11:43 AM

Graduate Student Lauren Holland Receives Highest CSU Honor

Lauren Holland, a graduate student studying sociological practice at CSUSM, was named one of 23 students to receive the 2011/12 William R. Hearst/CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement, one of the highest forms of recognition for student achievement in the CSU.The Hearst/CSU Trustees’ award provides scholarships to one student from each of the 23 campuses students who have a demonstrated financial need, experienced personal hardships, and have attributes of merit including superior academic performance, exemplary community service and significant personal achievements.“It’s an honor to be selected with a handful of my peers to be a Heart Scholar,” said Holland. “The award validates my hard work and encourages me by knowing that people are behind me and supporting me in achieving my goals.” Holland is a single parent who raised two children while working low-wage jobs, determined to break the generational cycle of poverty. She recalls wearing a hardhat on a sweltering summer day helping to build a structure across the street from San Diego State’s campus thinking that a bachelor degree was out of reach. When a construction accident left her permanently disabled, she knew she needed to pursue higher education to open up more job possibilities.It had been 20 years since she was last in the classroom, but that didn’t stop her from finding academic success. In 2010, Holland graduated with honors and distinction from SDSU. She was inspired to pursue her master's degree and make a difference after tragic 2009 death of her five-year-old grandnephew who was killed in a pedestrian auto accident. Today, she is in her final year of study at Cal State San Marcos, earning her master’s degree in sociological practice with an emphasis on pedestrian safety research, education and advocacy. Maintaining an impressive 3.88 GPA, the 47-year-old is preparing to begin her thesis which will focus on qualitative ethnographies of child pedestrian fatalities, studying how families grieve, cope and try to make sense of a senseless tragedy.In addition to her academic successes, Holland has been devoted to volunteering and participating in nonprofit organizations throughout her life including the March of Dimes, Head Start, Zonta International, The United Nations Association of San Diego and a local sober living facility where she served as a life coach. She spearheaded a project to beautify a fitness and rehabilitation clinic for individuals with disabilities at SDSU, and currently collaborates with CALWalks and the Zachery Michael Cruz Foundation on pedestrian safety initiatives. Holland plans to use her education and experience to lobby for greater pedestrian safety at the local and national levels.“I want to be an even stronger voice advocating for pedestrian safety education, enforcement and engineering,” she said, explaining that each year more than 1,000 pedestrians lose their lives in preventable accidents. “I know I can make a difference, and the Hearst Award further reminds me to continue to push forward and give my very best.”