Cal Lutheran Welcomes New Program CHESS, EduCal Directors

In the upcoming weeks, California Lutheran University will welcome two new additions to the Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI) initiative team.

The new positions are program director seats for EduCal and Project CHESS as part of the Title V HSI grant.

According to the university website, EduCal activities are geared toward “increasing the number of successful Latina/o pre-credential students” and Project CHESS is in partnership with Moorpark College to increase the success of transfer students at both schools.

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Jessica Lavariega-Monforti said the new EduCal Director is Gabriela Cázares, who is scheduled to begin on March 11. The new Project CHESS Director Adrienne Arguijo-Morgan began her position on campus Feb. 25.

Arguijo-Morgan was previously a Pathways Program Coordinator at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). She worked with students ranging in ages from elementary school to college and mentored undergraduate students who participated in the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) at UCSB.

“Having the experience I had as a first gen[eration college student], I wanted to give back,” Arguijo-Morgan said.

Arguijo-Morgan said her position as a director will be to execute the goals for the CHESS grant and ensure that certain services outlined in the grant will be delivered.

“I’m excited to come on campus and understand what the needs are and what will benefit students,” Arguijo-Morgan said.

Arguijo-Morgan said the two aspects of the CHESS project she is most excited for are working with faculty and transfer students in CHESS.

She said she will evaluate the curriculum and work with faculty to implement inclusivity and culturally-relevant content in classes.

“I don’t want students who come to CLU to feel lost,” Arguijo-Morgan said. “I want to help bring transfer students and integrate them to campus life.”

Cázares is coming to Cal Lutheran from the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI), which is based at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). UCHRI is committed to furthering interdisciplinary humanities scholarship through grants, research and partnerships.

In an email interview, Cázares’ previous supervisor Kelly Brown explained that during her years at UCHRI, Cázares dedicated most of her time to a ‘diversity working group’ that is part of their Horizons of the Humanities grant. The group included faculty, graduate students and staff from around the UC system interested in issues of diversity and higher education.

According to the Cal Lutheran HSI website, the project is geared toward increasing the number of Hispanic teachers as a way to decrease diversity gaps within K-12 learning environments.

Cázares said her role as director was created to increase the number of Hispanic students entering teaching credential programs. It is also in place to help facilitate the retention and completion rates among underrepresented student populations.

Cázares said she “will have the pleasure of working with the faculty and staff on and off campus.”

Brown described Cázares as “dedicated” and “persistent.” She said she believes Cázares will bring “a LOT of passion” and a “diverse background to draw upon for this new position at Cal Lutheran.”

Cázares said her expertise in Title V institutions of higher education has been “built over a decade” and will allow her to add to Cal Lutheran’s HSI initiative.

“Partnerships and collaborations are vital and serve as a central component in EduCal,” Cázares said.

Cázares said she believes this position is a “tremendous opportunity” that allow focus and the opportunity to “collaboratively build and develop strategies” to aid underrepresented populations.

According to Brown, Cázares’ background is in various fields such as community college instruction, graduate education in literature and programmatic experience in the UC system.

“You are lucky to get her,” UCHRI Manager Arielle Read said. “She was an incredible addition to our staff and we are very sad to see her go.”

Cal Lutheran’s HSI initiative began after the full-time undergraduate Latinx student population reached 25 percent as required by the state, and was designated by the U.S. Department of Education in 2016.

The designation allowed Cal Lutheran to apply for grants in efforts to create more resources for students. One of the resources is the Title V grant that was dispersed to Cal Lutheran in 2018.

The grant is for nearly $6.5 million and provides the funding for Project CHESS and the EduCal project.

Yolanda Arciniega