Audrey Millan and Sailesh Maharjan, both candidates in Cal State San Bernardino’s Doctor of Education degree (Ed.D.) in educational leadership program, are the university’s newest American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Holmes Scholars.

The Holmes Scholars Program supports racially and ethnically diverse students pursuing graduate degrees in education to be future faculty in institutions of higher education. The goal of the program is to provide mentorship, peer support and professional development opportunities to scholars

The AACTE Holmes Program was founded in 1991 for doctoral students, who will serve as outstanding candidates for future faculty and leadership positions. CSUSB, which became part of the Holmes Scholars Program in 2021, is one of nearly 40 institutions in the program and is the first public university in California to be accepted. The CSUSB Ed.D. Program, housed in the James R. Watson & Judy Rodriguez Watson College of Education, is the first such program in the California State University system to join. Both Millan and Maharjan are in the program’s cohort 16.

Millan’s research is focused on creating a holistic educational experience for neurodiverse students of color in grades 6-12. She has served as a science teacher for eight years in public, alternative, charter and private secondary schools across Southern California. A graduate of CSUSB, Millan returned home to the High Desert and is currently teaching biology and geology for Snowline Joint Unified School District. Her recent experience as a science teacher at Bridges Academy inspired her to pursue her educational doctorate so she can share research on supporting twice-exceptional students at institutions in the Inland Empire.

As a first-generation Filipina Puerto Rican scholar, diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) are at the center of her work and research. She has designed and presented professional development on anti-racist pedagogy; DEIJ in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and school-wide initiatives to support diverse student populations.

After graduating from Silverado High School in Victorville, Millan attended Riverside City College, then transferred to CSUSB, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with a minor in Asian studies. Throughout her educational journey, Millan managed to earn degrees while working and volunteering full-time. As an undergrad, Millan worked for PowerSave Campus as a team manager, Inland Empire Job Corps as a recreational specialist, and volunteered as a student researcher in CSUSB biology professor John Skillman’s Plant Physiology Lab. She earned her master’s degree from Claremont Graduate University in 2017 while working as a full-time intern teacher and local union leader. 

“Growing up in the High Desert, I felt like my options post high school were limited,” Millan said. “Although I had been in honors classes since middle school, my high school experience was uninspiring with one teacher sharing, ‘Audrey, you’re really smart, but so lazy. You’ll never go to college.’ I allowed these words to affect me for a long time, and it wasn’t until I learned about neurodiverse profiles that I realized I didn’t get the support I needed to be successful in school. My experiences drive me to be the advocate I didn’t have for my students and their families.”

Sailesh Maharjan has been an adjunct professor at CSUSB since 2017. He is experienced in mindfulness meditation and delivers talks on Buddhist Philosophy. Maharjan was a Theravadin Buddhist monk for 16 years. He spent 12 years in Sri Lanka and received two degrees in Buddhism and one in psychology from the University of Peradeniya. In 2012, he came to the United States as a religious worker to serve the Moreno Valley and San Bernardino communities for several years before pursuing a master’s degree in clinical psychology at CSUSB.

As a professor, he incorporates modern technology and novel evidence-based tools in his classes. He intends to use technology and research findings to address student mental health challenges, equitable assessment tools, student readiness, resource accessibility and inclusiveness in higher education. He also focuses on incorporating mindfulness in higher education to develop programs to bolster faculty success in delivering quality education. Maharjan plans to use his doctoral training to identify problems and implement solutions within and beyond the college, county and state education system.

Maharjan loves woodwork, painting, cooking and gardening with his wife and daughter.

Millan and Maharjan follow Angelica Agudo (cohort 15) and Rangel Zarate (cohort 14) who were the Ed.D. program’s first Holmes Scholars. Agudo’s research focuses on access to comprehensive colleges for first-generation students of color raised in single-parent homes. Zarate’s research is focused on developing a community of care in higher education, incorporating both academic and mental health support, for Filipino American college students who have experienced or have been affected by racially targeted violence in a COVID-era.  

For more information, visit the CSUSB Holmes Scholars webpage or contact the Holmes Program faculty coordinator, Karen Escalante, at

The Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership at CSUSB is a program framed around questions of equity, ethics and social justice to bring about solutions to complex problems of practice. The program is designed to prepare educational leaders with the knowledge base and skills to lead reform efforts that result in improved student outcomes and educational transformation, particularly for our Inland Empire region.