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CSU Channel Islands MBA Student Selected as For Trustees’ Award

Registered nurse Gabriel Guillén was thrilled and relieved to learn he is one of the recipients of the CSU Trustees' Award, the CSU system's highest for student achievement.

The married father of four attends CSU Channel Islands (CI) with plans to graduate in May of 2016 with an MBA.

"This felt like a blessing," said Guillén, 40. "School is getting very expensive and my wife and I have four children, so we're on a tight budget. I contemplated maybe taking one class at a time."

Guillén graduated from CI in 2011 with a nursing degree and now works full time at St. John's Regional Medical Center as a community health supervisor. He thought pursuing an MBA would help him be a more effective supervisor. 

"I'm going for an MBA because I do struggle to balance the budgets in my department," he said. "Or I run into barriers where you have to prove return on investments."

Guillén is one of 23 students in the CSU system selected for the 2015 CSU Trustees' Award for Outstanding Achievement based on each student's superior academic and personal accomplishments. One student is chosen from each of the CSU campuses.

"These trustees' scholars are leaders on their campus, in the community and among their peers," said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. "Their stories of drive, commitment and perseverance — often overcoming great odds — serve as testaments to the indomitable spirit of CSU students."

Each award comes with a scholarship of $6,000 to $12,000. Guillén will receive $6,000.

The recipients have all excelled scholastically and have performed community service despite financial need and personal hardship. Guillén has known all of it. He was 14 when he, his mother and his two sisters fled from their native Guanajuato, Mexico.

Gabriel Guillén

"There were kidnappings and robberies," Guillén said. "Things were getting very rough."

After joining Guillén's father and brothers in Santa Paula, they eventually applied for legal residency and Guillén became a U.S. Citizen.

Bright and motivated, Guillén graduated from Santa Paula High School at the age of 16, going on to earn an associate degree in administrative justice from Ventura College, graduating at 18. 

When he went to get a job with law enforcement, his thick accent was a hurdle for him, he said, despite taking numerous English as a Second Language (ESL) courses. He wound up picking lemons alongside his father and was miserable.

"I started working odd jobs here and there including packing houses, anything to get me out of the lemon fields," he said.

Guillén worked full time for nine years for Weyerhaeuser when he enrolled in Moorpark College in 2005 with a major in nursing, graduated with an associate degree, and enrolled at CI in 2009 in the fast track bachelor of science in nursing program. 

"I couldn't do medical school anymore. I was too old," he said. 

Guillén thrived, joining St. John's after graduating from CI magna cum laude in 2011. Among his accomplishments at St. John's was to turn an old recreational vehicle into a free mobile screenings and immunization unit that enabled the hospital to go from seeing 139 clients in 2013 to 1,070 clients for screenings in fiscal year 2015.

They also vaccinated 2,133 children and adults against the influenza this past flu season throughout Ventura County with the collaboration of CI nursing students and other local nursing and medical assistant schools.  

The CSU board of trustees, CSU Foundation board of governors, faculty, students and staff publicly recognize Guillén and the other scholars during the CSU board of trustees meeting held at the Chancellor's office in Long Beach Sept. 8, 2015. 

"I want to motivate other students," Guillén said. "As an immigrant, I had so many barriers along the way, and some of us were not meant to get this far...but everything is worth it in the end. You have to fight for your dreams."

— Kim Gregory is a communications specialist representing CSU Channel Islands.

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