Student Spotlight

HDEV Student Spotlight

The Human Development Student Spotlight designation recognizes student success in the classroom and/or dedication to CSULB and the community at large. Students chosen for the HDEV Student Spotlight demonstrate academic achievement, community service, campus involvement and leadership, research contributions, and/or connections to faculty projects and work in the Department of Human Development. Members of the Awards Committee select the awardee for Student Spotlight from the pool of nominations submitted by HDEV faculty. Nominations are accepted on an ongoing basis and all nominees are kept in the selection pool for the academic year. Nominations should be made with the Student Spotlight Nomination Form. Forms should be submitted electronically to Dr. Claudia Huang ( and Dr. Samiha Rahman (

2020-2021 Student Spotlight

Stephanie Pantoja

Stephanie Pantoja’s commitment to and perseverance in engaging in research, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, have truly been impressive. Stephanie joined Dr. Kelly’s CLIaM research lab in the beginning of Fall 2020 and is a member of the inaugural cohort of Student Data Fellows. Within the first six weeks, Stephanie has already shown substantial contributions. She created tables for conference abstract submissions, completed independent training in Qualtrics survey design, and contributed items to a survey of High-Impact Practices that will be distributed to CSULB students. Her ability to work independently toward team goals and her being reliable, consistent, and supportive of her lab-mates set her apart. Stephanie is interested in presenting research at scholarly conferences and hopes to pursue graduate school after she graduates from CSULB.

2019-2020 Student Spotlight
photo of Gabriela Motlagh

Gabriella Montlagh

Gabby is an exceptional Human Development major with excellent analytical and quantitative skills. She participated in Dr. Isabella Lanza’s Risky Health among Adolescents and Young Adults (RHAYA) Lab in the Spring of 2019. After proving to be a vital part of the lab, she now co-leads a focus group study on frequent vaping use among CSULB undergrads. Gabby’s commitment, superb research skills, and scientific curiosity will take her far. Following her upcoming graduation, Gabby is interested in pursuing a doctorate in Human Development or Psychology.


photo of Isabella  D'aloisio on quad

Isabella D’aloisio

Isabella D’aloisio is a truly impressive student. She is a model of a positivity and engagement in class and consistently demonstrates her understanding of human development concepts and theories by excelling in course assessments and discussions. As a first year student, Isabella has learned to navigate successfully a new campus, performs well in class and integrates her interests, and demonstrates a true desire to learn and grow. Isabella is a HDEV major because she is fascinated by the interdisciplinary intersection of biology and social processes.

2018-2019 Student Spotlight  

Student Spotlight: Mario Vasquez

Mario Vasquez

Mario Vasquez is as a dedicated student, a delightful person and a joy in class. Dr. Pamela Reynolds writes, “One of the things that I especially admire about him is the consideration he gives to alternative points of view. Mario has frequently stopped by my office hours to discuss the way his opinions have been changed or broadened by class materials and discussions. He is making the most of his educational opportunities.”  Prior to CSULB, Mario served 15 years in the Army and Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq 3 times. He works as a substance abuse counselor at the Long Beach VA Hospital and recently was accepted into the CSULB Masters in Social Work program.    


Faith Uy

Faith Uy

Faith Uy is a recent HDEV graduate and is currently working with Dr. Emily Schryer on research projects in support of the Department of Human Development. Most recently, Faith evaluated a survey of  HDEV 470  students by entering and analyzing data as well as write up the survey results. She presented these findings at the HDEV faculty meeting. Dr. Schryer remarks, “Faith has been a joy to work with. She is focused, detail-oriented, and passionate about every project that she works on.”


Student Spotlight - Daniel Vega

Daniel Vega

Daniel Vega is an up-and-coming HDEV student. Although he is only a 1st year student, he has made quite an impression on the HDEV faculty. In HDEV 180, his enthusiasm, engagement, and effort were very impressive and made him stand out amongst a class of over 100 students. He also contributed to the department by taking meetings with multiple faculty candidates during their visits to campus. Daniel has also jumped in to learn about what research in Human Development can look like. This fall he has started working with Dr. Ann Kim in investigating a construct referred to as other group orientation.  His willingness to go above and beyond should be recognized and his contributions to HDEV acknowledged.

Johana Meza

Johana Meza is this year’s HDSA president. She has been working with the board to organize an internship fair for fall 2018. This is a great service to the HDEV student community because all HDEV seniors are required to complete an internship. Johana is also working on her own academic success. Despite having personal challenges, she has been dedicated to her academics. She is working towards graduating at the end of this academic year and is doing her research to determine whether she wants to pursue graduate training in physical therapy or occupational therapy. Her goal is to be in graduate school in 2020. In addition to HDSA, Johana is also part of the Leadership Academy.

2017-2018 Student Spotlight

Charles Silva

Charles was nominated for Student Spotlight by Dr. Ann Kim. Dr. Kim writes the following: I would like to nominate Charles because of his work ethic in Human Development and ultimately efforts towards accomplishing his goals of becoming a pediatrician. He has actively been working towards this goal. He has completed his pre-med requirements and will be attending University of California, Los Angeles this coming fall to start in their extended pre-medical studies program. Since high school, he was in the “Health Academy” partnership academy and part of Health Occupations Students of America. He sees his studies in HDEV as valuable in achieving humanistic connections and informing his own philosophy on the doctor-patient relationships. Since being an HDEV major, he has made the Dean’s list four times. In addition to being a student, Charles is a full-time EMT. Despite his busy work schedule, Charles has been an active member in my HDEV 327 course. He participates actively and has only missed one class. He only missed the one class because he was stuck in Los Angeles traffic after an interview at UCLA for their research associate program (CTSI-RAP).

Stephanie Valenson

Dr. Isabella Lanza nominated Stephanie Valenson for Student Spotlight due to her exceptional academic performance in HDEV 327: Approaches to Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. Dr. Lanza asked to meet Stephanie in person mid-semester (the course is online) because she was so impressed by the level of thoughtfulness, critical thought, and writing ability that Stephanie displays on a regular basis. Whether it’s a casual reply to a peer’s discussion post or a response to a close reading of scholarly work, Stephanie’s effort and performance far exceeds expectations. Dr. Lanza only wishes she would have had Stephanie in an in-person class. Stephanie is not only an excellent student, she is also driven and motivated to make an impact in her community; recently she was accepted to CSU Fullerton’s MSW program! There is no doubt Stephanie will make a significant impact in the social work field. We are excited to hear about her progress and achievements in the future.

Tyemi (Emi) Lee

The Department of Human Development is proud to spotlight the hard work and accomplishments of Tyemi. She was recently named 2018 HDEV Outstanding Graduate in Human Development, and she was selected by the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) to receive the Outstanding Baccalaureate Award, the highest honor bestowed to graduates across the 25 CLA departments and programs! Tyemi’s exemplary academic record, laudable service and leadership on campus and in her community, and her contributions to research in the department of human development make Tyemi deserving of such a distinction. Tyemi’s academic achievements are unparalleled in Human Development, and it is evident that she is focused and dedicated to a future career in medicine. She embodies the mission of Human Development and the College of Liberal Arts as an empowered woman who understands the importance of working toward equity in an increasingly diverse and global world. We are thrilled to call Tyemi one of our own!


Eva Drexlereva2

Eva was nominated for Student Spotlight by Dr. Kimberly Kelly. Eva is the best of the best in Human Development. Still early in her coursework at CSULB, she has taken the initiative to get an early start on internship experience. In this capacity, she makes significant contributions to Dr. Kimberly Kelly’s CLIaM research lab while balancing her role coursework and personal responsibilities. Her confidence as a scholar has grown tremendously over fall semester yet she is humble. Eva is an excellent team player when working with her lab-mates. She is seamlessly able to work on multiple projects to accomplish the goals of the lab with a keen eye to detail. Importantly, she responds positively to constructive feedback. She considers seriously feedback from others to improve her work in the lab and beyond. Eva deserves to be recognized because she is reliable, consistent, talented, and very hardworking.  

SOM Dalena 3Dalena Pham

Dalena was nominated for Student Spotlight by Dr. Pamela Roberts. Dalena went on the HDEV 300 Death and Dying study abroad trip to South Africa in the summer of 2017. Throughout the sometimes arduous 3 week trip, she was a model study abroad student—friendly, enthusiastic, flexible and culturally sensitive. Dalena was especially skilled at interacting with the South Africans we met and worked with and, because of her openness and interest, she appears to have made friends at all the places we visited. Dalena also was an engaged student in the classroom, readily making the connections between readings and lecture materials and our field experiences. Dalena made a positive impact in South Africa; from her work in the schools and retirement home there, to the donations she gathered beforehand, to her interest in class material, Dalena was a model study abroad student.

2016-2017 Student Spotlight
Angelique Dayap


Angelique was nominated for Student Spotlight by Dr. Lauren Heidbrink. Angelique is very deserving of the honor of HDEV Student of the Month. She is a strong student with a passion for learning. In her courses, she demonstrates keen observation skills, nuanced insights into complex social issues, and excellent inter-personal skills. She is conscientious in her individual work and exhibits strong listening and leadership skills in group activities. She displays maturity and sensitivity to other students with whom she may have had theoretical disagreements. This semester, she has contributed to Dr. Heidbrink’s Youth Circulations lab though data entry, transcription and analysis, offering unique and thoughtful insights into research on the migration and deportation of young people. When confronted with much of the lab’s data is in Spanish, Angelique independently started learning Spanish. This exemplifies her diligent approach to new challenges – through persistence and effort. Angelique will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and a minor in linguistics. Following graduation, she will return to her native San Diego.

SOMScarlette2Scarlette Sicairos

Scarlette was nominated for Student Spotlight by Dr. Kimberly Kelly. Scarlette is very deserving to be honored at HDEV Student of the Month. Her excellent academic record and her contributions to her community demonstrate her commitment to the Department of Human Development and CSULB. She excels in the majority of her courses and earns top marks on her Human Development classes. She is actively involved in multiple student organizations on campus, including serving as Vice President for HDSA. As an HDSA officer, she has overseen events to help student navigate the HDEV major (HDEV 470 Informational Panel), to promote a sense of community among HDEV students (hikes, etc.), and to raise money for the organization’s operating budget (fundraisers). She contributes to great Long Beach community by working with girls in underserved area through Girls on Run. Moreover, she volunteers her limited free time (she also keeps a part-time job!) at local soup kitchens, senior centers, and other large community events. She has been accepted to the pre-Law program at UC Irvine and has great potential to become a lawyer in future.

Dylan ReadeDylanSOMvertical

Dylan was nominated for Student Spotlight by Dr. Heather Rae Espinoza. Dylan Reade is a returning student that supports her family through medical struggles and aging. After a break in her academic career, she has returned to school to continue her Human Development major. Even while prioritizing her role as a source of strength for her family, she always comes to class prepared, inquisitive, and attentive.  Her essays in HDEV 360 offered a nuanced balance of detailed ethnographic knowledge and consideration of her own global position.  Currently, in HDEV 180 as a large lecture, she engages in class discussion the same way as if it were a seminar class serving as a role model for younger students.  In the future, she hopes to work with at-risk youth building on her experience mentoring youth who have dropped out of school in her community with a master’s in the field of social welfare. 

Jenie Phamjeniepham_som

Jenie was nominated for Student Spotlight by Drs. Christine El Ouardani and Isabella Lanza. Jenie is an exceptional Human Development undergraduate that has left a lasting impression on the HDEV faculty. As her time at CSULB draws to an end, Jenie is about to embark on an impressive career path. Jenie is a goal-oriented student that has shown a strong drive to excel in her academic and career pursuits. Following graduation, Jenie will be enrolling in a neurodiagnostic certification program that will enable her to work in the clinical neuroscience field. Currently, she is completing her HDEV 470 internship in Dr. Lanza’s research lab. Jenie is an instrumental student to the lab, as she brings a level of thoughtfulness and critical thought that is necessary in the development of research protocols. Jenie was enrolled in Dr. Lanza’s HDEV 320 Research Methods course when Dr. Lanza noticed Jenie’s impressive conceptual and analytical skills. When Jenie inquired about completing a research internship the following semester in Dr. Lanza’s lab. Dr. Lanza was elated to welcome such a dedicated and talented student. Jenie has also caught the attention of another HDEV faculty, Dr. El Ouardani. She has demonstrated exceptional writing and critical thinking skills in Dr. El Ouardani’s HDEV 407 class and contributed thoughtfully to class discussions.

Rebecca Somasom-oct-16

Rebecca was nominated for Student Spotlight by Dr. Pamela Roberts.  Dr. Roberts had the following to say about Rebecca: Rebecca is one of the most pleasant and committed students in Human Development.  She always does well in class and has a high GPA, but what really stands out is how well she connects with other students and with our faculty.  Always prepared and engaged, Rebecca provides the most well considered answers to questions presented in class—whether those are from the instructor or from other students.  Rebecca tends to choose topics for study and class projects that are challenging and thought provoking.  Her choices and the ensuing discussions we have about them in class add to the intellectual climate of each class she is in.  I’m very pleased to have had Rebecca in so many of my classes and expect her to be a highly valued professional in her career.

2015 – 2016 Student Spotlight
SOM Nadine and Heather

Nadine Ruiz and Heather Teeter

To end the academic year 2015-2016, the HDEV department is excited to name two co-awardees for Student Spotlight! Nadine Ruiz and Heather Teeter are both graduating this May, and the department wanted to recognize their amazing talent  and achievements before they embark on their post-grad journeys. Besides being good friends that find time to exercise together amidst hectic  schedules, Nadine and Heather are research assistants in the Risky Health among Adolescents and Young Adults (RHAYA) Lab directed by Dr. Lanza. This year they were involved in the data collection of a health-risk behavior survey given across the CSULB campus, and presented findings related to etobacco/vaping use at the annual Western Psychological Association conference. Nadine is a very motivated student and is always eager to make the classroom an effective learning environment. She has abundant experience working with children and adolescents with severe behavioral difficulties, and her maturity at handling stressful situations is notable. This year, under the mentorship of Dr. Lanza, she applied to the Young Scholars Program hosted by the Society of Adolescent Research (SRA), and received a fully paid trip to the biennial SRA conference hosted in Baltimore. At the conference, Nadine was able to learn more about pursuing graduate work in adolescent development, and network with peers and mentors to support her through the graduate school process. Heather is a highly engaged student, with a dynamic and enthusiastic personality that makes her memorable. Heather has dedicated the free time she has to volunteering at the renowned Hoag hospital in Orange County within the detox unit, a very challenging and rewarding experience. The hospital staff and supervisors have been so impressed by her commitment to high-quality patient care that she was asked to complete her HDEV 470 internship at Hoag as well, within the chemical dependency unit. During her internship, Heather was given a growing number of responsibilities that have increased her interest in pursuing opportunities in health care. Nadine and Heather have very bright futures ahead of them! Nadine is likely to apply to a master’s in social work program in the coming year. Heather is researching possible master’s programs in psychology and health-related fields across the country. The HDEV department will miss both of them and wish them luck on their future endeavors! Both Nadine Ruiz and Heather Teeter were nominated by Dr. Isabella Lanza.

Isabel McGraw

IsabelIsabel earned the highest grade in my HDEV 320 class in the fall on all but one assignment—3 tests, an individual research project and paper, lab work and participation. Her independent research was good enough that I suggested she rework it for the Student Research Competition, but she was too busy at the time. Because her performance in the class was so outstanding, I asked her to be my research assistant on a project that has long been dormant, a study of memorial tattooing. Interacting with Isabel is much like interacting with a good second year graduate student. She casts a wide net in her library research, she does close readings of research articles (and notices the connections among them), and she is meticulous in looking over documents such as the IRB application. We just submitted our IRB application for the tattoo memorial interview study and are excited to start. Isabel is extremely easy to talk with and is interested in everyone; I’m sure she’ll be as good an interviewer as she has been in helping to reformulate the study. Isabel is earning a certificate in Gerontology and, because she has done so well in her classes, they have been allowing her to take graduate classes. As part of her interest in gerontology, she is doing her HDEV 470 work in hospice, a program that requires that students commit to volunteer for at least 6 months. Last week her first client died; when I saw her, Isabel was thoughtfully reviewing their relationship and the impact of his death on her ability to work in the field. (She thinks it is something she could do). In summary, I haven’t had such an all-around good student for quite awhile—especially one that has such a gift for research. Isabel was nominated by Dr. Pamela Roberts.

Yesenia Hernandez

Yesenia photoYesenia’s contributions to the HDEV community as the President of the Human Development Student Association (HDSA) more than qualify her for Student Spotlight. Through her leadership, HDSA has had a banner year: doubling the number of its members and exceeding fundraising expectations. With Yesenia at the helm, HDSA has hosted a range of successful events including several social get-togethers, many academic/professional development workshops and panels, and frequent philanthropic events. Yesenia’s term as HDSA President has strengthened the organization, increasing its visibility among HDEV students and laying a solid foundation for the organization’s continued impact in the CSULB community for years to come. Yesenia was nominated by Dr. Kimberly Kelly.

Rachel Chauvin

Student of the MonthRachel is an exceptional student who has contributed to faculty research on military families. Rachel has participated in the United and Growing Research Lab from the beginning, including suggesting the name! She has led research initiatives with outreach to families and become an integral team member. Rachel coordinates our social media outreach for recruitment and created a webpage for the research project. When we hosted the Anthropology of Childhood and Youth symposium in the spring with over 80 scholars coming to campus, Rachel oversaw the classroom technology and was our liaison with CLA Tech to put together a business center for attendees. She aspires to be a psychiatrist, and has worked hard to seek out additional opportunities at the VA and coursework that will prepare her well for the future. Rachel was nominated by Dr. Heather Rae-Espinoza.

Bryan Sanchez

BryanSBryan was selected as a Student Spotlight recipient for his outstanding academic performance and his leadership in the classroom. Bryan is an extremely hardworking and bright student. Constantly engaged in class discussion, he contributes important and insightful comments and questions, helping to develop productive conversations about theory and key class concepts. His completed assignments demonstrate a great deal of care and effort and his writing style is clear, concise, and compelling. He makes an extra effort in class to engage his fellow classmates in conversation, and his deep understanding of class concepts often facilitates the learning of other students. He is a truly exceptional student and well-deserving of the HDEV Student of the Month award. Bryan was nominated by Dr. Kimberly Kelly.

Grace Ocular

GraceSotMGrace is a truly outstanding student at CSULB. She has cultivated strong academic relationships with faculty, making valuable contributions to Dr. Kimberly Kelly’s CLIaM research lab while balancing her role as Dr. Kelly’s student assistant for HDEV 320: Research Methods. Grace has a meticulous eye for detail, a penchant for organization, and impressive motivation for excellence in her myriad academic roles. Grace also contributes significantly to her academic community, as Academic Chair and member of the Executive Board of the Human Development Student Association. In just the first month of classes, she has already set into motion an Alumni Talk Series, wherein HDEV graduates are invited to meet and talk with current students. Last but not least, Grace excels in the classroom. She is an engaged, enthusiastic, and driven student, always bringing thoughtful and insightful (and often challenging!) questions/comments about the course content and readings. She is generous to her classmates and assumes the roles of leader and teammate equally well. Grace was nominated by Dr. Kimberly Kelly.

2014 – 2015 Student Spotlight

Kimmi Waechter

IMG_6634Kimmi exemplifies many of the characteristics we believe make for a successful, well-rounded HDEV student. She is an active member and officer of the Human Development Student Association. Kimmi has not only participated in all HDSA events (hikes, fundraisers, etc.), but she has helped re-focus the organization’s efforts onto academic projects by coordinating the HDEV internship fair and alumni panel. Kimmi is also an active member of the campus organization PETRA. Kimmi is a key member of this group of students that donate their time and effort to various community and campus services. They strive to promote ethical leadership, academic achievement and civic responsibility. As a research Assistant for Dr. Beth Manke. Kimmi has assisted with several program evaluation research projects over the past 4 years. Kimmi has been involved in data collection including interviews with elementary school children to assess depressive symptomology and resident surveys to gauge satisfaction with low-income housing. Kimmi has also entered data, coded qualitative data, run analyses, and assisted with the creation of conference presentations. She attended the Ethnographic and Qualitative Research Conference in February 2015 where we presented our Photovoice research on how Millennials define their generation. During April of this year she has been helping to assess the educational outreach programs offered at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center on the CSULB campus. Additionally, she has conducted independent Community Projects. During the Fall 2014 semester Kimmi singlehandedly developed and implemented interactive exercises with fourth graders in Watts to complement a national character education program. As part of her efforts, Kimmi supervised other, more advanced undergraduates. Finally, she has held the position of student Assistant for the Department of Human Development. Kimmi has gone far beyond her paid hours to help coordinate important key events that benefit all HDEV students including the HDEV Internship Fair and the Career Development Center Internship Conference. She has also been working to put together a slide show for the alumni event that will illustrate the history of the HDEV department. Kimmi was nominated by Dr. Beth Manke.

Emily Ibrahim

IMG_6480Emily coordinates the United & Growing Research Lab. She took on this role following exceptional academic performance in Human Development coursework. In her role in the lab, she has conducted literature reviews, prepared methods, managed communications with the research team, and recruited participants. Emily has shown exceptional leadership in coordinating for the Anthropology of Childhood and Youth Interest Group Conference, hosting 60 presenters and a volunteer team of students. She is also presenting her own research with Lydieth Najera at the Southwestern Anthropology Association Conference. Emily was nominated by Dr. Heather Rae-Espinoza.