Three College of Humanities students—Norma Aceves, Nicholas Medina and Bryant Partida—have been awarded 2012-13 California Pre-Doctoral Scholarships. This prestigious California State University merit scholarship program is focused on high-achieving upper-division or graduate CSU students who are interested in pursuing doctoral work toward a university teaching career. Aceves, Medina and Partida are among an elite group of 11 CSUN students and just 72 students system-wide to share the distinction.
The program supports doctoral aspirations among students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds where university teaching is generally a less common career goal. Recipients are designated as Sally Casanova Scholars in tribute to Dr. Sally Casanova, who founded the Pre-Doctoral Scholar Program in 1989 both to ensure that traditionally underrepresented students have more access to doctoral-level degrees and to broaden the pool of talented faculty inclined to teach at the CSU.
The program has been quite successful in achieving those goals, producing nationally recognized faculty like Dr. Denise Sandoval, Casanova Scholar 1994-95, now a professor in the College of Humanities' Department of Chicana/o Studies.
Aceves, who is currently a master's student and teaching associate in the Department of English, says that she would be honored to return to teach at a Cal State University campus after she earns her Ph.D. "It is very important to me that I reach out to campuses that cater to diverse populations, including low-income, first-generation students like myself," Aceves says. "I was very fortunate to work with many programs at CSUN that cater to students that come from these backgrounds, so I know how great it feels to give back to my community."
Medina, a master's student in the Department of Chicana/o Studies, with specialized interest in ethnomusicology, echoes Aceves's desire to give back to the community. "One of the best ways to improve graduation rates for Latina/o students is to provide them with an environment that allows for their success, with resources and course offerings that attract and inspire these students to pursue their academic goals to the fullest," he says. As a student he has dedicated himself to fostering a culturally inclusive environment through his work in the CSUN Latin@ Music Ensemble, which performed at last year's College of Humanities Commencement. He hopes that in the future he can help further the development at institutions like CSUN of "progressive programs with a global perspective and transnational focus such as ethnomusicology, musical folklore, popular music studies or anthropology of music."
Aceves, Medina and Partida will each receive funding for academic and career development opportunities, such as participation in a relevant summer research internship program, graduate school application and test fees, visits to doctoral-granting institutions they are considering, membership in professional organizations, journal subscriptions and travel expenses related to attending national conferences in their chosen field.
A hallmark of the program is its intensive mentorship component. Each student must be recommended for the scholarship by a sponsoring faculty member, who will work with them during the fellowship period to help them develop as scholars and plan an academic roadmap toward enrollment in a doctoral program. Faculty advisors help students to identify relevant professional societies, discuss academic goals, and may accompany students to campus site visits and professional conferences.
Aceves's faculty sponsor, Dr. Ranita Chatterjee, began her mentorship of Aceves as her English graduate studies advisor. "As a mentor, Dr. Chatterjee is relentless with an eye for detail," Aceves says. "She has always pushed me hard so that I may become a great writer and succeed in all my endeavors." With Professor Chatterjee's support, Aceves has already presented scholarship at the conferences of two of the most prestigious academic societies in the field of literature—the Modern Language Association and the American Literature Association.
Medina met his faculty sponsor, Chicana/o Studies ethnomusicology professor Peter García, when he approached him for help with research during his first year in the McNair Scholars Program—a federally funded undergraduate program designed to increase graduate degree awards among traditionally underrepresented students with strong academic potential. "This essentially was the beginning of what has proven to be a fruitful and loving mentor/mentee relationship," Medina says. "I owe much to Dr. García, for he has become my number one supporter and a first-rate role model to me as an aspiring ethnomusicologist and future academic."
With Casanova Pre-Doctoral support, Aceves and Medina will continue to advance their scholarship with their faculty sponsors in the 2012-13 academic year, and both plan to attend major academic conferences with their mentors to present their research and network with leading experts in their fields. The College of Humanities congratulates all three of its Casanova Scholars as they complete their fellowship year.