A passionate advocate of education and the San Diego State community since 1977, Dr. Cynthia Park was recently awarded a San Diego State Alumni Association Award for Outstanding Faculty Contributions to the university, also known as Monty Award. Park is a professor of teacher education and the Executive Director of the Pre-College Institute, but her leadership role in the community extends beyond these titles.
As a world traveler and culture-lover, building strong communities has always been part of Park’s vision. She thought the diverse city of San Diego was the perfect place to pursue her aspirations. Park’s big-picture dream is to buildbetter communities and to help people progress.
Park created the Pre-College Institute to promote college access and completion for underserved students through excellence and innovation in education.
The institute includes programs such as Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs and the Upward Bound programs. These programs target high school students, providing them with additional educational services and following their development as they transition into higher education. These programs are meant to push and motivate students toward a higher GPA and to find areas where the programs can improve strategies in teaching while further engaging students in learning.
Park wants students to embrace the changing world of education and to give each student the opportunity to pursue the American dream.
“The Upward Bound program has inspired me a lot,” SDSU freshman Juan Ugarte said. “The counselors helped us and motivated us and prepared us to attend college.”
Ugarte is one of the many students whose life was impacted by the Pre-College Institute.
Park brought more than $10 million to SDSU through several grants and contracts supporting these programs. Though she takes pride in this extraordinary accomplishment, Park sees the rewards of her work as priceless.
“Why would I do anything else?” Park asked. “When the students tell you what the program has meant to them, you know that you have been instrumental in helping those students find their path and their niche in society at large. That’s what education is, what it should be.”