Photo courtesy of Cal State Long Beach.
Nearly six months after her tragic death during the Paris terrorist attacks, Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) senior design student Nohemi Gonzalez will be recognized as an outstanding graduate during Wednesday’s Alumni Awards Banquet.
The 23-year-old El Monte woman was studying abroad at the Strate College of Design in Paris at the time of her death. She was killed November 13, 2015 while eating with friends at a Parisian bistro.
“This is an opportunity for the university to recognize a student who was able to make such a profound impression on so many people in a relatively short time at CSULB,” said university spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp. “She will always be a member of The Beach family.”
Within the design department, Gonzalez was known as a hard worker and someone who volunteered her time generously as the first female student shop assistant. Her work included instructing students in Design, Materials and Tools classes, organizing the tool room and running the print lab.
“Her fingerprint is throughout the Department of Design in many large and small projects that continue to impact students,” said Department Chair Martin Herman.
Gonzalez was originally a Spanish major with the hope of becoming a high school Spanish teacher before she found her way to the design department during a work study fair, Herman said.
While working with the department she discovered her passion for design.
“She felt that she had been brought there for a reason and discovered that design cultivated all of her talents and passions: art, making, and entrepreneurship,” Herman said.
Gonzalez was most interested in designing products that were functional and beneficial to the community. She explored the use of sustainable materials and was on the path of sustainable design practice that served the public good, according to Herman.
While in the semester study abroad program in Paris, Gonzalez was part of a team that won second place in the international biomimicry Global Design Challenge.
Herman said the group designed a 100 percent biodegradable packaged snack pack filled with healthy dried fruits and nuts. The pack came with dehydrated soil and seeds so the user can cultivate a plant after finishing the snack.
She was also a designer in the 2015 Umbra Design Challenge for which she worked on a sponsored class project in modern home decor and accessories, according to Herman.
“We are very honored that Nohemi is being recognized as outstanding graduate from the College of the Arts in 2015 to 16,” Herman said.
The gala, slated to take place at the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Long Beach Wednesday evening, will recognize outstanding graduates, professors, staff and alumni—including Mayor Robert Garcia, who received a bachelor’s in communication studies in 2002 and a doctorate in higher education educational leadership in 2010.
Gonzalez’s mother and stepfather will be on hand to receive her award, according to Uhlenkamp. Other family and friends are also expected to attend.
In addition to being recognized by the CSULB Alumni Association, Gonzalez will also be acknowledged during the College of the Arts commencement ceremony in a few weeks. According to Herman, she will receive her degree posthumously, making her a first-generation college graduate among her family.
The design department is also in the midst of raising funds for the Nohemi Gonzalez Shop Initiative—a campaign to raise money to refurbish, remodel and rename the department’s lower division shop.
“The lower division shop is a place where Nohemi invested so much of her passion and her time, not only for her own projects, but also in helping students from all of our Design majors in their work,” Herman stated. “Although Nohemi's journey in Design was tragically cut short, her ideals and her spirit will be kept alive and celebrated through this initiative.”
So far more than $85,000 has been given or pledged—in part through fundraising efforts in collaboration with California Pizza Kitchen. The department’s goal is to raise $150,000. Those interested in giving can click here.