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Whats distinctive about California State
University San Marcos students is their
willingness and motivation to learn, and
their openness to new material, states
sociology professor Garry Rolison, Ph.D.,
who also serves as Diversity and Equity
Ofcer, a position newly created as part of
the universitys strategic plan to promote
diversity and multiculturalism among
students, faculty, and staff.
When we talk of diversity, we are referring to all underrepresented populations,
specically African-Americans, Latinos,
Native Americans, Asian Americans,
women, and the gay and lesbian population, states Rolison. We are also speaking of diversity in opinions, experiences,
and thought.
It is no coincidence that Rolison was appointed to this distinctive role, as he has
a long-standing passion for social justice
which has been the focal point of his
personal and professional life. Dr. Rolison
rst joined the Sociology Department at

Fall/Winter 2007

A Man with a Mission

By Caroline Jaffe-Pickett

CSU San Marcos in the fall of 1996 as associate professor. Prior to this, he served as assistant professor at Arizona State University, University of Oklahoma, and UC Santa Barbara.
His career is distinguished by numerous articles in publications such as The Journal of
Higher Education, The Sociological Quarterly, and The Journal of Black Studies, and he has
received many awards, including National Science Foundation Graduate Minority Fellow
(1983-1986) and Post-Doctoral Fellow, Center for Research on Minority Education, University
of Oklahoma (1989-90).
Dr. Rolisons call to the profession began early. Raised in rural Oklahoma and later as a
teenager in San Diego, he was greatly inuenced by the social rebellion and protest movements of the 1960s, including life-changing events such as the overturning of the Jim
Crow segregation laws, the Watts Riots in Los Angeles, and the assassination of Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr.
Experiencing these events rst-hand was my rst real introduction to sociology. If I knew
how social change happened, then I could do my part along freedoms road.
Dr. Rolisons broader interests and publications are in the areas of race and ethnic relations,
substance abuse, women in prison and social status of African-Americans, and many others. The many well regarded classes he has taught include graduate seminars in race and
ethnic relations, seminars in comparative sociology, and courses such as The Black Family
in the United States, and Social Theory and Public Policy. In addition to his immense joy
in teaching, he is thrilled at returning alumni who contact him, having seen the light as to
the value of life-long learning.
Many of my students were and are the rst in their families to attend college, so this
experience really means something to them, he states.
One of Dr. Rolisons major initiatives in his role as Diversity and Equity Ofcer is to work
in collaboration with the Educational Equity Task Force, a campus committee which he
chaired, to develop a diversity scorecard, which will help determine the barriers that keep
students from successfully completing college. This will include factors such as grades,
changing majors, and overall academic performance. Denitive feedback may help provide a road map to future curriculum modications. Other initiatives include encouraging
faculty and staff to develop programs and activities focused on diversity issues, and supporting efforts from campus-wide programs to recruit diverse faculty.
Dr. Rolison, known for his interactive teaching style and dynamic lectures, sees the forest for the trees, in that he recognizes that the issue of diversity must be addressed at
college campuses nationwide, and that misunderstandings surrounding this issue must
be claried.
Many think that racism is an issue of the past, but it is not, he states. He is dedicated to
his mission of joining together the campus community, and beyond.
Dr. Rolison lives in Oceanside with his wife and has two grown children. He is currently
working on a publication about the Native American experience in Oklahoma.


Many think that

racism is an issue
of the past, but it
is not, he states.
He is dedicated to his
mission of joining together
the campus community,
and beyond.

Fall/Winter 2007


Changing the

FACE of the

One Student at a Time

By Caroline Jaffe-Pickett

Four years ago, Clifton Hidds-Narcisse

was in trouble. Attending middle school
in a rough area of San Diego, he was
getting kicked out of class, had failing
grades, and didnt care about going to
college. Even worse, he was hanging out
with gangs. His mother had passed away
abruptly from illness, and his father had
moved out. Fortunately, Cliftons life was
transformed at San Pasqual Academy, a
residential education campus for foster
teens in Escondido, and one of the institutions that has partnered in a Memorandum
of Understanding (MOU) with California
State University San Marcos, an initiative
that lays the groundwork for high school
students to go on to college.
The MOU initiative takes the form of agreements between the university and participating school districts in the region, with
new relationships continually growing. In
order for high school students from any
of the participating partnership programs
to be accepted into CSUSM, it is essential
that they meet the minimum guidelines
and requirements. In the case of the San
Marcos Unied School District (SMUSD),
whose partnership with the university
launched in 2006, there is a guaranteed
placement for high school students who
meet specic academic criteria, beginning with the SMUSD graduating class
of 2009.
Nathan Evans, director of admissions
and recruitment, comments: the primary
goal of these partnerships with our local

communities is to provide students and their families a road map to a university education,
while removing as many roadblocks, such as cost, as possible. We are hopeful that through
partnerships like those with San Marcos Unied School District and Valley Center Pauma Unied School District, we will ensure that our campus represents the communities we serve.
Today, Cliftons life is back on track. A junior, he has a passion for basketball, is varsity point
guard, and has a new lifelong dream: to become a pro basketball player. But hes not putting all his eggs in one basket. His grades have risen to As and Bs, and he has reconnected
with his father, who plays a supportive role in his life and encourages his ambitions to go
to college. Clifton is enjoying Algebra 2, is fascinated by his current English class reading
of The Crucible, and in his free time writes essays aboutwhat else? Playing basketball.
Not only has he found a new purpose in living, but has set his sights on going to Cal State
San Marcos. If I were coming back to talk to students as a college graduate ve years from
now, Id tell them how important it is to work hard, how it builds character, he states.
For Kanesha Poe, a 17-year old senior also attending San Pasqual for the last two years, Cal
State San Marcos is also her rst choice, and she is determined to attend collegethe rst in
her family to do so. An honor roll student, she has already passed the high school exit exam
and is taking a class once a week at San Diego State, not
to mention other activities such as cheerleading
and Spanish class. Her favorite classes are
English and economics, and she aspires
to be a social worker. It has been a
long road for Kanesha, who had to
overcome a broken home. She never
knew her father, and there was drug
abuse in her family. A series of
foster placements left her feeling
like I was a toy. By the time she
got to middle school, she just felt
like giving up. But today, its a different story. I know if I dont go to
college, it will be so much harder to
live and to get a job, too, she states.
I know I can do it, and I want to prove it
to myself and my family.

The primary goal

of these partnerships
with our local communities
is to provide students and
their families a road map
to a university education,
while removing as
many roadblocks,
such as cost, as

The average student has been through 15

foster homes by the time they reach San Pasqual,


Fall/Winter 2007


If I were coming back to talk to students

as a college graduate ve years from now,
Id tell them how important it is to work
hard, how it builds character.
Clifton Hidds-Narcisse (Left), Kanesha Poe (Center) and Lelani
Vo (right) at San Pasqual Academy

Fall/Winter 2007



Recent statistics show

that California has an estimated
100,000 foster youth, with only
51 percent graduating
high school.


Fall/Winter 2007




states principal Tom Allison, who worked with the university in

implementing the MOU so that it could best benet both institutions. The ultimate benet is the dialogue that has begun between
both institutions concerning improving futures for our countys
foster youth. My vision is that the MOU will encourage students
who might have otherwise not considered college to commit to a
four-year school.
Recent statistics show that California has an estimated 100,000
foster youth, with only 51 percent graduating high school. Without
the extended support that families provide young people in the
transition to adulthood, youth leaving foster care face enormous
challenges in building successful lives. Education, then, is one of
the essential foundations to a successful adult life.
Lelani Vo, a junior honors student at San Pasqual with a 4.0 GPA,
can attest to what a difference a program like the MOU makes,
both for students and the larger community. Lelani hopes to enroll
at Cal State San Marcos and to become a nurse or a pediatrician.
She was living with her parents until a broken home and troubles in
the household caused her and her sister to be taken into the foster
care system. She has had to overcome the trauma of being placed
in a series of foster homes. Only a year ago, she had sinking grades,
hated school, and spent her free time watching television. Today,
she juggles a job at a local caf with English and science classes,
volleyball, and an off site class at San Diego State. She knows that
college will help her succeed in her career and in life. What would I
change in the world if I could? Id want all students to go to school
because they want to, not because they have to.
Other similar agreements with various regional school districts
have also been implemented, along with sponsorships and donations providing much needed nancial support to help ensure
that the student body at the university reects its diverse community. Just this fall, during a special kickoff ceremony at the
campus marking the Valley Center-Pauma Unied School District agreement, (and Valley Center High Schools participation)
a $25,000 donation was made by the Staples Foundation as
seed money for the program. In addition, a $15,000 check was
presented from the Rincon Band of Luiseo Mission Indians.
Ron McGowan, principal of Valley Center High School, is excited about
the impact the MOU initiative and related partner agreements with
local schools will have in the community. I think the MOU will help all


er s

students understand that college is a possibility for them, he states.

His future efforts will focus on funding and helping the students at
Valley Center stay on track to meet college requirements.
Many of the students at Valley Center understand hardship and
the miracle of second chances. Steve Walters, a freshman, is part
Cherokee, and proudly lives by his Native American credo: Never
lie and never cheat. Steve lives in a trailer park, where he was
recently the victim of a violent attack. He hopes to one day have
a home. His parents dropped out of college and are now trying
to make ends meet his mother works as operations manager
of a tow truck company, and his father drives heavy equipment.
Steve hopes to one day become a veterinarian or a counselor. I
know that going to college will give me a better life and more
opportunities, he says.
It was only three years ago that Andreina Gervasio, a freshman at
Valley Center, went through a turbulent period where she and her
family were homeless. Bouncing back from low grades and falling
behind in her studies, Andreina rallied to earn the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) Student of the Year 2006,
won a poetry contest resulting in publication, and won rst place
in a Just Say No anti-drug essay contest. Andreina has already
visited Cal State San Marcos, and it is one of her top choices. Her
career goals are medicine and forensic science, and her academics throughout high school and college will reect this. While her
father did not attend college, her mother did, and both parents
encourage Andreina to follow her dreams.
Im excited about the college experience and striving to do my
best academically, she states. I encourage fellow students to
get involved in activities that will teach them as much about college as they can. She knows that entering college will not only
be her dream fullled, but many others whose lives stand to be
transformed by the MOU initiative. What an enormous step forward, leading to an enriched community and a brighter future for
students like Andreina. And Steve. And Kanesha. And Lelani. And
Clifton. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Andreinas favorite poet
is Edgar Allen Poe, whose own words capture the spirit of a new
generation: Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there,
wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever
dared to dream before.

Fall/Winter 2007


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