Alumni Ambassadors

The Alumni Ambassadors are a group of School of Education alumni who want to share their experiences with you. They're willing to answer any questions about the University of San Francisco, the School of Education, and their respective program. Contact a School of Education Alumni Ambassador to find out more!

Credential MS and Teaching Program MA

Jahana Kaliangara

Jahana KaliangaraHometown: San Jose, CA
Follow: LinkedIn

Why did you choose USF?
I chose USF because I loved the social justice emphasis in all of the programs and the accessibility to be able to work full time as an educator and go to school full time. The San Jose campus has been so awesome! I have had the opportunity to make lifelong friendships and connections with so many inspiring individuals here at USF.

What was a highlight of your program?
The highlight of my program has absolutely been the professors. I have been fortunate enough to have the most amazing mentors and professors who shine light on social justice in education and provide the most valuable advice and feedback. I have built amazing relationships with mentors and professors to which I hope will be life-long. They have taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined.

What advice do you have for prospective students?Get to know your teachers and mentor! They are here for us for a reason. Also, if you aren't already in the classroom, volunteer as much as you can in classrooms. You will be so much more connected to the content and material presented in your classes. Lastly, take advantage of opportunities to participate and volunteer in USF events. You'll network and meet inspiring educators. YOU GOT THIS!

What is your favorite San Francisco (or Bay Area) restaurant?
Jaliscos Taqueria for a quick bite & La Fondue if I am feeling fancy and have more time!

Higher Education & Student Affairs MA

Emily Czarnik-Neimeyer '15

Emily Czarnik-NeimeyerEmail:
Employer: University of San Francisco, University Ministry
Assistant Director for Retreats

"I was born and raised in Wisconsin and graduated from St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI with a major in Sociology and a minor in Women's and Gender Studies. I am currently serving as the Assistant Director for Retreats in University Ministry at the University of San Francisco (USF). Prior to this role, I worked in University Ministry at USF as a Resident Minister for two years and as the Retreats Coordinator for two years, worked as a Programs Fellow at Women's Funding Network in San Francisco through Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and volunteered for a year with AmeriCorps State at a Runaway Outreach Program through the Boys & Girls Club of the Fox Valley in Wisconsin. I earned the Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) from the USF School of Education. My appreciation for this program and the professors and administrators who invest in it runs deep and wide. Specifically, I appreciate that the HESA program taught me about the history of higher education in the United States, Critical Race Theory, engaged educational pedagogy in and out of the classroom, capitalism, and assessment. I also appreciate that I had the opportunity to live, work, and study in community right on the USF campus during my years in graduate school. My affinity for USF, the School of Education, and the HESA program stem out of the Jesuit mission and focus on community, faith, and justice. I am grateful to my students, colleagues, and HESA classmates and all that they have taught me and engaged in alongside me during my time in HESA. Presently, I am experienced in and passionate about the areas of student/young adult leadership and faith development, community outreach and engagement, Critical Race Theory, campus and outdoor ministry programming, and women's, gender, and sexuality programming and spirituality. I engage in - and work to invite others into - an engaged pedagogy that is centered on experiential and student-centered learning through a lens focused on justice and collaboration."

Norman Borgonia

Norman Borgonia, Higher Education and Student Affairs MAHometown: Fontana, CA
Follow: LinkedIn

Why did you choose USF?
It was difficult enough deciding to apply to graduate school since it has been a few years since I completed my undergraduate degree. However, it was the emphasis on potential, not strictly traditional indicators of success, in the application process that demonstrated to me that the HESA faculty lived the social justice values that they preached. From that moment, I knew I needed to learn how to be a better student affairs practitioner from these amazing professors who have advocated for my success from the beginning.

What was a highlight of your program?
In addition to the amazing faculty, I absolutely love the community between both cohorts in the program. The network of support that we intentionally build provides resources and support that makes me feel confident about my ability to persist through the coursework and obtain amazing opportunities in the field.

What advice do you have for prospective students?USF's HESA program is an educational environment that truly values your authentic, genuine self. Your potential to change the lives of students comes from your personal intersectionalities of identity, struggle, and triumph — embrace it!

What is your favorite San Francisco (or Bay Area) restaurant?
Anything All You Can Eat.

Human Rights Education MA

Elena Rivera

Elena RiveraHometown: Long Beach, CA
Follow: LinkedIn

Why did you choose USF?
I chose USF specifically for the Human Rights in Education program. I am a woman of color who teaches Special Education in Fruitvale, Oakland. When choosing a graduate program I had a difficult time deciding if I wanted to focus more on Special Education, or the experience of "others" (people of color, girls/women, LGBTQI+, english language learners etc.) in education. The Human Rights in Education program allowed me to choose all of the above. USF offers courses related to all my areas of interest, and I have found inspiration that translates directly to my work. With this program, I do not have to choose between studying one part of these interconnected groups, but can study the ways in which they overlap and combine, which to me is the embodiment of intersectionality.

What was a highlight of your program?
My USF highlight has definitely been a class I just finished, Transnational Feminism. The class size was small, so I had a unique opportunity to intimately know my classmates and instructor, as well as get to know what projects they were all working on (through USF or their careers). This level of engagement with my colleagues was an enlightening and inspiring experience. The final project was my favorite assignment. I was able to do a creative project where I filmed an interview with my mother, an immigrant from the Cook Islands, about her experience as a woman of color living and raising a family in Long Beach, California. I then reflected on my understandings of feminism through her. The experience was personal, reflective, and empowering, and I appreciated the freedom to express myself through a creative outlet.

What advice do you have for prospective students?I definitely recommend linking up with other students who are interested in the same focus areas as you are, to study with, but also just to bond with outside of school (over drinks and food, preferably). It is also nice to have friends to read and edit your work! The program is challenging, especially if you are teaching full time, and my support group at USF has made the experience much more enjoyable and manageable.

What is your favorite San Francisco (or Bay Area) restaurant?
Belly for Korean Tacos (Oakland), Burma Superstar (Oakland, SF, Alameda) and Wally's for falafels (Emeryville).

International & Multicultural Education EdD

Yi Guan '14

Yi Guan Email:
Employer: California State University East Bay; College of Alameda

"I have been working as a language teacher for nearly 10 years. Prior to studying in the United States, I taught Mandarin to international students in China and gradually developed interests in language teaching. Since 2007, I have been actively working with children and adult ESL and Mandarin learners in a variety of settings in the San Francisco Bay Area: elementary after-school programs, private dual language immersion schools, community colleges, and universities.

After earning my master's degree in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL), I have been given the opportunity to pursue a more prestigious level in academia. I have received my Ed.D. degree in May 2014 from the International & Multicultural Education (IME) Department. My favorite thing about the IME program and the School of Education is the amazing group of faculty. They are the type of professors who are always there for you, especially when you are going through rough times, and they are willing to sacrifice their personal time to help you with your studies. They are the perfect role models, and working with them made me realize what qualities a good teacher should have: belief, patience, and encouragement."

Andrea McEvoy Spero '12

Andrea McEvoy SperoEmail:
Employer: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University
Director of Education

"I have always been passionate about human rights and critical pedagogy. When I began my search for a doctoral program, USF was the only school in the nation that offered a program in Human Rights Education. I met Dr. Susan Katz to discuss the program and that sealed the deal! I knew USF would be the place for me to grow and deepen my learning. In my time at USF, I was challenged and inspired to grow personally and academically not just by my professors, but also by my colleagues. My best advice for someone considering the program would be to sit in on a few classes and meet with professors. It's the people that make USF special."

Organization & Leadership MA

Kristine Lee '15

Kristine LeeEmail:
Employer: University of California, Berkeley
Associate Director, Office of Undergraduate Admissions

"I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Irvine in Sociology with a minor in Women's Studies. I was involved in leadership through high school and began finding my own leadership style. Through my involvements in various student organizations at UC Irvine, I developed a passion for student affairs. As I have grown in my career and offered opportunities for advancement, I found my passion for staff development and constantly improving my role as a supervisor and mentor. I chose USF because it was the first graduate program I found really interesting. I am glad that O&L offers a variety of courses where I can take courses around higher education and 21st century leadership. I also value USF's mission of social justice and it has been clear in all my classes and the programs at the School of Education. I am thankful for the friendships I have made in this program and having friends who I can turn to when life gets stressful. Being surrounded by active individuals who share similar interests and are open to engaging in an honest dialogue have added so much value to this program for me. I am also grateful for the amazing faculty and staff at the School of Education who are so responsive to our needs as grad students and I can clearly see the passion in their work. If you choose this program, keep an open mind and get ready to have your assumptions questioned. If you take advantage of the courses and programs offered at USF, then you will graduate with so much more than another degree."

Organizational & Leadership EdD

Demerris R. Brooks-Immel '14

Demerris Brooks-Immel, Organization & Leadership EdD AlumnaEmail:
Employer: California State University San Jose
University Ombudsperson

"I am a native of the California Bay Area where I completed an undergraduate degree in English literature at UC Berkeley; a master's degree in Education and teaching credential at Stanford University; and a second master's degree in Educational Administration at Santa Clara University. Trained as a secondary teacher, I began a career as a high school English teacher before being recruited into K-12 administration. I spent 13 years serving in various administrative capacities, from Assistant Principal to Director of Student Services, in a traditional district and in a charter-school management organization, before leaving secondary for a career in higher education. Although initially hired as a project specialist at San Jose State University, I've served as University Ombudsperson for the past several years.

I chose USF after visiting an Open House and meeting Dr. Mitchell. The size and structure of the program were appealing to me, a working professional and parent, and I was intrigued by the opportunities that existed to form strong bonds and work closely with my peers and instructors. I can confidently say that my greatest expectations were fulfilled. I had the opportunity to travel abroad, participate in experiential learning, establish close relationships, and work with dedicated and phenomenally talented professors and incredibly motivated scholars."

Marilys deLong Taylor '09

Marilys deLong Taylor, Organization & Leadership EdD AlumnaEmail:
Employer: Walden University
Contributing Faculty in the School of Management

What is your background and education?
My background was in K-12 education (teacher, school site administrator at elementary and high school levels, and district office Director of Instruction) for 35 years and also in higher education for the last 17 years. I received my Bachlor of Arts degree from John F. Kennedy University, my Master of Arts degree from St. Mary's College, and my Doctorate of Education from the University of San Francisco.

What are some favorite/notable things about your program at USF?
It changed my life. It really did. There is so much more to the field of leadership than just leading others. It's about who you are as a person and how you can serve others in your community and/or organization in creating positive social changes that inspire and motivate others.

Why did you choose USF?
I loved the reputation of the program and worked with many who had previously graduated from the University.

What advice would you give to someone entering the program?
The USF Organization & Leadership program is a wonderful opportunity to develop your own leadership skills and abilities as well as peers/faculty with whom you interact throughout your time at the University.

How are you using your degree?
I am a contributing faculty instructor for Walden University in the Master of Science in Leadership degree program. I teach adults from all over the world online and have been doing so ever since I graduated from USF.

Emerald Templeton

Emerald Templeton, Organization & Leadership EdD StudentHometown: Los Angeles, CA

Why did you choose USF?
I chose USF because of its social justice mission and values for creating just institutions. I was also drawn to the scholar-practitioner model and flexible teaching weekends.

What has been a highlight of your program or USF so far?
The relationships and the learning!

What advice do you have for prospective students?
"The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The work of life is to develop it. The meaning of life is to give your gift away." -David Viscott

What is your favorite San Francisco (or Bay Area) restaurant?
Angeline's in Berkeley is so yum!

School Counseling MA

Nicole Farley '15

Nicole Farley, School Counseling MA AlumnaPrograms: Counseling Psychology MA with the Concentration in School Counseling and Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential; Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) Certificate
Employer: Jefferson Elementary School District
School Counselor

"As an undergraduate student, I studied Criminal Justice and decided that I wanted to keep kids out of the system. I realized that many youth were lacking a positive adult figure, and I wanted to become one. I spent a few years dabbling in Early Childhood Education, and worked as a preschool teacher. I loved my job, but wanted something more. I attended a USF Open House, and the rest is history. What stuck out about USF was the inherent commitment to social justice. It was clear that being a student here would mean that I would make a difference in a huge way.

As an alumna, I have learned about my power as an individual. I always thought that I couldn't make a change, but I've found that anyone can with the right amount of support. Everyone on the School of Education has been nothing short of amazing, and I am so grateful! To new and prospective students, I advise you to stop letting fear hinder you and take a risk! I'm proud that I've accomplished a goal that I was so certain that I never would. And I am honored to say that I am now officially a school counselor!"

Marriage & Family Therapy MA

Zasharah Araujoz

Zasharah Araujo, Marriage & Family Therapy MA StudentEmail:

Why did you choose USF?
I chose to attend USF because I felt that the school mission aligned with my values and it was the best school in the Bay Area that could best prepare me to be a Marriage and Family Therapist in my multicultural and diverse community.

What has been a highlight of your program or USF so far?
The biggest highlight for me has been the support from my professors in my own personal growth as a student and a woman. I have been challenged on various levels to think critically and to approach this program and my studies feeling confident with my current abilities, so that I can continue to grow and develop.

What advice do you have for prospective students? My advice to prospective students is to do the research and to find the best program that fits their educational goals, visions and passions. I would also recommend to speak to as many people available about their thoughts and concerns regarding each program their interested in.

What is your favorite San Francisco (or Bay Area) restaurant?
My favorite San Francisco restaurant is La Taqueria on 25th and Mission. I've been going to this restaurant since I was a little girl and it always awakens my senses! It reminds of my family, my Mexican-American roots and the neighborhood my grandparents settled in the 1950's.

SS Credential/English plus MA in Educational Technology

Kim Saccio-Kent '16

Kim Saccio-KentPrograms: SS Credential/English plus MA in Educational Technology
Employer: Skyline College
Assistive Technology Specialist, Disability Resource Center

"I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1988 with a degree in English literature and a strong desire to go into education. Shortly after graduation, however, I was offered a job at a small press. Fast forward about 20 years, and I’m in my late 40s, bored to tears by my high-tech publishing job, and getting depressed. I made a career switch back to teaching and chose USF for its Single Subject English / MA in Educational Technology program.

I did my student teaching at a K-8 school and continued on as an 8th-grade Humanities teacher. I moved to Skyline College in 2016 to teach a 12th-grade College and Career Readiness Class (a part-time adjunct faculty position). At the end of one year a tenure-track position at Skyline’s Disability Resource Center opened and I was encouraged to apply. My new job takes advantage of my expertise in computer technology as well as my teaching experience. My education at USF was key to getting this position: I was able to speak to the field of special education and assistive technology thanks to my classes at USF and my MA thesis on technologies for differentiation.

In addition, while an MA is required to teach at the community college level, and a teaching credential is not required, the fact that I hold a credential was a plus. Many college instructors are experts in their fields, but they were not trained as teachers (and this shows). My education at USF helped me to become a teacher, and I will always be grateful for that."

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) MA

Koi Tungkaburana

Koi TungkaburanaHometown: Bangkok, Thailand

Why did you choose USF?
It is an absolutely fine school that commits to promote diversity and equal justice. Most importantly, as an international student myself, I have been impressed with extra care this school offers.

What was a highlight of your program?
My professors, classmates and helpful faculty staff.

What advice do you have for prospective students?An investment you will not regret.

What is your favorite San Francisco (or Bay Area) restaurant?
Nopa, San Francisco