Major: Deaf Studies
Master's Program: College Counseling and Student Services
Ed.D. program: Education Administration
Major: Business Administration
Ping "Penny" Li
Master's Program: Public Administration
Major: Radiologic Sciences
Master's Program: Human Factors
Major: Recreation and Tourism Management
Major: Kinesiology (Dance)
Liezel de Guzman
Major: Kinesiology (Dance)
Thanks to NCOD and the robust ASL-speaking community on campus, deaf student Leah Bornstein thrives at Cal State Northridge.
When she was a child, Leah fell 10 feet from her front-yard tree, breaking both arms and sustaining major trauma to her head.
Shortly after the accident, complications from surgery spiked a critically high fever that resulted in permanent hearing loss. "I've been deaf since I was five years old," Leah says.
The struggle to communicate defined her early years. At school, she wore an FM system, which connected to her hearing aid and amplified the teacher's voice. The clunky device worked poorly and often garbled the teacher's words.
Because it was difficult to follow conversations, Leah made few friends growing up.
"I seriously thought I was the only deaf person in the world because I never met anyone else like me," she says. "Because of that mindset, I had quite the attitude. I rarely let others speak – partly because I couldn't hear them."
Upon entering high school, her life changed. One day, she saw two students signing on the bus. It was the first time she had ever seen American Sign Language (ASL). At 14, she began taking ASL classes and learning how to sign. She learned about Cal State Northridge from her teachers and interpreters in her senior year of high school.
"I decided to come to Northridge because it has a wonderful deaf studies program and Deaf community," Leah says.
Upon arriving at college, she was introduced to the National Center on Deafness, which provided her with academic advisors, interpreters, note takers and captionists. Discovering that Leah had a talent for filmmaking, NCOD recruited her to direct two promotional videos for its largest annual event, Sign 'N' Run, among other film projects.
At Northridge, Leah's signing skills flourished.
"Professors here at CSUN are really patient and helped a lot with my signing. Evelina Gaina, a deaf studies professor here, and Katie Kessler, a fellow deaf studies major and one of my closest friends, really helped me improve. They constantly challenge me to think outside the box," Leah says.
Due to the large community of ASL users at Northridge, for the first time in her life, Leah could comfortably hang out at large gatherings and hold multiple conversations.
"The first time I've ever had a group of friends is at Northridge," Leah says. "It didn't matter if we were in a loud room or if everyone was talking at the same time; I could actually understand. It was freaking amazing."
Now a senior, Leah's dream is to become an ASL teacher for high school students.
"I want to teach ASL because I am proud of being deaf. People see deafness as a disability or a disease. I want to show them that it's not such a bad thing and that it is the basis for building a unique culture and a tight-knit community," she explains.
To find out more about resources for deaf students on campus, check out NCOD.
Earlier this year, Leah published her first novel, "Once Upon a Sunrise." A book signing was held on campus in February 2011.
Working at the MIC helps master's student Audrey Mercado get a head start on a career.
The start of the school year is usually the busiest time for the Matador Involvement Center (MIC) and as one of its graduate assistants, Audrey is right in the thick of it.
On move-in day at campus housing she can be found in her red-and-black shirt amid a crowd of pajama-clad students. The MIC-hosted Pajama Jam, a welcome event for first-time freshmen as they check in, features club representatives, an outdoor film screening and free food.
During Matafest and Meet the Clubs days, Audrey staffs the MIC table, fielding questions about any of the 230+ organizations on campus. Despite the bustle, she loves it.
"I'm in charge of the fun stuff. Clubs help students feel connected to the campus and create a sense of belonging," she points out. "I tell people, 'Did you know we are the most diverse campus in terms of sororities and fraternities?' We also have the first chapter of the men's Armenian Society."
Working at the MIC is not just a job for Audrey, but a potential career. Since her assistantship is part of her master's program in college counseling and student services, it helps build valuable skills in her field.
"This experience is tied to my program – the emphasis of which is working with students," she explains.
Consequently, upon completing her master's degree, Audrey will be prepared to work in any university setting, but she hopes her place at the MIC will be more long term.
"One professor asked me if I am thinking of staying on campus," she says. "If given an opportunity, I would want to."
A seasoned Matador, Audrey graduated from Northridge with a bachelor's in psychology and an English minor in spring 2011. During her senior year, she came to a crossroads in her life.
"I was pretty much at the point of – what's next?" she recalls. "I thought, 'What if I don't find a job?' It was really stressful."
Audrey decided to apply to a master's program because she figured a graduate degree would improve her prospects. She applied to the University of Southern California, but halfway through the admissions process she stopped.
"People might say, 'If you get into USC – you have to go there.' But my heart was really set on Northridge. I really love CSUN."
Thus, at a time when many people have a bleak outlook, Audrey's future appears bright.
"Many Northridge alumni have the same story as me. They were once undergraduates here, then got their master's and now work as faculty or staff," she explains. "As President Jolene Koester said at the President's Convocation on Aug. 25, there is abundance on this campus," she says.
For more information about working at the MIC, check out the website.
Junior film major Matthew Lengyel was among the first generation of ushers hired at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC).
Transfer student Matthew heard about job openings at the then-brand-new facility from a fellow member of CSUN Intervarsity Matador Christian Fellowship.
The hiring of ushers at the VPAC came at a perfect time.
"I was desperate to work. If I couldn't find a way to support myself, I would have had to drop out of Cal State Northridge and abandon my dream of becoming a filmmaker," Matthew explains.
Fortunately, Matthew nailed the job interview and was extended an offer.
After working at the VPAC for nine months, most nights he's a lead usher, carrying a walkie-talkie and taking charge of an assigned floor at the performing arts center.
"We serve our guests and treat them like kings and queens. It's all about courtesy and customer service. You never know what kind of patrons you're going to get – average folks from the house across the street or mayors, politicians, actors or producers."
Naturally gregarious, Matthew relishes the opportunity to interact with these various types of people.
"I really like customer-related jobs – anything that serves and makes people happy," he says.
One major perk of the job is that he gets to watch all the performances at the venue, from ballets and concerts to spoken-word events. As a classical music fan, one of his favorite shows was the China Philharmonic Orchestra in April 2011.
Being one of the first-generation VPAC ushers meant that he and his team had to work through some glitches. For example, some customers initially took issue with the late-seating policy.
"Basically, it's a performing arts center, not a movie theater," Matthew explains. "I'd tell customers: I'm sorry, there is a strict no-late-seating policy; you can wait outside the doors until the intermission. In the meantime, we have TV screens for you to watch the show."
Because the flexibility of the late-seating policy is determined by the individual artists, this created problems in the beginning.
"One artist wanted the doors closed right when the performance started. When that happened, a lot of patrons who were late became angry and started yelling. A guy was getting violent. And one of our ushers got pushed," he says.
As a result of such episodes, Matthew and two other ushers, Zach Payne and Alysan Achen, decided to revamp the usher training program to address intense situations.
Alysan rewrote the manual, Zach reworked the section on theater policy and customer relations, and Matthew created new procedures for emergencies and the facility tour. They organized marathon games and relay races to inject fun and interaction during the training period.
To stress to new employees the importance of working as a team, Alysan came up with the metaphor of the VPAC as their house.
"We think of the patrons as guests coming to our house," he explains, "So it becomes their house too."
After all these months, there's never a day that Matthew doesn't love coming to work. He's been employed at movie theaters and in food service, and serving as a VPAC usher is, by far, his favorite job.
"I'm always excited to see what new things we're bringing to the table and what surprises are in store today," he says.
To find out more about the new performing arts center, check out the VPAC website.
For this family, a Northridge education is tradition.
Several times a year, brothers Jason, Chris and Patrick Beck can be found at the beach, chasing sun-flecked waves on their surfboards.
They're Southern California's poster boys, born and raised here, exuding casual confidence and a fierce hunger for life.
The youngest Patrick graduated in 2009 and is the most recent alumnus in a trend that began when father and uncle, Lou and Russell Beck, attended in the late 1970s. Back then it was called the San Fernando Valley State College.
Since that time, every college-bound Beck has attended Northridge, making an education here tradition.
"I could have gone to Humboldt [State University]. But my dad went here. I thought [why buck] the trend?" says Chris, the first of the three brothers to get his bachelor's degree.
From a young age, Lou instilled in the boys a sense of Matador pride. Some of their fondest childhood memories were watching Northridge football games. Tailgating events were family reunions for generations, young and old.
"This was the only time we saw our great-uncle Buddy," Chris jokes.
After following in the footsteps of his father, Chris also encouraged his brothers to join him. One day, while they were out at beach, Chris piqued Jason's interest.
"You know you can get a degree in surfing," he told his older brother, referring to the Northridge recreation and tourism management program.
After successfully hooking Jason, shortly thereafter, he also recruited Patrick.
The three remained close throughout their college years, joining Tau Kappa Epsilon, hanging out and surfing at least twice a week.
Despite being best friends, each brother found his own niche.
Like his father, Chris studied communications, in which he learned how to write effectively. This skill has proven invaluable in law school.
Patrick became involved in various clubs and volunteered as a university ambassador. He graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in kinesiology. He is currently finishing up his master's degree in gerontology, although he intends to go into law like older brother.
What's his reason for this decision?
"I want to change the world," he says.
Rather than dealing with the lawmakers, he aspires to drive policy one day.
Now Patrick and Chris work together at Lancaster, Calif.-based law firm Jeffries & Associates.
After completing his degree in recreation and tourism management, Jason decided to go down the institutional route. He is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in education administration and working at Student Marketing & Communications on campus.
Jason's son Jake, born spring 2010, is already creating a new generation of memories for the Beck family by becoming a regular fixture on campus. Is he a new Matador in the making? Only time can tell.
Health problems set him back in high school, but Jerrid McKenna's again playing with intramural sports at Northridge.
In senior year of high school, Jerrid earned the coveted title of captain of the basketball team.
But what should have been a rise to sports stardom was cut short by the discovery of a tumor in his brain. Jerrid suffered seizures, lost motor control and even blacked out in his mother's car after a game.
Following surgery and a swift recovery, he reunited with his team members but failed to secure a playoff victory.
"I was frustrated", says the 22-year-old transfer student. "The previous year we were defending champions. I don't regret what happened but it did leave a void."
Upon graduating from high school, Jerrid received offers to play at several universities in the Midwest. However, after his close encounter with death, he opted to stay close to home and attend local College of the Canyons. In 2009 he transferred to Cal State Northridge as a business administration major.
Once on campus, he quickly became involved with Tau Omega Rho and threw himself into his studies. But Jerrid was still troubled by his truncated basketball career.
Around this time he discovered Associated Students Recreation Sports.
Now four times a week, Jerrid can be found at the Matadome. On Monday evenings he plays basketball with his fraternity. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights he participates in independent league and open gym. And on Fridays, he practices softball.
Last year his flag football team placed second for the entire western region. After convincing Associated Students to sponsor it for the finals, the team secured fourth place out of 18 national competitors.
Earning second and fourth place is no small feat considering schools such as University of Florida boast 400 teams.
Recently, his team came in second at the regional basketball tournament in Las Vegas. Since the first-place winners won't be able to participate in the national competition, Jerrid, with help from AS again, hopes to get another shot at the championship.
Students like Jerrid are making Cal State Northridge a formidable opponent at region and nationwide intramural events. And thanks to AS Recreation Sports, Jerrid finally fulfills his high school dream.
But he doesn't just enjoy playing the game. After working at a neighborhood Boys & Girls Club, Jerrid aspires to run his own youth activity center someday. And having a bachelor's degree from Cal State Northridge would certainly help support that goal, he says.
The campus athletic facilities Jerrid utilizes are free for Northridge students. At the beginning of every semester, participants need to fill out a waiver from the Fitness Centre front desk by the fourth week of school.
For more information about ways to play sports and stay fit on campus, check out AS Recreation Sports.
The USU gives this former TV anchor a new challenge.
Her co-workers gave her the nickname Penny because, as a business services assistant, she doles out the paychecks for the USU.
By working on the financial side of operations, she encounters different people on a daily basis. She enjoys what she does because her co-workers engage and motivate her.
"The USU's a great place to work. My supervisor and colleagues treat me like I'm part of the family," she says.
Penny developed a knack for building relationships at a young age. In junior high, back in her native province of Dalian, China, she served as the friendship ambassador to her sister school in Japan.
Her love of the public sphere led to a bachelor's degree in public education and then to a career as a television journalist for eight years. In 2007, during the production of a televised charity event, she came across a seven-year-old boy with cerebral palsy.
His condition haunted her so much that she was determined to help him get the medical treatment he needed to attend school. She organized a fundraiser among local TV stations that raised $150,000 for children in the community with cerebral palsy.
"The reason why I'm studying public administration is because of the interview I did with this little boy," Penny explains.
While developing a proposal for the charity event, she experienced her first taste of public administration and realized she wanted a career in public service.
"I started to pay more attention during my interviews on government programs that provide benefits and people from the government who are effective organizers, coordinators and implementers of policy," she says.
Having heard about well‐respected faculty from Cal State Northridge — such as Christopher A. Leu, emeritus professor of political science — from friends, Penny decided to pursue her master's here.
In addition to taking classes that challenge her, working at the USU keeps Penny on her toes. She answers phone calls from parents and fields questions about Cal State Northridge youth programs such as the Sunny Days Camp.
"I chose to work at the USU because I know that is where I can serve more clients outside the campus besides staff and faculty. Here I can better hone my leadership skills," she says.
—Donna Watts, cinema and television arts major, spring 2011
Having faced homelessness and cancer as a teen, this student finally achieves stability with help from a campus job.
Kristal Larson is a sophomore studying radiologic sciences while working at the Matador Bookstore.
"The Matador Bookstore is my first real job," she says.
Before the bookstore, her previous places of employment were far less conventional.
When she was 10 years old, she discovered an abused miniature stallion abandoned at a local ranch.
Without any proper training, she became a stable hand by exercising animals and cleaning out stalls. Her wages went toward rehabilitating the rescued horse, which she eventually named Little Dipper.
During the course of working there, she was sent to the hospital six times with various broken bones.
"I'm crazy and reckless," she says.
Growing up in the small town of Nipomo, near San Luis Obispo, Kristal often found herself champing at the bit.
"I was cooped up," she says. "I wasn't allowed to leave the house-not even to see my best friend."
By the time she turned 19, she had been kicked out of her parents' house twice for smoking cigarettes and talking back.
In 2008 a diagnosis of lung cancer brought about a reconciliation with her family. Chemotherapy treatments put the cancer cells in remission, but Kristal came out of the harrowing experience shaken.
"I made it through. [Now] I strive for higher education and to support myself, and thank my parents," she says.
Now that she is a Cal State Northridge student, only a semblance of that former wild child remains.
Kristal's job at the bookstore gives her rebellious spirit something she's craved for a long time - independence.
Her earnings allow her to live on her own and pay back her parents, who supported her medical treatment while she was sick with cancer.
"I have not had a job like the Matador Bookstore. Everyone is super nice, and I'm not stuck at a desk," she says.
Some of Kristal's duties include entering online orders, picking out books from the showroom floor and preparing them for shipping.
Constantly working on the computer and learning new codes for the bookstore's cashier and inventory management system is a major boon for her dream career in radiology.
"X-rays use computers now, not film," she says. "Being able to adapt to new technology gives me confidence in whatever job I do ."
Working at the bookstore builds her social skills, which, in turn, will help her pass the mandatory interview required to enter the radiologic sciences major.
"There's a lot of variety in the work we do. You can work between classes. And when I mess up, I don't have to worry about getting fired. They mentor me and help me out," she explains.
To find out how to work at the Matador Bookstore, check out the website.
—Donna Watts, cinema and television arts major, spring 2011
Despite parallel lives, each member of this Matador family is carving out an identity of his or her own.
In first grade Jewel Hernandez began to develop bruises on her arms and legs.
Concerned teachers sent her to the nurse, fearing abuse at home. When she fainted at school, her family took her to the hospital for some tests.
The news was grim. Five-year-old Jewel was diagnosed with leukemia.
However, after successfully undergoing chemotherapy, she went back to school and attended second grade with her younger brother, Andrew.
Despite the happy outcome, the events took a toll on their parents. With their father deported to Mexico and their mother unable to financially support them, Jewel and Andrew were at risk of being placed in foster care.
Fortunately, relatives came to the rescue. The two went to live with their cousins, Tania and Leah Gudiel. Their friendship blossomed as they grew up together in the San Fernando Valley and attended the same elementary, middle and high schools. Now, the four share a bond through Cal State Northridge.
Despite their parallel lives, each fosters a dream of his or her own - dreams aided by an education at Northridge. Although all four work together in Bayramian Hall, each has branched out to find his or her particular calling.
While Tania was studying abroad in Madrid, she traveled to a nearby town called Salamanca. During a tour of the local university, she witnessed its famous large sandstone facade.
According to legend, Tania explains, if you find the frog hidden in the carved wall, you'll have good luck in your academic life.
"[In Spain] I experienced something new and became my own person," she says.
After returning to the United States, Tania changed her academic concentration from accounting to Spanish. As a Spanish major, she further explored the history and culture she'd encountered in Madrid.
After earning her bachelor's degree, she decided to pursue her master's in educational leadership and policy studies. A first-generation college graduate, Tania wanted to give high school students access to the same resources she used when she applied. Now the 27-year-old alumna works for Admissions and Records and assists students.
Leah's sister, Tania, first introduced her to the University Ambassadors program. Leah became involved with the group for three years, during which she made close friends, joined the executive board and, through networking, found a job at Student Marketing & Communications.
Although Tania was the trailblazer of the family, 24-year-old Leah succeeded in forging a path of her own. Like her sister, she too wants to help others.
But in lieu of working in education, Leah is interning as a human factors consultant at Medtronic, a manufacturer of insulin pumps for diabetics. For the former graphic design major turned human factors master's student, improving the usability of medical devices marries her love of helping people with product design.
The 19-year-old cancer survivor is a recreation and tourism management major and dreams of becoming a wedding planner one day.
Initially, Jewel shunned Cal State Northridge simply because her two older cousins were already students there.
"I didn't want to seem like I'm always following in their footsteps," she explains.
At that time the University of California, Santa Barbara, was her first choice. But as soon as she set foot on Northridge grounds, she sensed a connection.
"The campus felt like a perfect second home," she says.
Having family around has actually boosted her independence. Her older cousins helped her buy a car and find a job with the Outreach Internship Program where Tania once worked.
"Without them, I would have been lost," she says.
As the youngest of the bunch, 18-year-old Andrew thought all he wanted after high school was to leave home.
"I was looking for something different," he says.
However, he fell in love with Northridge after Leah took him to a Clippers game with some of her friends from college.
Because he loves to work out and play sports, Andrew hopes to become a physical trainer. At the urging of his high school teachers, he enrolled in the kinesiology program and joined the Kinesiology Living Learning Community, where he currently resides with others who share his major.
If Andrew had any doubts about staying local, being on campus quelled them.
"The dorms are really exciting," he says. "It gives me a sense of being on my own."
Despite being just a few miles from home, Andrew gained the independence he craved. Working alongside his sister and cousin in the Student Marketing & Communications office helps him meet new financial responsibilities.
And while he enjoys his freedom, knowing his family is just a phone call away is always reassuring.
JADE helps one student root for a personal cause.
While training to become a ballet dancer, Tiffany White noticed the pressure to lose weight.
Girls with slender physiques received coveted roles in performances, she recalls. All dancers were weighed in their costumes before practice.
But her family kept her grounded.
"I grew up in a family that totally accepted my body the way it was," Tiffany says.
Thanks to their support, she avoided the dangerous dieting habits practiced by her peers.
Upon arriving at Cal State Northridge, Tiffany became a peer educator for Joint Advocates on Disordered Eating (JADE), a campus service sponsored by University Counseling Services and dedicated to raising awareness about eating disorders and their prevention.
Even though most eating disorders start before adolescence, college can be a critical period because young people are on their own for the first time, Tiffany explains.
Having experienced eating disorders firsthand in her youth, the junior, a psychology major, chats comfortably with Northridge students about them. As a JADE peer educator, she not only informs students but directs them to psychologists and nutritionists if needed.
But it's not as simple as it sounds. "Sometimes people get angry," she says, "because there isn't a universal solution."
"We're not telling people which diets work. Everyone is different. There are things some people can or can't eat," she says. But in lieu of offering easy answers, her group focuses on larger social issues.
"When you see celebrities [pushing diets], they never talk about how diets can be a problem," Tiffany says.
And people forget that photographs in magazines get airbrushed, she points out. The ads sell products by making consumers want to look like the models.
Thus, JADE also teaches media literacy.
The event, which runs Feb. 22 to 24, 2011, includes an information fair on Matador Walk and talks given by faculty at the University Student Union.
Being a part of JADE changed Tiffany's college experience. "It gave me a strong connection to CSUN," she says.
For more information about JADE and becoming a peer educator, check out the JADE website.
Four times a year, Northridge student dancers take the stage at the Plaza del Sol Performance Hall. Here are some of their stories.
Classically trained dancer Martha Carrascosa was most recently featured in "Colaboratoria," a graduate student and faculty concert performed on Nov. 16, 2010. "Colaboratoria" is one of four shows annually hosted by the Kinesiology Department at the Plaza del Sol Performance Hall.
Martha performed a piece called "Wyandot," which used real snow onstage to evoke the frigid climate of the North American region where the indigenous group Wyandot resides.
In addition to snow, which made the floor slippery, the choreography included the use of heavy chairs as props. These conditions challenged the petite performer.
"I think all the dancers got stronger by the time of the show," Martha jokes.
But a challenge has never daunted her. Before coming to Cal State Northridge, she first had to take a leap of faith. Martha moved to Los Angeles when she was only 19 after struggling to find higher education opportunities for dance in her native country of Guatemala.
After earning an associate degree and a certification in dance and fitness at Glendale College, she transferred to Northridge and enrolled in the kinesiology program.
Between academics and conditioning, Martha squeezes in rehearsals and performances. Life as a dancer can be thrilling but hectic. However, this balancing act is a labor of love.
"Dance makes me happy," she says. "When I'm having a bad day, I go to class. Everyone is so positive, it makes me feel better."
In addition to performing at Northridge, Martha apprentices at Los Feliz, Calif.-based Daurden Contemporary Dance Theater. She hopes to open her own fitness studio after she graduates.
This happy-go-lucky senior has been a dancer since she was three.
Liezel de Guzman's specialty is jazz funk, which she calls a "silly-type movement that fuses ballet technique with hip-hop."
Her passion is helping people open up through dance. Liezel finds it even more rewarding to watch her dancers bring her choreographed pieces to life than to be onstage herself.
"Dance can be intimidating" Liezel says, "People might think, 'I can't do this.' But it's about having fun and expressing yourself."
Of all the shows she performs at the Plaza del Sol Performance Hall, "Kinesis" is Liezel's favorite because participation is open to nonkinesiology majors. She recruits both novices and seasoned dancers like herself to perform.
For last year's "Kinesis," she composed a piece called "Bus Stop," the story of a young man so engrossed in dancing that he misses his ride.
Inspired by the success of "Bus Stop," Liezel and fellow kinesiology majors Mariko Iwabuchi and Nancy Ishihara formed a dance crew called Creative Organization for Synergistic Movement and Innovative Choreography (COSMIC) to fuel their passion for choreography even after they graduate.
The group has already received offers to perform with theme park entertainment organizations with links to Disney and Universal Studios.
As it stands, the sky's the limit for Liezel and the other dancers at Northridge.
For more information about performances at Northridge check out the Valley Performing Arts Center.