USU

The University Student Union Presents

What’s Your Story?

Featuring the Students of the USU

The University Student Union’s “What’s Your Story?” is a fun monthly series of quick Q&As that focus on the interesting lives and work experiences of its dynamic and diverse students. Without these talented people, the USU simply could not provide all of the events and programs it offers CSUN students every year. And since we have more than 300 student employees and board members working together, you just know they’ll have a lot of stories to tell. Let’s go meet some!

May 2020

Jessica Opinion, Student Clerical Assistant I, USU Accounting & Finance

USU: Tell us about your position with the University Student Union.

Jessica: I assist my supervisors in helping students with questions regarding pay checks, bills or other office duties. We’re also here to support students, especially with everything going on now.

USU: What advice would you give yourself as a freshman?

Jessica: Keep pushing on. Now is the opportunity to find yourself, meet many people from different backgrounds and have the best times of your life.

USU: What would you suggest other students could do to stay on schedule while working from home?

Jessica: Having a systematic schedule has really kept me accountable of what needs to be done. I’ve also learned to be kinder to myself. These are trying times for everybody and it’s a new lifestyle.

USU: Who do you aspire to be like someday?

Jessica: My brother. He passed away a couple years ago. He was a good kid and lived life happy go lucky. But he had such a significant impact on the people around him. I aspire to leave a legacy like he did. /p>

USU: What’s your favorite holiday?

Jessica: Hands down, Thanksgiving. That’s the best holiday because of the food and the family is all there. I love the mashed potatoes and the corn. But turkey is my most favorite thing.

USU: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

Jessica: Boracay in the Philippines. They have such pretty beaches. It was my plan after I graduated to visit my homeland with my parents. I wouldn’t be where I am without their support.

  • May 2020 What's Your Story — Jessica Opinion
  • May 2020 What's Your Story — Jessica Opinion
  • May 2020 What's Your Story — Jessica Opinion

Christian Nessim, Student Training and Events Assistant, USU Human Resources

USU: Tell us about your position with the University Student Union.

Christian: I help my supervisors approach ways to incorporate new ideas in USU events. For example, I helped plan Student Summit. We work to make sure students get the most out of every event.

USU: What is your favorite part about working with the USU?

Christian: I love how much this experience will benefit my future career, especially working with Kristen Pichler (Associate Director, Human Resources). She taught me how to break out of my shell and be a leader.

USU: What’s it like to now have all online classes?

Christian: As an introvert, I was really thriving in online classes and staying home. However, I’ve also been missing the classroom environment and the collaboration with students and professors.

USU: If you could go on any talk show, which one would you go on?

Christian: Hot Ones on YouTube. I love spicy food and the host, Sean Evans! He’s so funny. I also love the aspect of eating wings while asking questions and the conversation gets so deep and personal.

USU: Have you picked up any new skills in self-isolation?

Christian: I’ve gotten really into cooking. There’s a cookbook that’s like a textbook called Food Lab. I find the science of food so interesting. Right now, I love cooking pizza in my own pizza oven.

USU: Favorite pizza topping?

Christian: Jalapeños! I even make my own pickled jalapeños. They come out perfectly pickled.

  • May 2020 What's Your Story — Christian Nessim
  • May 2020 What's Your Story — Christian Nessim
  • May 2020 What's Your Story — Christian Nessim

April 2020

Dannick Castaneda, Games Room Student Attendant

USU: What is your position with the University Student Union?

Dannick: At the USU Games Room, I’m in charge of checking out equipment and gaming tech like the Oculus Rift. I also make sure everything goes smoothly with fun events like the Smash Bros Tournament, Neon Nights, and the Welcome Back Event.

USU: What is your favorite part about working with the USU?

Dannick: Meeting so many other people within the USU. All departments have this unity and we bond over what we do to help the USU serve students. I also enjoy meeting all the customers in the Games Room.

USU: What advice would you give yourself as a freshman?

Dannick: I would tell myself to focus more on my study habits. I used to really take advantage of the Games Room. But now I know you must have an organized schedule for studying.

USU: What’s it like now to have all online classes?

Dannick: I feel how unmotivated I can get being at home all the time. The interaction through Zoom meetings just isn’t the same as being in class. However, I have a more freedom to do my homework any time of the day. It’s all about self-discipline and making sure I get things done.

USU: Who do you aspire to be like someday?

Dannick: Kobe Bryant. He always knew how to take his game to the next level. Just like Kobe, I want to take my education to the next level by pushing myself to excel in a Grad program. I care about my education like Kobe cared about his craft.

USU: Which musical artist would you want to see in concert from a front row seat?

Dannick: The Weeknd. I like his new song Blinded Lights. I even came up with a dance for it!

  • April 2020 What's Your Story — Dannick Castaneda
  • April 2020 What's Your Story — Dannick Castaneda

Christopher Hernandez, Student Assessment Assistant

USU: What is your position with the University Student Union?

Christopher: A normal day consists of doing a lot of assessments for many USU events, like at the Pride Center, SRC, Oasis and the Computer Lab. We gather information from CSUN students and analyze the data. We then use that data to provide accurate predictions about future for the USU.

USU: What is your favorite part about working with the USU?

Christopher: My favorite part is the comfortability and interactions with my coworkers. It’s nice to see those faces and it feels almost like a family.

USU: After graduating, what career interests you?

Christopher: I want to work for JPL on the NASA Admin side of things. I’d like to help them establish more of a presence with the younger community by sharing their historical events and projects. I’m also interested in working abroad, like in Italy, so I can expand my cultural experiences.

USU: Have you picked up any new skills in self-isolation?

Christopher: I’m getting back into painting. I painted these canvases that all intertwine when they’re put together. My cooking skills have also gotten pretty good. My favorite dish to make is eggplant lasagna!

USU: If you could have a dinner with three people, who would they be?

Christopher: A fantastic dinner would be with Seth Rogen, ASAP Rocky, and Action Bronson. Everyone is so outspoken, genuine and not afraid to voice their opinions. We’d eat wings and I’d ask Action Bronson if he could make them.

USU: Who do you aspire to be like someday?

Christopher: I aspire to have the same motivation and aspirations as my mom. She always pushed me to keep moving forward and refuse to settle. If you’re in a place where you’re limited, ask for more! I want to make her proud.

USU: Coffee or tea?

Christopher: I’m a coffee amateur, but I do love a light roast. I’ll usually get a Hazelnut latte at Coffee Bean or an Iced Coffee with sweetener and cream at the Freudian Sip.

  • April 2020 What's Your Story — Christopher Hernandez
  • April 2020 What's Your Story — Christopher Hernandez

February 2020

Stephanie Barboza, Vice Chair, USU Board of Directors

USU: How has being Vice Chair changed you?

Stephanie: I feel like I’ve become more vocal, not only as chair but in general. This position has made me feel comfortable speaking to professionals, staff, and teachers.

USU: After graduating, what career interests you?

Stephanie: I would love to be on the board for another non-profit organization, specifically one that focuses on issues in the Latinx and undocumented communities.

USU: What’s your favorite part about working as Vice Chair for the board of directors?

Stephanie: Attending the meetings and learning how complex our different departments are at the USU. Each department works so hard. It’s heartening to see how everyone’s contributions come together.

USU: What do you do to help reduce your stress?

Stephanie: I definitely like to be active to de-stress. My favorites include roller skating and Aztec dancing.

USU: What is something you look forward to at the moment?

Stephanie: I’m looking forward to dancing in my first Aztec dancing ceremony this Saturday. I’ve been practicing and I’m very excited to present everything I’ve learned!

USU: Who is someone you aspire to be like?

Stephanie: USU Executive Director Debra Hammond. Her experience changed the way the USU use to be. She has made an amazing impact by advocating for student resources and having our board be mostly student based.

  • February 2020 What's Your Story — Stephanie Barboza
  • February 2020 What's Your Story — Stephanie Barboza

Tyrone L. Carter, Chair, USU Board of Directors

USU: What is your position with the University Student Union?

Tyrone: I am Chair of the Board of Directors for the USU. I also work with several BOD committees including Finance, Audit and Diversity & Inclusion. We’re here to help all CSUN students achieve academic success by advocating for student resources and being a peer mentor.

USU: What inspired you to run for Chair of the Board of Directors?

Tyrone: After some experience serving on the Diversity & Inclusion committee, I was encouraged to run for Chair. I was hesitant because I was the untraditional older student. But then I thought I have an understanding and perspective that needed to be heard on campus, particularly within the African-American community.

USU: What is some advice you’d give yourself before starting college?

Tyrone: Get to know your professors and build relationships with professionals. I’d also tell myself to acknowledge that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. Being a first-generation student, I didn’t know how to ask for help with my education or how to network. Now I know what to do to help myself excel.

USU: When not in classes, what do you love to do?

Tyrone: I love to cook all kinds of food and spend time with my family and dogs. I also really enjoy reading, especially books written by profound Black authors.

USU: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?

Tyrone: I would like to visit West Africa, specifically the museum where the “Door of No Return” is located. That’s where people were held at their final exit point before being sent off into slavery.

USU: For which musician’s performance would you want to have a front row seat?

Tyrone: I would sit front row for Marvin Gaye, Billy Ocean, or Kendrick Lamar.

  • February 2020 What's Your Story — Tyrone L. Carter
  • February 2020 What's Your Story — Tyrone L. Carter

January 2020

Joey Navarro, Reservations & Event Services Lead

USU: Did working at the USU help further your goals?

Joey: Before this job, communicating was always a struggle of mine. Now I’m like a pro when it comes to the phone, email or in person. Sometimes we help up to 40-50 people a day, so I’ve also learned how to work well under pressure.

USU: What’s your dream job?

Joey: Since I volunteered at the Wildlife Waystation, my dream has been to work with exotic animals like Siberian or Bengal tigers. I would love to feed and take care of them, it was so much fun! It opened my eyes to the opportunity of working with animals.

USU: What is your favorite part about working with the USU?

Joey: The people. I love everyone who works in my department and outside the department. It’s like a family, especially within our department.

USU: Which musician would you to see from a front row seat?

Joey: The band Muse, for sure. I went to their concert once and it was like a dream. Now every concert I go to doesn’t feel the same after that.

USU: What are three goals you have at the moment?

Joey: 1. Learn how to surf. 2. Get through this last semester. 3. Learn how to cook more recipes. I want to be like Gordon Ramsey.

USU: Coffee or tea? Favorite drink?

Joey: I like coffee the most because it wakes me up. My favorite drink is vanilla iced coffee. I chugged that drink during finals week.

  • January 2020 USU What's Your Story — Joey Navarro
  • January 2020 USU What's Your Story — Joey Navarro

December 2019

Itati Ortiz, Student Computer Lab Supervisor

USU: What is your position with the USU?

Itati: I am responsible for supervising all Computer Lab employees and making sure everything is working well. I focus on improving our technology because customer service for students is our number one priority.

USU: What is your favorite part about working at the USU?

Itati: I’ve always felt so included in the community here and that my ideas were being heard. I like to think of new things to bring to the USU. I’m also grateful for the how they challenged me to be a better leader after I got promoted.

USU: Has working at the USU given you a clearer idea of a field you’d like to pursue?

Itati: I’ve always wanted to do something with helping people and that’s a big part of my job now. It feels good to give back to all the communities on campus. It’s definitely helped me find the right career.

USU: What is your favorite place or event on campus? Why?

Itati: Probably the USU! I feel like I’m always here, whether it be in the study rooms, the Freudian Sip, the SRC, or even the couches in the ECC. I can’t just choose one!

USU: What is something you are looking forward to at the moment?

Itati: Going back home and binge-watching shows with hot chocolate in my PJs! Picturing myself watching Harry Potter or Star Wars movies is what’s getting me through finals.

USU: Pancakes or waffles?

Itati: Lately, it’s been waffles!

  • USU What's Your Story Interview — Itati Ortiz
  • USU What's Your Story Interview — Itati Ortiz

November 2019

Geovanny Aguirre-Burgos, SRC Student Personal Trainer Supervisor

USU: What is your position here at the USU?

Geovanny: I co-manage the Student Personal Trainers at the Student Recreation Center and provide them with training and professional development opportunities as well as emergency procedure trainings. I also help out the fitness and wellness department.

USU: After graduating, what career interests you?

Geovanny: I’m interested in teaching or doing research in biomechanics. However, someday I’d love to coach cross country or have my own strength training facility.

USU: What is your favorite part about working within the USU?

Geovanny: The supervisors are very supportive and they are there for you when you need someone to talk to whether it be professional or personal. Also, it’s a very systematic organization and I love having an organized framework!

USU: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?

Geovanny: I would go to either New Zealand or Scotland. The scenery always looks so green and full of nature with open fields. I’m a runner myself, so I’d love to go for long runs in the fields or hike up the mountains.

USU: What are 3 goals you have at the moment?

Geovanny: Continue my self-growth, finish my graduate thesis and stay consistent in my corrective exercises for my scoliosis. I already feel so healthy inside and out.

USU: Who are 3 of your favorite bands or artists?

Geovanny: Tchaikovsky and his version of the Nutcracker…Los Cafres, a Latin reggae band…and John Coltrane, a jazz musician.

  • USU What's Your Story Interview — Geovanny Aguirre-Burgos
  • USU What's Your Story Interview — Geovanny Aguirre-Burgos

Jag Sharma, Student Operations Assistant, Oasis Wellness Center

USU: What is your position with the USU?

Jag: I work at the Oasis. My job duties include budgeting and overseeing building managers and student assistants. I also assist my manager with day to day operations such as contracts, inventory, scheduling and training employees.

USU: What is your favorite part about working for the USU?

Jag: The networking. You connect with so many people and they offer you real world experience. My supervisors are such great resources and I’ve already seen the change through my resume and work experience!

USU: What attracted you to working at the USU?

Jag: I heard about this position from a friend. When I looked over the job qualifications, I was intrigued to see what the USU offered and how their mission statement talked about how they foster student development. I said, “Wow, I want to be a part of that.”

USU: What is something you are loving at the moment?

Jag: I am loving my last semester. I’m very excited to graduate soon and I am trying a lot of new things I didn’t do before.

USU: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?

Jag: New Zealand. I have a friend who visited me in India and he was from there. He described New Zealand as calm and peaceful. I want to experience the serenity and how pure the country can be.

USU: Do you have any hidden talents?

Jag: I can mimic a lot of people. I can mimic people from work and even celebrities. It’s so funny!

  • USU What's Your Story Interview — Jag Sharma
  • USU What's Your Story Interview — Jag Sharma

October 2019

Gabriel Hernandez, VRC Student Assistant

USU: What do you do within the USU?

Gabriel: You can usually find me at the front desk of the VRC. But I’m also responsible for the Joining Forces program which brings awareness to the Student Veteran community. I hope to continue innovating the program and making it more interactive.

USU: What is your favorite part about working at the USU?

Gabriel: My favorite part of working here is hanging out with the students that visit the VRC. Every semester I meet so many new faces coming from different origins.

USU: What attracted you to working at the VRC?

Gabriel: Being a vet myself, I enjoy working with the Student Veterans and learning the experiences of the other branches. It feels good to still share that comradery of being in the service.

USU: What is something you are looking forward to at the moment?

Gabriel: This coming December or early January, we’re expecting a new baby girl. I’m very excited to meet her!

USU: Who is someone you aspire to be like?

Gabriel: It’s kind of cheesy, but my dad. He truly puts family first and I want to do the same for my family.

USU: Favorite ice cream flavor?

Gabriel: I like Chocolate Malted Crunch from Rite Aid. It’s very different and one of a kind.

 

  • October 2019 What's Your Story — Gabriel Hernandez
  • October 2019 What's Your Story — Gabriel Hernandez

Mary Caithlin Capati, Pride Center Student Business Assistant

USU: What do you do at the USU?

Mary: I oversee the allocated budget for each Pride Center event and make sure we don’t go over it. I also facilitate at Tuesday Talks to give a safe space for students to express themselves.

USU: What attracted you to working at the Pride Center?

Mary: Being a part of LGBTQIA+, I want to help others in the community and be a part of the support system the Pride Center provides. When a friend told me there was an opening, I thought the job was perfect. I felt like it was calling me.

USU: What is your favorite place or event on campus?

Mary: I like the Pride Center because they have a microwave and it’s very hard to find a convenient one on campus. They also have very comfy couches and blankets. So, that’s my spot!

USU: What is something you are looking forward to at the moment?

Mary: It’s actually my birthday today! I am looking forward to getting dinner with my friends. But I also have to study for a midterm.

USU: Who is someone you aspire to be like?

Mary: I aspire to be like my grandfather. He was a very generous, loving and kind man. I want to embody what he’s done throughout his life and be naturally kind like him.

USU: What’s your favorite movie genre? Why?

Mary: Horror movies! I like the jump scares. They’re very funny because you can always see them coming. That’s the best part!

  • October 2019 What's Your Story — Mary Capati
  • October 2019 What's Your Story — Mary Capati

September 2019

Kanchan Ranatunga, Student Marketing Assistant

USU: How has working at the USU changed you?
Kanchan: It has changed everything in a positive way. All my friends are here, and it has given me so much work experience for my future endeavors, especially within marketing.
USU: What is your favorite spot or event on campus?
Kanchan: Definitely the USU! I find myself going to the Oasis all the time to study, decompress, and relax — I love it there! My favorite event is Matador Nights, and this year I get to work on it which is exciting!
USU: When not in classes or work, what do you love to do?
I love hiking and enjoy riding horses in Kings Canyon.
USU: After graduating, what career piques your interest?
Kanchan: I have a second job in real estate and am working on getting my real estate license. So, after graduation I hope to be a successful LA realtor.
USU: If you could invite any two dinner guests, who would they be?
Kanchan: Angelina Jolie and Calum Scott
USU: Pancakes or waffles?
Kanchan: Oh that’s hard...but pancakes!

 

  • September 2019 What's Your Story: Kanchan Ranatunga 1
  • September 2019 What's Your Story: Kanchan Ranatunga 2

Leanna Merza, Student Events Assistant

USU: How has working at the USU changed you?
Leanna: It defined the path I wanted to pursue and how much I loved the production side of things.
USU: What is your favorite spot or event on campus?
Leanna: USU Night Market is my favorite. We created that from scratch, and it gave us a lot of freedom.
USU: When not in classes or work, what do you love to do?
I love movies — event the cheesy Hallmark ones!
USU: What attracted you to working at the USU?
Leanna: I got more involved with clubs and on-campus events. Before I just came and went for classes, and now I take advantage of all we offer at the USU.
USU: How would your friends describe you in 3 words?
Leanna: Honest, caring, and loyal.
USU: If you could be a part of any event, what would it be?
Leanna: I would love to plan the 626 Market — anything to do with food and entertainment!
USU: Pancakes or waffles?
Leanna: Waffles! It’s so good for toppings!

  • September 2019 What's Your Story: Leanna Merza 1
  • September 2019 What's Your Story: Leanna Merza 2