94-Year-Old CSULB Student Is Enjoying Life On Campus
Inside a classroom at Cal State Long Beach, there’s a student who doesn’t sound like any other.
Harold Katz has his notebook and computer out, an iPhone in his pocket and an Apple Watch on his wrist. He’s a World War II veteran with two degrees, who’s lived through many of the American presidencies covered in his political science class. He’s also 94.
We recently caught up with Katz to talk about his routine as a student, how he ended up at Long Beach State and what keeps him going. Listen to the audio for the full interview.
Please note this is an audio interview. KPCC does not provide a written transcript.
CLASS OF 2017 SPOTLIGHT: Kylie Shahar
By Daniela Alvarez
Kylie Shahar embodies much of what the millennial generation represents—a desire to affect change and a passion for social justice and social movements.
Shahar, a double major in political science and philosophy and president of the Political Science Student Association, spent two separate timeframes at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, better known by its popular hashtag #NoDAPL.
Kylie Shahar holds a flag she found at camp in North Dakota during her first visit in November. The flag reads “Women Camp” in Lakota. (Photo by Kevin Tran)
After taking several philosophy and political theory and science classes, Shahar was inspired by what she was learning on post-colonialism in the U.S. and by the lack of media coverage of the #NoDAPL protests.
“I wanted to go and see for myself, to talk to different people and essentially be a vessel of information for other people once I returned home,” said Shahar.
Shahar first left for North Dakota with a friend, Amanda Mendoza, a political science graduate student, in November. Their first stay of less than a week was a harsh wake-up call. Local law enforcement sprayed protestors with mace and blasted them with water cannons. Many of the water protectors, as the protestors are known, were native/indigenous people.
“It was so disheartening to see that police were getting away with this,” said Shahar. “They were trampling treaty rights and violating the Constitution.”
Although Shahar and Mendoza were not in danger of any bodily harm, they were able to make themselves useful by making sure others around them had basic necessities, such as water and dry clothes.
Just a month after they returned home, the pair drove back to North Dakota and stayed for five weeks. The second time around, both students were better prepared with gear, supplies, and had even started a GoFundMe and a fundraiser at a bar in Long Beach to gain community support of their efforts.
Part of Shahar’s duties during both of her stays were to maintain compostable toilets, chop wood, aid in the camp clean-up effort, and generally, as everyone did, look out for one another. After leaving North Dakota the second time, Shahar and Mendoza headed to Washington, D.C. for the presidential inauguration, where they and a group of other water protectors and allies were able to shut down one of the gates leading to the ceremony. The next day, both attended the Women’s March in the city.
“I hope people who are passionate about justice use their privilege to help others,” she said.
After graduation, Shahar will return next semester to finish her philosophy major requirements, while also applying to Ph.D. programs for philosophy. She eventually wants to bring philosophy to curriculums that focus on classes that are more traditional. Prisons and middle schools with at-risk youth will be her main targets for change.
“Philosophy really allows you to think about the world in a different way, so I want to add this element that lets people, specifically kids, to express analytical abilities,” said Shahar.
She also plans being involved in teaching and the theory side of politics.
“After this election, I was disillusioned,” said Shahar. “It was clear that polls and methods can fail us, so I want to focus on political theory.”
Professor of political science Mary Caputi sees a bright future ahead for Shahar.
“She is widely read and cares about politics in ways that many of her peers do not,” said Caputi. “Kylie has the intellect, the drive, and obviously the courage to go very far, and be president of the United States if she wanted to.”
Shahar has maintained her passion for social change, most recently at the final Teach-In on Collective Action at the Speaker’s Platform on campus April 19, where she and Mendoza spoke on their experience in North Dakota and how students can be agents of change.
“I really encourage students to be active and involved in things they care about, especially in their local communities,” said Shahar. “You can’t do it all, but small contributions always help.”
CLASS OF 2017 SPOTLIGHT: Jeff Ogle
By Shayne Schroeder
Jeff Ogle thinks it is important to question yourself every single day.
However, he didn’t necessarily feel that way until his grandfather passed away in 2009. His death struck a very deep cord with Ogle. It got him thinking.
“I wanted see how much I could really question myself and question things in the world,” said Ogle, a 29-year-old International Studies major and Global Studies Fellow at CSULB, who will be graduating this month. “That way of thinking really opened up a lot of related discussions. I look at the United States’ involvement with other countries, then really look at the facts, and question what it means to be an American. What does it mean for someone to have American values? Who am I?” All good questions.Jeff Ogle (Photo by Kevin Tran)
Out of high school, Ogle entered Orange Coast College but, by his own admission, it was a time when getting a higher education didn’t hold any value to him. It was more important for him to have a job and make money.
“I had a very different ego 10 years ago,” admitted Ogle, who worked in the auto industry as a technical support analyst for classic cars for eight years. “I would say I was ignorant, a bit selfish and naïve to a lot of things going on in my community and around the world. I knew I had to change my way of thinking.”
His travels and studies in Spain, Germany and Costa Rica changed him profoundly. So much so, in fact, that one of his great concerns of late has been immigration, more specifically the plight of undocumented students.
“Based on my appearance alone, I get asked that question a lot,” he said. He recognized that the presidential election created much anxiety among undocumented individuals. He took the time to meet with a good number of them. He heard their many concerns.
“There is a bit of a trust issue,” he said. “They don’t know my background, so I’ve had to take the time to meet with people and tell them who I am, what I’ve done and what’s most important to me. I think I’ve earned their trust over time.”
With those he met, Ogle shared his experiences of interacting with refugees from the other countries and realized one commonality between them and the undocumented−they suffer many of the same hardships.
“I felt a very deep connection after talking with them and seeing what they go through,” he said.
As part of his final semester at CSULB, Ogle addressed immigration issues by creating “Undocuversity,” a project aimed at raising awareness about the rights of undocumented students and challenges they face in the United States. Working with the campus’ The Dream Success Center and F.U.E.L. (Future Underrepresented Educated Leaders), he put together a public project−a wall−on the campus’ Speaker’s Platform.
In addition, as part of his semester-long efforts, he conducted research with the goal of educating individuals. And, in early April, as Executive Chair of the International Studies Student Association, he invited the German Consul General from the Los Angeles German Consulate and hosted an event titled “German & US Relations: A Talk With Hans Jörg Neumann”.
“My ultimate goal is to educate myself, learn about some of the hardships these students and their families are going through, and then hopefully educate other people,” he said.
Initially, the “Undocuversity” project was just going to be five pieces representing a solid wall between Mexico and the United States. Individuals would be able to share thoughts and draw on them. However, after meeting with other students and faculty he became sensitive to the psychological impact as well as other concerns the undocumented community on campus shared about the project. The installation changed. The once solid wall now had openings individuals could freely walk through. It had art. It was more welcoming.
“There was a symbolism showing that there are voices behind the wall too,” said Ogle. “There are voices in the community that are not really heard so the idea of the event was that students would come out of the shadows to share their stories.
“I took the constructive criticism I was given and worked with people. It actually turned out to be a really great project that developed over time because it ended up being more than a wall,” said Ogle, “It had art on it from (student) Narsiso Martinez and his art showed immigrant laborers drawn and stenciled onto agricultural cardboard, the kind that is actually used to move products on farms.”
With great help, the whole process to complete the project took Ogle a solid two months. By comparison, the display was up for just two hours. Still, it was well worth it to its creator.
“I just felt that it was really important for me to do something in my last semester that was very close to my heart and to see what I could do to help and maybe make a difference,” he said. “I can never really understand what it’s like to be undocumented, but I can educate others, educate myself and I can learn. The work put into this project required a lot of sacrifice, but this is a very rewarding time for me right now.”
As part of the 2017 commencement at CSULB, Jeffrey Ogle will be graduating in the 1 p.m. ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts on Wednesday, May 24.
CLASS OF 2017 SPOTLIGHT: Stephanie Mendez
By Richard Manly
Stephanie Mendez’s road to graduation has been fraught with car crashes, wildfires, political debates, drought and terrorist shootings. While in school, these aren’t the kinds of stories the English student wrote about, but rather the kind she covered while working as a full-time national field producer for “ABC News.”Stephanie Mendez
One such story, arguably the most harrowing, came about in the fall of 2015. While sitting in class, she received an email from her news bureau chief asking her to go to San Bernardino to cover the terrorist shootings. For Mendez, being called out of class like that was unusual, so she knew it was no ordinary assignment.
During the following week, she helped with the coverage for more than 16 hours a day while continuing her schoolwork. For their efforts, the ABC News team won two 2016 National Edward R. Murrow Awards given by the Radio Television Digital News Association and her team was honored for overall excellence at the network level and received an award for breaking news, series, use of video and website.
Mendez graduates this month on the Dean’s List of Graduating Masters Students with a GPA of 4.0. In earning her Master of Arts in English, Mendez studied the work of diverse authors such as Ann Petry, Ralph Ellison, Cherrie Moraga and Junot Diaz.
“To say that I feel proud of my 4.0 GPA is an understatement,” said Mendez. “The weekend before I started graduate school, I was doing wildfire coverage in Washington and, on my second day of class, I had to miss school to go to Seattle. I remember thinking, `How am I going to keep up with my school work and succeed in graduate school with this happening?’ I juggled work and school during my first year. It was crazy, but I did it.”
And, as if her life isn’t busy enough, she plays in a band.
“On top of the work/school balance, my punk band was preparing to play a huge festival put on by Kevin Lyman, who started Vans Warped Tour,” she added. She did take some time off work to focus on completing her master’s degree and, in addition, presented at three academic conferences during the semester, including one at Boston College in April.
“Like all of our English M.A. students, Stephanie is not just extremely knowledgeable about subject matter in English literature and rhetoric and composition,” said CSULB English professor Norbert Schürer. “What makes our English graduates stand out, and what many employers are increasingly discovering, is that students such as Stephanie also excel in so-called soft skills such as critical and abstract thinking, problem-solving, communication, teamwork, flexibility and, of course, writing—so they can easily adapt to any new workplace. In addition to all this, our English grads have a fantastic work ethic, strong motivation, leadership skills and integrity so students like Stephanie will change our world for the better.”
Mendez chose CSULB for its balance of quality education at an affordable price.
“I grew up below the poverty line and one of the few benefits to this unfortunate situation was that I received a higher education at almost no cost thanks to grants,” she explained. “I had such an amazing experience at CSULB as an undergrad and knew that the English department had professors of high caliber and sheer brilliance. Choosing CSULB was a very obvious and easy decision.”
Even so, the life of a field producer does not always mesh with the life of a graduate student, especially on that fall day in 2015 when 14 people were killed and 22 others seriously injured in the terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.
“When I got the email from our bureau chief to head to San Bernardino, I remember thinking this was big,” she recalled. “For our bureau chief to ask me to head out while I was in class meant this was critical. When I packed my bag for San Bernardino, I included my schoolwork and books. In a moment like this one, my homework might have seemed so trivial and insignificant but I made a commitment when I decided to go back to school, and I took what I needed to take in order to complete my responsibilities.
Helping to cover the San Bernardino shooting was draining, not just physically because of the long work days, but emotionally because of the tragic situation.
“I had never been confronted by the magnitude of tragedy involved in this story and it was difficult to witness,” she said, “but as a journalist, I did what I needed to do and I helped our team with all the necessary coverage.”
Juggling work and graduate school was hectic, especially since being a field producer entails being on-call 24/7 due to the nature of breaking news. That first semester was her busiest one and it really peaked when the San Bernardino shooting took place since it was around the same time as finals.
“Completing my assignments and negotiating the interference of work into my academic life was a struggle but the fact that I was able to succeed despite such a crazy schedule really makes me feel like I can do anything now,” Mendez recalled. “My first year in graduate school was very unorthodox but in the end, I prevailed.”
Her experience as a graduate student has made Mendez a true Forty-Niner.
“I recommend CSULB to potential graduate students all the time,” she said. “This experience has been one of the most positive and productive experiences I’ve had in a very long time, and in a very different way from my career highlights. The faculty in the English department is full of elite and brilliant minds. The quality of education at CSULB has far exceeded my expectations. For potential students seeking an English degree, I especially recommend Dr. George Hart and Dr. Dennis Lopez. Both professors go beyond their roles in the classroom to assist their students and help them grow.”
As part of the 2017 commencement at CSULB, Stephanie Mendez will be graduating in the 9 a.m. ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts on Wednesday, May 24.