CDIP Recipients 2017-2018

Anji Buckner-Capone 

Discipline: Education

Anji Buckner-Capone received her B.A. in Women's Studies and Community Studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She then earned her Master of Public Health from San José State University. She is currently enrolled in the Educational Leadership Doctoral program at San José State University, a program she believes well positions her research interests in the pragmatic intersection of public school systems and public health. She starting teaching high school in 2008, but quickly moved into a lecturer role in higher education beginning in 2009. Having taught at San Jose State University from 2009 until her acceptance into its Ed.D. program, Anji is familiar with and embraces the "solutions to complex social problems [that] are more creative, relevant, and sustainable when diversity is well represented" in the classroom. Anji's mentor has worked with her since 2001 and feels that "over the past 12 years, Ms. Buckner's service to the department and students has been exemplary." She seeks to incorporate students' lived experiences and perspectives into her teaching to create environments of inclusion that enhance student learning. Her research interests are focused on strengthening K-12 education to better prepare students for a successful college experience, supporting the CSU goal of four-year graduation rates. It is a goal of her doctoral experience to engage in pragmatic research that is relevant and application to practitioners, and then as a professor to teach emerging professionals effective applications. Anji's program mentor is Anne Demers, Associate Professor, Health Science and Recreation.

Christian Denney 

Discipline: Ecology/Marine Ecology

Christian Denny received his B.S. in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Marine Biology from University of California, Davis, and is currently finishing his Masters degree at in Fisheries and Conservation Biology through San Francisco State University (Moss Landing Marine Laboratories). Since his undergraduate career, Christian has been developing his research skills with the focused intent of becoming a professor of marine science. His time at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories afforded him the opportunity to perform research as well as gain teaching experience and provide undergraduate mentorship. He believes that diverse backgrounds contribute to diverse ideas in science, a dynamic field full of new discoveries. Besides all of Christian's research activities, his Collaborative Plan of Support provides for greater exposure to the teaching experience through lecturing and additional training in pedagogy and teaching methodology. Christian's mentor, Scott Hamilton, an Associate Professor at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories who has known Christian for five years, believes that he "is a creative thinker, with the maturity, drive, and mental fortitude to succeed in the rigorous . . .PhD program at UC Davis-SDSU." Further, Dr. Hamilton believes that Scott will be instrumental as CSU professor, mentoring students and improving minority participation in the STEM fields.

Mary Okin

Discipline: History of Art and Architecture

Mary Okin received both her B.A. in Liberal Arts and her M.A. in Art History and Visual Culture from San José State University. She is currently enrolled in the History of Art and Architecture doctoral program at University of California, Santa Barbara, with a specialization in American Art. Mary has garnered a wealth of prestigious awards, including the Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholarship, where she studied with Dr. Margaretta Lovell at the University of California, Berkeley. She embraces the need for future scholars to correlate their coursework in the humanities with the digital age. Her goal is to give back to the CSU system she believes shaped her "intellectual, personal, and professional development" and her commitment to "diversity, pedagogy, and service." Mary's curriculum vitae demonstrates her strong grounding in research and community service. She held important positions of leadership while at San José State University, including that of a graduate student appointee to the SJSU President's Commission on Diversity (which sought to address the aftermath of a campus hate crime and develop a position for a Chief Diversity Officer) and was appointed by the SJSU Academic Senate to serve on a search committee for the Dean of the University Library. Mary's close relationship with her mentor is important to note.  They have worked together for many years already, and Mary writes that "Like her [Dr. Rostankowski], I plan to inspire CSU students to study well, build community, and make the world a better place." That relationship will continue to evolve with Dr. Cynthia Rostankowski's strong support as a trusted and valued mentor.

Michael Vallerga 

Discipline: Psychology

Michael Vallerga received both his B.A. in Psychology and his M.A. in Experimental Psychology from San José State University. He is currently enrolled in the Psychology doctoral program at University of California, Santa Cruz, with a specialization in Social Psychology. Michael took a different path than many Ph.D. students. After graduating with his master's degree, he took a few years off to travel and work outside of academia. During this time, he discovered a passion for social justice, and in particular, social justice in the area of gender and sexuality. Michael returned to San José State University and persevered in his goal to join academia by contacting several professors (many of whom he had never worked with in the past) and requesting their assistance. His mentor, James Lee, was one such contact.  Dr. Lee is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Justice Studies at SJSU. With the assistance of his mentor, Michael became a lecturer in the Justice Studies Department at San José State University, where he began to hone his teaching skills and whet his appetite for academic research. Encouraged by this support, Michael has moved on to a rigorous Ph.D. program where less than 5% of all applicants are accepted. According to a letter of support from that program, he is thriving. Because the University of California at Santa Cruz and San José State University are closely situated, Michael's Collaborative Plan is one of participation between mentor and mentee, including research projects, collaboration with local marginalized communities, and the development of a regional Social Justice Research Conference. His mentor believes he will be become an "asset of the CSU system" and an outstanding teacher and scholar.