Alumna develops new K-12 resources for teaching Native American histories

Determined to improve the way K-12 students are educated about the histories of Indigenous peoples, Fresno State alumna Marie Casao (Narragansett) has developed new resources for California teachers.

She curated a curriculum for educators who aim to teach about American Indian tribes and their relationships with ecosystems. This list of educational resources is directly tied to the intellectual knowledge of tribal peoples and their environments.

Casao, who completed Fresno State’s curriculum and instruction graduate program and earned a certificate in educational technology, is a Central Valley native and grew up in Lindsay, 60 miles south of Fresno.

While working as a teacher at a Valley elementary school, Casao, a member of the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island, said she felt unnerved when she saw first-hand how teachers referenced Indigenous peoples in the past tense and had students dress up as an “Indian” for a day. “We don’t teach about what it is to be Native in a modern society,” Casao said.

After enrolling in the Master of Arts in Education option in curriculum and instruction at Fresno State, Casao met Dr. Leece Lee-Oliver (Blackfeet/Choctaw/Wyandot/Cherokee), director of the American Indian Studies program and assistant professor at Fresno State.

Lee-Oliver assisted Casao with opportunities such as building a virtual learning science curriculum with the Fresno American Indian Health Project. Casao also collaborated with Fresno State’s California Indian Conference, a digital exhibit that celebrates the perseverance and vibrancy of California American Indian cultures.

“Students should be aware of their local history,” Casao said. “This exhibit offers a way for teachers to explore with their students and acknowledge the land they live on.”

According to the National Congress of American Indians, 87% of state history standards do not mention Native American history after 1900. Thus, creating an inaccurate representation of the many tribes, communities, and individuals that are current and active across the nation.

“In the first grade, I remember dressing up as an ‘Indian’ with my little construction paper headdress and all the kids sat down at a long table in the classroom and celebrated what the teacher said was the first Thanksgiving,” said Dr. Wild Garnett (Lemhi Shoshone), assistant professor of special education at Fresno State.

“Most of what was taught about American Indians in school is purely from a European perspective. It is a perspective that ignores our spiritual existence and connection to all things. It ignores our stories, our practices, our connection to the earth, and all the living beings upon it, and ignores how we create and share knowledge.”

As of 2018, only 0.41% of professors in higher education are of American Indian or Alaska Native descent — one of the most underrepresented groups in higher education. Fresno State is home to nine American Indian faculty members, making up 0.60% of the faculty at the University.

As Casao reflects on her time at Fresno State, her heart warms as she remembers the ample support of her faculty. Before enrolling in her master’s program, she met with Dr. Carol Fry Bohlin, Curriculum and Instruction Department chair, and was supported in her desire to infuse Native American Studies into her education.

She also took classes with Dr. Roy Bohlin, professor emeritus, and appreciated his accommodations to customize final projects on her interests in topics such as Native youth and science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) education.

“Because of all of the support from my professors, I have been able to learn how to become a better researcher, improve my writing skills, learn new teaching strategies, learn new methodologies, technology resources and much more,” Casao said.

After graduating in spring 2021, Casao began working as a program officer for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. She works with pre-college programs and builds curricula to provide schools and teachers across the nation with STEAM resources. “Connecting with people who have very similar missions as me and interacting with Indigenous students is a highlight of this work,” Casao said.

Because of efforts such as Casao’s, teachers across the country are steadily gaining access to more resources on Indigenous education. In 2018, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian launched Native Knowledge 360o, an initiative aiming to improve how Native American history and culture are taught in schools.

Initiatives such as these, in addition to local efforts, are helping teachers incorporate current Native histories into the classroom – working to increase the inclusivity of Indigenous cultures in education.

Graduate students talk “Top 5 Issues” with superintendents


insight from local school leaders

Dean’s Leadership Advisory Council Meets Kremen Graduate Students To Talk Issues

On September 8, leading school district Superintendents from across the region will gather online to share with Kremen graduate students trends and issues worthy of research in today’s school context. Students are encouraged to login and listen to ways leaders are framing today’s challenges and positing new questions to be addressed as we emerge from a COVID era of online teaching.

When: September 8, 2021
Zoom Meeting ID: 685 015 6630
Zoom URL:
Time: 1 – 2 pm
(Time will be allotted at the end for student questions and answers.)

Following the presentation, Kremen students will remain online to discuss next steps, research appropriate methodology, partnership and other relevant matters regarding inter-institutional research.

Superintendents Leading the Valley

Meet our valley’s educational leaders and gain insight on regional issues.

John Campbell, Superintendent
Kings Canyon Unified School District

John Campbell earned a bachelor’s degree in History, Single Subject Teaching Credential, Administrative Services Credential and master’s degree in Education, here at Fresno State. Dedicated to education, he has been serving as Superintendent of Kings Canyons Unified since 2017.

Andy Di Meo, Administrator, Human Resources Development
Visalia Unified School District

Andy Di Meo is no stranger to Fresno State. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, Administrative Services Credential and master’s degree in Education right here in Fresno. Di Meo currently serves as an administrator for the Human Resources Department at Visalia Unified.

Adela Jones, Superintendent
Sanger Unified School District

Adela Jones began teaching in 1984 and shortly after began teaching in Sanger Unified. After holding multiple roles within the district, she has now been serving the district as Superintendent for three years. Jones is also a Fresno State graduate, earning her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and an Administrative Services Credential as a bulldog.

Todd Lile, Superintendent
Madera Unified School District

Todd Lile began working in education as a special education paraprofessional in Madera Unified and then taught for thirteen years. After pursuing higher education, Lile traveled globally with his wife. When he came back to the Central Valley, he held multiple roles in Madera Unified; Vice Principal, Principal, Chief Academic Officer and now Superintendent.

Bob Nelson, Superintendent
Fresno Unified School  District

Bob Nelson became Fresno Unified’s Superintendent in 2017. Prior to his appointment, Nelson served Fresno Unified for over 23 years, holding various roles including teacher, Vice Principal, Principal, Human Resources Administrator and Chief of Staff. His roots are deep with Fresno State. He is a bulldog alumnus and earned his Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, master’s degree in Education, and Administrative Services Credential at Fresno State.

Eimear O’Farrell, Superintendent
Clovis Unified School District

Eimear O’Farrell, the Ireland native, has worked in education for almost forty years. She first came to the United States in 1993 and fell in love with teaching her elementary class in Fresno. She then taught in both Fresno Unified and Clovis Unified schools. Today, she has served Clovis Unified as its Superintendent for four years.

Lindsay Sanders, Chief of Equity and Access
Fresno Unified School District

Lindsay Sanders has worked for Fresno Unified for over twenty years. She held roles as a teacher, volleyball coach, Head Counselor, Vice Principal, Principal, and since 2018, she has served as Chief of Equity and Access. Sanders pursued her education at Fresno State and graduated with a Single Subject Teaching Credential, Administrative Services Credential and a master’s degree in Education.

Wesley Sever, Superintendent
Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District

Wesley Sever has proudly served as Superintendent in Kingsburg since 2012. Sever will forever be a Bulldog. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Fresno State in addition to a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Supervision, Administrative Services Credential, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Dedi Somavia, Assistant Superintendent
Visalia Unified School District  

Debi Somavia has been an educator for 24 years; she has served Visalia Unified for the last 20 years in a variety of roles including Administrator of Human Resources, Elementary School Principal, Assistant Principal, Curriculum Coach and an elementary school teacher. Somavia holds a master’s degree in Education, a Reading Specialist Credential, Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and an Administrative Services Credential from Fresno State.

Fresno State employees prioritize self-care

Close your eyes and take a deep breath in. Exhale slowly and repeat.

Dedicating time to improve your personal well-being or mental health requires intentional acts. Meditation, exercise, eating healthy and going outside are all acts which aid self-care. 

Traditionally, self-care was thought to be something practiced at home or on the weekends. That is changing at Fresno State.

The Kremen School of Education and Human Development has formed a Staff Development Committee aimed at fostering camaraderie, team building, providing professional development and making work-life balance a priority for the school’s staff members.  

It all started in 2014 when the school went on a retreat to the E.D.G.E. Challenge Ropes Course on campus. This activity allowed Kremen School staff to engage in teamwork, leadership, self-esteem, creativity and personal awareness experiences. 

Every year since, staff members have found ways to connect with one another and build relationships outside of academic support. 

“Getting a chance to visit with staff that we may not see on a daily basis or may not cross paths with consistently is a great way to stay connected and know one another,” said Jessica McVay, academic advisor. “I want to know everyone and let them get a chance to know me so that they feel comfortable asking me for help or maybe one day I can turn to them for help. Having structured activities is such a great way to bond and get a break from the office. It’s a great treat for everyone.” 

The Staff Development Committee organizes monthly activities throughout the academic year. Activities have included potlucks, holiday gift exchanges, walks to Gibson Farm Market for ice cream, visits to the campus’ Downing Planetarium, yoga and meditation, and many others. 

With the onset of COVID-19, the committee had to get creative. Monthly virtual events were something new for each committee member. They had to find a way to engage staff and maintain a sense of connectedness.  

The pandemic put added stressors on everyone and the committee found unique ways to focus on the self-care and mental health of their peers.

Staff mentioned that one of their favorite activities over the 2020-21 academic year was the art therapy activity. The American Art Therapy Association characterizes art therapy as an approach to mental health that utilizes the process of creating art to improve mental, physical and emotional wellness. Staff were provided with paint by sticker books and together were able to create art virtually.

Throughout the pandemic, staff also stayed connected by sharing their favorite apps, attending a presentation on Effective Communication in the Workplace, and they watched a documentary about the impact social media can have and discussed how this is important when communicating with students. 

Dr. Jenelle Pitt Parker, the Kremen School’s new associate dean, was excited to learn about the committee’s work. 

“In engaging in all of the work that we do on campus, at home, in our communities, it is so vital that self-care is intentional,” said Pitt Parker. “I think about the ways that I fall short in this category and then I am reminded..better yet supported by colleagues who are also engaged in the work. Having folks in your corner that will support you in intentionally caring for yourself is one of the best ways to partner in the work environment, stay productive, and remain engaged in the work for the long haul.”

Fresno State’s strategic plan prioritizes the investment in a dynamic environment to attract, develop, and retain talented and diverse faculty and staff. 

“I think of the ways in which self-care and well being is such a strong part of that call in my opinion,” said Pitt Parker. “I know for me, I am at my very best when I have attended to my self-care and well being. I have recognized myself to be more abundant, creative, and innovative which I can then apply to tasks at hand and terrain we’re seeking to navigate in higher education.”

For the 2021-22 academic year, a new group of staff join the committee and are excited to be able to plan in-person gatherings again. Focusing on self-care and strengthening comradery among staff members is a continued priority at the Kremen School.

Get to know Kremen’s newest faculty members

The Kremen School of Education and Human Development is proud to introduce five of our newest faculty members to Fresno State. We have faculty who is a CSU graduate and faculty from Taiwan and Turkey. Collectively they offer a wide range of expertise and we are excited for them to share their vast knowledge with our Fresno State community.

Dr. Christina Bosch 

Assistant Professor
Department of Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education

Dr. Christina Anderson Bosch is an incoming assistant professor in the department of Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education at Fresno State with a Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her Fulbright-funded dissertation contributes to comparative special education research through a mixed-methods survey validation study exploring how school-based educators define and practice “inclusion”, as it relates to students with “special education needs”, in the wake of massive socio-economic inclusive education reforms in Chile.

Most of her doctoral research focused on developing a context-responsive, universally-designed, inquiry science tablet app to address the illegal dearth of educational access common in juvenile justice facilities. Bosch has taught and facilitated co-design research/evaluation in these settings, community-based alternative education for young mothers, nonprofit educational organizations and independently-operated public charter schools in her hometown of Washington, DC.

She also holds master’s degrees in Mind, Brain and Education from Harvard University and Special Education with a concentration in Learning Disabilities from American University, as well as a B.A. in English from the University of Vermont. She is interested in advancing the politics, programs and policies that support robust public education systems where youth, workers and families from the full spectrum of cultural backgrounds thrive.

Dr. Yasar Nur Dedeoglu 

Assistant Professor
Department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation

Dr. Yasar Nur Dedeoglu is joining the Kremen School as an assistant professor in the department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation. Dedeoglu earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychological Counseling and Guidance from Hacettepe University in Turkey. Originally from Turkey, she earned a study abroad scholarship to pursue her graduate studies in the United States when she was working as a school counselor in Istanbul, Turkey.

She obtained her master’s degree in Counselor Education with a concentration in School Counseling from Ohio University and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from the Pennsylvania State University.

Dedeoglu has experience working with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds in a variety of settings including schools, mental health clinics, private practice and career centers. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with her students and train future counselors as leaders, advocates, collaborators and system change agents. She is also dedicated to research and service to help marginalized children and teens overcoming the systemic barriers to their wellness and academic success.

Dr. Ramar Henderson

Assistant Professor
Department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation

Dr. Ramar Henderson is joining us from the University of Southern Indiana where he taught in the College of Science, Engineering and Education. He may have traveled far to get here, but he isn’t new to the CSU system. Henderson completed a B.A. in Sociology from CSU Sacramento and an M.S. in Kinesiology from CSU Long Beach before he went across the country to earn a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

Henderson is passionate about helping future human service professionals increase their sensitivity to the narratives of marginalized people. He is also passionate about mentorship and how it can be used to help students thrive as people and professionals. 

Dr. Kristina Rios 

Assistant Professor
Department of Literacy, Early, Bilingual and Special Education

Dr. Kristina Rios is an assistant professor of Special Education. Her research interests include parent advocacy for Latinx families of children with significant disabilities. Rios’ research examines how Latinx parents advocate for services for their children with disabilities. Additionally, Rios conducts research examining the impact of special education on parental stress and well-being.

To address this gap in the literature, Rios developed a dedicated research program on Latinx families of children with significant disabilities, the systemic barriers they face in the education system and interventions geared at mitigating disparities and improving outcomes in this demographic. Specifically, Rios conceptualized and implemented a twelve-hour advocacy training intervention: Familias Incluidas en Recibiendo Mejor Educación Especial, also known as Families Included in Receiving Better Special Education, a training program for Latinx families of children with disabilities. The purpose of this advocacy program is to help Latinx parents increase their special education knowledge, advocacy, empowerment, receipt of services and decrease stress.

Dr. Wei-Mo Tu 

Assistant Professor
Department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation

Dr. Wei-Mo Tu has a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Graduate Institute of Rehabilitation Counseling at the National Changhua University of Education in Taiwan and a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Tu is a certified rehabilitation counselor and was a full-time supported employment specialist and vocational evaluator in a community-based rehabilitation agency in Taiwan. During his doctoral training, Tu received advanced clinical training at the Journey Mental Health Center, the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center in William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center providing mental health counseling, vocational rehabilitation counseling, and neuropsychological assessment.

Tu worked as an assistant professor at the University of North Texas for three years. His areas of interest are psychosocial outcomes of people with disabilities, counselor education, as well as measurements and psychometrics. He has published seventeen research articles in refereed journals and two book chapters.

Resources for world language teachers across the globe

When Jorge Morales immigrated to the United States from Jalisco, Mexico at age 9, he struggled with culture shock, assimilation to a new life and learning English. He remembers seeing other English learners struggling in school and wishing there were more helpful programs in place.

As Morales grew up, he realized he wanted to help students who are experiencing similar struggles. So he decided to become a teacher.

After graduating from Fresno State with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a Spanish teaching credential, he started teaching Spanish at Sunnyside High School in Fresno.

In 2016, Morales’ second year at Sunnyside, he was eager to find ways to be more effective, and he was inspired by the veteran teachers around him. He learned of workshops offered by the Central California World Language Project at Fresno State and decided to sign up.

World Language Workshops for Teachers

The project is part of a statewide initiative to improve access to high-quality world language instruction for K-12 educators. Both student teachers and experienced teachers are able to use resources and take them into their classrooms. Housed in the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at Fresno State, the project is positioned to provide targeted support for the needs of the Valley’s future teachers, including for those who speak Spanish or Hmong languages.

“Teachers learn and leave with strategies, ready to be implemented into the classroom,” said Nancy Perez, project director. “And that’s what makes the project interesting and appealing to teachers, because they come, they learn and they practice.”

The project is not just for world language teachers but provides resources for all teachers. Since the project started in 2014, it has trained and supported over 1,000 teachers.

Historically, workshops were hosted in person, but COVID-19 has shifted the workshops to virtual. The project is offering over 30 free online workshops from July 27 through March 12.

Read more.

Dr. Jenelle Pitt Parker Named Associate Dean of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development

In 2009, Dr. Jenelle Pitt Parker went on her first tour of the Fresno State campus. She was inspired by the variety of student centers, including the National Coalition Building Institute in the Cross Cultural and Gender Center, an organization that works to eliminate prejudice and inter-group conflict on campuses and in communities throughout the world.

Always being driven to make a difference in her local community, Pitt Parker was motivated as she began her journey at Fresno State as an assistant professor in the department of counselor education and rehabilitation.

Pitt Parker began pursuing higher education when she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from U.C. Riverside. She then enrolled in Michigan State University and earned a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and a Ph.D. in rehabilitation counselor education.  

Dedicated to advocating for others, Pitt Parker found many opportunities at Fresno State. 

During Pitt Parker’s first year, she was appointed to the President’s Commission on Human Relations and Equity where she helped to develop the University’s first diversity, equity and inclusion plan. She also served as a board member of the Central Valley Cultural Heritage Institute and was a member of the Respect Civility and Inclusion Resource Team at Fresno State. In addition to many other contributions over the past twelve years, Pitt Parker was recently appointed to the 2020-21 President’s Leadership Task Force and the African American Student Resource Center and has begun serving on the Humanics Advisory Council.

Pitt Parker is not only active at Fresno State but she is steeped in the community. She has served on the City of Fresno’s Disability Advisory Commission since 2010, where she provides recommendations and advice to the mayor of Fresno on city policies, procedures, and services to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities. She also serves on the Fresno Unified School District African American Academic Acceleration Task Force and uses data to find ways to help accelerate academic improvements for African American students in K-12.

“Being able to be a part of the larger work, on behalf of the 74,000 Fresno Unified students, has been something I’m very pleased to be involved in both professionally and personally,” said Pitt Parker.

Pitt Parker has served in many academic roles at Fresno State and wanted to further make an impact in areas of diversity, equity and inclusion, so she pursued leadership. 

After serving as chair of the department of counselor education and rehabilitation for two years, Pitt Parker has been named associate dean of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development. 

During this academic journey, Pitt Parker sought guidance from both her family and mentors. Her years spent at Fresno State have allowed her to nurture many interdisciplinary relationships which have led to various collaborations, partnerships, and invaluable support. 

“Considering the value of a university degree, particularly for use in a rapidly changing workforce, I remain focused on the need for stronger representation across faculty, staff and administrators, as it relates to matching demographics of the communities that are being served,” said Pitt Parker.

With extensive knowledge and research in rehabilitation and mental health, Pitt Parker is focused on wellness factors of faculty, staff and students returning to campus for the fall 2021 semester. As associate dean, she is also focusing on accreditation, high-impact and social justice philanthropy, and the needs of our students as they complete fieldwork and practicum at partnership sites in the community. 

The fall semester offers many opportunities and Pitt Parker is looking forward to navigating the ways she can provide support and enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in work settings. 

Pitt Parker is humble and a driving force who represents dedication to her community and profession. She plans to one day become a university president and says that it’s good to have goals and to continue evolving and growing.

Student-athletes make lasting impact on Valley’s youth

Fresno State women’s soccer player Kayla King is driven to help others — and she has shown it throughout her college years. 

When she started her postsecondary education, she began working as a tutor for school-aged children. Tutoring came naturally to King and created an opportunity for her to work directly with children.

While earning a degree in liberal studies at Fresno State, King excelled at juggling both academics and athletics.

“Being a student-athlete really teaches you a lot about, not only yourself, but how important managing your time is,” said King, a Hollister native. “It teaches you great life lessons that people end up taking with them for the remainder of their lives.” 

Being a student-athlete provided King with a variety of opportunities to partner in the community. In April, King and other student-athletes spoke virtually at a College and Career Day at Wawona K-8 School in Fresno Unified School District. This annual event encourages students to think about their future and what opportunities lie ahead.

“We want local heroes for our kids,” said Bob Nelson, superintendent of Fresno Unified. “We want our kids to see student-athletes who came from their neighborhood and who will inspire them.”

At the College and Career Day, King connected with 15 seventh and eighth graders and shared her story of how she became an athlete. She remembers them asking many questions about what it’s like to be a student-athlete. 

Fresno State is fully immersed in the community and continues to find ways for increased collaboration. In just one year, student-athletes volunteered 4,000 community service hours at 460 organizations. In addition to serving the community, the athletics department had a collective 3.30 GPA in spring 2020. This marked the 19th consecutive semester of over a 3.0 departmental GPA. 

“We’re always looking for opportunities to impact our community, and specifically the youth in our community, in a positive manner,” said Terry Tumey, Fresno State’s director of athletics.

With over 6,000 new undergraduate students overall enrolled in fall 2020, 52 percent are from Fresno County. 

“Our staff, coaches and student-athletes understand the important platform we have, and we all collectively consider it an honor to give back and inspire the next generation of Bulldogs and leaders in our Valley,” Tumey said. “Partnering with local school districts to help encourage the importance of education is a privilege for us.”

Bulldog Buddies

Kendall Boliba, a Fresno State athletics academic adviser, grew up as an athlete and remembers engaging with the community in a pen pal project when she was younger. The program was impactful for her, and she wanted to create something similar in the Valley. 

In fall 2019, Boliba partnered with Prince Marshall, then principal of West Fresno Elementary School in Washington Unified School District. She pitched the idea of creating a pen pal program with Fresno State student-athletes. 

With support from Marshall and West Fresno Elementary teachers, Boliba organized for the women’s water polo team to become pen pals with a second-grade class in 2019. She called it the Bulldogs Buddy program. 

This program was powerful for West Fresno Elementary, not only by directly connecting students to collegiate athletes but also by positively reinforcing the power of reading and writing.

According to the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (2019), 53% of third-grade students in Fresno County didn’t meet the ELA/Literacy standards. And 83% of West Fresno Elementary third graders didn’t meet the standards.

West Fresno Elementary worked the Bulldogs Buddy program into its curriculum. The second graders wrote back-and-forth with their Fresno State pen pals and worked on incorporating open-ended questions and weekly writing prompts. Marshall said he saw a direct impact on the students’ eagerness to read and write.

“Writing is one of the most difficult tasks for our students, especially second-language learners,” said Beth Liberta, second-grade teacher at West Fresno Elementary. “When we write narratives, informational or persuasive stories the students struggle to develop proper sentences and those sentences are often very short and without details. However, when my students write to their Fresno State Buddies, their sentences are endless and so full of life.”

Though the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily paused the program, Boliba plans to expand the Bulldogs Buddy program across multiple school districts in the Central Valley.

While this program provides a way for Fresno State student-athletes of any major to engage with and positively impact Valley youth, some decide to make a career out of teaching.

After King graduated with her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, she immediately enrolled in Fresno State’s early childhood education graduate program. She is eager to get into the classroom and begin directly impacting Valley youth. She hopes to become an elementary school teacher and one day work with students with special needs.