USC Rossier Class Notes

USC Rossier Class Notes celebrate the professional and personal accomplishments of our alumni. Alumni updates are shared online and in the USC Rossier Magazine. Explore the impact our alumni are having around the world. Share your updates with the USC Rossier community.

Class Notes

Marly Bergerud MS ’69 is the author of My Dance With the Devil. Marly enjoyed being the dean of business at Saddleback College for 17 years and completed her 38-plus-year career in education as vice president of workforce and education development at De Anza College. During her roles in education, Marly co-authored and published 25 computer technology textbooks. She now lives in Palm Desert, Calif., and serves as president of the Palm Springs Writers Guild and on the board of directors of the World Affairs Council of the Desert.

Howard Landesman DDS ’62, ME ’73 received his specialty credentials in prosthodontics at the USC Ostrow School of Dentistry in 1973 and at the same time received an ME at USC Rossier. He was named dean of USC Ostrow in 1992 and became dean of the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine in 1998. He can still recall the excellent education from Professor Earl Pullias and others. He attributes much of his professional success to USC Rossier.

Patricia Kahler Leader MS ’77 retired in 2021 from a 45-year career teaching children who are blind. Throughout her career, she provided instructional services to children and coordinated the vision programs in her school district. After graduating from USC Rossier, she continued her education with a master’s in education of the visually impaired from San Francisco State University. She write contests for the Braille Institute of America National Braille Challenge and coordinates the Contest Development Team. She has been teaching braille at San Francisco State in the Teacher Preparation Program for 20 years and is a doctoral candidate in instructional leadership.

Don Brann ’68, EdD ’82 serves on the executive committee of the Small School Districts’ Association, which he founded in 1982. Don is also board president of Da Vinci Schools, which he founded in 2008. He recently published A History of the Wiseburn School District and is beginning to work on his memoirs. Don has served as superintendent of six California school districts since 1979.

Donald Remley EdD ’84 was selected as the Retired Administrator of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators. He was honored in San Diego in November 2022. Don was superintendent of Oroville City Elementary School District, retiring in 2007 after serving for 22 years. Don also served as a partner and search consultant with the Cosca Group upon his retirement.

Jan Lee PhD ’88 retired in 2019 after 38 years in academia, specifically in nursing education. Still a licensed registered nurse, Jan volunteers at the local, state and national levels.

Joyce Stout ’90, MS ’93 retired from working in education after 28 years in school mental health.

Pilar Lopez-Hernandez ’98 completed her first year as assistant principal at Fishburn Avenue Elementary in Maywood, Calif.

Mike Brown ’99 is completing his PhD in educational leadership while serving as a head of school in Ohio.

Ernest Joseph Zarra III PhD ’99 is the author of three books: When the Secular Becomes Sacred: Religious Secular Humanism and Its Effects Upon America’s Public Learning Institutions (2021), From Character to Color: The Impact of Critical Race Theory on American Education (2022) and Understanding Radicalism: How It Affects What’s Happening in Education and Its Impact on Students (2023), all published by Rowman & Littlefield. Ernest also serves as a presenter for the Family Policy Institute of Washington state, writes for the National Association of Scholars and is semiretired after a 42-year career in secondary and university teaching.

Gunn Marie Hansen MS ’96, PhD ’00 was appointed superintendent of Westminster School District in March. Gunn brings a résumé that includes more than 32 years of public school experience, along with numerous academic achievements, awards, and community and business partnerships. Having earned a doctorate in educational policy and administration from USC, she’s spent nearly all of the past 13 years working for Orange Unified School District, where she was promoted to superintendent in 2017. Among her accolades as superintendent, she won the Orange County School Boards Association’s Maureen DiMarco Award for exemplary leadership in service of young people in 2021, and she was honored with the Fourth District PTA’s Administrator of the Year Award in 2022.

Mary Brancaccio MS ’01 is the author of Fierce Geometry: Poems, published by Get Fresh Books. The collection was recommended by the Academy of American Poets. Her work has appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Minerva Rising, Edison Literary Review and Rattle, as well as on Major Jackson’s poetry podcast, The Slowdown. Mary’s poetry is included in several Writing the Land anthologies and two international anthologies, Veils, Halos and Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women; and Farewell to Nuclear, Welcome to Renewable Energy (Japanese/English bilingual edition). She is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Mary taught high school English and creative writing until 2022.

Tony Knight EdD ’06 Dives into Sharing Ocean’s Wonders It’s been only two years since Tony Knight EdD ’06 retired, but he hasn’t stopped educating. He’s kept himself busy, continuing to invest in and share his love of the outdoors, particular the ocean. Knight became a certified instructor through the American Sailing Association and is putting his skills to good use. He teaches sailing in Marina del Rey and is also in charge of sailing instruction at the Fairwind Yacht Club, a nonprofit organization subsidized by Los Angeles County to make sailing accessible to everyone, through a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles. Knight didn’t stop there. He also became a member of the Channel Island Naturalist Corps and serves as a naturalist guide for the Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary. He provides interpretative guiding on whale-watching trips that depart from Santa Barbara and was certified to lead hikes on Santa Cruz Island. Knight and his wife, Nancy, are also volunteer supervisors with TreePeople, where they work on urban forestry projects. “I was retiring to something different,” Knight says. “It’s great being connected to nature, especially the ocean, and introducing people to its wonders.” Knight had worked in education since he was 21. He retired from his post as superintendent of Oak Park Unified in 2021 after serving in the role since 2004. Prior to his appointment as superintendent, he served the district in a variety of roles, including as a teacher, principal, director of curriculum and instruction, and assistant superintendent of educational services and certified personnel. Knight was also an adjunct professor of education at USC Rossier.

Jennifer Hawn EdD ’07 was selected to serve as Piedmont Unified School District’s next superintendent. In her more than 25 years in public education, Jennifer has dedicated herself to serving K–12 and college students in California. She has an extensive educational background, including broad experience as a teacher and administrator with Beverly Hills Unified School District, as an assistant superintendent of human resources with Whittier City School District, as an instructor for Pepperdine University and as deputy superintendent for Da Vinci Schools, serving Wiseburn Unified School District in Southern California.

Josh Van Norman MAT ’07 was named superintendent of Bradley Union School District.

Anneka Busse MFT ’08 is now the assistant director of student health leave at USC.

Jose Rodriguez EdD ’08 was named a Fulbright Leaders for Global Schools participant and will be joining 16 school leaders from across the country in Finland during the winter of 2024.

Martha Enciso ’03, ME ’06, EdD ’09, associate vice president for student affairs at California State University, Fullerton, won the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ 2023 Mena Valdez Award. She was given the Outstanding Senior Student Affairs Officer Award, which is presented to senior officers who have provided advice, energy, leadership and guidance to the Latino community. In the Division of Student Affairs, Martha oversees identity and belonging, including diversity initiatives and resource centers and retention initiatives. Among Martha’s accomplishments is leading the opening of CSUF’s Transfer, Adult Re-entry, Parenting & Pregnant Student Center.

Ryan Cornner MSW ’06, EdD ’10 was appointed superintendent/president of Glendale Community College on July 1, 2022.

Darryl Pearson EdD ’10 is retiring from education after 35 years working with urban youth. He has served in several capacities and has taught at every level—elementary, middle school and high school. He also served as an assistant principal at the elementary and secondary levels.

Emily Reyes MAT ’11 was elected to serve as second vice president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance in August as a representative of the American Federation of Teachers. Emily is a fifth-grade teacher at Laurel Cinematic Arts & Creative Technologies Magnet in Los Angeles and serves on School Site Council. She has been the United Teachers Los Angeles vice chair at her school site since 2020.

Bruce Abney Jr. MAT ’12 was chosen as the District Employee of the Year for the 2022–2023 school year in St. Tammany Parish, La.

Linwood Guy Bishop MAT ’12 became headmaster of a collapsed K–12 church school a month before he graduated from USC. He turned it into a second-chance school for kids in trouble. In June 2021, Linwood established Education for Orphans, a nonprofit organization based in Japan. In February 2023, the organization broke ground on Peace Village Uganda, which will contain a home for abandoned babies, a K–12 school and housing for orphans, housing and a career development center for single mothers, medical clinics and community development programs.

Matthew Jellick MAT ’12 was selected to be an English language specialist on behalf of the U.S. Embassy in Djibouti. During his time there, he worked with the Djiboutian Ministry of Education and local teachers on refining their research topics for presentations at a regional TESOL conference he organized. This was Matthew’s second time in East Africa, as he was also an English Language Fellow in Ethiopia in 2014–2016.

Wenli Jen EdD ’12 was accepted into the Workforce Integration Network learning community that aims to close the digital divide among underrepresented student populations to promote a stronger future workforce. She continues her consulting and research in student success and engagement, in addition to best practices in e-learning design, corporate wellness, and learning and development.

Alfonso Jiménez EdD ’12, superintendent of Hacienda La Puente Unified School District, was named a 2022 Superintendent to Watch by the National School Public Relations Association. He also was named the 2022 University of California, Davis, C-STEM Center Superintendent of the Year and the 2023 California Association for Latino Superintendents and Administrators Region V Superintendent of the Year.

Margarita Landeros ME ’12 completed her first year as a tenure-track school and college counseling assistant professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Le’Marqunita Lowe MAT ’12’s business, Black & Cremé, was accepted into the Silicon Valley Fall 2023 Founder Institute Core Program. The Founder Institute is the world’s most proven network to turn ideas into fundable startups, and startups into global businesses.

Esther Mmagu MAT ’12 graduated from UCLA’s Principal Leadership Institute this year with her master’s of education and administrative credential and is transitioning out of the classroom to a special education coordinator position with LAUSD.

Jenny Morgan MAT ’12 is the author of a new children’s book, The Wondrous Adventures of Julie O’Day.

Jaimi Nedziwe MAT ’12 is starting her third year as an elementary principal in the Lansing School District in Michigan.

Patricia Beckmann-Wells EdD ’13 created an award-winning curriculum for the Irvine Valley College Interactive Media Arts and game design department she founded. Four teams of students she mentored were semifinalists in the top 10 of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Showcase GameSIG. One team won first place and another a special award for cinematics and virtual production. This curriculum is one of the first of its kind preparing young talent for mixed reality employment. The Irvine City Council awarded commendation for the curriculum.

Patrick Gittisriboongul EdD ’13 was selected as one of 24 Google Global Silicon Valley Education Innovation Fellows for 2023–24. This inaugural cohort of fellows features exceptional K–12 instructional leaders dedicated to leveraging technology to transform education.

Jennifer Griffin MAT ’13 teaches AP psychology and ethnic studies at University High School Charter in LAUSD.

Rocío Hernández EdD ’13 is the author of Diverse Experiences of Latinas in Higher Education: Chingonas on Their Own Terms, published by Routledge in 2023. The book provides a diverse range of empowering testimonies from Chingonas who are defining professionalism for themselves.

Rebecca Knighton MAT ’13 received her PhD from the University of Lethbridge in October 2022. For her dissertation, Rebecca studied teachers who are highly effective at building relationships with and engaging with chronically disengaged students to find the commonly shared factors that contribute to their success.

Ricardo Martinez MAT ’13 was promoted to assistant head of upper school (years 10 and 11 in a 13-year system) at St. George’s, the British International School, in Cologne, Germany.

Marco Nava EdD ’13, with Imelda L. Nava and Jan Kirsch, is the co-author of “Leadership That Bridges Arts and Social-Emotional Learning.” The article was published in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Marco was also one of 16 fellows selected to the inaugural National Leadership Institute of Men of Color in Educational Leadership. The National Leadership Institute is a one-year immersive development experience that supports male leaders of color who are uniquely positioned to disrupt current inequitable ecosystems, lead through their authentic selves and serve as critical levers to student success.

Miriam Otero MAT ’13 was voted to serve on the board of directors for the Fulbright Association Spain Interest Group. Miriam also started a new position as a middle school history teacher at Castilleja School in Palo Alto, Calif.

James Winter MAT ’13 is a senior English language arts teacher at Buckeye Union High School near Phoenix.

Leena Bakshi EdD ’14 is the founder of STEM4Real, an organization committed to increasing the school-to-STEM career pipeline, especially for underrepresented students of color. Leena was also selected to join Education Leaders of Color, a membership organization dedicated to ensuring young people of color have the support they need to thrive, capitalize on opportunities and build generational wealth.

Yamonte Cooper EdD ’14 is the co-editor of Black Couples Therapy: Clinical Theory and Practice, published by Cambridge University Press in 2023.

AyEsha Leonard McLaughlin ME ’14 is celebrating the fifth anniversary of Teach to Reach LLC, a STEAM makerspace laboratory in Jefferson Park, just two miles from the USC campus. AyEsha looks forward to the next five years and the impact the education center will bring to the community.

Oscar Macias EdD ’14 was named a 2023–24 K–12 Dive Rising Leader for his role as director of equity, access and family engagement at Glendale Unified School District.

Sebastian Puccio EdD ’14 was enjoying life’s journey and his more than 20 years in K–12 and higher education when everything took an unexpected turn, as he faced a daunting cancer diagnosis. With unwavering determination and support from loved ones, Sebastian faced the trials of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery with remarkable courage. The experience led him to author a new book, Morning Mental Activation. He describes the book as “a daily guide for unlocking one’s full potential and embracing life with renewed vigor.” He also offers mental strength workshops.

Anacany Torres ME ’14 is a counselor for the North Orange County Community College District. She helped found a program to support formerly incarcerated students and launched the Rising Scholars program at North Orange Continuing Education.

Elizabeth Trayner EdD ’14 is assistant vice president for institutional equity, Title IX coordinator and ADA/504 coordinator at Seattle University.

Acacia Warren EdD ’14 has long been committed to helping those experiencing hardship find ways to beat the odds. When she began teaching summer school in juvenile hall after earning her master’s in education and her teaching credential from the University of California, Berkeley, her commitment to justice-centered work in education was sparked. After years in the classroom—both at the K–12 level and at the university level—Warren was recently named the managing director of UCLA’s Prison Education Program. The program makes postsecondary education accessible to women and young people who are incarcerated. UCLA is one of only two California universities that bring professors and college students into prisons to learn alongside incarcerated people, thereby challenging bias, discrimination and injustice in a shared and collaborative learning experience. One of Warren’s major responsibilities is to lead the Bachelor’s Degree in Prison (BDP) initiative, providing incarcerated students with the opportunity to complete a UCLA degree. By addressing the educational objectives of incarcerated, first-generation and underrepresented students, the BDP initiative furthers the mission of UCLA by creating pathways for continuing education, civic participation, successful employment and community reintegration. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there is a 43% reduction in recidivism rate for those prisoners who participate in prison education programs. In fact, the higher the degree, the lower the recidivism rate: The rate is 13% for those who obtain an associate’s degree, 5.6% a bachelor’s degree and 0% for a master’s degree. Warren will use her knowledge, skills and expertise to forge important pathways of hope for system-impacted students by resourcing and supporting them in beating the statistical odds against their success.

Geoffrey Zamarripa EdD ’14 is director of special education for Temple City Unified School District.

Rufus Cayetano EdD ’15 retired from the U.S. Navy in February after serving 33 years combined on active duty and reserve and reaching the rank of captain. After completing the first year of his doctoral program, he took a one-year leave of absence to return to the Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa in Djibouti, where he served as the deputy chief of contracts.

Priscilla De Lara ME ’15 transitioned into international education after working at traditional universities in the U.S. for almost a decade. She is running a study abroad center in Milan, Italy, with SAI Programs.

Eder Flores MAT ’15 is the college and career director for Variety Boys & Girls Club.

Alicia Fox MAT ’15 secured her first teaching position after an eight-year hiatus to take care of her family. She now works for Los Angeles Unified School District in a combined fourth- and fifth-grade classroom.

Vigor Lam ME ’15 is a founder of BuildOUT California and a senior project engineer with Jacobs. He was awarded the Emerging Professional Award from the Northern California Chapter of Construction Management Association of America. The award is presented to a young professional who personifies exceptional talent, dedication and vision within the construction management industry.

Domenika Lynch ’97, MFT ’15 is executive director of the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society Program and was appointed to Toyota Motor North America’s North American Diversity Advisory Board.

Madeleine Mejia EdD ’15 received a California State University, Fullerton, Digital Ethnic Futures Consortium Fellowship Award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to investigate the impact of disciplinary literacy, ethnic studies and the use of technology on K¬–12 teachers’ knowledge, skills and dispositions to promote social justice education. This study also examines the effect of this type of instruction on students’ development of critical literacy skills.

Rose Hachey MAT ’16’s last little Trojan was born in July 2022. He attended his first homecoming this year.

Shaina Philpot MAT ’16 earned her EdD in leadership in higher education from National University. Shaina will be presenting her dissertation, “A Quantitative Correlational/Causal-Comparative Study of American Indian Students’ Sense of Belonging at Predominantly White Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities,” at the National Indian Education Association conference in Albuquerque, N.M.

Melissa Woodforlk-Whyte MAT ’16 is co-founder of Whyte Warehouse Connection LLC, a company dedicated to providing educational products and services. She also released a new book, My Education: Authentic Teaching, a compilation of academic papers exploring authentic teaching practices and delving into the critical concerns educators face daily in the classroom.

Larry Chapa EdD ’17 is director of the Testing, Evaluation and Measurement Center at Texas State University. Additionally, Larry is an adjunct faculty member in the Student Affairs in Higher Education graduate program.

Amanda Holdsworth EdD ’17 joined Peter Riley Bahr’s research team at the University of Michigan’s Marsal Family School of Education, studying and communicating about research related to career and technical education, community colleges, workforce development, stackable credentials, economics and equity in education, labor market outcomes and education reform. This move comes after she completed her term as the first executive director of the Michigan Association of Career and Technical Education. She also runs her school communications and marketing agency, Holdsworth Communications.

Federick Ngo PhD ’17 earned tenure and was promoted to associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He teaches in the graduate program in higher education and does research on the policy, finance and economics of higher education.

Bree Martin Stinson MAT ’17 is an education specialist for Orange Unified School District. In 2022, the special education department awarded her with the CAPE award, recognizing her for being collaborative, adaptable, proactive and equitable among her staff and community. She is also the co-chair for the Social Economic & Justice Committee, which helped generate a diverse library of texts and materials teachers can check out and utilize to support instruction in their classrooms.

Maria Martinez-Poulin EdD ’17 was named interim superintendent of Culver City Unified School District in October 2023. She is the first Latina superintendent in CCUSD’s history. Maria most recently served as the deputy superintendent of schools of the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Ingrid Twyman EdD ’17 consults through her company, the Core Collaborative, and co-authored a new education book, Amplify Learner Voice Through Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Assessment. Amplify Learner Voice pushes back against traditional assessment and grading practices that continue to be an inequitable endeavor for our nation’s learners. In the book, eight authors and the Core Collaborative’s partner schools reimagine formative assessment through an asset-based, cultural lens to make a greater impact on learning and our shared humanity.

Amie Carter EdD ’18 was elected Sonoma County superintendent of schools. She is the first woman to be elected to this county office in more than 100 years and is only the second openly LGBTQ+ county superintendent in the state of California.

Jialu Fan MAT ’18 is pursuing her PhD in STEM education at the University of Minnesota.

Eric Felix PhD ’18 earned tenure and promotion to associate professor at San Diego State University.

Sorangel Hernandez EdD ’18 was named vice president of student services at Los Angeles Harbor College in February.

Terri Horton EdD ’18 is a work futurist educating business leaders on how to leverage generative AI. As a LinkedIn Learning instructor, she created two courses on how generative AI is transforming human resources and learning and development processes.

Michelle Matter EdD ’18 is director of aging at San Diego State University Center for Excellence in Aging & Longevity.

Alberto Pimentel Jr. EdD ’18 earned his MS in learning technologies and design from the University of Missouri–Columbia in May.

Marina Theodotou EdD ’18 was appointed executive director of the Defense Innovation Board at the U.S. Department of Defense. The board’s mission is to provide the secretary of defense, deputy secretary of defense and other senior department leaders with independent advice and recommendations on innovative means to address future challenges through the prism of three focus areas: people and culture, technology and capabilities, and practices and operations. Marina also led a Crystal City–Pentagon Rotary Club project to support Ukrainian refugee orphans living in Poland. She was elected president-elect of the club in 2023–23 and will serve as club president in 2024–25.

Nina Thomas EdD ’18 became assistant chief of education, associate superintendent, for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s Office of Correctional Education, overseeing adult schools in state correctional facilities across the southern region of the state.

Arely Acuña PhD ’19 was named the Mariette Sawchuk Director for Equity, Diversity and Justice at Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles.

Daralee Barbera EdD ’19 is the program director of the master of science in management and leadership, assistant professor of leadership and the George G. Joseph and Richard A. Liddy Chair in Practice Management & Leadership at the American College of Financial Services. In 2022, she was the program director of the financial planning programs at California Lutheran University. In 2023, she became the 70th recipient of the Will G. Farrell Award, presented annually by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Chapter of the Society of Financial Services Professionals. She is also the president and co-principal of Diversified Professional Coaching LLC.

Aerial Ellis EdD ’19 was appointed the Wells Fargo Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor for North Carolina Central University’s Department of Mass Communication.

Randee Kirkemo EdD ’19 is assistant director of Chapman University’s graduate program in school counseling.

Kathy Limmer EdD ’19 joined United Way of Metropolitan Dallas as its chief growth officer. Kathy is responsible for building, growing and sustaining strong relationships with donors to strengthen United Way’s ability to pursue its mission of creating the opportunity for all North Texans to thrive. As an accomplished nonprofit leader, Kathy brings extraordinary experience, skill and excitement to the organization as it drives measurable change for all North Texans in education, income and health—the building blocks of strong communities.

Melanie Orellana MAT ’19 was promoted to assistant principal, dean of students, at Heritage Christian School in Los Angeles.

Richard Pedroza EdD ’19 entered his 20th year as a special education high school teacher this fall.

Jasmine Scales MA ’19 started a new position as foster-youth specialist with the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Robert Sedillo MAT ’19 wrote a book about a preteen living with childhood cancer titled Am I So Different?

Chasity Toles ME ’19 is assistant director of the nonprofit Aaron Community Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Chasity has worked effectively to grow and connect many resources to the community and fight food insecurity while establishing partnerships for health and community togetherness.

Lesley Vuillemenot Ruzon ’96, MAT ’19 teaches dance and drama at South San Francisco High School.

Kristina Wright EdD ’19 was promoted to vice president of student success at Making Waves Education Foundation, Bay Area. In this role, she is charged with leading program improvement and innovation to strengthen the quality and student outcomes of the foundation’s college and career success programming across the coaching services, financial services and early career teams.

Christina Chavez MAT ’20 was awarded the Fund For Teachers Fellowship in summer 2023. She traveled to Washington, D.C., Germany and Poland to research the wartime account of Mexican American prisoner of war Anthony Acevedo and his role in preserving the historical record of World War II and the Holocaust. Christina hopes to meaningfully connect students to history, promote tolerance and counter rising antisemitism. She teaches in Montebello Unified School District.

Nevin Durmaz MA ’20 was accepted into the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Second Language Acquisition PhD program with four years of scholarship.

Branden Grimmett EdD ’20 was nominated for a Tony Award as co-producer of the new Broadway musical New York, New York. The musical was nominated for nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical. New York, New York is directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman, with music and lyrics by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Sonja Johnson EdD ’20 is on the board of two wonderful organizations that both strive to create educational equity and access for all students.

Dieuwertje Kast EdD ’20, director of STEM education programs with USC’s Joint Educational Project, was chosen to receive the 40 Under 40 Public Health Catalyst Award by the Boston Congress of Public Health. The recipients represent the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, scientists, activists, intellectual provocateurs, authors and directors who inspire and catalyze us all to a more just and equitable world.

Kimberly Kircher MAT ’20 is a sixth-grade teacher at Sun Valley Magnet School and was named a Los Angeles Unified School District 2021–2022 Rookie of the Year.

Natalie Mejia EdD ’20 is the founding principal at the SEED School of Los Angeles County, the first public college-preparatory boarding high school in California. The school’s vision is to create a nurturing home away from home, fostering academic excellence and personal growth.

Bertram Mullin MA ’20 is a lecturer at universities in Japan. He is writing his dissertation for a doctorate in applied linguistics at Temple University.

Karen Song EdD ’20 is an adviser for the Cook Islands Ministry of Education and is supporting secondary teachers and administrators with the rollout of new English standards and a literacy co-requisite. Karen is also working on revising the Cook Islands secondary English curriculum and is a member of the steering committee focusing on the 2023–2033 education strategy for the Cook Islands.

Satori West MAT ’20 started a business, Wildbluewest Education Services, in Washington state, where she provides preschool classes and enrichment opportunities for elementary-age students.

Adolfo Diaz MAT ’21 is a mild/moderate special education teacher at El Monte City School District in California.

Lucas Dyer EdD ’21 fulfilled a longtime passion and became a financial planner. Lucas spends a lot of time working with fellow Trojans and military members to help create a future in order to achieve, maintain and pass on financial security. Before his new career, he worked for Amazon as a senior program manager, running the learning and development sector.

Melessa Hamilton MAT ’21 teaches sixth- and eighth-grade math and science at Walter Reed Middle School in Los Angeles, where she raised close to $6,000 toward classroom projects and equipment in 2022. She also served as the Black Student Achievement coordinator at her school, implementing “firsts” for the school including a field trip to see Debbie Allen’s Hot Chocolate Nutcracker and culturally responsible posters for each classroom, gym and orchestra practice room.

Angela Liu MAT ’21 was named an LAUSD 2022–23 Rookie of the Year.

Yessenia Medina MAT ’21 started her teaching career in August.

Gloria Olamendi ’00, EdD ’21 is assistant superintendent for special education at Santa Ana Unified School District.

Cherre Stoneham MAT ’21 is a mild/moderate special education teacher with Redondo Beach Unified School District.

Alex Vieira EdD ’21 completed his second year as an assistant principal at Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School, part of Lynwood Unified School District. The school has worked tirelessly to create a nurturing and inspiring environment for students, supporting their dreams and ambitions every step of the way. From organizing engaging extracurricular activities to fostering a positive school culture, Alex is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the remarkable legacy of Firebaugh High School.

Amy Wong EdD ’21’s dissertation was published as a book, Stories of Survival: The Paradox of Suicide Vulnerability and Resiliency Among Asian American College Students, by Oxford University Press in 2023.

Alexma Chocoza MAT ’22 is a high school social science teacher and absolutely loves it.

Bryan Gross EdD ’22 was named Hartwick College’s vice president for enrollment management. His dissertation examined how collaboration among senior higher education leaders can facilitate positive revenue generation at regional and private institutions.

Omar Ramos MAT ’22 began teaching fifth grade this fall. He can’t wait to fulfill USC Rossier’s mission statement.

Lorraine Rodriguez MAT ’22 started the 2023–24 school year as the English teacher for the second-grade Mandarin Dual Language Program at El Monte City School District.

Valencia Belle ’23 EdD was named one of the 23 Women in Tech for 2023 for the state of Alabama by Business Alabama Magazine. The founder of V B Ideas LLC/SCHOOLS, Valencia was chosen as a member of the 2022 USC Rossier EdVentures Ed Tech Accelerator Program, led by Professors Doug Lynch and Mark DeGennaro; pitched at the 2022 ASU+GSV Summit; and was chosen as an ASU+GSV G Cup Elite 200 Company, one of 200 of the leading edtech companies worldwide, at the 2023 ASU+GSC Summit.

Serina Bravo ME ’17, EdD ’23 became a double Trojan in May by completing a second degree at USC Rossier, her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership with a concentration in higher education administration.

Christa Glembocki EdD ’23 was named Middle School Principal of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators. Christa is the principal at Dwyer Middle School in Huntington Beach City School District.

Diana Hernandez ME ’23 was promoted to director of undergraduate admission at California Lutheran University.

Tamar Johorian MAT ’23 is a chemistry instructor within the secondary level at Saint Monica Preparatory School in Santa Monica.

Breeanna Thomas ME ’23 accepted a job as a middle school counselor with Clark County School District in Las Vegas. She will be supporting seventh- and eighth-graders and their transitions to high school.

Jovan Williams MAT ’23 teaches second grade at Ambler Avenue Elementary in Carson, Calif.

Bianca Zaragoza ME ’23 is a school counselor at a K¬–6 elementary school. She provides support, empathy and compassion to struggling students with personal and group sessions that provide coping skills.

Michelle Aitala EdD candidate was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management representing the USC Marshall School of Business.

For more than 55 years, the Consortium has partnered with top business schools and employers with the mission to enhance diversity and inclusion in global business education and leadership by striving to reduce the significant underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in both member school enrollments and the ranks of global management.

Jacquie Baly EdD candidate was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame by the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Inductees are recognized for their significant contributions to women’s advancement and quality of life for future generations of Texas women. Jacquie is president of BalyProjects, a consulting firm specializing in planning and public affairs. Additionally, she is an adviser to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on higher education initiatives; serves as vice chair on the Harris County Commissioners Court’s newly created board dealing with economic development and business opportunities for women; and is an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Downtown, where she has taught public policy for more than 16 years. Jacquie has received numerous honors for her industry and philanthropic work, including the Crohn’s and Colitis Woman of Distinction, St. Jude’s Children Hospital Philanthropist of the Year and inclusion in the Top Ten Entrepreneurs in the Country by the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Zandra Jo Galván EdD candidate, superintendent of Greenfield Union School District, was named Superintendent of the Year by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. She was also selected as one of 24 Google Global Silicon Valley Education Innovation Fellows for 2023–2024. This inaugural cohort of fellows features exceptional K–12 instructional leaders dedicated to leveraging technology to transform education.

Kimberlie Linz EdD candidate was named 2023 State Business Official of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators. Kimberlie serves as chief business official for El Segundo Unified School District and has built trust in the school community by clearly communicating that student achievement and well-being remains at the heart of the district’s budgeting process. She is known for taking a students-first approach to overseeing the district’s business services, facilities and maintenance department, ensuring fiscal solvency while finding innovative solutions to support teaching and learning throughout ESUSD. Kimberlie has been CBO in ESUSD since 2018. Before that, she was a middle school principal in Manhattan Beach Unified School District.

In Memoriam

Sonya Black, faculty affairs coordinator, joined USC Rossier in 2010 and was dedicated to the Office of Faculty Affairs for 13 years. Anyone who came to visit the office while Sonya was there knew that she was the heartbeat. Sonya was gifted with an ability to form positive and encouraging relationships with USC Rossier’s faculty as well as with fellow staff members. Sonya was a devoted and loving mother to her three children, and she was devoted to her own mother. She was active in her church and her community.

Jacqueline Mora EdD ’10, assistant superintendent of educational services at Santa Monica–Malibu Unified School District, died Sept. 16 after a hard-fought battle with an illness. She was 46. Jacqueline came to California from Mexico as a child with her parents, sister and brother. She was an English learner who worked hard and was motivated to succeed to help others achieve their goals. She earned a bachelor of arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara; a master’s degree in education UCSB; a master’s degree in education from UCLA and a doctorate from USC.

Jacqueline’s passion for public education; dedication to students, families and staff; and desire to see all students succeed academically, socially and emotionally inspired her personally and professionally. She is survived by her mother, Maria Mora; her brother, David Mora; her sister, Vanessa Mora; a niece; and her fiancé, Eduardo Magaña.

Brent Noyes ’75, MS ’79 died April 21 after a battle with multiple myeloma. Brent was born in Los Angeles on June 26, 1952, and attended North Hollywood High School. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USC Rossier.

Brent was a teacher in Glendale Unified School District and a principal in La Canada, Agoura Hills, Calabasas and South Pasadena. Brent was a faithful and proud alumnus of USC. He served on the USC Alumni Association, Board of Governors and Board of Councilors for USC Rossier. He loved all sports but especially USC football season with his daughter Alexis. Brent is survived by his loving wife and daughters Alexis Katherine and Kellie Nicole.

John Orr, former dean of USC Rossier, died Feb. 25 at 89. John was born in 1933 in Long Beach. He graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1955 with a degree in philosophy, followed by a bachelor’s degree in divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1958. In 1965, he was awarded a PhD from Yale Divinity School. He married Thelma Hodson in 1961, after they met at a New Year’s Eve party, and the two remained married until his death. They had two sons, John and Steve, both USC alumni. Steve predeceased John in 2014. John began working at USC Dornsife as a full professor in 1967, and in 1970 became director of the School of Religion. In 1981, John moved to USC Rossier, where he first was interim dean and then permanent dean until he retired in 1988.

Susan Jane Rainey EdD ’83, who served as superintendent of the Riverside Unified School District from 1998 to 2008, passed away Sept. 25, 2022. She was 75. Rainey started teaching in the late 1960s, and at age 33 she was appointed principal at Brea Olinda High School, one of only six women to be a high school principal in California at the time. After her tenure leading Riverside Unified, Rainey served two terms in the Riverside County Office of Education. She also volunteered for, and often led, numerous charitable organizations in the city.


Submit your update online

Alumni Stories

Patrick Liew EdD ’15 Global Executive honored with the Service to Education Award by the Singapore Ministry of Education

‘The starting point as well as the ending point of success is education.’

Featured Faculty

Amid the devastation wrought by the Lahaina fire, compassion endures at Maui Prep

Two USC Rossier doctoral graduates opened their hearts—and the doors of their school—after a deadly wildfire leveled Lahaina and disrupted education for West Maui students.

Featured Faculty

From the Spirit of Troy drum line to the front lines of community mental health

Double Trojan Micki Smith is on a mission to bring therapy to marginalized communities.

Featured Faculty

Empowering ESOL students with AI

MAT-TESOL alum and Irvine Valley College professor Brent Warner is embracing artificial intelligence for its ability to help students take control of their own learning.

Leveling the test-prep field

Valencia Belle EdD ’23 is championing educational access in Alabama and beyond.

Featured Faculty