SDSU’s Amazing Achievements

San Diego State University is comprised of seven colleges, one which is the College of Health & Human Services. At the 2014/2015 Convocation ceremony, President Elliot Hirshman shared some of the accomplishments of the university from the last year.  Here are just a few reasons that SDSU has been rated number 14 on the US News and World Report’s list of “up and coming universities.”

Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union dedication.
Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union dedication.
  • International experiences are central to our academic programs.  And this year a record 2,000 students studied abroad, making us 22nd in the U.S. (All CHHS undergraduates are required to complete an international experience.)
  • We also received the largest grant in university history – $30 million to offer degree programs in the nation of This is an extraordinary and unprecedented opportunity to build a unique international partnership. The first class is set for fall, 2015, and initial classes will focus on science, technology, engineering and math.
  • Forbes magazine ranked us number 18 in the nation for entrepreneurship, and we are ahead of a few well-recognized institutions named Harvard and USC.
  • We opened the new Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union and Storm-Nasatir-Hostler We began renovations on the College of Business Administration and Zura Residence Hall.
  • Professors Philip Holcomb (Psychology) and Ricardo Zayas (Biology) received prestigious awards from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation. Professors Walt Oechel and Forest Rohwer, both of biology, were named to the list of the “world’s most influential scientific minds” – very significant recognition.

    Students constructed can sculptures for Aztecs Rock Hunger.
    Students constructed can sculptures for Aztecs Rock Hunger.
  • Our Aztecs Rock Hunger food drive supported our com- Our students raised 227,000 pounds of food for San Diegans in need. This was more than double the amount of last year’s drive and more than all of the other universities in San Diego combined.
  • Over 1,000 students participated in our Sage Project with National These dedi-cated students worked to improve sustainability and quality of life in National City.
  • A record 78,000 students applied for freshman admission this year, ranking us eighth in the nation for number of We also added over 100 new faculty and staff to the campus.
  • Faculty, staff and student researchers also enjoyed great success, bringing in over $108 million to the Highlights included Dr. Mark Sussman’s $8.5 million grant to repair damaged hearts, and Dr. Greg Talavera’s $2.8 million award to create effec- tive treatments for Latinos with diabetes. (Dr. Talavera’s project is part of CHHS.)
  • Dr. Ming-Hsiang Tsou introduced a method for using social media to track flu out- breaks. Dr. Ralph Axel-Mueller and Dr. Inna Fishman identified brain anomalies in autism. Our researchers explored the very nature of the universe as Dr. Fridolin Weber discovered the existence of sub-atomic quarks in far-off neutron stars. Dr. Rob Edwards and his colleagues discovered a virus that affects digestion in over half of the human population.
  • Last, but certainly not least, Aztec athletics continues a golden era. In the past year, our teams won seven conference championships, football went to a fourth consecu- tive bowl game, men’s basketball went to the Sweet 16, and Shanieka Thomas won the national championship in the triple jump. That is the fourth national champion- ship for women’s track and field in the last three years.

Looking forward, President Hirshman has set an ambitious goal for the university – to become one of the top 50 public research universities in the country. With its strong commitment to both research and clinical application, the CHHS will surely help SDSU reach this goal.

Development Office

The Power of Endowments

Rebecca Williamson
Rebecca Williamson
Development Officer
(619) 594-2868

Thanks to all of you who have contributed to the $500 million fundraising campaign over the last few years. This summer we reached our goal and this would not have been possible without your generosity and support.

After substantial consideration, the board of directors for the Campanile Foundation, SDSU’s auxiliary 501(c)(3) foundation, have decided to extend the campaign for another three years, with the goal of raising an additional $250 million. This last phase of the campaign will target opportunities to create a powerful legacy for the university. There are four primary goals for this phase:

  • Endow the Honors College
  • Build a research endowment
  • Create additional endowed scholarships and professorships
  • Construct a new engineering and interdisciplinary sciences complex, of which CHHS hopes to be a part.

President Elliot Hirshman has set the goal for SDSU to become one of the top 50 public research universities. He notes that all of these top universities have substantial endowments which provide for financial stability and the ability to plan far into the future.

SDSU is committed to remaining affordable for its students, which means limiting tuition increases. As state funding continues to decrease, the importance of private philanthropy increases. The need for a steady stream of reliable funding from endowments becomes clear when looking at this fact.

Endowed fellowships and professorships are especially important to CHHS’ future, along with the continued commitment to endowed scholarships. Endowments allow schools to recruit the best professors and top graduate students to their institution by providing for competitive salaries and stipends. And, as with many endeavors, success breeds success. More top talent, more top research and thus more people want to be part of the team.

You can help create this cycle of success by contributing to an existing endowment fund or establishing one. Although many endowment funds come into being from the generosity of individuals, many others are created and sustained by smaller gifts from many different donors. You do not need to have $1 million to start an endowment fund. Smaller amounts joining together are just as powerful. And you don’t have to fund an endowment immediately – many of the CHHS endowments result from planned gifts from bequests.

SDSU and CHHS will continue to rely on private philanthropy and we hope you will continue to support us through your gifts. I am always available to discuss options. Contact me at 619-594-2868 or

Letter from the Dean

Dear Friends,

Marilyn Newhoff

I would like to thank each and every one of you who have contributed to our fundraising campaign over the last seven years. As a first-ever campaign, it is amazing that we raised over $500 million to support the university as it moves into the future.

Through August 2014, The Campaign for SDSU raised $515,791,863, including 94 gifts of $1 million or more and $49 million from current and former faculty and staff. Sixty percent of those who supported the campaign were first-time donors.  There were 131,000 gifts and they will provide $106 million for scholarships and $320 million to support faculty and academic programs.

Within the college, we have been blessed with numerous new scholarships for our students. Those scholarships mean more nurses, social workers, public health officials, dietitians, speech-language pathologists, and many more workers in our communities. Scholarships make it possible for these students to finish their edu- cation without crippling debt and start their vital careers helping others.

We also have new research laboratory equipment and teaching tools to continue our work – both teaching students and completing the research that will lead to new and better outcomes in the future: better ways to help families in crisis; bet- ter ways to pinpoint epidemics before they overwhelm a healthcare system; better understanding of how the brain works and what therapies can help speech and language; and so many more exciting developments – too many to list here.

I, along with the students, faculty and staff of SDSU, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Warmest wishes,


Marilyn Newhoff, Dean

Outstanding Aztecs

Monty Award StatueDr. Mel Hovell Awarded Monty

Professor Melbourne Hovell received the Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Faculty Contributions. These “Montys” are awarded at the beginning of each school year and are a symbol of achievement and success presented to the most outstanding faculty members in each of SDSU’s seven colleges. Other recipients for this year’s award went to: Dr. Esther Rothblum (Arts and Letters); Dr. Mehdi Salehizadeh (Business); Dr. Ian Pumpian (Education); Dr. Yusuf Ozturk (Engineering); Dr. George Dionisopoulos (Professional Studies and Fine Arts); and Dr. Gary Girty (Sciences).

Mel Hovell
Mel Hovell

Dr. Hovell is one of the founding faculty members in the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH). Established in 1980 to create a new focus on health and human services within the university, the GSPH provides opportunities for education, research, and community involvement to advance knowledge and improve the population’s health. Throughout Dr. Hovell’s career at SDSU, he has been recognized as a leading mentor for faculty and graduate students, promoting GSPH’s values and initiatives. In 2004 he was granted the prestigious Albert W. Johnson University Research Lectureship award recognizing his outstanding achievement in research and scholarship.

For the past 26 years, Dr. Hovell has served as the director at the Center for Behavioral and Community Health. This research organization focuses on the study of behavior that prevents or contributes to the causes of disease and injury. The research team is interested in,“tobacco prevention in youth, environmental tobacco exposure reduction in children, STDs, AIDS, pregnancy prevention in adolescents, and physical activity promotion in youth and adults.”

Currently, Dr. Hovell is pioneering new technology that will help reduce smoking in the home and second-hand smoke exposure among youth, as well as promote physical activity in children and adults. The use of accelerometers to measure physical activity and a Dylos particle counters to measure smoking are central to his current research and theory development. These technologies allow real time feedback to encourage physical activity and/or dis- courage smoking. Dr. Hovell hopes to see these technologies expand over the next decade.

With a proven track record for developing engaging research, many post-doctoral students pursue research positions with Dr. Hovell. He is one of the most successful and sought after researchers in the history of SDSU, and his list of past grants and contracts total $100 million, including $15 million dollars in current grants and contracts. Dr. Hovell’s successes in teaching, research and community outreach has had a tremendous impact on the San Diego community, and we can’t wait to see the impact his research will make across the country.

Congratulations, Dr. Hovell!

New Council President is an Outstanding Aztec

Melanie Marquez
Melanie Marquez

Melanie Marquez is a lover of food, travel and science. Put those three together and you get International Food Science, or at least this is how she puts it.  Marquez is an honors student and CHHS council president majoring in Foods & Nutrition. She will be graduating this May, and will be advancing her studies in food science and technology and hopes, one day, to receive a PhD in International Food Science. Her dream career would be working for the government, specifically the Secretary of Agriculture. Marquez is a student with big dreams and enough academic dedication to realize those dreams.

Her childhood experiences contributed to her interest in food science. Marquez is originally from Tijuana, Mexico and moved to the states when she was 10 years old. During her childhood, her father traveled to San Diego for work every day. Marquez states, “We didn’t see him very often because he used to leave our house very early to cross the border (it took him up to two hours each day), and he used to get home really late.” When she was enter- ing fifth grade, her family moved to Temecula to be together and lessen the commute burden. Maybe it was her love of experiencing new things that made it so easy to acclimate and learn English in just three months. She says, “It was a good age for the move because everyone is so curious and welcoming.” Marquez’s opportunity to experience two different cultures growing up has built a solid foundation of international awareness from which grows her passion for working with other countries, developing and promoting food safety and policy.

Marquez chose SDSU because it was close to home and because of the CHHS nutrition program.  She has always loved baking and creating delicious food; and it inspired her interest for learning about the composition, properties, quality, and safety of foods and food ingredients. It turns out she excels in this multidisciplinary study too. In her sophomore year, Marquez was accepted into the exclusive honors program and many doors opened for her. It was through the honors program that she had the opportunity to travel and study in China; an experience that she’ll never forget and that fanned the flame of

her passion for new cultures. She was also introduced to Mortar Board, a national honor society for college seniors. The society recognizes students based on the qualities of superior scholastic ability, outstanding leadership, and dedicated service to the university. Mortar Board membership means active involvement on campus and in the community. Marquez is participating in two big events on campus this year: the Faculty-Staff Appreciation Dinner, and the Emeritus Faculty and Staff Outstanding Service Awards Ceremony.

In her role as CHHS council president, she ensures council meetings are productive and run smoothly. She works with the other officers, council presidents and representatives from student organizations to create events like the “Discover Your Dream” event that will be held by the CHHS and the College of Sciences. The event connects students  from both colleges with professionals in interesting and exciting careers. As she fills her role as council president, Marquez envisions SDSU students contributing more to the larger San Diego area by participating in events such as “Aztecs Rock Hunger.”

School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences

ENS Celebrates 100 Years

The history of School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences can be traced back to the inception of the State Normal School of San Diego in 1897. The school has evolved from required courses of physical training in 1902, to its own physical education department in 1914, to one that now offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in kinesiology, athletic training, foods and nutrition, and physical therapy.

An early physical education class.
An early physical education class.

The school had humble beginnings with a single class in “physical training” that was required of all students in the first year of their two year program. Nutritional sciences also took shape as “Household Arts” during the early years of the school. The first courses were “Dietetics” and “Theory and Practice of Cookery.”

In 1921, when the Normal School became the four year State Teachers College of San Diego, the physical education department expanded. Courses added to the curriculum included ”The Theory and Practice of Physical Training”, which prepared graduates to teach physical education in elementary and high schools.

During this time, Ada Hughes played a key role in advancing the department that would become nutritional sciences. A certification in homemaking was offered in 1924. Unfortunately, factors such as the stock market crash, the Great Depression and lack of space led to phasing out certain programs and the department of home economics and its academic program were cancelled. It wasn’t until 1942, when a nutrition course was offered under “Health and Physical Education”, did nutritional sciences return to campus.

Current students advertize the Student Nutrition Organization.
Current students advertize the Student Nutrition

In 1935, the State Teachers College became San Diego State College. As teaching became more specialized, a small physical education credential program was offered for the first time. The college reorganized after a number of years and in 1946 the physical education department became the “Division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation”. Academic qualifications for the department faculty became a main priority and nearly all new faculty were required to have a doctorate or to complete it within two years of appointment. This made the division one of  the highest ranking in the nation in academic qualifications.

While the physical education department grew, nutritional sciences started making a bigger presence in academic programs as well. Classified under “Home Economics,” food and nutrition courses were transferred to the “Division of Fine Arts” in 1952. For the next two decades, home economics evolved to become the “School of Family Studies and Consumer Sciences”. In 1983, food and nutritional programs were approved as separate autonomous degrees: a Bachelor of Science degree in Foods and Nutrition and a Master of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences.

In the mid-1960s, the college started shifting its institutional mission to include research and scholarly publication. Growth of graduate programs, the development of sub-disciplines within the profession, and faculty appointments being restricted to persons holding doctorate degrees; each contributed to move the college to full university status.  Faculty researchers, such as Dr. Frederick Kasch, helped lead the university into the research era. In 1970, “Health, Physical Education and Recreation” became their own separate department under the College of Professional Studies. In 1993, the physical education and nutrition degree programs were housed in the same department and in 1995 the department changed its name to “Exercise and Nutritional Sciences”. In 2011, ENS became part of the CHHS.

For over a century, this academic department has provided students with quality education in exercise, growth, health, play and recreation. Along with offering strong academic programs, the school’s faculty are also active researchers who are publishing on a range  of topics that will impact our communities everywhere. ENS seeks to serve as a nationally recognized center for professional and academic training within an environment that emphasizes scientific inquiry, discovery, and application.

Events to Celebrate ENS’ Centennial Year

To celebrate its centennial, ENS will be hosting a series of lectures by distinguished faculty and a celebration banquet will cap the year in April. The lectures are free and open to the public. Banquet information will be posted on the ENS website at http:// as it becomes available.

Clinical Pearls on Choosing the Right Diet
Ken Fujioka, MD, Department of Pathology, UCSD Health Care Systems
February 27, 2:00 pm. Templo Mayor Room, Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union

A Century of Pioneers, Innovation, and Practice: Continuing Legacies of Exercise and Nutritional Studies at SDSU
Seth W. Mallios, PhD, Department of Anthropology
April 10, 2:00 pm, Pride Suite, Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union

We Will Never Manage the Obesity Epidemic Without a Better Understanding of Energy Balance
Steven N. Blair, PED, Departments of Exercise Science and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of South Carolina
ENS Centennial Celebration Banquet Keynote Address
April 17, 6:00 pm. Montezuma Hall, Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union

Graduate School of Public Health

Learning About Public Health Through Hands-on Experience

Dr. Brodine with one of the goats that were given to families who were caring for children orphaned by AIDS
Dr. Brodine with one of the goats that were given to families who were caring for children orphaned by AIDS

Last summer, Dr. Stephanie Brodine and two graduate students spent several weeks in Uganda helping the Ugandan government improve the public health of the region. Dr. Brodine has worked with the government there since 2003 as part of the PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program. However, this was the first time she was also able to include students on the trip. Graduate public health students Tenaya Siva and Kimberly De Vera were able to spend nearly two months in Uganda pursuing both public health research and practical health interventions. Dr. Brodine’s daughter, Ashley Amundson, a Woman’s Studies major and a Public Health minor was also included. She met with Ugandan women’s empowerment groups focusing on issues of gender-based violence, and consequences of absenteeism in school, the labor market, and the threat to their health and well being.

The Minority Health International Research Training grant provided the funds for the students’ travel. This national program provides under-represented minority students in the science fields an opportunity to pursue international research. This was the first time the program sent students to Uganda and the first time for public health projects, since projects in the other participating countries focus on bench science. At SDSU, 12 students were able to participate in projects last year in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

An unplanned experience that was especially relevant to the students’ study of public health was a cholera outbreak. The students participated in an epidemic investigation to determine the cause and plan for future prevention. They traveled to the clinic where patients had been treated and met with a few of them.

Since Dr. Brodine’s primary focus is HIV/AIDS, there were several projects focused on that area. The team worked with schools and programs for children with AIDS or orphaned by AIDS; some of these children acquired HIV from their mothers.  Since these are children associated with military families and who live on a military base, they are generally not helped by other organizations, so Dr. Brodine’s program is often the only one that reaches out specifically to them.

The SDSU team and a classroom of students at one of the schools the team visitied.
The SDSU team and a classroom of students at one of the schools the team visitied.

During the weeks the students were in Uganda, they accomplished a lot. They started by conducting focus groups with the teens who had AIDS, and were also orphans due to AIDS, to identify their needs and challenges. They met their caregivers – mostly relatives or volunteer villagers – to understand their perspective. The students were impressed by the strong community efforts and learned about some of the cultural differences between themselves and the teens in Uganda.

They started a peer-support club for AIDS/HIV infected children and teens. Many of these children are resistant to the first line of medical treatment, largely due to non-compliance during the initial rounds of treatment. The inability to comply with instructions for medications is a frequent problem in a country without reliable transportation and other support systems  that make it easy for US citizens to make repeated clinic visits over time. Thus, the children needed stronger motivation to come to the clinic to receive their medications and a peer-support and social group provided that. In addition to a place where the children could support each other, they could also participate in drama and musical programs designed to both encourage creativity and decrease stress. The high school drama group presented plays that promoted healthy behavior and information on preventing sexually-transmitted diseases.

Kimberly De Vera with some of the Ugandan students
Kimberly De Vera with some of the Ugandan students

The SDSU students took advantage of the teen’s HIV clinic presence to screen for depression and they trained the staff to do so as well.  In addition to the obvious help in identifying depressed teens, this also gave the students an opportunity to undertake a research project of their own design and execution. De Vera noted, “This really opened my eyes to the potential to do more research and is making me consider continuing on in public health to get a PhD so I can do more research.”

The students also provided positive play opportunities to the 1,600 children in two schools in the area. They used grant money to purchase sports equipment and set up leagues. In a more rural school they also built a playground for younger children. Previous public health research shows that encouraging wellness in general increases a patient’s compliance with medication regimes, so encouraging exercise through sports served multiple purposes. They also provided basic school supplies and textbooks. They helped the families that were caring for AIDS’ orphans by supplying them with goats. The goats supply milk for family consumption as well as for sale and, of course, several goats in a village also result in more goats, increasing the economic impact of a small addition to a household.

De Vera said, “We met really happy kids, but they had nothing compared to American children. This was the first time I had the opportunity to travel internationally and it made me really aware of what we have. Now I’m hyper-aware of everything we take for granted – especially simple things like hand washing, toilets and running water. I saw so many opportunities for health promotion and public health research. Now I really want to go back and do more. I feel compelled to do more with my life since I am so blessed. I’m not sure just what yet, but I’m very inspired to make the biggest difference I can in the world.”


School of Nursing

Using Information To Improve Patient Care

Willa Fields
Dr. Fields and her husband greet former President Clinton at the 2013 HIMSS National Convention.

Professor Willa Fields was recently recognized with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Nursing Informatics Leadership Award. This is a lifetime achievement award that celebrates her career-long dedication to helping the healthcare industry to use information to create better health outcomes. “The HIMSS Nursing Informatics Leadership Award recognizes significant leadership in the area of Nursing Informatics within the society and the industry. The award can be given for a single exceptional contribution, for a sustained contribution, or for a lifetime of exceptional leadership.”

Dr. Fields started in nursing in 1968, with the thought that eventually she should like to teach. Many years later, she has realized that dream and, since 2006, has been teaching nursing at SDSU with a speciality in leadership in healthcare systems and informatics. Her career between those two dates contributes significantly to her teaching. As she says, “I teach what I did.” Before coming to SDSU, she was the vice president of patient care systems at Sharp HealthCare, though her interest in using data and then computers and informatics to better patient care began long before that.

At Sharp she helped facilities move to electronic health records–a mammoth task involving many parts in order to protect patient privacy, but be easily useable for staff and produce meaningful data for analysis. Sharp, like many other healthcare companies, was transitioning to electronic records to take advantage of  the incentives that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act. Since installing and using electronic records, she is very enthusiastic about teaching her students so they can help improve healthcare. “It is a joy to share my knowledge and passion with my students”, she states.

Now that electronic records are part of everyday life in major medical practices, there are reams of data being collected. The next stage is to learn to use the data without compromising important considerations such as patient privacy. Once the data is in a usable form, the final step is to use that data to make improvements in patient care. Analyzing the data will point to hospital and medical practices that are more effective or efficient so that they can be implemented on a wider scale. Or perhaps certain combinations of factors result in better patient health (if those can be discovered and documented, then everyone benefits). SDSU’s nursing school already advocates and teaches evidence- based practices to all of its students, and being able to access and analyze this data will take nursing to the next level.

HIMSS is a national organization made up of members of the various industries that are involved in this transition: doctors, nurses, hardware and software companies, and policy advocates who lead efforts to optimize health engagements and care outcomes using information technology. Dr. Fields has been active in the group for many years and has served as the chair of the board of directors (only the second nurse to hold this position), on many committees and as an active part of the national conference each year. The national conference is attended by 40,000 people and features many well-known speakers. In fact, Dr. Fields had the privilege of introducing former President Bill Clinton in 2013.

Congratulations to Dr. Fields for her national recognition in the field of health care informatics and her continued commitment to improving health care both through data analysis and through well-trained nurses.

Nursing Has a New Home on Campus

The faculty and staff of the School of Nursing recently moved to the third floor of the Adams Humanities building. They are enjoying the windows and sunshine in their bright offices and are glad to have moved from the cramped lower level of Hardy Tower. They invite anyone visiting campus to stop by and see their new space.

School of Social Work

Administrators at the campus health center estimate that between 500 and 800 SDSU students are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. For students who want to avoid re-entering the world of addiction, campus life can present challenges, even on a campus that does not permit alcohol in dorms or at campus functions that are tailored to students. Feeling that they need to hide their struggles can make campus life that much more difficult.

Development Connection

To continue their growth, AFR will need funds to reach out to students to provide low-cost activities and to attend training conferences. The grant from the Stacie Mathewson Foundation has allowed the group to support a graduate student in social work to organize this effort as her required field work, as well as supporting the organization efforts so far, but will not fund the group for the long-term.


The School of Social Work is facilitating a group to help these students in their personal challenges as well as working to remove the stigma associated with being in recovery. Kim Archuletta is the faculty coordinator and Dr. Sarah Zucker is serving as the consulting psychologist. Thanks to a grant from the Stacie Mathewson Foundation and the Transforming Youth Recovery organization, the initiative started this fall with the new student organization Aztecs for Recovery. The AFR acronym also stands for “Advocacy, Fellowship and Fun”. The group leaders are overcoming the challenge of finding students in recovery by staffing tables around campus, handing out flyers and connecting with students. The group presented a screening of the film “The Anonymous People” during Red Ribbon Week and created a Facebook page. There is a support group that meets weekly. The first meeting of the organization was in mid-November, where new members planned activities for the upcoming months. They have also begun to create an “asset map” that pinpoints on-campus and community services, supporters, organizations and treatment center that can be helpful to students in recovery. There is a national movement to approach recovery from addiction from a position of strength–encouraging those in recovery to speak out about what being alcohol or drug-free allows them to be and do–and AFR will bring that mindset to SDSU.

AFR’s goal is to make SDSU a recovery-friendly campus a safe place for young adults in recovery to come to college. They hope to facilitate a recovery community that supports the students with a social network, activities, service-learning opportunities, student-oriented recovery meetings and connections to the local community. Students who are sup- ported in their recovery will be better able to concentrate on their studies and less distracted by other challenges. They hope both the Facebook page and a planned website will help students connect with the group and realize that SDSU welcomes and encourages them.

Transforming Youth Recovery is a national organization that works with college and high school communities to increase recovery success for students struggling with addiction. They also use the real world experiences of students in recovery to educate the public about addiction and recovery and to erase the social stigma that blocks students and their families from seeking help. The organization supports educators, parents and community members in helping students in recovery thrive in the fullness of everyday life.

More Information

For more information about Aztecs for Recovery, contact Kim Archuletta at The AFR support group meets on Thursdays at 3:15 in Counselling and Psychological Services Center in the Calpulli Center.


Setting an Example for Others’ Dreams

Jesus Montoya
Jesus Montoya

This fall, Jesus Montoya interned with “Dreams for Change”, a San Diego nonprofit helping families who are homeless. The agency strives for a multifaceted approach to solving both current challenges as well as building toward a more stable long-term solution. Dreams for Change focuses specifically on families living in their cars and operates largely out of a parking lot.

In itself, this internship is not unusual as all SDSU social work undergraduate students participate in internship assignments in the final two semesters of their program. Students gain hands-on skills as professional social workers as they intern in a wide array of social service agencies in the county. The school partners with over 300 social service agencies such as hospitals, prisons, domestic violence shelters, child welfare services, probation, substance abuse and mental health treatment programs, homeless shelters and nursing homes.

Jesus Montoya, however, is anything but a typical social work student. A car accident when he was 21 left him a quadriplegic. Following the accident, he spent several years learning to cope with both the physical and emotional challenges this brought about. Slowly, however, he realized that he needed to move forward with his life, so he started attending community college and eventually came to SDSU. He says he is drawn to social work for the same reason most students pursue the degree, “I wanted to help people, maybe people who are in a situation like mine, and make their lives better. After seeing what social workers did when then they worked with me, I knew what I needed to do.”

He also found an outlet for some of his emotional turmoil through painting. Without the use of his hands or feet, he paints in oils on canvas holding the brush in his teeth. As his painting talent developed, he came to the attention of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists association and they provided a scholarship so that he could improve his painting skills.

One of the lessons that Jesus has learned over the years is, “Sometimes you need help. You can’t do it alone.” Jesus has been helped for many years by his mentor and friend, Liz Castagnera. She has volunteered for the last 15 years to help Jesus navigate the challenges he faced – becoming independent enough to leave the safety of the nursing home where he lives, learning to use public transportation, enrolling in and completing college programs. The School of Social Work honored her with the “Heart of Social Work” award at the beginning of the year as recognition of all that she has done and acknowledging that she is a role model for social work students.

And it is the lesson that it is OK to ask for and use help from others, that Jesus wants to be sure he imparts to the families he works with at Dreams of Change. And if his clients are smart, they will see what Jesus has achieved and set lofty goals for themselves, then reach out to find the assistance they need to achieve them.


School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences

Translational Research — From Lab to Client

Two labs in the School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences recently joined forces so they could collaborate on research projects more easily. The Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, run by Dr. Tracy Love, and the Language Processes Lab, run by Dr. Lew Shapiro, are now the Language and Neuroscience Group Laboratory (LANG). The lab pursues research targeting language and cognitive difficulties in both children and adults. The work of the lab is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

One type of language disorder investigated through the lab is aphasia, an acquired language disorder due to brain damage, often stroke, which results in language comprehension and production impairments. It is not a result of deficits in sensory, intellect, or psychiatric functioning. In conversation, people with aphasia might have problems speaking or understanding the correct words for everyday objects, might not put words in the correct order in a sentence, or might not be able to understand complex sentences. There are more than 1 million people in the U.S. who have survived a stroke and have aphasia. The financial and emotional burdens are quite significant. The goal of the lab is to gain an understanding of how language is represented in the brain so that when problems arise, such as those common to aphasia, this knowledge can be translated into useful therapeutic approaches.

Research Participants Needed

The LANG lab is constantly recruiting participants who have language and communicative disorders for studies. Currently there is a need for stroke survivors between the ages of 40 and 85, as well as children between the ages of 5 and 15 who have been diagnosed with a communication or language learning impairment. The lab/testing center is located at 6505 Alvarado Road, Suite 204, at the Alvarado Medical Center (near San Diego State University). If you are interested in participating, please contact the lab at (619) 594-788, or via e-mail (

Dr. Love says, “We study human cognitive processes with a major emphasis on language processing throughout the lifespan. Areas of research include typical language processing and language disorders in adults, including aphasia, and specific language impairment in children. Our approach is to integrate evidence from different psycholinguistic and neuroscience methods to understand the biological organization of language systems, and better assess and treat language disorders.” Dr. Shapiro adds, “Consider the follow- ing analogy: If your car’s engine isn’t working correctly, you take it to a mechanic. That mechanic has knowledge about how normal car engines work, and uses that knowledge to pinpoint what has broken down. Once the mechanic figures out what is wrong with the engine, a treatment plan is executed to fix the engine. In terms of language, a far more abstract situation, the knowledge of ‘normal’ language comes from linguistic and psycholinguistic investigations. From these we hope to pinpoint the deficit, and finally generate a treatment plan to circumvent or fix the deficit.”

The LANG lab uses a wide variety of techniques to determine what might be going on in the brain that results in such language deficits. All of the techniques used are non- invasive and participants receive detailed language and cognitive assessments as part of study participation.  For example, scientists in the lab use structural brain imaging to pinpoint the areas of the brain that may be damaged from stroke, and then try to associate those areas to language and cognitive functioning through psycholinguistic experiments. They also use functional brain imaging, which shows the areas of the brain that are activated when people are speaking or comprehending language. Specific neuroimaging techniques used in the lab also measure the amount and speed of blood flow to areas of the brain that may be responsible for normal language. Slower blood flow might partially explain the individual variability often observed in people with brain damage. Investigations from the lab have revealed that brain tissue that appears intact on structural scans in persons with aphasia may, in fact, not be receiving optimal blood supply for intact function.

The lab also serves as an instructional and mentoring tool, where undergraduate through doctoral students of Drs. Love and Shapiro receive hands-on training in testing partici- pants with language and cognitive disorders, in brain imaging, and in psycholinguistic experimentation.

Language is a complex process with many levels that interact with one another. As each layer is uncovered, new layers present themselves to the researchers. New treatments are suggested and they must be researched and tested. Labs like the LANG are instrumental in increasing our understanding of language and our ability to help those with language impairment.

Faculty Get Mini-Grants for Student Research Projects

mini-grant recipientsBuilding on SDSU’s strategic plan and the priorities outlined for student success, the Undergraduate Research Program

has created a mini-grant for tenured and tenure-track faculty to mentor undergraduate students participating in research, scholarship, creative and/or performance activities during the 2014-15 academic year. Out of 31 faculty selected, 10 belonged to CHHS.

Pictured from left to right: Professors Maria Zuniga, Melody Schiaffiano, Mark Reed and Daniel Goble and student researchers Amelie Wagnerand Christina Olson. 

Not pictured: Professors Suchi Ayala, Philip Greiner, Mee Yong Hong, Harsimran Baweja, Antoinette Domingo, Tracy Lee Finlayson


Clincal and Cognitive Neuroscience Speaker Series

This speaker series invites high profile speakers to campus to provide lectures that highlight new discoveries and cutting-edge research in the neurosciences. They are free and open to the public through generous support by President’s Leadership Fund and SDSU’s Area of Excellence.

Dr. Vinod Menon, Professor Psychiatry & Behavioral Science, Stanford University
Friday, December 5, 2014. 1-2:30pm. Conrad Prebys Aztec Center Theatre

Dr. Brad Schlaggar, Associate Professor of Neurology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Radiology and Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine
Friday, January 30, 2015. 1-2:30pm. Conrad Prebys Aztec Center Theatre