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    CSUF’s new dean excited about research, serving first-generation students
    • June 13, 2024

    Celestina Barbosa-Leiker will soon be back in familiar surroundings.

    Barbosa-Leiker, a longtime resident of Orange County, has been appointed dean of Cal State Fullerton’s College of Health and Human Development.

    For the past 14 years, Barbosa-Leiker has been an educator at Washington State University, serving as executive vice chancellor and professor in the College of Nursing at WSU Health Sciences Spokane for the past 17 months.

    When she steps into her new role at CSUF on July 1, Barbosa-Leiker will oversee 7,000 students and more than 365 faculty members in the College of Health and Human Development.

    Barbosa-Leiker was drawn to CSUF’s College of Human Development, in large part, because of the college’s commitment to meet the health care workforce needs of the region and its contributions to research, along with its emphasis on serving first-generation students.

    When researching whether CSUF would be a good fit, Barbosa-Leiker was “blown away” upon discovering that the university is among the most affordable in the nation and is ranked No.1 in California and No.3 in the nation for the number of underrepresented undergraduate students among the student population.

    “I was really inspired by that and really …  coming from community college as a transfer student, and understanding that experience, all of that completely resonated with me with who I am and with my internal values.”  Barbosa-Leiker said. “The college is uniquely situated to help the region and really beyond too.”

    The College of Health and Human Development offers degrees in child and adolescent studies, kinesiology, counseling, human services, nursing, public health and social work.

    “Celestina has a strong sense of our mission for moving the college forward,” said Amir Dabirian, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “I am confident that our campus community will welcome her with open arms.”

    Barbosa-Leiker was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley before moving to Anaheim.

    She attended Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut and Fullerton Community College.

    The soon-to-be dean went on to earn a master’s degree and doctorate in psychology from Washington State University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in substance abuse from that university.

    Prior to attending WSU, Barbosa-Leiker earned a bachelor’s degree at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.

    Much of Barbosa-Leiker’s research has centered around substance use in underserved populations, including gender differences in the measurement of opioid withdrawal, relapse while in treatment and predictors of relapse.

    “We’re seeing that in really high proportions across a lot of demographic groups,” Barbosa-Leiker said. But certainly, since the pandemic, these health disparities that have existed for so long have just been exacerbated, and behavioral health, mental health, addiction, substance use, right along with that.”

    Barbosa-Leiker leads an interdisciplinary research team to assess mothers, infants and health care providers in order to better care for women with opioid use disorders, and for women who use cannabis during pregnancy.

    She also received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the link between psychological risk factors such as stress, substance use, depression and quality of life with brain aging in American Indian adults. The results of these studies will help improve standards and shape policy.

    “I have been really privileged and honored to work with tribes across the nation,” she said.

    In 2020, Barbosa-Leiker became a member of the Diversity Task Force for the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, and she serves as an associate editor for Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

    At CSUF, Barbosa-Leiker hopes to collaborate with the faculty in the College of Health and Human Development on more research projects.

    “There’s a lot of great research already going on in the college, and so it’s fantastic and a lot of overlap with the focus on health equity and trying to decrease health disparities,” she said. “So, I think that will be great. I think I will be joining a great group of colleagues who have that expertise and that passion.”

    Barbosa-Leiker met her husband Matthew Leiker, an accomplished artist, while they both had jobs at Disneyland in the 1990s.

    The couple will be moving back to Orange County with their two sons, who are 10 and 13.

    “We have hundreds of family members down in the area, so it’ll be so nice to be coming back home to all of our family down there,” she said. We are excited to be coming home.”

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    ​ Orange County Register