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Faculty, Staff Making Positive Impact During Pandemic

As Cal State San Marcos faculty and staff continue to go above and beyond on behalf of students and the campus community during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re pleased to highlight some of the campus heroes as nominated by students and colleagues.

Know someone who deserves special recognition for their efforts? Email details to publicity@csusm.edu and we’ll include them in an upcoming edition of this ongoing series.


Tasos Lazarides, director, Academic Innovation & Strategic Solutions, IITS

Learning & Tutoring Services (LTS) Team

Lazarides and the LTS team were nominated together for their collective effort in moving all tutoring, supplemental instruction and academic support webinars to a virtual format.

LTS is a seven-person team (pictured above) that leads the Academic Success Center, STEM Success Center, Supplemental Instruction, and Writing Center in the Office of Undergraduate Studies. The team includes Jennifer Brich, director of the STEM Success Center; Alexa Diaz, Academic Success Center coordinator; Julia Garcia-Medina, STEM Success Center coordinator; Maricruz Macz, director of Supplemental Instruction; Trevor Ryback, Math Lab coordinator; Evan Smith, director of the Writing Center; and Amanda Tomanek, academic English language specialist for the Writing Center.

“This student-focused group supported more than 27,000 student visits to the learning centers this past year,” the nominator wrote. “More impressively, in response to COVID and the need to move to remote delivery, they worked alongside Dr. Tasos Lazarides in IITS to move all tutoring and supplemental instruction online within four days last spring. They had to come together in significant ways to test and modify digital platforms, develop training for tutors and SI leads, and more.

“Based on what they learned between March and May, this summer the LTS team tested several digital delivery platforms and then moved forward in building a model to provide fully remote tutoring and Supplemental Instruction via Microsoft Teams. This work also included the development and delivery of a multi-day online training for all of the student staff this summer with detailed plans for ongoing training throughout the academic year. Furthermore, the team had to determine how best to track student engagement in the remote learning centers. When the fall semester began, LTS launched their deeply revised approach to providing academic support.”

The nominator noted that their efforts caught the attention of Microsoft, which consults with Lazarides to address suggestions that emerge from their work with Teams.


Farideh Farheidar, instructional support technician, CSTEM chemistry and biochemistry

Farheidar received multiple nominations for her work preparing personal protective equipment (PPE) for different campus departments, particularly chemistry, biochemistry and biology.

“She’s an important part of why CSUSM is able to offer hybrid in-person lab classes this fall semester,” one nominator wrote. “Farideh is a registered nurse and very familiar with medical protocols with respect to PPE. Her experience, advice and insight are invaluable. She has an overriding heartfelt concern for staff, faculty and student safety.”

“When COVID hit, she kicked it into gear and put in place sterilization procedures that have kept our students, faculty and staff safe in both Science Hall 1 and Science Hall 2,” another nominator wrote. “Her major contribution to the campus at large, however, is that she secured thousands of masks for the campus through our membership in BIOCOM. This request resulted in masks being available for on-campus classes, for researchers, for campus staff, and for anyone else on campus who needs a mask.”


Andre Kundgen, mathematics professor

Kundgen was highlighted for his efforts to ensure his students’ success during the transition to virtual learning.

“Not only did he make himself available to all of us above and beyond the required scope, he also provided many resources and links for us to help facilitate our success in our education and overall well-being,” the student nominator wrote.

“He provided us with information regarding refunds, computer and electronic access, financial resources, educational tools, as well as emotional support. He was patient and encouraging when we were all struggling through our distance learning experience and was understanding when we felt confused and frustrated.”


Veronica Ohm, assistant to the associate vice president, Facilities Development and Management

In the early weeks of the pandemic, Ohm provided cloth, reusable and fashionable face coverings to employees in Facilities Development and Management, Safety, Health & Sustainability, Distribution Services, University Police, Parking and Commuter Services, and anyone who stopped by Distribution Services.

“She even took requests from our employees for their families in the early days,” the nominator wrote. “This assistance came at a time when you couldn’t find or order reusable face coverings from other venues. She made various sizes to accommodate everyone in her FDM family that was interested. In fact, when I asked her why she was doing this, she said that she wanted to do whatever she could to protect her FDM and campus family. She explicitly exudes our campus safety culture, and her degree of humanity was extraordinary during a very concerning time.”

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314