New CSUF dean excited about research serving first-generation students – Orange County Register

Celestina Barbosa-Leiker is the newly appointed dean of the College of Health and Human Development at Cal State Fullerton. (Courtesy of CSUF News Media Services)

Celestina Barbosa-Leiker will soon return to familiar surroundings.

Barbosa-Leiker, a longtime Orange County resident, has been named dean of the College of Health and Human Development at Cal State Fullerton.

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

When Barbosa-Leiker assumes her new position at CSUF on July 1, she 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 serving the needs of the region’s health care workforce, its contributions to research, and its emphasis on serving first-generation college students.

While researching whether CSUF would be a good fit for him, Barbosa-Leiker was “astonished” to discover that the university is among the least expensive in the nation, ranking first in California and third in the nation for student enrollment and underrepresentation of undergraduate students in student population.

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

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 to advance the university,” 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 future dean obtained a master’s degree and a doctorate in psychology from Washington State University and completed a postdoctoral internship at the university in the field of addictions.

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

Much of Barbosa-Leiker’s research has focused on substance use in underserved populations, including gender differences in measures of opioid withdrawal, relapse during treatment, and predictors of relapse.

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

Barbosa-Leiker leads an interdisciplinary research team to evaluate mothers, infants and health care providers to provide better care for women with opioid use disorder and women who use cannabis during pregnancy.

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

“I have been honored and honored to have the opportunity to work with tribes across the country,” she said.

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

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

“There’s a lot of great research going on at the university already, so it’s fantastic and there’s a lot of overlap with the focus on health equity and trying to reduce health disparities,” she said. “So I think it will be great. I think I will join a great group of colleagues who have this knowledge and passion.

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

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

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