Three students from California State University, Dominguez Hills took top honors at the 25th Annual CSU Student Research Competition, a systemwide event featuring the best academic projects from approximately 225 students at 21 of the 23 CSU campuses held at CSU Fresno on May 6-7.
The category of Humanities and Letters was dominated by CSU Dominguez Hills as John Garcia, a junior majoring in Chicana/o studies, and David Marks, a graduate student in the Humanities Master of Arts External Degree (HUX) program, both took first place in their respective grade levels. Bree Nguyen, a junior majoring in business administration with a concentration in finance, was the only undergraduate entry in the Business, Economics and Public Administration category and competed against graduate students, winning second place. Each of the three winners also received a monetary award.
A total of 14 students, all of whom were winners of Student Research Day at CSU Dominguez Hills last February, represented the university. The students included graduating seniors Celso Jacquez (Class of ’11), anthropology; Alexander Spradlin (Class of ’11), psychology; and Kevin Teodoro, business administration/information system and operations management, (Class of ’11). The Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program was represented by Amy Noble, David Kim, Kristine Nakama, Jeanine Mattijetz, Mandy Kusumoto, and Dehra Lopez. Also participating were Heather Karuza, graduate student, educational administration and Alex Keleman, graduate student, biology.
Laura Robles, interim dean of the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, Geneva Williams, administrative support assistant, Research & Funded Projects, and James Till, associate vice president of Research and Funded Projects, accompanied a delegation of 14 students from CSU Dominguez Hills.
Garcia presented his topic, “Chicana/Chicano Indigenous Identity,” which he created with faculty mentor Marisela Chavez, assistant professor of Chicana/o studies. He says that his presentation was inspired by his experiences of studying in Zacatecas, through a collaborative between CSU Dominguez Hills and Yale University, and learning Nahuatl, an indigenous language of central Mexico. He also credits the teachings of intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and his professors at CSU Dominguez Hills.
Garcia says that while he was surprised at his performance at the CSU Dominguez Hills’s Student Research Day in February, it was an even greater surprise to win a competition at the statewide level. He notes that the caliber of his fellow competitors illustrates the academic worth of ethnic studies.
“The critical thinking aspects of Chicana/Chicano studies should never be ignored, because it allows for incredible depth into investigations, inquiry and research,” says Garcia, who plans to further his knowledge in graduate school.
“One [undergraduate] student from [CSU] Northridge articulated his presentation as if he was at the graduate level, and another competitor even wrote a book on Spanish grammar,” Garcia says. “Overall, the real significance for me was putting the name of Dominguez Hills out there, and especially of course, the Chicana/Chicano studies department on our campus. Dr. Chavez was my mentor for this presentation. She was always able to meet me to review my notes, power point and offer professional advice.”
Marks says that his research on “From the Will to Wessex to Arkham: Lovecraft’s Geophilosophical Debt to Hardy” began with connections that he found in the fictional worlds of Thomas Hardy and H.P. Lovecraft through the evocation of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s conception of will.
“I had a sense that something bound these thinkers together in a way that transcended individual pieces,” says Marks, who was mentored by Patricia Cherin, coordinator of the HUX program. “The interdisciplinary nature of the HUX program allowed me the freedom to explore the ties that bind Hardy and Lovecraft through Schopenhauer’s philosophy as it manifests in their persistent secondary worlds.”
Marks, who will graduate this month with his master’s degree in humanities, is considering adding a doctorate in English to his bachelor’s degree in English literature from UCLA and his juris doctorate from Southwestern University’s School of Law. He says that while it was great to receive accolades for his research at CSU Dominguez Hills, he was particularly proud to represent the university and the HUX program on a statewide level.
“The HUX program was truly inspirational to me,” says Marks. “I have rediscovered my love of literature and the humanities in general. Dr. Cherin provided an enormous amount of support for my work, from its initial stages through its presentation. Her insightful comments on my drafts sparked new ways of thinking about my topic and substantially impacted the final product.”
Nguyen’s talk on “Venture Capital Growth in Southern California: The New ‘Silicon Valley’?” was inspired by her experiences working at a venture-backed technology company. In it, she examined the rapid growth of the region’s venture capital industry over the last ten years, including an analysis of economic factors that have contributed to that growth. She also highlighted venture funding trends in Southern California and compared them with the same activities on a national level. She says that the project was a natural fit with her current job and the guidance of Dr. Tayyeb Shabbir, associate professor of finance, who teaches courses in entrepreneurial finance.
“Dr. Shabbir is an amazing teacher,” says Nguyen. “He made sure I understood at a high level what points I should be getting across in the presentation and made sure I kept my focus. It was an extremely collaborative process and I learned so much in that process alone.”
Nguyen says that the experience of participating and winning at Student Research Day at CSU Dominguez Hills prepared her well for recognition at the statewide competition.
“Winning at the campus’s Student Research Day was incredible,” she says. “My mother was able to come for that day so it was great to share it with her and show her the campus and what I do here. Also, the College of Business Administration and Public Policy is supportive, so several of my professors and [former] professors were able to watch the presentation, and gave me feedback and advice afterward as well.
“At the statewide level, I cannot even explain to you the amount of energy I felt from the two days at Fresno State,” says Nguyen. “I left the competition feeling inspired and even more enthusiastic not only about my research but also to keep moving upward in my education. To win recognition among the many great students there was an incredible honor.”
Robles says that she is impressed by the students’ level of professionalism and the depth of their research.
“They performed at a higher level than students from the larger campuses and impressed everyone,” she says. “Their intellectual conversations continued at the awards luncheon where anthropology and Chicana/o studies found commonalities in their research. I am so proud of our students and know they will continue to contribute to their disciplines long after they graduate from Dominguez Hills.”