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Alumni Spotlights

Paola Avila, Roosevelt ’06 (Economics), Karolina Ericsson, Marshall ’94 (Management Science), and Chanelle Hawken, Marshall ’01 (Political Science)

The San Diego Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business Awards recognize dynamic women business leaders and role models who have contributed significantly to San Diego’s economy, culture and social network. The 2015 finalists included three Social Sciences alumnae: Paola Avila, Karolina Ericsson and Chanelle Hawken (pictured), who was the final winner of the award.

Paola serves as Vice President of International Business Affairs for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. In her role, she focuses on developing domestic and international public policies that enhance economic prosperity through cross-border trade, an efficient border, and robust business, political and cultural relationships between the United States and Mexico.

Karolina is a shareholder in the Real Estate Practice Group at Gresham Savage Nolan & Tilden, PC. Her practice focuses on a wide array of real estate matters, ranging from managing all facets of large real estate transactions to negotiating easements and resolving complicated title issues.

Julianna Barnes, Revelle ’90 (Sociology, Teacher Education minor)

On October 5, 2015, Julianna Barnes began her tenure as the new president of Cuyamaca College in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District. She was selected following a nationwide search. As published in The San Diego Union-Tribune, District Chancellor Cindy Miles said Julianna’s passion and leadership skills stood out in her qualifications to lead Cuyamaca College, which has about 9,000 students.

Julianna previously worked for three years at Cuyamaca College as vice president of student services. In that role, she led the effort to have the college established as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, making it eligible for federal grants. She also spearheaded efforts to carry out California’s Student Success Initiative. Julianna also served in various administrative roles in the San Diego Community College District, most recent as vice president of student services at Mesa College. She secured a $2.7 million federal grant to improve outcomes for students, particularly first-generation Latino students, and worked to improve institutional student success and equity efforts. Prior to Mesa College, Julianna worked in various student affairs capacities at UC San Diego for close to 10 years.

Harry Helling, Revelle ’80 (Anthropology)

Harry Helling was recently named the new executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. He began his career more than 30 years ago as an associate curator at the T. Wayland Vaughan Aquarium on the Scripps Oceanography campus (a precursor to the Birch Aquarium), and is a passionate leader with extensive experience communicating and interpreting science for the public.

Prior to assuming this new role in October 2015, Harry served as the president and CEO of the Crystal Cove Alliance at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Coast, Calif. There, he led the development of innovative K-12 marine science education programs such as an ocean acidification lab and an after-school bioacoustics and endangered-bird monitoring program. He also contributed to conservation planning by developing partnerships with land managers, researchers, non-profit organizations and user groups to improve science-based resource management across a 40,000-acre reserve.

Previously, Harry was executive vice president of education and program development at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, Calif. For 14 years, he served as director of the Dana Point Marine Life Refuge and is founder of the Orange County Marine Protected Area Council, a countywide collaborative focused on improving enforcement, science and education in the area’s most sensitive marine habitat.

Harry will continue Birch Aquarium’s mission of providing ocean science education, interpreting Scripps Institution of Oceanography research and promoting ocean conservation.

We want to highlight and communicate your accomplishments and life events to fellow alumni, students and friends. Share your story: jmdean@ucsd.edu or (858) 246-0232.

Previous Alumni Spotlights

Nhat-Dang DoNhat-Dang Do, Warren ’15 (Political Science)

Nhat recently received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He was accepted to the Political Science Ph.D. program for fall 2015.  Nhat was also accepted into the Capitol Fellowships Program for the State Senate. It is a one-year opportunity where he will work in the State Capitol as a full time policy aide. He is deferring his Ph.D. acceptance to fall 2016.

Erin McKeyErin McKey, Roosevelt ’15 (Economics – Management Science)

Erin recently received her Bachelor of Science in Management Science. She is passionate about reading classic literature and swimming – teaching lessons and swimming laps in the pool. She was recently hired as accounting assistant at Ballast Point Brewing Company in San Diego. Erin’s future professional aspirations are to obtain her MBA in either finance or accounting, and use that knowledge to become a financial planner and analyst.

Claudia RenteriaClaudia Renteria, Roosevelt ’12 (Political Science), M.Ed. and Multiple Subject Credential ’15 (Education Studies)

Claudia recently received her Master of Education degree and multiple subject credential from the Education Studies Department. She will begin teaching first grade at Field Elementary, a Title I dual language school (instruction in English and Spanish) in the San Diego Unified School District in the fall. She hopes to impact education by bringing the Education Studies Department’s mission of equity, collaboration and high-quality teaching into her classroom. She plans to implement innovation and technology that will support her students' growth and learning, particularly in the math and literacy areas. As a bilingual teacher, Claudia is passionate about supporting emergent bilingual students’ language development and making sure her students' backgrounds and cultures are represented in the curriculum. She also plans to shed light on the cultural, social and cognitive benefits that bilingual education provides.

MBManuelita Brown, M.S. ’76 (Psychology)

Manuelita Brown is a nationally renowned sculptor specializing in bronze figurative sculptures and portrait busts. Her latest creation is the new UC San Diego public art installation portraying African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth. The 6-foot-tall statue is located in the heart of Marshall College on Ridge Walk. (Read more about the sculpture.)

Sculpting in her own studio, Manuelita creates portraits of noted African Americans and other everyday people in figurative realism for bronzes that she personally supervises from her original clay sculpture through the lost wax casting process. Other works on the UC San Diego campus include the Thurgood Marshall Bust and Triton Statue. Her artwork has been exhibited in shows nationally, won a number of awards, and is included in many private collections and several museums.

Manuelita was an educator at UC San Diego for many years before dedicating herself full-time to her art. She is a 1976 graduate of the university, with a Master’s of Science degree in Psychology. She was the director for UC San Diego’s Honors Achievement Workshops, an academic support program for science and engineering students. Retiring from the university in 2000, she has remained heavily engaged as an alumna and volunteer. Manuelita is a devoted mother and wife, married to Willie Brown, professor emeritus in the Division of Biological Sciences.

Since 2003, Manuelita has been an active member of the UC San Diego Black Alumni Council.  She has also chaired the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund Committee and has served as liaison between the UCSD Foundation and its scholarship office and the San Diego Foundation. Under Manuelita’s leadership and direction since 2003, over 300 scholarships have been awarded exclusively to black students enrolled at UC San Diego. In 2013, Manuelita was appointed to UCSD Alumni’s Board of Directors for a two-year term.

Manuelita's achievements and service to campus will be honored with a True Triton award from UCSD Alumni in June 2015.


Chris Yanov, Roosevelt ’99 (Political Science and Spanish Literature)

Chris Yanov received his Bachelor of Arts from UC San Diego in Political Science and Spanish Literature in 1999.  He also holds two master’s degrees from the University of San Diego in Peace & Justice and International Relations.

Chris is founder and president of Reality Changers. After working with gang members during college and two years following, it didn’t settle well with Chris that most inner-city teenagers today know more people who have been shot or killed than people who are on the road to college. As a response, he founded Reality Changers in May 2001 with four 8th grade students near downtown San Diego with the hope of increasing the number of first generation college students. Starting with just $300 to its name, Reality Changers has now given more scholarship awards to college-bound students than any other single organization in San Diego County since 2006 and became California’s leading tutoring program for scholarships in June 2009. As of 2014, Reality Changers has awarded nearly $5,000,000 in scholarships. Additionally, the organization’s 500 current members and 750 program graduates have earned approximately $60,000,000 in scholarships from all sources.

Chris is fast becoming known as one of San Diego’s new civic power brokers. Through hard work and dedication, he raised and awarded over $1 million in scholarships to inner-city students before turning 30 years old. He has collaborated with former Mexican President Vicente Fox on deterring young people from joining drug cartels. Chris was selected as an inaugural commissioner of the San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, and served as the chairman of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Education and Workforce Development Committee.

Recently named one of San Diego Metro’s “40 Under 40” and a 2014 University of San Diego Remarkable Leaders in Education award recipient, Chris is a powerful distinguished leader in Southern California and has made a significant impact on his profession and community-at-large since graduation. Through Reality Changers, Chris has transformed lives, schools, and communities by providing youth from disadvantaged backgrounds with the academic support, financial assistance and leadership training to become first generation college students.

His achievements and service to campus will be honored with a True Triton award from UCSD Alumni in June 2015.

Kim NewinKim Newin, Revelle ’06 (Political Science)

Kim Newin is the chair and a founding member of the Volunteer50 Chancellor’s Call to Service Program at UC San Diego. In 2010, Volunteer50 was initiated as part of the university’s 50th anniversary celebration. The purpose of the program is to encourage students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to perform 50 hours of community service during the academic year. Since the 50th anniversary, Volunteer50 has continued on as a university tradition, supporting the campus’ mission of service, showcasing the widespread and diverse contributions of the UC San Diego community, and highlighting the number of service hours volunteers collectively give back. The program thrives thanks to the tremendous time and effort Kim has devoted to its success.

Kim has served as senior project panager in the Chancellor’s Office and Special Events and Protocol for the past 10 years. She provides management support on a wide range of issues involving the university’s senior leadership and university-wide events. Kim is a proud alumna of UC San Diego’s Revelle College, B.A. in Political Science and a graduate of the Leadership Development Program in Higher Education from the Leadership for Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP).

Kim has always been passionate about and dedicated to public service. Prior to coming back to UC San Diego, she served as a legislative assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., for Congressional members from the 2nd District of Utah and Puerto Rico. Legislative issues and committees under Kim’s responsibility were: education, agriculture, foreign affairs, arms services and diversity.

Keith PadgettKeith Padgett, Muir ’73 (Sociology)

Earlier this year, Keith Padgett became the CEO of Pro Kids | The First Tee of San Diego, a non-profit dedicated to providing programs for underserved youth that promote education, character development, life-skills and values through the game of golf. Pro Kids serves inner-city youth in City Heights and Oceanside by providing them with a safe environment to receive golf and life-skills instruction, after school tutoring, mentoring, educational workshops and scholarship support. The program has been impacting lives since 1994.

A native San Diegan, Keith grew up in East County and graduated from Mt. Miguel High School. After serving in the United States Air Force for four years and attending Grossmont College, he transferred to UC San Diego to study sociology. Upon entering college, Keith thought he would become a high school basketball coach; however his career pathway changed after discovering his passion for non-profit youth organizations. After graduating from UC San Diego, he became the owner/executive director of two 24-hour treatment centers for emotionally disturbed boys in east San Diego County. His career then took him outside of San Diego to lead three different Big Brother Big Sister agencies (Sacramento, Seattle and Los Angeles). In 2002, Keith moved back to San Diego to serve as the President/CEO of The Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito for 11 years before retiring for a brief seven months.

It was the difference Pro Kids was making in the lives of thousands of children that brought Keith out of retirement earlier this year. Personally and professionally, he has experienced the positive impact that education and mentoring can have on a young person. At Pro Kids, he is grateful for the opportunity to impact young lives through the game of golf. He feels his life has come full circle, as Pro Kids operates at Colina Park Golf Course, the course where he played his first round of golf as a child.

Keith is a proud graduate of UC San Diego and dedicated to service in his community. He lives by this statement: “When you get out in the world, try to give back, try to bring someone with you.”

Sarah WooSarah Woo, Marshall ’14 (Communication)

A recent graduate of UC San Diego, Sarah Woo currently serves as the special events and marketing coordinator at Make-A-Wish San Diego.  In her role, Sarah assists with fundraising events and brand protection initiatives and maintains the organization's website, social media presence and monthly e-newsletters. Sarah also manages Make-A-Wish San Diego’s Kids For Wish Kids/Wishmakers on Campus program in which elementary, middle, high school and college students raise money for the organization. Sarah remains dedicated to her work because it directly supports making wishes come true for children. This year, Make-A-Wish San Diego will grant more than 200 wishes to kids with life-threatening conditions in San Diego and Imperial counties.  The organization has a volunteer base of more than 250 active volunteers.

As an undergraduate student at UC San Diego, Sarah was involved in a variety of student groups and organizations. She was a member of Circle K International, where she organized fundraising events. Philanthropic and charitable work has always been her passion. In her second year, she joined Greek Life as a member of the Panhellenic community and became a sister of the Chi Omega Fraternity.  Sarah served as the director of fundraising where she planned and executed the 2nd annual “Chi O-lympics” to benefit Chi Omega’s national philanthropic organization, the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Sarah’s involvement in Chi Omega connected her with Make-A-Wish, and from there she continued to feel intrigued by the vision and mission of the foundation.  It is through connections she had with the national partnership between Make-A-Wish and Chi Omega that she received the opportunity to complete a summer internship at Make-A-Wish.  This led to an extension of the internship and she served for a year as an unpaid intern.  During this time she found such a fulfillment in working at an organization dedicated to wish-granting, and she fell in love with the mission and foundation’s work.  After graduation, she was offered the opportunity to apply for the position full-time.  Sarah is extremely grateful for the organization and everything it has and continues to teach her, and she is happy to have the support of such kind role models. She believes she is fortunate to work in an environment that fosters personal growth and a company that is making such a difference in the world.

Marianne Cooper

Marianne Cooper, Roosevelt ’95 (Sociology)

Marianne Cooper is the author of the newly released book, "Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times." The book explores the timely issue of how American families are using emotional and financial strategies to deal with the "new normal" of life in an economic recession. Cooper ties together deep data analysis of our economic condition with real-world stories of families struggling to adjust. The book has received a starred Publishers Weekly review and advance praise from Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, and Maria Shriver, among others.

Cooper is a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University.  She was the lead researcher for the book, "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead" by Sheryl Sandberg. 

Jon Fredricks

Jon Fredricks, ’85 (Urban Studies and Planning)

Since 1999, Jon Fredricks has been president of the Welk Resort Group, one of the most respected independent brands in the vacation ownership industry. Grandson of the late Lawrence Welk, the famous bandleader and television icon who founded the company, Fredricks has taken the company to new heights. As recently published in the Los Angeles Times, Welk Resorts is on pace to hit a record $150 million in revenue this year.

An astute business strategist and financial planner, Fredricks oversees the 1,500-employee company which owns properties in or near San Diego, Palm Springs, Lake Tahoe, Branson and Cabo San Lucas, with developments planned in Colorado and Hawaii. He has more than 20 years of experience in hospitality, real estate and finance, and has helped the company realize unprecedented development by fostering profitable expansion projects and internal corporate growth.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan, Ph.D. ’85 (Cognitive Science)

Recently featured on NPR's "Cosmos & Culture" blog, Michael Jordan, the Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Department of Statistics at UC Berkeley, is the 2015 recipient of the David E. Rumelhart Prize, a prestigious honor reserved for those who have made "a significant contemporary contribution to the theoretical foundations of human cognition." His research bridges the computational, mathematical and biological sciences. Jordan is known for his theoretical and experimental work in the field of human motor learning, and for his development of a wide range of new models and methods in the field of statistical machine learning. His research interests also address problems in distributed computing systems, natural language processing, signal processing and statistical genetics.

While he was at UC San Diego, Jordan studied under the prize's namesake, Rumelhart, a mathematical psychologist and pioneer in the field of cognitive neuroscience. The prize comes with a $100,000 award. As the 2015 Rumelhart Prize recipient, Jordan will deliver a major address at the Cognitive Science Society's meeting next year in Pasadena, Calif.

Ken Kroner

Ken Kroner, Ph.D. ’88 (Economics)

On July 10, 2014, the Economics Department, the CFA Society and UCSD Alumni hosted the third Economics Roundtable of the year. The event featured Ken Kroner, senior managing director at BlackRock, global head of Multi-Asset Strategies and head and chief investment officer of Scientific Active Equity. He serves as a member of the Global Executive Committee and the Global Operating Committee. Kroner provided the crowd with an informative talk, exploring quantitative investing in the 21st century, as well as answering questions from the audience. There were more than 95 attendees, including many alumni. The next Economics Roundtable event will feature alumnus John Shoven ’69 on Oct. 23.

Kroner's service with BlackRock dates back to 1994, including his years with Barclays Global Investors (BGI), which merged with BlackRock in 2009. At BGI, he served as head of the Global Market Strategies Group, head of the Hedge Fund Management Group and co-head of the Client Solutions Group. These teams were responsible for BGI's asset allocation, global macro, currency, active commodity, fund of hedge funds and client solutions businesses. Prior to joining BGI in 1994, Kroner was an associate professor of economics and finance at the University of Arizona. His research on forecasting volatility and asset returns has been widely published in both academic and practitioner journals.

Jill Litschewski

Jill Litschewski, Revelle ’94 (Anthropology)

Jill Litschewski was recently recognized by the Escondido Chamber of Commerce as "Board Member of the Year." She is currently director of science and mathematics programs at Cal State San Marcos. Litschewski helps develop science and math programs for CSUSM Extended Learning, ranging from biotechnology to cybersecurity, and acts as an adviser and facilitator. Litschewski joined the Escondido Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee Board of Directors as chair for the Education Committee last year. After earning her bachelor degree from UC San Diego, she earned a master of science in biology (molecular) from CSUSM. She is involved with multiple local educational committees and community organizations, and has a passion for agriculture.

Cindy Marten

Cindy Marten, M.A. ’95 (Education Studies)

Per the U-T San Diego, Cindy Marten, superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, recently received high accolades and an early contract extension from the San Diego Board of Education in their assessment of her first year. A little over a year ago, Marten was promoted from principal of Central Elementary School in City Heights to superintendent of California’s second-largest district. She was said to have “exceeded [the board’s] high expectations.” As a result, the board made the rare decision to extend Marten’s contract by another year — through the 2017-18 school year. Extensions are usually made at the end of a superintendent’s contract.

"Marten was called out for her ability to rally the sprawling district around efforts to restore neighborhood schools and promote decision-making that includes the community," the U-T reported. "The superintendent was also credited for shining a light on some of the San Diego Unified School District’s biggest problems, while also searching for solutions to them with the help of doctoral students from Harvard University." Read more at the story linked above.

Andy NahasAndy Nahas, Marshall ’81(Economics)

Andy Nahas is the recent first place winner of Portfolios with Purpose’s investment competition to benefit nonprofit organizations around the country. Andy, of The Prospect Fund, won $33,000 in the Professional Class. The earnings are designated to the Monroe Community Hospital Auxiliary in Rochester, New York, to fund a "Moving Music" program to bring entertainers directly into the rooms of many residents who are unable to participate in programs due to their weak health. As a student at UC San Diego, Andy served as a resident advisor, student leader and commencement speaker. His co-curricular experiences prepared him to succeed as a leader. In 1995, Andy established The Prospect Fund based in Rochester, New York. The pay-for-performance hedge fund invests globally in companies making a positive difference in society. He is also a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, a non-partisan organization founded by former President Bill Clinton to address poverty, health, education and the environment. Andy played a significant role in bringing the Clinton Global Initiative to UC San Diego. With appreciation for his experiences at UC San Diego, Andy gives back to the University’s Alternative Breaks program. Alternative Breaks allows students to travel abroad during their school breaks to provide humanitarian services. Scholarship support ensures that students can cover the cost of participating in the meaningful trips.

Alma (Key) HillsAlma (Key) Hills, Third/Marshall ’82 (History) & M.A. ’95 (Education Studies, Teaching and Learning)

Alma Hills is currently the principal of Freese Elementary Arts and Culture Magnet School in San Diego. She received both her teaching credential and her Master’s degree from UC San Diego. Alma served as a teacher for 17 years. She was awarded San Diego County Teacher of the Year in the 1999-2000 school year. She is in her eleventh year of school administration. She has also been an educational consultant and speaker. Alma credits UC San Diego with excellent preparation for her career and an exceptional network of contacts through UC San Diego's Early Outreach Programs. Alma enjoys a cappella singing, reading, and traveling. She has traveled to Africa twice, taking advantage of making real connections to the history she has learned. Alma is married and has one daughter.

Jacqueline Kirby LovellJacqueline Kirby Lovell, Third/Marshall ’80 (Sociology) & M.A. ’82 (Sociology)

Jacqueline Kirby Lovell is a 1980 graduate of UC San Diego’s Third College, now Thurgood Marshall College. She majored in Sociology with an emphasis on Sociolinguistics/Second Language Acquisition, and she completed the Teacher Education Program to earn a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential. The following year she went on to the Harvard Graduate School of Education and earned an Ed.M. and focused on Language Disorders and neuropsychology. She returned to UC San Diego to begin a doctoral program, but somehow neglected to include reproductive science in her curriculum, and instead had two children in three years. She taught in the Teacher Education Program at a local for-profit university and began working in the San Diego County public schools. She became a tenured teacher in the Vista Unified School District. After nearly twelve years teaching, she returned to UC Santa Barbara to complete class work for an Administrative Credential. She also began to travel the world from Europe to Asia. In May 2013, she was recruited from Harvard to move to Bangkok, Thailand to teach kindergarten in a private international school. She has nine polylingual, multicultural students who have supportive families and are ready to learn.

Jose Manuel VillarrealJose Manuel Villarreal, Ed.D. ’10 (Education Studies, Educational Leadership)

Jose Manuel Villarreal is the founding principal for Vista Magnet Middle School, in the Vista Unified School District which opened in 2007. In June 2013, he began his new journey with the San Diego County Office of Education, Juvenile Court and Community Schools as Senior Director. As a UC San Diego alumnus, his experience ranges from teaching at California State University San Marcos in both the Masters of Education General Option and Administration Credential, to beginning his career as a school counselor at a large comprehensive high school. Villarreal is the son of immigrant parents who worked as field workers picking, cleaning and irrigating crops in California where he was introduced to hard work and resiliency. His English Learner journey as a native Spanish speaker brings a natural international-mindedness to teaching, learning and leadership. He is a passionate educator who challenges audiences for their permission to push their thinking, whether in front of fellow principals, teachers, parents, students or workshop attendees.

Lilia Fernandez Ph.D. '05 (Ethnic Studies)

Lilia Fernandez is an associate professor of history at The Ohio State University and has just published a book, "Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago." Her book was recently featured on Chicago Tonight, a public affairs news magazine on the local Chicago PBS-affiliate.

Paul Lanning, Marshall '90 (Political Science)

Paul Lanning is the co-founder and managing partner of a consulting firm advising education-based non-profit organizations on capacity building, strategic and campaign planning, board development, and revenue diversification. He also writes a blog focused on philanthropy, and he teaches graduate courses in education administration at University of the Pacific.

Tricia Gallagher GeurtsenTricia Gallagher-Geurtsen, Roosevelt ’94 (Psychology)

Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen is currently a consultant and the owner of Cutting Edge Education and EveryDayELL.com. Her small businesses are dedicated to providing professional development and resources to teachers in linguistically and culturally diverse schools to better meet the needs of students in bilingual and English language classrooms.  Tricia grew up in northern California and chose to attend UC San Diego because of the strong academics and beautiful location. She felt that the educational opportunities at UCSD were exceptional and pivotal in helping her identify her passion for teaching and multicultural education. After graduating from UCSD, Tricia taught school in San Jose. From there, she went on to Columbia University to pursue her master’s and doctoral degrees in curriculum and teaching. Tricia currently lives in San Diego with her husband and children.

Robert SauvajotRobert (Rob) Sauvajot, Marshall ’92 (Psychology)

Rob Sauvajot is currently the executive director and vice president of all East County Family YMCA facilities. Rob grew up in San Carlos and chose to come to UC San Diego because of the proximity to home, the affordability and the prestige of UCSD. His older brother also graduated from UCSD. Rob came into UCSD wanting to become a psychologist, so he majored in psychology with the intent to go to graduate school. While at UCSD, he was a camp counselor at the YMCA. Rob worked at the YMCA throughout college and accepted a full-time position after graduation. He worked at both the La Jolla YMCA and the Peninsula YMCA in Point Loma before taking his current position last year as the executive director and vice president of all East County Family YMCA facilities which include the Cameron Family YMCA in Santee, the Davis Family YMCA in La Mesa and the McGrath Family YMCA in Rancho San Diego. He is excited about his position and looks forward to keeping it long-term. Rob is married and looks forward to having children in the near future.

Jacques SpitzerJacques Spitzer, Marshall ’08 (Communication)

Jacques Spitzer is the owner of Raindrop Marketing, a San Diego-based digital marketing company specializing in custom website design, video production and graphic design. Over the past three years his company has produced work for national brands such as Sam's Club, GNP Frame, Ludus Tours and Junior Achievement. Jacques chose communication as a major at UC San Diego because he had an interest in journalism and marketing. On campus he was involved in intramural sports and was also a resident advisor in Marshall his senior year.

Stephanie WongStephanie Wong, Revelle ’10 (International Studies)

Stephanie Wong is currently working for Google as an energy analyst on the team responsible for location strategy of data centers and management of Google's energy portfolio, which includes renewable energy. Stephanie’s primary responsibilities include managing tool development projects, managing data center power usage and spend metrics and program management support for Google's wind projects. Stephanie thoroughly enjoyed her undergraduate experience at UC San Diego. She entered as a Biochemistry major and switched to International Studies after realizing her true interests lie in the social sciences. As an undergraduate, Stephanie worked in a legal office while studying for the LSAT and contemplating attending law school. She has since changed paths and is hoping to progress professionally at Google.

Patrick ZabrockiPatrick Zabrocki, Muir ’98 (Urban Studies and Planning)

Patrick Zabrocki grew up in San Diego and was the third brother in his family that attended UC San Diego.  With a passion for nature, community and environmental protection he majored in Urban Studies and Planning with a minor in Environmental Studies and had a very positive experience at UCSD. As a dedicated surfer, Patrick took full advantage of the La Jolla beaches next to campus and was a member of the Surf Team representing the Tritons in collegiate surf contests up and down the coast and even met his current wife at the team tryouts.  With fellow alumnus Joe Walsh, he created and ran the student organization Ocean Awareness Club that was focused on preserving the San Diego marine ecosystems and coastline. After graduating, Patrick pursued a career in the environmental planning industry where he works today as a consultant in sustainability.

Carl Kenneth Christopher Jr., Warren ’98 (Economics)

Carl Christopher is director of school operations at Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, one of the largest public school turnaround non-profit organizations in the nation, serving nearly 16,500 students across 22 schools in some of the city's most impoverished environments. In this role, Christopher is responsible for overseeing the strategic delivery of high quality operational support and services to the Partnership schools. Prior to joining Partnership, he was executive director at Kaplan, Inc. and associate director at the Stanford University School of Education. Christopher holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Kelly T. Duong, ERC ’09 (International Studies)

Kelly Duong is an environmental consultant, which includes analyzing operations as well as determining land field access. She is currently business solutions analyst at Complete Recycling, a business specializing in large-volume industrial scrap paper, plastic and metal recycling domestically and internationally for the manufacturing, fabrication, distribution, demolition and construction industries. While at UC San Diego, Duong was a recipient of the Eleanor Roosevelt College Writer's Excellence Award in 2005-2006 and Global Service Award in 2009.

Stephanie Le Fever, ERC ’11 (Political Science)

Stephanie Le Fever is currently a private home school teacher and trained for the 2012 Olympic Trials. While at UC San Diego, Le Fever was a stellar athlete, with her main focus on the heptathlon and long jump. At NCAA Division II Nationals, she placed second place and was named UC San Diego Athlete of the Year for 2011. She is currently a volunteer for the UCSD Track and Field Team.

Coco Tihanyi, Muir ’89 (Communication)

Coco Tihanyi is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Surf Diva, Inc., a surf school in La Jolla that has been introducing women of all ages to the sport and spirit of surfing since 1996. Tihanyi is a competitive surfer and began teaching surfing while in college. She and her two sisters graduated from UC San Diego in 1989 – the first time in UC San Diego history three siblings all graduated in the same year. Surf Diva, Inc. sponsors the annual Surfing Invitational event during Alumni Weekend.

John W. Yao, Muir ’06 (Economics)

John Yao owns his own wedding photography company, SimplyTwo Photography. John is a wedding, fashion and lifestyle photographer based out of Los Angeles. Yao's work regularly appears in wedding magazines and is inspired by the influence of modern art, fashion and photojournalism. This year marks Yao's seventh year of working with brides and grooms from around the world.

Justice Castañeda, Marshall ’10 (Urban Studies and Planning)

Justice Castañeda recently earned his master’s degree from Stanford University and is currently studying at MIT where he is a Master of City Planning (MCP) candidate. He plans to work in applied research and practice around the areas of urban education and community-centered economic development strategies. He believes education is as much about the external environment as it is the institutional mechanics of schools.  

Read more…

Jeremy Cogan, Muir '05 (Urban Studies and Planning, Political Science)

Since graduating from UCSD in 2005, Jeremy Cogan has acquired planning and policy advocacy experience with organizations at the local, national, and international level.  He has volunteered and traveled extensively throughout South America and his academic work on sustainability planning in developing regions included placements at the WRI Center for Sustainable Transport in Mumbai, India and the Chinese Academy of Urban Planning and Design in Beijing, China. 


Scott Webb, Muir ’95 (Political Science)

Scott Webb has worked in the international humanitarian relief field since his graduation from UC San Diego.  After leaving campus he joined the Peace Corps and served in Niger, West Africa for 3 years after which he attended graduate school at SFSU and the Monterey Institute of International Studies.  He is currently a program officer for the Food Security unit at International Relief and Development an international non-governmental organization that assists the most vulnerable people all over the world. 


Paulina Montañez-Montes, Roosevelt '11 (Political Science)

Montañez-Montes recently accepted a position at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington DC as the assistant to the chief operating officer. While at UCSD, Montañez-Montes was a participant in the UCDC program and served as a discovery ambassador interviewing alumni for UCSD Alumni.

Thuy Vo Dang, M.A. '03, Ph.D. '08 (Ethnic Studies)

Vo Dang is leading an effort to collect oral histories of Vietnamese Americans in Southern California at UC Irvine’s School of Humanities. The project will capture the diverse life narratives of the region’s first-generation refugees and immigrants. As part of the effort, Vo Dang will teach a course on the Vietnamese American experience and will train students on how to conduct oral history interviews. 


Emelyn A. dela Peña, Revelle '95, Ed.D. '09 (Ethnic Studies and Education Studies)

dela Peña is the assistant dean of student life at Harvard University, primarily responsible for gender and sexuality initiatives of the campus.  She was previously the director of UCSD’s Women’s Center. She advises students and alumni to find ways you can be true to yourself and your values in a variety of careers. 


Jasper Kim, Marshall '94 (Economics and Third World Studies)

Currently a professor of International Studies in Seoul Korea at the world’s largest women’s university, Kim is also a columnist, author, lawyer and former investment banker.  He contributes to various media, such as CNBC TV, BBC TV, and Bloomberg TV. Kim has also written op-eds for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).  Prior to joining academia, he was a lawyer for Lehman Brothers and an investment banker for Barclays Capital.  His favorite UCSD memory was the time he spent at the Roma Cafe.  It's still one of his favorite spots in the world, mostly due to all the great memories there spending time studying and meeting friends. 


Mike Lewis, Marshall '89 (Communication and Sociology)

A sports management professional, Lewis recently started a new company called Open Water Source, a culmination of his professional experiences over the past 15 years. While at UC San Diego, Mike enjoyed the early Sun God festivals and the old TG's. In retrospect, he appreicates how the rigorous academic programs pushed him to think and discover. 


Julietta (Julie) Hua, M.A. '02, Ph.D. '06 (Ethnic Studies)

Julie Hua recently published a book, Trafficking Women’s Human Rights. In the book, Hua maps the ways in which government, media, and scholarship have described sex trafficking for U.S. con­sumption.  She is currently an assistant professor of women and gender studies at San Francisco State University.  For more information about the book visit here.

Pamela Coker, Revelle ’70 (Psychology)

Coker and her brother founded Acucorp, formerly Acucobol, in 1998. The company makes software that allows customers to use data based on the COBOL programming language on today’s computer systems. The San Diego Company grew into a $20 million-a-year business, with offices in five countries employing 136 people worldwide.

Ed Hutchins, Revelle ’71, M.A. ’73, Ph.D. ’78 (Anthropology)

Hutchins was the recipient of the MacArthur Fellow “Genius Grant” and one of the main developers of distributed cognition. He is considered the father of modern cognitive ethnography and author of “Cognition in the Wild”, a classic in Cognitive Science. He is a member of the UC San Diego faculty.

Kim Jones, Muir ’77 (Sociology)

Jones is president and managing director, Sun Microsystems UK & Ireland, delivering innovative and sustainable technologies that meet the ever changing demands of global business.  Outside of SUN, Jones is a member of the Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change.  She is also a representative on the CBI’s Climate Change taskforce along with 17 other chairmen and CEOs from some of the world’s largest companies.  She is the recipient of the Sun Leadership Award; the prestigious YWCA Award for Women in Business, and in 2006 was inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame.

Len Lauer, Warren ’79 (Economics)

Lauer is former Qualcomm Executive Vice President and Group President where he focused on mobile content and services and emerging display technologies. In 2008 Qualcomm appointed Lauer to the additional position of COO. He is the former President and COO of Sprint Corporation and Chief Operating Officer of Sprint Nextel.  In January 2010, Lauer accepted the position of CEO of Memjet, a local color-printing technology company where he will lead the company into a new phase of commercialization and growth.

Abby Leibman, Revelle ’78 (Political Science)

Leibman is a principal at Leibman & Associates and co-founder and former executive director of the California Women’s Law Center. She was named one of California’s 100 Most Influential Attorneys by the Daily Journal Corporation. For over twenty years Leibman has worked on policy and advocacy to advance and address women’s issues in America. She is recognized as an expert in issues affecting women and girls, particularly in the area of child care policy, sex discrimination in employment and education, including sexual harassment.

Jerrilyn Malana, Marshall ’86 (Psychology)

Malana was the first Asian-American woman to be elected president of the 10,500 member San Diego County Bar Association in its 108-year history. As a partner and shareholder in a national labor and employment law firm, she has represented national Fortune 500 clients in all types of employment-related litigation.

Bart Meltzer, Muir ’90 (Communication)

Meltzer was the lead inventor and patent holder for Web-based marketplaces, XML/E-Commerce Servers, and the Commerce One Global Trading Web ™, which are collectively known as the Web Services Patents currently held by the Open Invention Network. The Web Services Patents and XML serve as the foundation of Web 2.0 and a standard for distributed computing on the web. He was the former CTO of Veo Systems prior to its 1999 acquisition by Commerce One. Meltzer pioneered web shopping in 1994 as a co-founder of Virtual Vineyards where he designed and implemented the first ever full featured shopping website.


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