Four Cal State San Bernardino students have been named to the 2021-22 California Pre-Doctoral Program and are among the 76 CSU Sally Casanova California Pre-Doctoral Scholars.

CSUSB graduate students Mary Garcia, Juliyana Hasround and George Romero, and undergraduate student Stepfanie Alfonso were chosen by the Pre-Doctoral Program Advisory Committee.

The awardees will be able to participate in doctoral-level research activities and explore joining Ph.D. programs at UCs or other doctoral-granting institutions, said Dorota Huizinga, the CSUSB associate provost for research and dean of graduate students.

“Congratulations to the 2021-22 Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholars! We are very proud that four outstanding CSUSB students were selected to this very competitive CSU system-wide initiative,” Huizinga said. “The Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Program has a 33-year long tradition and never before CSUSB has been granted more than two scholarships. This is indeed our record year!”

“This success is a great testimonial to our unwavering commitment to student academic excellence, the dedication of faculty mentors, and the leadership of Dr. Caroline Vickers, director, Office of Graduate Studies, who coordinates this program on our campus and provides supports for student applicants,” Huizinga said. “My wholehearted congratulations go to Stephanie Alfonso, Mary Garcia, Juliyana Hasround, George Romero, and their faculty mentors Drs. Julie Taylor, Jacob Jones, Megan Carrol and Sunny Hyon!”

The California Pre-Doctoral Program was created 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.

Mary Garcia, who is pursuing a master’s degree in clinical counseling and psychology, earned a bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology and minor in Spanish, graduating cum laude from CSUSB in 2019.

Her academic goal is to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in neuropsychology. She intends to research neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. She is mentored by Jacob Jones, an assistant professor of psychology.

“Currently, there are no known cures or treatment for people who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases. At best, treatment for patients is aimed to alleviate symptoms and other comorbidities (i.e., motor movement, depression, anxiety, etc.),” Garcia said. “I am interested in contributing to this specific field of research as I hope to positively impact the lives of those who suffer from neurodegenerative disorders.”

Juliyana Hasround, who is in the master’s program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology, graduating summa cum laude from CSUSB in 2020.  

Hasround plans to pursue a doctorate in education, intending to research societal access to quality education. She is mentored by Megan Carroll, an assistant professor in sociology.

“I am interested in finding answers to questions such as, what types of capital are necessary to help students from lower-income households succeed in higher education? And how might adult role models in high school affect lower-income high school students’ choices to pursue higher education versus vocational training?” Hasround said. “My background in sociology equipped me with the capability to identify a few areas where our educational system can be improved, especially based on educational equality. While many believe that our school system directs students based upon skills and merit, I tend to see this system through the lens of a conflict theorist.”

George Romero is pursuing a master’s degree in English and writing studies, with a concentration in applied linguistics and Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). Romero earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Wesleyan University in 1993. He worked in content distribution for HBO and Viacom Networks for several years before switching gears to pursue his academic interests.

Romero intends to study English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), a field that has developed out of research into English as a global language and the diverse populations of people who use English as a foreign or second language around the world. He is mentored by Sunny Hyon, a professor in the English department.

“My research goals center on elucidating how ELF speakers utilize ELF to form their larger social identity,” Romero said. “Specifically, I plan to comprehensively theorize ELF as operating not only as a linguistic phenomenon but more so as an integral social practice.”

Stepfanie Alfonso, who is majoring in communication studies-relational and organizational communication with a minor in anthropology, intends to pursue a doctoral program in organizational communication and has been preparing for doctoral work through the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program. She is mentored by Julie Taylor, an associate professor in the communication studies department.

“As I have taken courses that explore each area of study in the discipline, I have found that my research tendencies gravitate towards organizational communication. Specifically, I am interested in how an individual communicates their identities in an organizational setting,” Alfonso said. “In order to explore this area of study, I rely on theory to ground my research and create a strong foundation to explain the phenomenon. Considering that identity is a complex aspect to investigate, the theories that illuminate this aspect are social identity theory and identity theory.”

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 2021 to apply for a 2022 summer research experience at a doctoral-granting institution if they will not be enrolled in a Ph.D. program in fall 2022.

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.