New CEHHS Dean Is CSU Through and Through

CSUSM NewsCenter

“The reason I’m here is a series of crazy circumstances,” Ayala said.After Reynaldo earned his doctorate, the family settled in Calexico, but Emiliano and his siblings hardly had a traditional upbringing. Rather, their parents espoused what he describes as a “disruptive” education. Every few years, the kids would be pulled out of school as the family moved to another state or even country. One time, it was Arizona. Another time, it was Colombia. Multiple times, it was their mother’s native Argentina.The most exotic – or crazy, depending on your perspective – instance came when Emiliano was a sophomore in high school in 1979. With his father on sabbatical from teaching, the family sold its house in Calexico, sold its cars, bought an RV, and drove to visit Irene Westling in Minnesota. That was the starting point of a six-month odyssey in which the Ayalas drove the length of the Pan-American Highway, from near the Canadian border to the tip of South America – visiting every country in between.“It was incredible,” Ayala said. “The experiences I had, the places I saw, the people I met, the food I ate, you don’t see that happening anymore as a family, and it brought us closer together. We have so many stories from that trip.”Ayala may not have lived in Calexico continuously, but he did have many formative experiences there. He remembers walking to the local 7-Eleven to buy a candy bar after earning 50 cents by doing some chore, and having Border Patrol agents – “Migra,” he called them – cut him off and interrogate him because they thought he had just jumped the fence illegally. He recalls going to a school where there were no students with disabilities because they were bused to a different city – beginning his lifelong interest in the field of special education.“That was another life-defining moment for …

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