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College of Social Sciences

Faculty Learning Community

COSS Faculty Learning Community

The Purpose of the COSS Faculty Learning Community (FLC) program is to enhance the collaboration of COSS faculty through project-based learning to investigate and respond to questions, problems, and challenges identified in the College of Social Sciences. During AY 2020–21, five COSS FLC fellows worked on three projects supported by analysts from the Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE). Through these projects, the COSS FLC fellows built capacity to perform institutional-applied research and develop a relationship with the OIE analysts.

These research presentations were planned during the Spring of 2021.

For more information about COSS FLC, please contact:

Yoshiko Takahashi, Ph.D.
Interim Associate Dean, College of Social Sciences

Title: The Impact of Ethnic Studies Courses for All Students at Fresno State
Drs. Takkara Brunson and Davorn Sisavath, 
and Alex Nottbohm, Research Analyst, Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE)


In the face of polarizing debates mandating Ethnic Studies (ES) within the CSU, though, evidence of the positive impact of ES curricula for students of color has shown to graduate at a higher rate. Drs. Brunson and Sisavath explored the impact of ES courses for students who have taken or are currently enrolled in a course(s) in the following programs: Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, and Chicano and Latin American Studies. The study is threefold: first to explore students’ success through ES, second to build common outcomes across introductory ES courses, and third to develop and explore factors to improve ES visibility within COSS and the university.

Dr. Takkara Bunson

Dr. Takkara Brunson was an assistant professor in the Africana Studies Program at California State University, Fresno. She received her Ph.D. in Latin American History at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research appears in Cuban Studies, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, Gender & History, and the edited volume, Breaking the Chains, Forging the Nation: The Afro-Cuban Fight for Freedom and Equality, 1812–1912. Her book manuscript, Black Women, Citizenship, and the Making of Modern Cuba, is forthcoming from the University Press of Florida (May 2021).

Dr. Sisavath

Dr. Davorn Sisavath was an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Asian American Studies Program at California State University, Fresno. She received her Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego and has received several awards, including the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship and the UC Human Rights Fellowship. She has published essays in the Radical History Review, the Journal of Transnational American Studies, and forthcoming in the Journal of Critical Ethnic Studies. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Stone Soup Fresno and Central California Asian Pacific Women.

Title: A Study of Key Needs and Concerns of Tenure/Tenure-Track Faculty in the College of Social Sciences
Drs. Maritere Lopez and Kat Fobear,
and Chris Hernandez, Senior Survey Research Analyst, Office of Institutional Effectiveness (OIE)


Drs. Kat Fobear and Maritere Lopez undertook a study of the key needs and concerns of tenure/tenure-track faculty in the College of Social Sciences. The goal was to document and better understand faculty satisfaction within the college. Focusing on resource adequacy, workload expectations, collaborative opportunities, quality of communication, shared governance, and equity and fairness, this research will be the basis for a set of recommendations for the improvement of faculty experiences within the college.

FLC Fellow Bio:

Dr. Lopez

Dr. Maritere Lopez is a historian of early modern European women and gender. Her current disciplinary research focuses on the Italian Enlightenment, investigating prescriptions for women’s participation in the creation of an “enlightened” society. Dr. Lopez’s university service has centered on increasing graduate student success across our master’s and doctoral programs. From 2014 to 2020, she directed the federally funded Graduate Net Initiative. This grant program focused on the improvement of graduate student services and resources, including faculty training in effective digital pedagogy. Her most recent publication examines the impact of faculty and graduate student shared life stories on Latinx students’ sense of belonging and on their aspirations to enter graduate school and the professoriate.

Dr. Fobear

Dr. Kat Fobear is an assistant professor in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. Dr. Kat Fobear’s research and activism focuses on the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender in oral history, migration, transitional justice, health, and housing. Her most recent work is with LGBTQ refugees and undocumented persons in Canada and transgender homeless in California’s Central Valley. She is currently working on Qistory, a queer public history initiative in partnership with Community Link that works to record and preserve the voices and lives of LGBTQ+ persons in the Central Valley.

Title: A Multilevel Analysis on Students’ Grades Amid COVID-19

Dr. Yu Zhang and Hongtao Yue, Senior Research Analyst, Office of Institutional Effectiveness


In March 2020, the course teaching on campus was changed to a virtual format due to COVID-19, and this transition brought tremendous challenges to both students’ learning and faculty teaching. Average students’ grades in Spring 2020 increased 40% compared with Spring 2019. The project investigates how students’ grades correlate and explore the potential cause behind the grade increase by using OIE datasets. The project examines different level factors, including students, courses, and faculty members.

FLC Fellow Bio:

Dr. Yu Zhang

Dr. Yu Zhang’s primary teaching and research interests include comparative criminology, policing, race and gender, law and society, and quantitative research methodology. She has participated in several international and national research projects, including the International Self-Report Delinquency Study, the National Sexual Assault Self-Efficacy Needs Assessment Project, and the Implicit Racial Bias Project. Dr. Zhang is currently working on the application of computational methods in social science, including social media and big data analysis.

group photo of presenters on zoom