UC Santa Cruz Student Photos
Profiles In Excellence

These profiles highlighting the outstanding educational opportunities and achievements of UCSC students are part of an ongoing series for Currents published by UCSC's Public Information Office.

Those profiled are:


Nada MiljkovicNada Miljkovic

"Sevdah" is a Serbian musical tradition and emotion about the pain that results from separation of love.

"In the Balkans," says Nada Miljkovic, a 43-year-old graduate student in the UCSC Digital Arts and New Media program (DANM), "sevdah is a tradition sung by those forced into marriage in an extremely patriarchal society, a culture that objectifies women as a commodity."

Miljkovic knows a lot about forced marriages. In fact, she's a child of one.

Read the complete Miljkovic story

Noah MeitesNoah Meites

UCSC graduate student in music Noah Gideon Meites is one of nine young classical composers who have been named winners in the 57th Annual BMI Student Composer Awards.

The BMI Student Composer Awards recognize superior creative talent, and winners receive scholarship grants to be applied toward their musical education.

The recipients were selected from more than 500 manuscripts submitted to the competition from throughout the Western Hemisphere.

Read the complete Meites story

Danielle SotoDanielle Soto

Graduating senior Danielle Soto was cramming, but it wasn't finals she was worried about.

Soto was boning up on the Brown Act, the state's "open meeting" law, as she prepared to take a seat on the Pomona City Council.

Soto was sworn in two days after her last exam.

Read the complete Soto story

Lara HaleLara Hale

Like a lot of environmentally minded UCSC students, Lara Hale commutes by bike or bus, washes her laundry in cold water, and avoids plastic water bottles.

But Hale is one of only a few students who traveled last summer to the Lolland region of Denmark, where residents are overcoming their dependence on fossil fuels.

Read the complete Hale story

Konstantin BatyginKonstantin Batygin

Some of the greatest minds in the history of science have investigated the long-term stability of the solar system, including Newton, Laplace, and Poincaré. The most recent contribution comes from an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, whose calculations have shown how the regular orbits of the planets could go haywire at some point in the far distant future.

The probability of this happening is small, however, and it can't happen for at least several hundred million years. "It's nothing to stay up at night and worry about," said Konstantin Batygin, who will graduate from UCSC in June with a bachelor's degree in astrophysics.

Read the complete Batygin story


Levi GoldmanLevi Goldman

Levi Goldman was chosen as a 2008 Irwin Scholar--one of 12 select UCSC students who received a $2,500 merit award to further their art education.

Goldman transferred to UCSC in 2006 after taking art classes in sculpture and photography for several years at Cabrillo College. At the university, he took a variety of classes in electronic arts, film, and new media to see if he was interested "in going down any of those roads." He eventually returned to his main interest—sculpture—and has specifically focused on that work for the past year.

Read the complete Goldman story


Paul ViottiPaul Viotti

Politics doctoral candidate Paul Viotti, curious about how Americans are responding to the widening gap between rich and poor, designed an experiment that asks respondents how they would slice up the proverbial pie--and with actual cash at stake, the experiment forced participants to "put their money where their mouth is." Viotti asked participants how they would distribute $100 among a group of five people, including themselves, if they didn't know in advance who would get what share of the $100. Participants overwhelmingly chose to share the money equally, each forgoing their chance to get the entire $100 and taking home $20 instead.

Read the complete Viotti story


Brianna O'HigginsBrianna O'Higgins

Briana O'Higgins is a public radio junkie.

"I have been known to leave the radio on 24 hours a day," O'Higgins admitted with a smile. "I don't listen to Top 40, obviously. But anything that has a live host somewhere, I'm cool."

As a first-year master's student in the Social Documentation program, O'Higgins is focusing on audio production. One of her documentaries was recently picked up by National Public Radio, which showcases new talent on its podcast site.

Read complete O'Higgins story


Angel Martinez
Angel Martinez

Angel Martinez was 12 years old when his baby sister was born four months premature. So tiny she would've fit in the palm of his hand, baby Dilia was kept in isolation and wouldn't know her brother's touch for two months.

Today, Dilia is a happy 9-year-old, with few traces of those trying months, and Martinez credits her with shaping his own life. "Seeing the struggle my sister went through just to be alive was not just inspiring, but a driving force today," he said. "That's when I decided I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to know what was going on with her."

Read complete Martinez story


Lauren Malone
Lauren Malone

Lauren Malone will be heading to Washington, D.C., after earning a Ph.D. in economics this spring.

Malone weighed multiple job offers and recently accepted a position with the Center for Naval Analyses, where she will be doing applied microeconomics and empirical work. "The course of my graduate career has provided me with a great skill set, and one that I want to put to greater use than publishing in academic journals," said Malone.

Read complete Malone story


Johanna Wise-Levine
Johanna Wise-Levine

In a unique town-gown collaboration, a UCSC undergraduate has teamed up with the Santa Cruz County Office of Education to offer empowerment classes to girls at three local middle schools.

Johanna Wise-Levine, a senior majoring in community studies at UCSC, introduced a girls' health and wellness program developed at Harvard Medical School for local girls.

Read complete Wise-Levine story

Tadashi Nakamura
Tadashi Nakamura

Documentary filmmaker Tadashi Nakamura can't wait to see his film screened at the Sundance Film Festival. He just wishes he could get his hands on enough tickets for all his friends and family.

Nakamura, a graduate student in the Social Documentation Program at UCSC, has created a 22-minute documentary that has been accepted in the "short film" category of the prestigious film festival. The film, Pilgrimage, tells the story of how Japanese Americans have reclaimed the World War II concentration camp at Manzanar, transforming it into a symbol of solidarity and empowerment.

Read complete Nakamura story


Adelia Barber
Adelia Barber

Adelia Barber hiked the Continental Divide, worked on a conservation project in Tanzania, and studied environmental science as an undergraduate at Brown University in Rhode Island. But her old stomping grounds, the Santa Cruz Mountains, kept calling her back.

"I have a strong sense of place and I really identify with the area here," said the 28-year-old graduate of Los Gatos High School.

Read complete Barber story


Cynthia Payne
Cynthia Payne

The occasion was a live concert in late March featuring four different musical ensembles improvising simultaneously over the Internet across three different time zones.

As part of her M.F.A. thesis in digital arts and new media (DANM), UCSC graduate student Cynthia Payne performed with her group, E2.510, from a studio she set up on the fifth floor of the Engineering 2 Building.

Read complete Payne story

Bryan LeeBryan Lee

Undergraduate Bryan Lee demonstrated his business savvy during a recent international business strategy competition. Lee, a junior majoring in economics, managed a virtual athletic footwear company and emerged a grand champion, the only UC student to make the final cut against competitors from around the country and the world.

Read complete Lee story


Shaeleya MillerShaeleya Miller

Shaeleya Miller has always loved school, but she hit a rough patch during high school that delayed her college career.

Now 23, she is making up for lost time, taking four classes a quarter and earning a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

No one would guess it hasn't come easy for Miller, a Santa Cruz native who's gearing up for her senior year at UCSC.

Read complete Miller story


Leah ParkerLeah Parker

Leah Parker remembers begging her parents to let her stop taking piano lessons. Today, as she prepares for her senior recital, those memories bring a smile to her face.

"Those lessons were the best gift they ever gave me," said Parker, who will perform May 7 at 3 p.m. in the Music Center Recital Hall. Her concert is free and open to the public; parking is $2.

When Parker plays the piano, it's as if she is channeling the emotions of the composers, from despair to soaring joy. Her recital selections--pieces by Clara Schumann, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Franz Liszt--reflect her taste in music.

Read complete Parker story


Hye-Young JungHye-Young Jung

When Cabrillo College student Hye-Young Jung heard she'd won a $20,000 scholarship to attend UCSC, she burst into tears. "I was in dance class, and the president's assistant called me into the office," recalls Jung, now a senior majoring in economics at UCSC. "It was amazing. I was just crying. Everybody cried. The scholarship gave me a chance to pursue my goals."

Jung received a Karl S. Pister Leadership Opportunity Award, a two-year $20,000 scholarship awarded annually to one student at each of 13 regional community colleges.

Read complete Jung story


Rebecca JacksonRebecca Jackson

Two years ago, UCSC graduate student Rebecca Jackson traveled to the Ukraine and Romania, where she pioneered a violin curriculum and introduced the study of music to nearly 250 underprivileged children.

That same year, she also founded a Santa Cruz concert series designed to benefit community causes that has to date raised over $40,000.

Read complete Jackson story


Hoyt PeckhamHoyt Peckham

The critically endangered North Pacific loggerhead turtle nests only on certain beaches in Japan, where the number of females showing up each year to lay their eggs has dropped below 1,000. These long-lived sea turtles travel widely in the Pacific Ocean, and Hoyt Peckham, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology, has been studying them in southern Baja California, where they congregate to feed.

His research addresses important questions about the migrations, habitat use, and life history of these remarkable animals, and the results are helping to guide conservation efforts.

Read complete Peckham story


Allison LuengenAllison Luengen

Allison Luengen grew up peering under docks at the many strange and wonderful creatures that inhabit Puget Sound.

The daughter of a marina manager, Luengen loved the underwater world, but she also understood why people sometimes resisted environmental regulations intended to protect that world. Her father often felt the regulations that affected him were not backed by sufficient science, she said.

Read complete Luengen story


Katie WalshKatie Walsh

In two weeks, Katie Walsh will touch down in Taiwan to begin an 11-month adventure—teaching English and American culture to elementary schoolchildren as a Fulbright Scholar.

The 21-year-old College Ten student has just received her bachelor of arts degree in history from UCSC with an emphasis on Asia and the Middle East.

She marked the occasion by delivering the student commencement address on Saturday at her college graduation ceremonies.

Read complete Walsh story


Alexis Spencer Alexis Spencer

As a campus, UCSC is known for fostering undergraduate research opportunities, but even at UCSC, it’s pretty unusual for a student to be recruited for three different projects. Welcome to Alexis Spencer’s senior year.

Spencer, 22, who graduated in June with honors in psychology, got to work closely this year with professors on research projects in cognitive and social psychology. She turned down a professor’s invitation to work on a developmental psych project because there weren’t enough hours in the day. The opportunities rounded out Spencer’s course work and gave her invaluable exposure to lab experiments and fieldwork.

Read complete Spencer story


Christina Morales Christina Morales

Christina Morales holds the distinction of being the first person in her immediate and extended family to attend a four-year college.

She also happens to be the second Latina graduate student in the History Department at UCSC to be honored with a $69,000 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Scholarship for Minorities.

The award is given each year to only 60 students across the country who have "demonstrated superior scholarship and show the greatest promise for future achievement as scholars, researchers, and teachers in institutions of higher learning."

Read complete Morales story


Angela Schmid Angela Schmid

Roughly 15 percent of undergraduates in UCSC's Baskin School of Engineering are women, which is typical of engineering programs nationwide.

Angela Schmid knows what this means in terms of the undergraduate experience for women in engineering. "You might find yourself in a class with one or two women and 37 guys," says Schmid, who is graduating from UCSC this year with a degree in computer engineering.

Read complete Schmid story


Chris Bacon Arren Mendezona

Arren Mendezona doesn't want to graduate. For this transfer student from Sierra College outside Sacramento, two years at UCSC wasn't enough.

"I love it, I love everything,"said Mendezona, 22, who is graduating in June with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology. "I feel like the time has gone really fast."

Read complete Mendezona story


Katie WalshMartin Smith

The Vietnam War was never mentioned at all during history major Martin Smith’s high school days in Kingsport, Tennessee--a town roughly the size of Santa Cruz. But by doing research at UCSC on that conflict in the midst of recent intense media coverage of the war in Iraq, he has discovered remarkable similarities between the two events.

Smith is a 33-year-old armed forces veteran himself—he served in the United States Marine Corps from 1997 to 2002 and studied Russian at the Defense Department’s Language Institute in Monterey. Smith is also the winner of this year’s Melkonian Prize for submitting the top proposal to UCSC’s 2003-04 Humanities Undergraduate Research Awards (HUGRA).

Read complete Smith story


Chris Bacon Chris Bacon

For Chris Bacon, coffee is more than a beverage. It's his passion, the subject of his doctoral research, and, he hopes, the avenue to a healthier, more stable life for thousands of Nicaraguans who grow coffee for a living.

A doctoral candidate in environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz, Bacon is working with small-scale coffee farmers to document the impact of the fair-trade movement on the people and landscapes of northern Nicaragua.

Read complete Bacon story


John WrayJohn Wray

For physics major John Wray, the best part of the learning process is when he can apply his knowledge to solve a practical problem. He especially enjoys the satisfaction that comes from building something--a piece of equipment or an experimental apparatus--and seeing that it works.

The Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) at UCSC has given Wray plenty of opportunities to get that kind of satisfaction. His contributions at SCIPP include working on major research projects and helping with the institute's outreach programs in the local schools.

Read complete Wray story


Chris LeeChris Lee

After two years of community college, Chris Lee was ready to transfer to a UC campus. Accepted by Berkeley, Davis, and San Diego, Lee chose UCSC because he had heard good things from his instructors at Diablo Valley College about the attention and opportunities for undergraduates at UCSC.

"I knew what I wanted to do, and I'd gotten a feel for how college worked," recalls Lee, who graduates in June with bachelor's degrees in business management economics and psychology. "I'd developed my study skills, and when I came here, I was really ready for it."

Read complete Lee story

Kristan BlackhartKristan Blackhart

A prestigious Knauss Fellowship in marine policy has given graduate student Kristan Blackhart the opportunity to spend a year working at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offices outside Washington, D.C.

One of Blackhart's tasks during the fellowship is coediting the sixth edition of "Our Living Oceans," a status report on the nation's living marine resources.

Read complete Blackhart story

Annette BauerAnnette Bauer

In the late '90s, Annette Bauer was a student at the Musical Academy of Basel in Switzerland, studying the recorder as a medieval and Renaissance instrument.

But one of her instructors who taught medieval music improvisation also happened to specialize in northern Indian classical music, and Bauer's life was soon transformed. She started taking vocal lessons in Indian music, met legendary master musician Ali Akbar Khan, and began playing the sarode--a close cousin of the sitar.

Read complete Bauer story

Bahia Simons-MortonBahia Simons-Morton

Over the past three years, Bahia Simons-Morton has gained quite a bit of production experience studying theater arts at UCSC. She has served as stage manager for several full-length student plays, directed two productions, and worked with Shakespeare Santa Cruz as assistant stage manager for the acclaimed company's annual holiday presentation.

But Simons-Morton's adventure during the summer of 2002--helping to bring a UCSC experimental dance/theater production to Scotland's renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival--has proven to be her most unforgettable experience as a theater arts undergraduate.

Read complete Simons-Morton story

Vera Lee-SchoenfeldVera Lee-Schoenfeld

Academics and field hockey may seem like strange bedfellows, but for Vera Lee-Schoenfeld, the combination is as natural as the redwoods growing outside her Stevenson College office.

One of UCSC's top linguistics graduate students, Lee-Schoenfeld was recently inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame for her field hockey achievements at Boston University, where she received her B.A. in French Language and Literature and Ed.M. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Read complete Lee-Schoenfeld story

Krishna RoskinKrishna Roskin

As part of the UCSC Genome Bioinformatics Group, computer science graduate student Krishna Roskin collaborates with leading genome researchers at UCSC and at top research centers around the world.

But that's not a new experience for Roskin, who was involved in a similar international collaboration as a UCSC undergraduate.

In 2001, when Roskin was a junior majoring in computer science and mathematics, he got an e-mail from David Haussler, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and director of UCSC's Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering (CBSE).

Read complete Roskin story

Marcia WinsladeMarcia Winslade

You'll have to forgive Marcia Winslade if she seems a bit scattered. Not every undergraduate is juggling a full load of classes, a senior project at an elementary school an hour's drive away, and a full-time job's worth of environmental activism.

But Winslade is not your average college senior. A Texas native, she came to Santa Cruz for the surf but has stayed for the opportunities, which include designing an independent major in agriculture, ecology, and political economy, and spending a month in Europe studying human rights.

Read complete Winslade story

Jenny JiangJenny Jiang

Jenny Jiang has had her heart set on going to law school since she was 13 years old. This fall the UCSC legal studies major is enrolling at Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley.

It's a dream come true for Jiang, who immigrated to the United States from China when she was nine years old. But the dream may have a slightly different ending after four years at UC Santa Cruz, where Jiang discovered a passion for public service."

I came to UCSC determined to study law because I wanted to be an attorney with a briefcase brimming with money on my side," Jiang told the crowd gathered June 14 for the Cowell College commencement ceremony. "I am walking away four years later determined to devote my life to public service."

Read complete Jiang story

Ana GonzalezAna Gonzalez

Two years ago, when testers detected a notorious form of the metal chromium in Santa Cruz County's Aromas Red Sands aquifer, residents whose drinking water comes from the aquifer faced urgent questions. Would the chromium make them sick? And where was it coming from?

After graduating from UCSC, Ana Gonzalez has stayed on to earn a master's degree in environmental toxicology.

The 2000 film Erin Brockovich, starring Julia Roberts, was based on a case involving drinking water contamination from industrial sources of chromium; the resulting legal battle ended in a $333 million award for the plaintiffs. One form of the metal, chromium-6, has been shown to cause cancer when inhaled. No studies have found that chromium-6 causes any ill effects when ingested, however, so both the movie and the legal case provoked controversy.The movie probably contributed to the publicity and the panic surrounding the findings in Santa Cruz County. Ana Gonzalez, then a senior at UCSC, and her thesis adviser, environmental toxicology professor Russell Flegal, decided to take a closer look at the situation. Their first question was a basic one: Were the test results real? Or had the testers accidentally introduced contamination of their own?

Read complete Gonzalez story

Maxwell BoykoffMaxwell Boykoff

In a blend of academics and activism, UC Santa Cruz graduate student Maxwell Boykoff is pursuing his doctorate in environmental studies and helping poor children in rural Honduras finish their own schooling.

In his third year at UCSC, Boykoff is raising money to help youngsters in the agricultural village of Duyure, where he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the late 1990s. It was an experience that shaped Boykoff's academic goals and forged a desire to provide ongoing help to the community.

Boykoff was in Honduras in 1998 when the country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch, considered the most destructive storm to hit the Western Hemisphere in 200 years. The destruction sparked Boykoff's interest in exploring the link between global warming and the growing number of natural disasters like Hurricane Mitch, which caused torrential floods and landslides, destroyed the capital city of Tegucigalpa, killed thousands, and left countless numbers homeles.

Read complete Boykoff story

Liz NevinLiv Nevin

Maybe it was growing up in rural Maryland and hearing relatives argue about the fate of the family farm that sparked Liv Nevin's passion for environmental conflict resolution. Whatever the origin, Nevin found strong support for her academic interests as an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, where her senior project explored conflicts over the Carmel River watershed.

Pursuing her interest in conflict resolution took Nevin all the way to The Hague last summer, where she was one of only 100 students worldwide who attended a month long mediation course that emphasized the nonviolent path to social change. The course was a perfect fit for Nevin, 27, an ordained Buddhist lama who spent several years immersed in Buddhist practice in China, Brazil, and Connecticut before coming to college.

Read complete Nevin story

Geraldo PalafoxGerardo Palafox

Gerardo Palafox gave up a lot to go to college. The founder of a successful 16-member theater company, Palafox was living the good life in Los Angeles when he realized he wanted more from life.

"I wanted to be a role model for my family," said Palafox, who came to the United States from Mexico at the age of 17. "I wanted to be able to impart knowledge to the next generation. I wanted a solid foundation for the future. I wanted a university education."

So Palafox finished up his community college classes, applied to the University of California, and arrived at UC Santa Cruz in January 2002.

"It's the best thing I've ever done," says Palafox, a language studies major who will graduate in June. "I'd been getting good recognition and earning lots of money--I bought a new car, had nice clothes, went to Hawaii--but I still wasn't happy. I came to UCSC and started from scratch."

Read complete Palafox story

Julie ChaoJulie Chao

As a high school senior, Julie Chao chose UC Santa Cruz for its environmental studies program. Little did she know her choice would enable her to perform at Carnegie Hall before the end of her freshman year.

"I've studied piano for 15 years, and being able to do music as a nonmusic major has been really important to me," said Chao, who performed with the UCSC Wind Ensemble at Carnegie Hall in May 2001. "It was incredible. The hall sounded amazing. It didn't compare to any other hall I've played in."

Now a junior majoring in environmental studies and sociology, Chao, 20, recently returned from studying in China and hopes to cap her college experience with a Wind Ensemble performance at the Sydney Opera House next year. It would be a fitting end to an extraordinary four years of college.

Read complete Chao story

MaryJane SkjellerupMaryJane Skjellerup

Sociology major MaryJane Skjellerup is reaching out by reaching back--to Fresno High School, that is.

The students in the Community and Technology Leadership Program are preparing oral histories of members of the Hmong and Latino communities in Fresno, and will produce two short video documentaries about their subjects. The documentaries will be posted on a web site--which the students will design--about cultural awareness.

Skjellerup is using the power and allure of technology to introduce Hmong and Latino youth in her native Fresno to what's available for them at the university.

Skjellerup, a graduate of Fresno High School and a senior at UCSC, has single-handedly launched the Community and Technology Leadership Program to encourage Fresno High students from disadvantaged backgrounds to get on track for college.

Read complete Skjellerup story

Susan GreeneSusan Greene

As a psychology graduate student working with women in the Santa Cruz County Jail, Susan Greene saw women going through the revolving door of the criminal justice system, being picked up, incarcerated, and released only to repeat the cycle again and again.

UCSC graduate student Susan Greene, left, founded a program to help women inmates prepare for their release. UCSC graduate Jolene Forman, right,coordinates the program. The jail is in the background. Photo: Jennifer McNulty

Greene wanted to break the cycle, so she singlehandedly launched Getting Out and Staying Out, a bilingual support program to help women inmates prepare for a better life after their release. The program has proved so successful that it now receives funding from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office. "I saw a missing link between incarcerated women and the resources that are available to support them when they get out," said Greene. "These women desperately want a better life for their children than they had, but they need help."

Read complete Greene story

Kolleen DuleyKolleen Duley

Not many college seniors discover their passion and then get a chance to talk about it on national television. But that's what happened to Kolleen Duley, a senior at UCSC who was recruited by producers of The Sharon Osbourne Show to discuss her work with women survivors of domestic violence who are jailed for crimes they commit related to their abuse.

Although media attention, including Osbourne's, tends to focus on the small number of women who kill their abusive husbands, domestic violence is the top reason women commit crimes, according to advocates for battered women.

Read complete Duley story


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