The College of Education, Kinesiology and Social Work recently hosted an alumni awards event recognizing the outstanding contributions of several distinguished graduates across various fields.
January 16, 2024

Stan State’s College of Education, Kinesiology and Social Work (COEKSW) recently celebrated the achievements of its alumni through its inaugural distinguished alumni awards event.  

“These awards provide an opportunity to recognize the professional accomplishments of our alumni,” said Dean Brad Porfilio. “The College of Education, Kinesiology and Social Work takes great pride in celebrating those who improve the quality of life in schools, in communities and other organizations across the Central Valley.” 

The awards recognize individuals from various disciplines who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments, service and impact in their respective fields. Among the distinguished awardees were alumni from advanced studies in education, teacher education, social work, kinesiology and liberal studies. 

Advanced Studies in Education 

Christy Lobao  

Christy Lobao has more than 15 years of experience as a school administrator and recently became the superintendent of Atwater Elementary School District. She demonstrates a passion for creating environments where students can thrive and where teachers are fully supported. While developing programs for accessibility and promoting diversity and respect in her district, Lobao is committed to the vision of educational accessibility, diversity and modeling these values to her staff and students. 

Nichole Sablan 

Nichole Sablan works as a professional clinical counselor at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula. She achieved her goal of becoming a mental health professional dedicated to addressing the diverse needs of those she serves. After establishing a successful private practice in Modesto, she earned her doctorate and continues to provide mental health services. Sablan is a Latina with a deep spiritual identity, who showcases her intersectionality of diversity, authenticity and commitment in her work. She is an exemplary model of dedication to Stanislaus State’s values of embracing diversity and promoting belonging to all students. 

Teacher Education 

Maria Pena 

Maria Pena overcame personal challenges to excel in the single-subject credential program. She is currently an English language development (ELD) teacher for Riverbank Unified School District where she specializes in working with new and bilingual students. Her commitment to her students is evident in her tutoring efforts and culturally authentic curriculum. Pena is making a difference in the lives of students from varied backgrounds, showcasing her dedication to equity and inclusive education. 

Sumeet Singh 

Sumeet Singh serves as the principal at Walnut Elementary School in Turlock. Singh has also served as an advisor and lecturer at Stan State, imparting professional and ethical knowledge to teacher candidates. He is committed to the professional development of students at Stan State and values diversity in the teaching profession. 

Social Work 

Kimiko Vang 

As the director of Merced County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, Kimiko Vang oversees the agency’s diverse behavioral health programs, which offers inpatient and outpatient services with bilingual staff and language translation support. Vang is a dedicated leader, licensed clinical social worker and advocate for vulnerable communities who promotes growth through coaching, mentorship and innovative strategies in culturally responsive behavioral health and youth mental health. Her expertise spans human services, grassroots- and community-based program evaluation, organizational development and support for Hmong women and Southeast Asian communities. Additionally, she’s contributed as a part-time lecturer and field supervisor in the University’s Master of Social Work program, embodying a lifelong commitment to learning. 

Susan Talamantes Eggman 

Rep. Susan Talamantes Eggman is a leader with decades of experience in public service and currently serves as state senator for California’s 5th Congressional District. She has a background in social work, with a commitment to healthcare, education and community-building. Her legislative achievements showcase her commitment to diverse and underserved communities. Eggman’s journey from serving in the military to becoming a state senator reflects her dedication to public service and advocacy for vulnerable populations. 


Natalie Ochoa-Contreras 

Natalie Ochoa-Contreras is a doctor of occupational therapy who actively promotes her profession to students. She engages in community service by providing therapy to children and supporting nonprofit organizations like Central Valley Tykes and Trykes. Her outreach efforts demonstrate her commitment to promoting healthcare and adaptive solutions for children with disabilities. 

Enith Rojas 

Enith Rojas is a dedicated physical education teacher at Bellevue Elementary School in Atwater where she teaches grades K-6. During the pandemic, she pioneered an online curriculum for local teachers. She coaches middle school sports and supports players by providing equipment from her own personal funds. Rojas demonstrates a genuine commitment to serving low income and underrepresented students. Her resilience and positive influence have made her an invaluable asset in an area where many educators shy away from challenges. 

Liberal Studies 

Jenny Lee Yang 

As a teacher, Jenny Lee Yang is an advocate for Southeast Asian American students. She received recognition for her scholarly activities and contributed to the establishment of Merced’s first Hmong dual-immersion school. Her efforts in advocating for Southeast Asian students showcase the impact educators can have in fostering a supportive and inclusive learning environment. 

Warrior Awards 

Stephanie Beaver-Guzman 

Stephanie Beaver-Guzman is a counselor and advocate for vulnerable college populations, particularly Native American students and foster youth. She has been instrumental in creating programs and events that support their unique needs. Her work as a counselor, advocate and liaison for tribal nations reflects her commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Guzman’s personal journey, as an enrolled member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe and a former foster youth, adds depth to her understanding of the challenges faced by underrepresented students. 

Maria Rocha 

Maria Rocha, a high school resource specialist teacher, has overcome physical disabilities to pursue her dream career. She serves as a powerful role model, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and breaking stereotypes. Her journey challenges societal misconceptions about people with disabilities and promotes the belief that everyone, regardless of ability, can excel in higher education. Her impact as a certificated teacher challenges stereotypes and inspires students, fostering a more inclusive and accepting educational environment.