Whether awe-struck by the shimmering downtown Los Angeles skyline from the 27th floor terrace of the Tom Bradley Room in Los Angeles City Hall, or enjoying food and drink while mingling with fellow Toros inside, a great time was had by all during California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) 2016 Fall Alumni reception.
With 145 guests in attendance, the fall reception on Nov. 3 was the largest gathering of CSUDH alumni in Los Angeles to date. The event was hosted by CSUDH alumnus, Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino (‘00, B.A., communications), and CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan, who provided the alumni with an update of the university’s successes and upcoming projects.
Buscaino, who planned to attend the reception but was “battling a head cold,” delivered his remarks via mobile phone, which were channeled through the audio system.
“I come to this building every day with the goal of creating a better quality of life for the people who I represent,” said Buscaino. “We live in complex and challenging times, fellow Toros. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, and it is then when I turn to my Cal State Dominguez Hills core values: accountability; collaboration; continuous learning; rigorous standards; proactive partnerships; respect; and responsiveness. These values give me the strength to tackle the modern challenges of the second largest city in the United States.”
Standing together chatting on the terrace in the warm early evening air, three alumni shared how they have capitalized on their CSUDH educations to build rewarding careers.
Alumna Brandy Saccacio (’06, B.A., liberal arts; ’15, M.A., occupational therapy), who lives in Downtown Los Angeles, is an occupational therapist at UCLA, where she works with adolescents who have mental illness. She provides them group therapy sessions, such as cooking, meditation, and sensory strategies, as well as task or leisure activities, such as community outings.
“A lot of times, when people with mental illness go out in the community, other people automatically create stereotypes about them—they might be more incompetent, or not be able to handle pressure—so it’s no wonder people keep it secret. It’s a way of protecting themselves,” said Saccacio. “If people with mental illness who are successful and make great life decisions were to speak up more and say, ‘I can be successful and have mental illness,’ it could help eradicate the stigma and stereotypes.”
Ivory Johnson (’95, B.A., sociology, Africana Studies minor), attended law school at Washington University, St. Louis. He now works in employment law in Downtown Los Angeles, and said one of the “unfortunate tasks” he does at work is issuing discharge letters and suspensions to employees.
Johnson credits his successful career in part to connections he made with faculty while attending CSUDH.
“I had a great experience at Cal State Dominguez Hills,” he said. “One sociology professor, Jean Kearns, was an attorney. She motivated me to go to law school after I graduated from Cal State Dominguez. She was by far my biggest influence during my time on campus.”
Martha Porter (’09, M.A, education/curriculum and instruction), also a Los Angeles resident, pursued her master’s degree at CSUDH on the recommendation of one of her USC professors, who noted the quality of CSUDH’s College of Education, and the affordability of its programs. Porter currently teaches English to high school-age students at Central Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles.
“I’ve tried teaching all grades, but I prefer teaching the high school kids more than the younger kids. I can talk to them in a normal, adult voice,” said Porter. “But every now and then, I have to rely on my skills I learned teaching kindergarten to remind high schoolers that if they do something wrong that they just need to say ‘I’m sorry.’ That will usually take care of the problem. Life can be that simple.”