Insight Magazine

Get a new perspective on the College of Arts & Letters at SDSU. Discover news about CAL students, faculty, donors, and alumni. This new magazine highlights the stories of the people within our academic community. It gives you insight into the breadth of activities and achievements that have impact locally, nationally, and internationally.


Spring 2023

Ronnee Schreiber

It’s my pleasure to welcome each of you to our bi-annual magazine featuring achievements and news of CAL students, faculty, staff, alumni, and our gracious donors. I’d like to take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge our entire CAL community for an extremely successful academic year.

After taking on the role as interim dean this past semester, I am pleased to report that CAL  remains successful and committed in its mission to engage students, scholars, alumni, and donors. As you will see, featured here, CAL is leading the way in graduating world-class students and scholars, providing valuable research opportunities, and helping solve pressing issues in our communities locally and around the world. 

Our faculty secured $8.38 million in total external funding during AY2022/23 from a multitude of national public agencies and foundations to continue our important work in history, political science, Africana Studies, and sustainability among other areas.

SDSU was awarded $10M in funding for a center to foster environmental justice and two CAL inclusive climate-focused initiatives will help leverage the work: Community Climate Action Network and the Center for Regional Sustainability.

Achievements and Highlights

  • First-ever SDSU/CAL student received the Truman Scholarship
  • Two students received Presidential awards at the SDSU Student Symposium
  • Faculty attended the National Humanities Alliance Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.
  • Faculty received grants from the National Endowment for Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and other organizations
  • CAL’s Digital Humanities initiative was part of the The Digital Humanities at California State University (DH@CSU) Consortium that received a Digital Ethnic Futures Consortium (DEFCon) award, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to build institutional capacity at the intersection of Digital Humanities and Ethnic Studies
  • An honorary doctorate was awarded to economics alumnus Gen. Merrill Anthony McPeak, who served on the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff

We truly value all our partners and CAL family. Thank you for another spectacular semester in CAL!  

Ronnee Schreiber, Ph.D.
Interim Dean
College of Arts and Letters

Gen. Merrill A. McPeak

Watch the 2023 commencement ceremony.

Mekany in classroom

Truman Scholar Looks to a Better World for Refugee, Migrant Girls

Sandy Mekany, an SDSU political science senior, sees herself working to expand educational opportunities for those who’ve gone through experiences similar to hers.

She is among 62 Truman Scholars in the 2023 class, nominated by their respective colleges and universities and selected from 199 finalists. Mekany is the fourth California State University student to receive the scholarship. She is the first student from San Diego State University and the College of Arts and Letters to receive the award.

Ronnee Schreiber and Maria Shoka

CAL Overall Outstanding Graduating Senior: Maria Shoka, Social Science Major

In a letter of recommendation for Maria Shoka, CAL's 2023 Overall Outstanding Graduating Senior, Brian Adams, professor of political science and social science advisor said, “Maria takes her education very seriously and is very focused on developing her skills and knowledge. She is a humble person and approaches academics with a desire for self-improvement.”

Shoka graduates summa cum laude with a B.A. in social science with an emphasis on political science and a minor in International Security and Conflict Resolution (ISCOR).

Kayla Solsbak and Briana O'Boyle

SDSU Student Symposium Winners 

The 16th annual SDSU Student Symposium (S3) took place in early March. 400 students were in attendance and more than 70  received awards for exceptional research projects and creative endeavors.

S3 is an opportunity for the students of SDSU to showcase their hard work and dedication to their passions and fields of study. 

What does undergraduate resaerch do for you?

Undergraduate Research Office Highlights Value of Mentor-Mentee Relationships

Involving undergraduates in research and creative inquiry is essential to our work here at SDSU.

Why? Because classroom learning is only one part of what college is all about. Research shows that one-on-one relationships — student/teacher collaborations — is key to optimizing a student’s  SDSU experience. 

Mekany in classroom

Students Participate in Foreign Affairs Competition in Washington, D.C.

Students from the Department of European Studies were among 30 collegiate teams from across the U.S. that participated in the 2023 Schuman Challenge on March 30-31. 

Teams of three to four undergraduate students are invited to the competition to respond to a topic impacting transatlantic relations and present before a panel of judges. 

Jessica Pressman and Esme Murdock

Inaugural Awards for Outstanding Scholarship, Creativity and Impact

Humanities professors Jessica Pressman and Esme Murdock selected among nine individuals across colleges and disciplines for scholarship, creative activities, innovation, and public impact.

San Diego State University’s Division of Research and Innovation introduced a new suite of awards to recognize exceptional faculty efforts, honored annually with the Senate Excellence in Teaching Award, and research renown, rewarded by the Albert W. Johnson University Research Lectureship.

Kishauna Soljour and Kristal Bivona

CAL Faculty go to Washington, D.C. to Advocate for Humanities at NHA Meeting

The National Humanities Alliance (NHA) is a coalition of organizations that advocates for funding and support for the humanities in the United States. Each year, the NHA holds an annual meeting to discuss current issues and trends in the field of humanities and to strategize about ways to advocate for the humanities at the national level. The NHA Annual Meeting took place in Washington D.C. this March. With support from the College of Arts and Letters Dean’s Office,  Kishauna Soljour and Kristal Bivona attended the meeting and participated in Humanities Advocacy Day activities on Capitol Hill.

Taharka Adé with donors

New Faculty Fellow to Help Expand Access to Black Scholarship

With expanded library resources for Africana Studies scholars and a new fellowship program to promote research, San Diego State University is making strides in its commitment to the study of African history and culture. 

Taharka Adé, an assistant professor in Africana Studies, is the newly named faculty fellow in the University Library. His appointment is part of the yearslong effort to create a space in Love Library for students, faculty and scholars to access an expanded Africana Studies Collection.

Sureshi Jayawardene

Sureshi Jayawardene Receives First NEH Grant

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced $35.63 million in support of 258 humanities projects from scholars across the nation through its first Spotlight on Humanities in Higher Education grant program — part of a new initiative called, “American Tapestry: Weaving Together Past, Present, and Future.”
San Diego State University’s Sureshi Jayawardene, associate professor in Africana Studies was one of 19 recipients based in California. The Summer Stipend award is the first NEH grant for Jayawardene.

Hisham Foad

New Fred J. Hansen Chair of Peace Studies Named

Hisham Foad, an associate professor and chair of the Department of Economics at San Diego State University, has been awarded the Hansen Chair. The position goes to outstanding scholars whose research and teaching focus on peace and nonviolence.

Foad is committed to expanding interdisciplinary collaborations between economics and other departments, serving as a core faculty member of the Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies, on the advisory board of the Behner Stiefel Center for Brazilian Studies, and the University Senate.

Dean Schriedber and award winners

CAL Excellence in Research, Service, and Teaching Awards | 2022- 2023

Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity

Award for Tenured Faculty: 
Roy Whitaker, Department for the Study of Religion

Award for Tenured-Track Faculty: 
Yuki Arita, Department of Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages

Excellence in Service Award

Clare Colquitt, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Lashon Daley, Department of English and Comparative Literature

Excellence in Teaching

Award for Tenured or Tenure-Track Faculty: 
Stephen Goggin, Department of Political Science

Award for Lecturer: 
Ghassan Zakaria, Department of Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages

Ming-Hsiang Tsou on NBC news

Social Determinants of Health Reflected in Geographical Analysis of COVID-19 Data

Changing disease dynamics in San Diego County, statewide, and in six U.S. cities over the course of the pandemic reveals need for adaptable policies.

March 11 marks three years since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. As the virus spread, a pattern emerged: communities with a lower socioeconomic status tended to be disproportionately impacted.  

“COVID is not just a medical outbreak, it is actually a health disparity problem,” said geographer Ming-Hsiang Tsou, director of the San Diego State University Center for Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age. “Before, we knew there was a disparity, but COVID exaggerated the disparity patterns. It actually helped us reveal how vulnerable our communities are.”


Think Globally – Act Locally: The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals at SDSU

Library exhibit shows how students, staff, researchers, and faculty at SDSU are supporting these efforts.

“SDSU Inspires Action: U.N. Sustainable Development Goals on Display” is an exhibit exploring the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and how students, staff, researchers, and faculty at San Diego State University support these efforts. 

The two parts of the exhibit are housed in Donor Hall at the University Library and are open to the public during normal library hours.

Mikhail Alexseev

NSF Grant for Mikhail Alexseev’s "War, Society, and Democracy: A Panel Survey Project in Ukraine"  

Mikhail Alexseev, the Bruce E. Porteous Professor of political science, understands the issues in Ukraine. Alexseev was born in Kyiv, Ukraine and moved to the U.S. in 1991. He has taught political science courses at SDSU for the past 23 years.

Awarded an NSF grant for a research project, Alexseev and co-PIs, Henry E. Hale, from The George Washington University (GWU) and Serhii Dembitskyi, from Ukraine National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Sociology will conduct three waves of surveys of individuals in Ukraine who were previously interviewed in 2021/22 about war, society, and democracy to compare pre-war attitudes with those after the war onset and at different war stages.

Summer udergraduate research program

Summer of Research: How SURP Energizes Students and Prepares Them for Success

SDSU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) provides students with the opportunity to further engage in undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activities. 

Students are supported by SDSU’s finest mentors to ensure they stay on the right track and are guided through the process. SURP is open to all majors and allows a diverse body of students to deeply explore their passions and interests while also providing a great aid for undergraduates discovering new possible career paths. 

Ann Johns with scholarship students

Emerita Professor Ann Johns Establishes Two New Endowed Scholarships in CAL

Scholarships will support students in the Departments of Rhetoric and Writing Studies and Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages.

Scott Slater

Political Science Alumnus is Successful Restaurateur

Scott Slater recently opened a new six-concept food hall in Pacific Beach

After graduating from SDSU College of Arts and Letters with a degree in political science, Scott Slater (‘05) found his calling as an entrepreneur/restaurateur.

His first foray into the food business began in 2005 with a hot dog concession stand based outside of 36 Home Depot locations in the Bay Area, with outposts in New York, Phoenix, Orange County, and Los Angeles. His first business partner, Fletcher Wimbush, was a fraternity brother from Phi Kappa Psi.

Marcia Kern and Marty Stern

A CAL Love Story: Overfilled Classrooms and Fortuitous Consequences

Alumni Marcia Kern and Marty Stern recount how they their lifetime together began on campus more than 50 years ago

It's a San Diego State love story that begins with a whipped cream pie antic, makes a crucial plot twist with an apology — and concludes with a lasting impact on two students and the university itself.

In 1969, Marty Stern was a brash sophomore studying political science and comparative literature with a penchant for challenging his professors. Marcia Kern was a studious second-year English student minoring in sociology.

Brandon Bouchett

Life Lessons Learned Through a Language Minor Help Carve New Pathways for Chemistry Alumnus

Future dentist reflects on what adding a Chinese minor taught him — beyond the language.

He initially took Chinese 101 with the simple goal of communicating better with his girlfriend and her family.

Alumnus Brandon Bouchett, who graduated in 2022 with a B.A. in chemistry and a minor in Chinese, demonstrates how something as simple as taking a language course can have remarkable and lasting results.

Ann Johns and Drew Fagan

Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages Alumnus Awarded Teacher of the Year by TESOL

Department of Linguistics & Asian/ Middle Eastern Languages alumnus Drew S. Fagan (‘05 M.A.) received the 2023 Teacher of the Year Award presented by the TESOL International Association and National Geographic Learning.

Prior to receiving an Ed.D. in TESOL from Teachers College, Columbia University, Fagan earned his M.A. in applied linguistics at SDSU, where he wrote a thesis under Professor Emerita Ann Johns.

CAL faculty and staff

190 CAL Faculty and Staff Reach Milestones | 2020-23

Honoring a group of dedicated employees of this size isn't a small feat, however during a recognition celebration event at the Parma Payne Goodall Center, all the milestone awardees' names rolled on a screen and were featured in a booklet, so attendees could see their esteemed colleagues’ names and take note of their years of service. 

Recognized at the event were staff and faculty who reached a five-year milestone during 2020, 2021, and 2022, or those who will reach a milestone year in 2023. The celebration included milestones in five-year increments spanning from 10 to 50 years of service.

President Adela de la Torre congratulated the groups being honored to include those from CAL, Fowler College of Business, College of Graduate Studies, and SDSU Imperial Valley. Interim Dean Ronnee Schreiber recognized the longest serving CAL staff and faculty and congratulated all those in attendance. Each employee was gifted a gold pin with a number of gems reflecting their years of service.

Pete and Doug

From NASA to ZIP Launchpad

CAL Geography Staff and Researchers Develop Innovative Software for Remote Sensing 

I completed a master’s degree and began working as a full-time researcher with Professor Doug Stow in 1998. This began my 25-year career as a technical analyst in CAL’s Department of Geography, with early emphasis on remote sensing which enables study of earth using satellite and aerial imagery.  

illustration of a mouse by Iris

Colores y Cariño: How Iris Quiroga Creates New Spaces Through Art

Art is one way that people can express themselves in ways words cannot. However, As a children’s book illustrator, Iris Quiroga (English and Comparative Literature coordinator) has found a way to express her stories in multimedia forms. 

With colores y cariño (or color and affection), Quiroga creates bright images that express her bicultural upbringing. In a surrealist art style, Quiroga’s pieces depict logical and fantastical elements that go beyond most of our imaginations. 

students on beach

Geography // Professor Trent Biggs’ graduate student Stephany Garcia thesis work on a first-of-its-kind water assessment tool was featured in a broadcast news story showing the tool in action in Imperial Beach. // CBS 8

Anthropology // Professor Seth Mallios’ research on Nathan Harrison, the first Black homesteader in San Diego, was translated into a play by Shakur Jackson, a senior at Hoover High School. The play ran for two days in March. // The San Diego Union-Tribune // KNSD-7

Behner Stiefel Center for Brazilian Studies // Assistant Director Kristal Bivona and other visiting scholars from Brazil discussed the attack on Brazilian democracy in a story titled, “Local Brazilians devastated, not surprised by weekend political uprising.” // KPBS 

Center for Comics Studies // Guest speaker Qiana Whitted was interviewed prior to her NEH-supported lecture titled, “Captions and Corpses: How to Read an EC Comic.” 
// The San Diego Union-Tribune // KPBS // SDSU NewsCenter

CHEPS // Director Joseph Sabia and Assistant Director Yang Liang and graduate students co-authored a new JAMA research article  titled “Association Between State Antibullying Policies and Suicidal Behaviors Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Youth.” // JAMA NETWORK // Medium

Geography and Center for Human Dynamics in the Mobile Age // Director Ming-Hsiang Tsou was interviewed about his COVID-19 research // NBC -7 
Political Science // Bruce E. Porteous Professor Mikhail Alexseev was quoted in an article titled, “Russia Gains Ground in 'Defendable Key Terrain' South of Bakhmut: U.K.” // Newsweek

Study of Religion // Associate Professor Roy Whitaker wrote an article titled, “ MLK’s vision of social justice included religious pluralism – a house of many faiths.” // The Conversation

Women’s Studies // Emerita Professor Huma Ahmed-Ghosh was inducted into the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame //  SDSU NewsCenter