2012 Student Highlights

Jaclyn Wong
Major: Biology

Liane Fujita
Master's Program: Kinesiology

Alejandro Echevarria
Major: Cinema and Television Arts

Magaly Rubio
Major: Biology

Maria Vasquez
Major: Psychology

Jessica Chandler
Master's Program: Social Work

Jacob Rivkin
Major: Finance

Christine Villasenor
Major: Deaf Studies

Jessye Shepherd
Major: Finance

Etinosa Nosa-Ehigie
Major: Biology

Eliza Avetisyan
Major: Child Development

Osheen Cholakian
Major: Health Sciences

Jessica Gaeta
Major: Family and Consumer Sciences

Luis Ramirez
Double Major: Accountancy/Information Systems

Danny Santana
Double Major: Chicana and Chicano Studies/History

Juan Carlos Munoz
Major: Art (Computer Graphics)

Elvia Aguirre
Major: Art (Painting)

Carolina Alcala
Major: Art

2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

Leading the Pack

Jaclyn Wong

Jaclyn Wong, a long-standing member of the professional organization Alpha Kappa Psi, cultivates social relationships to land her dream job.

Even though the U.S. economy is still in slow recovery, there is good news. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, campus recruiters plan to hire more college graduates in 2013 than they did in 2012.

But how do you get those recruiters to notice you? Many of your peers are boosting their resumes by interning or participating in honor, professional and social organizations that build leadership or networking skills.

Jaclyn, a third-year biology major with a minor in marketing, joined the coed business fraternity Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPSI) in 2009.

"I wanted something that would build my professionalism and my career. I wanted to be challenged," she says.

She joined AKPSI at a turning point in her life. When she first enrolled at CSUN, her goal was to become a pharmacist. But halfway through the program, she realized she didn't want to be stuck in a lab.

"My personality is very creative. I want to be my own boss and oversee all aspects of the business," she points out.

Through AKPSI, Jaclyn met several CSUN alumni who have successfully gone on to start their own businesses. One current member is in the process of opening a coffee shop in Indonesia.

"Seeing them do these things makes me start thinking, ‘How do I get up to their level? How do I start doing what they're doing?’ " she says.

A dream opportunity came up for Jaclyn in November 2012 when a fellow AKPSI member invited her to attend an electronics wholesale convention in Hong Kong. While there, she had a chance to check out the latest products and talk shop with some of the manufacturer representatives.

"I went there to get a sense of how to do this and who I talk to," she says.

The experience also allowed her to weigh in on the difficulties of breaking in to an international market. As a Chinese-American, Jaclyn knows how to speak both Cantonese and Mandarin. But once in Hong Kong, she noticed a language barrier in business conversations.

"It was a cultural shock. Even though the salespeople also spoke Cantonese and Mandarin, it was hard to convey certain things — like how to put a logo on something," she explains.

Because of the relationships she's built with entrepreneurs in AKPSI, she gets the scoop on the hard facts of entrepreneurship.

For example, "If you're going to start a business, you should start early because new businesses fail 90 percent of the time," she says.

Besides mentorship, the perks of a professional organization include alumni relations. As Jaclyn points out, the AKPSI alumni network is always sharing job openings and extending opportunities to younger members.

In 2011, Jaclyn served on the executive board of the fraternity as vice president of operations. Her duties involved teaching the group how to be good members in terms of punctuality, attendance and dress. Managing these responsibilities has taught her invaluable skills that will be useful when she begins working or starts her own business.

"And that is something you can't learn from a textbook," she says.

For more information about AKPSI, check out the Facebook page.

back to top

How CSUN Moves

Liane Fujita

In her first convocation address, President Dianne F. Harrison gave a shout-out to the 100 Citizens program. Liane Fujita is one of the CSUN kinesiology students who helped launch the program.

Even though the 100 Citizens fitness program has been in place since June 2011, it didn’t capture the attention of the broader campus community until it won the Popular Choice Award as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-child obesity campaign, Let’s Move!

One of the perks of winning popular choice is that the program’s creator, kinesiology professor Steven Loy, has the honor of visiting the White House in the fall.

The 100 Citizens program began with a cohort of eight graduate students, including Liane, and a handful of undergraduate volunteers from the CSUN kinesiology department.

While others in Liane’s cohort have finished their theses and moved on to other projects, she stays on in San Fernando, where the first 100 Citizens program originated, even securing a job as a liaison to the city’s Department of Recreation and Community Services.

As a liaison between San Fernando and CSUN, Liane recruits new graduate and undergraduate kinesiology students to maintain the fitness program.

“Professor Loy’s vision for the 100 Citizens program is to have something that CSUN kinesiology students can take control of and pass down,” she says.

The student-driven project was in the works for three years before it came into fruition. An opportunity opened up in 2011 when CSUN alumnus Ismael Aguila was elected as the new operations manager of San Fernando’s Department of Recreation and Community Services.

“Being a former kinesiology student, Ismael saw the importance of what we were trying to do, which is what got the program started. He helped us get it through the door,” Liane explains.

San Fernando was also the perfect choice for the kind of program Loy and his students wanted because it was an underserved community with a small recreation budget. The fact that San Fernando was located in the Valley also meant that it was more convenient for CSUN students to travel to and from the campus.

By teaching the adults of the community about fitness and nutrition, Loy and his students hope the health benefits will trickle down to local children and combat childhood obesity.

But in order to develop a program that was the most effective for a low-income community, it had to be free and accessible.

“Members of this community may not have the financial means to pay for a gym membership, physical therapist or personal trainer,” she explains.

Fortunately, Loy convinced the city to purchase outdoor equipment. He also received a donation of 30 spinning bicycles from 24 Hour Fitness. A majority of the exercises led by the students in the 100 Citizens program also require little to no equipment.

The students lead two one-hour sessions, one each for seniors and adults on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the San Fernando Recreation Park. The senior classes focus on strengthening muscle and joints and increasing flexibility and agility to reduce the risk of falling.

The program since has branched out into more specialty classes, such as Zumba, body sculpting, spinning and yoga, for which participants pay a small instructional fee.

In addition to recruitment, Liane can be found on site at the park, supervising and making sure the student leaders of the exercise programs have what they need to keep things running smoothly.

Even after completing the thesis for her master’s degree, Liane doesn’t see herself going back to a corporate job such as the one she held at Plus One Health Management right after graduating from CSUN with a bachelor’s degree in 2008. She’s thankful she found a job with the city of San Fernando.

“I saw how important the 100 Citizens program was not only to professor Loy but the CSUN kinesiology department and the community. It’s like—I believe so much in what professor Loy is doing I kind of just want to stick with it. He has a lot of hope and faith in people. Over the years he’s become like a father figure to many of us. That’s what drew us to the program,” she says.

Even other graduate students who have left the 100 Citizens program come back now and then to help, she points out.

The 100 Citizens program was a tremendous stepping stone for her and many of the other students who first participated during its initial stages. She hopes to continue offering that opportunity to future students in her role as a liaison for San Fernando.

“Sometimes university students don’t get to apply what a kinesiologist does in real life. It takes more than being able to write the perfect exercise program to be a good kinesiologist. You need to learn to connect and establish relationships of trust in order for the programs to be effective,” she explains.

Opportunities such as the 100 Citizens program allow students like her to get out of the classroom and pick up invaluable skills.

Since summer 2012, the 100 Citizens program has branched out into four other parks in Altadena, La Crescenta, Pasadena and Sylmar.

back to top

Reality Check

Alejandro Echevarria

Merit-based scholarships allow one student to tackle his debt.

As his graduation date edges closer, Alejandro Echevarria, a senior cinema and television arts major, is starting to worry about his future.

As reported by USA Today, Alejandro’s generation is increasingly realistic about money and debt due to the tough economy and job market.

“The way I think about money is more pragmatic now. I know I have to develop a financial plan and build good credit. I don’t like doing it. But I have to, because the alternative is I don’t grow up,” he says.

Like many students these days, Alejandro works part-time while attending CSUN as a full-time student.

“When I was a kid, my grandparents saved a college fund for me—about $2,000. The rest of tuition is covered by various part-time jobs I've held, scholarships and loans. Although my family is not paying directly for school, they cover the majority of my essential living expenses. All of these factors have contributed to helping me develop a more mature perspective on personal finance,” he says.

Having a high GPA greatly helps his odds when applying for merit-based scholarships, such as the University Scholars program. But the biggest factors in landing a scholarship are good writing skills and a genuine enthusiasm for your field of study, Alejandro points out.

Tenacity, confidence and originality also are key.

“Think about the competition—who is applying? What would an average applicant write for his or her scholarship essay? Approach the prompts differently. Think about what your default response would be to a prompt and do something different,” he says.

Out of the 11 scholarships for which he’s applied throughout his college career, Alejandro has received four—three University Scholarships and the Scott M. Weiss Memorial Scholarship. In fall 2012 alone, he applied for seven scholarships and received two.

“Applying to seven scholarships was an exhausting experience. I don’t think I want to do that again,” he says. “Unless you’re very organized, I don’t recommend applying for that many. You get careless and lose track of things. I accidentally sent the wrong draft of an essay to one committee.”

While the free money is great, the process has another positive outcome – it encourages him to be active in his major. For example, in order to remain eligible for the University Scholarship, Alejandro must demonstrate scholarly activity every semester.

As a result, Alejandro often volunteers on productions for the Department of Cinema and Television Arts. Currently, he is preparing a media theory paper on the 1969 American film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” for publication with guidance from professor Frances Gateward.

Thus, although he is concerned about what will happen when he graduates, he doesn’t think students should spend more time working at an internship than sitting in a classroom.

“A lot of people in my major value work experience over academics. I say, ‘Don’t worry about being swept into the system so quickly.’ Get good grades and develop your writing. Believe it or not, writing is not only an important, edifying skill, it can be a monetarily gratifying skill,” he says.

Over the course of his college years, he has acquired more than $10,000 in scholarships—almost a third of his college costs.

To look for available scholarships, Alejandro recommends checking out your department website and the CSUN scholarship Web page.

back to top

My Two Cents #1: Money Management

The path to higher education can be challenging as well as expensive. "My Two Cents" is an article series that contains tips to help you make good financial decisions while you're in school.

It can be difficult to keep track of money when you're a student living on your own for the first time. Going out with friends, watching movies and frequenting clubs and restaurants can quickly drain your bank account. Before you know it, you won't have enough money to cover the cost of food or bills for the rest of the semester.

My Money Management, a program hosted by the Financial Aid and Scholarship Department, is a series of workshops that teaches students how to manage their finances. For more information, visit the My Money Management website.

Freshmen Magaly Rubio and Maria Vasquez, who both attended the workshops, offer some tips they've learned during their My Money Management training.

Magaly Rubio

Magaly's Two Cents

1. Develop a budget.

Some necessary expenses – your rent, toiletries, cleaning supplies, food and bills – can quickly empty your bank account if you don't keep track of them.

To prevent getting overwhelmed, create a list. This will help you prepare your budget.

Magaly utilized the "Budgeting and Financial Planning" section on the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department's CashCourse website to create her budget.

She also used the calculating tool to graph expenses and track where she's spending the most of her money. This helps her determine which areas to cut back.

"For me I was spending a lot on food because I kept going out to eat," Magaly explains.

She began to cook and eat more at home, thus allowing her to save money to put toward other expenses.

2. Monitor your bank account.

Technology makes this easy. You can either download a mobile app or visit your bank's website to sign up for text or email updates for your account.

Magaly advises regularly keeping an eye on your checking or savings account balances.

For one thing, it can help you avoid overdraft fees if you are close to overdrawing your account. You can also catch bank errors or correct a mischarged purchase.

And it can also help you detect if you've become a victim of identity theft.

Although identity theft isn't directly related to financial planning, it's a topic that the My Money Management workshop covers because it's an increasingly common crime.

Remember to always log out of your account after you complete a transaction. If you allow your bank account to go unprotected, such as leaving the Web page open and unlocked on your computer or saving the password on your phone, someone may access it and quickly steal all your money.

back to top

Maria Vasquez

Maria's Two Cents

1. Get to know your student loans and interest rates.

If you've ever seen the terms "subsidized" and "unsubsidized" on your student loan documents, the My Money Management workshop will help explain the difference.

In a nutshell, the subsidized loan offers a low fixed interest rate in which the federal government pays the rate while you are in school and for a grace period of six months after you graduate — as long as you are enrolled in a minimum of six to eight units (half-time).

An unsubsidized loan is also available at a low interest rate. However, you are solely responsible for interest, which accumulates as soon as you start receiving payments. That interest can add up so that you have a lot to pay off by the time you graduate!

Interest rates are typically offered as "fixed" and "variable." If you are given a choice, Maria recommends you choose fixed over variable because even if the fixed rate is higher, it's guaranteed not to increase during your loan term.

On the other hand, variable interest rates can fluctuate after you've signed the contract. One day it may be low and the next it may be quite high. This can be incredibly confusing and frustrating to follow and it's often not worth the headache.

2. Watch your credit card use.

Unwise credit card usage is one of the quickest ways to get yourself into serious debt. Most credit cards come with high interest rates and it's tempting to use credit when you don't have cash on hand.

Be wary of credit cards that offer promotions, such as six months without interest. Most adults, not just students, neglect to pay off the balance by the end of those six months (by then the balance is probably very high).

If you fail to pay it off before the promotional period ends, you will probably be responsible for covering all the interest on top of the high balance, Maria says.

Thus, unless you're already disciplined about making monthly payments and good at reading the fine print, you should probably avoid some of the complexities of owning a credit card, she points out.

If you fail to make payments on time, not only will you get into debt, it can also negatively affect your credit score. A good credit score is necessary to secure a loan for buying a car or house in the future.

Now if you own a credit card, you should attend the "Credit Management" session in the My Money Management workshop. It discusses responsible credit card use as well as teaches you how to read your credit score.

- CB Flynn, journalism major, graduating spring 2013

back to top

Fostering Success

Jessica Chandler

By offering day care for her two young boys, the Associated Students Children’s Center gives former foster care youth Jessica Chandler a shot at higher education.  

Jessica’s world fell apart when her parents divorced.

The struggle to clothe and feed Jessica and her five siblings overwhelmed their mother. As a result, 12-year-old Jessica and her two older sisters were sent to foster care. Throughout her years as a foster child, Jessica shuffled in and out of group homes and schools.

This took a toll on her studies.

“I didn't have any foundation or future. I didn't get really good grades and I was a troublemaker,” she explains.  

At 18 Jessica was emancipated from foster care and then later became pregnant with her first son Noah. Fearing she would repeat the same mistakes as her mother, Jessica knew something had to change.

“I didn't have a goal until I realized I was going to bring someone who might end up just like me into this world,” she says.

Determined to turn the tide on her life, Jessica decided to go to college. But the need for child care would make that difficult. Because of lost contact with Noah’s father and her parents’ financial troubles, she couldn’t look to them for support. 

Still determined, she researched financial aid programs.

“I figured I would try to be that 1 percent of foster care children that goes to college,” she says.

With help from friends and mentors at the advocacy group Alliance for Children’s Rights, Jessica enrolled at El Camino College in 2008. Thanks to the CalWORKs and Chafee Foster Youth programs, which offer child care assistance, Jessica was able to concentrate on school.

While at El Camino College, Jessica saw a flier for A.S. Children’s Center at Cal State Northridge. Then pregnant with her second son Jonah, she realized her family’s future lay with Northridge.

She applied to transfer and enrolled at Northridge in fall 2010. In addition to utilizing the A.S. Children’s Center, Jessica and her two sons, 4-year-old Noah and 2-year-old Jonah, live in the family-friendly University Village Apartments.

Because both provide a safe and nurturing environment for her family, she feels more confident.

“It legitimizes what I'm doing and that I'm still a good mother while I'm doing it,” she says.

After graduating with a major in psychology in May, Jessica plans to stay at Northridge to continue with a master’s degree in social work in fall 2012. She has already received grants to work with low-income communities for the Department of Children and Family Services – the same program that accepted her as a foster care child 11 years ago.

“It’s very dark and gloomy in the foster care system,” she points out. “I just want to be a light and make sure the youth are utilizing all the resources available to them.”

She hopes to inspire others like her to pursue their dreams.

“You’re that 1 percent who will go to college because you know me,” she plans to say to them. “I’m going to tell you exactly how to do it.”

- CB Flynn, journalism major, graduating spring 2013

back to top

It’s The Economy

Jacob Rivkin

As Delta Sigma Pi (DSP) president, senior Jacob Rivkin inspires others to change the course of history.

After the 2008 U.S. financial crisis, the future of the country seemed uncertain to many young people like Jacob. The financial markets were in disarray and housing had just collapsed.

However, rather than discourage him, the troubling times ignited his curiosity.

"I wanted to learn what happened and why, and figure out a way not to let it happen again," he says.

Jacob recognized that he was living in a historical moment. And he knew he couldn’t change the course of it on his own.

When he enrolled at Cal State Northridge, he decided to major in finance. In fall 2010, he rushed for the Iota Upsilon chapter of Delta Sigma Pi (DSP).

In the coed business fraternity, he finally found the community he was seeking. DSP comprised of individuals who shared his passion for business and desire to solve U.S. economic problems.

“Joining DSP has not only made my college experience better, but without a doubt has changed the course of my entire life,” Jacob says. “In the past year, my life has gone places I had no idea it would.”

In 2011, he was elected DSP president. Like others before him, he helps the fraternity prepare members for a career after college. In addition to networking and business opportunities, DSP also offers resume writing help and mock interviews.

“This experience and practice is priceless in a competitive job market,” Jacob says.

He himself received a referral from a fellow DSP member who is a Bank of America employee.

Consequently, this June, Jacob will start working at Bank of America’s corporate audit management program, learning about risk tolerance, efficiencies and government regulation implementation.

In addition to its professionalism, DSP offers a diverse experience to members.

As Jacob points out, this enhances their ability to learn from those of different backgrounds and perspectives. For instance, he and other DSP members recently volunteered at the Northridge senior living center Emeritus.

“It was a real pleasure to take a step back and listen to the stories of the elderly people who have been there and done it all before,” he explains.

While joining a business fraternity may not be for everyone because it involves a great deal of commitment, Jacob encourages all students to look into it.

“A business fraternity such as DSP can provide internships and job opportunities that aren’t always available anywhere else,” he says.

Plus for someone like Jacob, who wanted something more than his daily routine of work, school and family, DSP is a great way to make friends and get involved with the community.

For more information, check out the DSP website.

- CB Flynn, journalism major, graduating spring 2013

back to top

Safeguarding Matadors

Christine Villasenor

This student employee dedicates herself to keeping the campus safe.

On a nightly basis, Matador Patrol coordinator Christine Villasenor strikes up friendly conversations with strangers.

The senior deaf studies major is one of about 30 students who serve as Matador Patrol Community Service Assistants (CSA).

“Our bread and butter service is the personal safety escorts,” she says. “We walk people to their cars, apartments or classrooms at night. We stand with them while they wait for a tow or another car service – we’re basically like the good friend who you’ll call.”

Matador Patrol also looks out for suspicious activity on campus, and reports it to police.

“We are required to report anything that looks suspicious and the police are the ones who determine the outcome of the situation,” she says.

Christine says that having confidence plays a lot into how someone, whether mentally unstable or belligerent, will react to her or any of the other CSAs.

Additionally, Matador Patrol monitors Student Housing, checking in visitors and assist campus security guards at the gates surrounding the dorms, including those at guest parking lots and building entrances.

“We work at all kinds of special events. We also do crowd control at commencements, which is actually my favorite thing,” Christine says.

The CSAs are also trained to offer helpful crime prevention tips, especially for bike theft, which has been a recurring problem on campus.

“If we’re walking someone to their bike, we’ll say something like, ‘Oh you don’t have a very good bike lock, here are some good suggestions,’” she says.

When Christine began to work for Matador Patrol about three years ago, there were about 15-18 students involved. Now its numbers have nearly doubled.

The program originated in the 1980s by fraternities and sororities that saw a need for improved campus safety, Christine explains.

It started with volunteers but switched to paid positions when the program was taken over by Cal State Northridge’s Department of Police Services.

Christine has plans to create an even broader training program to help future CSAs communicate with more members of the Cal State Northridge community.

“I’m actually trying to create proper deaf culture training,” she says. “My goal is to get the Matador Patrol name out there and connect more with the deaf community.”

For more information, check out the Matador Patrol website.

Gretchelle Quiambao, journalism major, fall 2012

back to top

Jessye Shepherd

Jessye Shepherd

After Jessye's life hit a rough patch in her first two years at Northridge, she found a fresh start in a new country and culture.

Jessye left Chico for Northridge to experience college life and independence.

However, she had a hard time adjusting to a commuter school and was having a difficult time finding ways to get involved on campus.

"My first two years weren't the best," she says. "I was not finding many opportunities to get involved and I wasn't finding a whole lot of people that were wildly helpful on campus."

The senior marketing and finance major tried to find ways to make her Cal State Northridge experience a more memorable one.

She decided to apply to study abroad in the United Kingdom and for a position as a resident advisor at the CSUN dorms.

"It was one of those things where I was like 'whatever happens, happens,'" she says.

Little did she know she would be accepted to both. By the time she received news regarding the study abroad program, she had already planned on accepting the resident advisor offer.

At first, "I did not want to do it," she says.

Although study abroad students pay the same amount of Cal State Northridge tuition, Jessye wanted to save money on housing, which would be free as long as she worked as a resident advisor.

"The housing staff I spoke to kept saying, 'You need to study abroad, seriously study abroad,' so I was like okay, I'll try to figure out the money situation," she says.

Jessye was able to get funds to study abroad through personal savings and help from family and friends. Although she did not apply for any scholarships at the time, she does urge other students to pursue financial assistance. She also suggests preparing a budget before going abroad.

"While I was in Europe I was always like this will never happen because there was no way I could afford it. Of course there was always a way to figure it out," she points out.

Like Lillian, Jessye was placed at Kingston University. She attended the college from September 2010 to about June 2011. While studying abroad, Jessye visited Italy, Amsterdam, Norway and Ireland. She fell in love with the international students with whom she went to school and traveled.

"International students are the coolest people because they are just down to learn something new," she says. "When I came back I decided to apply for the International Program (IP) alumni assistant position."

The IP alumni assistant is a student employee and former study abroad participant who works in the study abroad office and provides information to prospective students about the programs. Now Jessye shares her experience with others who may have had the same reservations as she did when she started.

"The hardest part was just totally being taken away from my family. Also the academics are a little different. Just go for it, that's my only advice. It was the best experience I've ever had. I made so many friends that whenever I want to visit I have someone who can show me around."

"It makes the world so much smaller. That's probably one of the coolest things about the program," she explains.

Now that she's back at Northridge, she is happier than ever.

"I like Northridge a lot more now because I was able to find something that I could get involved in," she explains. "It gave me more of a connection to school."

For more information, check out the study abroad program website.

- Gretchelle Quiambao, journalism major, fall 2012

back to top

Combating Stereotypes

Neta Tov

Cal State Northridge puts this Nigerian native on the road to a future medical career.

Etinosa Nosa-Ehigie doesn’t like to let stereotypes define him.

But coming from a nation often portrayed in the media as war-stricken and impoverished, sometimes it’s hard to avoid certain perceptions.

However, Etinosa wants people to realize that his country is more than that.

Despite growing up in the tumultuous background of Nigerian politics and infrastructure problems, Etinosa had a happy childhood. He, the second child in a middle-class family, spent most of those days playing and watching ping pong and soccer.

“Every place, culture or people have their stereotypes,” he says. “The point I always try to make is that we shouldn't be too quick to make judgments based on stereotypes because everyone is different in their own way.”

So instead of allowing these external factors define him, Etinosa is using hard work and determination to shape his world.

Three years ago Etinosa came to Cal State Northridge to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.

“I chose the microbiology major/premed program at Cal State Northridge because I’m very curious about the composition of living things and how living things function,” he explains. Etinosa also chose Northridge’s academic program over other universities because of its reputation for excellence.

Etinosa is just one of many international students who chose Northridge over universities in their native countries because of its affordability, location and internationally recognized academic programs.

But Etinosa’s reason for attending is much more altruistic.

According to the Nigerian Health Journal, Nigeria only has about 40,000 doctors and more than 3,500 Nigerian doctors leave the country to practice abroad in either the United States or Europe.

Thus, Nigeria is trying to combat the amount of doctors leaving the country to practice elsewhere.

"I'd love to go back home to Nigeria and help people out there,” Etinosa says. “I see myself working in a hospital as a general surgeon and finding innovative ways of improving human health.”

And while he misses his homeland, he understands a Northridge education will enable him to help his countrymen.

Fortunately, the unique experiences and services offered at Northridge make him love the school.

“I love the environment and the various activities and opportunities, the Delmar T. Oviatt Library, Student Recreation Center and the Learning Resource Center where I work as a tutor,” he says.

“My life in Nigeria was fun and I enjoyed it a lot, but the reason why I came here, which is to study, keeps me striving for success,” he says.

- Gretchelle Quiambao, journalism major, fall 2012

back to top

♥   ♥   ♥

Eliza Avetisyan and Osheen Cholakian

Eliza Avetisyan and Osheen Cholakian

The meeting: Tech support

On April 28, 2006, Eliza took her camera to Best Buy after it broke at a cousin's birthday party.

Osheen was working there as a Geek Squad technician. Unbeknownst to them, they were both students at Cal State Northridge.

Normally shy around strangers, Eliza felt an immediate attraction to Osheen. Their backgrounds were similar. Both were transplants; she from Armenia, and he from Iran. They lived fewer than 10 miles apart for most of their lives.

"It was a happy accident — and I got a new camera replacement," she jokes.

The proposal: Graduation day

On May 22, 2008, Osheen surprised Eliza by proposing to her at his graduation ceremony in front of the Oviatt Library. His uncle even recorded the proposal on video.

Jubilant postgrads, their families and noisemakers can be heard in the background as Osheen gets down on one knee before a flustered, teary-eyed Eliza.

"He told me this after the proposal, but he always wanted to get married after he was done with college. So he thought it would be perfect to propose on his graduation day," she explains.

After three years of marriage, Osheen currently works in customer support at the film production company Deluxe. Eliza is a buyer for the Purchasing & Contract Administration department at Cal State Northridge and is slated to finish her bachelor's degree in child development next year.

The couple recently welcomed the addition of a daughter, Emma, who was featured in a Sundial article about multilingual children.

♥   ♥   ♥

Jessica Gaeta and Luis Ramirez

Jessica Gaeta and Luis Ramirez

The meeting: A birthday, then tragedy

While she was a student at Northridge, alumna Liliana Curioca frequently took her little sister, Jessica, to the Oviatt Library. Jessica remembers loving the campus even back then.

"I always pictured myself becoming a student at Cal State Northridge," Jessica says.

Upon graduating from high school, she was admitted to Northridge for the interior design option in the family and consumer sciences major.

Coincidentally, she met her future husband, Luis Ramirez, at her old stomping ground, the Oviatt Library, on her birthday — April 24, 2000. He was tutoring Andrew Torres, a fellow Beta Gamma Nu fraternity brother and Jessica's mutual friend.

"The highlight of our relationship was meeting at Northridge," she says.

But less than a year later, tragedy struck. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Then one of her cousins, whom Jessica was quite close to, suddenly passed away.

"Having Luis around during my most difficult moments was such a blessing because he not only gave me emotional support but was there for my family as well," she says.

The proposal: A detour

Two days before Christmas 2005, Jessica and Luis had plans to eat dinner at Olive Garden and exchange gifts. But Luis had a surprise for Jessica; he was going to propose that night.

However, things didn't go quite as expected.

"Luis likes to follow tradition," Jessica says. "While I was still at work, he had planned to speak to my parents and ask for my hand in marriage."

But her parents were not home that day. Instead, Luis picked up an unsuspecting Jessica. On the way to the restaurant, he convinced her to call her mother.

"My mom started telling me how she and my dad had gone to Olvera Street that day and seen the cutest little piñatas ... she kept talking and talking," Jessica recalls.

The conversation distracted her so much that she didn't realize Luis had driven them to campus instead of the restaurant.

"Cal State Northridge is a very special place to him because he met me, the love of his life, there," she says. "When he decided to propose, he knew that the only place to do it was there."

The evening was cold, so Jessica wrapped herself up in the new coat Luis had given her. Luis quickly pulled out the engagement ring and caught her off guard.

"After all the excitement, we didn't end up going to dinner," Jessica jokes. "Instead, we went home to tell my family the great news."

Now Luis is a certified public accountant and manager at J. Arthur Greenfield & Co., LLP, an accounting firm based in Westwood. Jessica works as a dental assistant at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in North Hills.

back to top

Life in Art

Left to right: Elvia Aguirre, Danny Santana and Carolina Alcala. Not pictured: Juan Carlos Munoz
Left to right: Elvia Aguirre, Danny Santana and Carolina Alcala. Not pictured: Juan Carlos Munoz

MEChA's mural commemorates the past while immortalizing the present.

On October 7, 2011, Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (MEChA) unveiled a new student mural in Jerome Richfield Hall 130.

The mural, titled "Knowledge-Struggle, Life and Death Duality," was an effort orchestrated by MEChA with support from the College of Humanities and the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies.

Spanning two walls and measuring approximately 5 feet by 40 feet, it pays homage to professors Chirlene Soto, Tappy Flores, Karin Duran, Annette Cardona and Roberto Sifuentes, who recently passed away.

Along with portraits of the late professors, the mural features traditional images from Chicano culture, mythical objects and characters, and political scenes of the student protests that took place on March 4, 2010.

"In this particular mural we felt we wanted to highlight the issues of today as opposed to just being nostalgic for the struggles of the past," says Danny Santana, a fifth-year double major in Chicana and Chicano studies and history.

Danny is coordinator of the MEChA committee that spearheaded the beautification project. He and three other student artists painted the various sections of the mural.

Danny Santana

Danny Santana

Status: Senior

Major: Chicana and Chicano studies and history

Inspiration: Since both his grandmothers recently died, this was an art project he felt would help him heal. The loss of his grandmothers helped him realize the beautiful and inevitable cycle of life and death.

Subject: Danny's section includes portraits of the late professors. Below the portraits is a quote, "In loving memory of our 'temachtiqueh'" (the ones who enable others to teach themselves). Beside them are a temple and the Mesoamerican gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc, who symbolize knowledge and life.

The center of the mural, where the walls meet, features dual images of life and death, from a pre-Columbian ritual and divinatory manuscript known as the Codex Borgia. Flanked by the Mesoamerican deities Ehecatl and Miquiztli, a decorated skull is held up by the tree of Mother Earth.

Juan Carlos Munoz

Juan Carlos Munoz

Status: Senior

Major: Art, concentration in computer graphics

Inspiration: Day of the Dead celebrations

Subject: Juan's section depicts a woman burning sage on the Day of the Dead (Nov. 1-2) as the deceased professors emerge from the smoke. A book inscribed with the poem "Cero," composed by alumnus Jose Juan Gomez hovers above. Lightning from the book strikes an Aztec pyramid illustrating the power of knowledge. On the right wall, Juan depicts the evolution of students, from the moment they pick up a book at the beginning of freshman year to the day they graduate.

Elvia Aguirre

Elvia Aguirre

Status: Graduating Senior

Major: Art, concentration in painting

Inspiration: The March 4, 2010, protests

Subject: Elvia's section is of last year's protests in Northridge: the faces of the student leaders who organized the marches and the crowd gathered in front of the Oviatt library to listen to speakers. Elvia also invited some other students to paint political messages on the poster boards that are held up by the protestors in the mural.

Carolina Alcala

Carolina Alcala

Status: Alumnus, spring 2011

Major: Art

Inspiration: Student activism

Subject: Carolina's section depicts Bayramian Hall, one of the oldest buildings on campus. Historically, many protests, including the one on March 4, 2010, took place there. Fueled by the passion demonstrated by the people on that day, Carolina used bold colors to express their energy and commitment.

back to top

Meet A Matador | 2012 | 2011 | 2010