For Misealle “Ellie” Tolliver, education has always been a place of refuge – a safe space where she could be herself and achieve all the possibilities within herself. In her own words, it’s been a source of hope in her life.

“It has always challenged me to believe in things greater than myself and helped me recognize the many possibilities there are in life,” she says. “It taught me that if I worked hard enough, I could achieve my aspirations; I could grow into a person that can make a difference in this world.”

Because of this, it is no surprise that Tolliver is on her way to obtaining her third college degree – each one from Cal State San Bernardino. And it’s the reason she has been selected for the 2022-23 California State University Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement, the CSU’s highest recognition of success. Tolliver has been named the Steinhauser Family Scholar for the donor-funded CSU Trustees’ Award and will receive a $7,000 scholarship. 

“I feel so humbled to be chosen to represent our campus and Coyote community,” she says. “It’s such an amazing feeling to have all your hard work, time and sacrifices recognized.”

Only one student from each of the CSU system’s 23 campuses is selected for an award, which is based on superior academic performance, exemplary community service and significant personal accomplishments.

Growing up bi-racial, Tolliver struggled with her identity and self-esteem, and yearned for a sense of belonging. Often faced with bullying and racism, Tolliver found comfort in learning. Her experiences have led her to an academic journey and career in education, with the goal of providing an inclusive, safe space for all students to learn and grow.

“Education helped me grow up and develop the skills necessary to not only help myself, but to help others,” says Tolliver, who earned her bachelor’s in English literature, MBA in management and is currently working toward her master’s in education – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), all from CSUSB.

“What can I say, I love CSUSB, and I am a Coyote for life!” she affirms. “The reason why CSUSB was and is my university of choice is because of the unwavering support I received throughout my college career.”

A first-generation student, Tolliver notes that CSUSB has always made her feel welcomed, accepted and supported the moment she stepped on campus. All three programs, she says, have prepared her for a successful career and have helped her grow.

Tolliver has followed her passion to work in education and currently teaches in CSUSB’s English Language Program (ELP) in the College of Global Innovation.

“I have always wanted to work in education and to have a career that helped inspire people to learn and achieve their dreams. Being a teacher is an aspiration that has come true for me,” she says. “I love teaching students from all over the world! So, I hope to continue making education an opportunity not only for my local community, but for global communities as well.”

In her spare time, Tolliver also volunteers as a tutor with various school districts to help English Language Development (ELD) students meet their language proficiency goals as well as provide a culturally inclusive space.

Tolliver and the other 22 CSU recipients will meet at the CSU Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 13 for an awards ceremony, where the Trustees and interim Chancellor Jolene Koester will congratulate the honorees in person. The ceremony takes place at the CSU Office of the Chancellor in Long Beach.

“Never in my life would I have imagined being the one student chosen from my university to receive an award,” Tolliver says. “This is just another symbol of grace assuring me that I am on the track in life.

“I hope to give back all that I have received from my experience at CSUSB to others, so they too can reach their goals, achieve their dreams, and create a better life for themselves and those around them,” she says. “I know that life has its challenges and setbacks, but having hope and something to look forward to and work towards, like an education, has saved my life and I am so grateful."