Three high-achieving California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) students have been named 2018-19 Sally Casanova Scholars and selected to participate in the California State University system’s (CSU) competitive California Pre-Doctoral Program.
Cellular and molecular biology major Natalya Cardona, Spanish linguistics major Jesús Eduardo González Franco, and history major Thaithao Nguyen are among 75 undergraduate and graduate students from across the CSU system who are part of this year’s pre-doctoral cohort.
All three CSUDH Sally Casanova Scholars are also in the university’s McNair Scholars Program, a federal grant program with similar aims: to encourage and prepare students who are traditionally underrepresented in college to pursue graduate studies.
Chosen students are designated as Sally Casanova Scholars in honor of the woman who founded the pre-doctoral program in 1989 to address faculty diversity by supporting the doctoral aspirations of CSU students who show academic potential and an interest in one day becoming professors.
Through the program, Sally Casanova Scholars receives a $3,000 grant and a variety of benefits to help them prepare for doctoral pursuits:
- Summer research experience at a doctoral-granting institution,
- Tours of doctoral programs,
- Attendance at professional meetings,
- Financial assistance with test and application fees, and
- Memberships in professional organizations and subscriptions to professional journals.
They are also assigned a CSU faculty sponsor who works with scholars during the academic year to implement a plan for admission to a doctoral program.
“I was surprised when I got the scholarship. It’s an honor, and the money will be critical for paying college applications and travel fees because I plan on looking at several graduate schools and that process can get expensive,” said Nguyen. “I give a lot of credit for this scholarship to my mentors in the Department of History like Dr. Andrea Johnson, my faculty sponsor, who has helped me so much with graduate school searches, and Dr. Doris Namala, my McNair Scholar mentor.”
Nguyen’s research at CSUDH has focused on such themes as colonialism, imperialism, and women’s history. For his summer research experience, he is considering applying to the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute at the University of Wisconsin to brush up on his Vietnamese language skills, or UC Berkeley’s summer research program. His long-term professional goal is to teach at the college level.
González Franco’s faculty sponsor is Michael Galant, professor of modern languages. They have collaborated on the study of a Zapotec language variant from Oaxaca, México. Galant is also González Franco’s McNair Scholars Program mentor.
“Dr. Galant and I began our work on an endangered language from the town of Santa Ana Zegache in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2016,” said González Franco. “Much of what I’ve accomplished at this university is due to my mentors. I would love to come back as a faculty member and help students excel in that program, like I did.”
Cardona has collaborated on a research project with Sonal Singhal, assistant professor of biology. Their research looked at the genetic basis of evolution and speciation in lizards. For her summer research experience, Cardona, who is also a CSUDH Presidential Scholar, is considering UC San Francisco and UC San Diego where she hopes to participate in a project that focuses on disease mechanisms or treatment development. Like her fellow scholars, Cardona would like to become an educator and hopes to return to CSUDH as a biology professor, researcher, and student mentor—ideally studying complex diseases in her own lab.
“After acquiring the right experience, tools, and network I’d like to create a space and programs for students to explore their science interests and gain research experience,” said Cardona. “Ultimately, I want to be a biotechnology entrepreneur. None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the opportunities that Cal State Dominguez Hills gives us students. I’m an example of that.”