You will find our alumni working in every field imaginable, making a difference in the world every day. Take a look at what some of our alumni are doing now.
Sam Enriquez |Chiraz Zouaoui |Jerome Horton
Tammy Tumbling | John Tracy | Scott Gordon | Towalame Austin
Victor Rodriguez | Sithea San | Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel
Joy Sikorski | Danny Grissett | Patrick West | Dirk Sciarotta
Sam Enriquez: Above the Fold at the Wall Street Journal
Just a month after his promotion to national news editor of the Wall Street Journal in 2008, Sam Enriquez found himself reaching back more than two decades to his courses in economics from California State University, Dominguez Hills.
That fall, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., a global financial services firm and then the fourth-largest investment bank in the U.S., declared bankruptcy, ushering in a historic autumn of frozen credit markets and government bailouts as the national and global economy teetered on the brink of collapse. After years of reporting and editing general news, Enriquez said, with understatement, that what he learned in his macroeconomics classes would “prove immensely important” in helping him understand, interpret and help edit the daily onslaught of news that evolved into the biggest story of the decade.
How does a CSU Dominguez Hills economics major become a top editor at the largest newspaper in the U.S.? Credit for his early inclination toward math goes to his father—an aviation technician turned engineer who worked on the fabled X-15 and the Apollo project during a career that began after WWII at North American Aviation. But it was Enriquez’s talent for writing that set his career trajectory.
Enriquez recalls how his ninth-grade English teacher at Miraleste High School complimented his writing and asked him to try the campus paper. The daily drumbeat of news from Vietnam and then Watergate in the early 1970s, along with doses of social rebellion on campus, made it a “a good time for young writers,” he said. Looking back, he said, he now sees how journalism gave him a way to view and analyze the events happening around him. “It trained me to be more observant,” he said. “I would report back to my friends what I saw. It was exciting to bring news to other people, readers, and my peers.” Plus, he added, being on assignment was a great way to get out of class.
But when he graduated high school and enrolled at the University of California, San Diego, he decided to study economics, intending to combine his broader interest in the economy and politics with his math skills. The idea, he said, was to enter a technical field. In his free time, he continued to fill notebooks with stories and poems. Finally, writing proved too much to resist. In his junior year, Enriquez decided to leave college and pursue a career in journalism.
“I told my dad I wanted to be a writer. To his credit he asked me, ‘Can you make a living at it?’” Enriquez recalled. His father, he said, wasn’t passing judgment but wanted an answer. “I told him I thought I could.” Even without a college degree, Enriquez managed to begin a career in the world of words.
His first paying job was at the Easy Reader, a weekly newspaper covering local news in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach. He entered a contest, and captured the prize of $25 and a T-shirt for his winning composition—his first pay as a writer. The paper’s owner Kevin Cody later gave him a fulltime job in January 1980, covering school boards and city councils in the South Bay.
After a couple of years, ready for a bigger challenge, Enriquez reached out to the biggest nearby newspaper, the Daily Breeze. He recalled how city editor Frank Suraci returned his phone call and told him with the frankness of a longtime newspaper man, “Nobody is going to hire you unless you get a degree.” That was enough to get Enriquez back in school. He chose to complete his bachelor’s degree at CSU Dominguez Hills because he could take the bus there from his San Pedro apartment and it allowed him to continue working part-time at the Easy Reader.
“What I found out was that Dominguez Hills made sense. I could take classes in the afternoon and in the evening,” Enriquez recounted. “I’m grateful for Dominguez Hills. It was affordable, flexible with my schedule. The professors were dedicated and intellectual. Looking back you see what an incredible system they had in place.”
He graduated in 1985 with a B.S. in economics. And although not related to journalism, the degree would prove indispensable to his career. “I graduated on a Friday and I started Monday at the Los Angeles Times,” he recalled.
Enriquez, born in Inglewood and raised in Rancho Palos Verdes, worked at the L.A. Times for 22 years: as a reporter, assistant city editor, and city editor covering “courts, cops, cities, schools and features” in Los Angeles. As an editor, he directed coverage that earned the paper two Pulitzer Prizes in breaking news, the first in 1998 for stories on the 1997 North Hollywood shootout between police and gunmen after a botched bank robbery, and then for coverage of the 2003 California wildfires. “As a reporter … you get to write the story, you get the byline. It’s your show. As the editor, you work backstage. You’re not in the limelight. …But when the writers are on stage getting the flowers, you’re feeling good,” he said. After first brushing up on his Spanish, he prepared for a far-reaching assignment in 2005: foreign correspondent in Mexico City. He covered Mexico’s 2006 presidential election, the drug wars, immigration, economics and hurricanes for the L.A. Times. After working 10 years as an editor, he said, “It was nice to get back on stage.”
When he made the move to the Wall Street Journal in 2008, Enriquez’s degree seemed to work its magic again. “Part of my pitch for promotion for national news editor was my economics degree,” he said. Enriquez may not have foreseen how his economics degree would help him advance his journalism career. But with a penchant for numbers and words, combined with a philosophy of newsroom collaboration, he made the long journey from local news reporter to his latest assignment at the Journal, senior editor, Page One.
Having been on both sides of the news desk, Enriquez admits, he is still in love with reporting and writing. “Writing is the most human pursuit,” he said. “A thousand things can go wrong. But when it works, it’s magnificent.”
Chiraz Zouaoui: Blazing a Trail for Women in the Security Industry
Thirteen years ago, Chiraz Zouaoui (Class of ’05, B.A., business administration/accounting) left her homeland of Tunisia for the United States, carrying little more than her personal belongings and $800. Today, she is the founder and chief executive officer of City National Security. The company, which Zouaoui established in 2001 while a student at California State University, Dominguez Hills, provides security personnel for businesses and institutions throughout California.
“I knew what I was here for,” she says. “There is nowhere else you can achieve what you can in the United States. The opportunity is non-stop, even though with the recession [business is] slower than before. But I have been blessed to be in a position where I can create jobs, pay taxes, and be part of the American Dream.”
As CEO, Zouaoui focuses on the public relations aspects of her business, and aspirations to compete with industry giants. However, Zouaoui is confident that her company can thrive because of its size, not despite of it.
“I make sure that my clients have access to me even though I have a lot of managers,” she says. “I give my clients the ability to reach me so that I can follow up on the quality. They would never have access to that with a bigger company. It took time for us to convince the clients that we can do a better job—and now they know.”
Among those who “know” City National Security are major home improvement companies and general retail chains, numerous schools, hospitals, hotels, shopping centers, and other businesses throughout California and Texas. Zouaoui says that the ability to diversify the company’s services has been her formula for surviving the recession.
“When the economy got hit at the beginning of 2007, security for construction sites was 60 percent of my business,” she says. “We provide security for big projects, guarding multimillion dollar machinery used for building roads, freeways, and landfills. Then the economy [failed] and I said, ‘I have to do something.’ We started diversifying really aggressively from that point on. We are thankful that we are all over the place in the industry. It helped us to grow and if one [client industry] is hit, the others are safe.”
Zouaoui says that although being a woman in a male-dominated industry required a lot of adjustments at first, both for her and her fellow competitors in the business, in time she has been able to prove herself as a non-threatening but equal contender in the security industry.
“I went in with the attitude that I am different,” she says. “I am a safe and friendly competitor. .. [I play] business by the rules with integrity. I don’t take shortcuts. My competitors are my friends and they call me, we discuss things. I became the ‘soft’ person in the industry. They don’t look at me as someone who’s out to get them, [but as] a respectful person who is good to talk to.”
Zouaoui says that her student days were “the best experience ever,” and counts finance professor Ricardo Ulivi and the late Chiou-Hsiung “Bear” Chang among her greatest mentors.
Zouaoui, who recently joined the CSU Dominguez Hills Alumni Advisory Council, also says that the diversity of the student population enhanced her education and prepared her well to work with people from different backgrounds.”
“It’s a school that gave me knowledge and confidence,” she says. “I’m not the best at everything, but I learn every day from experience. Dominguez Hills put me in that position.”
Zouaoui, who recently became a new mom, says that she looks forward to handing down not only the legacy of her success in business, but of her ingrained work ethic.
“A friend of mine asked me, ‘So you think your child will take over [the business]?’ and I said, ‘Yes, my child will take over, but I will teach them how to make money, not how to get money,’” says Zouaoui. “That’s what I learned myself. The best I can give my child is to teach them how to be independent, how to prove themselves to society, how to have integrity and how to work hard. What’s important in my life is success and success is not just about me and making a fortune. It’s about giving back to the community, creating jobs, making a reason for my existence here.
“I knew that in my position of being an orphan at an early age, I had two paths to follow,” says Zouaoui. “I could have been a failure because people expected me to be. Or I could have taken another turn and made my life a success. I looked around and decided, ‘I want to be this.’”
Jerome Horton: Chair of the California State Board of Equalization (BOE)
When Jerome Horton, chair of the California State Board of Equalization (BOE), was an undergraduate at California State University, Dominguez Hills, he and other enterprising students were involved in the “Associated Bachelors,” an entrepreneurial group that promoted concerts in small venues, and used the proceeds to partially fund their education. The performers who were booked were usually the lesser-known opening act of a big-name musician appearing in the Los Angeles area. Many of these up-and-coming artists went on to make even bigger names for themselves, including George Benson and Smokey Robinson.
“We got to a point where we were generating $70,000 to $80,000 a year,” says Horton (Class of ’79, B.S., business administration/accounting), who established the enterprise while still a student at El Camino College (ECC). “A well-known artist would be at the Forum… and we would promote their opening act at a different venue. They were in town anyway, so we didn’t have to pay for them to fly here, and could get them less expensively to perform at a smaller venue.
“All of the business strategies we were learning in school applied to those ventures, which is what I encourage now.”
Horton, a former California Assemblyman, actively supports the aspirations of the next generation of entrepreneurs and policy makers with the current incarnation of the BOE’s internship program, which gives student interns valuable business and financial experience. Having served as an intern himself with BOE while attending ECC, he says that the experience inspired and encouraged him in his studies and goals.
“The BOE interfaces with every business in the state and is the largest tax administration agency in the nation,” says Horton. “[Our internship program] introduces the student to major accounting and law firms and businesses throughout the state of California.
“An internship with the BOE certainly serves [students] well on their resume. At the same time, it is a huge benefit to the state of California to train and prepare college students at the internship level so that by the time they graduate, they can hit the ground running.”
Horton launched a new program this year that ran from April to June, with a pilot cohort of 24 interns from CSU Dominguez Hills, who were recruited with the assistance of the university’s Career Center. Interns reported to one of BOE’s four field offices within the Fourth District of the Los Angeles region, which includes Norwalk, Van Nuys, West Covina, and Culver City. The interns gained experience in registering businesses with BOE, monitoring compliance activity, and assisting in the collection of business taxes. As a result of the internship, 16 CSU Dominguez Hills students have been hired as full-time employees by BOE, four of whom have been hired on a permanent basis. Horton will expand the program this fall to include students from other California universities.
“Dominguez Hills is my alma mater and the curriculum there is perfect for individuals going into finance and accounting,” Horton says of why he chose CSU Dominguez Hills as the pilot campus for the internship. “The talent pool was exceptionally high and I wanted the best and brightest to ensure that the program was successful.”
Horton, who has 22 years of prior experience on the BOE, is the first African American to serve on the board and the third African American constitutional officer of the state of California. He was a member of the Inglewood City Council, and served as a state assemblyman from 1996 to 2006. Following that, he established Strategic Advocates, a political public policy advocacy firm, which he operated until his appointment by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Board of Equalization in 2009.
Horton actively encourages the growth of partnerships between the state and its universities as part of the efforts to rebuild California’s economy.
“What I envision are partnerships [between] universities and major corporations—including state government—to develop the workforce for California based on the needs of the business community, so that the students have a greater opportunity for employment while in college and after college,” he says. “The BOE is responsible for generating $48 billion for the state of
California, so anything we can do to
improve our efficiency improves revenue for the state. Partnership with our local universities is an efficient way to identify future executives.”
As a former member of the California Workforce Investment Board, Horton worked collaboratively to develop workforce training and career advancement for Californians. He also played a key role in establishing initiatives to serve at-risk youth and to reduce gang participation and juvenile crime. Among his projects were the California Gang Reduction, Intervention, & Prevention (CalGRIP), which provides education and professional training to at-risk and high-risk youth through the Governor’s Office of Gang and Youth Violence Policy, and year-round youth programs through the Workforce Investment Act, which provides education and job training for low-income youth.
Horton says that empowering the underserved has been a major focus of his career, largely inspired by the example of his late mother, Percy L. Horton, who was a champion of civil rights. Her efforts included opposing the seizing of private homes through eminent domain for the development of the Centinela Hospital Medical Center. She was also active in the NAACP.
“My mother had the greatest influence over me,” Horton says. “She was a civil rights activist and a mother who loved and cared for her children. She encouraged us to be good people and do the right thing. If it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be here today.
“It’s important that you care about other people… to be driven by your concern and compassion for others. If you can figure out a way to help someone else, you will help yourself in the process.”
Tammy Tumbling: Southern California Edison
Director of Philanthropy Plants Seeds For Green Education
As the new director of philanthropy and community involvement at Southern California Edison(SCE), Tammy Tumbling (Class of ’90, B.S., business administration; ’94, MPA) is responsible for overseeing the company’s philanthropic interests and strategizing funding programs and priorities. Among these is Edison’s commitment to educating a “green” workforce through its $1,000,000Green Jobs Education Initiative, which was conceived and launched by Tumbling earlier this year. The initiative provides 10 community colleges throughout the state with funding to support training programs in areas such as green building, renewable energy, energy efficiency, water and waste management, biofuels production, and alternative transportation.
Prior to her current position, Tumbling served as senior manager of SCE’s community involvement unit and senior manager in quality assurance in the company’s transmission and distribution business unit. She joined SCE in 1998 after serving as director of corporate development for theMusic Center of Los Angeles and working on funding development and distribution for United Way of Greater Los Angeles. She is a board member of the National College Resource Foundation, theConference Board Contributions Council, and serves on the advisory board of the Research & Policy Institute of California.
Dateline spoke recently to the 1987 CSU Dominguez Hills Homecoming Queen and former president of the university’s Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority about her mission to keep SCE at the forefront of a growing diverse green workforce, the importance of being a mother, and “paying it forward” as a mentor to her employees and the underserved students that Edison supports.
Dateline: What is SCE’s responsibility to the community - students in particular - in order to secure a better future for the environment?
Tammy Tumbling: Southern California Edison has been around for almost 125 years. We’ve been supporting our community for that amount of time and we will continue to do so in years to come.
It is the responsibility of the utility industry to be good corporate citizens, and how we do that is to set our focus on philanthropic resources in areas where our customer base is. Edison takes great pride in partnering with community-based organizations to address the immediate academic and social needs of the community during these difficult economic times.
Education is one of our top priorities at Edison. We want to strategically align our dollars with organizations that are supporting the environment and education [for] underserved populations.
Dateline: How can female and minority students begin to prepare for jobs in the environmental and energy fields?
TT: My recommendation is to get the right credentials. Prior to starting your degrees, find mentors in the industry you want to be in to make sure you are taking the right courses, working with the right people, and are staying abreast of the most current issues related to your field. Since we are a global society, it’s important to know what’s going on related to your field of interest, and what the key issues are at an international level.
Dateline: How did your education at CSU Dominguez Hills prepare you to work in a wide variety of roles at Edison?
TT: Dominguez Hills is a special place for me. It helped me to create the strong academic and leadership foundation that I needed in order to be a successful executive at Southern California Edison.
I chose Dominguez Hills because I grew up in the area, in the city of Compton, and it was one of the schools attended by people who I looked up to in my neighborhood. The [professors] had a genuine interest in the success of their students. It was an open campus with lots of diversity and a place - at the time I was a teen mom - that was able to accommodate the fact that I was raising a 2-year-old child.
During graduate school, I had the privilege of being in public administration classes with Drs. Justine Bell, David Karber and Foraker Smith. It was through their lectures and life experiences that I was able to transfer that knowledge to corporate America.
Dateline: What do you think has made you successful in your career and as a role model?
TT: I believe what has made me successful in my career are my perseverance, focus, and commitment to my own personal values, and not wavering, not going against those regardless of [my] environment. I was surrounded by so many great people along the way in my career and throughout college, that [mentoring is] a natural thing for me to do.
My two primary areas of focus in my life are the work that I do here at So Cal Edison and most importantly, being a parent to my four children, Aaron, Ashton, Amanda and Sekai. It is a juggling act but family always comes first. I’m fortunate to work for a company that recognizes the importance of their employees and their families.
My education at Cal State Dominguez Hills prepared me for the job I do today because of the diversity of the school, its focus on excellence, and each professor believing in the success of every student. I have taken the same approach that the school provided me in nurturing my employees.
I believe that as a leader in a corporation, my job extends beyond my staff. When you’re visible to every employee in the company, it is your responsibility to share your story and provide mentoring and coaching to employees to ensure that we’re preparing our future workforce.
- Reported by Joanie Harmon
John Tracy: Boeing Technology
Senior Vice President
The 50th anniversary of California State University, Dominguez Hills also coincides with the centennial of the 1910 Air Meet, the first aviation exhibition to take place on the West Coast. Among the attendees of that historic event was William Boeing, who went on to create his own aviation company six years later. Today, a CSU Dominguez Hills alumnus is leading the technology efforts at The Boeing Company, the world’s largest aerospace manufacturer.
As senior vice president of engineering, operations and technology and the chief technology officer for Boeing, John Tracy (Class of ’76, B.S., physics) is responsible for the strategic direction of more than 100,000 employees internationally. Within the corporation, he is responsible for a multitude of organizations that include engineering, operations, supplier management, quality assurance functions, information technology, intellectual property management, and environment, health and safety.
Tracy joined McDonnell Douglas, now part of Boeing, as a stress analyst in 1981. Since then, he's held a wide variety of leadership roles at the company, including vice president of engineering and mission assurance for Boeing's defense and space business unit and vice president of structural technologies, prototyping and quality for the company's advanced research and development organization.
The Southern California native is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the past chair of its 6,000-member aerospace division. He has also been elected as a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Royal Aeronautical Society, and was named the 2006 Hispanic Engineer of the Year by the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Awards Corporation. Tracy received his doctorate in engineering in 1987 from the University of California, Irvine and his master’s of science in physics from CSU Los Angeles.
In the face of a dwindling U.S. military budget and the repurposing of the space program, Tracy discusses with Dateline what Boeing is doing to maintain its stature as the world's aerospace leader, what students need to do to prepare for the upcoming demand for qualified professionals in this industry, and what childhood memories encouraged his vision of enabling the world to fly.
Dateline: What inspired you to become an engineer?
John Tracy: It was when my dad gave me a model of the X-15 back in elementary school. It's a rocket-powered airplane that was used for research mainly during the 1960s. In fact, until the Space Shuttle came along, the X-15 held the record for the fastest-moving manned flight, when it flew at more than six times the speed of sound. I remember seeing pictures of this rocket-powered airplane that didn't land on three wheels. It landed in the desert on a wheel and two skids, and I thought, ‘Wow, what an amazing sight! How can I get involved in designing and building something like that?’
I’m proud to say that my mom helped convince me to become an engineer. I grew up in Gardena, and when I was a kid, we’d drive through our neighborhood, and she’d point out the places where engineers lived. She’d say, ‘See that house over there? That's where Mr. So-and-So lives, and he's an engineer.’ That made a big impression on me.
Dateline: How is Boeing pioneering a new era of commercial aircraft with the Dreamliner?
JT: The 787 Dreamliner is going to be a fantastic airplane for our customers. It’s a textbook example of how we’re using cutting-edge technology to create a product that meets our customers’ needs and provides them with game-changing benefits.
This isn't just technology for technology's sake. It's something that our airline customers want. At Boeing, we believe that people want to fly nonstop to their destinations, instead of changing airplanes at large airports. The 787 has a range of about 8,000 miles and can carry between 210 and 250 passengers. So we're providing airlines with an airplane that can be operated economically and can cover long, long distances, which helps them open new routes.
About 50 percent of the structure, including the fuselage and the wing, is made from composite materials. That lets the 787 use 20 percent less fuel than similarly sized airplanes, even though it will fly as fast as today’s fastest passenger jetliners. That means it’s environmentally progressive because it produces fewer emissions. Also, the 787 will cost 30 percent less to maintain and will be more reliable and easier to repair.
Also, passengers will enjoy benefits. The airplane has technology that senses turbulence and commands wing control surfaces to counter it, which smoothes out the ride. The interior environment will [maintain] higher humidity, meaning the inside air will be more comfortable. And there are design features that will help rekindle the magic of air travel. Not only do the interior design and lighting make the cabin stand out from any other airplane, but the windows are 65 percent bigger than on current airplanes.
How do we know we've got a hit? [To date], customers have ordered 847 787s – even though the first one won't be delivered to a customer until the first quarter of 2011. That makes the 787 the fastest-selling commercial jetliner. The people of Boeing have worked extremely hard to bring this airplane to life, and we can't wait to see it in service.
Dateline: How will Boeing maintain its standing in the aerospace industry with the reconfiguring of the United States space program?
JT: Boeing has been a leader in space technology for more than half a century. For just about every achievement of the U.S. space program, you'll find that Boeing has been involved, so we're supportive of maintaining U.S. leadership in space. Right now, our focus is on meeting our existing customer commitments: We must safely fly the space shuttle and complete the International Space Station to honor commitments to our international partners. There are shuttle flights scheduled for November 2010 and February 2011.
As for the future, we’re committed to participating in the nation’s next chapter of space exploration. In June, President Obama issued the National Space Policy, in which he stated his commitment to reinvigorating U.S. leadership in space for the purposes of maintaining space as a stable and productive environment for the peaceful use of all nations. We will work with our customers to help shape the future of spaceflight, just as we’ve shaped the future of flight throughout our history.
Dateline: How will the decrease in defense spending going to affect what has long been a mainstay of Boeing contracts?
JT: We have a tremendous array of products. It's our job to understand what our customers need for today and tomorrow; design with products and services that meet these needs; and work together to do a stellar job of delivering these solutions. So there are two parts to this answer: addressing international defense opportunities, and developing new products and services that meet our customers' evolving needs.
You're right when you talk about the Pentagon’s budget flattening. As a result, international defense contracts have become more important to our business. We already have many of our products in use by defense forces worldwide, but the goal of our defense business is to boost its share of international sales from about 15 percent today to between 20 to 25 percent by 2014.
Among the many products we are currently making for international customers are fighter jets for Korea, Singapore and Australia; airlifters for the United Kingdom and Qatar; and airborne early warning and control aircraft for Turkey and Australia. We’ve submitted proposals to India for Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. India and the United Arab Emirates are among the many nations interested in the C-17 Globemaster airlift aircraft. And we're competing for two of the biggest defense contracts outside the United States: fighter jet competitions in India for 126 aircraft, and Brazil, with up to 120 [aircraft].
I want to clarify that the U.S. government has a robust process that international defense forces must follow to procure defense products or services from companies in America. Our government must approve the acquisition to ensure that it is in the nation’s best interests. If they approve it, [the government] actually buys the product and then sells it to the other country.
When we conduct business in other nations, we look to create a long-term presence by getting involved in the fabric of [those countries]. We want our presence to be that of a partner, not merely a supplier. To build that, we’ve done [projects] ranging from opening research centers in Spain, Russia, India, and Australia to being actively involved in community service projects worldwide.
As for new products and services in the U.S., the biggest development for the near-term is the P-8A Poseidon, a U.S. Navy submarine hunting and intelligence aircraft based on a 737. We will be producing 117 of them, with the Navy scheduled to get the first one in 2013. Looking at the long-term future, among the [projects] we are working on are unmanned aircraft. That includes the Phantom Eye, a surveillance aircraft that will stay aloft at 65,000 feet for up to four days, and the Phantom Ray, designed for missions such as surveillance, suppression of enemy air defenses, electronic attack, and aerial refueling.
But we're not just working on aircraft. We are involved in cyber security, which makes use of our expansive technology know-how. Did you know that Boeing operates and protects the world's sixth-largest virtual private network? We are also involved in energy management and smart grid strategies to help improve the efficiency, security and reliability of the entire U.S. energy system.
Dateline: How did your education at Dominguez Hills prepare you for your career?
JT: My experiences at Dominguez Hills really helped me in my career and I have tremendous memories. The college [CSU Dominguez Hills was designated as a CSU in 1977] was small enough to give me the chance to have direct interactions with my professors, who made sure that I understood all the concepts I needed to learn. In fact, the professors there encouraged me in all aspects of my studies. I especially remember James Imai [emeritus professor of physics]. I started out at Dominguez Hills as a math major with a minor in physical education. But I took [one of his classes] and he convinced me I could be a physics student. Also, H. Keith Lee [emeritus professor of physics] took a personal interest in teaching me how to learn, and Sam Wiley [emeritus professor of physics] was helpful in so many ways.
[CSC Dominguez Hills] was also small enough to give me the opportunity to participate in all aspects of student life. Student government, intercollegiate athletics—you name it—if there was something I could do on campus, I would, because the campus was easy to navigate and the professors were so encouraging.
Dateline: How would you encourage more students to prepare for careers in engineering and aerospace?
JT: There is a huge opportunity in the near term for people to have great jobs in engineering and aerospace. With the upcoming retirements of baby boomers from the workforce, there are many engineering and technology jobs that will be available and lots of opportunities to advance. But today, companies have a limited pool of college graduates to draw from to fill their openings. In 2009, there were only 74,000 engineering graduates in the United States. I don't mean in only aerospace engineering; I mean in all engineering fields.
Obviously, getting a solid background in science, technology, engineering and math areas is important. But [students] should also think about what they have a passion for and then follow that passion. At Boeing, we're convinced that anyone who wants to become an engineer can do so if they want to and are ready to work for it. We are looking forward to today’s students becoming part of a diverse and talented workforce that will help us build on our legacy of technical leadership. And we really want to encourage students to consider careers in technology and engineering fields. We are involved in so many different activities to help inspire students—even children in their pre-kindergarten years. We are [supporting initiatives] like robotics competitions and giving science teachers ideas for activities that will really motivate kids. Many of our employees volunteer at local schools to help tutor and inspire students.
I can't say enough about the importance of inspiration when it comes to getting young people interested in science and technology. The sight of a rocket airplane helped inspire me to pursue a career in this field. I hope the products that [we at Boeing] are working on today will encourage students to become the designers of tomorrow’s awe-inspiring products.
Scott Gordon: Superior Court Judge
Los Angeles, CA
Alumnus Scott Gordon (Class of ’80, B.S., public administration/criminal justice) has achieved an illustrious law career, having worked as a prosecuting attorney in the O.J. Simpson case, volunteered as a legal specialist for a criminal tribunal for war crimes in the former country of Yugoslavia, and as of last month, being named a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. More than anything, however, he is eager to talk about his only son, Joseph, who attends Gordon’s alma mater as an undergraduate in the university’s negotiation, conflict resolution and peace building program (NCRP).
“He’s having an extraordinary experience,” Gordon says of Joseph, who is currently in Rimini, Italy, attending an NCRP summer program through a partnership between CSU Dominguez Hills and San Diego State University. “He finds, like I did, that the commuter students have a more serious attitude about school. [Being a working student] was accommodated and valued. [He likes] the small class size with very interesting and interested professors, more approachability and is gaining useable skills.”
Gordon says that the exposure to a diverse student population like the one at CSU Dominguez Hills is an important skill for negotiation and conflict resolution students.
“Being at Dominguez Hills with kids from different backgrounds [was an advantage],” recalls Gordon, who joined the Santa Monica Police Department while still an undergraduate. “It broadens your background as to why people have likes, dislikes, and fears. One of the things a police officer needs is the ability to talk to anybody. You’d be in a class about law enforcement relationships [with] a sheriff, an officer, and a kid who just got out of a gang.”
He added that college education now figures heavily in a law enforcement career compared to his days as a police officer and detective.
“Education has become more important,” he says. “It was unusual to have a degree. Now only 20 percent of officers don’t have one. And many older officers are going into masters’ programs.”
Gordon continued his education while still on the force, earning his law degree from Southwestern University School of Law, where he now serves as adjunct professor teaching community property and family law. He says that while “big-name” universities are widely thought to open doors, a school like CSU Dominguez Hills has an educational quality and mission that creates “an atmosphere of wanting the students... and the school to succeed.”
”The doors are there if you want to ask for help,” Gordon says of Dominguez Hills. “There is a work ethic that comes out of that school that I kept with me. The professors expected you to have your work done. That old adage of keeping your nose to the grindstone that was later dwarfed by ‘who you know,’ still exists there.”
Gordon began his law career in 1985 at the offices of Shield and Smith, a civil litigation firm in Los Angeles. From there he moved on to the position of Los Angeles County deputy district attorney from 1986 to 2002. While in the county district attorney’s office, he was a founding member of the Stalking and Threat Assessment Team, one of the first such prosecuting units in the nation. In 1997, he served as volunteer counsel for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia http://www.icty.org/. Working for two months in The Hague, Netherlands, he helped evaluate for possible trial alleged war crimes that occurred during the Bosnian conflicts of the 1990s.
Gordon left his position as deputy district attorney in 2002 after being elected a Superior Court commissioner. He held that post until his appointment to the bench by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this spring.
As a commissioner and now a judge, Gordon presides over custody hearings divorce trials, and domestic violence protection orders. His many associations with this area of law include serving as a member of the Violence Against Women Education Committee for the California Center for Judicial Education and Research and as chair of the Los Angeles County Domestic Violence Council from 1995 to 2001. He has also provided testimony and consultation in forums for the California Assembly Select Committee on Crimes Against Women and Children, the California Senate Judiciary Committee, and the California Assembly Public Safety Committee. Gordon is co-author of the 2003 book, “Shadow Enemies: Hitler’s Secret Terrorist Plot Against the United States” (with Alex Abella). He is at work on a new book about a trial that took place in early Los Angeles history.
“From a lawyer’s perspective, [family law] is a hybrid of civil and criminal law,” says Gordon. “The system is built on keeping the government at bay. In family law, people pull the government in to decided where kids should play, go to school, their [legal] names. We have the extremely human issue of child custody and at the same time, you have business cases with the separation of property.
“Whether it’s the baker on the corner or someone who owns a multinational corporation, [family and property are] the most important things to them.”
Gordon’s commitment to family encompasses his pride in his son and in CSU Dominguez Hills. He expresses his loyalty to his alma mater and his gratitude for the quality of education and preparation for a diverse workforce that he and his son, who looks forward to a career in law enforcement and the legal profession, benefit from, a generation apart.
“I’ve always loved the school,” says Gordon. “Now that my son is there, I love it more.”
Towalame Austin: Alumna Works Magic in Philanthropy as President of Nonprofit
Towalame Austin (BS 2004), president of the Magic Johnson Foundation (MJF) may be based in an office in Beverly Hills, but she remains connected to the underserved communities that the Foundation serves nationwide.
As president of the MJF, Austin leads the nonprofit's commitment to health, education and social needs of ethnically diverse urban communities. She is responsible for overseeing the operations and growth of the organization, in keeping with its three-pronged mission of HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness and education.
The Foundation’s commitment to the health, educational and social needs of underserved communities keeps Austin busy with overseeing programs including the AHF Magic Johnson Healthcare Clinics. In 2006, she launched a highly successful campaign for World AIDS Day, “I Stand with Magic,” that tested more 1,300 at-risk individuals for HIV/AIDS. She also oversees the Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program, which awards four-year scholarships and mentoring to college students, complete with a laptop computer and paid summer internships with MJF’s corporate partners.
Austin also supervises 18 Magic Johnson Community Empowerment Centers throughout the nation, including a recently opened facility in Eastover, South Carolina, the first center in a rural area. The centers are dedicated to the education of children and adults and provide access to technology, afterschool programs for at-risk youth, seminars and workshops on health, finances, and home ownership, and industry certifications and jobs in technology fields.
“They say that during a recession, people go back to school,” says Austin. “They get themselves geared up for coming out of the recession, whether it’s the degree they always wanted or whatever skill or trade they’ve always wanted to do.”
Education in its many forms, whether in the classroom or on-the-job, is important to Austin, who was hired by MJF 12 years ago as a part-time receptionist. Realizing that her aspirations were in marketing, after taking classes at West Los Angeles College and Santa Monica Colleges, she transferred to CSU Dominguez Hills. She says that the university’s accommodation of the working adult’s 9 to 5 schedule was a key to her success along with her own personal drive to get an education.
Austin has received numerous accolades for her work with the Foundation, including a commendation from the County of Los Angeles for community service, the Public Education Foundation's Lifetime Educational Achievement Award, and a proclamation from the City of Eastover, South Carolina. Austin obtained a degree in business administration and marketing at CSU Dominguez Hills while working at MJF. After more than a decade with the organization, Austin looks forward to more growth with the company that in the spirit of its mission, supported her throughout her education.
Victor Rodriguez: Top Vascular Surgeon Provides Lifeline for Student Success
When Victor Rodriguez, M.D. (Class of ’92, B.S., biology) was growing up in Torreon in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, a young medical student showed him and several other boys a cadaver lab. The initial shock gave way to fascination and eventually three of the boys grew up to become doctors, Rodriguez recently told a biology class at California State University, Dominguez Hills. The top vascular surgeon for Kaiser Permanente in northern California returned to his alma mater to encourage students to reach for their dreams.
Rodriguez was raised by his grandparents until he was 11, when his family moved to the United States. As an immigrant youth in California, he remembers that he was never groomed at the schools he attended for anything remotely resembling his current success.
“My [high school] counselor never told me to get ready to take the SAT,” he says.
Rodriguez served in the Marine Corps as a way to pay for college, and when his duty as an airplane mechanic was over, he enrolled at Cerritos College. When he was ready to move on to a four-year university, he was encouraged by one of his instructors at Cerritos College to give Dominguez Hills a try. He credits the individual attention he received from his professors as vital to success in medical school and his career.
“Dr. (Eugene) Garcia, Dr. (Thomas) Lyle, Dr. (James) Riley (former professors of chemistry) - they all wrote me great letters of recommendation because they knew me,” says Rodriguez.
“Garcia guided me and told me where to apply, and was even able to get me a spot in the pre-med group over at UC Irvine. They knew where I came from and they knew where I was going.
“In bigger places, when you ask for a letter of recommendation from your teacher, you don’t really have any interaction with them,” he says. “There’s a generic letter that’s written . . . They know nothing about . . . you.”
Rodriguez now gives back by mentoring young students and propelling them to medical school and careers in the field.
“Even if you only help one [person], it makes a huge difference,” he states. “My way of giving back, of going back to my roots, is by doing this type of outreach and mentoring.”
As a vascular surgeon in Kaiser’s South Sacramento Medical Center, he specializes in complex aortic reconstructions and peripheral arterial reconstructions.
Rodriguez earned his medical degree at the University of California, Davis and served his residency at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. He completed a fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wis., and currently has an academic appointment at UC Davis, teaching vascular surgery.
Sithea San: Alumna Works to Build Community in Long Beach’s Cambodia Town
As a founder and now chair of the board of directors for the fledgling Cambodia Town ethnic district in Long Beach, Sithea San (Class of ’91, B.S., business administration) continues to live by the words of a professor she fondly remembers from her days at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Kosaku Yoshida, Ph.D., told his finance class that the obstacles throughout the journey are not what matter, but the end result.
Located along Long Beach’s Anaheim Street between Junipero and Atlantic avenues, Cambodia Town received its designation from the Long Beach City Council on July 3, 2007, after years of planning, organizing and controversy. There were many who believed the designation would ignite gang rivalry and create strain among those with different racial backgrounds. However, with the designation and a multicultural board, the tensions are subsiding.
At the age of 13, San came to America to escape the Khmer Rouge regime. Her family walked for days to Thailand in order to leave the killing fields of Cambodia.
“My family walked all day, I don’t remember how many days,” San recalls. She and her family stayed in two refugee camps along the way. There, San and her sisters learned the traditional folk dances of Cambodia. In 1981 her uncle, who was living in Long Beach, sponsored the refugee family and they came to America.
San and her husband met while attending California State University, Long Beach. The two helped put together the first Cambodian Culture Show in 1987. “That’s how I got to know my husband; I trained him to dance,” she recollects excitedly.
After primarily attending CSULB, San and her husband transferred to CSU Dominguez Hills because classes were more accessible, allowing them to graduate by their goal date. The plan was to take classes at the Dominguez Hills campus and transfer back to CSULB for graduation, but Sithea San says, “We fell in love with Cal State Dominguez Hills, both of us, and we stayed to graduate from there.”
And, using the philosophy imparted to her while at CSU Dominguez Hills, San can now look back at the formation of Cambodia Town and say, “We don’t look at the cost, the obstacles... You look at the end of the day, the bottom [line]. People try to slow us down…but in the end we got the Cambodia [Town] designation…That’s why I say I fell in love [with CSU Dominguez Hills] because of one professor’s words. And, we’re [still] using them. It works.”
Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel: Space, the Not-So-Final Frontier
Lt. Gen. Michael Hamel, CSU Dominguez Hills M.B.A. graduate (’74) and commander of the United States Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), was named the Air Force Association’s (AFA) 2007 Gen. Thomas D. White USAF Space Trophy winner, for his outstanding contribution to the nation's progress in aerospace. The award is named for General White, who served as the fourth Air Force chief of staff from 1957 to 1961. Previous recipients of the award include astronauts, major command commanders and Secretaries of the Air Force.
Under Hamel's leadership, SMC recently had its 51st successful space launch in a row, which SMC officials consider an unparalleled accomplishment in military space history. He serves not only as the center’s commander but also as the Air Force program executive officer (AFPEO) for space, leading more than 5,000 personnel with an annual budget of more than $10 billion. Hamel looks forward to SMC’s future achievements:
“In the next year or two, we will have the first-time launch of five new satellite systems that represent a major set of capabilities for military users in the field. One, for example, is being finalized at Boeing in El Segundo. It is called the Wideband Global Satellite Communications system. The first satellite we launch will have more capacity than all the constellations in orbit today. This represents more than a tenfold increase in capacity just from that one satellite system.
“We have four other new first-of-a-kind satellites that will also go into orbit in the next one to two years. Each represents an increase in ability to military operators as well as new mission capability in surveillance for ballistic missiles, other targets and keeping track of everything that is in space. We’re in the middle of getting one system on contract. It is an advanced communication satellite that includes Internet switching on the satellite. Anybody on the ground can log in on their computer and, with Internet communications through a satellite system in orbit, get connected to anyone else who’s authorized.
“All of these achievements make us very proud. We are making major new advances for not only our military users but also for the nation. Our continued leadership in space is absolutely critical for our success and well-being as a nation.”
Hamel has been assigned to SMC several times throughout his career. He played a role in the creation of the Global Positioning System (GPS), from its beginnings in the 1970s to its worldwide use today, and has overseen the advance of global missile warning systems. His strategic vision and hands-on expertise across all facets of the space enterprise guided the center to recognition as the preeminent development and acquisition center for space within the Department of Defense.
Joy Sikorski: Alumna Finds Connections Between Music and Mothering
When Joy Sikorski (Class of ’01, M.A., humanities) raised and home-schooled her three children in the Alaskan wilderness, she realized that one of the many stimuli that they responded well to was the sound of her voice. Their emotions and ability to learn were greatly influenced by this. When her voice was uptight and strident, they reacted with tension and an inability to focus. When her voice was gentle and reassuring, they felt safe and relaxed, which enabled them to ask questions, communicate and absorb information easily.
This inspired Sikorski to create SingBabySing, a line of educational products designed to help parents and children relax, meditate and learn. The accomplished musician and composer developed a program with original music, games, and exercises that encourage voice and speech development in infants as young as 3 to 4 months. She named the Puccini Effect. Similar to the Mozart Effect, which is a theory about the ears and brain receiving musical sounds and sending messages to the rest of the body about them, the Puccini Effect has to do with music coming from inside the body and going out, sending messages through the vocal cords and mouth. According to Sikorski, both the Mozart Effect and the Puccini Effect have a profound impact on language development.
Sikorski experienced her own home-schooling, earning her master’s degree through the CSU Dominguez Hills College of Extended Education while in Alaska. Her thesis, titled “Dream Songs - an Isopomorphism between the Tangible and the Ineffable,” examined the historical and contemporary theories surrounding the concept of “music of the spheres,” a philosophical concept that imbues music with supernatural or harmonic powers.
In her research of ancient Celtic, Hebrew and Native American cultures for her thesis, Sikorski discovered the common thread of a power belonging to music that goes beyond normal understanding, and drew a few possible conclusions about music as a healing force.
“I learned that the earth vibrates at what is called the Schumann frequency — not associated with the composer — as do other planets and celestial objects,” says Sikorski. “Sound frequencies pulsing at exact brainwave speeds cause a sympathetic response in the brain by which the brainwaves alter themselves to match the sound frequencies. The DNA in our bodies also vibrates and emits sound frequencies. Beethoven is said to have claimed that there were certain musical compositions he could not complete unless he heard them in a dream, and the Celts believed that certain types of music could stop armies in their tracks.”
Sikorski says that what drew her to the Humanities (HUX) program offered by Extended Education, along with the convenience of doing the program from a remote location, was “the freedom to create a topic of particular interest to me, and then, with the help of the Dominguez Hills faculty and staff, explore it in such an unencumbered fashion that I could communicate my findings for the benefit of others.”
Danny Grissett: Jazz Pianist
Originally from Los Angeles, California, pianist/composer Danny Grissett started playing the piano at age five and studying classically at six. Danny earned his B.A. in Music Education from CSU Dominguez Hills in 1998 and developed a love for jazz.
After graduating from CSU Dominguez Hills, Grissett simultaneously attended Cal Arts, where he earned an M.F.A. in jazz piano, and The Monk Institute, a prestigious post-graduate program at the University of Southern California. In 2001, he began teaching the jazz ensemble at CSU Dominguez Hills.
“That experience was great. It solidified some things I already knew and made me more fluent as an artist,” says Grissett.
Grissett toured with luminaries like Herbie Hancock, recorded with trombonist Phil Ranelin, and secured regular gigs at local jazz clubs around Los Angeles like Charlie O’s, Catalina Bar & Grill, and Rocco. In 2003 he moved to New York to make a name for himself in the jazz world.
Since landing in New York, he has performed with such notables as Freddie Hubbard, Steve Wilson, The Mingus Big Band, Marcus Strickland, Russell Malone, Jeremy Pelt, and the Tom Harrell quintet. He has also performed at international jazz festivals and clubs. Currently he is working and touring with Nicholas Payton’s new quartet. Danny’s first cd as a leader, Promise, was released in May 2006.
Patrick West: City Manager for Long Beach, California
When Patrick West was earning his M.B.A. (Class of ’86) at California State University, Dominguez Hills, he was deeply impressed with the campus and the features that made it an environment conducive to learning.
“I tell everybody that I talk to that Dominguez Hills is the best,” he enthuses. “I found it to be both super-friendly and user-friendly. The library was always accessible and there were beautiful places to go lie on the grass and study.”
Similarly concerned about his home environment, the former city manager of Paramount went into action when he found that his city was named the eighth worst suburb in America in the early 1980s, working with that community’s agencies and developing an infrastructure in the city to prevent and fight crime.
“The Paramount city council did not bury its head in the sand,” he says. We had a very strong redevelopment agency and a very strong city manager at the time, Bill Holt, who is my mentor. We took that [challenge] on, saying, ‘We are not going to be on that list. We had a lot of support from the community and a lot of redevelopment that turned that city around. Violent crime dropped 41 percent, crime dropped 48 percent. Paramount has a huge anti-gang program. As the population doubled, the number of gang members in our town decreased by 50 percent. It’s a beautiful city that people are proud to be from.”
Now, as the new city manager of Long Beach, he plans to do the same thing with the sprawling metropolis. West’s organic approach to improving the city depends upon the collaboration of its agencies. Public safety is a major issue for him, one that he intends to address by creating partnerships among the city’s many agencies and departments.
“We need a common vision that everybody shares in every department,” West says. “I know we’re tapped for resources, we truly are. But, there are resources available. We’ve got a redevelopment agency, we’ve got a water department, we’ve got a gas and oil department and a public works department. We need to meet the public perception that we’re not responding to the streets enough. We want to make sure we’re all at the same table, and that whenever one department is touching a street that we all leave it better.”
West is adamant that tapping into the city’s resources is an investment in the future of Long Beach. He is willing to bear temporary shortages for long-term insurance of the city’s reputation.
“Crime in the country is going up but crime in Long Beach is going down. [The police department] spent their extra resources to make that happen,” he notes. “At the end of the day, I would much rather be in a situation with a budget problem than a situation with a crime problem, where Long Beach is looked upon as an unsafe city. It could take years to climb out of that.”
As an M.B.A. student at Dominguez Hills, West appreciated the communal atmosphere of the campus and the accessibility of its resources. He hopes to provide the same for Long Beach residents, stating that the city’s success in improving its streets depends on a partnership with its citizens.
Dirk Sciarrotta: Alumnus Takes Home An Emmy
Dirk Sciarrotta (Class of ‘94, B.A., music) can now add Emmy Award-winning sound effects mixer to his resume. In June 2007, he won the Outstanding Achievement in the Live and Direct to Tape Sound Mixing Award at the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 34th Annual Daytime Creative Arts & Entertainment Emmy Awards Ceremony. His acceptance can be viewed at www.emmyonline.org/daytime/stream.html.
“It’s all about getting it right the first time with very little rehearsal,” says the Torrance native, who since 2004 has been nominated three times for his work on the Tournament of Roses Parade coverage on CBS and three times for “The Price is Right.” This is his first Emmy, which was for work he did on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
While a student at California State University, Dominguez Hills, Sciarrotta aspired to becoming a recording engineer like his uncle, Don Sciarrotta.
“I never thought I would be doing television,” he says after nine years in the industry.“Before this, I worked for Disneyland for seven years. I started while I was still in school, doing live sound at the park for all their shows. After meeting some people in the television industry, an opportunity opened up, and I did well at it. So it snowballed from there.”
When asked what was next on the horizon, Sciarrotta quips, “More Emmys. I need bookends.”
As a freelance sound engineer, he does audio mixing for hundreds of television shows, concerts and events, including “The Price is Right,” the Soul Train Music Awards, Cirque du Soleil and U2’s Zoo TV tour. Taking his years of expertise, he, along with business partner Tom Evans, established Cuelogic Audio more than a year ago. The company that provides custom audio playback systems to the entertainment industry and its equipment and software has been used during broadcasts of the “Grammy Awards,” “The Apprentice” and “Family Feud.”
Sciarrotta says that his greatest influence as a student at Dominguez Hills was professor of music David Bradfield.
“He was real; he told you like it was,” says Sciarrotta. “He didn’t sugarcoat anything, which prepared us to leave school. You weren’t surprised when you got out there in the working world.”