Pioneer Stories

Read about some of our most noteworthy alumni and be inspired to recommend a Pioneer alumni for a Pioneer Story.
Janelle Minter

Thriving in the Medical Field

Janelle Minter

BS '09, Biological Science

Janelle Minter is a Castro Valley native and a physician for Kaiser Permanente and was recently selected as one of the 344 outstanding physicians in the Greater Sacramento Area. Minter spends her time navigating between two departments: palliative medicine and hospital medicine. She has been a physician for a little over a year at Kaiser, and while it is a challenging job that requires long days, it is incredibly satisfying and fulfilling for her. "I feel I am making a difference in the lives of my patients, and I feel that this is the only job for me," said Minter.

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Richard Leo Enos

Retiring as a Golden Grad

Richard Leo Enos

BA ‘69, Speech & Drama

Meet Richard Leo Enos who recently retired from Texas Christian University as a Lillian Radford Chair of Rhetoric and Composition. 

He will miss the teaching, but teaching takes enormous energy, time, and commitment. That said, he looks forward to staying active, meeting students informally, and continuing to work with them on research projects. He still has ongoing research projects and plans to continue to make research trips to Italy, Greece, and Turkey.

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Julian Medina

From Intern to Engineer

Julian Medina

BS ‘16, Computer Science

Meet Julian Medina, a Junior Engineer for BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit. 

As an Engineer in Train Control Engineering at BART, Medina is required to shadow maintenance during graveyard shifts (when the majority of work at BART gets completed) so he can learn more about the system. The tasks on graveyard shifts can vary greatly. You might be working on the track inspecting equipment, up in the cab of a train working with a Train Operator to test new software, or working in an equipment room. Medina's current assignment includes expanding BART to Milpitas and Berryessa/North San José.

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Allen Kwan

Taking the Helm

Allen Kwan

BA ‘04, Mass Communication

Meet Allen Kwan the Senior Vice President, Head of West Region Sales for Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. Kwan is the new Cal State East Bay Alumni Association Board President.

Kwan has been described as a “natural leader” by his colleagues, and his prowess for relationship-building and passion for inclusion is why he is a founding member of two networking groups: the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation and the San Francisco Chapter of Emerging Insurance Professionals.

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Asehli Howe

Educator & Entrepreneur

Asehli Howe

BA '16, International Studies and Spanish

Meet Asehli Howe (BA ‘16, International Studies and Spanish), a Cal State East Bay alumna, who co-founded Survivor Alliance, a non-profit organization that works with survivors of sexual violence.

Asehli is a social justice educator and entrepreneur on a mission to create supportive communities that end cycles of trauma. With Survivor Alliance, Asehli organizes multiple events each month for survivors of sexual assault and allies to learn, connect, and heal. She also provides workshops regarding how to support survivors of sexual violence.

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Marissa Marshall

Reaching New Heights

Marissa Marshall

BA ‘19, Strategic Communications

Meet Marissa Marshall, a newly minted Cal State East Bay alumna, who will begin her career with the National Basketball Association (NBA) in New York City.

Her passions are rooted in the business realm of the sports world, but more importantly women in sports. She plans to change the narrative for female athletes and heighten the likes of representation, leading to more than just equality—but equity.

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 Jericho Apo

The Story of Jericho

Jericho Apo

BA ‘17, Sociology

Meet Jericho Apo, a Cal State East Bay alumnus, who works for Story of Stuff as a Digital Strategist and was a featured panelist for the FB Live event: Land Your First Job.

Story of Stuff is a nonprofit based in Berkeley, CA where they produce videos and launch campaigns around environmental and social issues.

Jericho is focused on writing scripts, directing shoots and producing videos. Then he takes the videos they make and gets it out into the world through social media and strategic partners. He analyzes their content's performance and uses that data to test experiments and adapt their strategy.

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Myra Nawabi

The Alchemy of Resilience

Myra Nawabi

BA ‘02 & MS '04, Liberal Studies and Educational Leadership

Meet Myra Nawabi, a Cal State East Bay alumna, who works for Lockheed Martin Space as a Senior Project Engineer and was a featured speaker for EBx–a TED-style event for the East Bay Community.

By day, Myra is a Senior Project Engineer, literally working with rocket scientists to develop next-generation space equipment. In a former life, she was an educator and she still lives and breathes the belief that education has the power to change the world.

In her spare time, Myra consults with mobile app start-ups, volunteers to teach women and girls how to get the most from technology. As if this were not enough, Myra is of an ancient Afghan royal lineage (really!) She
and her family lived through the horrors of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan finally escaping and finding asylum in the United States in 1987.

Myra has been recognized as Business Leader of the Year by Women in IT Awards 2018, Silicon Valley Business Journal's Women of Influence 2016, and The Forty Women To Watch Over 40 in 2016.

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Shanthi Gonzales

Transforming Politics

Shanthi Gonzales

BA ‘01, Political Science

Meet Shanthi Gonzales, a Cal State East Bay alumna, who works for Oakland Unified School District and was a featured speaker for Women on the Rise: Pioneers Transforming Politics.

Shanthi served as a student journalist and then editor of The Pioneer which greatly improved her writing and communication skills and has been a major strength in her career. It also taught her more about working as part of a team. Through her work with The Pioneer, she got her first job, which started as an internship with Alameda County. And finally, her first elected office was as part of the Associated Student Body at CSUEB, launching her career as an elected official.

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Martin Hoang

Sparking Creativity

Martin Hoang

BFA '16, Art

Meet Martin Hoang (BFA '16, Art), a Cal State East Bay young alumnus, who is a content designer for Adobe Spark. Alongside his team, Martin creates roughly 100 new templates every week for the Adobe Spark Post App. Some may wonder how Martin managed to land a coveted job at Adobe. Simple– networking.
Martin was a finalist for the Adobe Design Achievement Awards (ADAA) and was given the opportunity to attend Adobe Max for the award ceremony. While there, he was able to meet the Adobe staff that ran the competition. One of them would turn out to be Martin's future boss, who hired him 2 weeks after he graduated at Adobe because he brought a copy of “Revival” magazine (Student-run publication that can be seen at the University Gallery), and had a Behance portfolio set up to show them his work. As if being a content designer for Adobe Spark isn't enough, Martin still manages to find time to create pins to illustrate his creativity and hone his practice. Check out his creation in the photo above–he is sporting his pin on his blazer.
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Reina Robinson

Cultivator for Urban Excellence

Reina Robinson

BFA '16, Ethnic Studies & MA '19, Communication

Meet Reina Robinson, a Youth Development Services Specialist for the Contra Costa County Office of Education. While she was studying for her masters at Cal State East Bay, she founded the Center For Urban Excellence, a nonprofit organization that supports youth affected by incarceration and violence. "The students that I serve feel like family," said Robinson. " I’m from and have lived in many underprivileged communities where little to no economic or social opportunities are available. Education has afforded me new experiences and provided many opportunities to connect with people I thought I would only read about."
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Terri Mead

Terri Mead

BS '92 & MBA '97, Business Administration

Meet Terri Mead (BS '92 & MBA '97, Business Administration), a Cal State East Bay alumna advocating for equal voices and representation especially for female entrepreneurs. Mead is a consultant, podcaster, blogger, startup adviser, investor, wife, and mom. It's safe to say she doesn't get much sleep. Mead is passionate about advocating for female founders and looking for ways to get more investors to shift their funding.

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Mrs. Nettie Chase Backstrom

A Truly Phenomenal Centennial Alumna 

Mrs. Nettie Chase Backstrom

MS '76, Counseling

Meet Mrs. Backstrom, who devoted thirty of her years to the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), a passion she shared with her daughter and fellow Pioneer alumna, who also retired from OUSD. 

Through all that she has accomplished in her lifetime, Mrs. Backstrom’s prime, significant and highly crown jewel is being a lifetime, loving, caring and devoted member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. for eighty years.

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Marc Salcedo

Our Frontline Healthcare Heroes

Marc Salcedo

BA '14, Nursing

Meet Marc Salcedo BSN, RN, CCRN (BS '14, Nursing), who works for Kaiser Permanente in the Intensive Care Unit. As a nurse in the frontlines, he is taking care of patients that have or could have COVID-19. The hardest thing about it is first getting over the fear of possibly contracting the disease or spreading it to family and friends. Though Marc likes to keep things positive, "Working in the ICU can be emotionally taxing, but also extremely rewarding. You are the healing hand when patients are usually at their worst. While it’s tough all around for everyone, I have felt the love and support of the community. All of this support really gives us a boost in our morale, and we are all forever grateful for the support," said Marc.

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Jordan Leopold

Agent of Change

Jordan Leopold

BA '17, Economics

Meet Jordan Leopold ('17), a Hayward native, who has been active in the Black Lives Matter movement and most recently kicked off a rally in Hayward as its first speaker. Leopold, a changemaker in the tech space, was intrigued by the possibility of having a social impact through technology and innovation and wanted to be part of a tech-based organization that helped advance humanity in some way, shape, or form. Leopold encourages alumni to get involved to produce effective change. "Speak with those around you. Challenge racism. Use your voice. Use your network. Use your resources," said Leopold.

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Marcus Creel

Designing his Life

Marcus Creel

BA '17, Art

Meet Marcus Creel ('17). When Marcus stepped onto Cal State East Bay, he knew he wanted to be a designer. During his first visit to the TV Studio, he met the Executive Director for Oakland Digital, fellow alumnus, Shaun Tai ('02). By being proactive, Creel soon established an unofficial mentorship with him. Creel credits his mentors for expanding his skill set and network. Creel is further advancing his career at his newly minted role as Graphic Design Specialist for Peralta Community College District. To move ahead in the industry, Creel has these words of advice–"Be true to yourself and be proactive."



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Roxana De La O Cortez

Educating During a Pandemic

Roxana De La O Cortez

BA '16, Sociology

Meet Roxana De La O Cortez ('16). School is back in session, albeit a much different experience due to the ongoing pandemic. Roxana, an Oakland Unified School District educator, had to quickly pivot to learn how to educate and make her students feel welcome through a computer screen. Virtual instruction is no easy feat for her students. "This pandemic has really shed even more light on the opportunity gap, the inequities that work within this system, the lack of resources in schools and so much more," said Roxana.

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Nora Zamora

Rooted in Heritage with a Social Justice Lens

Nora Zamora

MS '03, Education

Meet Nora Zamora ('03), the Interim Executive Director of Social and Emotional Learning department for the Alameda County Office of Education. Zamora credits Cal State East Bay for grounding her career in social justice with their inspiring and provocative courses. An assignment from CSUEB Professor Dr. Olivia Gallardo made her discover her inner power as a Mexican-American woman.

Zamora uses her social justice lens to be an advocate to improve access, diversity, and equity for all students and families. "I am treating this pandemic as a “twindemic” in which we must address the public health issue as well as the social injustice for a better future," said Nora.

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Nia Samady

Trailblazing her Path

Nia Samady

BS '04, Computer Science

Meet Nia Samady ('04), who is the Vice President of Partner Success at Salesforce and is responsible for enabling and supporting architects to build technical solutions. In her role, she can combine her business acumen and technical background to help customers with their digital transformation needs. Samady is also a CSUEB Alumni Association Board Member and joined the board to pay it forward. Learn more about her career journey at Women on the Rise: Lightning Talks.

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