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CSUN Receives Nearly $3 Million Grant To Support Biomedical Science Students

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Photo Courtesy of CSUN

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) has been awarded nearly $3 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support students studying biomedical sciences with an eye on eventually earning a Ph.D.

The $2,882,538, five-year grant will support a new program, Undergraduate Research Training Initiative for Student Enhancement (U-RISE), designed to equip undergraduate students with skills that will make them more competitive for entry into graduate programs, according to the university.

Targeting students from traditionally underrepresented communities, the grant includes money to cover 60 percent of the students’ tuition to CSUN, as well as stipends and support for their research projects and attending scientific conferences.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students, who are often the first ones in their families to go to college,” said biology professor MariaElena Zavala, lead director of the U-RISE program at CSUN in a statement. “In addition to the tuition help, the grant allows us to provide the students with stipends to research and attend conferences — all of which can cement a student’s decision to pursue a career in science.

The U-RISE program is administered by the NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, with the goals of increasing the number of capable, underrepresented scientists engaged in biomedical research and strengthening science curricula and research opportunities at institutions with substantial minority enrollment to prepare students for careers in biomedical research.

“When you’re the first in your family to go to college, getting a Ph.D. can seem like a long way off, and the obstacles can seem insurmountable,” Zavala said, who was the first Mexican American woman in the country to earn a Ph.D. in botany. “A program like this demonstrates that there are people out there who believe in you and are willing to support you as you pursue your dream and that achieving that dream is possible.”

The year-round program replaces CSUN’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC – undergraduates) and Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE – undergraduates and post-graduates) programs, which for more than two decades successfully helped increase the number and capabilities of underrepresented scientists engaged in basic biomedical research.

CSUN’s U-RISE program, led by Zavala and biology professors Cheryl Courtney-Hogue and Ray Hong, starts this summer with an anticipated inaugural cohort of 10 students. In subsequent years, that cohort is expected to increase to 20 students.

In addition to the financial support, the students will receive training on how to be principal investigators (lead researchers) on research projects, be paired with faculty mentors, and work on a long-term research project. They also will attend and present at scientific conferences and participate in professional development workshops.

“We want to make sure they have everything they need so that they can hit the ground running when they get into graduate school,” Zavala said.

Zavala also is a co-author of a paper, “Broadening the impact of plant science through innovative and inclusive outreach,” that recently appeared in the journal Plant Direct. The paper provides a guide for increasing science outreach in the field of plant biology.

She and her co-authors are hoping to renew interest in the field of plant biology, which is going to become more and more important as the world grapples with the impact climate change has on global food supplies and medicine.

“When people think about science, they often don’t think about plant science,” said Zavala. “People don’t understand how absolutely important plants are to their well-being. In addition to their aesthetics, plants are at the center of our food chain, and 70-80 percent of all drugs have their origins in plants.”

Education

CSUN To Provide iPad Air To All First-Time Freshmen, Transfers

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California State University, Northridge (CSUN) is one of eight CSU campuses that are part of the first phase of a new initiative, which provides a new iPad Air and other Apple products to first-time students.

The program called, California State University Connectivity Contribution to Equity and Student Success (CSUCCESS) is aimed at enhancing student achievement and create more equitable opportunities for students across the CSU system.

CSUN will be offering an iPad Air, Apple Pencil and Apple Smart Keyboard Folio to all first-time freshmen and new transfer students who register to participate in the initiative. The students will be able to keep the equipment, for free, through the completion of their undergraduate degree at the university.

“As a university committed to access, inclusion and technological innovation, CSUN is excited to join in the CSUCCESS Initiative and offer this powerful resource to our new students,” CSUN President Erika D. Beck said in a statement.. “We’re working tirelessly to remove barriers that may dim our students’ bright futures, and CSUCCESS is another impactful investment in student success.”

In addition to CSUN, the other CSU campuses participating in the launch of CSUCCESS are Bakersfield, Channel Islands, Fresno, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Maritime Academy and San Marcos. CSU officials hope to expand the initiative to all students in the California State University system in the future.

CSU officials noted that throughout the course of the pandemic, access to computing equipment and connectivity was identified as an obstacle for some CSU students. Over the course of the past year, the CSU invested more than $18 million to purchase more than 21,000 laptops and tablets and 10,000 mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for students, in addition to loaning out millions of dollars of existing equipment.

There are no income-based eligibility requirements. Devices are expected to be made available in August. Upon graduation from CSUN, students will be asked to return the equipment. The devices are provided on a loaned basis so as not to impact students’ financial aid.

CSUN students can find out more about the initiative and register to participate here

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Hollywood Celebrities Partner With LAUSD To Create Film, Television Academy

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Photo by Michael Vlasaty

A dozen Hollywood actors and producers have teamed up with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to create a film and television academy.

The coalition of leaders is spearheaded by George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Don Cheadle, Kerry Washington, Mindy Kaling, Nicole Avant, Eva Longoria, Working Title Films founders Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Co-Chairman Bryan Lourd, are partnering with the LAUSD to found the Roybal School of Film and Television Production, a specialized academy housed within the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center.

Set to launch in Fall 2022 as a magnet school, the Roybal School of Film and Television Production will provide Los Angeles Unified teachers with access to renowned storytellers, along with industry professionals and experts, and support students with a robust academic education and practical training, establishing a clear pathway to good-paying jobs, according to the district.

The inaugural program, to be overseen by Principal Blanca Cruz, will feature a specifically designed curriculum developed to meet the standards prescribed by the state of California and the University of California system. 

“We are really excited about this remarkable opportunity for collaboration and learning,” Roybal  Principal Blanca Cruz said in a statement. “Not only will it provide our students much-needed resources to support their hands-on learning experiences that are relevant in the entertainment industry, but it will also offer them the guidance and expertise needed to help them realize their inherent potential.”

In addition, students will receive real-world experience through a dedicated internship initiative. The Roybal School of Film and Television Production will start with ninth- and 10th-grade students and include Grades 11 and 12 over the next two years, with potential opportunity to expand the pilot program to more schools throughout the Los Angeles area.

“Our aim is to better reflect the diversity of our country. That means starting early. It means creating high school programs that teach young people about cameras, and editing and visual effects and sound and all the career opportunities that this industry has to offer. It means internships that lead to well-paying careers. It means understanding that we’re all in this together,” Clooney said in a statement. 

The founding members will serve on the Roybal School of Film and Television Production Advisory Board, lending their expertise and support to build a more inclusive pipeline of career-ready talent for the film and television industry.

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CSUN Receives Largest Donation In University History From MacKenzie Scott

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California State University, Northridge (CSUN) announced Tuesday that philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott and her husband Dan Jewett donated $40 million, the largest gift from a single donor in the institution’s history.

Scott, the former partner of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has donated a total of $2.74 billion to organizations that focus on the arts and combating racial discrimination.

“Higher education is a proven pathway to opportunity, so we looked for 2- and 4-year institutions successfully educating students who come from communities that have been chronically underserved,” Scott wrote in a post announcing the billions in donations.

The gift to CSUN, which is designated to support presidential priorities, comes at an especially advantageous time for the university.

Erika D. Beck, who assumed the presidency of CSUN in January of this year, recently issued a report on what she heard during an intensive listening tour during her first 100 days. The report is the first step to a university-wide process starting this fall to create a roadmap for the future.

“This transformative gift provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance our future as leaders in equity-centered student success to provide a brighter and more equitable future for our students, their families and the communities we are so proud to serve,” said Beck.

Among the priorities identified in the Listening Tour Report, are the elimination of equity gaps, accelerating the work in diversifying the faculty, academic excellence, holistic student support and facilitating CSUN students’ educational goals and intellectual promise.

“While one-time dollars cannot be used to support long-term expenses in perpetuity, with a mix of focused spending and investment, we can, and will, use these dollars to transform our campus for generations to come,” Beck added.

Scott and Jewett’s gifts to higher education have focused on institutions that have higher proportions of students from historically underserved communities and excel at supporting their success. 

With multiple programs ranked nationally for their quality and excellence, CSUN was recently ranked 4th in the nation on CollegeNet’s Social Mobility Index, which measures a college’s success at moving students up the social and economic ladder.

Other Southern California colleges and organizations also received donations from the couple, including Pasadena City College and the  L.A. Arts Endowment Fund.

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