COE salutes pair of faculty retirees who made a remarkable impact

May 15, 2024
Side by side portrait photos of Valerie Pang and Ian Pumpian.
Valerie Pang and Ian Pumpian.

The San Diego State University College of Education salutes two long-serving, transformational members of the college faculty. Learn more about the careers and contributions of Valerie Ooka Pang, professor of teacher education, and Ian Pumpian, professor of educational leadership.

Valerie Ooka Pang

Professor, School of Teacher Education

You could make a strong case that when Valerie Ooka Pang joined SDSU’s teacher education faculty as an assistant professor in 1989, she could see the future. The ideas she championed throughout her career — from embracing all forms of diversity in the classroom to early adoption of virtual learning modalities — have become the bedrock of the college.

Pang was hired for her expertise in multicultural education, and she brought that lens to her courses for teaching credential candidates in the Chula Vista, La Mesa Spring Valley and San Diego blocks. Among her proudest accomplishments are expanding the multicultural education program to consider not only race, but class, sexual orientation and disability.

“I wanted to assist teachers in understanding that they were the most critical connection to reaching all students — especially those learners from culturally and linguistically diverse families,” Pang said. “All children need teachers who are caring and sincerely interested in them.”

For 28 years, Pang organized learning fairs that brought hands-on science activities to students and families in San Diego and Lemon Grove, often hosting them at school sites, church parking lots and apartment complexes.

Pang was also pivotal in bringing learning online. Working with professor Luke Duesbery and instructional designer Andrea Saltzman Martin, Pang in 2014 launched SDSU's online master of arts in teaching (MAT), a one-year program in elementary and secondary curriculum and instruction that ranked No. 5 in Graduate Education in U.S. News & World Report's 2024 Best Online Program Rankings.

"Working with exceptional teachers like Easter Finley, Cathy Ray, Rick Oser, Don Dumas, Ted Hernandez, Melissa Naranjo, Gloria Morales, Katrina Pacheco, Sage Ainsworth and many more educators has enriched my life," Pang said. "I have also had the pleasure of collaborating with faculty and staff like Luke Duesbery, Andrea Saltzman Martin, Eric Ginsberg, Lynne Bercaw, Ed Dial and Paul Justice in creating vital programs for teachers."


"I appreciate Valerie for the person that she is, for her stance in favor of equity and inclusion, for her knowledge, her scholarship, her pedagogy but mostly her integrity and kindness as a friend — I will miss her very much."
Cynthia Park, Professor, School of Teacher Education

"When I came to the School of Teacher Education from Special Education, Val reached out to me, about this novel idea. 'Luke, I want to start an online Master’s program, and I want you to be involved.' That was the start. That program has grown from 6 students to more than 100 over the years. Val’s foresight paved the way for one of the best programs in the nation. Over the years I was lucky enough to have her mentor me, guide me, and protect me. I not only hold her guilty of giving my career new direction, but also supporting my becoming a full professor. She is truly remarkable."
Luke Duesbery, Professor, School of Teacher Education

“Dr. Val Pang is first and foremost an amazing human being and is one of the most determined and resilient educators I have ever met, having been a guiding light throughout my career from the first moment my journey crossed paths with hers. ... Since I first met Val almost 30 years ago when I enrolled in her section of ED451 Intro to Multicultural Education in Summer 1996, she has been a mentor who has always put students first by supporting pre-service and credentialed teachers as well as grad students.”
Eric Ginsberg, Cohort Co-Leader & Lecturer, School of Teacher Education

Ian Pumpian

Professor of Educational Leadership

Ian Pumpian is leaving a lasting legacy — both in the SDSU College of Education and in the San Diego Community — through everything he has helped create during more than four decades at SDSU.

While serving as chair of the Department of Special Education, Pumpian teamed up with Professor Fred McFarlane, a fellow Wisconsinite, in 1991 to establish the Interwork Institute, SDSU’s multidisciplinary center that promotes the integration of all individuals, including those with disabilities, into all aspects of education, work, family and community life. At Interwork, Pumpian earned a reputation as a prolific grant writer. In 1992, Pumpian and Mary Ellen Sousa-Hiner co-founded Creative Support Alternatives, a program under the Interwork Institute umbrella, that continues to provide community living opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.
Pumpian eventually moved to the Department of Educational Leadership (EDL), which dovetailed with his next big creation, Health Sciences High and Middle College (HSHMC).  Pumpian, along with EDL colleagues Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, co-founded HSHMC in 2007, which has become a nationally-renowned charter school in the underserved San Diego community of City Heights, focused on giving students pathways to careers in healthcare and fire science professions.
Pumpian was also instrumental in the development of SDSU’s doctoral programs in K-12 and postecondary educational leadership. Many alumni of these Ed.D. programs have gone on to be appointed as high achool principals and community college administrators — including presidents.


"It’s Ian's way that if he's going to make a commitment to do something, he will get completely involved. His primary commitment has always been to his students — no matter their age or their program. To Ian, students’ mental, emotional and educational health are of utmost importance. Supporting and promoting his students’ positive and healthy life is Ian Pumpian’s main focus and ultimate goal.”
Fred McFarlane, Professor Emeritus, Administration, Rehabilitation, and Postsecondary Education

“Dr. Ian Pumpian has made a significant impact on the field of education, our department and college, and on me personally. Dr. Pumpian's optimistic curiosity challenges us to push on the limitations of what we assume is possible in promoting equity in education, by simply asking "what if?" and "why not?". Two simple yet profound questions that represent Dr. Pumpian's pragmatic and inspiring approach to motivate future school leaders to disrupt long-standing norms that perpetuate inequities. I personally recall this call to action, as Dr. Pumpian pushed me during my dissertation journey, and continues to do so now as a colleague, to appreciate opportunities to evolve. Because well, "the times they are a-changin."
Alejandro Gonzalez Ojeda, Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership

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