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From left to right: SDSU President Sally Roush, Alejandro Arias and CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White From left to right: SDSU President Sally Roush, Alejandro Arias and CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White

SDSU Student Earns Highest Recognition in CSU System

Alejandro Arias received the 2017 Trustee Emeritus Ali C. Razi scholarship.
By Katie White

“I have always been involved in my community, but I will say that things really took off when I transferred to SDSU.”

There was a time when life seemed determined to defeat Alejandro Arias. He was struggling at community college and trying to balance work and school when his mother was diagnosed with cancer.

Forced to assume greater responsibility for his younger siblings, Arias left college. But the desire to return for a degree never left him.

Now a San Diego State University food and nutrition major, Arias is the 2017 recipient of the Trustee Emeritus Ali C. Razi Award for Outstanding Achievement.

The Razi Award is the most prestigious award among the 23 California State University Trustees’ Awards for Outstanding Achievement. It includes a $12,000 scholarship from a fund endowed by the award’s namesake. Ali Razi is a model of grit and determination, having rebuilt his life in Los Angeles, California, after fleeing Iran with his wife and three children in 1979.

A future in higher education

Hailing from Fallbrook, Arias is the fifth of seven children and the first of his siblings to complete high school and pursue a college degree.

“Growing up, I never thought I would have the opportunity to be studying at the university level,” said Arias. “During my upbringing, I didn’t have anyone tell me about college because my family didn’t know anything about college or how post-secondary education works.”

Arias, who earned two associate degrees before transferring to SDSU, is planning to graduate in 2018 and study educational counseling/student affairs at the graduate level. His short-term goal is to work as a counselor or advisor at a community college. Eventually, Arias hopes to become a professor at a four-year university, teaching and conducting research on retention and student outcomes at community colleges.

Mentor, tutor and volunteer

After coming to SDSU, Arias got involved in a number of organizations on campus. He mentors students through the SOAR program and is a member of the Transfer Student Outreach Alliance, which helps community college students navigate the transfer process to a four-year higher education institution.

Arias also works as a migrant tutor with the California Mini-Corps and as a migrant student aide. He volunteers with Heartfelt Helpings, Doors of Change and the International Rescue Committee.

“I have always been involved in my community, but I will say that things really took off when I transferred to SDSU,” said Arias. “Meeting new people and supporting others has been such an incredible experience for me. Once I began to get involved, different opportunities popped up and I really enjoy supporting the organizations I currently work with because their missions align with my values.”

Arias is a member of the Susan and Stephen Weber Honors College. He works as an Aztec Research Fellow in SDSU’s Community College Equity Assessment Lab, and his research earned him the Dean’s Award for Research and Scholarship at the 2017 Student Research Symposium. Arias also received a National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Undergraduate Fellowship.

About the award

The Razi Award is one of 23 scholarships provided as part of the 2017-18 CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. The Chancellor’s Office selected one student from each of the 23 campuses in the CSU system.

Recipients were selected based on superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need. Each of the 23 students who received an award, has demonstrated inspirational resolve along the path to college success and many are the first in their families to attend college.