Stacia Short-Baguio thought she was done with education when she dropped out of high school at 17. She had always been a bright student, but her life was chaotic. Her single, teenage mom had a hard time keeping a roof over their heads and provided little support. She needed stability and a job.
Short-Baguio left high school five units short of her diploma. She began working in the garment district in downtown Los Angeles. She was recruited to work in sales at a retail apparel boutique. She quickly moved up the ladder, overseeing a network of 23 stores across six districts. But she knew something was missing.
“The shame of not graduating high school continued to torment me,” Short-Baguio said. “I kept it a secret.”
At 39, Short-Baguio had a child and decided it was time to “reinvent” herself. She enrolled at Pierce College and earned her diploma. In the spring of 2009, she had hopes of transferring to UCLA, but her husband was hospitalized and she had to reduce her class load. She didn’t have enough units to transfer.
“I was distraught,” Short-Baguio said. However, after some research, she found out she was eligible to transfer to California State University, Northridge.
Next week, the 44-year-old communications studies major will be recognized at Cal State Northridge’s Honors Convocation as the university’s Wolfson Scholar.
Short-Baguio will be among several students recognized during the ceremony at 6 p.m. on Monday, May 21. She is one of CSUN’s outstanding graduating seniors. Wolfson award is presented each year in memory of Cal State Northridge’s first vice president, Leo Wolfson. Not only must the student have an exceptional academic record, but he or she must also have made significant contributions to CSUN or to the community through co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Short-Baguio has a 3.93 GPA.
Inspired by her Northridge professors, Short-Baguio immersed herself in campus life, both academically and through activism, upon arriving on campus. She served as vice president of the Gender and Women’s Studies Student Association and volunteered at the Women’s Resource and Research Center. She also served as a production intern for the “Dr. Phil” show. Her paper on Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign was accepted for the 2011 Undergraduate Scholars Conference. She was one of only 30 undergraduates chosen to participate in that conference.
“I connected with the instructors and developed relationships,” Short-Baguio said. “I feel that I got recognition that has propelled my success.”
She graduated Summa Cum Laude in December 2011 with a degree in communication studies and a minor in gender and women’s studies. The resident of Woodland Hills credits CSUN professors for helping her “embrace” and appreciate the good qualities about being an older and returning student. She said they also helped her find her passion.
“My life experience allowed me to mentor younger people and advocate for social change,” Short-Baguio said. She said as a peer educator at Joint Advocates for Disordered Eating (JADE), she was able to arm college students with valuable knowledge about eating disorders, media literacy and body image.
“She is at the top of the list of intelligent, engaged and well-rounded human beings with whom I have had the privilege to work, learn and teach,” wrote communication studies professor Kathryn Sorrells, in her assessment of Short-Baguio.
In addition to being the mother of an 8-year-old, Short-Baguio said she is busy researching graduate school options.
“I am a first-generation college graduate, and I’m proud of that,” Short-Baguio said. “It’s never too late to pursue a dream.”
Other 2012 Outstanding Graduating Senior Award Winners:
Alicia Ana Ayala, of Venice, is the recipient of the Karen, Leon, and Rita Goldstein-Saulter Memorial Award. She is a psychology and child and adolescent development double major who has maintained a 3.40 GPA. Ayala, a recipient of the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Scholarship and the National Institute of Mental Health Undergraduate Honors Fellow, is a well-rounded student who maintained a rigorous and advanced course load. She was a research assistant under Gabriela Chavira, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, and a member of the student organization “Hermanas Unidas.” Ayala has been committed to volunteering with community organizations such as Relay for Life, AIDS Walk, Day of the Child, Meeting Each Need with Dignity (MEND) and Adelante Hombres Youth Summit. After overcoming countless adversities and disparities, Ayala aspires to be a developmental psychologist who aims to enhance the health and well-being of individuals within the community. “(My) motivation stems from past experiences as well as future capabilities,” she said. In the fall, Ayala will pursue a master’s degree in human development and social intervention at New York University.
Marissa Colangelo, of Northridge, is the recipient of the CSUN Foundation Award. She is a child and adolescent development major who has attained a 3.56 GPA. Colangelo, who has been accepted to both Columbia University and the University of Southern California masters of social work programs, has a love for volunteer and social work. She has successfully managed to balance a 35-hour work schedule while maintaining involvement as a peer mentor in the Professional Pathways, Careers in Child and Adolescent Development class; Monday Night Missions; and the Middle School Diversity Project (MSDP). In addition, Colangelo presented research at the 11th Annual Psi Chi Whittier Undergraduate Research Conference and the 21st Annual UCLA Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference. Despite her achievements, Colangelo has overcome adversity by becoming the first person in her family to attend a four-year university. She has decided to attend Columbia. Her career goal is to become a licensed clinical social worker working with students with special needs.
Swapna Pawar, of Northridge, is the recipient of the CSUN Foundation Award. She is an electrical engineering major who has maintained a 3.92 GPA. A student of academic distinction, Pawar has consecutively been on the dean’s list since 2007. She is the recipient of several scholarships, including the Nirmal Mishra Engineering Annual Scholarship (2007–2012), the Solid State Microwave Engineering Annual Scholarship (2010–2011), the Pradip and Rekha Choksi Endowment in Engineering and Computer Science Scholarship (2011–2012), and the Northridge Scholars Program Recipient (2010–2012). Pawar has successively demonstrated academic excellence throughout her undergraduate career. In addition to maintaining high academic standards, she has maintained a successful career as a collegiate athlete. She was a member of CSUN’s women’s tennis team and a nationally ranked lawn tennis player in India. Pawar tutored students in the Department of Mathematics as well as participated in other extracurricular activities, including her participation with the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers HKN Etta Kappa Nu Chapter. During her senior year, Pawar obtained an internship at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, along with other extracurricular activities. Upon graduation, Pawar plans to work as an engineer and eventually return to school to earn an MBA.
Zachary Roof, of Northridge, is the recipient of the Karen, Leon, and Rita Goldstein-Saulter Memorial Award. He is an economics major who has maintained a 3.75 GPA. He credits both the University Student Union and the Department of Economics for helping him achieve success. During most of his time at Cal State Northridge, Roof has been actively involved at the University Student Union. He started as a member of the Finance Committee, has served on the USU Board of Directors and was elected in 2011 as vice-chair of the USU Board of Directors. He was a member of the Business Honors Association in the College of Business and Economics. Through the association, he has tutored numerous students and developed himself professionally. Roof said he “credits” CSUN for giving him an opportunity to challenge himself. He has been accepted into Johns Hopkins University’s nursing program. He is considering a career either as a psychiatric or anesthesia nurse and plans to pursue a doctorate in nursing.
Outstanding Graduating Veteran Award Winner:
Marco Antonio Duarte, of Northridge, is a cinema and television arts major, with an emphasis in multimedia, who has achieved a 3.42 GPA. After high school, Duarte joined the U.S. Marines Corps. He was meritoriously promoted three times. Determined to get a college education, Duarte would take satellite college courses when he had a spare moment. Upon his honorable discharge from the Marines, Duarte continued to pursue his education, eventually earning an associate’s degree from a community college before transferring to Northridge in 2009. While at CSUN, he often served as a mentor to fellow students. He completed his studies last fall and within a month landed a job in the film industry.
Outstanding Graduate Students:
César Soto, of Pacoima, is the recipient of the Nathan O. Freeman Graduate Student Award. He is majoring an English, with an emphasis on British Romanticism. He has obtained a 3.81 GPA while working as a teaching associate in the Department of English. Soto received his bachelor’s degrees in Honors English and Chicana/o studies in 2007. He will begin his doctoral studies at the University of Notre Dame, where his research will focus on the similarities between the revolutionary aspects of the works by British Romantic authors and Chicana/o literature of the 1960s and 1970s. He has also been awarded a Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, which includes an annual stipend of $20,000 for three years of doctoral work.
Four graduate students have been selected to receive the Association of Retired Faculty Memorial Award. The award recognizes and provides financial support to graduate students for excellent scholarship and creative activity. The award will support a project that is part of a master’s program. The determining factors for the award are based on a record of GPA of 3.5 and contributions to the field.
Association of Retired Faculty Memorial Award:
Andres Aguilar, of Valley Glen, is a linguistics major who has a GPA of 4.0. His project, “A Phonological Analysis of Contemporary Nahuatl,” focuses on a modern dialect of Nahuatl, an indigenous language from Mexico. His project will document and describe the phonology, or sound system, of a contemporary variety of Nahuatl. To do so, he will work with speakers of the language and audio record data for analysis. Aguilar’s faculty supervisor is Tineke (Christina) Scholten. In her letter of recommendation, she said Aguilar has the potential to become an “outstanding scholar in the field who is willing to give back.” Aguilar expects to graduate with his master’s degree in linguistics in the spring of 2013 and plans to pursue a doctorate with the ultimate goal of teaching at a college or university.
Olga Kramarova, of Tarzana, is a psychology major who has a GPA of 3.92. Her project, “Cognition and Kinesiology: A Dual-Strategy Approach to Learning Dance Choreography,” explores the efficiency of dance video games and suggests ways to improve their efficiency. Kramarova’s project investigates dance video game manufacturers’ claims that buyers can “learn real-life dance moves,” and then introduces several professional dance choreography techniques that she believes might improve the quality of dance video games. The first part of the experiment introduces and tests the effects of a strategic tutorial, which was created based on findings from previous dance-education research. The strategy focuses on the techniques of organization and counting. Kramarova’s faculty supervisor is Scott Plunkett. In his letter of recommendation, he called Kramarova an “intelligent, creative, personable and friendly person.” Kramarova is graduating and plans to pursue a career in the industry of human factors and continue doing research and improving the use of technology products.
Michael Schram, of Simi Valley, is a biology major who has a GPA of 4.0. His project, “The Effects of Size-Selective Harvesting on an Unexploited Protogynous Temperate Reef Fish, Rhinogobiops Nicholsii,” will investigate the direct effects of size-selective harvesting on protogynous species of fish. Controlled, manipulative studies on the effects of harvesting on protogynous hermaphrodites have not been conducted. Manipulative studies on most harvested species are difficult because of those species’ large size, mobility and late maturity. Schram’s faculty supervisor is Mark Steele. In his letter of recommendation, Steele said Schram is a good student who has proposed an “interesting and valuable study.” Schram expects to graduate in 2014. He would like to apply to a doctoral program and continue his research in marine fish ecology.
Veronica Valadez, of Ventura, is a Chicana/o Studies major who has a GPA of 4.0. Her project, “Dancing Codices: Danza Azteca and Mesoamerican Body Art,” explores and illustrates present-day manifestations of the Aztec dance tradition and Mesoamerican body art, and their connection to the development of Chicanos’ indigenous identities through written research and a creative project composed of photography and paintings. This research will reflect the aesthetics and powerful visions of indigenous resistance evident in the Aztec dance tradition displayed in an exhibition of artwork. Valadez’s faculty supervisor is Yrenia Cervantez. In her letter of recommendation, Cervantez said Valadez is one of the most motivated individuals she knows. She described Valadez as “energetic, focused and hardworking.” Valadez is graduating and plans to publish her thesis. In addition, she would like to pursue a doctorate or Master of Fine Arts and teach Chicana/o Studies at a college or university.