Bruin Excellence in Civic Engagement

UCLA Alumni Affairs proudly recognizes these exceptional Bruins who are serving in civic positions and making a difference in people’s lives. These alumni visionaries, volunteers and leaders engage with community organizations, find solutions to today’s civic issues and improve the quality of life in our communities.

2023 Bruin Excellence in Civic Engagement Ceremony (Highlights)

Nicklas Akers ʼ95

Senior Assistant Attorney General
California Department of Justice
Burlingame, CA


Nicklas A. Akers is the senior assistant attorney general in charge of the consumer protection section of the California Department of Justice, which protects Californians against unlawful, unfair, and deceptive trade practices and false advertising, enforces the CCPA and other state privacy laws, and supports the Department's educational, public policy and legislative efforts. His representative matters include Corinthian Colleges, Volkswagen and Purdue Pharma, the national mortgage and opioids settlements, and the Department's residential mortgage-backed securities and social media cases, and he was involved in the successful passage of AB 1313, AB 3212, SB 478 and SB 1311. Akers also serves as a judge advocate and legal assistance attorney in the California State Guard. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Public Health, and he is admitted to the bar in California, Massachusetts and New York.

Russell Altenburg, MBA ʼ12

Founder & CEO
Reframe Labs
Charlotte, NC


Russ Altenburg, a son of farming families in South Korea and Wisconsin and the first in his family to finish college, has focused his time and energy on social impact and racial justice work over the past 18 years. This journey has included launching three nonprofits, working in developing countries, and collaborating in K-16 philanthropy. He currently runs Reframe Labs, an incubator and innovation consultancy for the education sector that has supported 26 ventures, 91% of which are led by leaders of color or women. Russ holds a B.S. in economics from Duke and an MBA from UCLA, where he was awarded the John Wooden Leadership Fellowship.

Spencer Burrows ʼ07

11th Grade Dean
Pacific Ridge School
Carlsbad, CA


Spencer Burrows serves on the board of directors of TEACH Public Schools in South Los Angeles, and on the advisory board of the San Diego Center for Economics Education. He is the 11th grade dean at Pacific Ridge School in Carlsbad, California, as well as the Equity and Civic Engagement Coordinator. Burrows is a Teach Plus and Coro Lead L.A. alumnus, and also serves as education adjunct faculty at National University and business adjunct faculty at San Diego University for Integrative Studies. Lastly, he races on a sailing team in San Diego.

Lourdes Castro Ramirez ʼ94, M.U.R.P. ʼ96

Cabinet Agency Secretary
State of California - Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency
Sacramento, CA


Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramirez of the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency leads and oversees 12 entities, including 40 boards and bureaus, collectively responsible for the preservation and expansion of safe, affordable housing, efforts to prevent and end homelessness, protect consumers, and safeguard California's civil rights laws. Secretary Castro Rami­rez currently serves on the California Strategic Growth Council, the California Housing Finance Agency Board, the Governor's Military Council, and co-chairs the California Interagency Council on Homelessness. She has held prominent positions including her appointment by former President Barack Obama to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Public and Indian Housing; president and CEO of the San Antonio Housing Authority; director at the L.A. City Housing Authority. On Nov. 6, she will join Mayor Karen Bass' administration as chief of Housing and Homelessness for the City of Los Angeles.

Cristina de Jesus ʼ93, M.Ed. ʼ95, Ed.D. ʼ09

President & CEO
Green Dot Public Schools California
Lomita, CA
Headshot by Photographer Bradford Rogne 2023


Cristina de Jesus is the president and CEO of Green Dot Public Schools California, a network of 18 schools serving over 10,000 students across Los Angeles. She has been with the organization since 2002 and has helped build the foundation of Green Dot's success with a role in nearly every initiative to boost student achievement across the network. She has also been very active in advocacy efforts for charter schools in Los Angeles and across the state. She currently serves as the board chair for the California Charter Schools Association.

Vartan Djihanian ʼ02, MBA ʼ15

Director of Global Government Relations
Lam Research Corporation
Glendale, CA


Vartan Djihanian has a three-decade-long career in government relations, spanning federal, state and local levels. He is currently the director of global government affairs at Lam Research Corporation, where he leads the company's engagements with state governments. Prior to this role, Djihanian served as the director of the Western region in the congressional and public affairs division at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, contributing to pro-business legislative and political initiatives in five western states. He previously held senior roles on Capitol Hill for various members of Congress and as a campaign manager for U.S. Senate and U.S. House campaigns around the country.

Norma E. Fernandez ʼ04, M.U.R.P. ʼ06

Pasadena, CA


Norma Fernandez has extensive experience in the nonprofit and public sectors designing and managing social impact initiatives, fostering cross-sector partnerships, and leading community engagement initiatives. Her efforts have helped revitalize neighborhoods and increase access to essential resources for small businesses and families in Los Angeles. Norma currently leads EveryoneOn, a nonprofit with national reach and local impact, helping underserved communities connect to the power of the internet. Her volunteer work includes the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project, a statewide organization focused on youth leadership development. She served as the chair of Pasadena Commission on the Status of Women and most recently as a referee on her daughter's soccer team with AYSO. Fernandez is passionate about social justice and helping all communities thrive. She is a proud product of public educational institutions, including Santa Monica College and UCLA.

Russell Fong ʼ87

Chief Deputy Director - Undersecretary
California Governor's Office of Planning and Research
Sacramento, CA


Russell Fong has served Californians for the past 24 years as a member of various executive teams overseeing their retirement pensions, health care, risk and security of their personal data, accurate and timely payments, statewide program's effectiveness and performance, climate control, racial equity, youth empowerment, strategic land use, environmental controls, health and safety, homelessness and housing affordability, and overall well-being. Additionally, Fong has served as a volunteer for 28 years overseeing numerous youth sports programs throughout California impacting around 1,000 youths annually from the ages of preschool to high school.

PJ Gagajena ʼ99

Assistant City Manager
City of Moorpark
Moorpark, CA


PJ Gagajena is the assistant city manager for the City of Moorpark, California, and has spent more than 20 years engaging with residents, businesses, nonprofits and students through public service and the local government profession, including working for the cities of Los Angeles, New York, Indio and Torrance. Gagajena received master's degrees in public policy and urban planning from Harvard University, and a bachelor's degree in political science from UCLA. He currently serves as an adjunct professor and advisory council member at California Lutheran University's Master of Public Policy and Administration Program where he has taught courses on civic engagement, emergency management and local economic development. He serves on the international committee of the International City/County Management Association and is a board of director for the California Association of Local Economic Development and International Network of Asian Public Administrators. In 2021, Gagajena received the Stewardship Award from the Municipal Management Association of Southern California for his efforts to advance diversity and support the next generation of local government leaders.

Oceana R. Gilliam, M.P.P. ʼ19

Chief of Staff, Tennessee State Representative Justin J. Pearson District 86 | Senior Project Manager, Center for Justice Innovation
Los Angeles, CA | Memphis, TN


Oceana R. Gilliam holds roles in both civic engagement and the nonprofit sector. She is the chief of staff for the Tennessee State Representative Justin J. Pearson campaign and led the team to victory. In Tennessee, her policy focuses are on eradicating gun violence, poverty alleviation and enhancing community safety. As the senior project manger for the Center for Justice Innovation, Gilliam provides technical assistance to West Coast jurisdictions to help system actors develop and launch alternatives to incarceration programs.

Dr. Brandon Golob, J.D. ʼ13

Associate Dean & Associate Professor
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA


Dr. Brandon Golob is associate dean for the Campuswide Honors Collegium and an associate professor of Teaching in Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. In these capacities, he teaches over 1,000 students every year within his school and oversees an interdisciplinary honors community of approximately 1,200 students from across campus. His teaching, mentorship and administrative work focuses on bridging performance gaps for traditionally underserved groups, specifically first-generation college students, such as himself.

Valerie Gomez ʼ13

Ph.D. Candidate
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA
Founder, Latina Grad Guide


Over the span of a decade, Valerie Gomez has cultivated an impressive track record of civic engagement, leaving her mark in both her professional and academic careers. In her professional capacity, she has made substantial contributions to the education and empowerment of students from diverse backgrounds. As an emerging scholar, she dedicates her studies to understanding the experiences of Latina/o/x college students, shining a spotlight on the challenges they encounter and advocating for inclusive educational practices. Moreover, as the visionary founder of Latina Grad Guide, she has established a thriving online community of support for Latina women in higher education and initiated a scholarship program to bolster the achievements of Latina graduate students. Gomez aims to inspire and uplift the next generation of Latina leaders, educators, researchers and change-makers.

Richard O. Granados ʼ80

Independent Insurance Broker
First Way Insurance, Inc.
Covina, CA


Richard O. Granados is a distinguished leader with nearly four decades of dedicated service and community involvement. With a remarkable tenure of almost 40 years within the CalNevHa District of Kiwanis International, he has played diverse roles from a dedicated member to club and district officer. Granados' commitment extends beyond Kiwanis. He has also served on the board of Inland Empire United Way, contributing to the betterment of the region's communities. An advocate for the Bruin Caucus and a member of the UCLA Latino Alumni Association, he remains deeply connected to his alma mater, supporting educational and cultural initiatives. In addition to his community involvement, Granados is an advocate for insurance industry community outreach. His efforts emphasize the importance of financial preparedness and insurance knowledge for individuals and families.

Antonia Hernández ʼ70, J.D. ʼ74

President & CEO
California Community Foundation
Pasadena, CA


Nationally regarded for her expertise in immigration, civil rights and philanthropy, Antonia Hernández has spent more than four decades advocating for social justice and improving the lives of underserved communities in Los Angeles County and beyond.

Sulma Hernández ʼ06

Director of Policy & Partnerships
South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone
Los Angeles, CA


Sulma E. Hernández is a proud daughter of hard-working immigrant parents who instilled in her a strong work ethic and moral compass. She began her career in public service over a decade ago while working for former Los Angeles City Councilmember (now CA-29 U.S. Representative) Tony Cárdenas and has since worked for a number of other governmental agencies including the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (now ambassador of the U.S. to the Republic of India), and 2020 CA Citizens Redistricting Commission. The central theme of her career has been to ensure impoverished communities have equitable access to government, its resources, and necessary human services to thrive in life. She currently serves as the director of Policy and Partnerships at the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z), where she guides public policy and heads external affairs for the federally designated South Los Angeles Promise Zone.

Carrie Holmes ʼ10, J.D. ʼ13

Executive Director
Center for Access to QDROs
San Diego, CA


Carrie Holmes is the executive director of the Center for Access to QDROs, where she works to ensure that low income litigants actually receive the retirement benefits to which they are entitled - safeguarding an income that will allow them to live their older years with dignity. Previously, she was pro bono manager and supervising attorney at San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program and the pro bono director at the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law. She is a double Bruin, having earned both her undergraduate and law degrees at UCLA.

Jamil Jaffer ʼ98

Founder & Executive Director
National Security Institute - George Mason University Law School
Arlington, VA


Jamil Jaffer is a national security policy entrepreneur and innovator, having served in senior national security roles in the Bush Administration and on Capitol Hill, as well as in academia and the private sector. He currently serves as founder and executive director of the National Security Institute at GMU Law School, where he has built an academic center and policy think tank focused on American leadership and engagement globally. Jaffer is also a venture partner at Paladin Capital, a dual-use, national security-focused venture capital firm where he invests in companies across the range of the firm’s themes and theses. Prior to these positions, Jaffer served in the Bush White House and on the leadership team of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, as well as on the leadership team of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the senior staff of the House Intelligence Committee. He also previously served as a senior executive at national security-focused cyber startup and currently serves on the boards of various public and private organizations, including many in the national security domain.

Clayton Kazan ʼ96, M.D.

Medical Director
Los Angeles County Fire Department
Rolling Hills Estates, CA


Since joining UCLA Emergency Medical Services (EMS) as an undergraduate, Clayton Kazan has held a wide variety of different positions in EMS including medical directorships of the UCLA Paramedic Program and the County's Paramedic Training Institute, and served and chaired the Los Angeles County EMS Commission. In 2015, Kazan was named the first full-time medical director of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. In that role, he oversees the medical care provided by the Department's skilled cadre of dispatchers, EMTs, paramedics and lifeguards. In that capacity, he is responsible for directing the EMS care of more than 4 million Los Angeles County residents and 1,000 medical calls each day.

Grace Kim ʼ03

Downey, CA


Grace Kim's career reflects her commitment to her personal theory of change - mobilizing the power of everyday people to create a more just society where everyone has a chance to thrive. This commitment is present in her service locally, nationally and globally. Today, she serves on the global board of Eko, a consumer advocacy organization representing 21 million members around the world; as the chair of the Racial Equity Committee for LeadersUp, a national nonprofit that helps young POC access career pathways; board director of Inclusive Action for the City; and as part of the executive advisory trio of 100Kin10, a national network of more than 300 organizations committed to giving kids a great STEM education. She is the former executive director and board co-chair of Amplifier, a nonprofit design lab that harnesses the power of art and media for civic engagement. She is the co-founder of White Stork, an evacuation and medical supply operation founded in Ukraine following the 2022 Russian invasion.

Rayne Laborde Ruiz, M.Arch. ʼ21, M.U.R.P. ʼ21

Associate | Adjunct Lecturer
Koning Eizenberg Architecture | USC School of Architecture
Santa Monica, CA


Rayne Laborde Ruiz is an architectural designer, urban planner and interdisciplinary researcher whose projects prioritize public engagement while raising questions of agency and spatial justice. In experiences ranging from movement research with the After Echo Park Lake Research Collective, enacting state legislative change for housing on public land with cityLAB-UCLA and nonprofit governance as a board member of Hollywood Community Housing Corporation, her efforts to bring dignified, safe and high-quality housing to Angelenos and Californians are predicated by a belief that housing is the fundamental building block of everyday life.

Emily Loper ʼ08

Vice President of Public Policy
Bay Area Council
San Francisco, CA


Emily Lubin Loper is a vice president of Public Policy at the Bay Area Council, a policy organization that has been shaping the future of the San Francisco Bay Area for over 75 years. She originally joined the Bay Area Council in 2014, and now leads its transportation policy portfolio. Prior to joining the Bay Area Council, she led Bay Planning Coalition's transportation, environmental and land use policy work, and has experience working in federal and local legislative offices for former Senator Dianne Feinstein and former Supervisor David Chiu in San Francisco City Hall. Loper is proud to have received her B.A. in political science and global studies from UCLA, and later received a Master of Public Administration degree from the USC Price School of Public Policy, where she was a Dean's Merit Scholar and never stopped rooting for the Bruins.

Dr. Kimberly D. Lucas ʼ04

Professor of the Practice in Public Policy and Economic Justice
Northeastern University
Boston, MA


Kimberly Lucas is an academic-practitioner who is committed to community-driven civic research, innovation in city-university collaborations and leveraging collective expertise for the social good. They previously served as interim executive director at Metrolab Network and director of civic research for the City of Boston. Lucas' research focuses on early childhood policy and the childcare market, and their practical experience includes over a decade of innovation in community-engaged research.

Teresa Magula ʼ02, M.P.P. ʼ04

Law Enforcement Accountability Consultant
2Flames Consulting
La Crescenta, CA


In her work in civilian oversight of law enforcement, Teresa Magula helps bridge the gap between law enforcement agencies and the communities that they serve. She works collaboratively with police departments to evaluate policies and training, review uses of force and internal affairs systems, and provide evidence-based reporting to communities. Magula consults for departments of all sizes, ranging from LAPD to the Eureka Police Department, and serves as a subject-matter expert on Department of Justice investigations. Fair, effective and transparent policing is possible; holding departments accountable to this expectation is her passion.

Roxane Marquez Shalygin ʼ96

Communications Specialist and Speechwriter
SEIU Local 721
Los Angeles, CA


After graduating from UCLA as editor in chief of the Daily Bruin in 1996, Roxane Marquez worked at the assignment desk of Channel 7 Eyewitness News and then as a news writer at the L.A. Weekly, as well as UPN News 13, before embarking on a nearly 14-year career with the legendary Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina as her communications director. She currently works as a communications specialist and speechwriter at SEIU Local 721, a formidable labor union representing approximately 96,000 mostly public sector workers throughout Southern California.

Jesse Melgar ʼ09

Senior Advisor, Strategy & Public Affairs
UC Possibility Lab
Palm Springs, CA


Jesse Melgar is the senior advisor for strategy & public affairs at the University of California Possibility Lab which partners with government and community to design, pilot and scale data-driven solutions for the public good. Prior to this role he worked in state government for nearly a decade, serving as communications director and press secretary for California Governor Gavin Newsom during the height of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. He previously led communications for United States Senator Alex Padilla during his first term as California Secretary of State, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara during his tenure as a state senator, the California Latino Legislative Caucus, and Equality California. Melgar is the founder and chair of the Cultivating Inland Empire Latino Opportunity Fund (CIELO Fund) at the Inland Empire Community Foundation, which has raised $1 million for Latino organizations in the Inland Empire. He is also the co-founder of the Inland Empire LGBTQ Resource Center and $1 million empowerment fund. He received his bachelor's in political science from UCLA and Master in Public Policy from UC Riverside.

Veronica Melvin, M.P.P. ʼ01

President & CEO
LA Promise Fund
Burbank, CA


Veronica Melvin has served as a nonprofit and education leader for more than 20 years. She has worked at policy and implementation levels to ensure historically underrepresented Black and Latinx students have access to outstanding education and enrichment opportunities that propel them to success in college, career and life.

Lauren Miller ʼ05

Deputy Director of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C.


Lauren Miller serves as the deputy director of public affairs at the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the United States, representing more than 12 million active and retired members. For nearly a decade, she served as a senior advisor and digital director for U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), building her digital program from scratch and helping her become one of the strongest voices in politics for working people. After graduating from UCLA in 2005, she was a senior strategist and director of online communications at Blue State Digital, the groundbreaking company, where she ran digital advocacy, fundraising, outreach and social media programs for more than 100 political, advocacy and nonprofit organizations.

Aaron Ordower, M.U.R.P. ʼ15

Environment Deputy
L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath
Los Angeles, CA


Aaron Ordower is Environment Deputy for Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath and is responsible for policy initiatives and projects that include climate change, energy, environmental justice and water. Throughout his career, he has worked on environmental sustainability, urban infrastructure and economic development at organizations including the Los Angeles City Council President's Office, New York City Mayor's Office, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the World Bank. Ordower has worked and volunteered on numerous political campaigns, serves on the steering committee of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles' New Leaders Program, and in 2022, created Out in LA Government, a professional affinity group for LGBTQ+ government employees.

Michelle Pollak ʼ90

The Lollipop Tree, LLC/La Petite Maison
Charleston, SC


Michelle Pollak, founder of The Lollipop Tree, Inc., specializes in luxury interiors, with an emphasis on environmental stewardship and health. She also serves on the board of Fields to Families, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization aiming to give all people access to fresh fruits and vegetables, where she has been a volunteer for 17 years. Pollak goes to farms and picks produce for food pantries and conducts outreach to centers to provide fresh produce for people who would be unable to afford it otherwise. She also volunteers regularly with two additional organizations that focus on beach cleanups and beautification of communities.

Debra Postil ʼ98

Appellate Defenders, Inc.
San Diego, CA


Debra Postil has been actively engaged in civic leadership roles for nearly two decades, from serving as a prosecutor to participating on the panel of Appellate Defenders, Inc., to serving on nonprofit boards focused on youth empowerment and education access, including Women Wonder Writers, Gateway College & Career Academy and California Association of Youth Courts. She has also created a cultural arts curriculum implemented in correctional facilities, coached high school mock trial teams, and held director roles managing fundraising and philanthropy for organizations like Women Wonder Writers and TEDx San Diego. Postil is dedicated to social justice and giving back to her community.

Jason Pu, J.D. ʼ99

Regional Administrator, Region IX (AZ, CA, HI, NV and Outer Pacific Islands)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
San Gabriel, CA


Jason Pu serves as regional administrator for HUD Region IX, covering the states of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and the Outer Pacific Islands of American Samoa, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. President Biden appointed Pu to the position at the end of 2021, and he took office at the beginning of 2022. Prior to joining HUD, Pu was an elected mayor and councilmember for the City of San Gabriel in Los Angeles County and a business attorney with experience in real estate, finance, corporate and venture capital. His goal is to align all levels of government, and the public and private sectors, to advance HUD's mission and address the homelessness, housing affordability and economic equity crises throughout the region. Pu is a graduate of Stanford University and the UCLA School of Law.

Yue Rong, Ph.D. ʼ95

Environmental Program Manager
California Environmental Protection Agency, Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board
Torrance, CA


Dr. Yue Rong (aka, YR) is the environmental program manager at Los Angeles Water Board, working more than 34 years with the Agency in dealing with water quality and groundwater pollution cleanup in the Los Angeles region. He also served on the Board of Groundwater Resources Association of California (GRA) for the groundwater community, and as the president of the Southern California Chinese American Environmental Protection Association (SCCAEPA), serving the local minority community. Dr. Rong earned his Ph.D. in environmental health sciences from UCLA.

Brian Rosenbaum ʼ07

Director of Development & Communications
Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House
Los Angeles, CA


Brian Rosenbaum, M.S.W. is a Southern California native with 18 years of U.S. and international nonprofit experience. Rosenbaum’s passion for uplifting and advancing the nonprofit sector include his past leadership of Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Los Angeles and his current co-leadership of the LA Fundraisers Network, a grassroots support and resource group for fundraising professionals. He has provided training for dozens of organizations across the country with a focus on how to create equity-driven volunteer experiences and strategic volunteering partnerships with corporate, faith and community groups. Rosenbaum is also active in the UCLA Alumni Mentor Program; two of his student mentees are now his peers in the nonprofit sector. He earned his B.A. in psychology and Spanish at UCLA and his Master of Social Work at Columbia University.

Geoffrey Ross ʼ02

Director of Government Services
West Sacramento, CA


Geoffrey Ross has more than 30 years of civic engagement, serving in federal, state and local government, the United States Marine Corps, and as a consultant. For the past two decades, Geoffrey has overseen a wide spectrum of community development, housing, and homeless services. Ross has led some of California's highest priority and visible housing programs to include the State's Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery investments in response to the 2017, 2018 and 2020 wildfires; the creation and administration of Homekey; and the statewide COVID-19 Rent Relief. He currently works nationally helping states and local governments implement and administer some of their most challenging programs.

Natalie Samarjian ʼ06, J.D. ʼ12

President & CEO
Coro Southern California
Los Angeles, CA


Natalie Samarjian is president and CEO of Coro Southern California. Coro's mission is to strengthen the democratic process by preparing emerging leaders for effective and ethical leadership in public affairs. Under Natalie's leadership, Coro has developed a new strategic plan, expanded programs, partnerships and revenue, and cultivated a growing community of Coro alumni who are transforming communities across the country. She comes to Coro Southern California from the California Women's Law Center (CWLC), where she worked to address the comprehensive and unique legal needs of women and girls through impact litigation, public policy advocacy and legal education. Prior to CWLC, Samarjian was staff attorney and Dickran Tevrizian Fellow at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA), where she provided individual representation to victims of domestic violence, supported impact litigation, including a successful appeal in Montagner v. Montagner, engaged in public policy advocacy, and conducted extensive community outreach and legal education. Before joining NLSLA, she was a Labor and Employment litigator at Rutan & Tucker, LLP. Prior to embarking on her legal career, Samarjian was a Human Capital Consultant in Deloitte & Touche LLP's Public Sector practice where she led the firm's National Public Sector Human Capital Community of Practice Initiative. She earned her Juris dDoctorate from UCLA School of Law, her Master of Science at the Heinz School of Public Policy & Management at Carnegie Mellon University, and her Bachelor of Arts at UCLA. She is an alumna of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and Emerge California and was a 2017 recipient of the Empowerment Congress' Emerging Civic Leaders 40 Under 40 award. Samarjian currently serves on the Los Angeles City Commission for Human Rights and the Los Angeles County Commission on the Economy & Efficiency Commission. She also serves on the Boards of Public Counsel, Heidi Duckler Dance, the UCLA Alumni Association and as board chair for Emerge California.

Laura Schiller ʼ91

Senior Advisor
Freedman Consulting
Washington, D.C.


Throughout her career, Laura Schiller has served as a top advisor to some of our nation's leading government officials, most recently as chief of staff to Secretary Pete Buttigieg at the U.S. Department of Transportation. She also served for more than a decade as chief of staff to U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer; as staff director of the U.S. Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee; as interim chief of staff to U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar; as special assistant to the president and senior speechwriter to First Lady Hillary Clinton; and as director of speechwriting for U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Donna Shalala. She has also held key positions in national campaigns and presidential transitions, including leading the confirmation team for the HHS Secretary during the Biden-Harris transition; serving as the director of congressional affairs for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign; and serving as the political director and field director on Barbara Boxer's historic first Senate campaign. In addition, Schiller has been a consultant to nonprofits, foundations and elected officials. From 2011-2017, she co-created and co-owned Unum, a popular neighborhood restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Andy Shrader, M.F.A. ʼ08, Cert. ʼ11

Strategic Consultant for Climate, Clean Energy, Environmental and Water Policy
2100 Iff Strategies Consultancy
Petaluma, CA


Andy Shrader spent nearly two decades working in the entertainment industry and quit screenwriting to fight climate change with Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz. He is best known for his efforts to move L.A. beyond coal and natural gas power on a path to 100% renewable energy; ban neighborhood oil drilling; launch the City’s building decarbonization and zero waste efforts, including the plastic bag and Styrofoam bans; create the Biodiversity Index, healthy soils, and wildlife corridor conservation initiatives; institutionalize the United Nations’ award-winning Good Food Purchasing Policy; and establish the world’s first justice-centered Climate Emergency Mobilization Office. He also advised the councilmember during his two years on the Metropolitan Water District Board and was instrumental during the height of the drought in funding $350 million for turf removal, creating “watershed approach” turf removal rebate guidelines and setting in motion the Hyperion 2035 recycled water system concept. Now, through his “2100 Iff Strategies” consultancy, Shrader works to implement healthy soils, clean energy, zero waste and biodiversity conservation projects, aiming to seed the pathways of his two children toward a safe, healthy, verdant and equitable future.

Ryan Smith ʼ04, Ed.D. ʼ22

Chief Strategy Officer
Community Coalition
Los Angeles, CA


Dr. Ryan J. Smith is the chief strategy officer for Community Coalition. Founded by Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass 30 years ago, Community Coalition (CoCo) has been a part of Los Angeles' political and movement landscape for three decades. CoCo was founded intentionally as an African American and Latino organization and has been at the forefront of efforts locally at the school board, city, county, state and federal levels to advance racial and economic justice. In this role, Dr. Smith supports the policy, advocacy, youth organizing and power-building efforts of Community Coalition.

Roslyn Trezevant Haley, Ed.D. ʼ97

Acting Dean of Enrollment Services
Goldenwest College
Huntington Beach, CA


For Dr. Roslyn Trezevant Haley, promoting and cultivating an environment of success in underserved communities is at the heart of her civic engagement activities. Dr. Haley counsels, mentors, educates and advocates for others in the development of skills that provide resources and information to achieve a better life through education and career pathways. Organizations and programs that she supports through volunteerism include: U.S. Congressional Award Program, UTLA African American Committee, Delta Kappa Gamma Society for Women Educators, the USAfrica Institute, March for Jesus USA, UCLA Career Ready Bootcamp, Black Community Task Force L.A., Leadership Institute for Tomorrow (LIFT) and Midnight Mission. Dr. Haley meets people where they are and facilitates free workshops, one-on-one counseling services and feeds the homeless in shelters and on the streets of Los Angeles.

Regina Wallace-Jones, M.P.P. ʼ99

CEO & President
East Palo Alto, CA


Regina Wallace-Jones has had a lively and engaging career serving both as a technology professional and a public servant. Upon graduation and while parenting young children, she found fulfillment in public service, various committees/commissions, and as board member to organizations that prioritized offering support to kids and families that needed a little extra support. Wallace-Jones later ran for city council and had the good fortune to be of service to the East Palo Alto community during COVID, while she also led product and technology for a wellness company that was deeply affected by COVID. Wallace-Jones now gets to bring all of these experiences together as the CEO of ActBlue. Life has never been easy for her, but she has received many gifts and blessings along the way. She is committed to offering that to others.

Boxed_WhiteType_Alumni cog user CLOSE MENU