Finding Light in the Dark

CSU faculty, students and staff share their stories of gratitude for 2020.

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“A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.” — Plato

Let’s not mince words: 2020 has been a doozy. A pandemic, quarantine, murder hornets, economic uncertainty, election anxiety and civil unrest. It’d be tempting to simply bury the past 11 months, but overcoming adversity is central to the CSU’s mission. Just consider how the entire university pulled together to help facilitate the switch to virtual learning!

When things are good in life, it’s easier to be grateful for what you have. When obstacles appear, it’s a little more challenging. Despite 2020’s trials and tribulations, members of the CSU community still found plenty to be grateful for this year.

CSU Chancellor Dr. Timothy P. White

Photo of CSU Chancellor Dr. Timothy P. White

CSU Chancellor Dr. Timothy P. White

“As the days left before my retirement are waning fewer, I find the list of things I am grateful for waxing longer.

Let me start by expressing how grateful I am for you, regardless of title, duties or location; whether you are a newbie or seasoned; whether you are a student, faculty, staff, campus or system leader, trustee or friend​or a combination thereof. I am grateful for what you gave me in my early years as a CSU student, and I am humbled by and appreciative of what you have given me in these later years as your chancellor. I ask that you continue such support for Chancellor-select Castro in the new year.

And I am even more grateful for your brilliant work and wholeheartedindeed, unwavering​dedication to the CSU’s mission. It’s a mission by which we create hope, fulfill human promise and increase aspiration for a better tomorrow for our students, employees and nation, overcoming the headwinds that have come our way.

​Each and every one of you have combined to make my time as chancellor of the California State University the professional capstone to a life and career that have exceeded my wildest dreams. I have no words that can adequately express my heartfelt giving of thanks to you.”


Shannon Hernandez
Stanislaus State, Demonstration Teacher, Faculty Lecturer, Child Development Center

Photo of Shannon Hernandez

Shannon Hernandez
Stanislaus State, Demonstration Teacher, Faculty Lecturer, Child Development Center

“This year, I am grateful for the ability to teach from home, allowing me to spend more quality time with my newborn baby, witnessing many of her milestones I may have otherwise missed. I am also grateful for the Stan State students who have shown me the true meaning of compassion as they navigate this new way of learning alongside me, empowering me just as much as I seek to empower them.”


Gio Guerrero
Humboldt State, Environmental Science & Management Student

Photo of Gio Guerrero

Gio Guerrero
Humboldt State, Environmental Science & Management Student

“Prior to COVID-19, I depended on HSU's library computer lab to get my work done. Although I am no longer able to utilize the library, I am grateful for the help HSU has given me in these hard times, such as being loaned a laptop to continue my work from home and financial support from the CARES Act, which has helped me to pay for my rent after the loss of my on-campus job.”


Dr. Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall
CSU San Marcos, Professor of History

Photo of Dr. Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall

Dr. Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall
CSU San Marcos, Professor of History

“I’m so grateful to everyone who helped me retool my curriculum for our Zoom world! CSUSM’s Instructional & Information Technology Services staff (especially Allen Risley, Damon Adamo and Chuck Allen), library team and Faculty Center helped me transform my face-to-face classes to engaging online versions. The Cougar Care Network helps me support students who need extra assistance. I’m most thankful for my students—who are showing up for Zoom class excited to learn, even in these stressful times!”


Dr. Tadashi Dozono
CSU Channel Islands, Assistant Professor of History/Social Science Education

Photo Dr. Tadashi Dozono

Dr. Tadashi Dozono
CSU Channel Islands, Assistant Professor of History/Social Science Education

“I am grateful for CI’s THRIVE program [that was held over the summer] by the Teaching and Learning Innovations team because it provided both ready-to-use tools and templates and long-term philosophical approaches to serve my students’ needs with an equity mindset. THRIVE’s module-based structure engaged me through the perspective of a student in an online course and helped me self-reflect on my own needs as an online learner.


Myra Petgrave
Chancellor’s Office, Production & Administrative Assistant, Communications & Public Affairs

Photo of Myra Petgrave

Myra Petgrave
Chancellor’s Office, Production & Administrative Assistant, Communications & Public Affairs

“When the pandemic began, my son Neeko’s Individual Education Program could no longer be implemented by his teachers in person and required more of my support than ever. I was unsure how I’d be able to balance working full-time from home and helping my son finish elementary school virtually. ​I was extremely grateful for [Chancellor's Office Director of Human Resources] Kristy Hawman’s message and [Human Resources Manager] Erica Zuniga’s support for 'new temporary paid administrative leave provisions during the coronavirus pandemic. I’m grateful for [Assistant Vice Chancellor of Communications] Mark Woodland’s and [Director of Collaborative Services & Operations] Caron Laird’s empathy and flexibility as they supported my request for CPAL time off and helped manage my workload. I used partial hours during the week to help my son with his Zoom classes and questions on his assignments, and we made it through his fifth-grade culmination!”


Zona Zaragoza
Stanislaus State Stockton Campus, Student Services Specialist, Stanislaus State Double Alumna

Photo of Zona Zaragoza

Zona Zaragoza
Stanislaus State Stockton Campus, Student Services Specialist, Stanislaus State Double Alumna

“We started a gratitude board so our family could write the things they’re grateful for during these challenging times. The youngest contributor is my three-year-old grandson, while the oldest contributor is my 82-year-old mother. When a negative comment is mentioned, we follow the negative comment with three positive comments. I can honestly say this activity reframes your mind, and you start thinking and speaking more positively.”


Ozzy Hernandez
CSU Channel Islands, Political Science Student

Photo of Ozzy Hernandez

Ozzy Hernandez
CSU Channel Islands, Political Science Student

“I’m extremely grateful that I could check out a laptop and hotspot this semester. I had qualms about virtual learning because I just cannot afford basic internet. Before the pandemic, the library was my second home because I freely accessed the computers, printed papers and spent time productively. There are so many resources the library offers that I feel sad about eventually leaving it. I plan to graduate by spring 2021.”


Katie Musick
Sonoma State, Degree Audit and Catalog Analyst

Photo of Katie Musick 

Katie Musick
Sonoma State, Degree Audit and Catalog Analyst

“When I look back at 2020, I will remember the unprecedented challenges we faced but also that Sonoma State University met those challenges with compassion, creativity and an unfathomable amount of incredible work. From how quickly we shifted the university to a remote setting to our ongoing efforts to provide students with a high-quality educational experience, the staff at Sonoma State has gone above and beyond in the wake of the pandemic.

“During these turbulent times, I’m thankful for the co-workers who have taken a moment to ask how I am doing and go out of their way to stay connected when it would be so easy to lose touch. Despite the fact that we are remote, we have created a campus community that is unique and, in many ways, stronger and closer than when we were in person.

“Also, I’m grateful that Sonoma State put the health and safety of its students and employees at the forefront of its pandemic-related decision-making and shifted most of its activities to a remote setting. I’ll be forever grateful that because I was working from the safety of my home, I had the privilege to see my one-year-old son take his first steps. There are so many unknowns during the pandemic, but SSU’s commitment to shared governance and transparency in communication has helped me feel optimistic about the future.”


See more examples of how the CSU bands togethe​r during a time of crisis.