Events Archive

Alumni Spotlight: Zelma Ballard ’59

by Deanna Wheeler and Kate Beach

Zelma Ballard ’59 reflects upon her undergraduate student experience at UCR during the late 1950’s with a lasting recollection of caring faculty, advisors and fellow students, and attending class at The Barn. She chuckles as she explains that class sizes were roughly six students to every professor. Needless to say, they were a tightknit group where everyone knew each other.

Zelma represents an important perspective as the first African American female graduate at UCR, which she humbly admits, is a designation she was not aware of until nearly five years after graduating with her BA in Social Sciences. She and former UCR Alumni Association Board President, Kyle Hoffman, flipped through yearbooks one afternoon in the early 1960’s to confirm his “hunch” that she may have been “a majority of one” as she refers to herself.

Zelma is a woman of many firsts and a trailblazer in her own right. She was the only African American in her graduating class from Mecca Elementary School as well as in her graduating class at Coachella Valley Union High School as well as in her graduating class at Coachella Valley Union High School; and the first teacher of color at Grand Terrace Elementary School during the time of the Civil Rights Movement. She remembers being asked from a young black alumnus how she endured the lack of diversity in these educational settings; to which she responded, “I didn’t pay much attention to it. I worked two part-time jobs while in school at UCR and was too busy to be preoccupied with anything else.” Zelma said, “my siblings and I always had a goal we were working towards.” She credits her success and perseverance to staying goal oriented and the support she received from her community, mentors, and family.

Zelma Ballard, UCR’s first African American male graduate Roy Overstreet (left) at the 2011 Black Graduation with Chancellor Tim White, Ken Simmons, and students.

Zelma’s determination paid off. She remained hyper-focused to achieve her academic goals which included: completing her practicum at University of Redlands to earn a teaching credential, followed by earning a Master’s in Language Arts with an emphasis in Elementary Education from California State University San Bernardino.

As a junior at UCR, Zelma was encouraged by her late advisor, Dr. Arthur Turner, to apply for a National Defense Scholarship; of which she was awarded. This financial assistance allowed Zelma to travel to Germany on assignment with the Department of Defense as a director of recreational programs for deployed servicemen, after graduating from UCR. She expressed great appreciation for Dr. Turner’s encouragement and guidance he gave to her as a student. While Zelma thought she would join the ranks of the FBI post-graduation, it was the sage advice of Dr. Turner that steered her focus toward teaching, a profession that peeked her interests and complemented her talents.

A woman of many talents, Zelma says that many of her colleagues were impressed by her progressive applications of the sciences and worldly perspective in social sciences in the classroom. Her keen interest in geology, international affairs, and social studies captivated her students and made learning fun in Ms. Ballard’s class.

Zelma shows her appreciation for those at UCR who influenced her path to becoming an educator by supporting programs and volunteering her time at UCR. She supports UCR’s African Student Programs, she has served as a board member of the Alumni Association and has been active in community organizations such as the Community Players, the Riverside Mission Belles, an all woman’s chorus, and she served as a health educator for the Sickle Cell Anemia Foundation for several years. She has also been active in her church.

Zelma is in awe of the continual growth she sees today compared to the much smaller campus she set foot on in the 50’s. This growth is exciting to her and she is pleased to see UCR and its students continuing to thrive. She looks forward to being involved and hopes to share some of her wisdom with the next generation of teachers in the Graduate School of Education.


Faculty and Student Publications and Honors

Faculty and Student Publications:
Bowyer, B.T. and Kahne, J. (2017). Facing Facts in an Era of Political Polarization: Young People’s Learning and Beliefs about Economic Inequality. PS: Political Science & Politics. 50(4), 1056-1061.

de los Ríos, C.V. (2017). Toward a corridista consciousness: Learning from one transnational youth’s critical reading, writing and performance of Mexican corridos. Reading Research Quarterly. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002/rrq.210

DiGiacomo, D. (2017). This Political Moment: Resources for Educators in the Trump Era. June 26, 2017 Collaborative Blog for the Digital Media and Learning Central Hub, available:

Gutiérrez, K.D., DiGiacomo, D. Cortez, K., Cortez, A., Higgs, J., Johnson, P. Lizárraga, J., Mendoza, E.,    Tien, J., Vakil, S. (2017). Replacing representation with imagination: Finding ingenuity in everyday practices. Review of Research in Education, 41, (1), pp. 30-60.

Kirshner, B., Zion, S. & DiGiacomo, D. (2017). Introducing the Measure of Youth Policy Arguments: An Assessment Tool to Support Action Civics. Newsletter for the National Social Studies Supervisors Association. 31 (1).

Levin, J. S., Martin, M. C., López Damián, A. I., & Hoggatt, M. J.  (Forthcoming, 2018). Preservation of community college logic: Organizational responses to state policies and funding practices in three states. Community College Review.

Nash, Margaret A., Ed. Women’s Higher Education in the United States: New Historical Perspectives. New York: Palgrave Press, 2018.

Viggiano, T., López Damián, A. I., Morales, E., & Levin, J. S.  (Forthcoming, 2018). The others: Equitable access, international students, and the community college. Journal of Studies in International Education.

Westheimer, J., Rogers, J., and Kahne, J. (2017).  “The Politics and Pedagogy of Economic Inequality.”  PS: Political Science & Politics. 50(4), 1043-1048.

Faculty and Student Presentations/Conferences:
Brown, Jennifer. “Wardship and Beyond: The Shaping of One American Indian Woman’s Student Identity During the 1930s,” Pacific Coast Branch-American Historical Association annual meeting, California State University, Northridge, August 2017.

DiGiacomo, D. (2017).  “An investigation of learning and youth development in a market-driven educational era.” World Education Research Association Conference on Extended Education from an International Comparative Point of View. Bamberg, Germany.

DiGiacomo, D., Van Horne, K. Penuel, W. R. (2017). “Equity of engagement in STEAM learning environments: The case of FUSE Studios.” European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction Annual Meeting, Tampere, Finland.

Gruendler, Anna-Lena. High Quality Mathematics Instruction in Bilingual Classrooms. Scholarly paper for the 115th Annual Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, November 10- 12, 2017.

Kirshner, B., DiGiacomo, D., Gonzalez, M., Logan, G. (2017). “Youth Policy Presentations: Co-creating, Collaborating, and Intergenerational Learning as an Approach to Action Civics” & “Three Approaches to Supporting Powerful Student Voice in School Districts: A Dialogue with Practitioners.” University Council for Education Administration annual conference, Denver, USA, November 2017.

Levin, J. S., Morales Vazquez, E., & Wang, S. Decision makers’ attributions of meanings and roles to students at community colleges. Scholarly paper for the 59th Annual Council of Study of Community College Conference, Ft. Worth Texas, April 6-8, 2017. Research

Lopez Damián, A. I., & Morales Vázquez, E. Not only a scholar, but female, brown, and ESL: Challenges of interviewers with non-mainstream identities. Scholarly paper for the Thirteenth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, Champaign-Urbana, IL, May 17-20, 2017

Martin, M. C. (2017). Academic Deans: Negotiating Values and Identity in the Neoliberal University. A Research Paper presented at the Association of the Study of Higher Education, November 9-12, Houston, TX.

Morales Vázquez, E. Understanding neoliberalism through the narratives of the academic profession. Scholarly paper for the Thirteenth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, Champaign-Urbana, IL, May 17-20, 2017.

Morales Vázquez, E. From my self-reflection to the study of the emotions in the tenure process. Scholarly paper for the Thirteenth International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, Champaign-Urbana, IL, May 17-20, 2017

“Over the summer Dr. Michael Solis facilitated two workshops on supporting literacy development in content area instruction for secondary students as part of the Institute for Student Achievement‘s Summer Institute which took place in Glen Cove, NY. As part of the workshop teachers learning about direct concept instruction, text-based discourse, formative assessment, and knowledge application instruction.”

On July 24-28, 2017, Henri Shimojyo supported a group of graduate student teachers as a mentor and supervisor for the NASA/EMI program that provided teachers with resources from NASA and JPL for classroom use.

On August 22-23, 2017, H. Shimojyo presented for CDE- NGSS Roll Out # 4, Sessions Title: “The Physical Science A High School Lesson” and “The Phenomena”.  Event that happened at UCR to service over 250 classroom teachers in the inland empire, Los Angeles and Orange County.

On October 4, 2017, H. Shimojyo presented, “Introduction to NGSS at STEPCon 17”, for an audience of close to 200 classroom teachers held by RCOE and San Bernardino County Office.

Cati de los Rios is a recipient of the 2018 American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education/Ford Foundaton Faculty Fellowship.

Keith Widaman was elected to a three-year term (2017 – 2019) on the Board of Scientific Affairs of the American Psychological Association (APA). The Board is composed of 9 individuals representing different areas of the field, and Keith is occupying the “methodology” position. The Board advises APA on all matters of a scientific nature. One of Keith’s initiatives is to write an editorial reinforcing the need to promote and respect scientific efforts in psychology, education, and the social sciences in the current age when major political figures seem to disregard scientific findings if they conflict with politicians’ wishes or belief systems. Another initiative is to require authors who publish articles in APA journals to place their data on APA-maintained servers to promote current “open science” initiatives and the more ready ability of interested colleagues to verify the accuracy of published results.

Keith Widaman was also recently asked to serve on the Advisory Committee for the next iteration of the terminological and classification manual published by the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), to be called “Intellectual Disability: Definition, Diagnosis, Classification, and Systems of Supports, 12th Edition.” The AAIDD manual has been the standard in the field for diagnosis of intellectual disability for over 50 years.

Margaret Nash was invited to be a mentor at the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Fellows Retreat which will be held in Washington, D.C. in November 2017.

The Social Welfare Coordinating Group of the Campbell Collaboration is pleased to announce that this year’s recipient of the Leonard E. Gibbs Award goes to Brandy R. Maynard, Michael R. Solis, Veronica L. Miller and Kristen E. Brendel for their review “Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Improving Cognition, Academic Achievement, Behavior, and Socioemotional Functioning of Primary and Secondary School Students”.

This review has been featured in various venues since it was published, including The Times, The Mental Elf, Education Week, HeatStreet, and Mental Health Today.


The Give-Back: GSOE Honors Dr. Herbert Fischer and Dr. Katherine Wright

Dean Thomas Smith presents Dr. Katherine Wright and Dr. Herbert Fischer with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

“I assure you, you’re in the right work. What you’re doing makes a great deal of difference,” said Dr. Herbert Fischer, GSOE alumni, donor and friend as he accepted the GSOE Distinguished Alumni Award at the school’s annual Fall Gathering.

It was a theme that resonated throughout the evening as students, alumni, faculty and staff gathered to celebrate the new academic year and honor two GSOE alumni who have made immeasurable contributions to the field of education: Dr. Herbert Fischer and Dr. Katherine Wright.

As a college student, inspired by the political uprising and wave of anti-Vietnam War student protests across the nation, Dr. Fischer decided he wanted to affect positive change — and he knew one way to do that was by becoming a teacher. He earned his teaching credential, master’s degree and doctorate from the University of California, Riverside, and would go on to serve as an elementary and high school principal, Superintendent at Colton Joint Unified School District, and district administrator in the San Bernardino City Unified School District for 22 years before retiring as its Superintendent of Schools in 2008.

Under Dr. Fischer’s leadership, schools’ Academic Performance Index (API) average, countywide, saw seven consecutive years of growth, and during his tenure, the county schools joined forces with local leaders to start Alliance for Education is San Bernardino County, a premier partnership between business and education.

Today, Dr. Fischer and his wife Dr. Cheryl Fischer fund a scholarship for GSOE teacher education candidates who attended San Bernardino County schools, and provide college-going opportunities to San Bernardino County students in need of financial support through the “Drs. Herb and Cheryl Fischer Scholarship Fund.”

Dr. Katherine Wright was also honored at the event for her commitment to education. She moved to Riverside with her military family in the fourth grade, and as a young girl, she would ride her bike and roller skate around campus. It’s no surprise that, when she decided to advance her career in education, she turned to UC Riverside, where she would earn her master’s degree and administrative services credential.

Dr. Wright began her career as a teacher in the Banning Unified School District, then joined the Riverside’s Alvord Unified School District, where she retired as its Superintendent after 37 years of service. She remains active in the Riverside community, and has served on the Dean’s advisory committee in the Graduate School of Education and as a Trustee for the UCR Foundation.

Dr. Wright and her husband Dwight established the “Bridge to Success Teacher Education Scholarship Fund,” a program that helps bridge the financial gap for students pursuing a teacher credential program. To date, the scholarship has been awarded to five students and has impacted countless lives.

No stranger to motivating and inspiring the next generation of educators, Dr. Wright offered these words of encouragement to the GSOE community as she accepted her award: “I want you all to know, you are in the right place.”