Cohort 2014

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Melissa Padilla Cervantes

Melissa Cervantes is the Coordinator of the Gaining Access ‘N Academic Success (GANAS) Program at California State University, East Bay; an access and retention program aiming to smooth the transition for transfer students by offering integrated academic and Latina/o-themed programming. She has over 16 years experience working in educational equity programs; many of those years served with Upward Bound and TRiO Programs.

Her research interests include issues of college access and equity for historically underserved populations; postsecondary success for low-income and first-generation college students; as well as predictors of retention and graduation rates for the aforementioned groups.

She holds a BA in Social and Behavioral Sciences from CSU Monterey Bay and an MA in Education with a concentration in Counseling and Student Personnel from San Jose State.

Heather Clary-Wheeler, EdD

Heather Clary-Wheeler is the Regional Customized Support Director at Partners in School Innovation.  In that role, she assists underpreforming schools to improve teaching practices, develop culturally and linguistically responsive instruction, and build sustainable systems for continuous improvement in order to improve student outcomes. Previously, Dr. Clary-Wheeler served as an Assistant Principal at Gunn High School in the Palo Alto Unified School District. Her experience as an educator, includes work as a 7-12th grade ELA teacher, ROP Journalism and Yearbook teacher, Instructional Coach, adjunct college instructor, and site administrator.

Her research interests include the implementation of system-wide Restorative Practices, as well as the area of Career Technical Education in relationship to the Common Core Curriculum and closing the achievement gap.

Dr. Clary-Wheeler holds a BA in Psychology from Sonoma State University, a Single-Subject Clear CLAD credential and Masters in Education from National University, as well as an Administrative credential from CSU Fresno. She received her doctorate for her dissertation titled, Incorporating Successful Black and Latinx Student Voice at Suburban Schools: White Principals as Anti-Racist Leaders.

Alejandro Guerrero

Alejandro Guerrero is an EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) and Puente Project Counselor at Napa Valley College. Both programs help first-generation, low-income students succeed in college by offering academic counseling, mentoring, tutoring and financial support.

His research interests include high school to college pipelines for first generation students, counter-narratives, critical pedagogy and transformational leadership practices.

He holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from UC Davis and a Masters in Social Work from Sacramento State University.

Nolan Higdon, Ed.D.

Nolan Higdon is a professor of Latin American and US history in the San Francisco Bay Area. His academic work focuses on nationalism, propaganda, and critical media literacy education. He sits on the boards of the Media Freedom Foundation and ACME: Action Coalition for Media Edution and is the Global Critical Media Literacy Project Coordinator. He has contributed chapters to Project Censored's annual publication Censored 2013, 2014, 2015, & 2016 as well as Stephen Lendman's Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III (2014). He has published articles on media and propaganda including Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones War on Your Mind (2013), Millennial Media Revolution (2014), and Justice For Sale (2015). He has been a guest on national radio and television programs and a frequent guest host for The Project Censored Radio Show on Pacifica Radio. Higdon has presented at numerous conferences, most recently at the Union for Democratic Communication's 2015 Conference Circuits of Struggle.

Nolan received his doctorate for his dissertation titled, Effective Critical Media Literacy Pedagogy in Higher Education: Turning Social Justice Theory into Practice.

Katrina Keating

Katrina Keating is a Professor of Mathematics at Diablo Valley College. She prefers to teach math classes that are most likely to have students who don't see themselves as "math people" so that she can change their minds. Katrina is involved in her faculty union and academic senate, serving in many roles over the years. She is past coordinator for the Self-Paced Mathematics program, and the DVC branch of CalTEACH, a program to encourage STEM undergraduates to become K-12 STEM teachers.

She holds an AA in Sociology with an emphasis in Anthropology from Laney College, and both a BA and MA in pure Mathematics from San Francisco State University. She is proud to be back at SFSU for her doctorate work, where her research is dedicated to helping more community college students succeed in mathematics.

Nancy Martinsen

Nancy Martinsen currently serves as the Welcome Center Coordinator at Cal State East Bay where she oversees the campus tour program, provides pre-admission advising to prospective undergraduate students, evaluates freshman applications, and recruits for the university.

Her interests are in demystifying the model minority myth and retention for Asian American and Pacific Islanders with low academic performance rates.

She received her BA in Human Communication with a concentration in Journalism and Media Studies at CSUMB and an MA in Education with a concentration in Counseling at SJSU. She is a proud product of the CSU!

Vanessa Mercado, EdD

Vanessa Mercado is the Program Coordinator for the Minority Training Program in Cancer Control Research (MTPCCR) at the University of California, San Francisco - a diversity training program dedicated to supporting master’s level students and health professionals in their pursuit of a doctoral degree and career in cancer disparities research.  Previously, she has worked in the student services division at Contra Costa College, as a Research Assistant at the Health Equity Institute at San Francisco State University, and as a Research Associate and Program Evaluator for Graterol Consulting.

Vanessa's research interests include educational support services and mentorship of first-generation, low-income, and historically marginalized students as well as the linkages between health and education as it pertains to health disparities and academic achievements.  She has a focused interest on food and housing insecurity among community college students, and the role of public benefits and provision of wraparound student services in facilitating students’ basic need security and promoting student success.

She received an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Studies and an Associate of Arts degree in Sociology from Contra Costa College. She earned her BA in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley and her Master of Public Health (MPH) from San Francisco State University. Vanessa received her doctorate for her dissertation titled, Food and Housing Insecurity Among Students at a Community College District.

Laurie Murdock, EdD

Laurie Murdock has served San Francisco Unified School District for about twenty years, mostly as a Spanish bilingual teacher. She has taught 1st through 5th grades including combination grades and looping, aiding students with different language, learning, and emotional needs. Laurie has worked with interns throughout her career and was a mentor teacher with the Muir Alternative Teacher Education program.

Laurie's leadership includes serving on School Site Councils, Instructional Leadership teams, and Coordination of Services Teams (COST). She has also served as Lead Teacher with the EXCEL afterschool program and as an Outreach Consultant under the California state funded school reform grant, now called the Comprehensive Student Support program.

Laurie holds a Pupil Personnel Services credential and a Marriage and Family Therapist license. Recently, she obtained her preliminary Administrative Services credential. Currently, she is teaching, with a focus on Restorative Practices. Her research interests include closing the achievement gap through the utilization of a restorative process. She received her doctorate for her dissertation titled, Exploring Teacher Learning Processes Within a Community of Practice to Serve Latino/a Biliterate Students.

Robert Nakamoto

Robert Nakamoto is Director, Student Equity & Success at Chabot College.  Before that he served as the District Coordinator of School-Based Services with the Berkeley Unified School District where he provided leadership in student support services including: Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Restorative Practices, Behavioral Health Services, Social Emotional Learning, Trauma-Informed Practices, and Dynamic Mindfulness.  Dr. Nakamoto also worked in various capacities in public education institutions throughout the state including Mt Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD), Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and the California Department of Education. 

Dr. Nakamoto's research and practice interests include mitigating against the adverse impact of implicit bias in education, critical and culturally sustaining pedagogy, ethnic/cultural studies and urban praxis. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development from California State University, Hayward (now CSU East Bay) and a master's degree in Psychology from CSU Northridge.

Marlai Ouch

Marlai serves as a Cambodian language teacher and the administrator at Cambodian School of San Francisco, which she founded in January 2012, while maintaining a full time job as a Senior Accounting Manager at a private company in Emeryville, CA. In addition to teaching onsite, she produces online Cambodian lessons for students to learn remotely.

Marlai is also interested in closing the achievement gap for her Cambodian community by connecting her community to job opportunities and resources and providing free tutoring and mentoring services to Cambodian kids.

Marlai holds a B.S. in Finance, an MBA, and a MA in Economics from San Francisco State University.

Brittany Prince

Brittany Prince serves as an AmeriCorps Program Manager for Reading Partners, a national literacy non-profit. Additionally, she lectures at San Francisco State University in the Africana Studies Department.

Her research interests include African American literature and exploring the impact of Ethnic Studies education, especially as it pertains to students of color.

She earned a BA in English from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and a MA in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University.

Janine Saunders, EdD, MPH

Janine Saunders is Director of Learning and Evaluation for the California Endowment.  In this role, she helps lead the evaluation department activites to ensure that stakeholders understand the impact of the foundation's work to improve community health. Dr. Saunders' work in evaluation spans more than a decade, most recently as Program Manager at ETR Associates, a behavioral health non-profit providing science-based programs and services.  Previously, Dr. Saunders was a Project Director at the California School-Based Health Alliance - the statewide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the health and academic success of children and youth by advancing quality health care services in schools. Other work experience includes serving as the School Health & Safety Manager for the Alameda County Office of Education, the Prevention Coordinator for the Oakland Unified School District, and as a Program Manager for the California Healthy Kids and After School Resource Centers. Her research interests include disadvantaged student populations, school health and full service community schools.

Dr. Saunders earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychobiology from UCLA and a Master of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley. She received her doctorate for her dissertation titled Educational Experiences of Incarcerated Youth: Doing School While Doing Time.

Janelle Waldrep, EdD

Janelle Waldrep is a Study Abroad Advisor in the Office of International Programs at San Francisco State University where she shares her passion and knowledge of International Education.

Her research interests focus on student equity and success related to participation on study abroad exchange programs.

She holds a B.A. in History from the University of California, Riverside and a M.Ed. in Globalization and Educational Change with a certificate in International Counseling from Lehigh University. Janelle received her doctorate for her dissertation titled, Transforming Education Abroad for First-Generation Students: Leadership, Student Voice, and Policy Change.