The Divergent Publication Award for Excellence in Literacy in a Digital Age Research

Dr. David Low and Dr. Earl Aguilera of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at Fresno State, were both recently recognized as 2023 recipients of the Divergent Publication Award for Excellence in Literacy in a Digital Age Research. This award recognizes the most outstanding publications during the past two years that bring to the forefront the importance and impact of this work, given by the Initiative for Literacy in a Digital Age.

The Initiative for Literacy in a Digital Age, established in 2014, recognizes the importance of literacy in a digital age, those who diverge from traditional pedagogies and research approaches, and the indelible contributions of educators and scholars who have dedicated their careers to the theoretical and practical study of 21st century literacies. 

“We received a record number of nominees for the 2023 class. The educators, librarians, community organizers, college and career leaders, and students honored by this recognition are paving the way for equity, diversity, inclusivity, and access to texts and tools for all learners.”

Dr. Shelbie Witte, founding director of the Initiative.
Pedagogies: An International Journal (Taylor & Francis)

Dr. Low’s publication award is for a 2021 article titled “Youth Identities and Affinities on the Move: Using a Transliteracies Framework to Critique Digital Dichotomies,” which he co-authored with Sarah Rapp, a UCSC doctoral student and incoming faculty member at Sonoma State University. The article was published in Pedagogies: An International Journal (Taylor & Francis) and argues that oppositional framings of digitality do not adequately convey the creativity, permeability, messiness, and movement of youth literacies in practice. The authors used a transliteracies framework to examine youths’ textual production and identity mediation across physical and virtual domains, focusing on student participation in affinity spaces.

Dr. Aguilera’s publication award is for co-editing a Special Issue of Pedagogies: An International Journal titled “Critical Literacies in a Digital Age” in 2021 with Dr. Jessica Zacher Pandya, Dean of the School of Education at CSU Dominguez Hills. In this Special Issue, Drs. Aguilera and Pandya curated a number of research studies that together examined the resurgent social, political, cultural, and economic tension – in part facilitated by emerging information and communication technologies – which underscore the need to cultivate new forms of critical literacy in our digital age. Drs. Aguilera and Pandya framed their Special Issue around the following question:

In an educational context increasingly marked by volatility and uncertainty, but also connection and creative potential, in what ways might a focus on CDL inform pedagogical theory and practice?

Drs. Low and Aguilera, among other 2023 honorees, will be sharing their work as part of the Literacy in a Digital Age lecture series in April 2023.

Faculty Spotlight: Varaxy Yi Borromeo

Varaxy Yi Borromeo

Varaxy Yi Borromeo, an assistant professor in Higher Education Administration and Leadership (HEAL), has been recently selected to receive the 2022 AERA Research on the Education of Asian Pacific Americans SIG Early Career Award. She also currently serves as the coordinator of the HEAL graduate program and as core faculty in the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership. She was drawn to Fresno State as an institution for several reasons. Firstly, she was born and raised in Modesto, so the institution was close to home. Second, Fresno State is an extremely diverse institution holding both Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution designations. This is especially important to Varaxy because she desires to work and serve a community that represents both her background and identities. She loves being in a diverse classroom and learning from amazing students, leaders, and professionals. Varaxy has been a faculty member at Fresno State since fall 2018.

Varaxy is constantly being uplifted and supported by an amazing group of mentors, guides, and colleagues. She is extremely grateful to her nominators and co-conspirators, Dr. Jacqueline Mac (Northern Illinois University), Vanessa Na (University of California, San Diego [UCSD]), and Amy Wang (UCSD). She considers them all wonderful souls and has the honor of calling them friends and family. She is also grateful to the SEAAsterScholars Collective of Southeast Asian American (SEAA)-identifying women who are committed to advancing knowledge with and by SEAA members, as well as, her advisor and friend, Dr. Samuel Museus for supporting her work and providing her with the skills and training necessary to contribute important knowledge about Asian American and SEAA communities. She is also thankful for all the Asian American and SEAA elders who provided a foundation for her to be able to advance the work of her community and to her department chair and program colleagues for their support.

            Currently, Varaxy holds bachelor’s degrees in both Business Administration and English (University of the Pacific), a master’s in Library and Information Science (San Jose State University), and a Ph.D. in Higher Education (University of Denver). She teaches graduate-level courses in higher education administration and leadership and in the doctoral program, including contemporary issues in higher education, education reform, and qualitative research. She has learned that it’s not just about doing good work and contributing knowledge but how you do it that matters. Leaning into the collectivist, interdependent ways of knowing and doing that her family taught her has helped Varaxy build meaningful relationships with collaborators and co-conspirators who understand that this work is never meant to be done alone. She resists individualistic ways of thinking and doing and finds great inspiration working with like-minded individuals. When the work is draining, she finds fulfillment in supporting others and receiving support—she knows that she is never alone, something that has made her career fulfilling and joyful.

            Varaxy will be receiving the SIG Early Career Award  at the American Educational Research Association in San Diego, California on April 3, 2022. She states that it is very exciting and spirit-lifting to have her work recognized. As a first-generation Khmer American college graduate and faculty, to be recognized in such a way by her scholar-community is both validating and affirming. She is the first in her family to attend and complete college, thus it has been a journey of navigating unknowns and uncertainties. She is excited that her work is being honored because it also means the effort her family put into coming here as refugees is visible to the world. Varaxy explains how they are the backbone that made this all possible.

She plans to continue conducting research on the experiences of SEAA students via both asset-based ways and utilizing critical theories of race to explore the racialized experiences of SEAA students. Varaxy is also collaborating with colleagues to conduct case studies of three CSU AANAPISIs and the contexts that shape how they support SEAA students. She is especially excited to work with SEAA graduate students interested in similar topics. If there are current SEAA grads interested in research, she is happy to offer training and support. One of her major goals is to build a robust pipeline of SEAA students into higher education and student affairs.

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

Faculty Spotlight: Soua Xiong

Soua Xiong

Soua Xiong was nominated to receive the 2022 AERA Research on the Education of Asian Pacific Americans SIG Early Career Award. This award is presented to an early career scholar whose program of research has had a significant impact on our understanding of Asian Americans and/or Pacific Islanders in the field of education. A significant impact refers to a program of research and practice that has meaningfully advanced knowledge and understanding in the field. The award will be formally presented to Soua at the SIG Business Meeting which will take place at 6pm on Saturday, April 23rd, at the San Diego Convention Center.

Soua received both his bachelor and master degrees from Fresno State. His BA is in Psychology and his MS is in Counseling. His PhD is in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Claremont Graduate University and San Diego State University. He first ended up at the Kremen School in 2009 as a graduate student, before finishing with his master’s degree in Counseling in 2011. Shortly after that, he was selected as the Graduate Dean’s Medalist for the Kremen School of Education and Human Development. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counselor Education and Rehabilitation and also serves as the Coordinator of the Student Affairs and College Counseling program. He teaches foundations of student services in higher education, applying counseling skills to student affairs practice, and supervises graduate students in the completion of their master’s projects and internships. He has been at Fresno State for over 14 years as a student, staff, and now faculty member.


Soua would like to give a shout out to Dr. J. Luke Wood from San Diego State University and Dr. Song E. Lee from Fresno State. He says that he wouldn’t be where he is at this stage of his academic career without their continued support, guidance, and mentorship. He also would like to include a heartfelt mention of his multiple communities of encouragement. First and foremost, he would like to thank God, followed by his family, friends, and colleagues. He is also eternally grateful to his Department Chair (Dr. Becton), Associate Dean (Dr. Pitt Parker), and Dean (Dr. Randy Yerrick) for their continued support as he coordinates a graduate program as the sole full-time faculty member in addition to all of his other roles and responsibilities as a faculty member.

Being an educator is something that Soua is very passionate about and something he continues to enjoy every single day. He has had the opportunity to prepare and train aspiring student affairs professionals with the counseling training they need to effectively address the holistic needs of college students from diverse backgrounds. What he enjoys most about the teaching experience is the opportunity to learn with and from his students. They bring a wealth of knowledge, background, and experience that greatly enhance the learning environment.

However, Soua’s work doesn’t simply stop inside the classroom. He wants to keep developing a community of scholars committed to advancing our knowledge and understanding of Hmong students in higher education. That is why he created the Xiong Research Group to provide leadership, research mentorship, and monthly capacity-building workshops so that others can learn the academic research process, become critical consumers of research and producers of knowledge on the Hmong college student experience using asset-based frameworks. Currently, his research team (Xiong Research Group) is conducting a national qualitative study to explore the factors that positively shaped the experiences and outcomes of Hmong students in higher education (The Hmong College Student Success Project). Rather than focus on barriers and challenges of Hmong students, this project is a retrospective trajectory analysis using Harper’s (2010) anti-deficit achievement framework to explore factors that allowed them to access, thrive, and succeed in higher education.

He is committed to using his own research to elevate and amplify the voices and experiences of Southeast Asian Americans (SEAAs) in higher education. This strand of his research agenda has focused on 1) engagement of SEAA male students, 2) SEAA community college students, and 3) Hmong students specifically. Rather than use deficit-oriented research approaches and frameworks that perpetuate deficit perspectives and narratives of SEAA students, their community, and culture, he plans to continue using asset-based approaches and frameworks to guide his research in this area of study. After hearing that he would be presented with the Early Career Award, Soua was incredibly honored and even more determined to continue his area of research. He is grateful for the recognition and the progress which his team has made, something that continues driving him toward future success.

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