June 1, 1999 Vol. III, No. 17

CSUN Salutes Top Graduates; Seven Students Receive Awards

More Than 1,000 Invited to 17th Annual Honors Convocation at the University Club

More than 1,000 graduating seniors and master's degree recipients have been invited to participate in the 17th annual Cal State Northridge Honors Convocation for outstanding graduates on Tuesday, June 1.

CSUN President Blenda J. Wilson, who is resigning to become the first president and CEO of a New England-based nonprofit educational organization, will deliver the keynote address. The event begins at 6 p.m. at the University Club, corner of Nordhoff Street and Zelzah Avenue.

Seven students will receive recognition for their outstanding academic performance and community contributions. They are, in alphabetical order:

Erica Stevens Abbitt, 46, of Reseda will receive the Outstanding Graduate Student Award from the President's Associates.

Abbitt, who is getting a master's degree in theatre with an emphasis on feminist theatre, returned to school after being away for 20 years.

She received her first degree in political science because "it sounded serious." After graduating from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, she moved to London to study theatre, her first love.

Abbitt now has won a prestigious scholarship to pursue a doctorate in UCLA's theatre program. She wants to become a playwright and teach theatre.

"I am really honored to be in CSUN's theatre program. This very academic, rigorous and tough program provided me with the strong educational background I did not have," she said.

Angelique Burzynski, 41, of Pasadena is the 1999 Wolfson Scholar, an honor given each year to the university's top graduating senior.

Burzynski, a child development major with a minor in psychology, began her career as an opera singer. In 1991, she was diagnosed with Stargaardt's Disease, a degenerative eye disorder leading to blindness, that made performing progressively more difficult.

Tapping into experiences she had as an opera singer teaching music to learning disabled and developmentally delayed children, Burzynski decided to go back to school and become a teacher.

She serves as a teacher's assistant at Five Acres, a residential placement center for abused and emotionally disturbed children, and works at Pasadena City College with learning disabled adults.

Burzynski plans to pursue a master's degree in special education at CSUN as well as a special education credential.

Jake Finch of Simi Valley, a 31-year-old journalism major, will receive an Outstanding Graduating Senior Award from the Alumni Association.

Finch credits her husband with encouraging her to return to school. She attended Pierce College from fall 1989 to 1992 before coming to CSUN in spring 1998.

She worked as chief editor of Pierce's student newspaper as well as CSUN's student paper, the Daily Sundial. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the honor society Kappa Tau Alpha, and has a 3.5 GPA.

Finch hopes to write for a Los Angeles newspaper or magazine. "I returned to school with one thought-to learn how to write," Finch said. "I fell into journalism after a wonderful professor told me, 'English majors learn how to read. Journalism majors learn to write.' It was then that I knew I was home.'"

Tracy Glen, 39, of Newhall is this year's recipient of the Mildred Z. Mininberg Memorial Fund Award given each year to an outstanding graduate student.

Glen, who is getting a master's degree in education administration, received her bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of LaVerne. She works at Coutin School in Canoga Park as director of computer services and as a special education teacher.

A single mother of two boys, Glen wants to become a community college administrator. "I believe you can make a greater impact as an administrator," she said. "You can only do so much in a classroom. I want to do more."

Rondi Hegglin, 27, of Granada Hills is a winner of an Outstanding Graduating Senior Award from the President's Associates.

Hegglin, who is receiving a bachelor's in journalism, has served as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, as well as the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission. On campus, she is the Associated Students' representative to the Date Rape and Sexual Assault Committee and a contributing writer for the Daily Sundial.

Hegglin will begin law school this fall at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., on a full scholarship. She plans to specialize in public interest law. "Everybody at CSUN just seems to really care about their students." Hegglin said. "It has made a huge difference in how much I've enjoyed school."

My Trinh "Sony" Smith, a 29-year-old family and environmental sciences major, is a winner of an Outstanding Graduating Senior Award from the President's Associates.

The Granada Hills resident has maintained a 3.52 GPA while staying involved in various extracurricular activities. Smith has been a member of the Blue Key Leadership Honor Society, served on the CSUN 40th Anniversary Celebration Subcommittee and participated in two community outreach programs for the Pacoima Urban Village serving at-risk Hispanic families.

Smith will serve as a Ronald Brown Fellow this summer with the Children's Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. "It's all about giving back and thanking people," Smith said. "It makes me feel good to know that I am helping other people."

Karina Zambrano, 22, of Simi Valley is a winner of this year's Outstanding Graduating Senior Award from the Alumni Association.

The electrical engineering major came to CSUN in fall 1994 and carried a 3.48 GPA. She wrote a software package for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works as a research project for the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Zambrano has served as president of the engineering honor society and the college's student council. She also is a member of the Golden Key National Honor Society and president of Tau Beta Pi honor society.

"I think there are many stereotypes that work against us as women and minorities," Zambrano said. "You can feel isolated because there's not much to relate to. There are very few women in engineering. I believe that life is a challenge, and I will never settle for something lower than my initial goal."

-Muriel Baņares, Steve Gelhaus, Elsbeth Velasco


June 1, 1999

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