The Penn GSE Magazine

Fall 2021 Alumni Notes

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Myrna Agris, CW’63, GED’73, GRD’79, associate vice president at Morgan Stanley, is helping her clients’ young children and grandchildren learn about financial planning and investing.

Barbara Bry, CW’71, GED’71, left the San Diego City Council and returned to the tech world. She writes a business column for the San Diego Union-Tribune and enjoys spending time with her seven grandchildren.

John Claus, C’74, GED’74, is emeritus professor in education at Ithaca College. He and his wife, Judy Hyman, CW’73, recently created film scores for Jack London’s Martin Eden and On the Divide, a documentary that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Paul Harrison, C’77, GED’78, retired from Middlesex School in Concord, MA, after forty-four years as a teacher, coach, dean, department head, and development officer. He appreciates the practical instruction he received from extraordinary faculty at Penn GSE.

Penn Affiliations

At Penn, all alumni have an affilia­tion, or series of letters and numbers, following their name to indicate their degree, school, and year of graduation. A master’s degree from GSE is represented as GED and an education doctorate as GRD. A philosophy doctorate from any school at Penn is represented as GR. An undergraduate degree offered by the School of Education until 1961 is represented as ED. The two numbers following the letters represent the year in which that degree was completed.


Janell Henke Carroll, GED’87, GR’89, recently received certification as a health/wellness life coach and coauthored a book for young boys going through puberty, How Did This Frog Get in My Throat? She lives with her family in Connecticut.

James Day, GR’87, was appointed distinguished alumni mentor in human development and psychology at Harvard University and elected to the Belgian Commission of Psychologists.


Deirdre Morris Abrahamsson, C’93, GED’94, works in social media and communications at the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District in Wallingford, PA, and is available to consult with schools and districts. She founded the Strath Haven High School ultimate frisbee team.

Jon Beck, C’94, GED’96, a social studies teacher, recently completed his twenty-fifth year at New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, NY. He is grateful to colleagues at New Rochelle and to professors McDougall and Larkin at Penn for his wonderful journey.

Lena Adams Kim, GED’97, G’99, was selected to create and implement the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s first mindfulness program, Mindful EPA, which will support public servants in protecting public health and the environment.

Two men wearing casual shirts and blue jeans are sitting across from each other in a student lounge area, smiling and looking at material on the desks in front of them.

Ryan Pry, C’98, GED’99, opened a law practice based in Radford, VA, in July 2020. He practices in elder law, estate planning and administration, and real estate matters, covering a large area of southwestern Virginia.

Lorraine Ritacco, GED’94, launched a practice to prepare immigrants and children of immigrants for the demands of higher education and the workforce. She previously managed programs for international students entering college.

Carol Smolenski, C’90, GED’91, completed a master’s in mental health counseling and music therapy in May 2021. She is now a board-certified music therapist working in a long-term elder care facility to support residents’ wellbeing through music.


James Blanton, GED’04, was named principal of Foster High School in Tukwila, WA. He was previously assistant principal of Garfield High School in Seattle, WA, and completed his administrator credentials through the University of Washington in 2018.

Jason Vann Hamer, GED’07, was appointed principal of Jarrettown Elementary School, located in Dresher, PA. He was also elected to the board of directors of Learning Forward PA.

Ronah Harris, GED’05, founder of education-tech brand Play Pattern, made learning more accessible during the pandemic with her team, translating academic programs into virtual formats and launching initiatives in educational TV and interactive technologies.

Brittany Maschal, GED’06, released her first book with coauthor Emma Wood, The Complete College Essay Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing the Personal Statement and the Supplemental Essays (independently published, 2021).

Tyrone McCombs, GR’03, has spent thirty years in higher education. Having served as dean, associate vice president, and assistant provost, he is now a professor, a program coordinator, and executive director of the Center for Access, Success, and Equity at Rowan University.

Judy McHugh, GED’08, GRD’09, currently owns her own coaching and consulting business, Top Talent LLC.

Courtney Michener Miller, GED’04, is director of talent and development at AstraZeneca, where she focuses on. leadership and development, coaching, and succession planning. An aspiring chief learning officer, she feels grounded in her foundation from Penn GSE.

LaToya Miller, GED’07, has recommitted to serving public schools with her company Journey On, having taught in various contexts in the United States and abroad. Journey On provides support and programs in experiential education and social-emotional learning.

Frank Nia, D’07, GED’07, is chief clinical officer for North American Dental Group, which has over 450 dentists across the United States. He works to help clinicians be the best in the world technically and improve through leadership and self-awareness training.

James Pellow, GRD’06, president and CEO of CIEE, Inc., joined Vice President Kamala Harris and Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin to introduce the Frederick Douglass Global Fellows, a group of high-performing college students of color chosen to study in Ireland.

Michelle Robinson, GED’06, is principal of Glenside Elementary School in Glenside, PA, where she has focused on school climate and culture, STEM education, and balanced literacy. She is enrolled in Penn GSE’s Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership.

Rika Saito, GED’99, GR’05, is the author of The Language of Feminine Duty: Articulating Gender, Culture, and Covert Policy in Modern Japan (PeterLang Publishing, 2021). The book draws upon language policy insight from Nancy Hornberger at Penn GSE.

Carolyn Schultz, GED’04, is in her sixteenth year as an English to Speakers of Other Languages teacher in the Carmel Central School District in Putnam County, NY. She would love to reconnect with other alumni who attended Penn GSE in 2003-2004.

Austin D. Williams, GED’09, is first editor of a textbook for medical students, Surgery Morning Report: Beyond the Pearls (Elsevier, 2019). He is moving to New York City to complete a fellowship in breast surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.


Alejandra Abusada, GED’19, joined the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion team at Chemonics International in Washington, DC. She continues to provide mental health services with the Peruvian nongovernmental organization Mami Linda.

Michael Aumann, GRD’13, is CEO of QualCann. He works to “turn darkness into light,” taking education to farming in underdeveloped countries through a network of cannabis farms.

Stephen Gabriel Barber, GED’16, graduated from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development with an Ed.D. in higher education leadership and policy in May 2021. His capstone research addressed enrollment growth strategies for liberal arts colleges.

Clare Bertrand, GED’19, was appointed to the board of directors of ConnectED, which partners with school, district, and community leaders to challenge the status quo and equip students to succeed in college, career, and civic life.

Matthew Antonio Bosch, GRD’19, has joined Rosemont College in the inaugural dual role of associate dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies and program director of the M.Ed. program in higher education and student affairs administration.

Beverly Brooks, GED’16, moved from her previous role as director of academics and college counseling at YSC Academy in Wayne, PA, to director of college counseling at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Memphis, TN.

Jeannette Bruno, GED’12, moved into a new role as innovation adoption lead with the General Services Administration, supporting innovation and capacity building work for federal agencies. She enjoys being a mom to her young toddler.

Daquana Carter, GED’16, is director of nondiscrimination initiatives at Wellesley College.

Erin Corbett, GRD’17, administers two college prison programs in Connecticut and was appointed to a task force to study the costs and benefits of establishing a postsecondary prison education program office within the state’s department of correction.

Mahesh Daas, GRD’13, president of Boston Architectural College, has been elected chancellor of the College of Distinguished Professors of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). Membership in the college is one of the ACSA’s highest honors.

Xuanzhou Du, GED’19, a data analyst for Elsevier, reports that her experience at Penn GSE gave her great skills and friends, increasing her courage to explore her own potential.

Samuel Evans, GED’18, assistant principal of Rose Tree Media School District in Media, PA, aims to widen his department’s lens on achievement by focusing on student and teacher growth through professional learning communities, collaborative learning walks, and real-time feedback.

Jeannette Frett, GRD’18, was appointed to the Transformative Leadership in Disruptive Times Advisory Council at The George Washington University School of Business. She has more than twenty years of leadership experience, with expertise in human resources and other areas.

Azad Godus, GED’17, head manager of continuous medical education at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Saudi Arabia, is undertaking several initiatives to support healthcare practitioners through professional education.

Kimberly Guyer, GED’05, GRD’13, is associate vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. In this role, Kimberly oversees a number of areas including academic advising and serves on the campus’ strategic enrollment team.

Kalyn Higgins, GED’14, is in her fourth year as a learning specialist at York Preparatory School in New York City. She assists students with executive functioning, subject-specific content, literacy skills, and social-emotional development.

Carol Kalin, GRD’17, a retired American diplomat, was among six panelists at “Twenty Years Later: The Legacy of 9/11,” an in-person event organized by the Penn Middle East Center. Now semi-retired, she has launched Pinwheel Editing LLC.

Abby Kirchner, GED’10, cofounded the Stone Independent School, a mastery-based learning school in Lancaster, PA, with an opening enrollment of twenty students. Now in its fifth year, the school has 116 students and seventeen faculty.

Aizhan Kul-Mukhammed, GED’19, founder and CEO of Neupusti Group, developed a college preparatory program for high schoolers in the Commonwealth of Independent States. In its first year, it has helped over thirty low-income youth gain admission into top U.S. universities.

Vera Lee, GED’96, GRD’10, became department chair of the Teaching Learning, and Curriculum Department at Drexel University School of Education in July 2020.

Rosa Leff, GED’12, is a hand cut paper artist whose work has been acquired by The Colored Girls Museum in Philadelphia, PA, and The Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, NM. She received a 2021 Maryland State Arts Council Independent Artist Award.

Diane Luckman, GED’11, has moved from lead teacher to math specialist at The School in Rose Valley, located in Rose Valley, PA. She specializes in growth mindset and mathematics.

Angeles Ortega Luque, GED’19, project coordinator of the Inter-American Educational Leadership Network at Penn GSE’s Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership for two years, has been admitted to a Ph.D. program in linguistics at Georgetown University.

Patrick Manahan, GED’12, has taken on a new role as director of advancement at The Tatnall School in Wilmington, DE. He married Dr. Kirby Wycoff in 2018 and the couple recently started a private educational business, Key Point Consulting.

Ellen McGeoch, GED’16, was promoted to director of contracting at NeuroFlow, a digital health company in Philadelphia.

Anthony Medina, GED’17, and his wife, Marci, welcomed their second child, Santiago Thomas Medina, on April 22. The child’s grandfather, Tom Baileys, GRD’11, joins their families in welcoming him.

Mark Miller, GED’17, a school counselor in the Wake County Public School System in Raleigh, NC, was a recipient of the National Board of Certified Counselors 2021 National Certified School Counselor Award, which recognizes extraordinary effort during the pandemic.

Mary Parker, GRD’18, began her role as vice president of enrollment management and associate provost at the University of Florida on August 2, 2021.

Adam Payne, GRD’18, chair of the Penn CLO Alumni Network Board of Directors, reports that the board welcomed three new members: Carla Thomas, GRD’19; Antoinette (Toni) B. Nottingham, C’81, GRD’20; and Nora Manz, GRD’20. Jaimie Piotrowicz, GED’15, was hired as assistant director of social and emotional learning for The School District of Philadelphia, where her supervisor is Abigail Gray, GR’14. Their work was recognized on CBS This Morning in 2020.

Christina Riso, GED’14, was appointed senior director of capital projects and gift planning at The Pennington School, an independent school for grades 6–12 in Pennington, NJ. In this role, she secures philanthropic support to advance Pennington’s mission.

Abbey Sangmeister, GED’10, has transitioned into full-time private practice. She uses her ten years’ experience as a solo entrepreneur and psychotherapist to work with clients and help other therapists launch their own practices.

Alexis Schmidt, GED’18, a teacher in The School District of Philadelphia, is returning to Penn GSE to join the School Leadership program. She is also completing Penn GSE’s Project-Based Learning certificate program while supporting project-based approaches at her school.

Akoss Schuppius, GED’13, joined the Penn Association of Alumnae first as an ambassador and most recently as a director for a three-year term.

Tomea Sippio-Smith, GED’16, K–12 education policy director for Public Citizens for Children and Youth, represented education advocates across the state and spoke at Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s press conference announcing the largest education funding increase in state history.

Thammika Songkaeo, GED’14, is designing a climate-change themed escape room in Singapore, following an independent study with Penn GSE’s Matthew Hartley and a fellowship at the Penn Social Impact House. She aims to advance understanding of the climate crisis.

Maytee Suksarn, GED’13, is program head of the Bachelor of Arts in English program at Stamford International University, Bangkok. He is also a Ph.D. student at the Graduate School of Language and Communication of the National Institution of Development Administration.

David Turner III, GED’14, received his Ph.D. in social and cultural studies in education from the University of California, Berkeley, where he researched Black male youth activism and community organizing. He was named a John W. Mack Movement Building Fellow by the Weingart Foundation.

Veena Vasudevan, GR’17, has been appointed assistant professor of digital media and learning at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education.

Brittany Wu, GED’19, is enrollment advisor at Noodle Partners, an organization that helps universities use technology to achieve higher engagement, capacity, and accessibility. She supports prospective students throughout the application process.

Yi-Hui (Alice) Yeh, GED’13, cofounded an education consulting company, Set-Seed Education, in Taipei and Shanghai two years ago. SetSeed aims to help students cultivate skills and become the best version of themselves so they can succeed in school and their lives.

Lilly Yu, GED’15, is founder and director of InAmerica Education, a consulting firm that has been helping students worldwide for more than ten years. The firm specializes in K–12 private school admissions as well as college planning.


Gary W. Abbamont, GRD’20, a facilitator for the Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership Program, is a developer of a new course in instructional leadership for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The course is designed as a requirement for all newly hired principals in the state.

Towanna Burrous, GRD’21, founder of CoachDiversity Institute, is happy to share that her company ranked 524 on the Inc. 5000 list, an annual ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.

Abisha David, GED’21, graduated from the Counseling and Mental Health Services program with a completely virtual experience. She is now back at Penn GSE in person, pursuing advanced training in the Professional Counseling program.

Karina Gutierrez-Noriega, GED’21, has started a company, Strategic Soul, to provide alternative healing for mental health and wellness. She blends her expertise in counseling with holistic modalities such as yoga, meditation, reiki, and sound.

Tim Herd, GED’21, is attending the University of California, Los Angeles, pursuing his Ph.D. in higher education and organizational change.

Talal Ali Jan, GED’21, launched a self-paced SAT course in Pakistan. The studio-designed course aims to bridge gaps in the education system by reaching students in regions where such resources may not be available.

Bartley Jeannoute, GED’21, accepted the roles of tenth grade dean and Advanced Placement English teacher at Abington Friends School in Abington, PA. He will be co-presenting at this year’s National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference.

Jasmine Blanks Jones, GR’21, curated the newly-launched AI 4 Afrika podcast series Reimagining the Future of Humans 2121. She is an invited speaker on the “Future of Education” episode, available on Spotify and Apple podcast.

Kevin Kelly, GED’21, accepted a position as assistant principal at the John Hancock Demonstration School’s LaBrum Middle Campus in The School District of Philadelphia.

Nora Manz, GRD’20, is utilizing her Ed.D. and more than twenty years of professional experience in higher education to move into talent and learning consulting. She is senior talent and learning designer at ZS Associates, based in the Philadelphia office.

D’Andre McIntyre, GED’21, is a program coordinator of the Ingram Commons at Vanderbilt University. He works with Crawford, North, and Stambaugh houses; administers the Commons Cup; and arranges the Commons Ball.

Flavio Serapiao, GED’19, GRD’20, alongside Michael Nakkula and Andrew Babson, hosted the inaugural Founders’ Summit of the Global Possibility Network, a project based at Penn GSE, in July 2021. The virtual sessions brought together 132 registrants from twenty-three countries.

Shanta Smith, GRD’21, will present “The Black Woman’s Self-Care Playbook: Interrupting and Addressing Intersectional Identity-Based Discrimination in the Workplace” for the 2021 National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference.

Nikki Thomas, GED’21, a Ph.D. student at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, is grateful for the academic and social support systems at Penn GSE that helped prepare them for a career in academia.

William Thomas IV, GRD’21, accepted a full-time faculty position as professional lecturer at American University School of Education. He will teach Antiracism, Equity, and Inclusion in Education, a course in the Ed.D. program in education policy and leadership.

Submissions have been edited due to space constraints and magazine style guidelines.