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Francisca Beer, a professor of accounting and finance at Cal State San Bernardino, has been named a recipient of the California State University’s Faculty Innovation & Leadership Award for her work in promoting and facilitating student scholarly research and creative activities. Beer, who joined CSUSB in 1990, is one of 26 academics in the CSU being recognized by the system for their crucial work in improving student achievement, and their leadership toward reaching the system’s collective Graduation Initiative 2025 goals. The CSU Faculty Innovation & Leadership Award was created to recognize the vitally important role that faculty play in providing high-quality instruction and their commitment to student success. The awards, including some granted to campus teams, recognize faculty leaders who have implemented innovative practices that significantly improve student success. Award recipients teach and have expertise in a variety of fields from accounting to social work to mathematics. “I am truly honored to receive this award,” Beer said. “I am proud of the Office of Student Research. The office success is due to the hard work of all the amazing students involved and the dedication of the outstanding faculty members who are supporting them.” Beer, who returned to teaching accounting and finance earlier this year, served as the initial director of the CSUSB Office of Student Research (OSR), whose “mission has been to facilitate the engagement of students in scholarly and creative activities related to their disciplines by providing resources that support both student scholars and faculty mentors.” Under her direction, the OSR established in 2012 the “Meeting of the Minds,” a daylong campus-wide symposium that highlights student research across disciplines through poster sessions, oral presentations, creative performances and keynote speakers. The event has grown in attendance every year. In 2018 there were 250 presentations from the university’s five academic colleges. “Dr. Beer has done an amazing job to increase and enhance research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in every college here at Cal State San Bernardino with the goal on how to best serve our students,” said university President Tomás D. Morales. CSUSB Provost Shari McMahan praised Beer for her work to increase student research as opportunities boost student confidence and encourage them, and in working with faculty to help students. “Francisca personifies the great work and enthusiasm of our faculty in preparing our students for their academic careers and life after graduation,” McMahan said. The CSU Faculty Innovation & Leadership Award also acknowledges faculty who have demonstrated leadership at the department, college or university level to improve student success and outcomes in courses with traditionally low success rates or persistent equity gaps. Faculty innovation is crucial to reaching the ambitious student success goals outlined in the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025. This university-wide effort advances specific goals to eliminate equity gaps and significantly improve degree completion. Award recipients will be formally honored in mid-October at the upcoming third-annual Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium hosted this year in San Diego, California. Each award includes a $5,000 cash award and $10,000 to be allocated to academic departments to support awardee activities. In the case a team is a recipient, they will split the award evenly among the members of the team. Awardee activities may include:
- reduction in teaching load,
- contract continuation for lecturers,
- equipment to promote effective teaching,
- campus convening to demonstrate award-winning practices,
- professional development, and
- other activities determined by the awardee.
Kimberly Cousins, a professor and chair of the CSUSB Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, praised Beer’s work in developing the “Meeting of the Minds.” “Surveys show that students, faculty and administrators value the events. Students report better research skills, communication skills and commitment from the university toward their success,” wrote Cousins in a letter to the awards committee. “As both an OSR board member, and as a faculty mentor of participating research students, I believe ‘Meeting of the Minds’ has had a strong, positive influence on campus: raising the stature of student research, developing understanding and appreciation of student and faculty research and scholarly activity across disciplines, and promoting student success in a meaningful way.” Faculty members also indicated how the OSR helped their students. Wrote one faculty member, The Office of Student Research “has been extremely beneficial to my students in preparing a research proposal for a class project. The students are able to seek additional help from the Peer Research Consultant on questions regarding research design and equipment. I have been able to incorporate more high impact practices in my courses due to this program.' Another faculty member wrote, “Words cannot express how beneficial this program has been to us over here in the music department.” And another wrote, “On several occasions students have mentioned that seeing someone just like them in such a position and with responsibilities makes it realistic for them as well. They also felt they had a higher success of better grade due to having additional help. As a faculty, it helps me when the research consultant provides me feedback as well and the perspective of a student so I can modify lectures as needed.” Along with the research, the OSR has been successful in securing grants that benefit both students and faculty, including the Chancellor Incentive, ASSP, S-STEM and MMUF grants. Beer has also served as co-principal investigator to a $5 million National Science Foundation grant that will contribute to student success in STEM fields over the next five academic years. She also served as co-principal investigator for the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, a two-year program at CSUSB that provides financial support, research mentorship and assistance with graduate school applications.