Two Cal Poly Students Awarded Pre-Doctoral Fellowships Aimed at Preparing Future CSU Faculty Members

SAN LUIS OBISPO – Two Cal Poly students have been selected as pre-doctoral fellows through the California State University’s Sally Casanova Scholars Program, designed to increase the pool of potential CSU faculty.  

Graduate student Ashlee Hernandez in the School of Education’s Higher Education Counseling and Student Affairs program and America Romero, a fourth-year psychology major, were admitted to the program.

Hernandez, who also works as a graduate assistant in Cal Poly’s Parent and Family Programs, is interested in pursuing her doctorate and continuing her research on policies and practices that promote retention and completion rates of students with dependents in higher education. Hernandez, of Fresno, Calif., has successfully advocated for students with dependents to ensure access to parking permits, expand funding through the AB 74 grant, increase services through the office of Dean of Students, and special exception for registration status for students with dependents. 

Throughout her fellowship, Hernandez will work with faculty advisor Tina Cheuk, an assistant professor in the School of Education who has also researched the experiences of students with dependents.

“I’m so grateful for this opportunity and for the chance to continue to work with Dr. Cheuk to advocate for student parents,” Hernandez said. “She has always been in my corner.”

Romero, of Wilmington, Calif., will work with faculty advisor Kelly Bennion, an assistant professor in the Psychology and Child Development Department. Romero worked with Bennion in the BEACoN Mentoring program and has assisted with study design and administration, data collection, and managing a team of research assistants in Bennion’s project studying memory and what factors into the likelihood of whether information is remembered or forgotten. Alongside research, she’s involved as a peer mentor to first-year students through the Cal Poly Scholars program and through the College of Liberal Arts Underrepresented Students Network. 

Romero plans to use her fellowship to prepare for the Graduate Records Exams, narrow down her area of research focus within cognitive psychology, speak with prospective doctoral advisors, and attend and present her research at virtual conferences. 

“I’m really grateful for this opportunity and to be able to continue the mentor-mentee relationship with Dr. Bennion,” Romero said. “As a Latinx first-generation student, I’m eager to address the barriers to higher education and hope to inspire those in a similar position.” 

The Sally Casanova Scholars Program supports the doctoral aspirations of CSU students who have experienced economic and educational disadvantages. Hernandez and Romero are the first Cal Poly students to be selected for the program since the 2014-15 academic year.

Sally Casanova Scholars work one on one with their faculty advisors to explore and prepare to succeed in doctoral programs and have the opportunity to work with additional faculty from doctoral-granting institutions. Scholars receive funding for activities, including participating in summer research experience programs at doctoral-granting institutions, graduate school application and test fees, and participating in conferences or symposia.

Ashlee Hernandez
Ashlee Hernandez

America Romero
America Romero

Contact: Keegan Koberl

August 27, 2020

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