Out of 250 applicants and as part of the California Pre-Doctoral Program, two Cal State San Bernardino students are among the 77 Sally Casanova California Pre-Doctoral Scholars for 2020-21.

The Pre-Doctoral Program Advisory Committee selected Nora Nickoel Bianey Ortega, majoring in special education rehabilitation and counseling, and Shane Burrell, majoring in communication studies.

The California Pre-Doctoral Program is designed to increase the pool of potential California State University faculty by supporting the doctoral aspirations of CSU students who have experienced economic and educational disadvantages. Sally Casanova Scholars receive funding for educational activities, one-on-one guidance provided by faculty members within the CSU and the opportunity to work with faculty from doctoral-granting institutions.

Ortega maintains a 3.96 GPA while serving her campus and community as the president for the Counseling Graduate Student Association, as a mentor for the Hope Maker Mentor Program, and as an advisor for the Educational Talent Search Program.

“Nora Nickoel is a tremendous asset to our counseling program and our CSUSB community. She has proven not only to be an outstanding graduate student in the classroom but has also taken an active leadership role, serving as the president of the Counseling Graduate Student Association,” said Edwin Hernandez, assistant professor of special education rehabilitation and counseling. “As her faculty mentor, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to learn and work with Nora Nickoel. She is well-deserving of this recognition, which will be an excellent opportunity to develop further her professional, research, and academic goals as a graduate student.”

Ortega aspires to pursue a doctoral degree in educational psychology to become a professor at a Hispanic Serving Institution with hopes to inspire students from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve their educational goals.

Burrell’s areas of interest include machine-human interactions, innovative technologies, media and cultural communication and Latino communication. He is currently involved in a research study exploring role adaptations of participants who use virtual reality, developing new concepts in virtual reality and an ethnographic study of Japanese adaptations of the Chicano communities in the United States.

“As Shane’s advisor, I feel privileged to have observed his growth academically and personally,” said Mihaela Popescu, professor of communication studies. “He has a laser-like focus on his goal to become a scholar and to build a successful academic career. His research with the xREAL Lab at ITS on how people identify with characters in virtual reality will advance knowledge of presence and immersion in this new medium. We expect to see great things from him!”

Burrell’s goal is to continue the research he is conducting on virtual reality to a Ph.D. program and develop theory on virtual reality. Specifically, he hopes to establish new pedagogies and practical use of virtual reality in society and education. In the future, he would like to teach students how to use innovative technologies to implement change within their communities by showing new ways to approach specific problems that impact student communities.

The Sally Casanova scholarship supports a plan developed with each student’s faculty mentor. The plan may include: (1) travel for the scholar to visit doctoral-granting institutions and to attend professional meetings; (2) acquisition of materials such as reference books, software and journal subscriptions; and (3) subsidy toward costs of doctoral program application fees, graduate entrance examinations and preparation for entrance examinations.

The selected scholars will also have the opportunity during fall 2020 to apply for a 2021 summer research experience at a doctoral-granting institution if they will not be enrolled in a Ph.D. program in fall 2021.

A preliminary follow-up study of former Sally Casanova Scholarship awardees indicates that more than 40 percent enter a doctoral program by the term following their pre-doctoral scholar year.

To view all of this year’s and past scholars, visit the CSU’s Sally Casanova Scholars webpage.