Kamal Hamdan has been honored with The California State University’s Wang Family Excellence Award for 2016 for his unwavering vision and contributions to California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) STEM education programs and curricula, and his commitment to helping develop top educators, particularly for under-served communities.
Hamdan (’94, M.A., educational administration), began teaching in CSUDH’s College of Education in 2000, during which time he has developed and implemented a variety of innovative teacher education programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, as well as for general and special education teachers. Hamdan is the Wallis Annenberg Endowed Professor for Innovation in STEM Education through a $1 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation. In that role he serves as director of the university’s Center for the Innovation of STEM Education (CISE).
“It was really a strange feeling when I learned I was one of the recipients of the award, and it was a great honor to learn that President Hagan nominated me,” said Hamdan, who was appointed director of CISE in January 2015. “If the president feels this good about me, it means that we are doing really good work here at CISE, and it has motivated me to want to do even more. I do not deserve this award alone. We are a team of about 30 dedicated people. Many have worked very hard to develop these programs. So this is a team nomination. I’m very proud of us all.”
The Wang Family Excellence Award was established through a gift from CSU Trustee Emeritus Stanley T. Wang and is administered through the CSU Foundation. The prestigious award, which includes $20,000 for each of the five award recipients, recognizes outstanding faculty members and one staff member who have “distinguished themselves by exemplary contributions and achievements.”
Hamdan, who was honored with CSUDH’s Faculty Excellence Award in 2002, is the first director of CISE, a regional program that was established as the umbrella organization for all CSUDH STEM educational programs. The center was designed to increase the number of credential teachers in STEM education, and to bring STEM to the forefront of K-16 education through leadership and service.
“Dr. Hamdan is admired and respected as a colleague and has given generously of his time and talents to students, our university community, school teachers and districts, the CSU (California State University) and many national learning communities,” said CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan. “His vision and contributions have ‘solidified a sustainable foundation’ for improving STEM education and preparing effective and passionate teacher-leaders for underserved communities.”
Under the CISE umbrella is CSUDH’s California STEM Institute for Innovation and Improvement (CSI³), which Hamdan created to oversee the multitude of grant programs focused on strengthening math and science K-12 teacher education in the Los Angeles Region that he has garnered for CSUDH. In total, Hamdan has generated more than $47 million in funding from federal, state and local agencies, including more than $40 million from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), the National Science Foundation, and NASA.
The programs within CISE and CSI³ include the Math and Science Teacher Initiative (MSTI); Noyce Scholars Program (NSP); First-Year Undergraduate STEM Experience (FUSE); the new Women in STEM Education (WiSE) program; Project Reach; Pathways Academy; and the California Math Project at CSUDH. Post-baccalaureate programs are STEM Teachers in Advanced Residency (STAR); Secondary Special Education Teacher Intervention (SSETI); The Transition to Teaching (TTT) online program; and the Master Teacher Fellows (MTF) Program.
A Committed Educator
Hamdan earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from San Diego State University in 1984 and had a short career as an assistant engineer living “a life of freedom and opportunity” before pursing teaching–his true passion. He began his teaching career at Washington Preparatory High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), while working on his single-subject credential in math from CSUDH. He eventually earned his administrative credential and a master’s in educational administration, all from CSUDH.
In his 14 years teach at Washington Prep he was named “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” five times, as well as LAUSD’s Jaime Escalante Outstanding Teacher of the Year. Sixteen years after receiving his M.A. at CSUDH, he went on to earn his Doctorate in Education from USC in 2010.
Keikai Bryant, a CSUDH student working toward her Master in Education, works in CSI³ as a math coach. A former high school student of Hamdan’s, she participated in the TTT program after graduating from UCLA. She has found working with Hamdan to be “inspirational and motivational.”
“After eight successful years of teaching at Washington Prep, I am more than happy to be a member of his [Hamdan’s] team supporting new teachers through the CSI³ programs here at CSUDH,” said Bryant. “He is an amazing leader of stewardship. He works eight times harder than any one of us, yet he is always as humble as they come. He has inspired and changed so many lives over the years.”
The CSI³ program also hosts STEM Lab Schools at various locations in Los Angeles, El Centro and as far away as San Diego, where teacher candidates lead math and science classes on weekends throughout the school year and four weeks in the summer to gain experience teaching. The prospective teachers are encouraged to try new approaches while engaging students in STEM activities.
James Borden, who has been a department chair and a middle school math teacher in the LAUSD since 2009, knew Hamdan while attending Washington Prep, but was not in his class. He now serves as academic coordinator in one of CISE’s STEM Lab Schools.
“Dr. Hamdan’s programs offer resources and partnerships with parents who are not just given handouts and information, but are taught skills to help them partner with their children regarding study skills,” said Borden. “He empowers parents to take charge of their home environment to impact their children’s education.”
Hamdan may have begun his professional career as a mechanical engineer–in part due to the encouragement of his parents–but said that teaching is all he ever really wanted to do.
“I love what I do, and I do it from my heart. When President Hagan tells the story about how this university was moved from Palos Verdes to this area as the result of the Watts Rebellion it really resonates with me,” he said. “Helping underserved students is why I got into teaching, and that’s what Dominguez Hills is all about. We really transform lives. How could I not buy into that?”