With a passion for helping the underserved and a propensity towards compassion and understanding, Alyssa Espinola has found a human connection with the students in the Valley. As a Graduate Teaching Associate at Fresno State, she has focused on becoming a communication instructor in an institution that serves underprivileged individuals in order to help foster a more equitable and socially just community.
“We often think of leadership positions as elected offices, but Ms. Espinola’s ability to translate her academic achievement into professional leadership that enhances employee’s productivity and communication competence is a perfect example of the practical benefits that Fresno State develops through education in the humanities,” said Kevin J. Macy-Ayotte, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Communication.
Growing up in the Valley, Alyssa attended Clovis East High School, Clovis High School, Buchanan High School, Pioneer High School in San Jose, and graduated from Clovis West High School. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from CSU East Bay in Hayward, California before returning to the Valley to pursue her M.A. in Communication at Fresno State.
It was during her time teaching the “Fundamentals of Communication” course at Fresno State that Espinola was moved to abandon her ambition of teaching on the Central Coast for a chance to make a more significant difference in the lives of Valley students and the local community.
“Her work has always been fueled by a passion for merging justice and compassion into traditional academic endeavors, whether that be her own studies or her teaching; a focus she has continued to develop in graduate school,” said Dr. She is particularly sensitive to and dedicated to exploring the interface between theoretical and teaching practices that contest often implicit unfair institutional and relational practices while offering ways to move more fairly within those relationships,” said Dr. Katherine Adams, Professor Emerita of Communication.
Espinola has presented at the 2019 Western States Communication Association Conference in Seattle and will present at the 2019 National Communication Association Conference in Baltimore.
“Alyssa is one of the hardest working graduate students I have had the pleasure of working with. She gives a great deal of thought to all that she does,” said Dr. Falon Kartch, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication.
Following her graduation, Espinola plans to work as an instructor at local community colleges.
Prior to my graduate studies at CSU Fresno, I asked myself what I was willing to struggle for in attempts to identify the career that would make me feel proudest and push me through the challenges of pursuing that career. I decided that I was willing to struggle for better relationships among people and for the ability to teach communication. The last two years have certainly been a struggle, but the things I have learned and the contributions I have made at Fresno State confirm for me that I am on the right path.
I could focus this statement on my high marks, 4.0 GPA, and Travel Grant Award, but those are not what I perceive as my biggest achievements in this program. Instead, all of the red marks, instructor’s comments, conversations with my colleagues, and changes I have made as a teacher are the places where I feel I have accomplished the most. I came into this program thinking I would become an expert, but I have learned that expertise is a constant work-in-progress and comes from mistakes, constant inquiry, and openness to change.
I am incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to pursue an education with scholars who have taught me how to reflect on the things I take for granted and to engage with those privileges in a way that promotes social justice. Most of my essays at Fresno State have incorporated critical self-reflection and mindful interaction, and I intend to continue this research for the betterment of myself, my relationships, my students, and my community. Even though I am not applying for a Ph.D. program immediately after obtaining my M.A., I have a strong drive for learning and research that I intend to continue while teaching in local community colleges. Specifically, my work was accepted for presentation at the Western States Communication Association’s 2019 Conference, and I am currently preparing a submission to the National Communication Association. Continuing research will help me to not only contribute to my discipline and prepare me for a potential Ph.D. program, but it will also help me to provide my students with the best education I can possibly give.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of my experience at CSU Fresno has been my work as a Graduate Teaching Associate. I joined this program to teach at the college level, and my experience as an instructor of record at Fresno State has been invaluable. Every semester, my students teach me more about the hardships they face as undocumented students, as young parents, as providers for their families, as English-language learners, and more, which solidifies for me the importance of working as an educator in this community. My on-paper accomplishments do not mean as much to me when compared to the accomplishments I have had learning about and for my students and adapting to their unique needs. My students and their education are who and what I struggle for, and their success has been my greatest accomplishment in graduate school.