Newswise — The California State University is proud to hold the title of the nation’s most diverse university. Nearly one-third of our students are the first in their families to attend college. Almost 50 percent are underrepresented minorities. And we provide more than half of all undergraduate degrees earned by California’s Latinx, African American and Native American students combined.
But the CSU doesn’t just talk the talk. Along with providing a robust education and preparing career-ready graduates, it is our duty to furnish students with support for their unique needs. These efforts include programs for students of color that ease the transition to college life, outreach to African American communities that aims to encourage a college-going culture, teacher retention initiatives for teachers of color and the formation of brotherhood programs on campus.
In addition, one of the main endeavors of Graduation Initiative 2025 is a systemwide effort to close equity gaps among students from underserved and historically underrepresented communities and their peers.
To celebrate Black History Month, we delve into the achievements of just a few of the remarkable African American members of the CSU.
CRYSTAL JONES: MENTORING THE NEXT GENERATION ALUMNA, CSU DOMINGUEZ HILLS THE ASHE ACADEMY BOARD PRESIDENT
From the time Crystal Jones graduated high school, her parents made it crystal clear that she was going to be a college graduate. While the path to her degree was long and, in some respects, unconventional, becoming the first in her family to earn a degree meant everything.
“Seeing the pride on my parents’ faces was the culmination of my hard work and made it well worth the journey,” Jones says. “I lost both of them a few short years after receiving my degree, and I will be forever thankful they were able to see me cross that stage in my cap and gown.”
Since that life-changing day, Jones hasn’t wasted any time paying it forward and has become a respected leader in her community. One way is through participation in her company’s African Descent Network’s Education Committee, which supports programs that provide mentoring and education opportunities for students of African descent.
Jones is also the president of The Ashe Academy’s Board of Directors, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide mentoring and post-secondary education scholarships for students of color who are seeking careers in the arts and STEM.
“Being a leader in the community can take many shapes,” she says. “It can be as simple as sharing career advice or mentoring the young people in my life.”
LOUIS ADAMSEL: SERVING HIS COUNTRY AND ALMA MATER ALUMNUS, CSU SAN MARCOS CSUSM BUSINESS CONTINUITY COORDINATOR
Louis Adamsel didn’t hesitate to immerse himself in activities while attending CSUSM. In addition to his coursework, volunteering for numerous charities and his time as Associated Students, Inc. president, the first-generation college student even helped to launch a historically black fraternity on campus.
Life didn’t start out easy for Adamsel. After his mother passed away when he was only five years old, he and three of his six older siblings went to live with his aunt. Just out of high school, he joined the Army National Guard in hopes of gaining more life experience before applying to CSUSM.
In 2018, Adamsel graduated with his bachelor’s in communications and now works as a business continuity coordinator at his alma mater. Walking onto campus every morning, he looks back fondly at his time as a student.
“I was able to find mentors in so many different people and use that as I navigated my way through college,” he recalls. “Now I feel like the sky’s the limit.”
RASHIDA CRUTCHFIELD, ED.D.: ENDING THE “STARVING STUDENT” NARRATIVE ALUMNA, CAL STATE LONG BEACH ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN THE SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK AT CSULB
In 2014, Dr. Rashida Crutchfield was tapped by the CSU Chancellor’s Office to lead a first-of-its-kind study to find out how many CSU students might be affected by housing and food insecurity.
Crutchfield’s first report in the three-phase research trial, “Serving Displaced and Food Insecure Students in the CSU,” was released in January 2016 and revealed staggering numbers: As many as 12 percent of the CSU students she researched faced housing insecurity, while up to 24 percent suffered from food insecurity.
Her findings in this landmark research project have helped to inform much of the work related to the CSU’s Basic Needs Initiative, which takes a holistic look at students’ well-being both inside and outside the classroom, from housing and food security to mental health.
A life spent in service to others and advocating for social justice may have seemed inevitable for Crutchfield. “All of this, for me, is rooted in my familial experience,” she explains. “My mother was a high school teacher who was passionate about working in areas where students didn’t have what they needed,” she says. “My father was a journalist at a time when there weren’t black journalists, and he wanted to make sure people had a voice.”
GABRIEL DIMA-SMITH: BEING THE CHANGE HE WISHES TO SEE ALUMNUS, CAL POLY POMONA/SACRAMENTO STATE GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS MANAGER AT PACASO
Growing up, Gabriel Dima-Smith wasn’t even sure he’d go to college, so after finishing high school, he served in the U.S. Army. It was in a class at Citrus College that his interest in politics was first sparked. When Smith transferred to Cal Poly Pomona in 2015, that initial spark transformed into a passion to make a difference—starting right on campus.
Just one year after his arrival, the first-generation college student had become vice president of CPP’s Associated Students Incorporated. The young man who’d once felt he wasn’t “college material” was gone. “At Cal Poly Pomona, I started believing I could make a difference,” he says.
The CSU alumnus has worked in political offices at the university, city, regional, state and nationwide level. He also served as state parliamentarian for the California Young Democrats and as a public affairs associate at Ortega Strategies Group.
Smith wants to be sure more of the state’s residents can have access to higher education, and he’s ready to fight, too, for affordable health care and immigrant rights in California.
He knows that means a future in public service. “Wherever I feel I can make the most change and impact on people—that is where I am going to be.”
JAMILLAH MOORE, ED.D.: ADVOCATING FOR THE CSU ALUMNA, SACRAMENTO STATE VICE PRESIDENT FOR STUDENT AFFAIRS & ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT AT SAN FRANCISCO STATE
The CSU is where Dr. Jamillah Moore learned how to go to college, do research and teach. “It’s also where I fell in love with being a student and learning how to help other students,” she says. “If you would’ve told me while I was at Sac State, ‘You’re going to be a college president,’ I would have probably thought you were crazy.”
But that’s exactly what she did. From 2016 to 2021, Moore served as president of Cañada College in Redwood City, where she established the campus’s anti-racist framework, a program to support Latinx students with transfer pathways to SFSU and co-chaired the San Mateo County Community College District’s Basic Needs Task Force.
During her time at the CSU, Moore participated in A Semester at the Capitol, a program that allowed her to earn college credits while doing an internship inside the Capitol. “Going into that program and then being an intern and seeing firsthand how policy was put together changed the direction of what I thought I wanted to do,” she says.
As it often does, life has come full circle for Moore, and she is now back within the CSU community, serving as vice president of Student Affairs & Enrollment Management at SFSU.
“I will always advocate for students to find an affordable, high-quality education that can really open doors for them,” she says. “For me, it is a CSU.”
BRANDON MILLER: ELIMINATING EDUCATION GAPS ALUMNUS, CALSTATETEACH AT CAL STATE LA TEACHER AT WILDER’S PREPARATORY SCHOOL
When Brandon Miller heads to his second-grade class every morning at Wilder’s Preparatory School in Inglewood, there’s no question in his mind about why he’s there.
“I have to do whatever I can to slow the increasing education gaps between inner-city Black children and their more affluent, predominately white counterparts,” says the 2013 graduate of the CSU’s online teaching credentialing program, CalStateTEACH.
“One of the lowest-performing groups of students is young Black males,” Miller continues. “Whether it be because they are overdisciplined or simply that they can never buy into education because most of their primary education is coming from white women, the need for Black male teachers is the greatest it’s ever been.”
During his time in CalStateTEACH, Miller participated in a men’s group created by the program’s systemwide director, Ernest Black, that specifically focused on helping male students of color complete the program.
“Male teachers have a different overall experience in the world of education, and I would believe especially so as a Black male teacher. We are typically called on for more,” Miller explains. “The men’s group helped build support by allowing Dr. Black to share his experiences [as a K-12 educator himself] and how he dealt with them, but also by having us each see that those challenges are not personal or isolated occurrences.”
DOSHIA DODD: BREAKING BARRIERS IN STEM SONOMA STATE GRADUATE STUDENT SYCUAN BAND OF THE KUMEYAAY NATION SCHOLAR
Although Doshia Dodd had a deeply instilled love of learning, her path to higher education was not smooth. A first-generation college student who initially struggled in her undergraduate program, Dodd dropped out, only to get back on track and then face the death of her beloved father.
During her first semester of graduate study, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and her husband had to work on the front lines. Even so, Dodd remained focused and distinguished herself as a model student in SSU’s Cultural Resources Management Master’s program, undertaking innovative and original research on Native Californian plant utilization.
Dodd represented SSU in the 35th Annual CSU Student Research Competition, is a member of the Lambda Alpha National Anthropological Honors Society and served as a volunteer coordinator for the 2019 California Indian Conference.
Her professional goal is to become an archaeobotanist and manage a lab that focuses on the recovery, identification and analysis of botanical remains from archaeological sites.
“My dad always told me that the best quality a person could have is to be a lifelong learner.”
DEWAYNE SHEAFFER: ADVISING STUDENTS ALONG THE WAY ALUMNUS, STANISLAUS STATE/CAL STATE LA COUNSELOR, LONG BEACH CITY COLLEGE
For DeWayne Sheaffer, graduating from Stanislaus State was a hallelujah moment. “Neither of my parents attended college, but they understood the importance of earning a college degree,” he says.
The first-generation student kicked off his budding career in the Business Office as an accounts payable clerk on the SSU campus, then moved into Admissions and Records as a file clerk and was promoted to an admissions evaluator. This journey led him to CSULA as a graduation evaluator.
“That’s where I was encouraged by a student I was assisting to go into counseling at a community college,” Sheaffer says. “Because I worked for the CSU system, attending college was financially palatable. I paid very little to take classes, and I walked away from graduate school with no debt. All this was not in any plan of mine.”
While he didn’t have a specific plan in place, Sheaffer knew when a good opportunity presented itself—and took it.
He now works at Long Beach City College as a counseling faculty member and serves on his union board of directors.
“I’m enjoying life with my family and the friends I’ve met on my educational journey.”
VEUNTA DAILEY: HELPING WORKING ADULTS TO OVERCOME THEIR FEARS ALUMNA, SACRAMENTO STATE PROGRAM COORDINATOR AT THE COLLEGE OF CONTINUING EDUCATION AT SACRAMENTO STATE
Completing her bachelor’s in career and technical studies at Sacramento State increased Veunta Dailey’s social mobility in terms of her visibility and voice in the community, her strive to continue her education and her ability to make strong connections as a leader.
“During the eight years before I started attending Sac State, my mentality was that an A.A. would be good for me, as a B.A./B.S. would be possible but unlikely,” she says.
It was not until Dailey attended Sac State that she found herself surrounded by people who wanted more…and were doing just that. This was a new world for her and, in a sense, social mobility was already increasing just within her mindset. “That is what has kept me going. I never looked back from there and continued with my education.”
Currently in the Ed.D. program at Sacramento State, Dailey finds that her social mobility is defined by so much more than just monetary means. “It has projected my family, my activity at Sac State/community and my future in the right direction,” she explains. “I always keep my mind open about opportunities, so there are times when I am not sure exactly what the future has in store for me, but I am positive it has many new, exciting and insightful opportunities.”
LAUREN FLOYD: BREAKING NEWS AND SEEKING TRUTH ALUMNA, CSU MONTEREY BAY NEWS PRODUCER AT ACTION NEWS 8
Graduating from CSUMB taught Lauren Floyd to abandon all expectations of what college was supposed to be and focus instead on the fundamentals of self-growth, self-care, her future and her education.
“Your way is the right way as long as it means you are improving yourself and adding quality to your environment and community,” she says.
The CSUMB alumna is proud to be an Otter and feels blessed to say she once called the beautiful campus her home. “My experience taught me that my future is all up to me,” she shares. “It’s all about the energy and intention I invest into myself and my goals.”
Plus, Floyd says she still uses the concept of interdisciplinary studies in almost everything she sets out to learn, “and that’s thanks to human communications and my beautiful experience as a CSUMB student.”
Now a news producer at Action New 8 in Monterey Bay, Floyd is a passionate storyteller with a sense of urgency.
See more accomplishments of African American students, faculty, alumni and staff of the CSU.