Women's History Month is a time for us to recognize and salute women's contributions that have built and strengthened our society, and continue to enrich lives and spur innovation.
I am proud to say that Beach alumnae have been leaving their indelible marks on myriad fields — business, education, government, health care, research, science — since our founding class matriculated and graduated. While not every discipline was open (or at least, welcoming) to women in 1949, now women study and excel in all our majors.
A complete list of extraordinary Beach alumnae would likely fill this entire issue of The Grunion — and then some. Here are just a few notes to illustrate the impacts they are having on our community, nation and world:
• Caitlin Dickerson (BA '11) was a recipient of a 2015 George Foster Peabody Award for her investigative work that uncovered race-based secret mustard gas testing on troops during World War II. Her reporting led to Congressional action. Now a reporter for the New York Times, Dickerson covers immigration issues. She has been honored with the Edward R. Murrow Award and was a finalist for the Livingston Award.
• Linda Woolverton (BFA ’73), has a remarkable portfolio of accomplishments that include screenplays, books and involvement in several acclaimed Disney films and stage musicals including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Maleficent,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.”
• Asjia Garner (BA '19) went from working as a production intern on the set of “Pretty Little Liars” to becoming the communications coordinator for First Lady Jill Biden. Garner, who graduated with a double major in journalism and international studies, landed a digital media internship with the Obama Foundation in 2019.
• Linda Burhansstipanov (BS '71), a member of the Cherokee Nation, is a public health educator and researcher. She taught at Cal State Long Beach for 18 years before going to work at the National Institutes of Health to develop the Native American Cancer Research Program.
• Jennifer Yuh Nelson (BA '94) was nominated for an Academy Award for her directorial debut on "Kung Fu Panda 2." She is the second woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. She also directed "Kung Fu Panda 3" and "Dark Minds."
• Erin Gruwell (MA and teaching credential in 1994) is known for her unique teaching method, which led to the publication of “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them.” The 2007 film Freedom Writers and 2019 PBS documentary, “Freedom Writers: Stories from the Heart,” are based on her story.
• Betye Saar (credential '62) has been called a legend in the world of contemporary art for her visual storytelling and printmaking abilities. Saar was part of the Black Arts Movement in the late 1970s that engaged myths and stereotypes about race and femininity. Throughout her career, her work challenged negative ideas about African Americans.
• Suzie Price (BA ’94, MA ’96) has been the City Councilwoman for Long Beach’s Third District since 2014 and was reelected to a second term in April 2018. In addition to serving as a Council member, she has worked as a Deputy District Attorney for 20 years and currently serves as the “Head of Court,” managing one of the four branch courts at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
• Maj. Gen. Laura L. Yeager (BS and commission as second lieutenant ’86) became the first woman to command a United States Army infantry division in 2019 when she was promoted to commander of the National Guard's 40th Infantry Division, a force of more than 10,000 soldiers. In 2017, she was named the first woman Commander of the Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss, Texas.
This all-too-brief list provides just a glimpse into the accomplishments of our alumnae. I am proud to also report that now women hold key campus leadership roles, and that the number of women enrolled in and graduating from formerly male-dominated disciplines continues to grow. Everyone wins when women and men have equitable access to success.