Local history professor honored with prestigious CSU award for ‘outstanding faculty teaching’


Cal State San Marcos history professor Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall was one of this year’s Wang Family Excellence Award winners, the top honor for faculty members among CSU schools.

Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall
(CSU San Marcos)

She found out after receiving a phone call from the chancellor.

“As much as you would hope to win the award if you’re going to put your application in, it’s still pretty amazing,” said Sepinwall, who was recognized for “Outstanding Faculty Teaching” and honored during a CSU Board of Trustees meeting in Long Beach last month.

Sepinwall, who lives in Carmel Valley and has been teaching for 24 years, is the fifth faculty member from the San Marcos campus to win a Wang Family Excellence Award in the 25 years they’ve been issued, according to a news release from the school. It comes with a $20,000 prize. She has previously won awards such as the President’s Award for Innovation in Teaching in 2004 and the Brakebill Distinguished Professor Award for overall excellence in 2014.

Four other Wang Family Excellence Awards were also given in the categories of outstanding faculty service, outstanding faculty scholarship, outstanding faculty innovator for student success and outstanding staff performance.

Sepinwall’s recent work includes a book, “Slave Revolt on Screen: The Haitian Revolution in Film and Video Games.” It came about after a student introduced her to the “Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry” video game, which is about a former slave in present-day Haiti fighting for freedom in the 18th century. She was surprised that the game tackled an era in history that major motion pictures have historically avoided.

“That was pretty amazing to me to find, and then I found other video games that were also about this period, and it was just curious for me,” Sepinwall said. “Why is it that video game companies are making games about this history, especially when film studios have been shy to make epic films that are about successful slave revolts?”

Following the book, and doing a series of book talks and other events, Sepinwall said her focus is back in the classroom.

“Right now I’m really trying to focus on my students,” said Sepinwall, who studied history and political science at the University of Pennsylvania, then earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in history from Stanford. “I coordinate the master’s program in history on our campus. I’m also chairing the search for a new colleague who will be teaching the history of U.S.-Mexico borderlands.”