Matador Series Honors Student Success Champions

The CSUN Library. Photo by Lee Choo.

Photo by Lee Choo.

As the 2020-21 academic year approached its culmination, CSUN students voted to honor three faculty and staff members and their student body president as the 2021 Student Success Champions. The student-nominated winners were celebrated during the final session in the 2020-21 Matador S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Series.

The April 23 program, “Celebrating Student Success: Connection, Community, and Commitment,” was held virtually. The Zoom event included CSUN President Erika D. Beck, who welcomed participants and acknowledged the wide variety of people from across campus — students, faculty and staff — who collaborated this academic year to make student success possible.

“The partnerships that you have fostered across our campus over this past year, and the many student-centered initiatives that you have created, supported and participated in, truly demonstrate your deep commitment to our students’ success,” Beck said. “I’m incredibly grateful for your work in advancing equity, inclusion, justice and belonging. Thank you all for your continued commitment to our students and their success.”

Melanie Bocanegra, associate vice president for Student Success, introduced the 2021 Student Success Champions, who were selected from more than 120 nominations this year. The faculty winner was biological sciences professor Daniel Odom, who was noted for his great advice and for going above and beyond the make sure students understand the course material — whether in his class or another course.

The staff winners were Matt Soto in Student Housing and Kevin Zemlicka, an academic adviser in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences and Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). One student who nominated Soto praised him for helping find the student a safe place to live in Student Housing during the pandemic, as well as successfully guiding undergrads through their graduate school applications and lending extra support through their academic journeys. Zemlicka was noted for providing a warm welcome to the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences for students, encouraging them to take advantage of new research opportunities and to stay the course to graduation.

This year, a student category was added to the Student Success Champions honors — and the first winner was Rose Merida, Associated Students (AS) president. Merida was noted for breaking barriers as a Latina woman, inspiring her peers, and serving as a role model through hard work and dedicated leadership.

The Zoom event and final session in this year’s Student Success series also honored the winners of the “Matador Moments” video contest. The winning submissions to the challenge, “Reflecting on Virtual Learning,” included a written reflection, original artwork and multimedia.

Kim Henige, director of Academic First-Year Experiences, also announced the winners of the Marino J. Riccomini Family Scholarships, which are awarded to CSUN freshmen twice a year — in spring and fall — to provide greater opportunities for college success.

During the program, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Mary Beth Walker thanked faculty, staff and students for their resilience and dedication during the academic year, as they persevered with online learning during the pandemic and remained committed to academic success.

“This is all our jobs to carry this work forward,” Walker said. “We all have important roles to play. Bravo to everyone who’s engaged in this work.”

Launched in fall 2019 as the Provost Student Success Series, the program of ongoing lectures centers around the efforts that CSUN students, faculty and staff can take to ensure student success. One of the purposes of the series was to create partnerships across campus, as members of the CSUN community work to help students achieve their academic and professional goals.

Slides and recordings of all seminars in the Student Success series are available on the Office of Student Success website.


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