Fourteen graduating Rossier students receive USC Student Recognition Awards

Every year at the Student Recognition Ceremony, USC recognizes graduating students who have made a significant difference to the university through their leadership and community engagement efforts. At this year’s pre-commencement ceremonies on May 14, fourteen Rossier students will be awarded the Order of Areté for their contributions to USC student life and community.

The students are listed below, along with selected excerpts from their nomination letters.

Sahel Behpoornia, Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs

“As residence coordinator for Fluor Tower, Sahel has worked with members of the Office of Residential Education’s Leadership Team and her fellow senior staff to create and facilitate training for both graduate and undergraduate staff, supervising 10 Resident Assistants (RAs), supervising a fellow graduate staff member, working with two residential faculty and two campus partners regarding special interest floors (Somerville Place and the Latino floor).” – Grant Burlew

Roberto Campos, Educational Counseling

“Roberto Campos will be the first in his family to receive a master’s degree and the second sibling in his family to graduate from USC. Although Roberto is a full-time student, he has still found multiple ways to financially contribute to his family as well as develop himself as a practitioner in the field of educational counseling. Roberto has made important contributions to the community through his volunteerism with the IAM program and more recently the USC Alumni Day of Service.” – Kristan Venegas

Michelle Castellanos, PhD in Urban Education Policy

Michelle is a research associate working with Professor Darnell Cole in the Pullias Center of Higher Education. A Gates Millennium Scholar, Michelle has worked with underserved students from preK-20. Her research examines the college experiences and subsequent learning, persistence and career outcomes of students of color using both quantitative and qualitative research designs. She has worked as a student service adviser at Hermanas Unidas, Inc., has participated in the Institute for the Recruitment of Teachers Associates and was a recipient of the Academic Competitiveness Award at UC  Berkeley. Michelle has been an important part of student life at the Rossier School of Education, especially in her mentorship of new students and for her participation in recruitment efforts related to the PhD program.

Susan Huynh, Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs

“Susan is the residence coordinator for the Honors Residential College at Birnkrant and works closely with Faculty Master Stan Rosen to create a small, tight-knit residential community for all the Presidential and University scholar residents that reside in the building. Susan has supervised seven resident assistants and handled crisis situations with an effortless poise that should be bottled up and sold to all future graduate assistants that supervise students. Her ability to handle multiple situations involving countless number of students is just a portion of the amount of impact she has on students’ lives at USC.” – Grant Burlew

Timothy Khuu, Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs

“I first got to know Tim when he shared with me that he has an interest in Asian Pacific–American first-generation college students given that he is a first generation college student as well. I decided to bring him in to do a research project in APASS that was in partnership with the Dornsife Office of Diversity and Strategic Initiative. Tim played a key role in this project by providing the leg work. He created the survey, interviewed the students and produced the report to share the results with both departments. His research project continues to be used in our office and the First Generation Task Force.”- Mary Ho

Vigor Lam, Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs

“I supervised Vigor in his role as the graduate assistant for the PEER program. In this capacity he supervised the undergraduate student coordinator, organized the curriculum, coordinated the supervision sessions for the mentors and educational and social events. The program successfully matched over 75 mentees. Vigor’s care in how he supports undergraduate students in their development has been an important component in success of the program. He has the ability to genuinely connect with students from diverse backgrounds and he is always cognizant of creating an inclusive space for them.” – Mary Ho

Anna Liza Olivares, Educational Counseling

“She has made an impact on the external USC community and the urban communities through her volunteerism with the IAM program. She worked with low-income students of color on a 1-to-1 basis to help them apply for college. She has completed a number of internships in community colleges and is completing an internship at Santa Monica College this semester. Finally, she has been recognized by the National Association of Academic Advisors with a graduate student scholarship. What impresses me the most about Anna is her quality of character, her leadership skills and her ability to motivate others in a humble yet powerful manner.” – Kristan Venegas

Sable Manson, PhD in Urban Educational Policy

Manson completed a master’s in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs (PASA) from USC in 2009. She will be continuing her work on the Muslims in Higher Education Project, begun in 2009, looking at the experience of Muslim students on American college campuses. Sable is also the director of residential life for the Office of Religious Life, which includes collaboration with the USC Joint Education Project (JEP). Recently, she was featured in an online publication for her part of a group of interfaith leaders building homes in the local community.

Arlan Mendiola , Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs

“As a graduate assistant in the Dornsife Advising Office, Arlan has a caseload of undecided students which he advises. It is evident from the rapport built with his students that Arlan genuinely cares and wants to help his students make the most of their experience at USC. His students actively seek out advice from Arlan beyond the mandatory advising period, thereby demonstrating the type of relationships he builds with his students.” – Viannda Hawkins

Andy Ng, Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs

“While Andy has demonstrated his leadership capabilities in the classroom by teaching courses on critical issues in race, class, leadership and American culture, I would like to draw attention to his work as an assistant residential area supervisor of Troy Complex. In this role, Andy operates not just as supervisor, but also as mentor, adviser and peer educator to paraprofessional university employees. At the start of the fall 2014 semester, Andy created in-depth, experiential training sessions for the Office for Residential Education and the 157 student staff members who act as the frontline for student engagement and crisis response…. It was with his help and guidance that our staff maneuvered through challenges this year.” – Corey Lueker

Casey Simon, Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs

“Casey has been the residence coordinator for the New and North Residential Colleges, worked with two residential faculty and has touched the lives of over 800 students during his two -ear graduate career here at USC. Casey has supervised 16 different resident assistants, adjudicated conduct cases, advanced programing efforts and contributed to the creation of two distinctly different communities while working for Residential Education. Casey serves as an integral member of our department’s Social Justice and Inclusion committee, which is currently drafting 10 initiatives that our department will set forth starting in fall 2015.” – Grant Burlew

Autumn Taylor, Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs

“In addition to her role as residence coordinator for Marks Hall and Trojan Tower, where she planned several events and services for students, Autumn has also served as the graduate assistant with the Office of Campus Activities overseeing the Volunteer Center. In her role as a graduate assistant overseeing the Alternative Spring Break programs, she has gone above and beyond the call of duty by taking on the Friends and Neighbors Days as well. She has been a support system, role model and adviser to 13 undergraduate students, setting up weekly 1-on-1s with each student, assisting in their evaluations and supporting them in overseeing their program budgets, totaling over $100,000 altogether. Had it not been for Autumn and the extra responsibility she took on as a paraprofessional, we would have been unable to support the Alternative Break programs this year that included over travel domestic and abroad for over 150 USC students.” – Christina Mireles

Peter Tran, Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs

“As an assistant residence coordinator and residence coordinator, Peter has held the critical position in overseeing the residential community at USC. Peter’s work and leadership intersects within this position, as it take a true leader to manage the crisis and workload of overseeing hundreds of residents on campus, a team of 20 resident assistants and managing the various building governments. As an outgoing graduate student leader, Peter has committed himself to several leadership roles within the Rossier School of Education. As both a Rossier senator for the Graduate Student Government and the first-year liaison for this master’s program, Peter has given a voice to those in his graduate community.” – Jonathan Wang

Andrea Valenzuela, Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs

“Andrea came to USC with the aspirations of helping underserved populations because she had so many people help out in her educational journey as a first-generation Latina. Andrea started her USC leadership journey as a residence coordinator in the Parkside Apartments. In her work at Residential Education, Andrea has shown herself to be a strong advocate for social justice. She has served on our department’s Social Justice and Inclusion committee and brought a strong voice to the group. Andrea has also led our Parkside Apartments team to create a week-long series of programs focusing on social justice called One World Week. Programs have focused and promoted discussion on race, ethnicity, discrimination, disability, gender and sexual orientation.”- David Hong