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Former Foster Youth Benefit from Sony Technology Packages

From left, Assistant Vice Chancellor Mae Brown, Luis Vargas, Israel Barbosa, Spencer Christensen, Charles Means, Dana Murillo, Ed Wallace, Kelli Dorey, Ann Klein and Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Alan Houston. Photos by Erika Johnson/University Communications

Five UC San Diego undergraduate students who are former foster youth and two junior faculty members were awarded a technology package from Sony Electronics, Inc., as part of a nationwide scholarship program during a reception on Nov. 1. Sony has awarded equipment packages annually for the past five years—a total approximate value of $53,000—to help UC San Diego students and faculty achieve their academic and teaching goals.

Students selected to receive the packages are part of the UC San Diego Guardian Scholars Program, which supports former foster youth during their time on campus. From application assistance to adjusting to university life and searching for career opportunities, Guardian Scholars advisors work with students throughout their experience at UC San Diego.

Kelli Dorey and Ann Klein join Luis Vargas as he unwraps his new camera, part of the technology package awarded by Sony.

An aspiring international journalist and one of this year’s student award recipients, Tasha Matthews has a desire to write about and increase awareness of some of society’s most pressing global issues. A sophomore at Marshall College studying literature and writing, Matthews looks forward to using her new equipment.

“I feel honored to be a recipient of the Sony award,” said Matthews. “I am now better prepared with the supplies I need to succeed in my classes.”

Actively involved in several campus organizations, Matthews is a student liaison for the Black Student Union and participates in the Native American Student Alliance as well as Origins, a Christian club on campus. In addition, Matthews would like to assist other foster youth with their writing ambitions. “I plan to raise funds to start a mentorship program to help foster youth who are struggling with writing skills and also support the development of those who love to write and want to pursue a career in journalism,” said Matthews.

Ed Wallace, vice president of community relations for Sony, presented this year’s awards and personally congratulated each of the recipients. “Our scholarship program aims to recognize two key groups in higher education—top students who have overcome phenomenal odds to get to where they are and talented tenured-track junior faculty who are in need of tools to help them in their research and instruction,” said Wallace. “I applaud each of you for your accomplishments to date. Don’t stop here—you have to continue raising the bar.”

One of this year’s junior faculty award recipients, Charles Means plans on using the new technology to link his theatre and dance students with theater professionals from around the nation.

The five student Sony technology packages consisted of a VAIO Fit 14 Touch Laptop with a backpack; Cyber-shot TF1 with a memory card; and a Walkman Sports MP3 Player. The two faculty Sony technology packages consisted of a VAIO Fit 14 Touch Laptop with a backpack; an A77 camera with an 18-135mm lens and memory card; and Noise Cancelling Earbuds.

In addition to Matthews, this year’s student recipients included:

  • Israel Barbosa, a freshman at Muir College majoring in nanoengineering. He has a passion for discovering solutions that will advance clean energy and conserve our natural resources. Barbosa is involved in sports on campus and is currently catcher for the UC San Diego Club Baseball team.
  • Spencer Christensen, a freshman at Warren College studying aerospace engineering. Since childhood, Christensen has enjoyed designing structures; his focus now is on concept vehicle design. He often expresses his ideas through drawings, paintings and ceramics and looks forward to enhancing his ideas with the latest technology.
  • Alan Gastelum-Torres, a freshman at Muir College majoring in nanoengineering. His dream is to become a mechanical engineer and contribute real-world solutions. Gastelum-Torres is a DJ for UC San Diego’s radio station, KSDT, and is involved in planning campus-wide events for the station.
  • Luis Vargas, a junior at Warren College studying physiology and neuroscience. Motivated by a desire to help others, Vargas would like to pursue a career in physical therapy or sports medicine. He serves as an Academic Transition Counselor for the OASIS Summer Bridge Program and is active in MEChA.

Two stellar junior faculty members at UC San Diego were chosen by Sheldon Brown, director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, to receive technology packages as well. Faculty members were selected based upon their current use of digital tools or potential ideas for integrating technology in the classroom to enhance the student learning experience.

Tasha Matthews, one of this year’s student award recipients, would like to create a mentorship program to support foster youth with their writing ambitions.

“We live in a digital age where many of our interactions occur on electronic devices,” said Alan Houston, interim vice chancellor of Student Affairs, during the reception. “These two faculty members are bridging the traditional classroom with the digitally-mediated learning environment, which is key to the future of education.”

Junior faculty award recipients included:

  • Charles Means,who joined the theatre and dance faculty in 2012 and brings more than two decades of experience as a stage manager both on and off Broadway. Means looks forward to incorporating the new Sony technology in his class projects, including digital conferencing with theater professionals across the nation and building upon the possibilities of creative visualization in the classroom and on stage.
  • Dana Murillo, who joined the department of history as an assistant professor in 2012. Her research involves the study of the social history of Mexico and the responses of indigenous people to Spanish rule. Required to work with fragile historic documents, the new technology will allow her to photograph manuscripts to better preserve them and share documents acquired from around the world with her students at UC San Diego.

For more information about the Guardian Scholars Program, visit their website here. To give directly to the UC San Diego scholarship fund for Guardian Scholars, click here.


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