First Two HSI Pathways Cohorts Contribute to the Ongoing Success of the Program

Eight students have received multiple acceptances with offers of full funding to prestigious Ph.D. programs nationwide — an exemplary 100 percent rate. Photo by Lee Choo.

The HSI Pathways inaugural cohort celebrate their acceptance to Ph.D. programs in 2018, with a celebration at the Orange Grove Bistro at CSUN. Photo by Patricia Carrillo.


For the second year in a row, the entire student cohort of CSUN’s HSI Pathways to the Professoriate program has accepted funded graduate school offers.

CSUN is one of three Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), in partnership with the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions, that hosts the HSI Pathways program. The mission of the program is to increase the diversity of faculty members in fields of humanities and social sciences by building a pipeline from undergraduate to Ph.D. programs. HSI Pathways is supported by a $5.1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Nine CSUN alumni from the program’s second cohort will be pursuing a Ph.D. at some of the most prestigious institutions across the country, including New York University, Northwestern University and Cornell. Altogether, the cohort received more than 44 admission offers for doctoral programs, as well as millions of dollars in funding.

“They’re deserving and brilliant students that have so much to offer, and I can’t wait to assign their [research articles] in my own classes,” said Heidi Schumacher, HSI Pathways program coordinator for CSUN.

At CSUN, participating students pair up with a faculty mentor in their future field of study and engage in a rigorous, six-week summer seminar. There, they develop their own funded research projects and master skillsets needed to thrive in a Ph.D. program, such as completing graduate applications, networking and giving professional presentations.

A selection committee comprised of CSUN faculty and administrators choose undergraduate applicants who are entering their junior year to participate in an intensive summer research program that prepares the students for admission and persistence through graduate school.

Recent graduate and HSI Pathways second cohort member Sara Almalla ’19 (Sociology) conducted a research project, “Sociocultural Diasporas: The Experiences of American Muslim Women in Post-Secondary Institutions,” which touched on topics very near and dear to Almalla. These included the Middle Eastern immigrant diaspora in the United States, gender and sexuality in Muslim communities, and intersectional feminist theory.

Sociology professor Moshoula Capous-Desyllas, who served as her mentor in the program, helped oversee the research project.

“Having Moshoula specifically dedicated to work with me was amazing, because she’s an expert in my field,” Almalla said. “I definitely couldn’t have done it without her because she was a huge support and was able to guide me in the right direction all the time.”

Similarly, Paolo Aiello ’19 (Central American Studies/Spanish Literature), also a member of the second cohort, expressed great appreciation toward his faculty mentor, Chicana/o studies professor Alicia Estrada. He said Estrada provided valuable knowledge and academic experience during the development of Aiello’s research project, “Disabling Testimonio: Exploring the Testimonials of Undocumented and Disabled Immigrants from Honduras.”

The research project included elements of Aiello’s personal story, touching on his family’s immigration history and critical race theory, post-colonialism and migration.

“The HSI Pathways program is made up of the most amazing, most supportive mentors, who are deeply passionate about our projects and about helping us cultivate those projects in a way that we could then pitch to graduate schools and continue to pursue them,” Aiello said.

Almalla has started a doctorate program in the ethnic studies Ph.D. at UC San Diego this fall, and Aiello headed east to NYU, where he is enrolled in the doctoral program in American Studies.

“While it’s rigorous, I most definitely recommend others interested in becoming a professor apply to HSI Pathways,” Aiello said. “It provides a lot of resources, a lot of support and, of course, the cooperation and collaboration provided by the professors who give so much of themselves, their time, energy and work, to ensure our success.”

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