Students Take Different Paths to Graduation

A record 11,267 students were eligible to graduate from Cal State University, Northridge this year. Each journey to that degree is as unique as each student, as are their destinations once the leave CSUN.

Some are hoping to pursue childhood dreams of professional sports careers overseas. Others are headed into business careers, or plan on becoming teachers. Below are just some of their stories:

Marissa Favela,

B.S. in Public Health

When Keith West, head coach of CSUN’s women’s soccer team, looks at Marissa Favela, 21, he said he sees courage, strength, tenacity, a dedicated student and a talented athlete who, when faced with obstacles, never gives up and has chosen to live life to the fullest.

Favela said West’s faith in her has inspired her to pursue her dreams of playing for a professional soccer team. She hopes to play for a team in London, England. Teams there have a program that would allow her to pursue a graduate degree in nursing while she plays. She won’t know if she got into the program until this summer.

Favela first played soccer at age 5, when her parents enrolled her in an American Youth Soccer Organization team in Diamond Bar, where she grew up. The sport soon became a passion. She spent as much time as possible on the field practicing. She played on club teams and was a member of the Diamond Bar High School girls team.

Her life took an abrupt turn at the start of her junior year of high school, when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her treatments curtailed her ability to practice and play soccer, and forced her to be temporarily homeschooled while she focused on her health.

When she returned to school at the end of her senior year, Favela said, she didn’t have the same body that had made her a star player in earlier years. She thought the opportunity to be scouted by college recruiters, which usually takes place during the junior year of high school, was gone.

“But somehow Coach West saw me, and he gave me a chance,” Favela said.

West happened to spot Favela playing a game in March of her senior year. He was struck by her natural talent. He said he talked to her high school coach to learn why she hadn’t already received offers from other schools and decided to give her a chance to play for CSUN. Favela enrolled at CSUN that fall, in 2014.

She said the transition to college life was “a little bit of a culture shock.”

“It’s a big school, and I was living on my own for the first time,” she said. “But as I look back, I realize it was a good experience.”

Favela admitted she struggled a little her first year at CSUN. She did not play much as she worked to get her body into shape for Division I play. She also had to adjust to the academic demands of being a public health major.

“Given my own experience with the healthcare industry, I knew that’s what I wanted to study,” she said, noting that her diagnosis of ovarian cancer at age 15 put her in a unique situation. She wasn’t “a kid with cancer,” nor was she an adult.

“I want to be a nurse who specializes in working with someone like me — who wasn’t a kid and wasn’t an adult — because I think teens sometimes get lost in the system,” she said.

She was determined to succeed, both in the classroom and on the pitch. She put in extra hours, in addition to regular practices, to hone her skills. She took advantage of tutoring and advisement programs offered by Matador Athletics to ensure she kept her grades up.

Over the past four years, she managed to successfully juggle the demands of her classes while being considered one of the top scorers in the Big West Conference. She helped CSUN advance to the 2017 Big West Tournament Championship game, was invited to be part of the All-Big West team and is currently eighth in CSUN history in scoring. She also has been cancer free for nearly six years.

Favela’s commencement ceremony with the College of Health and Human Development took place on Monday, May 20.

Oshae C. Rodgers,

B.A. in History, with a minor in Africana Studies

Oshae C. Rodgers, 21, of North Hollywood, is an ardent believer in appreciating history — your personal history, that of your community and that of the greater society.

“A lot of times, we’re learning the narrative of a homogeneous community,” Rodgers said. “But when you’re in high school or in middle school, you want to know ‘my’ narrative. You want to know about people ‘who look like me.’

“If I don’t know my history, then I truly don’t know my soul. Then I cannot understand how we all connect, because everything that happened before is influencing things now,” he said. “If we want to understand now and how to move forward, then we need to understand the past.”

Rodgers plans to turn that passion for history into a teaching career, first at a middle or high school and eventually a college. He recognizes that being a teacher is not easy, ‘but if I can touch just one life, and they go on and touch another life, then my job is done,” he said.

Passion for knowing about the past runs in his family. His grandfather Kenneth W. Rodgers, Sr., wrote about the experiences of his friends and family as urban African Americans in the 1960s and ‘70s in the book “Not My Shadow: A True African American Story.” His uncle, Kenneth Rodgers, teaches history, among other subjects, at Synergy Quantum Academy in South Los Angeles.

His uncle holds a special place in Rodgers’ heart. Rodgers grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Albuquerque, New Mexico. By the time he reached his senior year in high school, things were rocky at home and he ended up camping out in a sleeping bag in a store room.

His uncle, hearing about his plight, invited Rodgers to live with him in North Hollywood. His only demands: Rodgers continue his education and get a job. Before he left Albuquerque, Rodgers met with a high school counselor who implied he had too many strikes against him to succeed in college.

Rodgers was 17 and just months shy of his high school graduation when he arrived in California. Determined to get his diploma on time, he crammed more than a year of studies into just a few months of night classes to meet California’s high school graduation requirements.

He also toured local college campuses, including CSUN.

He felt “like a number” on some of the tours, he said, “but when I got to CSUN, someone sat down with me and said ‘Let’s look at your credits here and in Albuquerque, and see how we can get you into CSUN.’ It was very personal, and I immediately knew I was home.”

Rodgers enrolled at CSUN in 2014 and threw himself into his studies, reveling in the intellectual exchanges with his peers and professors. He was named a University Scholar, part of a cohort of academically achieving students. In 2016, he received a CSU Trustee Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement for demonstrating superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need. He also started writing a book, a semi-memoir that he hopes will serve as inspiration for other young people.

Rodgers starts graduate school in the fall at UCLA, where he will be working on a master’s in education, with an emphasis in social justice, as well as a teaching credential. But first, he plans to return to Albuquerque this summer for a family graduation celebration. While there, he plans to visit a certain high school counselor who doubted his college dreams.

Rodgers’ commencement ceremony with the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences took place on May 18.

Argin Yadegarian,

B.S. in Accounting

Argin Yadegarian, 30, of Glendale, is already making plans to give back to the institution that he credits with helping him achieve his dreams.

He is thinking about creating a scholarship at CSUN, once he’s established himself as a businessman, to ensure that future students like him — an immigrant from a low-income family — have the support and encouragement they need to succeed.

“It’s been on my mind for a while,” he said. “I’m not just going to let it lie. I will make sure it happens.”

Yadegarian was 17 and living in his native Iran when his father died. Shortly thereafter, his brother, who is 10 years older and had studied engineering, moved to the United States for a job. It fell on Yadegarian’s shoulders to support himself and his mother. He found a job as a lifeguard and taught swimming to young children.

“I loved working with young children, but I dreamed of going to college and working in business,” he said. “That wasn’t possible in my home country. We just didn’t have the money or connections.”

After his brother took a job in the California, he offered to bring Yadegarian and their mother to the US. That was six years ago.

Yadegarian was determined to take advantage of the opportunities his new home presented. He enrolled at Glendale Community College to learn English and then took the classes necessary to transfer to a four-year institution to study accounting.

“Accounting is the language of business,” he said. “If you want to be successful in the world of business, you need to read a financial statement and know how the business works at its core. Accounting is the foundation of all that.”

He chose CSUN, he said, because its Department of Accounting is considered one of the best in the state.

From the start, he said, he found a supportive environment at the university — from the staff in the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics’ Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) to classmates in the college’s business fraternity, Beta Alpha Psi, fellow volunteers at CSUN’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Clinic, and faculty in the accounting department. Someone was always willing to help him navigate any obstacle he encountered.

A chance conversation with CSUN accounting alumnus Charles Noski and his wife, Lisa, at a university dinner in 2017 led to a scholarship that covered Yadegarian’s educational expenses during his time at the university. His eyes teared up as he recounted the story.

“It was just so very huge in my life,” said Yadegarian, who cares for h is ailing mother when he is not at school. “I am an immigrant. I come from a low-income family. And I can go to college because someone believed in me and gave me the financial support so that I could go through the program. I am truly grateful for what the Noskis have done for me. I cannot thank him enough for believing in me. What I can do is pay it forward. To let someone else like me know that there are people who believe in them.”

Yadegarian’s commencement ceremony for the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics took place on May 19. He has a job waiting for him with the international professional services firm Ernst & Young.