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Marlene Zepeda

Marlene Zepeda '72, Ph.D.
College of Health and Human Services
California State University, Los Angeles


Dr. Marlene Zepeda is the recipient of the Distinguished Faculty Alumna Award. Marlene is the third child born to Fred and Martina Zepeda. Dr. Zepeda’s mother was a Mexican immigrant who came to the United Stated during World War II and her father was born in the Arizona territory, it is believed, around 1904. Growing up in East Los Angeles, Dr. Zepeda attended Catholic elementary and high school before beginning as a freshman at California State University, Los Angeles in 1968.

Dr. Zepeda was a volunteer for the Educational Participation in Communities and was placed in a Head Start classroom. This experience changed her life trajectory as it initiated her love affair with early childhood education and child development.

Dr. Zepeda graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Development in 1972 and then earned an elementary teaching credential in 1973.

Hired by the Los Angeles Unified School District, Dr. Zepeda first worked as a preschool teacher then moved on to teach kindergarten and first grade. In 1978 Dr. Zepeda received a Master of Arts degree from UCLA. While at UCLA she was encouraged by her professors and student colleagues to pursue a doctorate. Dr. Zepeda completed her dissertation in 1984. The title of her dissertation was, “Prenatal, perinatal and postnatal correlates of mother-infant interaction in Mexican origin women.”

Dr. Zepeda worked for the San Fernando Valley Child Guidance clinic and soon moved to California State University, Bakersfield where she began as an assistant professor with a joint appointment in Education and Child Development. Dr. Zepeda began her career at Cal State L.A. in 1990 in the Interdisciplinary Child Development program which became the Department of Child and Family Studies.

Throughout her tenure at Cal State L.A., Dr. Zepeda has sustained her scholarly focus on Spanish speaking children and families and early childhood education. Dr. Zepeda has participated in a number of activities in California to promote the education and training of early childhood personnel. Dr. Zepeda has been a member of the County of Los Angeles Child Care Planning Committee and has served on a number of important advisory committees. Dr. Zepeda is the first author of “Bridging Cultures in Early Care and Education”, a 2006 publication from Erlbaum. Dr. Zepeda consults widely about issues relevant to child-care, preschool education and the development of young Latino children.

Dr. Zepeda has been honored for her contributions to workforce development for early care education in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles County Office of Child Care’s Policy Council as well as East Los Angeles College. She is a past recipient of Cal State L.A.’s Distinguished Woman Award.

Dr. Zepeda is married to Jay McConnell and has two daughters Mariana and Cristina. In her free time, Dr. Zepeda and her husband enjoy fly fishing in the rivers of Montana, Idaho and New Mexico.

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