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 2022

Aileen Taylor-GrantEstablished in 1969, this year the College of Arts and Letters embarks on its 53rd year. As the new assistant dean for student affairs in CAL, I take great pride in joining our diverse community of scholars.

We have much to be proud of, including graduating more than 1,500 students on May 13  in Viejas Arena. Our students are bright, talented, and prepared to be change agents in our dynamic, complex world. This past year, we had 14 Student Research Symposium winners, a Presidential Graduate Research award winner, and six students from the college were honored as Quest for the Best awardees. Our graduate students have been engaged in high levels of innovative research and are moving into important roles in extraordinary institutions around the country. These accomplishments provide a glimpse into the positive outcomes of our student success efforts within the college.

Our world-class faculty are devoted to excellent teaching, innovative research and creative activity, and service, which together greatly impact our students’ experiences and successes. In academic year 2021-22, CAL faculty received grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities – indeed, SDSU was awarded a record five NEH awards! In addition to these awards, our faculty continuously find ways to make the student experience more meaningful and engaging by developing new programs and curriculum. For example, we welcomed our new Center for Comics Studies and are making plans for a Human Rights and Border Studies minor.

Staff members across the college have supported our students and faculty in numerous ways this past year, even while they also struggled through the continuing pandemic. It is only with their dedicated support that our college can maintain the highest quality of education and research.

The College of Arts and Letters has accomplished so much in the midst of the many challenges that surround us. Thank you to our community and supporters for your many efforts and contributions. Thank you for helping to make our college a passionate, vibrant, exciting, and a meaningful place to be.

Aileen Taylor-Grant
Assistant Dean, Student Affairs

Leslie ZubietaCAL Overall Outstanding Graduating Senior Ready to be Future Leader

Leslie Zubieta has a remarkable story that demonstrates her courage, persistence, and interest in helping the most disadvantaged groups in society.

Taryn Duffy

Taryn Duffy Wins Presidential Graduate Research Fellowship Award  — Not Once, But Twice

Her research takes a look at how the royal family brand was developed during the reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria — and how that legacy lives on today.

Grace de Vega

Student Research Symposium (SRS) Winners

CAL students among 77 winners during the spring event that showcased research, scholarship, and creative activities.

CHEPS faculty and students

Five Economics Students Forge New Pathways to Catapult Their Careers

Graduate student achievements include pre-doc post-doc, and faculty positions at important institutions.

A group of graduate economics students associated with SDSU’s Center for Health Economics and Policy Studies (CHEPS) are forging new paths. CHEPS student affiliates are M.A. and doctoral students who have been funded on external research grants provided by the center to conduct applied microeconomics and policy research with faculty. Some of the students are co-leaders who do extraordinary work in peer-to-peer mentoring.

K. Mosti

LGBTQ+ Student Internships Lead to Employment

LGBTQ+ studies students Ryan Ednacot and Dianna Ratsamy both found permanent positions after their internship experience. 

Dianna Ratsamy

Student Perspective: My story

When I turned fourteen my parents decided that my brother and I needed to come to San Diego for our education.

Ashtyn Mueller

Wheel of Fortune Winner

SDSU student Ashtyn Mueller solved a bonus round puzzle to add a car to cash and travel prizes. Ashtyn Mueller spent three excruciating weeks keeping the news of a life-changing accomplishment to herself: her impressive win on TV’s “Wheel of Fortune.”

CAL Excellence Awards 

The College of Arts and Letters is pleased to announce its annual awards for Excellence in Service; Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity; and, Teaching in the humanities and the social sciences. Recipients receive $1,500 in support of their professional activities. 

Please join Dean Monica J. Casper in congratulating the 2021-2022 College of Arts and Letters award recipients: 

Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (Tenured)
Erika Robb Larkins, Department of Anthropology / Behner Stiefel Center for Brazilian Studies and Matt Lauer, Department of Anthropology (co-recipients)

Excellence in Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (Tenure-track)
Aaron Dinkin, Department of Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages

Excellence in Service 
Audrey Beck, Department of Sociology,  Isaac Ullah, Department of Anthropology, Michael Domínguez, Department of Chicana-Chicano Studies

Excellence in Teaching  (Tenured)
Michael Domínguez, Department of Chicana-Chicano Studies

Excellence in Teaching  (Lecturer)
Kristal Bivona, Behner Stiefel Center for Brazilian Studies

Roy Whitaker

Whitaker Receives PRRI Public Fellowship

Roy Whitaker, explores pressing issues of religion and democracy.

There has been an increase in the number of Black Americans who identify themselves as unaffiliated with a religion, a trend that fascinates transdisciplinary researcher Roy Whitaker as part of his work in a fellowship he was awarded late last year.

Gregory A. Daddis

Professor of History Receives Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award

Gregory A. Daddis will teach, lecture and conduct research at Pembroke College, Oxford

Gregory A. Daddis, history professor, director of the Center for War and Society, and USS Midway Chair in Modern U.S. Military History, understands America’s relationship to war. He served more than 25 years in the U.S. Army before entering academia. 

Regina Wu

SEED Grant Funding Brings Students and Faculty Together for Important Research Projects 

Formerly known as the University Grants Program, the SDSU Seed Grant Program provides funding for Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities (RSCA) projects.

Similar to the UGP, this program provides important funding for new RSCA projects and areas of inquiry, allows faculty to bring ongoing projects to completion.

Seven faculty from the College of Arts and Letters were awarded 2022 SDSU Seed Grant funding for spring 2022.

students in Indonesian rainforest

Anthropologist Erin Riley Awarded NSF Grant to Study Human-Primate Coexistence and Ecosystem Health in Indonesia

The National Science Foundation International Research Experiences for Students grant for nearly $300K will support the study of people, primates, and tropical forests.

Erin Riley, professor of anthropology and primatologist is no stranger to Indonesia and the study of Sulawesi macaque behavior. 

border fence

NEH Award for Human Rights and Interdisciplinary Border Studies Minor

The National Endowment for the Humanities announced $33.17 million in grants for 245 humanities projects across the country.

San Diego State University won a nearly $35,000 grant for the “Human Rights and Border Studies Interdisciplinary Minor.”

NEH grant recipients (from left) Consuelo Carr Salas, Elizabeth Pollard and Ranin Kazemi

NEH Grants for Teaching and Writing Innovations  

Three scholars at San Diego State University’s College of Arts and Letters received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities for projects that touch on Iraq, the teaching of writing, and comics studies.

aerial view of Alaskan waterways

Geographer Receives NASA and USDA Grants  

With three new extramural grants, Dan Sousa, assistant professor of geography is working to make an impact through research projects that help find solutions to environmental issues plaguing the country.

Restoring Nez Perce Material Culture: A Consideration of Collecting and Communities

New Discourse & Dialogue Annual Lecture Series 

The inaugural event featured classics alum Trevor James Bond ‘(88), Ph.D. who presented an illustrated lecture titled “Restoring Nez Perce Material Culture: A Consideration of Collecting and Communities” at the SDSU library in mid-April. 

Provost Hector Ochoa, Cathy Stiefel and J. Keith Behner

Philanthropists Keith Behner and Cathy Stiefel Fund Brazil Sustainability Initiative

The gift supports critical collaborations in scholarship along with student research opportunities.

J. Keith Behner (‘71) and Cathy Stiefel (‘92), who established the Behner Stiefel Center for Brazilian Studies at San Diego State University in 2014, have made a new gift to the center to support the study of climate change and sustainability in the largest country in South America.

Richard Wright

SDSU Emeritus Professor Richard Wright: When Donor Walls Converge

A renewed inspiration for giving to the College of Arts and Letters began purely by accident in 2018. It happened when Richard Wright entered the sixth floor College of Arts and Letters dean’s office lobby to say hello to an old friend who had worked in the Department of Geography, where Wright spent his nearly 40-year career.

In Memoriam Scholarships

Professor Khaleel Mohammed Scholarship for the Study of Religion

Dr. Khaleel Mohammed, professor of Islamic studies in SDSU’s Department for the Study of Religion, died on Jan. 7, 2022. Active in the pursuit of interfaith understanding, Mohammed participated in numerous interreligious dialogues between Muslims, Jews and Christians, and was well respected among scholars of Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations. Friends and family have established an endowed scholarship in Dr. Mohammed’s memory to support students pursuing a degree (major or minor) in the study of religion or Islamic and Arabic studies.

Donate to this scholarship.

Ashley E. Phillips Scholarship Fund for Reproductive Health in the Department of Women’s Studies

Ashley E. Phillips, long-time lecturer in the Department of Women’s Studies at SDSU, passed away on Jan. 10, 2022. Dr. Phillips taught women’s sexuality and women’s health in the department for many years and helped launch the women’s studies scholarship fund by bringing Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Angela Davis, and other feminist activists to campus. To honor Phillips’ legacy, friends and emeriti faculty from the Department of Women’s Studies have established a fund to support a women’s studies graduate student working as an intern with local reproductive health and justice organizations such as Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest.

Make a tax-deductible contribution to this fund.

student and Bruce Onobrakpeya

In Celebration of Africana Studies 50th Anniversary, Major Artists Visit SDSU 

An art exhibition of internationally-known African artist Bruce Onobrakpeya and readings with Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka were result of efforts by faculty members and students.

alumni and faculty from Linguistics

Linguistics 50th Anniversary Event/Lecture

On April 29, the Department of Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages celebrated with a lecture and presentations by past faculty, students, and alumni.

faculty in CAL

Faculty Celebrate 25 Years

CAL faculty were recognized for their commitment to the College of Arts and Letters during a morning reception on the Arts and Letters 6th-floor patio on May 2.  

Dean Casper shared her gratitude and appreciation for the faculty members who have served the college.

Center for Comics Studies // Supported by major grants, the new unit will unite educators and librarians across the world. SDSU NewsCenter

Center for Latin American Studies and Anthropology // Ramona Pérez was one of ten distinguished SDSU alumni who were honored April 23 during the 46th SDSU Alumni Awards of Distinction event, attended by more than 250 guests at the Omni La Costa in Carlsbad. Watch the video highlight

Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters // Five to be awarded honorary degrees at SDSU commencement. SDSU NewsCenter

Jewish Studies // Visiting artist (2019 and 2021) Ronit Weiss-Berkowitz, SDSU, co-wrote the No. 4 most-watched new series on Netflix. She was featured in an article that highlighted how her time in San Diego and at SDSU inspired her. The San Diego Union-Tribune

Weber Honors College Research Fellows // Ramona Pérez, Center for Latin American Studies, Roy Whitaker, Department for the Study of Religion, and Sureshi Jayawardene, Africana Studies expand impactful research and mentor students during the spring 2022 semester.

War in Ukraine: Perspectives from Faculty and Students // CAL faculty respond rapidly, broadly, and with compassion to help students contextualize and understand the current global crisis.