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MeeT the Staff

 

Elisa EastElisa East

Director, Military and Veterans Program

As the Interim Director of the Military and Veterans Program at San Diego State University's Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center, Elisa leads with conscious and agile leadership, keeping student success at the forefront of all her endeavors. Her equity and inclusion-minded approach, combined with her deep understanding of the nuances and layered intersectionalities of military culture, enable her to provide unparalleled support to the diverse military-connected student population. With her extensive knowledge and experience, Elisa oversees the processing of educational benefits, develops existing and new programming initiatives, facilitates student engagement opportunities, and provides supportive services to enable students to progress towards and achieve their educational objectives. She leverages her background as a United States Army veteran, as well as her B.A. in Psychology and M.A in Education with an emphasis in Counseling from SDSU to drive her work forward. Through her leadership, Elisa effectively engages multiple campus and community stakeholders, ensuring that student academics, personal growth, and professional development remain top priorities. Her commitment to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for all military-connected students makes her a valued asset to the SDSU community. 

Jose EsparzaJose Esparza

Military Outreach and Admissions Specialist 

Meet Jose Esparza - a former United States Navy Master-at-Arms and retired Naval Reservist previously stationed at Naval Air Station, North Island. With his extensive military background, Jose is well-equipped to assist prospective students navigate the military related admission process into SDSU. Since joining the Barron Veterans Center in 2015, Jose has become a vital resource for SDSU's military-connected student population. He serves as the point of contact for all admissions and outreach-related inquiries, leveraging his firsthand experience to provide students with the support they need to succeed. If you're a transitioning servicemember, don't hesitate to reach out to Jose at [email protected] or by calling 619-594-3225. With his expertise and passion for serving his fellow service members and their families, Jose is committed to helping you achieve your educational objectives.

Ryan MorrisRyan Morris 

VetSuccess on Campus Counselor, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Ryan Morris is a VetSuccess on Campus Counselor (VSOC) for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at San Diego State University's Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center since 2016. With almost two decades of experience in counseling and vocational rehabilitation, Ryan is passionate about helping military-affiliated students navigate their benefits, options, and opportunities. Prior to his current role, Ryan worked as an IDES Counselor at Naval Medical Center San Diego, where he provided transitional services to military members who were medically separating. Ryan earned his Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Fresno State University. During his time at Fresno State, he was a member of the Chi Sigma lot international honor society for professional counselors and completed an internship in Fresno State's Workability IV program. Ryan joined the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2008 as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and worked with service members medically separating out of the military at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. For his outstanding efforts, Ryan was awarded the Employee of the Quarter Award within the VA San Diego Regional Office in 2010 and the Vet Success On Campus (VSOC) Counselor of the Year award in 2020. Ryan's office is located in the Barron Veterans Center, and he can be reached at [email protected] or (619) 594-2444.

photo not availableDiane Dizon

Education Benefit Advisor/School Certifying Official

Diane Dizon is the Education Benefits Advisor and School Certifying Official at San Diego State University's Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center. Although Diane has never served in the military herself, she is a first-generation college student and a Navy dependent who has a deep understanding of the different challenges and transitions that military connected students face. She is a firm believer in meeting students where they are at while highlighting their strengths in order to help them achieve their academic and personal goals. Diane earned her Bachelor's Degree in Global Studies and Double Minors in Applied Psychology and German Studies at UC Santa Barbara and a Master’s Degree in Counseling with a specialization in College Counseling from CSU Dominguez Hills. During her time at CSU Dominguez Hills, Diane completed her internship at the Veterans Resource Center where she supported low-income, first-generation, and disabled student veterans with their pursuit of higher education. She also received an award for her research "Understanding Student Veteran Intersectionality and its role on Belonging in 2 and 4 Year Institutions". Diane is committed to providing holistic support and building community within our military connected students at SDSU. She is honored to serve driven, resilient, and inspiring students alongside such warm and student-centered colleagues. Diane can be reached at [email protected] or 619-594-0383.

Daniel BahenaDaniel Bahena

Education Benefit Advisor/School Certifying Official

Daniel Bahena is the Education Benefits Advisor and School Certifying Official at San Diego State University’s Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center. Daniel is a United States Air Force Security Forces veteran who served in Operation Enduring Freedom. Daniel earned his B.A. in Theatre Arts with a Philosophy minor at the University of San Diego, along with his M.S. in Organizational Leadership and his M.A. in Human Behavioral Psychology from National University. Daniel deeply understands the complexities and challenges that come with military life and the transition into civilian life which he approaches with empathy and compassion as a fellow veteran. Daniel is passionate about helping others make the best use of their benefits and earning an education that will propel them towards reaching their goals in life. He is honored to serve his fellow service members and their families with a commitment to integrity, service before self, and excellence in all he does. Daniel can be reached at [email protected] or 619-594-3047.

Elise GaryElise Gary

Education Benefit Advisor/School Certifying Official

Elise Gary is the Education Benefits Advisor and School Certifying Official at San Diego State University's Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center. Elise is a Navy dependent who used the CalVet fee waiver and Ch. 35 benefits and is able to provide information about the process of those benefits as well as other VA education benefits. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Health Communication at San Diego State University and is working on her Master’s Degree in Public Health focusing on Health Promotion and Behavioral Science from San Diego State. While in undergrad she was a proud member of BlacQ Space, Lambda Pi Eta, and the Student Veteran Organization (SVO). As a former work study student here in the veterans center, she assisted the Troops to Engineers Program's with social media, event programming and supporting student veterans majoring in engineering. Elise can be reached at [email protected] or 619-594-7181.

Joshua ImesJoshua Imes

Troops to Engineers Program Coordinator

Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia,  Josh joined SDSU from ViaSat where he served as a government contractor in a Security Analyst role. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy and International Relations from the University of Oregon. He also served 7 years in the US Army Infantry. Josh looks to utilize his experience as a service member transitioning to a civilian career to help jumpstart the careers of student veterans majoring in the Engineering & Computer Science fields. Josh can be reached at [email protected] or 619-594-2577.