CSU Voices and Views

Transforming Lives through Education

Speech by Marilyn Thomas, San Francisco State student
and Maija Glasier-Lawson, Chico State student

The 2012 William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement recipients

The 2012 William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement recipients

Before an audience of alumni, faculty, administrators, CSU trustees, CSU Foundation governors, peers, friends and family, two students present themselves and their fellow recipients of the Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award

As the 2012 Razi Scholar, Marilyn Thomas best exemplifies the principles of the award — financial need, personal hardships, and attributes of merit, including superior academic performance, exemplary community service, and significant personal achievements.  As the 2012 Galinson Scholar, Maija Glasier-Lawson best exemplifies extraordinary public service to her home, university or global community.

These remarks are as prepared prior to delivery on Sept. 18. 

Thomas:  My name is Marilyn Thomas. I am in my second year of graduate work on my master’s in public health.  I am proud to have been selected as one of the recipients of the Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement and greatly honored to be named as the Ali Razi Scholar.

I grew up in the Hunter’s Point area in San Francisco.  It is a neighborhood littered with drugs, gangs, and crime:  you did not find quality education or quality health care there.  My parents were largely absent in my life because of their drug and alcohol abuse.  I became homeless when my mother entered long-term treatment for alcoholism and my brother was jailed for robbery.  Forced to quit high school, I nonetheless managed to support myself and earned my GED. 

Five years later, I became serious about my education when I became a single mother at age 20.  I excelled in biology at junior college, and enrolled at SF State in microbiology.  I led a science club for at-risk girls of color and when I graduated, I was named valedictorian and my college’s hood recipient.  I am currently the STEM Coordinator for the Metro Academies Initiative, which supports minority undergraduates in the sciences.  When I concluded that social inequities are antecedent to health disparities, I decided that I would pursue a PhD in social epidemiology at Harvard where many of the professors I admire are conducting groundbreaking research on the causes of population-level health disparities.

Glasier-Lawson:  My name is Maija Glasier-Lawson, and I am a graduate student in the masters program in anthropology at California State University, Chico.  I am proud and honored to have been selected as the Galinson scholar.

When I was 18, I was diagnosed with a disease that results in chronic pain and fatigue.  Despite this illness I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree in anthropology.

My passion is volunteerism, and I have been involved at Chico in the Anthropology Graduate Student Association, the Council of Graduate Students, and was the graduate coordinator and fundraising chair for the 26th annual California Indian Conference.  I also worked with CSU Chico’s Outdoor Classroom to develop archaeology modules for 3rd and 4th graders.

I want to pursue my PhD so that I can start a public archaeology center in northern California:  I want to teach children about cultural awareness and environmental stewardship through archaeology.

As a child, my mother always told me, “If what you are doing does not make you happy, you should not be doing it.”  From the very first anthropology course I took, I knew that I had found my chosen path.

Thomas:  And now, the description of our fellow award recipients.  These awards have been offered for the last 27 years.  This is the sixth time that there are 23 of us: one from each campus.  This year, seven of us are “resumers,” students who are older than traditional college-age students.  Six of us are living with health challenges.

Glasier-Lawson: Six of us suffered abusive family situations, five of us have been homeless, and ten of us come from families who have suffered from deep poverty.

Thomas:  We are a diverse group. We are Mexican American, African American, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Philipino, Peruvian, Bahamian and Caucasian.  Three of us immigrated to this country with our families.

Glasier-Lawson: We find purpose in helping others in afterschool programs, battered women’s shelters, food banks, and mentoring programs. We are sexual assault crisis counselors, and provide services for foster youth and developmentally disabled adults and children.  Two of us have been honored to serve our countries in the military.

Thomas:  We are health care providers and advocates, archaeologists, researchers, educators, social workers, parents and student leaders.  We each have different career aspirations but what we have in common is a drive to better our lives and make a difference in the lives of others.

Glasier-Lawson:  To bring it back to a personal level, “even though there were lots of adversities to overcome, if you are confident and eager to be successful, America is a place where you will succeed.  CSU has made it possible for me to not only be successful, but helpful to the community.”  Thank you for honoring all 23 of us with the Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement! 

Thomas: One of the Hearst scholars wrote, and I’m sure all of us want to say to all of you:  “thank you for appreciating my struggle, and thank you for offering generous support for my future.”  And finally, thank you for leading the CSU and making it possible for so many of us to transform our lives—forever—through education!

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