Sunday, September 23, 2018

Follow SDSU  Follow SDSU on Twitter Follow SDSU on Facebook Follow SDSU on Google+ SDSU RSS Feed

Susan E. Cayleff Susan E. Cayleff
 


SDSU Professor Receives Social Justice Award

The San Diego Human Relations Commission honored SDSU professor Susan E. Cayleff with the Ashley L. Walker Social Justice Award.
By Cory Marshall
 

“I feel blessed and humbled by this award and recognize that all social justice activism is a collaborative effort.”

Nearly 30 years ago, Susan E. Cayleff, a professor in San Diego State University’s department of women’s studies, founded the Graduate Women’s Scholars of Southern California.

In 1989, Cayleff was a new professor at SDSU and noticed there wasn’t a “home” for female university scholars at the graduate level.

So, she invited them into her own.

From 1989 to 2002, the mentoring group, geared toward helping women navigate academia, regularly met in Cayleff’s living room. The meetings gave a growing group of women the know-how to negotiate a patriarchal industry.

For decades, Cayleff’s service in the social justice field has focused on creating a sense of community, tearing down division and celebrating diversity. Now, the same community she helped cultivate is honoring her work.

The San Diego Human Relations Commission (SDHRC) honored the longtime SDSU professor with the Ashley L. Walker Social Justice Award. Cayleff received the award during the All Peoples Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast on Jan. 15.

“I feel blessed and humbled by this award and recognize that all social justice activism is a collaborative effort,” said Cayleff. “I have been enriched by countless colleagues, students and community members along the way.”

The SDHRC has been presenting the award since 2009 to a person or organization that demonstrates outstanding and sustained contributions in promoting inclusion and equality in the community. This is the first year the SDHRC selected both an individual and an organization to receive the award. The Lawyers Club was also recognized.

“With these awards, the Commission sought to reinforce the national conversation on gender equality and equity in the wake of the Women’s Marches and the #MeToo movement,” said Joel Day, spokesperson for the SDHRC. “Dr. Cayleff and the San Diego Lawyers Club are leading education, engagement, and activism on women’s rights in San Diego.”

Among her recognized achievements, Cayleff co-founded SafeZones@SDSU in 2007. The coalition works to ensure the campus atmosphere is welcoming, informative, educational, and safe for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and ally students, faculty, staff, administrators and members of the campus community.

SafeZones@SDSU stages numerous events including National Coming Out Day and the Lavender Graduation ceremony for students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or allies. Cayleff is co-chair of SafeZones@SDSU as well.

Cayleff also runs the Young Women’s Studies Club at Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego. The weekly feminist-focused mentorship program, that’s been around for a quarter century, pairs high school students with SDSU undergraduates. Through the program, students receive job and college application help, participate in talks on a wide-range of topics and attend sessions on self-esteem.

As part of the award, the SDHRC also identified Cayleff’s work in establishing the Graduate Women’s Scholars of Southern California.

“It is very easy for people in social justice work to burn out, but when you are surrounded by community, it is sustaining and that is where you get the energy to keep doing this all-important work,” said Cayleff.