Sarah Garcia, Sarah LaGioia, Ramtin Ranjpour and Luisa Rosa Notarangelo Lange were named the College of Arts and Letters’ outstanding students and were honored at its Spring Commencement ceremony on May 18.

Ranjpour, named an Outstanding Graduate Student, earned his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering at San Diego State University but decided to pursue his interest in strategic communications in graduate school at CSUSB, earning his master’s degree in communication studies.

I chose to change my path after getting my bachelor’s degree to experience something different,” said Ranjpour. “I had an amazing communication professor in undergrad who made me interested in the field of communication. I honestly did not have a clear vision of what I wanted to do at first. However, I quickly realized I was passionate about strategic communication.”

After graduation, Ranjpour will continue his academic journey at the University of Oregon in the School of Journalism and Communication as he pursues his doctorate degree. Ultimately, Ranjpour would like to work in a research-focused position in the field and be a lecturer at a university.  

For Ranjpour, making his mother proud and succeeding in graduate school have been his greatest achievements. An international student from Tehran, Iran, he decided to pursue his higher education in the U.S.

“My mom and her resilience have always been my biggest inspiration,” said Ranjpour. “She has done everything for me and the least I have been able to do is to make her feel proud.”

Ranjpour added, “I am also proud to have come halfway across the world facing countless adversities yet thriving in grad school and doing my best to continue navigating my journey.”

The support Ranjpour received at CSUSB played an instrumental role in his success in graduate school.

“CSUSB was pretty much the only institution that believed in me to succeed in the field of communication,” said Ranjpour. “I had an underwhelming undergrad GPA and was coming from a completely different field. Nevertheless, the amazing scholars at our department believed in me and along with so many others gave me all the resources to succeed. CSUSB gave me the trust I needed to define my future.”

LaGioia, also named an Outstanding Graduate Student, will be a two-time alumna after she graduates with a master’s degree in English and writing studies, with a concentration in applied linguistics and teaching English as a second language.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in linguistics and minor in Asian studies. As an undergraduate, LaGioia studied abroad in Taiwan, which solidified her interest in teaching English as a second/foreign language.

“I chose an English linguistics path because I have always been fascinated by language and how we communicate with others,” said LaGioia. “This field of study led to a deep appreciation for multilingualism and the steps people take to learn the language(s) that will allow them to interact meaningfully with a wider portion of the world. Language opens doors and understanding how the English language works allows me to better assist others in acquiring it.”

In addition to linguistics, LaGioia has a passion for writing, which also aids her in her teaching career.

“I did not want to neglect my interest in writing. I picked up a second graduate concentration in public and professional writing to help me achieve success with written communication and creation,” said LaGioia. “Now, as a dual concentrator, I feel better prepared to enter a diversifying market wherein I can help others to communicate and can also communicate my thoughts in an impactful way.”

LaGioia would like to be a writer and educator, teaching English as a second/foreign language. She received a Fulbright grant for an English teaching assistantship, which provided her hands-on experience in her desired career. After her study abroad experience, LaGioia wanted to return to Taiwan to teach English as a foreign language, and she was able to accomplish that goal through the international program. While in Taiwan, she learned about multilingualism and multiculturalism, teaching English as a foreign language, and cross-cultural communication and relationship building.

Lange, one of the two Outstanding Undergraduate Students, will receive her bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Spring Commencement. Reflecting on her major, she said, “I enjoy design because it allows me to solve problems visually. It combines my love of art with my passion for puzzles.”

Lange’s academic journey has spanned seven years and included various paths. At 18, she traveled to London to attend the University of Roehampton as a film student. Despite the difficulties, including weather and a school culture that were “not a good fit for me,” she completed her 18 months in London with high marks. Upon returning to Southern California, she enrolled at San Bernardino Valley College, where she “felt more understood and connected with my classmates.”

Her time in London was not just academically educational but also a crucial period for personal growth. “Going to London gave me a wake-up call to take my mental and physical health seriously. I have OCD, anxiety, and depression and have struggled with them since childhood,” Lange said. “The most important lesson from my time getting my bachelor’s is that it is okay to change and adjust your plan as much as you need.”

Transferring to CSUSB from San Bernardino Valley College was the smoothest part of Lange’s academic journey, a time during which she thrived. She is most proud of being recognized for her design work and academic achievements, although she notes that her favorite accomplishment will remain when she was voted “best sense of humor” for senior awards in high school.

Currently, Lange is working two jobs while seeking internships and volunteer opportunities in design, hoping to find a company where she can grow her career. In the meantime, she is focusing on her own design projects and freelancing.

Of her experience at CSUSB, Lange said, “I have loved every class, job, and campus activity I have participated in. Because of the community of professors and students at CSUSB, I am excited for my future.”

Garcia, also named Outstanding Undergraduate Student, will continue her academic journey at San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego’s joint doctoral audiology program in fall 2024. Garcia, who identifies as a Mexican American/Chicano, plans to become an audiologist and serve low income and minority populations.

“In the field of audiology, I will be a voice for Hispanics,” said Garcia. “In graduate school, I may have the opportunity to conduct research in hearing loss in farmworkers and shed light on the need for regulations of noise exposure for the workers. Graduate school allows me to combine helping people, serving others and giving back to my community with my interest in hearing science.”

Initially, Garcia chose to major in liberal studies to become a teacher. However, her passion for audiology and personal experience working with a speech language pathologist (SLP) led her down a different path. In elementary school, Garcia overcame her speech struggles with the help of a speech language pathologist. She loved the experience and found it life changing.

As bullying often comes with having a speech problem, my SLP helped me gain my confidence back,” said Garcia. “She taught me patience, forgiveness, and, quite frankly, how to be a kid again. I let my speech problem define who I was at that time, and she showed me that I was so much more than that. I owe so much to my SLP.”

Garcia is a first-generation university student and will be the first in her family to pursue a doctorate degree. Her parents inspired her to get a higher education. They have worked hard for over 30 years to provide a good life and opportunities for Garcia and her siblings; it is commonplace for her father to work 12-hour, labor-intensive shifts, while her mother works part-time, in addition to caring for the household and family.  

“Neither of my parents were able to get a college degree, so they were always encouraging my four sisters and I to pursue higher education,” said Garcia. “When I was contemplating if I should continue going to school and receive a doctorate in audiology, my parents did not hesitate to encourage me.”

Garcia added, “I am so grateful to have such selfless and giving parents. Because of the sacrifices my parents have made, they allowed me to dream big and reach for the stars.”

Assistant professors Erin Hall and Jonathan Robinson Anthony in the English department provided Garcia resources, support and encouragement throughout her educational journey at CSUSB. They served as Garcia’s mentors, professors in speech language pathology, research advisors and the first faculty advisors of the academic club she founded at CSUSB, the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association Chapter.  

“If it were not for these two amazing people, I would not be where I am today,” said Garcia. “They consistently encouraged me to challenge myself and to strive for the best.”