Education Leaders in the Valley Gather for Exemplary Practices in Education Leadership Conference 

Fresno State’s annual Exemplary Practices in Educational Leadership Conference returned this year with an emphasis on inspiring children’s learning in an innovative 21st century. 

Over 300 educators and leaders from across central California gathered at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District on November 1 to learn from experts, explore best practices, discuss critical issues and gather relevant ideas needed to transform organizations into collaborative cultures of learning for students and educators.

The EPC is one of the focus points of the John D. Welty Center for Educational Policy and Leadership. It’s an opportunity for the center to partner with county and local school districts to bring in respected leaders and educators to share their knowledge and for local districts to showcase their work.      

A vocal performance from operatic tenor Chris Pucci and a welcome from Fresno State President Dr. Saul Jimenez-Sandoval  set the tone for the conference. 

Developing Curious Minds for the 21st Century was the theme for this year’s conference and attendees were treated to a keynote speech from nationally-renowned educator and speaker Dr. Kenneth Wesson, who places a heavy focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programs and how the brain affects learning.  

Dr. Wesson’s speech, Ushering in the Age of innovation-Where Anything is Possible,  focused on emotional impacts on learning and methods for creating 21st century PK-16 classrooms. It also emphasized the need for the integration of learning concepts, including math, science, writing, reading, technology – and the arts. Wesson entertained and enlightened the audience, beginning with the fundamental question, “If we are to teach our students how to think, don’t you think we should first understand how the brain works in the 21st Century?”   

According to Dr. Mabel Franks, the Director of the Welty Center, “Dr. Wesson delivered the right message, to the right audience at the right time.”

“It is imperative that we remain in touch with the needs, desires and interests of our students if we are to provide a quality, purposeful education that will prepare our youth for this brave, new, exciting, yet complex future. We also need to recognize the impact emotions have on learning and the importance of developing the whole child who is eager, willing and able to fully engage in the learning. That should be the mission of every educator.”


Following Dr. Wesson’s speech, the conference attendees then ventured out to selected breakout sessions. Many of the sessions focused on topics that included early literacy design, proactive approaches to school safety, diversity, equity, and inclusion, and other innovative teaching strategies affecting local districts and universities. There were 20 breakout sessions total, and each session was uniquely geared towards engaging and reengaging learners about the topics that are vitally important to educators and leaders in the 21st century. 

These sessions were a great opportunity for the attendees to learn from experts in their fields and share best practices for closing specific achievement gaps and improving learning outcomes for students.

The EPC is part of the Dr. Peter G. Mehas Lecture Series and is held every year. The Mehas Lecture Series honors local education icon Dr. Pete Mehas, and explores educational leadership, issues of equity and access, emerging topics in curriculum and instruction, and student success in local, regional, and global context. 

(Written by staff members at the Kremen School of Education and Human Development) 

Teacher Residency Programs Prepare Future Educators

During her first visit to campus, Dr. Shireen Pavri, assistant vice chancellor for Education Programs and Leadership for the California State University, was especially interested in learning about the five teacher residency programs Fresno State has established in partnership with local districts to prepare future educators.

Modeled after medical residencies, teacher residencies at the Kremen School for Education and Human Development aim to integrate teacher residents into the full, day-to-day workings of a school and district during their teacher preparation coursework, with a goal of better preparing teachers for the realities of the teaching profession.

According to the Learning Policy Institute, residencies hold the most promise for remedying the growing need for teachers in California, a need that has only been exacerbated in recent years. The Fresno Teacher Residency Program, a partnership with Fresno Unified School District, boasts an 81% three-year retention rate over the past seven years, while the Sanger Unified Teacher Residency program boasts an 87% three-year retention rate. Both rates are significantly higher than the national average, which hovers at around 50% teacher attrition in less than 5 years.

To see the residency work firsthand, Pavri visited Centennial Elementary in Fresno, where she visited both a kindergarten and a fourth-grade dual immersion classroom, connecting with the residents and their mentor teachers. She also met with site and district leadership to learn more about the Fresno Teacher Residency Program, the Kremen School’s longest-standing residency partnership.

Pavri then had the opportunity to interact with residents, teachers and administrators from the Madera Teacher Residency Program who were attending the Enseñamos en el Valle Central Institute at Reedley College. One of the newest residency partnerships, Madera Teacher Residency prepares teachers to work in dual immersion classrooms by supporting them in earning their bilingual authorization in addition to their multiple-subject credential. In doing so, the residency partnership responds to both the need for more teachers in general and Madera Unified’s specific goal of expanding its dual immersion opportunities for its learners.

I was struck by the mature, reciprocal and authentic partnerships that Fresno State has nurtured with neighboring school districts that continue to evolve based on local contexts and needs,” Pavri said. “I also see so much potential in the intentional and strategic Grow-Your-Own Programs that are being built, that address workforce needs in culturally responsive and sustaining ways by getting young people in high school interested in ways that they can serve their own communities.”

Another priority across the state related to education is the preparation of educators to work in transitional kindergarten (TK) settings, in response to Governor Newsom’s expansion of TK for all children. Educators in the Kremen School’s Early Childhood Education program have been leading the way in response to these initiatives, building on the program’s history preparing teachers and educating young children in the Joyce M. Huggins Early Education Center, which is housed in Kremen School.

Pavri engaged with children age 5 and younger at the center and said she was enamored with the dedication and professionalism she observed, calling it “a labor of love.” Additionally, she met with faculty to discuss the development of a 24-unit certificate program that will allow multiple-subject educators to become TK-certified-the Kremen School’s first response to the need for more early education teachers.

“It was truly an honor to host Vice Chancellor Shireen Pavri here at Fresno State and have the opportunity to introduce her to the wonderful partners we work with and the extreme high quality instructors, faculty, project Directors, and staff that make Kremen such a special place,” said Dr. Randy Yerrick, Dean of Kremen. “I am glad she was able to see first hand the nature and the magnitude of the impact the Kremen School of Education and Human Development has on the Central Valley.”

(Written by Kremen staff)

A Wellness Program for Hmong Americans

(Photo courtesy of May Twenty and Five)

Since the pandemic, emotional and behavioral wellness has been in the spotlight although it has always been a concern. When Dr. Song Lee, a full professor and licensed counselor in the Department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation applied for sabbatical, she didn’t know that a pandemic would occur.  Nor was she aware that the pandemic would impact people’s social connections and heighten symptoms of mental health.  

Dr. Lee was granted her sabbatical in November, 2020, but had to wait until spring 2022 to take it due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She used most of her time to create a Wellness Program hosted at Freedom Community Church in Fresno, Calif, to serve Hmong Americans. The City of Fresno has one of the largest Hmong populations in the United States, second to Minneapolis – St. Paul in Minnesota. About 35,000 Hmong reside in Fresno and currently about 1,444 Hmong students attend California State University, Fresno. 

Dr. Lee hopes the Wellness Program, known to the Hmong elders as the “Noj Qab Haus Huv Program,” will be a place that the Hmong will trust and easily access information and knowledge on mental health concerns and coping strategies to strengthen families. The Open House for the Wellness Program took place on October 22, 2022 and was celebrated with Fresno State faculty and students, members of Freedom Community Church, and members of the community who serve Hmong Americans in their respective fields and agencies.  

For questions about the program or if you or your Hmong families and friends would like to seek support or services, please contact Dr. Song Lee at or at 559-278-0349. The services are not considered counseling because they do not include diagnosis or treatment for specific mental health illnesses. Support services include bilingual and bicultural individual consultations and support groups on Sunday mornings at Freedom Community Church. Workshops and trainings will be posted on the Freedom Community Church website:

(Written by Dr. Song Lee, Professor, Department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation)

Scoring on the Field and in the Classroom

During Fresno State’s recent Homecoming football game against division rival San José State, Bulldogs fans heard a number of familiar names during the play-by-play broadcast: “Another great rush by Jordan Mims!” “That’s the fourth sack of the game by David Perales!” “Nikko Remigio scores!” “A great stop by Elijah Gates!” 

Fans might be surprised to learn that these talented football players, along with 17 of their teammates and three graduate assistant coaches, are Kremen School students! They are among the 125 students currently pursuing an M.A. degree in Education, Curriculum and Instruction option (M.A.Ed.-C&I).

“The athletes who are recruited to Fresno State and are admitted to our program bring a rich diversity to the classroom in terms of ethnicity and race, life experiences, perspectives, and goals,” said Program Coordinator Dr. Carol Fry Bohlin. “Many are also first generation college students who have a passion for giving back to Fresno State and their communities.”

Star wide receiver Nikko Remigio ran for a touchdown in the thrilling last minute of the October 30 game against San Diego State to secure a win for the Bulldogs. Remigio was recruited by Fresno State after he earned a B.S. in Legal Studies from U.C. Berkeley. He’s proud of his mixed-race Filipino/Black/White heritage and wants to make the world a better, more just place for all people, especially through judicial system reforms.

Dontae Bull is another Bulldogs player who is enrolled in the master’s program. Bull, a 6’7″, 320-pound offensive lineman from Canada, helped to hoist the large silver “V” Valley Trophy in the air following the Bulldogs’ 17-10 victory over the Spartans after the Homecoming game. He is a valued role model as a youth life skills coach and is considering starting a school for children with learning difficulties. 

Defensive end David Perales believes that the M.A.Ed.-C&I program will help him learn the necessary skills to be an effective football coach. “Coaching incorporates many instructional elements and also requires motivating players, just like teaching,” said Perales. 

Jordan Mims and Elijah Gates are on target to graduate this semester with their master’s degree. “They are both insightful and thoughtful in their work,” said Dr. Rohit Mehta, their master’s project advisor. “Elijah is studying the racial experience of Black and Brown students in higher education, and Jordan is studying personal challenges and wellness among student athletes of color.”

In a recent interview, Mims said he selected this particular master’s program because the coursework topics are broad. The courses cover curriculum, instruction, research design, statistical analysis, learning theories, and educational technology. 

This knowledge can help him now and in any field he goes into after his playing and coaching careers are over. “Football clearly brought me here,” said Mims. “But no one can take away your degree.”

Gates added that he has developed a love for going to school and expanding his horizons as a result of the program. He feels that by coaching and teaching, he can be an inspiration to youth and make a positive difference in the lives of future student athletes.

Many of the Bulldogs football players enrolled in the master’s program credit the many Pre K-12 classroom teachers also enrolled in the program for teaching them about the educational process from a teacher’s point of view. Jade Muñoz, a teacher in the program, notes that the players have in turn helped the teachers understand the positive impact that extracurricular activities such as sports have on students’ academic success through teaching structure, discipline, teamwork, and responsibility.

Recent graduate and middle school science teacher Adam Powell agrees. For him, athletics was a safe place to learn how to work hard as a teammate and how to take a loss – all life skills.  Powell also believes that competition, so ingrained in sports, “is an inherently human trait that can be approached humbly for personal growth and enrichment.”

The eclectic mix of students in the program “energizes the class,” notes Dr. Susan Schlievert, who is teaching four dozen master’s students in the M.A.Ed.-C&I program this semester. “A third-grade teacher, a physician, a middle school science teacher, a firefighter, a high school art teacher, a surgical technician, a star football player, a private school principal— all of them, and so many more, come to my class and share knowledge, perceptions, and friendship,” said Schlievert.

Wherever the athletes may go after graduation, they will bring Fresno State and these educational experiences and friendships with them! They are ambassadors for our university throughout the state and nation, and they are determined to make a positive impact in the world, especially in the lives of those they plan to coach and teach! Go ‘Dogs!

For more information about our special student-athletes, please contact Terry Tumey, Fresno State’s Athletic Director, at (559) 278-2643. 

Here’s a link to another student success story.

(Written by Dr. Carol Fry Bohlin, Program Director, Curriculum and Instruction)

Fresno Family Counseling Center Student Spotlight: Ream Moharam

As a young girl born in the Central Valley, Ream Moharam relocated to her family’s home country of Yemen when she was nine-years-old. Meeting and getting to know more deeply her extended family, her culture, her faith, and herself in Yemen was an invaluable experience. One of the things that was always emphasized by her parents was the importance of education. Going to Yemen was challenging, but Ream conveyed that it provided wonderful memories and taught her valuable lessons of perseverance. 

Unfortunately, as turmoil in the Middle East unfolded, it became clear to Ream’s parents that they needed to leave Yemen or they might never make it out. She relates the tale of “escaping” from her family’s home country by taking several buses (because the airports were closed) from Yemen to Saudi Arabia to Turkey before Ream and her family could finally fly back to re-start their lives in Fresno. 

Ream applied to the Masters of Science program in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling after earning her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Fresno State.  As part of her training, Ream has served as a marriage and family therapist student-trainee at the Fresno Family Counseling Center (FFCC)

Ream has a gift for working with children and teens. Using Child-Centered Play Therapy that was taught to her in the MFCC program, Ream can be found in a therapy room reflecting feelings of a young child of families who also had migratory experiences in their family’s lives. Her tenderness and insight provides hope and healing for the families and children she treats in therapy sessions. She has found joy and satisfaction helping the children learn to ground themselves and focus through the play activities she implements. 

Ream feels a special concern for teens and young adults from the Muslim community. There’s still much stigma about mental health concerns in her community. Her work has focused on helping that population reduce self-harm and suicide in their community. After she graduates in December, Ream hopes to continue her work of promoting awareness of the mental health needs in the Muslim community. 

Ream reflects on her educational experience at Fresno State fondly. “The counseling classes require lots of self-reflection, which helped shape my morals and values,” said Moharam. “I feel it is a privilege to have these opportunities.” 

Ream’s counseling work has extended beyond FFCC. She also serves as peer consultant/teaching assistant for clinical courses by helping train students coming through the program behind her.

“Ream is a bright spot in our program and our center,” said Dr. Kyle N. Weir, Professor of Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling at Kremen and Director of the Fresno Family Counseling Center. “She’s an amazingly talented therapist, but goes about quietly and humbly helping her clients and peers alike. She is going to do impressive things in our field and make a huge difference in many, many lives. She epitomizes what we hope to produce as we train counselors and therapists who will change the world for good,” said Weir.

As a fully self-funded, non-profit venture, the FFCC endeavors to serve those most in need and provides low-cost counseling to those struggling financially. The  FFCC trains all of the students of Fresno State’s MS in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling to serve the community members of the Central Valley. Providing over 10,000 sessions a year to help meet the mental health needs of the Central Valley in English, Spanish, and Hmong, as well as other languages depending upon the students’ linguistic abilities. 

Over two-thirds of FFCC’s clientele have an income level at or below the Federal Poverty Level. Contributions from the community help provide direct mental health services to those most in need in our Central Valley. 

(Written by Dr. Kyle M. Weir, Professor of Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling)

Kremen Equity Scholar Award Recipient, Brandon Gridiron

The Kremen School of Education and Human Development has created a promising new initiative, The Student Equity Scholar Award program, to help support Kremen students at all levels and blend activism and robust community service into their educational journey. This initiative is intended to assist four students at the Undergraduate, Credential, Masters, and Doctoral levels, allowing the selected  students to integrate issues of equity and social justice within their studies during the 2022-23 academic year. We are excited to feature one of the Kremen Student Equity Scholar Award recipients, Brandon Gridiron. He is currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program for Educational Leadership

Brandon was inspired to pursue his field of interest based on his passion of  fighting for social justice and civil unrest. As a professional, he wants to be a voice of change and use education as that vessel of change. He recognizes that the fight for injustice involves everyone and that we must be unapologetic for fair and ethical treatment of others. Brandon wants to bring a sense of urgency to this issue, noting that education has failed in its attempts to encourage social justice and civil rights awareness. 

Brandon’s personal experiences deeply ingrained these feelings that have driven his educational and professional pursuits. He grew up in a single family home that was dominated by poverty, gangs, and violence. He was not supposed to have any chance at success. Fortunately, his mother and other positive role models in his life gave him the encouragement, love, and support needed to prove society wrong about his life direction. Instead of the educational system helping people like him, he felt it was blocking his road to success. 

As a result of his experiences, Brandon decided to engage in social justice advocacy work. His motivation is driven by his desire to provide a better environment and learning experiences for his own children. He’s used his role to create a student inclusivity task force and youth-led equity forum that allow our youth to be at the center of social action to help drive change. This resulted in the high schools in his district to create youth-led equity forums focused on engaging in civil discourse to create inclusive environments, remove barriers, and create equitable outcomes for all students. 

Brandon is devoting his final year at Fresno State to understanding how African American students in the Valley experience belonging, connection, and engagement in the high school setting and the influence culturally engaging campus environments have on their experiences. He believes that if campuses are more open and acceptable to students, then they will be more successful. 

In order to address his concerns and field interests, Brandon will conduct a study that addresses how African American students deal with these challenges in the education system. His hope is that understanding the factors based off of the survey will help improve the educational experience for students of color. More specifically, he hopes to uncover a way to measure how culturally engaging K-12 campuses are for students. 

Brandon expects to complete a dissertation in May, 2023. He wants to have a fully developed framework for measuring K-12 campuses for cultural engagement, and to have enough data and info available to measure the success of African American students in the Valley. Brandon’s research includes creating more culturally engaging campus environments in K-12 schools. 

The fruition of the Kremen Student Equity Scholars and Kremen Equity Fellow Initiative represents an explicit way to continue meeting the aims outlined in Kremen’s mission, vision, and goals by: a) preparing students to be agile change agents who will work in racial, ethnic, and linguistically diverse communities and b) connecting community partners with student scholars who can lend support to navigating real-world complexities through the tools of research. 

Each of this year’s selected Equity Scholars will be provided with tuition support (up to $7,000) for one academic year. In return, the recipients are expected to engage in community service or partnership outreach. They may also participate in research connected with their studies to address a specific issue of inequity or social justice in the local community. 

(Written by Jason Smithberg, Communications Specialist, Kremen)  

Jonathan Pryor: Faculty Spotlight 

Toward the end of Jonathan Pryor’s high school experience, he envisioned pursuing work aligned with the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. As a young person at the time, he had no idea what that would entail or look like, but he knew that he wanted to be able to advocate for the lives of LGBTQ+ people. He is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, teaching in the Higher Education Administration and Leadership Program (HEAL). He is also a core faculty member in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership. Higher education provided him with the experience to engage in LGBTQ+ activism at a college level and opened up his interest to work within a university setting, eventually working in Student Affairs for 10 years. Although he never worked toward LGBTQ+ rights in politics or non-profit organizations, his work on college campuses translated well to much of his career as a scholar of higher education and a former practitioner in LGBTQ+ Student Affairs.

Jonathan began his work at Fresno State in the Fall of 2018 after responding to a national search for an assistant professor position in the HEAL program. He was impressed with the Kremen’s commitment to supporting student success. He felt a genuine interest from colleagues and leadership toward support for LGBTQ+ advocacy and education on campus and in the community. Queer and trans communities in Fresno and the greater Central Valley continue to experience discrimination and harm. Jonathan believes that as educators, Fresno State and Kremen are well-positioned to advocate for equitable educational environments to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ students on our campus and in the region.  

His field of study is more broadly focused on higher education administration and higher education leadership. More specifically, Jonathan’s work has explored issues of equity for LGBTQ+ communities in higher education, LGBTQ+ campus climate and student experiences, and leadership strategies for advancing equity and social justice in colleges and universities. He has had two recent publications, one in the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice and the other in the Innovative Higher Education journal. His research is greatly informed through his 10 years of student affairs professional practice, six of those years consisting of managing the university LGBTQ+ programs at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. As a former LGBTQ+ Student Affairs practitioner, it was important for him to get involved with the LGBTQ+ community at Fresno State. Upon arriving at Fresno State, he was recruited to support the development and implementation of the “Out At Fresno State” video series, and quickly became connected with numerous colleagues at CCGC and the LGBTQ+Allies Network. Jonathan eventually came to serve as Vice-President of LGBTQ+Allies before assuming the role of president this most recent academic year. 

As part of his work with LGBTQ+Allies, Jonathan helps coordinate Fresno State’s Rainbow Graduation Celebration program. Being able to celebrate and acknowledge the successes of our LGBTQ+ students is important to Jonathan personally, as rarely does the LGBTQ+ community experience such recognition from their institution, let alone society. Rainbow Graduation is a beautiful tradition that he hopes will only continue to grow as more students become aware of and comfortable participating in the program. Jonathan enjoys seeing the growth and success of his students—whether it’s witnessing their academic growth, their personal growth, or their professional growth. Being a part of a student’s journey and having an impact on their growth is incredibly fulfilling for him.  

For Jonathan, completing his doctorate was a point of personal pride. Having grown up in rural Kansas, where he felt academically unprepared to transition to a large state university, he had a lot of growth to accomplish to get to where he is today. He is grateful for the educators, scholars, and activists who have helped him get to where he is today. Kremen has provided an important platform for Jonathan to become engaged in the local Fresno State community, advocating for the continued support of LGBTQ+ groups on campus and in the community. 

Jonathan would love to see a stronger collaboration of LGBTQ+ scholars appearing on campus. Although he knows some colleagues on campus who engage in this work, he would love to establish a way to foster greater collaboration and connection across disciplines for other LGBTQ+ scholars. He also hopes to see more intersectional approaches to how scholars and practitioners support students in their work, ensuring that gender and sexual diversity are included when campus leaders are assessing measures of student success, persistence, support, and resources. 

(Written by Audra Burwell, a Creative Writing Student, Employed by The Kremen School of Education and Human Development)