CSUF President Fram Virjee

Fram Virjee

In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread, Cal State Fullerton took the unprecedented step of going virtual, with very short notice. While there have been significant expenses in this pivot, including ensuring that all Titan students and faculty have access to the necessary technology, the university’s more than 44,000 students and faculty made the transition successfully, with no decline in graduation rates and almost all services running virtually.

“We are going to come out of this, and on the other side, we’ll be better,” CSUF President Fram Virjee told local business leaders at the North Orange County Chamber of Commerce recently.  “The new normal, post-COVID, is going to be a hybrid of working virtually and on-site. That is the experience our students are undergoing right now.”

A Master Plan for CSUF as the Campus Enters a New Era

Coronavirus hasn’t been the only news at Cal State Fullerton in recent months. The university is also celebrating the approval of its master plan, which includes such upgrades as a new events/sports facility and innovation center, and expanded usage of the Fullerton Arboretum, which will stay in place and be used for interdisciplinary research and activities.

Efforts to ease the congestion around campus are also front and center in the master plan, including expanding on-campus housing.

“With this approval, we are now beginning work on the master plan as we speak. Remember, this is a 15-year plan,” said Virjee. “One of the things that might not be so obvious to the community but is quite important, is developing a new flow for traffic on campus. There will be no traffic running through the core of the campus, but it will be diverted in an oval shape around the perimeter of the campus. In fact, we are already beginning to implement that. We are widening the perimeter roads and creating bike/pedestrian paths on campus.”

Read more of Virjee’s remarks, including the campus’ commitment to diversity in this time of social change and how the community can get involved at CSUF, in this CSUF News article.

Executives from EIR program speaking to students in classroom.In spring 2020, Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics debuted the Executive in Residence program, which gives students the opportunity to connect with successful professional mentors, many of them alumni, who lead in the Southern California business community.

Seven mentors – Scott Coler ’85; Mike Groff ’78; Barbara Kelley ’84; Joseph Moderow Sr. ’70; Linh Nguyen ’98, ’17; Richard Ramsey; and Julie Virjee – rapidly shifted to online formats when the coronavirus shutdown began in March, ensuring that the Mihaylo College juniors, seniors and graduate students in the program received the best possible experience regardless of the circumstances. Mihaylo College donor and supporter Paul Folino provided mentoring in a seminar to students in the Fully Employed MBA (FEMBA) program.

Four of the students participating in the spring 2020 program share their experiences as mentees: Read More

Yolanda Lambarena

Yolanda Lambarena

Mihaylo College 2020 graduate Yolanda Lambarena (entertainment and hospitality management) rose from an upbringing marred by abuse and addiction to achieve a better life as a hardworking college student with dreams of a career in the movie or sports fields.

When walking in her neighborhood as a 7-year-old girl in the northeast Los Angeles town of Highland Park, Yolanda Lambarena was first confronted with the harsh reality that defined her home life – crack cocaine abuse.

“I passed by this alley on my way home from school, and I passed this man with a small object in his left hand and a lighter in his right hand. I didn’t know what this alley man was doing lighting this small object, but to my child mind, it wasn’t good,” recalled Lambarena in a July 23 interview with Community Keynotes, a podcast by Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD), featuring inspirational thought leaders. “Imagine how I felt when I found similar objects in my dad’s jacket. I was scared, and I was worried that my dad was going to end up looking like that alley man.”

In an attempt to keep her father from a similar fate, the young Lambarena would try to break or hide the crack pipes she would find, which would result in her enraged father physically and emotionally abusing her. Read More

Mike Milligan

Mike Milligan

After a stunning rout in March, U.S. stocks have risen sharply in the past four months, defying expectations and establishing one of the strongest upswings in recent market history.

Michael Milligan, full-time lecturer in Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College Department of Finance, says the stock market is a lucrative opportunity for everyone, if investing is done correctly.

“The stock market is not some coded conspiracy to keep the rich rich and the poor poor. Anyone can learn how to make money in the markets,” he says. “The first step is to learn the rules of the game. Many investors and traders just don’t know these rules or how the markets function. After you learn the rules, the next step is having strategies that work. Not all strategies work in all markets and economic environments, this is why you will need multiple strategies.”

Milligan, who teaches investing fundamentals on his Instagram account, says that while Wall Street consultants work overtime to convince the public that they are needed for investors to make smart decisions, their goal is the 1% to 2% in management fees they offer, and there are many ways to make money in the market.

“I recommend that investors become avid readers of different strategies and investment books,” says Milligan. “Some will make sense and some will not. Some will not make sense for several years, and some will never make sense at all, but you will be growing, learning and honing your skillset.”

Among the keys to long-term market success Milligan calls for: know the rules of the markets you are trading in, hone your skill set, keep a journal of your trading activity, and have a sell strategy. And above all, avoid overconfidence, the nemesis of investors.

Read more of Milligan’s advice in his piece in My Life Essentials magazine.

Katherine Diep

Katherine Diep

What is it like working at a Big Four accounting firm? Katherine Diep ’19 (finance and information systems) has been working for PwC since June 2018, beginning as a summer advance intern in risk assurance and now serving as a risk assurance associate.

Diep discusses her experience as a Mihaylo student, PwC employee and coronavirus-impacted worker, and shares some little-known facts about the accounting field. Read More

Students walk in main promenade on Cal State Fullerton campus

Photo by Chris McCarthy

As coronavirus has forced society to restrict activities and stay home, it has sparked a secondary crisis of depression, anxiety and other mental-health concerns.

According to U.S. Census Bureau studies conducted this spring, 24% of respondents reported significant symptoms of major depression, while 30% had symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders, both twice the levels reported six years ago.

And unlike the coronavirus itself, which is most devastating for older populations or those with pre-existing physical conditions, the mental-health challenges appear to be more acute for young adults ages 18 to 29, which includes the majority of Cal State Fullerton’s students and recent grads.

Jacquiline Vital, faculty crisis counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist at Cal State Fullerton’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), provides tips on how to manage stress and anxiety during this challenging time. Read More

Professor of management Shaun Pichler

Professor Shaun Pichler

When typically conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the majority opinion extending gender discrimination protections under federal law to the LGBT community, he and the other justices at least partially relied on the reasoning of Shaun Pichler, an associate professor of management at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.

Pichler’s research on diversity in human resources was cited multiple times in the amicus briefs – documents filed by interested parties other than the litigants for the court to consider – which the justices used to decide Bostock v. Clayton County, the groundbreaking ruling giving LGBT Americans employment protections in all but religious institution workplaces. Under the ruling, being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is a protected characteristic just as being male or female is.

The ruling affirmed Pichler’s research in “Heterosexism and Work-Family Concerns,” in which Pichler and his colleagues tasked undergraduate students and human resource professionals with examining fictitious job applicants seeking roles stereotypically thought of as being suited to the opposite gender.

“Both groups made selections based on the lack of fit between the perceived gender role stereotypes and the jobs, preferring gay men and heterosexual women for nursing and heterosexual men and lesbian women for sales,” says Pichler.

“This was the first known study to show that people are discriminated against based on how their sex and sexual orientation interact to cause applicants to be perceived as unqualified for jobs based on how their traits are perceived (i.e., as masculine or feminine). These findings are very much in line with the reasoning of the majority opinion.”

Read more about Pichler’s research and its impact in this CSUF News article.

Cleveland O'Neal III

Cleveland O’Neal III

Cleveland O’Neal III, an alumnus of Cal State Fullerton’s CSUF Startup Incubator and president and CEO of Connection III Entertainment Corporation, has acquired Moviefone, a film listings service once valued at more than $400 million and most recently owned by the parent company of MoviePass.

“My CSUF Startup Incubator exploration has come full circle,” O’Neal told the leadership of Cal State Fullerton’s Center for Entrepreneurship, which operates the incubator.

O’Neal’s company, Born in Cleveland, was the winning bidder for Moviefone during a bankruptcy auction, in which the brand was sold for $1.075 million.

Initially a call-in service established in 1989, the Moviefone platform expanded to a website with information and movie trailers for new theatrical and home-video titles.

The plan now is for Moviefone to buttress the “Made in Hollywood” TV brand, which includes a show with celebrity interviews and coverage of new film offerings that are syndicated on CBS and FOX stations nationwide.

For more on the Moviefone deal and the brand’s future, see the article in CSUF Entrepreneurship, the official blog of Mihaylo College’s Center for Entrepreneurship, or this article in the Los Angeles Times.


Girl reading on a digital tabletFor most of us, the past six months have offered some extra time as the coronavirus has upended work and school routines.

That’s also meant more time for reading, and members of the Cal State Fullerton community are sharing the books that have inspired them as part of Titans READ@Pollak Library, a program that began in 2018 as a year-round display of posters featuring students, faculty and staff with the books that impact them.

Elaine Duong

Elaine Duong

This spring, the program has expanded into an online blog series, maintained through the Pollak Library, discussing favorite books.

The blog is authored by Elaine Duong ’21 (marketing and information systems), a Business Honors student at Mihaylo College and a marketing student assistant at Pollak Library.

“Through the blog, the hope is that readers relate to the stories shared and learn more about library services, while promoting reading a good book,” writes Duong in a recent CSUF News article.

Check out what your fellow Titans are reading, including Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World, Moby Dick and You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.

The Las Vegas Strip by nightThe coronavirus pandemic and related recession has impacted every industry, but none has been as hard-hit as hospitality, entertainment, tourism and related fields, where stay-at-home orders and cautions on travel put the sector in a virtual deep-freeze this past spring. While many states are cautiously and fitfully reopening, the hospitality sector is rebounding, albeit slowly, and with a very different normal than existed in the past.

“The hospitality industry is very heavily dependent on travel, some markets more than others. The decrease in travel has caused many hotels and restaurants to close for lack of business or to operate at very low occupancies,” says Kevin Rohani ’10 (entertainment and hospitality management), senior vice president of development for SBE, a Beverly Hills-based hospitality and entertainment company with a global portfolio of high-end properties.

“The main objective of the hospitality industry moving forward is to regain the trust of travelers. Some companies, such as ours, are finding new revenue streams through the ghost kitchen (for delivery only meals) and digital food brand phenomenon, which has accelerated during COVID-19. There are always opportunities to innovate in times of distress,” he says. Read More