Undergraduate Dean’s Medalist
Elizabeth Barba Placencia
Undergraduate Degree Program: Liberal Studies
Fresno State is a transformational university and Elizabeth is the perfect embodiment of someone who is dedicated to transforming the life of others as she pursues her own continued education and career. Her parents immigrated from Mexico when Elizabeth was an infant to give their children a new life. Elizabeth is now a citizen but is proud of where she came from and what she is achieving as a first-generation university student. She is working hard so she can educate students who also have a chance to achieve great things.
Elizabeth has been involved at John Burroughs Elementary since January of 2016, assisting teachers, monitoring recess, helping at stations and assisting in the office. She received a certificate of recognition for her support and dedication to John Burroughs. For two academic years, Elizabeth was a member of Jumpstart Corp. She assisted at Kings Canyon Head Start with caring for children, tutored children ages 3-5 in kindergarten readiness, directed activities of small groups, and facilitated communication skills training. She was recognized as a future team leader by Jumpstart.
An even more important service related to preparation to be a teacher has been her work with our Office of Community Based Learning (CBL) Youth Technology Institute STEM program. She has been an instructor for STEM classes, planning her own lessons as well as providing take home STEM activities for students to do with their parents. CBL project director, Kasey Vang, wrote that in her work, Elizabeth has “demonstrated thoughtfulness, leadership skills, collaborative abilities, commitment to helping others, and a strong understanding of the struggles facing many of our students, particularly those students for whom English is a second language.
Elizabeth herself is tri-lingual, not only speaking English and Spanish, but also being fluent in French which she has studied for eight years. Her focus on STEM, her dedication to teaching, her linguistic ability, makes her the perfect candidate for our Fresno Teacher Residency program, our premiere educator preparation track. The program provides a stipend while allowing candidates to earn both their teaching credential and master’s degree while preparing them for a three-year commitment to teach in Fresno Unified School District. We are confident she will succeed there as she has succeeded at the University so far.
Graduate Dean’s Medalist
Graduate Degree Program: Master of Arts in Education with an option in Early Childhood Education
Christina first graduated from Fresno State in Biology, followed by ten years a biologist for the state of California. She left that position and created a private preschool with a commitment to provide responsive, relationship based care to very young children and began an intensive inquiry into child development, attachment, and family cultures while working to provide the children in her care with an environment supporting developmentally appropriate experiences. In 2010, her center was awarded accreditation through the National Association of Family Child Care. Following this attainment, she attended training through West-Ed and the CA Department of Education. This motivated to make a new, significant commitment to her own education.
In 2015, Christiana enrolled in the Kremen School’s Master of Arts in Education, Early Childhood Education program. What began learning motivated her to a career in education and advocacy. To her, every assignment and discussion was an experience that became an act of advocacy for children and their learning communities. One assignment, a review of the book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, resulted in a publication in the Journal of Character Education in 2017.
Due to her background and interest in science and with the support of her advisor, Dr. Cathy Yun, Christina proposed a demonstration garden that would be used as a resources for P-12 students and the teacher candidates we prepare. This project, planned for construction on our campus will serve as an interdisciplinary research model aimed at addressing science experiences, educator preparation, and food insecurities on campus and in our community. The project has been met with great enthusiasm by the community, potential donors, educators, Kremen faculty, and other campus leaders. It obtained an award from the Graduate Net Initiative to help support the project.
While at Fresno State, Christina has participated in two major research studies. One is with a Math Coherence project by Northwestern and Vanderbilt Universities. Her role has been data collection and interviews. The second is working for the Next Generation Educators Initiative, working for this project as a candidate coach, reviewing literature, and helping design the CREATe Rubric and training candidates on its use.
For the next year following graduation, Christina will continue to work with Early Childhood teacher candidates. Her education plans include applying for a Ph.D. program.
Speaking of her, Dr. Cathy Yun said, “Christina is driven by her equity-based perspective and her conviction that ALL children deserve engaging science education beginning in early childhood. Her dedication to promoting quality early childhood education in the Fresno community compels her to engage in work that promotes transformative change.”