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Keeping the Passion Alive

By Teresa Hagen

Jana Echevarria

Jana Echevarria/Photo by Victoria Sanchez
 

Jana Echevarria may be officially retired, but her heart and soul are still deeply connected to the CSULB family.

She recently participated in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I certification process for the campus, which involved collecting data and attending numerous committee meetings over a 2-year period. The self-study analyzed the Athletics Department's academic integrity, governance and commitment to rules compliance, and commitment to gender, diversity and student-athlete well-being.

“I have been a very active booster for a number of years with the Athletics Department, and since I had participated in the previous NCAA certification process, Doug Robinson asked me if I would again chair the Committee for Gender/ Diversity Issues and Student-Athlete Well-Being,” said Echevarria, who is an Advanced Studies in Education and Counseling Department faculty emerita. “I also served as the editor for the entire certification document, which was several hundred pages.

“It was really interesting because the NCAA requires campus-wide participation,” she continued. “We had administrators, faculty, staff, students, some student-athletes and coaches. The best part about it was that we found that we have a high-quality program. We also heard over and over about how it really is a family at The Beach.” On Aug. 18, the NCAA Division I Committee on Athletics Certification announced that CSULB’s athletics program had received its third consecutive full certification.

This past March, Echevarria traveled to Tetovo, Macedonia, for seven weeks on a Fulbright grant. She partnered with South East European University (SEEU) faculty, serving as a mentor to help them teach content to students through another language (English) and conduct research.

“Macedonia was really fascinating,” she said. “I didn’t know that much about Eastern Europe at the time. It differs quite significantly from Western Europe. They’re just starting to get their system autonomous and functioning because they had a controlled government for so many years.

“One thing that’s impressive is how widely English is spoken, and they have to work so hard at it because they’re so isolated,” Echevarria added. “Many of the faculty speak flawless English. Every professor is observed twice a year by someone from their department and from the language center. They’re really making a commitment to making sure that they have high-quality teaching.”

Aside from the ethnic cultural diversity that tends to segregate Macedonians and Albanians, Echevarria discovered that one of the biggest challenges SEEU faces is the inaccessibility.

“Macedonia is not part of the European Union so the university doesn’t have many resources,” she commented. “I mean academics that don’t have books! Amazon.com does not deliver to Macedonia, and the journals were sometimes 2 to 3 years old that I would come across. They can’t afford to pay for the databases we get online. Now, I’m putting together a box of journals to ship to them so their language center has more up-to-date journals.”

Retirement definitely has not slowed Echevarria down professionally. She continues to write books, speak at conferences and conduct research on helping teachers provide instruction that is more comprehensible to English learners.

“We’ve actually written 13 books since 2007,” she said, amazed. “When I say it, I think that can’t be possible. But I have two co-authors, and we each take primary responsibility for a book. Each book is geared toward a different topic or audience, but they all address how to make instruction more understandable for English learners. People typically think of that as immigrant kids, but actually about 75 percent were born in this country and some are third generation.”

Alumna Echevarria (1978, B.A., L/S Spanish & English; 1984, M.S., bilingual special education) is married to alumnus Charles (Casey) Vose (1972, B.A., political science), and they attend numerous CSULB sports events. Still, she admits to missing her colleagues and the academic life since her departure in 2006.

“Yes, I definitely miss being part of the faculty, especially the teaching aspect of it,” Echevarria stated. “I’m still connected to the campus through research projects, and I sit on the College of Education Development Committee. But now, I’m teaching teachers. That’s gratifying, to speak at conferences to a lot of people who already are in the classroom and are looking for additional professional development. That’s my audience, now."