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Alumni Spotlights

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.


Previous Alumni Spotlights

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.  

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.


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.

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