American University Experience Anderson Hall American University 4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW Washington, DC 20016 AUexperience@american.edu 202-885-1426
Dr. Justin Tyler Bernstine (he/him/his) holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts – Costume Design from Brown University as well as an M.A. and Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from The George Washington University. His research focuses on the academic and social integration of students who transfer from community colleges to private universities. Justin has previously taught courses on research methods and case studies in higher education. Dr. Bernstine serves as the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Academic Services in the School of Communication at American University. In this role he has oversight of undergraduate academic and student affairs in SOC and manages the curriculum and schedule of classes for the school. Prior to coming to AU, Justin held a variety of positions in residence life, student activities, academic advising, and international education at Portland State University, Montgomery College, and The George Washington University. Justin’s passion for working in higher education comes from the formative experiences he had with mentors during his own undergraduate studies. He strives to create similar opportunities for the students with whom he now works. Justin is a Washington, DC native who loves traveling, giraffes, seeing plays and musicals, baking, and spending time with his family and his dog, Rufus.
Spencer Bonahoom (he/him/his) is a proud graduate of Marquette University, where he earned a BS in Business Administration. He also holds a MA in Sport Administration from Ball State University. Currently, Bonahoom serves as the Academic and Life Skills Counselor for Student-Athletes at American University. In this role, he works to support the academic needs of students from five Division I athletics teams. In addition, he implements and facilitates programs designed to help all AU student-athletes develop and strengthen skills that will help them on and off the competition field. These include efforts to develop leadership skills, such as the Rising Eagles Leadership Series, and a focus with upperclassmen on career preparation through events like the Student-Athlete Alumni Panel. Born and raised in Indiana, Bonahoom is an avid sports fan, most notably cheering on his Chicago Cubs and Bears. He loves staying active by playing almost any sport and being outside, especially on the lake. In addition, he enjoys attending concerts, reading and playing ukulele, and his favorite day of the week is Monday!
MATT BRUNO (BRUNO)
Matt Bruno (he/him/his or they/them/their) is a double graduate of George Mason University (B.A.I.N. in Community Studies in 2005 and a M.A.I.S. in Higher Education in 2009). Currently Bruno works at American University, where they serve as Assistant Director of Education & Training in the Center for Diversity & Inclusion. In this position, they oversee peer education groups, workshops, and trainings offered through the Center. They also work with the other center staff on center-wide programming and other initiatives that support and advocate for better inclusion of women, students of color, LGBTQ students, and first-generation college students. Bruno has been working towards making AU more inclusive since 2009. In addition to his work in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Bruno taught AUx1 in the Fall of 2016 and has taught a course on LGBTQ identities through the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at AU. At George Mason University, he taught an Introduction to Integrative Studies course and in a first-year program through the Integrative Studies Department. Outside of American University, they also currently serve as the Past Co-Chair of the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. The Consortium supports staff on college campuses advocating for LGBTQ inclusion, consults with administrators and staff at universities to improve the campus climate for LGBTQ people, and advocates for institutional change and program development that recognizes the needs of LGBTQ people. Bruno has a strong passion for incorporating social justice practices that create more welcoming environments on college campuses. He also loves watching the newest crime/mystery/thriller drama, playing with his dog Kona, and cheering on the Washington Capitals!
AUx Instructor & Counselor
Deborah J. DeMillle-Wagman (she/her/hers) is an AUx Instructor and Counselor. She initially joined the staff at the Academic Support and Access Center at American University in October 2005, working as an academic support counselor for graduate and adult students. In the fall of 2013 she was appointed to the position of Director, Academic and Disability Support at AU. Working in post-secondary education is a second career for Deborah. Previously, she worked as a lawyer in the field of court administration, with a specialty in judicial ethics. While taking a career break to raise children, she became interested in special education and how people learn. After taking graduate classes in special education and tutoring students privately, she eagerly joined the staff at American University, where she continues to work to promote access and remove barriers for persons with disabilities. Deborah, if you are interested, can explain the difference between a service animal and an emotional support/therapy/assistance animal. She continues to be interested in social justice issues and disability and exploring the paradox of the concept of “protected class” and how, in order treat a person the same, legally, you have to treat them differently. Once her children left the nest, Deborah finally agreed to let her husband try to convince her that she could come to love baseball. Now, she, along with her husband, is an enthusiastic season pass holder for the Washington Nationals and even understands the infield fly rule. She is also an avid collector of old beaded souvenir belts, particularly those that misspell the name of the place they are intended to commemorate.
Larry Engel (he/him/his) is an Emmy® award-winning producer, writer, director, and cinematographer now in his fifth decade of filmmaking that spans all seven continents. He’s worked on over 250 projects for domestic and international broadcasters and cable channels. His career started in photography, then moved to film. Currently, Engel is an Associate Professor at American University’s School of Communication, Associate Director of the Center for Environmental Filmmaking, and Filmmaker-in-residence with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He is affiliate faculty with both the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies (CLALS) and SIS’s Global Environmental Politics program. He teaches media production and theory/history. Several courses head into the field, including "The Practice of Environmentalism: Galapagos" and a summer session “Classroom-in-the-Wild™: Extreme HD: Alaska.” In pursuit of environmental, wildlife, and adventure stories, Engel has flown into hurricanes, been chased by tornadoes, and dropped into ice caves. He’s fled wildfires, gotten lost in jungles, and spent three years traveling the globe to come face to face with a lot of mummies. His favorite animals are coyotes and Emperor penguins. His favorite place is Antarctica. He is a member of the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE), the Directors Guild of America (DGA), Directors-UK, and the Mountaineering section of the Potomac Appalachia Trial Club. Engel also loves to road and mountain bike and rock climb. Farming (now gardening) is his passion. A three-part series that he directed and shot, “The Human Spark” hosted by Alan Alda, premiered on PBS nationally and won the prestigious AAAS-Kavli Science Journalism Award for In-Depth Journalism. His short film “Potato Heads: Keepers of the Crop” premiered at the Washington DC Environmental Film Festival and screened at two festivals in Italy and Flickerfest in Australia.
Christine Gettings (she/her/hers) is a proud double alumna of American University and is so excited to accompany first year students on their journey through the AUx program. She holds a BA in International Studies and Women’s & Genders Studies, with a certificate in Women, Policy, and Political Leadership from the Women & Politics Institute. In 2008, she earned a Master’s in International Affairs and focused her graduate research on the consolidation of power in non-democratic regimes. She wrote her Master’s thesis on how Buddhism influenced non-violent resistance to the military junta that ruled Myanmar/Burma for many years. She currently serves as the Assistant Director of Global Learning and Leadership in the Center for Community Engagement and Service. In this capacity, she directs the Alternative Break program and other global community based learning experiences. She has designed and facilitated trainings and workshops on student leadership and activism, ethical global volunteering, diversity and inclusion, intercultural communication, and the role of reflection in service-learning. She has accompanied students to the Thailand-Burma border for an exposure trip on the Burmese democracy movement and to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland with students to study peacebuilding. She most recently served as the Assistant Director of the Kay Spiritual Life Center where she was responsible for human rights education and interfaith community building and dialogue. Christine loves spending time with her family going on road trips (especially to her beloved home state of NJ), hiking, exploring local parks, and gardening. She loves cultivating leadership in young people so much that she is currently serving as the leader of her daughter’s Girl Scout Daisy Troop. Over a cup of tea, you can find Christine reading historical fiction, the New Yorker, or doing genealogy research.
A native of Greensboro, North Carolina, Maya Graham (she/her/hers) graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Immediately following her time at the university, she served as the Community Engagement and Education Specialist at the Urban Ministry Center in downtown Charlotte through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Both her experience at UNC Charlotte and the Urban Ministry Center greatly influenced her decision to go back to school and pursue her master’s degree. In 2016, Maya completed her Masters of Education in Student Affairs at the University of Maryland College Park. During her time there, she co-advised the primary student programming board on campus. Upon graduating, Maya was excited to stay in the area and continue advising students in the capacity of event planning. She is currently the Coordinator for Program Initiatives in Student Activities. She advises the Kennedy Political Union, Student Union Board, Women’s Initiative, and the Founder’s Day Ball. In addition, she plans late night and weekend programs, late night activities for Welcome Week and the annual Mary Graydon House Party. Maya is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and is an active mentor in the Higher Achievement program. In her free time, she loves to swim, try new food, and travel.
Erica Hart (she/her/hers) completed her bachelor’s degree at the College of William and Mary, and received her MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from American University. She completed her post-doctoral internship at American University’s Counseling Center, which contributed to her knowledge of the many resources for students on campus. Erica teaches undergraduate psychology courses, and serves as the Assistant Director of Clinical Training at American’s Clinical Psychology PhD program. In addition to her academic roles, Erica also practices psychotherapy locally, working with individuals facing difficult life transitions and shifting relationships. She enjoys supporting first-year students in self-exploration and clarification of values. Erica believes that the path to growth requires challenging preconceived notions, confronting our identities, and learning from past mistakes. Through her teaching and therapy, she aims to help others increase empathy and connection in their personal relationships. In her spare time, Erica enjoys crafting, listening to music, gardening, picnicking with her family, and volunteering for Nourish Now, a local non-profit fighting hunger and food waste in Montgomery County.
Derek Jansante (he/him/his) holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Stetson University and a Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Higher Education Administration from the George Washington University. Professionally, he serves as an Academic Advisor in the Kogod School of Business at American University. In this role, he provides a variety of academic support services to undergraduate students, including course planning, navigating personal and academic challenges, facilitating studying abroad, internship, and independent study opportunities, and clarifying various regulations and policies. Prior to his time at American University, Jansante worked at the Victory Fund and Institute, a political action committee and non-profit that aims to elect LGBT leaders to public office and train them to serve effectively. He was most proud to help elect the first openly LGBT U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin, in 2012. He then worked as Alumni Relations Coordinator in the Office of Alumni Relations at the George Washington University. At GW, he coordinated logistical details and event preparation for regional and young alumni events throughout the country as well as advised the university’s student-alumni association. Outside of his professional life, he serves as the Washington, D.C. District Chair on the Stetson University Alumni Association Board of Directors. Jansante spends much of his time playing Stonewall Dodgeball, one of Washington, D.C.’s many LGBT sports, cooking/eating, and cuddling with his rescue dogs, Keanue and Dalia.
Lana Knox (she/her/hers) holds a BA in Political Science from American University and a Masters of Public Affairs in Global Policy Analysis and Developmental Evaluation from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). She currently serves as the Associate Director of Undergraduate & Post-Baccalaureate Programs in American University’s School of Professional & Extended Studies and manages several programs at AU including: Graduate Professional Studies, Test Prep Programs, and the AU Gap Program. She works with students through the admissions process and serves as the Academic Advisor for these student populations, working closely with students to make sure the programs meet student's individualized needs through both their academic and internship experiences. Previously, Lana coordinated Indiana University’s Service Corps Program and worked as the Webmaster and Technology Coordinator for American University’s Women & Politics Institute. She is a volunteer grant writer for the Burmese American Community Initiative, volunteers as a Career Advisor for the Council of Foreign Relations Diversity Conference, and serves on Sigma Delta Tau Sorority's National Council advising the Gamma Delta chapter at AU. She is a country girl at heart, enjoys the outdoors, is an avid sports fan, and loves to travel to across the U.S. and the world.
Megan Litke (she/her/hers) holds a master’s degree in sustainability and environmental management with an ecological management concentration from the Harvard University Extension School, and a bachelor of science in management degree with an accounting major from Tulane University. As Director of Sustainability Programs, she oversees all sustainability related initiatives at American University, including efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020 and sustainability outreach and education efforts. She has worked on green building project management for new construction and existing buildings, community-based social marketing campaigns, change management, environmental justice, renewable energy, waste and recycling, sustainability education, and community engagement. Prior to joining the Office of Sustainability at American University in 2014, Megan was the Sustainability Manager at the University of Richmond, where she led the University’s Office for Sustainability for four years. Megan previously volunteered on sustainability efforts with the New Orleans Recovery School District and the UMass-Dartmouth Office of Sustainability. Megan also worked as a financial analyst at Harvard University. She spends her time exploring and enjoying the restaurants, museums, parks, and hidden treasures in DC and occasionally escapes the city to hike, run, camp, sail, kayak, and explore the outdoors. She also enjoys reading, cooking, yoga, and cheering for the Red Sox, Patriots, and Nationals. Henry, her tiny rat terrier pup, accompanies her on many of her adventures.
Gene Logan (he/him/his) is the Associate Director of AU Central, the one-stop student services center for financial aid, student accounts, registration and Veterans services. He received his BS in Journalism from the University of Maryland College Park, and his MA in Educational Administration from American University. He loves working with students – and their parents – as they navigate the college experience, and has over 20 years’ experience in higher education. Gene has previously held positions in financial aid, and is especially passionate about financial literacy. He has been active in local and regional financial aid and student services associations, and has presented at the Eastern Association of Financial Aid Administrators (EASFAA) and National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) conferences. Gene has also taught a course on College and Career Advancement at University of Maryland. When not at work, Gene enjoys 80s music, binging shows on Netflix, and spending family time with his husband, two daughters, and black lab Zurie.
AUx Instructor & Counselor
Andrea Malamisura (she/her/hers) holds a BS in Psychology from Virginia Tech and an MS in Counseling Psychology from Radford University. Currently she serves as AUx Instructor and Counselor at American University. Prior to this position, Andrea was the Senior Academic Counselor in the College of Arts and Sciences at AU where she was named Undergraduate Advisor of the Year in 2015-2016. Andrea has been passionate about student development since the onset of her career in higher education at Virginia Tech where she worked in recruitment, career counseling, and ultimately student advising. In this role, Andrea finds great joy in helping students along their journey to personal growth and academic success. In her spare time, Andrea loves to be a local tourist; exploring monuments, museums, exhibitions, shows, and everything that DC has to offer! She is a foodie novice and loves trying out new restaurants in the area. Andrea is also an avid sports fan – you can find her cheering on all the local DC teams and, of course, the Virginia Tech Hokies!
Amber Owens (she/her/hers) holds a BA in African-American and African Studies with a minor in Women's Studies from The Ohio State University and an MA in Special Education with a focus on Learning Disabilities from American University. She currently serves as the Director of Special Education at YouthBuild Public Charter. She has been honored to receive the Ganek Grant for Innovation in Education during her educational time at American University. While earning her Masters Degree, Ms. Owens also served on the Graduated Student Council first as a representative for the College of Arts and Sciences, lastly as the President of the Graduate Student Council. Prior to coming to beginning a career in the Washington, D.C. area, Ms. Owens worked and lived in the State of Ohio where she was born and raised. Ms. Owens has traveled the world during educational learning trips which drove her desire to live outside of her home state. She enjoys anything relating to sports, movies, and experiencing all that the District of Columbia has to offer its residences through cultural exploration. Ms. Owens is a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated.
Sharena Cotellesse Payne
Sharena Cotellesse Payne (she/her/hers) holds a BA in History Education with a minor in Biological Anthropology from Colorado State University and an MA in International Communication with a concentration in Int’l Education Exchange from American University. Sharena has worked at AU since 2009 in offices across campus including Public Safety; Office of Enrollment’s international admissions team - recruiting students from Europe and Brazil; the Career Center; and now the International Student & Scholar Services Office. She provides immigration advising and cultural adjustment support for students and scholars on F-1 and J-1 visas. Previously, Sharena has worked in Xela, Guatemala, helping run a locally based non-profit and for GlobaLinks, advising and preparing U.S. students to study abroad in Australia. Sharena found her passion for international education during a 3 month backpacking trip across Europe after high school and two semesters studying abroad during college. Sharena firmly believes in the power of cross cultural understanding as a way to learn more about the human condition and gain a clearer understanding of oneself. She is happy to be in a role at AU that supports students in their efforts to gain an international education. She grew up in Hawaii and works hard to get to the beach, float in the waves and be in the sun as much as possible. Sharena is ridiculously obsessed with Jane Austen and enjoys practicing yoga and hiking in Rock Creek Park with her husband and two kids.
Randa Serhan (she/her/hers) holds a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, an MA in Sociology/Criminology from the University of Windsor, Canada, and an MA, MPhil, and PhD in Sociology from Columbia University in New York City. She is currently an Assistant Professor in Sociology. She is also responsible for bringing the Arab World Studies program to fruition and for the creation of the BA in Arab World Studies during her time as director from 2011-2015. Randa’s main research interests all lie under the umbrella of citizenship and she has researched honor Crimes and women in the Lebanese penal system, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and the integration of second-generation Palestinian-Americans in metropolitan New York. More recently, she has started research on the impact of the proposed Census category for Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and surveillance of Arab and Muslim Americans. As someone who has lived in many different countries and attended diverse and international schools and campuses, she loves learning about and creating spaces for the sharing of varied perspectives and life stories. She loves reading, listening to music, finding new intellectual puzzles to solve, and playing with her two young children.
Alternate AUx1 Instructor
Wim Taylor (he/him/his) is a two-time graduate of the University of Virginia (Wahoowa!) having earned a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Sociology and a M.Ed in Higher Education. He currently serves as the Director of Alumni Engagement for the Kogod School of Business where his work focuses on engage Kogod alumni to provide valuable career advice and insights to the current Kogod student population. He has served the AU community for more than 11 years holding positions in two schools. He has served as the Associate Director of Employer Relations in the Kogod Center for Career Development engaging employers to recruit Kogod students and as the Associate Director of Undergraduate Programs in Kogod where he served as an academic advisor and managed the advising team. He has also served in a similar capacity as an academic advisor and eventually leading the advising team in the School of International Service. Wim has also worked in several other industries outside of higher education throughout his professional career. He has work experience in the consulting, real estate and financial services industries. He brings each one of those experiences and the life lessons learned along the way to the work that he does at AU. Wim is passionate about ensuring that students maximize their time spent at AU by ensuring that they make informed decisions as it relates to their academics and extra-curricular activities and that they take full advantage of all the resources available to them. When he is not extoling the virtues of his latest professional development book to the students and alumni with whom he works, Wim enjoys running…typically after his two sons, although he has completed two marathons, watching college basketball, and cheering for his UVA Cavaliers and reading on topics ranging from social psychology, human behavior, decision-making, effectively building relationships to grit, resilience and perseverance.
AUx Instructor & Counselor
Briana Weadock (she/her/hers) is an AUx Instructor & Counselor working with first year students from across the University. In addition to her work with the American University Experience Program (AUx), she has taught courses for the Department of Sociology and the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Program on topics such as Gender in Society and Feminist & Gender Theory. Her dissertation research focused on the way in which knowledges of intersecting identities are produced within Third Wave Feminisms using cultural artifacts such as Queercore punk music, feminist ‘zines, blogs, and popular non-fiction writings (books and traditional magazine formats). Having worked at AU for over 20 years in many different positions within the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Public Affairs, and the Office of Undergraduate Studies, as well holding multiple AU degrees (BA and MA in Sociology), she has extensive knowledge of campus, faculty, staff, and services available to students. She has worked closely with the Office of Campus life through committees and collaborations with the Academic Support & Access Center, the International Scholar Support Services, and the Center for Diversity & Inclusion to name only a few. She has also received multiple awards recognizing her service to the university and her dedication to student success. When not working with students on campus, you can probably find her at one of the many theaters in DC (most likely watching one of her former students perform!), live music venues, art galleries and museums, or cheering for the Washington Spirit – DC’s professional women’s soccer team. In addition to culture and learning, she is also passionate about her rescue cat, Spiderman.
Sybil Roberts Williams
Sybil R. Williams (she/her/hers) is a playwright and dramaturge whose work has been professionally produced by Chicago’s ETA Creative Arts Theatre; New York’s National Black Theater; Pittsburgh’s Kuntu Theatre; University of Pennsylvania; CALARTS; and Harlem’s Rebel Theatre and the Red Shirt Reading Series in New York City. Her latest work I AM A DRUM was presented as part of FRESSH Theatre’s inaugural season in March 2016. As a dramaturge, she completed a three-year project creating a docudrama to celebrate the lives of the Little Rock Nine titled IT HAPPENED IN LITTLE ROCK and the Latino/African-American Theatre festival VOICES AT THE RIVER at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. She served as dramaturge for THREE LITTLE BIRDS at Adventure Theatre. Her latest projects include a new musical titled U.G.L.Y. at Sigworks Summer Musical Theatre Development Series, and a new hip-hop musical at New York City’s Flea Theatre titled SYNCHING INK to premiere in January 2017. As an Instructor, Williams teaches courses on African-American, African, and Caribbean performance and aesthetics. She also teaches in the Women’s Studies program focusing on feminist artist of the Diaspora. Having just returned from Cuba, she is most looking forward to exploring the work of contemporary women artists in Havana. This fall she will direct the freshman debut performance titled “Overture” for the Theatre/Musical Theatre program. It’s always a blast!!
AUx1 Peer Leader
Diego Alemán (he/him/his) is a rising senior in the College of Arts and Science, majoring in Sociology with a minor in Psychology. With ties to both South Texas and Salt Lake City, Utah, he often has trouble saying exactly where he is from. In his spare time, Diego spent the last year working as a one-on-one tutor for a middle school student on the weekends, and assisting high school seniors with college applications after school on weekdays. As is demonstrated though his service, Diego is passionate about social justice in all forms, access to education, and studying social institutions that oppress and disenfranchise. Additionally, Diego is a member of the prestigious Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars Program, AU's premier academic scholarship program, which is dedicated to serving underserved and under resourced communities. He served as an AUx1 Peer Leader last year. For fun, Diego enjoys watching his numerous comic book shows (The Flash, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, etc.), listening to his favorite music, and spending time with his closest friends.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Cerys Beckwith (they/them/theirs) – born in Wales and raised in Maryland – is a junior in the School of International Service studying International Relations with a primary thematic focus in Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture. Cerys is passionate about a variety of social justice issues, but tends to concentrate on LGBTQ advocacy and awareness. Through the AU Scholars program, Cerys has had the opportunity to research the experiences of LGBTQ people migrating from Latin America to the United States, as well as the representation of queer identities in Cuban media. Cerys hopes to continue pursuing similar research and studies when they spend the following spring semester abroad in Chile. On campus, Cerys works as a Desk Receptionist for Housing & Dining Programs, an usher at the Katzen Center, and an LGBTQ Peer Educator with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Off campus, Cerys works as an usher and hall attendant at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts (where they also love to attend concerts and other performances). When Cerys finds themselves with free time, they love walking around the Georgetown waterfront, catching up with friends, and obnoxiously singing along to musicals. They are looking forward to their next semester at AU and to working with the AUx team and incoming students.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Faith Bruton (she/her/hers) is a senior, majoring in Public Health in the College of Arts and Sciences and minoring in Sustainability in the Kogod School of Business. Faith grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. Faith studied abroad in Nairobi, Kenya in Fall of 2016, where she had the opportunity to work in a local clinic with a women's empowerment project. Faith currently interns for AU's Office of Sustainability where she has the opportunity to get involved on and off campus with green initiatives. Faith is most passionate about creating social, environmental, and economic sustainability in the healthcare field through health education. During her time at AU, Faith has had the opportunity to get involved with education, working in elementary schools throughout DC. She also currently teaches swim school with Nation's Capital Swim Club. In her spare time, Faith enjoys exploring DC and checking out local art and theater.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Cynthia Cristobal (she/her/hers) is a rising junior studying Sociology. Cynthia’s home town is Santa Monica, CA. She is interested in social work and would like to work directly with the immigrant community in the United States, in a clinical setting focusing on mental-health related issues. At AU’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies, Cynthia was an undergraduate research assistant her sophomore year and had the opportunity to interview recent Central American minors who live in the DMV area. A few days a week, you can find her smiling behind the College of Arts and Science Academic Advising front desk office. She is the secretary for the only Latina sorority on campus, Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. Recently, she started volunteering for Justice for Juniors, an organization designed to teach and mentor juveniles in D.C. detention centers about ethics and religious faith formation. Typically, Cynthia is on campus in the Battelle Atrium or Mary Graydon Center with a cup of steaming coffee and snacks. As a Peer Leader, she hopes that she can continue learning more about AU’s campus and ways to improve it for future students.
AUx1 Peer Leader
David Curtiss (he/him/his) is a senior studying Sociology and Justice & Law in the School of Public Affairs at American University and is from Los Angeles, California. His domestic passions include community politics, civic engagement, and criminal justice reform, specifically reentry and restorative justice policy. In addition, David has a keen interest in research as it pertains to the relationship between urban communities and social institutions through limiting negative interactions, most specifically the criminal justice and educational system. David hopes to be able to combine these interests into a fulfilling career that explores the intersections between social policy, resource building, and integrative storytelling to capture and change the realities of those who experience social and communal marginalization.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Danielle D’Amore (she/her/hers) is originally from New Jersey and a junior in the School of Public Affairs (SPA), majoring in Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government (CLEG). She partakes in various activities on and off campus, such as being a member of the SPA Leadership Program. Off-campus Danielle is a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) at the Glen Echo Fire Department in Maryland. She is passionate about giving back to the community through public service and when she’s not at the fire department or studying, Danielle enjoys exercising, hanging out with friends, and watching Criminal Minds. Her favorite spot on campus to do homework is in SIS and favorite hang out space in DC is at the Georgetown waterfront.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Abigail Danfora (she/her/hers) is a junior neuroscience major and French minor. Her home town is Raleigh, North Carolina. She works in Dr. Stefano Costanzi’s research lab, where she uses molecular docking to predict the binding affinity between ligands and their receptors. She is also a volunteer at Sibley Hospital in the Oncology Unit, a member of the Love Your Melon AU Campus Crew, Agapé, and French Club. She can be found in the Battelle Atrium, in various coffee shops (including the Dav), or on the quad studying on nice days. She also enjoys Sherlock, cats, chocolate, biking, piano, chess, and traveling.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Bri Dixon (she/her/hers) is from Ontario, Canada and a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and School of Public Affairs, studying Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Political Science. On campus, Bri is also an active member of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, a Christian fellowship group on campus, and Alpha Phi Omega, a coed fraternity committed to community service. Off campus, Bri is a dedicated employee at the National Air and Space Museum since her freshman year, working with children to break down complex ideas such as the science behind flight. Bri is very passionate about the accessibility of information and social welfare programs, and hopes to do work in the future to make museums more accessible for everyone.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Monica Garcia (she/her/hers) is a junior from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She is majoring in Communications, Law, Economics, and Government (CLEG) and working towards a minor in Justice. During the Spring of 2017, Monica interned at the Democratic Governor’s Association, where she conducted research on donors and sent out daily news clips. Over the summer, Monica was at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, where she was a communications intern. She handled various social media outlets, updated the CJJ’s newsletter, and helped organize the Coalition for Juvenile Justice’s annual conference. Monica is a member of Phi Alpha Delta, American University’s professional pre-law fraternity, where she serves on their executive board as the social media chair. When Monica is not in the classroom or at her job at the Information Desk at the School of Public Affairs, she is most likely making delicious meals at home, hanging out with friends, or painting.
Melissa Holguin Pineda
AUx1 Peer Leader
Melissa Holguin Pineda (she/her/hers) is a rising junior in the School of International Service and is from Vancouver, Washington. She is majoring in International Relations with a thematic focus on Human Rights and Identity, Race, Gender and Culture in Latin America. A product of immigrant parents, Melissa has been advocating for immigrant rights in her community since 6th grade and helped pass a bill that provided state-funded financial aid for qualifying undocumented students in Washington state. A low-income, first-generation college student, Melissa is passionate about social justice, immigration in all aspects, and ensuring education for all disenfranchised communities. Melissa spent the past semester volunteering at LaSalle Backus Education Campus mentoring the newcomers program, United We Dream and served as a first responder for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project Raid Telephone Hotline. This summer Melissa will be a VAWA intern for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, Washington. For fun, Melissa enjoys exploring the Pacific Northwest, going hiking, and eating mangos with chili powder. She is looking forward to serving as a Peer Leader with AUx!
AUx1 Peer Leader
Eli Humphrey (he/him/his) is a second-year junior studying History and Literature from Denver, Colorado. His academic interests at AU include cinema criticism and written histories, as well as representations of history in literature and society. He is a second-year student in the CAS LEAD program promoting study of ethical leadership. Eli is also an assistant genre editor at AmLit Magazine and a volunteer tutor for DC Reads at Whittier Education Campus. When he can't be found watching movies or reading, he's exploring/getting lost in the incredibly dynamic city of DC. Eli is excited to welcome the freshman class and get to know them in the coming semester.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Mariam Khorenyan (she/her/hers) is a senior studying Justice, Law and Criminology at American University (AU) and is from Los Angeles, California. Her passions lie in law enforcement and criminology with a focus on crime prevention. She has a deep interest in discovering the connection between psychology and crime, and understanding what motivates individuals to commit crime and how they can be stopped. Mariam has had the distinct honor of interning at the Department of Homeland Security, the Washington D.C. Public Defender’s Office and the Executive Office of the President. This summer, Mariam will be interning at the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. During her time at American University, Mariam has been a devoted member of the AU Ambassador program by giving tours to hundreds of visiting families. This fall, Mariam will also take on the President position at the AU Consulting Club.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Nickolaus Mack (he/him/his) is a junior studying Political Science and International Studies. As a Navy brat and third culture kid, there isn’t a place that describes where he is from, but he has lived across the United States and the world. Stemming from his life experience and studies, Nickolaus is a community organizer in Washington, DC facilitating black entrepreneurship and black small businesses along the East Coast. On campus, Nickolaus works as the Managing Editor of the Opinion Section of the Eagle with recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists and pieces published in media outlets such as the Washington Post. Off campus, he is an intern at Human Rights Watch and a legislative intern in the office of Senator Tim Kaine. As a recipient of two national United Negro College Fund scholarships, the best definition of his lifestyle is opportunity-obsession. In his spare time, he enjoys being with family & friends, dog photography, Netflix, international travel, and continuing his search for the best brunch spot in the District. Nickolaus is incredibly excited to begin working in the AUx program!
AUx1 Peer Leader
Hannah McNamara (she/her/hers) is a senior studying Sociology and Law & Society from Santa Cruz, California. She has interests in social justice, diversity and inclusion work. In particular, she is interested in examining gender-based stratification on the institutional level; critiques, especially postmodern, of factors that reproduce economic inequality; and current sexual assault prevention discourse. She has held numerous executive board positions in different organizations on campus in the past, including Queers and Allies and the Philippine American Coalition, and is passionate about identity-focused narratives with an emphasis on public service and advocacy. Throughout her time at American University, she has conducted (and will continue to) work extensively with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, holding positions in their different peer education groups including the LGBTQ Peer Educators and the E.A.G.L.E. Peer Educators (Educating Allies and Generating Leaders for Equity). In both programs, she has facilitated conversations and educational workshops on varying topics including LGBTQ life on campus and issues, what it means for organizations to be inclusive and supportive of difference, privilege and racial equality. Hannah has also served as a teaching assistant in the University College program, for the class Art, Activism and Social Justice and looks forward to serving as a teaching assistant for the upcoming Complex Problems courses. In her free time, Hannah loves cooking, talking about manatees, and writing. She’s excited to get to know the incoming freshman class, and to share parts of her college experience with them.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Lauren Peressini (she/her/hers) is a senior majoring in International Studies and minoring in Sociology. Lauren is from Montclair, New Jersey. She spent the past semester abroad in Berlin, Germany where she studied architecture, language, religion, and memory culture. Lauren is a DJ for WVAU, American University’s student-run radio station and loves finding new local music. Also on campus, she has been deeply involved with Fossil Free AU and the fight for the divestment from fossil fuels. Lauren is passionate about intersectionality, especially as it pertains to environmental justice and racial and gender equality. An extrovert for sure, Lauren loves meeting new people and working on a team. Her favorite spot on campus is sitting outside SIS, reading social theory for class and chatting with friends who walk by.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Ammarah Rehman (She/Her/Hers) is a rising junior studying International Studies and Communications. She was born and raised in Boston, MA and originally from Karachi, Pakistan. A low income, first generation college student, Ammarah has an interest in how the intersection between race and class play a role in the education system. Therefore, Ammarah co-led an Alternative Break trip to New Orleans to focus on the lack of equity intersects with poverty and race. She is the Associate Editor for Equality for HER, a nonprofit providing free educational resources about issues affecting the 'femme' or feminine identifying community. Ammarah is also the founder of The Muslim Project, an online platform highlighting Muslims from an array of backgrounds in order to fight Islamophobia and the negative stigma around Islam. While on campus, Ammarah is the co-president of the Muslim Student Association as well as the Vice President of the Islam Awareness Coalition. Her mission is to humanize Islam and combat Islamophobia. Off campus you can find Ammarah as an Explainer at the National Air and Space Museum. Over the years, she has interned at National Parks Conservation Association as a Communications intern and at Peace Corps as an Overseas Programming and Training Support Intern. In her spare time, Ammarah loves going to various museums around D.C.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Diana Sanchez (she/her/hers) is a rising junior from Newbury Park, CA majoring in International Studies and minoring in Arabic. She is interested in human rights and international law as well as equity in education. While at AU, Diana has been a part of D.C. as a team leader and tutor. Though DC Reads, she has been able to work in after school programs and D.C. Public schools to offer tutoring to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Through her work in DC Reads, Diana has become familiar with the intersectionality of race and socioeconomic status in education. In her free time, Diana enjoys watching TV and movies, going to Vapiano's in Chinatown, and going night monumenting. She is looking forward to working as a Peer Leader with AUx!
AUx1 Peer Leader
Deidre Schardine (she/her/hers) is from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is an international relations major, focusing on global inequality and development. She is very excited to be a part of AUx1 to engage with first-year students, but also because she is interested in education from a pedagogical standpoint. The ability to engage in higher education from a different perspective is captivating to her because she believes this specifically will transform power dynamics that are status quo in schooling. In general, Deidre believes that college is seen as a structural and functional institution, but the framework of AUx1 reflects a resistance to the dominant narrative of education, of which she is excited to be a part. She is also really passionate about the prison industrial complex, and institutionalized racism in general, along with all of those it disenfranchises. She enjoys studying the implications the war on drugs and privatization has played in this progressing problem. She is passionate about the marginalization of all minorities and often attempts to use her own privilege to make change and help the underserved. On a lighter note, she is a huge fan of dogs, nature trails, and documentaries. Her grandparents are her favorite people in the world and she spends a great deal of her free time with them. She also spends her time supporting local small businesses with her partner.
Heaven Lee Sensky
AUx1 Peer Leader
Heaven Lee Sensky (she/her/hers) is from a small farm in Washington, Pennsylvania. She is a rising junior with a double major in both CLEG (Communications, Law, Economics and Government) and Women, Gender and Sexualities Studies. Heaven is a first generation college student and the daughter of a quadriplegic. Heaven has grown up through, and as witness to, the various struggles Americans living in poverty are facing. She has also experienced firsthand the turmoil of the Heroin Epidemic. In order to fight for her people, she has interned for all of her local politicians, in addition to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. She has also been involved with advocacy projects through The Women and Girls Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Pennsylvania. She is currently interning for Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania in the U.S. Capitol. Heaven has worked in The American University Center for Diversity and Inclusion for the past two years, where she is the Undergraduate Coordinator of Workshops and Education, facilitating and maintaining workshops on various issues of identity. Heaven hopes to use her education to engage in public service, and in turn pave the way for others like her to escape the bounds of the economic and social class structure in the United States. Heaven is eager to help other students find their way through the AUx program.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Shyheim Snead (he/him/his) is a rising Senior studying Political Science and Education, with a focus on policy and community-based research. Shyheim is a Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholar and a member of the AU Honors Program and School of Public Affairs Honors Program. Shyheim served as an AUx1 and AUx2 Peer Leader last year. Originally from Bridgeport, CT, Shyheim’s upbringing sparked an irrepressible spirit to improve urban neighborhoods, support the most underperforming schools, and disrupt the impacts of intergenerational poverty. Shyheim served for two years on the AU Board of Trustees, represented undergraduate students on the University Presidential Search Committee, and is the current Director of the Kennedy Political Union. Shyheim piloted an initiative to adopt a DC public school and led an Alternative Break to New Orleans focused on educational equity in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Professionally, Shyheim was an Associate with the District of Columbia Public Schools and an intern in the Executive Office of the DC Mayor. Shyheim is a 2017 Harry S. Truman Scholar and a 2017 Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow. Shyheim’s long term graduate school and professional goals are to examine external factors that influence student achievement in the classroom.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Devontae Torriente (he/him/his) is a senior in the School of Public Affairs and College of Arts & Sciences, studying both justice & law and African American & African diaspora studies. This is his second year serving as a peer leader for AUx1. Originally from NYC, Devontae has been involved at AU in the Black Student Alliance, the mock trial team and residence life. Devontae most recently served as the 2016-2017 Student Government President. He now serves as the opinion editor for The Blackprint, an on-campus student media organization run for and by students of color, and as a DC chapter leader for Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, a national youth-led grassroots organization dedicated to cultivating Black and Brown leadership and combating systemic oppression. He is passionate about intersectional social justice and how our identities impact the way we navigate society, as well as politics and policy more broadly. Devontae previously interned at the DC Legal Aid Society, DC District Court, Center for American Progress and Human Rights Campaign. Devontae loves cheeseburgers and can probably be found talking about why Scandal is one of the greatest TV shows of all time. His favorite spot on campus in The Bridge, so be sure to come do homework or hang out with him there!
AUx1 Peer Leader
Cynthia Turcios (she/her/hers) is a native of DC and is a junior in the School of Public Affairs studying Justice & Law with a concentration in Criminology. She is also getting a certificate in Spanish Translation. She has been involved across campus with SPA Ambassadors, Phi Alpha Delta Pre- Law Fraternity and at Washington College of Law. Cynthia chose AU because of its location, sense of community, and academic programs. She has interned at Baker Hostetler LLP for 4 years and this past semester interned at a domestic violence organization, DCVLP. When she's not in the classroom, Cynthia loves watching Pretty Little Liars, eating anything sweet, and going out with friends. Her favorite spot on campus is Starbucks! You can always catch her there.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Raymond Vazquez (he/him/his) is a third year Audio Production major with a concentration in Music. Originally from Brooklyn, NY, he chose to go to American University for its highly ranked audio program and networking opportunities. Last spring, Raymond interned at Studio Center DC, a post production organization based in Georgetown, while continuing his job as a Studio Manager at Kreeger Building. When he’s not in class or at work, he’s probably off making music with other students or watching wrestling. Raymond looks forward to his opportunity with the AUx program and cannot wait for the experience this upcoming fall.
AUx1 Peer Leader
Monica Villacorta (she/her/hers) is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in Sociology with a minor in Literature. She was born and raised in the Georgia Avenue/Petworth neighborhood here in Washington DC. As a former DC public school student, she is passionate about working to ensure that low-income, first generation, DCPS students of color are able to attend and graduate from college regardless of their documentation status. During her time at AU, she has had the opportunity to work at the AU Center for Community Engagement and Service, the DC Mayors Office of Latino Affairs, the DC Public Schools Central Office, and the Latino Student Fund, and the Latin American Youth Center. In her spare time, Monica enjoys attending poetry slams, watching movies, and going out with friends.