CSUSM student receives inaugural Student Champion Award

Thiana Ruiz receives award for inclusive excellence, diversity


Photo provided by Thiana Ruiz

President’s Champion Award recipient, Thiana Ruiz.

Rhiannon Ripley, Editorial Assistant


As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, CSUSM works to recognize the still-present achievement gap Hispanic students face.

In an effort to decrease this achievement gap, a grant of 2.6 million dollars was given to the campus, which will go towards creating programs that will help to improve the retention of Hispanic students and increase their graduation rates.

On Oct. 14, CSUSM hosted the All People’s Luncheon, an event meant to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of hard working students. In attendance were students, faculty, staff and community members. During the event, President Haynes awarded the inaugural President’s Student Champion Award for Inclusive Excellence and Diversity to Thiana Ruiz, a double major student focusing on Spanish and Human Development with a Health Service emphasis.

Nominations for this award were requested in September. After receiving nominations, a committee evaluated the nominated students and sent their selections to President Haynes. In order to qualify, students had to have made an impact on the campus and in the regional community by promoting diversity, inclusion, education equity and social justice.

Ruiz, a first generation college student, immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of five. She earned this award for the work she has done since coming to CSUSM in 2012. She played a role in creating the campus’s new Latin@ Center, which opened in September 2015.  Ruiz accomplished this by working on the Latin@ Center Committee. Ruiz has also worked as a Peer Coordinator and Chair of Standing Together As oNe Dream (S.T.A.N.D.), an organization whose aim is to empower and inspire immigrant youth in their academic careers.

Ruiz also worked to create UndocuAlly Training, a service which implements educational training to better understand the needs of undocumented students. Through this service, she has programmed events such as “Education without Borders” in an effort to help inform undocumented youth about the importance and value of higher education and encourage them to pursue it further.

Ruiz recognizes the importance of her own education; she has been on the Dean’s List for five consecutive semesters.  

Those who are familiar with Ruiz’s work spoke of her accomplishments at the Luncheon.

“[Ruiz is] a visionary who believes she will pay back her community through education and community involvement,” said Professor Juan Santos.

Professor Marisol Clark-Ibanez described Ruiz as “a joy to work with and learn from,” adding that her peers look up to her. Haynes also described Ruiz as an “agent of positive change” wherever she goes in life.

Ruiz is set to graduate in spring 2015 and will leave behind an incredible legacy at CSUSM.