their challenges and am able to help them individually because I know what they are going through.

    With most of us working from home, what has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
    I miss not being on campus the most and being able to make more personal connections with my students and colleagues. I am embracing the time I have with my 3-year old while I can though. I know that this will not last forever.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    It is so very important that we are taking care of ourselves. Mental health and self-care are sacred. Don’t be ashamed to take a day off to recover. You can’t pour out of an empty cup. Take care of yourself.

  • Sonia Perez - Faculty Mentoring Program and Faculty Center Coordinator

    Sonia PerezHow long have you been on campus?
    I’ve been on campus since 2003. I started in the Office of Biomedical Research & Training (OBRT), Now OTRES. Then in 2007, I stepped into the role of coordinator for the Faculty Mentoring Program and in 2010, the coordinator position for the Faculty Center was added to my role.

    What is your role and how do you support our campus?
    I really love what I am doing here. I never know what my day will be like because it’s always different. I need to be really organized though. My two roles are very different and can be quite complex because I am balancing so many different areas at the same time.

    My role with the Faculty Center includes supporting a large group of people including the director, associate director, four faculty fellows and three to five Faculty Learning Community Leaders. There is a lot of coordination needed to support the faculty fellows and leaders because they are managing so many tasks at the same time. Also, the fellows are only in their position for two years and leaders for one semester or a year. It is so important that I maintain the information needed to continue their work.

    I really enjoy being able to build relationships with our new faculty through everyday interactions and some of the events the Center holds. The New Faculty Institute is a 2-3 day training session during the summer. It gives me the opportunity to really engage with our faculty and get to know them.

    I feel like I am much more involved with my other role as the coordinator for the Faculty Mentoring Program though. I work with both the faculty and our students by answering questions and really supporting them by ensuring everyone receives the information they need. I am very proud of how the faculty mentoring program has grown over the years. When I moved over in 2007, there were about 40 students in the program. There are now 150-200 students enrolled in the program and more than 100 faculty mentors!

    What is your favorite restaurant and/or TV show?
    I was actually introduced to my favorite restaurant by a coworker. When we wer eon campus, I would go almost every Friday. It is a family-owned restaurant called Darunee Thai Cuisine, and I saw CSUSM staff and faculty there all the time. And I would say that Everybody Loves Raymond is my favorite TV show. Anytime it is on, I watch it. 

    What is your favorite memory of CSUSM?
    Every year, the Faculty Center holds a Research Colloquium Dinner. It is one of my favorite events all year because I have the opportunity to really get creative in how the event is decorated. I try to base the theme each year on the keynote speaker for that year. It’s funny because people often ask me to what the theme is, but I like to keep it a surprise until the day of the event.

    This one year, I decided to decorate the McMahan House with 50 balloons. The idea was that we would let them deflate overnight and clean up the morning after the event. Turns out, there was an event the morning after, and we had to remove all of the balloons before we left. It wasn’t easy, but we really had a lot of fun trying to figure out how to remove all of these balloons that were floating on the ceiling. We were all laughing so hard by the time it was over. We had to get creative, but we managed to remove them all. It will be the last time I use them to decorate an event though!

    Another favorite memory is when I was told by a coworker that the President called and asked that I call her back. I was nervous because I thought she was going to ask me about NCHEA, a program that I was helping coordinate at the time. I was trying to prepare for the questions she was going to ask me. I was so worried and completely surprised when the President shared that I had won the Zomalt Award. It was very emotional for me and really meant a lot to be recognized for my work.

    With most of us working from home, what has been the biggest change you have had to make?
    It has been a really tough year. Everything is virtual. It is much more difficult to build relationships through Zoom. I really miss being able to catch up with one another in the hallways or before meetings. I was also diagnosed with cancer in May and am now in treatment for five years. I am thankful to be able to be at home, but still miss being able to connect with everyone on campus.

    Is there any advice you would like to share with your colleagues?
    It is really important to keep a positive attitude and be grateful for what we have. Put your whole heart into your job and do it with a smile.

    We want to thank Sonia for taking the time to be our spotlight this month.

  • Angela Sanchez - Administrative Analyst & Specialist - Procurement Operations

    Angela SanchezHow long have you worked on campus?
    Since December 2018. I started the day right before our two-week holiday vacation.

    What is your favorite book, TV show, movie or restaurant?
    My husband and I love trying new restaurants and food in general. One of our local favorites is 264 Fresco in Carlsbad.

    What is your favorite memory of CSUSM?
    It is hard to limit it to just one favorite, so I will share my Top 3. The first was graduating with my master's degree in Sociological Practice. The second was hosting our wedding reception on campus at the McMahan House. The third was beginning my career here at CSUSM.

    Describe your role. What are a few tasks or processes that you are responsible for. 
    My position has changed drastically over the past few months. I transitioned from the Travel Office to Procurement and Contracts. I am grateful for this opportunity and have learned a lot from my new team. Prior to this transition, I didn’t realize just how integral procurement is in the day to day operations of the campus. In my new role, I am reviewing and updating certificates of insurance. I have also been able to work closely with the student placement agreements. Since starting we have been able to streamline that process via Adobe Sign.  

    With most of us working from home, what has been the biggest change you have had to make?
    One of the biggest changes for me is being unable to simply get up and walk over to one of my colleagues with a quick question, or to get their insight on a matter. Also, simply connecting with your colleagues, whether grabbing a quick lunch or taking a walk around campus, has been a change. Thankfully I have become familiar with Teams and that has seemed to bridge the gap in the interim.

    What is your funniest Zoom story?
    I was on a call with the VPFAS Office. That's when my two parakeets decided to become very local. What made the whole situation even funnier was someone else on the call had a cat who really wanted to meet my birds.

    Do you have any advice you would like to share with our other staff?
    We are all going through a transition right now and change can be highly intimidating, especially when it is beyond our control. I think that it is important for all of us to be flexible and open to change. My advice is to view change as an opportunity to learn and grow rather than a setback.