Every semester, CSUN sees its share of new faculty hired from the plethora of departments at the school. This fall, 56 new tenure track faculty members were hired as a result of last year’s faculty search. Of these 56, 54 started this fall, said Kiren Dosanjh Zucker, associate professor and director of Faculty Development.
Starting at a new university can be an overwhelming experience and, to help new faculty become familiarized with CSUN, faculty development, along with the office of undergraduate studies, division of student affairs and offices of the provost and president, sponsor a faculty orientation each year.
Zucker said she sensed that the faculty at the orientation were a lively bunch. “I sense a lot of energy and a lot of diversity in this group,” she said. “They are an energetic group that will add a lot of depth to our program, both for faculty and students.”
When new professor Adam Swenson found himself with time on his hands, he decided to begin to explore the world of philosophy.
“I really got started during the summer after high school when I broke my collarbone doing judo,” Swenson said. “I spent that summer flat on my back, with plenty of time to read and think. I remember reading one of Nietzsche’s books cover to cover several times. I never gave it back to the friend I borrowed it from. By the time I started at UCLA in the fall, I was convinced I wanted to major in philosophy.”
Born and raised in Long Beach, Swenson went to UCLA for his undergraduate degree in philosophy, completed his doctorate at Rutgers University in New Jersey and lived in New York for seven years until he found himself in California at CSUN. Although his primary area of expertise is ethics, he does teach socio-political philosophy, Buddhism and philosophy of the mind, he said. While the semester has only just begun, Swenson said he has definitely noticed sharp students in his classes.
“I’ve been quite impressed by many of their comments and the level of discussions we’ve gotten into,” he said. Swenson, who in his spare time plays the drums and does judo, loves the idea of being able to help his students grow intellectually and as individuals in ways that he said he hopes will benefit them for the rest of their lives. “I’ve always gravitated toward teaching,” he said. “When I was in high school, I taught martial arts at the YMCA in Compton. At UCLA I was a tutor for philosophy and I taught a lot of classes while pursuing my Ph.D. at Rutgers.”
Ellie Kazemi is no stranger to CSUN, having received her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1998 here. She said she loves the diversity of the student population and is definitely impressed and enthusiastic about being part of the psychology faculty.
“The students are receptive and eager to learn,” she said. “I have faced wonderful and supportive colleagues who knock on my door every day to make sure I am doing OK.”
As a junior, Kazemi had gotten involved with a large community grant called the Life Quality Assessment Project, held by Dr. Dee L. Shepherd-Look, she said. “The project’s intent was to train and send individuals from the community into the homes of individuals with developmental disabilities (consumers of the California Regional Centers) to assess their quality of life,” Kazemi said.
Because of her experience with the project, she began to work directly for the state of California and coordinate the LQAP within the San Gabriel and Lanterman regions.
With an interest in the welfare of children and adults with developmental disabilities, Kazemi said she realized that research and empirical work in the field was few and far between.
“It became quickly apparent to me that academic research and empirical work in the field was scarce and professionals had little or nothing empirical to rely on when looking for best practices or assessments,” she said. “So, I returned to graduate school at UCLA and found an adviser, Dr. Robert Hodapp, whose expertise (was in) children and individuals with mental retardation.”
Kazemi completed her master’s degree and Ph.D. at UCLA, she said.
While at CSUN, Kazemi said she felt that as an undergraduate student in psychology she was offered many opportunities.
“My professors took personal interest in me and guided me in the process of becoming an academic,” she said. “I felt that I could find mentorship anywhere I sought it.”
During her time at UCLA, where she was a teaching assistant and also coordinated teaching assistants, she also worked with children with disabilities at the Lili Claire Family Resource Center. Her main interests in the field of psychology lie in the motivation of students with disabilities and the many factors associated with internalized mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and externalizing disorders, which she said can impede learning, social attainment, academic achievement and independent growth. She said she currently teaches courses in experimental methods and the principles of learning and behavior. Kazemi said CSUN’s student body is different in her opinion from UCLA, as is the class size, Kazemi said. “The classes I teach are much smaller in size and I can more easily offer many hands-on projects and writing assignments and I know many of my students by name already. The student body appears to have more working individuals.”
One of the new members of the biology department, assistant professor Mary Pat Stein, said she has been a “lab rat” ever since she started out in a neurosurgery research lab when she was at the University of Pennsylvania, where she completed her bachelor’s degree in biological basis of behavior.
She comes to CSUN from Yale, where she completed a post-baccalaureate fellowship in microbial pathogenesis. Stein’s particular area of interest is cell biology and, more specifically, Legionnaire’s disease, an airborne disease that invades cells and quickly replicates, usually stemming from air conditioning systems and cooling towers. The disease puts the elderly and immuno-compromised at risk.
Originally from Philadelphia, which is where the first outbreak of Legionnaire’s occurred, Stein started out working for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institution of Infectious Diseases, where she said she worked with anthrax and the plague. While working for the Army, Stein received her master’s degree in biomedical science from Hood College.
“Working there is what got me interested in cell biology and afterwards I went on to get my Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque,” Stein said.
Although Stein has taught before, this is the first time she has taken the profession as a full-time job.
She said she loves interacting with students and said she feels that teaching at CSUN is a great opportunity for her because she gets to combine both research and being a professor in the same job.
Having lived in New Mexico for 10 years, the heat of the San Fernando Valley doesn’t bother her, she said, adding that the CSUN campus and surrounding areas are beautiful.
“I didn’t realize the mountains until recently. It reminds me of Tucson.”
Stein teaches Biology 380, and said she understands that many people are afraid of science, but adds that it can be a lot of fun. It is very complex, but if you break it down and start from smaller pieces, it becomes easier, she said.
In her free time, she competes in races such as the sprint distance triathlon, which involves swimming, bicycling and running five miles consecutively. Stein said that she loves the ocean and that her next endeavor will be learning how to surf.