The California State University Office of the Chancellor is excited to host the Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium on October 17 and 18, 2018 in San Diego. The symposium will engage national higher education leaders, practitioners and members of the CSU community in rich exchanges focused on improving degree completion.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Elizabeth Adams Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Studies / Associate Vice President of Student Success,
California State University, Northridge
Prior to working in Undergraduate Studies, she served as the Associate Dean of the College of Humanities and the Director of the Liberal Studies Program at CSUN. Adams holds degrees in history, literature, and folklore and earned her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include popular culture, gender, sexuality, material culture, and festival.
Farhonda Alizada, Student of Political Science and Global Studies, California State University San Marcos
Farhonda Alizada is a senior double majoring in Political Science and Global Studies with a minor in Film Studies. She is originally from Kabul, Afghanistan and moved to the United States as a refugee in 2002 immediately after her family was granted political asylum by the United Nations. Although she was raised in a traditional environment, Alizada aims to be unconventional and break both the cultural and gender barriers she grew up with. The encouragement from her faculty and peers at CSUSM has empowered Alizada to overcome the insecurity and hesitancy that many low-income, first generation college students face.
Michael Berman, Chief Technology Innovation Officer, CSU Office of the Chancellor
Michael Berman is the Chief Innovation Officer for the Information Technology Service division at the California State University Office of the Chancellor, where he is creating a first-of-its-kind innovation function to serve technology departments at the 23 CSU campuses. He has twenty years of leadership experience in higher education and spent more than 16 years as the senior campus technology leader for 4 institutions of higher education. Berman holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science and has served as Professor at Rowan University, consultant, author, and systems developer. He is the past Board of Directors Chair for The New Media Consortium (NMC), original publisher of the annual NMC Horizon Report, now published by EDUCAUSE.
Goldie Blumenstyk, Senior Writer, Chronicle of Higher Education
Goldie Blumenstyk joined The Chronicle of Higher Education in 1988. Now a senior writer, she is a nationally known expert on the business of higher education, for profit-colleges, and innovation in and around academe. A winner of multiple awards from the Education Writers Association, she has reported for The Chronicle from China, Europe, Israel, and Peru, and has contributed to The New York Times and USA Today. Blumenstyk is the author of The Washington Post best-selling book American Higher Education in Crisis? What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2015). She is a graduate of Colgate University, where she majored in history, and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Kaira Bradley, Student of Communications (Public Relations), Sacramento State University
Kaira Bradley is graduating from Sacramento State University in the Spring 2019 semester with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations. She served as a peer mentor in the First Year Experience (FYE) program, where she fell in love with helping students reach their maximum potential at Sacramento State. In addition, Bradley became one of seven Student Success Ambassadors for her university where she held workshops to teach students about the different tools the university has provided them with to graduate on time. After graduation Bradley hopes to attend graduate school to earn her Masters in Education.
Amir DabirianVice President of Information TechnologyCalifornia State University Fullerton
Amir Dabirian oversees all enterprise services of IT in support of the university’s mission and strategic plan. Amir’s vision of technological innovation has transformed the university into a model 21st-century learning environment that is secure and sustainable. Using innovations such as enhanced active learning environments, strategic partnerships, and utilization of open source and cloud-based software has led to a more efficient infrastructure environment. Dabirian has taught multiple courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in Information Systems and Decision Sciences, Accounting, Computer Science and Extended Educations departments. He also speaks publicly on information technology at numerous conferences and events hosted by organizations such as the Association of American Colleges & Universities and EDUCAUSE.
Frank Harris Professor of Postsecondary Education, College of Education Co-Director, Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL) San Diego State University
Frank Harris III, Ed.D., is best known for his expertise in racial [in]equity in postsecondary education. He has made important contributions to the field of college student development and the social construction of gender and race in college contexts. His work prioritizes populations that have been historically underrepresented and underserved in education. Harris’s scholarship has been published in leading journals for higher education and student affairs research and practice. He has delivered more than 500 academic and professional presentations and his commentary has been sought by media outlets including CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, to name a few. Harris has worked as a student affairs educator and college administrator in the areas of student affairs administration, student crisis support and advocacy, new student orientation programs, multicultural student affairs, academic advising and enrollment services. Harris earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies at Loyola Marymount University, a master’s degree in speech communication at California State University Northridge and a doctorate in higher education from the University of Southern California.
Jacob Howard, Student of Civil Engineering and African American Studies, California State University Fullerton
Jacob Howard II is a first generation student at California State University, Fullerton. Howard is a double major in Civil Engineering and African American Studies. These experiences have provided him with a unique perspective on the education system. Through the lenses of STEM and liberal arts, Howard is keenly aware of needs of current and incoming peers. Focused on community building, retention and visibility tactics, Howard actively serves as an advocate for underrepresented communities on campus and around Southern California. Howard’s previous roles include serving as the Polemarch of the Lambda Beta Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., President of Alliance for the Preservation of African Consciousness, External Vice President of the Black Student Union, Outreach Chair for National Society of Black Engineers, and involvement in the California State University, Fullerton Faculty Hiring Committee.
Elisha JarrettAssociate Director, University Advisement CenterGeorgia State University
Ms. Jarret has held a diversity of leadership roles and is most passionate about strategic planning in higher education. She currently serves as the Associate Director of the University Advisement Center, a centralized advising office, and directly oversees advising of freshman, sophomore, and junior level students across Georgia State University's nine Colleges and Schools. Her work centers on implementing and refining innovative advising strategies and programs to increase undergraduate student learning and success.
Jillian Kinzie Associate Director Center for Postsecondary Research and the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Institute Indiana University School of Education
Jillian Kinzie, Ph.D., conducts research and leads project activities on effective use of student engagement data to improve educational quality, and serves as senior scholar with the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA). She is co-author of “Assessment in Student Affairs” (2016), “Using Evidence of Student Learning to Improve Higher Education” (2015), “Student Success in College” (2005/2010), and “One Size Does Not Fit All: Traditional and Innovative Models of Student Affairs Practice” (2008/2014). She is co-editor of “New Directions in Higher Education” and serves on the boards of the Washington Internship Institute and the Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. Kinzie earned her Ph.D. from Indiana University in higher education with a minor in women’s studies. Prior to this, she served on the faculty of Indiana University and coordinated the master’s program in higher education and student affairs. She also worked in academic and student affairs at Miami University and Case Western Reserve University.
Jim Larimore Chief Officer ACT Center for Equity in Learning
Jim Larimore is chief officer for the ACT Center for Equity in Learning, where he leads ACT’s strategy to engage students, families, educators and communities to promote equity in learning and success. Larimore’s team develops programs, research and partnerships to improve college and career readiness for all students. His career in higher education focuses on college access and student success. He has served as deputy director for student success at the Gates Foundation, and as a student affairs leader at campuses including Stanford, Dartmouth, Swarthmore and NYU Abu Dhabi. Larimore served on the Advisory Council for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, and now serves on the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions Advisory Council and the International Student Affairs Advisory Board for the Universidad de Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico.
Erick I. Macias-Chavez, Student of Sociology (Race & Ethnicity), San Jose State University
Erick Macias-Chavez is a fourth-year transfer student, majoring in Sociology with a focus on race and ethnicity. Macias-Chavez is also a student-intern at the Chicanx / Latinx Student Success Center at San Jose State University. He was born and raised in San Jose, CA, in an diverse, small, migrant neighborhood. His passion is education, and he strives to help students of color gain admission to college and help them succeed in their academic careers.
Andrew Magliozzi, CEO and Co-founder of AdmitHub
AdmitHub is a chatbot that combines behavioral science with artificial intelligence to help colleges provide automated support to students. Magliozzi has dedicated his career to developing technology to help students succeed. Before founding AdmitHub, he founded a tutoring company, a non-profit open education venture, and served as a consultant to a natural language processing startup. Andrew has an undergraduate degree from Harvard College.
Crystal S. Mitchell Director, University Advisment CenterGeorgia State University
Ms. Mitchell has served as the Director of the University Advising Center of Perimeter College, the two-year college of Georgia State University. The UAC is an integral component of the Office of Student Success at GSU and provides academic and transition advisement services for students matriculating at the five satellite and online campuses. Ms. Mitchell’s key responsibilities include managing the Perimeter College advising centers, implementing strategic advising strategies, developing cross functional collaborations in support of student success at the two year and four levels, and presenting professional development and resources for UAC advisors and assistant directors.
Timothy M. Renick Vice President, Enrollment Management and Student Success Vice Provost and Professor of Religious Studies Georgia State University
Since 2008, Timothy Renick, Ph.D., has directed the student success and enrollment efforts of the university, overseeing among the fastest improving graduation rates in the nation and the elimination of all achievement gaps based on students’ race, ethnicity or income level. Renick has testified on strategies for helping university students succeed before the U.S. Senate and has twice been invited to speak at the White House. His work has been covered by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and CNN and cited by President Obama. He was named one of 2016’s Most Innovative People in Higher Education by Washington Monthly and was the recipient of the 2015-16 Award for National Leadership in Student Success Innovation. He currently is principal investigator for a $9 million U.S. Department of Education grant to study the impact of proactive, predictive-analytics-based advisement on 10,000 low-income and first-generation students nationally.
Ayşe Şahin Professor and Chair, Department of Mathematics and Statistics Wright State University
Ayşe Şahin, Ph.D., author of an inquiry-based advanced undergraduate text on dynamical systems, focuses her research on actions of amenable groups. She has published in the areas of orbit equivalence of group actions, tilings of groups and special representations of group actions. Şahin also has interests in curriculum development and teacher training. She has designed special mathematics courses for science majors and future and practicing teachers. She was co-director of a Master in Middle School Mathematics Education program and has designed and organized professional development programs for teachers in the Common Core State Standards in mathematics. Şahin is interested in inquiry-based learning methods in the college classroom and has co-authored an inquiry-based advanced undergraduate level text on dynamical systems. Şahin holds a bachelor’s in mathematics from Mount Holyoke College, and a master’s and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Alisha Sharma Student of Business AdministrationCalifornia State University Chico
Alisha Sharma is a first-generation student at Chico State University. She is a senior graduating in Spring 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, honors in Project Management and a minor in Communication Studies. Since her first year on campus, Sharma has been actively involved with the Associated Students student government and previously served as a Commissioner and Executive Vice President. Through this, she discovered her passion for helping her peers and underrepresented communities on campus know that they belong and can succeed. Now, Sharma has the opportunity to do that by representing the student body as Associated Students President –a role she has been in since January 2018. Sharma plans to continue her education after Chico State and hopes to keep positively impacting people's lives wherever she goes.
Ryan J. Smith Executive Director The Education Trust–West
Ryan J. Smith is currently the executive director of The Education Trust – West, a research and advocacy organization focused on educational justice and the high academic achievement of all California students, particularly those of color and living in poverty. His previous roles include serving as the director of education programs and policy for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Senior Director of Family and Community Engagement for Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and coordinating Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS), a Los Angeles-based coalition of civil rights, education and community advocacy groups dedicated to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps for students-of-color and students living in poverty. Smith is a current Annie E. Casey Foundation Children and Family Fellow and doctoral candidate in education at UCLA. He has authored more than a dozen editorials and opinion pieces published in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, EdSource and others.
Jamienne S. Studley President WASC Senior College and University Commission
Jamienne Studley became the sixth president of WASC Commission in January 2018. Previously, she was deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education from 2013 to 2016, at times also acting in the positions of under secretary and assistant secretary for postsecondary education. Her focus included accreditation and accountability, development of the College Scorecard, campus climate issues and student success strategies. Studley also served on the federal advisory committee on accreditation, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) from 2008 to 2013 (chair, 2011-13). Earlier, Studley was the department’s deputy and then acting general counsel from 1993 to 1999.
Studley has served in a number of other higher education roles, including the first female president of Skidmore College; associate dean and lecturer at Yale Law School and scholar in residence at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She has also been professor of practice in public policy at Mills College, adjunct faculty at UC Berkeley and Stanford Law Schools, board member of the Association of American Colleges & Universities and served on the Visiting Committee at Harvard Law School. A graduate of Barnard College (magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard Law School, Studley also served as National Policy Advisor for Beyond 12 and an independent consultant on institutional effectiveness, accreditation and leadership.
Frederick Uy Co-Director, Center for Advancement of Instruction in Quantitative Reasoning (CAIQR) Director of Educator Preparation and Public School Programs California State University Chancellor’s Office
Frederick Uy, Ed.D., is an expert in mathematics, who holds a doctoral degree in mathematics education from Columbia University, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in pure and applied mathematics. Dr. Uy has done extensive work in advancing elementary and secondary curriculum and instruction in mathematics as a professor and chair of the Division of Curriculum and Instruction at Cal State LA. He has worked on many projects and programs such as Upward Bound, Early College Initiative, Mathematics Preparation Initiative (MPI), Mathematics and Science Teachers Initiative (MSTI) and Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership (MTEP). A former K-12 mathematics teacher and a published author, he continues to present at national and international conferences. Uy also collaborates with school districts, publishers and other educational organizations as a mathematics education consultant.
German Vargas Assistant Vice President for Academic Student Engagement Associate Professor of Math College of Coastal Georgia
German Vargas, Ph.D., serves as the assistant vice president for Academic Student Engagement at the College of Coastal Georgia. He has been teaching at the collegiate level for the past 13 years and is still involved in classroom instruction of courses ranging from developmental math to upper-division courses in the B.S. in Mathematics program at CCGA. In 2011, he was a key participant in the Complete College America grant initiative that funded four institutions in the University System of Georgia to enhance the success rates in developmental programs by incorporating technology and redesigning models of instruction. In January 2013, Vargas was appointed by the USG to serve as a member of the statewide Task Force on the Role of Mathematics in College Completion. He was subsequently appointed by the USG as chair of the Ad Hoc Steering Committee, the group that developed the implementation plan that guided the transformation of mathematics education throughout the system. Vargas was the 2014-2015 chair of the Academic Advisory Committee on Mathematical Subjects, and is the leader of several initiatives including the transformation at scale to adopt open educational resources in Mathematics courses, as part of the Affordable Learning Georgia efforts.
J. Luke Wood Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Education, College of Education
Co-Director of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL) San Diego State University
J. Luke Wood, Ph.D., serves as the director of the Joint Ph.D. program in education between San Diego State and Claremont Graduate University and director of the Ed.D. program in community college leadership. Dr. Wood is also Co-Director of the Community College Equity Assessment Lab (CCEAL), a national research and practice center that partners with community colleges to support their capacity in advancing outcomes for men of color. Wood’s research has been featured by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Huffington Post, Fortune Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, C-SPAN and National Press Club. Wood has authored over 120 publications and authored or edited 14 books including “Supporting Men of Color in the Community College” (2017), “Teaching Boys and Young Men of Color” (2016), and “Teaching Men of Color in the Community College” (2015). Wood received his Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies with an emphasis in higher education, and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in early childhood education, from Arizona State University. He also holds a master’s degree in higher education leadership with a concentration in student affairs and a bachelor’s degree in black history and politics from California State University, Sacramento.
All speakers will be streamed online at
#GradInitiative2025 to comment, reflect, and ask questions.
Please contact Dr. Sabrina Sanders, Director, Students Affairs Projects & Initiatives:
Access 2017 symposium resources