Stephanie Smith

Then: Stephanie Smith, originally from Huntington Beach, was a member of CSUMB's "Pioneer" Class of 1999. She received a B.A. in Human Communication (HCOM). As an upper-division student, Smith became a student assistant in Student Activities and after graduation became the interim student activities coordinator for a year. Smith's other accomplishments and activities while at CSUMB included:

  • International Women's Day Award Winner for outstanding women and their community contributions
  • Started the first photography club, taking many of the first pictures that made it into the school publications
  • Helped organize the first Monte Carlo Night, which raised money for the Red Cross and local flood victims (believed to be the first student-run major event)
  • Part of the first Service Learning courses connected to dance and teaching at many of the local schools
  • Involved in various leadership conferences and workshops, including Job Fairs, Whole Body/Mind Fairs, and awareness activities (e.g., sexual assault)
  • Part of the Multicultural Club, including leading many of the Multicultural Comedy Nights, and serving one year as coordinator
  • Part of the Interclub Council from the beginning, helping to coordinate funding for the student groups on campus
  • Founding member of the CSUMB Dance Team

Smith says: "We [dance team members] had a great time. We didn't have uniforms so we bought matching outfits. I remember the first performance was at halftime of a basketball game. We purposely tried to be dancers and not cheerleaders. It was a great experience from the beginning and watching it grow. I was never part of [a dance team] from the get-go."

About her experiences in the early day of CSUMB: "I thought it would be good to be part of something new and heard that [CSUMB was] going to approach education in a new way. My impression of the school when I first got there sticks out in my mind: the boarded-up windows and abandoned buildings. And in the middle of it all were these brightly colored buildings. I wondered if I'd made the right choice. It seemed like an abandoned ghost town to outsiders.

"Overall, I learned a lot in many different ways. I was prepared for the 'real world' more because it wasn't a typical education. You had to take an active role in your education. Things were always changing, but I was able to take on a leadership role, and I had never really done that before. CSUMB gave me the opportunity to see myself in new ways."

Now: Living in Seattle, Stephanie Smith is now a graduate student at the University of Washington, getting her M.A. in Education with a multicultural education emphasis. She's also an intern for the Institute for Community Leadership, a nonprofit that focuses on empowering youth to work toward social justice.

Smith says: "Because I took advantage of so many opportunities, I never felt disconnected. I got involved in so many things. The professors were really approachable and cared about looking at things in new ways, and they helped shape what I'm doing now in my career. I didn't really appreciate it until now, when I see what other people got in their education. I appreciate [my education] more now than I did then."

Yolanda Gutierrez

Then: A native of Salinas, Yolanda Gutierrez transferred to CSUMB in her junior year. Within two years (in May 1998), she graduated with a degree in Human Communication (HCOM). In her senior year, Gutierrez's Senior Capstone project was an award winner: "Prisoners without Trial: The Evacuation Experience of the Local Japanese-American Community following the Bombing of Pearl Harbor" includes more than 100 images, archival footage, oral histories, news clippings, government documents, and music, all incorporated into a 35-minute video. The honors for the video included: First Place among entrants from the 21 CSU campuses in the California State University Research Competition's Humanities and Letters Division; TV interviews; and invitations to speak to local schools, and, perhaps most importantly, to members of the local Japanese-American community. Among Gutierrez' accomplishments and activities while at CSUMB:

  • Writer for the school newspaper, Otter Realm, which started in 1996
  • Selected for Leon Panetta's first Government and Governing class
  • Very involved with the Japanese-American community-including service commitments that aided in her research for her award-winning Capstone project (see 1997-1998)

Gutierrez says: "Once I got to CSUMB and started talking to people, HCOM sounded like they were doing what I wanted to do: writing and research-more artistic and creative writing. I really liked it a lot. My experience was really good; I felt that I could do more things in that department. I met Dr. [Megan] Wong and Dr. [Alberto] Ledesma, and they helped guide me in many ways.

"I don't like tests, but I love to write. And the Major Learning Objectives [MLO] assessment allowed me to write a program and demonstrate an understanding. That worked out really well for me. I really enjoyed the flexibility."

Now: Yolanda Gutierrez has spent the last five years teaching English at Alvarez High School in Salinas. She is considering attending Chapman University for a master's degree in education. She is the first Mexican-American woman ever to participate in the International Women's Poetry Conference.

Gutierrez also works as an independent contractor doing video and film production, writing, voice-overs, and on-camera hosting. Her clients include El Teatro Campesino, Wooden Ship Productions, Zanga Entertainment, area television stations, and CSUMB. She completed a student recruitment video for the university and produced and hosted the Spanish version of a half-hour monthly educational show sponsored by the California Teachers Association. The series, "En Busca de La Excelencia," is produced in the CSUMB Teledramatic Arts and Technology complex and airs throughout California.

1996-1997 Milestones/Events/Achievements

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