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 A Lynn M. Bennett Legacy

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  • 2012 Alumnae Biographies

    Back row (l-r)
    Alexandra Dammier, Carmel Viado, Jing Jean Du, Alicia Nunez, Claudia Agbor-Bessem, Martha Rendon, Anali Torres, Stephanie Olson, Ligeia Will, Toni Jilka, Sandra Bean

    Front row (l-r)
    Treasure Watanabe, Atlantis Aubry, Dianna Payan, Lydia Anne Scherr (behind), Maria Calderon (front), Karina Calderon, Maricez Ramos, Farah Rashdan

    Claudia Agbor-Bessem is a native of Cameroon, Africa, where she lived for 13 years before moving to the United States. She is a junior at the University of Nevada Reno, majoring in Community Health Sciences in hope of becoming a public health specialist and pharmacist. Claudia co-founded the A.B.L.E Women organization. It is a career, community service, and self-confidence based mentoring organization for young girls everywhere. She is an active student on her campus and takes part in many events put together by the Center for Student Cultural Diversity. She enjoys giving back to her community anyway she can. She hopes to one day start a non-profit organization for young girls because she believes she can make a difference in someone else’s life by creating opportunities that most people sometimes take for granted. Claudia knows five languages and is fluent in four. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

    Atlantis Aubry Born on March 30, 1993, as the oldest child and only girl, Atlantis Aubry was raised on the streets of Los Angeles. Her mother raised her and her brother Marcus alone, as a single mom in LA. Of course, this came with many challenges. When Atlantis reached 12 years old, her mother met a man in Los Angeles, who had a house in Las Vegas. Her mother decided to move there. And so, Atlantis began a new life, attending Lied Middle School then Shadow Ridge High School. As her teenage years approached, family members began to inquire about her vision of the future with the question, the same question every child hates: “What do you want to do when you go to college?” Her main goals include furthering her music career, while also becoming a writer. She plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in English to pursue creative writing. If it hadn’t been for her childhood, she knows she wouldn’t be who she is today, nor would she have a goal in life at all. As a child, she always believed she was destined to become a music artist. Now, she is looking forward to making that dream a reality.

    Sandra Bean is a senior finishing an often interrupted life-long goal, completing the requirements to receive a B.A. in History. Sandy has lived and worked in Wisconsin, Hawaii, Minnesota, California and Nevada for the last fourteen years. Prior to becoming a student, she was employed by AT&T for twenty-eight years, working in operator services, network administration and the marketing department. This provided her with a background in the workings of a large corporation and how the different departments interacted. Here, in Las Vegas, she has worked in the information technology department at Station Casinos, for a start-up company that does home automation and for the University of Nevada Reno’s Cooperative Extension. While working for UNR Cooperative Extension, she organized the Henderson Food Bank drives and Shade Tree Shelter collections – helping those of low socioeconomic means find food and shelter vital to a dignified survival. Sandy served as president of the Nevada College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) during 2009-2010 and previously served as Program Coordinator for the 2007 and 2009 Nevada State Conferences. She has been a member of the Las Vegas Women’s Investment Club since 1999 and a financial partner since 2003. Sandy was a Girl Scout leader for six years working with girls aged 6 to 15. In her spare, time she enjoys traveling, scrap-booking and spending time with her husband.

    Karina Calderon is majoring in Architecture and Design as well as Women’s Studies. She is a 21 year old, undocumented, mujer/womyn Chicana of color – who credits her family and community for helping her reach where she stands. She has held several leadership roles within MEChA, an advocacy group promoting the interests of Chicano Americans. She developed a sense of critical thinking, understanding and the ability to question why things are the way they are and why society is the way it is – through this experience. Through working with MEChA, she has developed the confidence to vocalize and share her ideas, and to help others develop necessary leadership skills. She realizes that being able to engage in a critical, conscious conversation with confidence benefits her development as a leader. She has realized that there are so many issues to understand and question, unlikely to be resolved in her life time – but through understanding our contemporary world we can work towards improving the future. She is pursuing Architecture and Women’s Studies because she loves utilitarian design and values the critical thinking Women’s Studies fosters. These focuses intersect due to the research and project skills required. Both correlate and share an impact on social issues. The connection and similarities of both of these subjects could not be clearer to me. Both respond to the environment and social issues, which directly impact each of us on a daily basis. She enjoys them so much because through the practice of both she knows she can have a direct effect on the way we are socially constructed to live and think. Making it to college and being able to still continue her education despite the budget crisis (which demonstrates the undervaluing of education for marginalized communities) have been great accomplishments.

    Maria Calderon will be graduating this summer with a major in Hospitality Management and a minor in Women’s Studies. After graduating, she will begin applying to attend graduate school to study Social Work with a focus on community organizing. Maria’s involvement with MEChA’s annual Raza Youth Conference over the past few years has increased her interest in supporting other Latina/o students. She has gained so much from being able to encourage and motivate students to continue their progression within higher education. Maintaining the importance of community involvement on and off campus has become one of her greatest ambitions. In the future, Maria wants to work with non-profit organizations that advocate higher education, activism, and social justice for everyone.

    Alexandra Dammeir is entering her third year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is majoring in Social Work. Being a Las Vegas native, she has always had a passion to help the community become a better place, and feels that as a Social Worker she will do just that. In the future, she plans to further her education by applying to the Social Work Graduate Program and hopes to work in the juvenile spectrum. Through the years, she has volunteered her time with the American Youth Soccer Organization and recently with the Las Vegas Rescue Mission. In her free time, she is a bowler for the UNLV Bowling Team, and enjoys every minute of it. NEW Leadership Nevada, she knows, will give her insight that she has never really had and she hopes that it will lead her even further along her path to becoming an effective Social Worker.

    Jing Jean Du is majoring in International Business and is minoring in French – exposing her to vibrant and diverse cultures. She values education more than anything else in life. She walks through life with the desire to learn something new to learn every day. She has always been curious. She grew up thirsty and hungry for anything new, out of the ordinary, and challenging. Ultimately, she hopes to gain a better understanding of the world and to find where she fits into the scheme of things. Knowledge comes from the relationships one builds with other human beings. That being said, she values relationships as paramount. Through interaction, we can gain and share knowledge. It is an endless sea of priceless reciprocation. Helping one another through times of turmoil and difficulty not only betters others, but also allows us to gain better understanding of ourselves. She engages in conversation with people all over the world and of all cultures. Jing has a passion for philanthropy and wants to help people by starting a non-profit organization. Before she does, she must absorb all the knowledge that she can. The assistance and encouragement of peers that share her passion, she is certain, will propel her to become the best that she can be.

    Toni Jilka is a Biological Sciences major at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas pursuing a minor in Leadership and Civic Engagement. She works as a Peer Advisor in the UNLV Office of Enrollment Services, mentoring first generation college students through the struggles of school. Once she graduates, she will be applying to dental school in order to further her education in dental medicine. She hopes to one day start a successful business by owning her own orthodontics practice. With the love and support of her parents, family, and friends, she has been able to pursue a secondary education and plans on using what she has gained from UNLV to give back to her community.

    Alicia Nunez is a proud Xicana, muxerista activist and a student in the field of Women Studies. Art, poetry, chocolate, pan dulce, and interesting cultures are her weaknesses. Alicia believes in the healing powers of music. She is inspired each day of her life by a Warren Omo Obatala quote: “Each of us has the responsibility of living a life filled with love for a better, more humane existence. If we do not do our part to create a more humane society — a society where a person is of more value than things-then we are fostering a mentality that supports the enslavement of others.” Alicia loves life, and is an optimist who believes a great deal in change, especially the type of change that is obtained by the people, and unites us at times to fight for social justice.

    Stephanie J. Olson was born and raised in rural South Dakota. Her hard working, self-motivated parents and three older sisters inspired her to become a civically engaged leader at an early age, running for class president for the first time in 5th grade. Since then, Stephanie has held numerous leadership roles in various organizations. Most notably, she served as a California Lutheran University Multicultural Peace Ambassador and University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) President. While serving as CAC’s leader from 2011-2012, Stephanie organized more than fifteen American Cancer Society awareness, cancer Survivor support, and peer-to-peer educational events with regard to cancer prevention at UNLV’s campus. She recruited volunteers for a campus-wide cleanup of over 16,000 cigarette butts in one day. She also served as Mission Delivery and Education Chair of UNLV’s Rebel Relay For Life, raising more than $66,000 for the society’s patient programs and services, as well as cancer research. Stephanie enjoys traveling and discovering cultural traditions, languages, foods, and people, and is excited to travel more frequently in the future. Stephanie also partakes in amateur photography ventures, mainly capturing the seemingly mundane textures and objects that make up our everyday surroundings. Stephanie is passionate about learning new theories of leadership, as well as considering the sociopolitical and psychosocial issues that influence cultural, business, community, and individual endeavors. Currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiological Science at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Stephanie plans to pursue a doctoral degree and serve patients in the health care field.

    Dianna Payan is a freshman working towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology. Her interest in leadership is obvious. She is minoring in Leadership and Civic Engagement at UNLV. She plans to attend law school – or graduate school for orthotics and prosthetics. Perhaps the NEW Leadership program will help her decide which of the two she is more passionate about. Although she is mostly consumed with her studies, Dianna enjoys participating in sports, outdoor activities, community service, and leadership workshops. She has always been a very active student. Dianna has volunteered for countless community service organizations and non-profits. She has had the great honor of receiving various awards in recognition of her participation, dedication to community projects and personal achievement. Dianna enjoys helping others and likes to remain positive no matter what happens in life.

    Maricez Ramos has strived to combat the misogynistic social norms that dominate Asian cultures. She is majoring in English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and expects to graduate in the spring of 2012. Maricez has spent her time volunteering for the Lovaas Institute, an organization that tutors autistic children. Education has always played a major role in Maricez’s life as is evident through her extensive schooling, and volunteer work. Maricez sees education as a way to improve herself as an individual, and make a social impact in the world. Maricez is fascinated with the study of comparative literature through a feminist lens, and hopes to one day teach within the field. “Currently there are no prominent literary works within the Philippines, and I plan to change this so that future generations will actually have literature that reflects their lives and struggles,” she asserts. After graduation, Maricez plans to live in the Philippines and immerse herself within the culture to better understand the society as a whole. As a Filipina-American, Maricez feels empowered by American ideologies like the first amendment, and aspires to become a voice of the Filipino people through the uplifting of the culture’s literature on a global level. Maricez is neither Filipina, nor American. As a child of Filipino immigrants, she shares both identities. A Filipino born in Portland, Oregon, she inhabits two cultures.

    Martha Rendon graduated with a BA in Elementary Education in 2014 and a Master of Science in Education in 2015. She is pursuing her Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership through Nova University in 2016. Martha feels she owes a huge part of her drive to her wonderful mother who raised her, her sister as a single parent and, of course, WRIN! She was at a cross roads when she went to UNLV for NEWL and everything that she learned and was able to receive closure on sprinted her forward in a world that she never knew was possible. As a teacher, she is always looking for ways to reach out to the community and impact the lives of our future. She wants other young women to feed off of her drive and know that there is nothing that can stop them from being vivid in the dreams they can obtain!

    Farah Salem Rashdan is seeking a degree in Human Development and Family Studies to become a counselor for abused children. One day, she hopes to fully overcome the many challenges has faced in her life. But, we have faith that she will because she is uniquely qualified due to a difficult upbringing. Due to her mother’s leukemia, her older sister cares for her. The high cost of medical treatment caused her mother’s return to their native land, Jordan. Farah has been rendered financially independent and responsible for funding her own education, teaching her the true meaning of struggle. Abuse has stunted Farah’s professional development. But, inspirational educators, who discovered her potential and passion at a young age, encouraged her to aspire. Their faith influenced her to pursue a path that allows her to draw strength from weakness – to become an advocate. When she entered college, she made a solemn vow to achieve academic excellence – and that is exactly what she is doing. A child who could hardly multiply in middle school is now the 2011 Northern Nevada Regent Scholar, has recurrently made the Dean’s List, and has been recognized by numerous organizations for academic excellence. She has mentored students through educational leadership programs and serves as a special needs counselor. Identifying as an Arab woman of Muslim faith has spurred her to help less fortunate minorities. At UNR, she participates in FemSex, which provides resources for women. This experience has motivated her to become an advocate for victims of sexual assault – to help other women discover their potential, find and sustain peace as she has.

    Lydia Anne Scherr was born in Fulda, Germany on January 7, 1992. During that time her parents were on active duty and had recently graduated from West Point Military Academy. When Lydia was nine years old, she and her family moved to Henderson, Nevada where they remain today. Life in Henderson contrasted radically with that in Corvallis – making it difficult for her to assimilate. After that epiphany, she acknowledged the need to be true to herself. Lydia started pursuing her goal of being the kind of person she always envisioned herself to be. She transferred from Green Valley High School to Nevada State High School which was a charter school, where she obtained free early college tuition. Through this program, she studied Art at the College of Southern Nevada. By the time she graduated high school in 2010 she not only had a diploma, but also an Associate Degree in Art. Lydia’s life has gone from gray to colorful; consisting of family and full time studies at UNLV. She is dedicated member of the Sanford I. Burman Debate Forum, serves as Student Ambassador for the Nevada section of Air and Waste Management, Vice President of the UNLV Global Water Brigade, and promotes 90 Day Challenge where she works as a model. Lydia is dedicated to making free time for herself because of her love to be physically active, volunteer, meditate, read, create art, and spend quality time with the people she cares about. She believes that if you have dreams, maintain your faith, and work hard everything is possible.

    Jennifer Stiles is a 24 year old second year freshman at UNLV, majoring in Journalism with minors in Women’s Studies and Creative Writing. Born in New Jersey and raised in Las Vegas, Jennifer loves going back to New Jersey to visit her family which means a great deal to her because they help to keep her at peace. Jennifer graduated from high school with an advanced diploma and cords in theatre arts, which is still a great passion of hers. After taking five years off from her undergrad studies due to medical reasons Jennifer is now returning to obtain her degree. Jennifer hopes to one day use her writing to educate people, and bring more awareness to women and LGBT issues. She has accomplished all of this despite her physical limitations. She has been disabled since birth, and has had multiple surgeries – one being a kidney transplant she had 13 years-ago. As far as her personality, she cannot be easily molded. She is a music junkie, enjoying anything from The Ramones, Mo-town, to Glee. She is a huge sci-fi fantasy nerd, yet still is a girlie girl. She loves the color pink and playing around with makeup. She is a foodie and thoroughly enjoys cooking and baking. Jennifer says that overall she is a pretty chill West Coast type of gal.

    Anali Torres is a Psychology major and thoroughly enjoys her studies. She is extremely interested in learning about human behavior and how our mind processes information. The field of psychology offers many avenues into a competitive career. Anali’s family and friends continuously tell her she over thinks things, or that she takes things too serious. Yet, she doesn’t care – because she believes these characteristics are what make her unique. Anali enjoys standing up for what she believes in and tries to be that small difference in the world. She lists her perseverance as a strong value. Her head is constantly overflowing with ideas, and things she wants to accomplish. Anali doesn’t ever stop dreaming. “The very first step to achieve a goal is to dream it,” she says. Anali is currently in the process of discovering exactly what aspect of psychology she wants to focus her career on. Growing up in the Latino Culture has made Anali understand the significance of family, and her family has been an enormous support system throughout her life. Their love and support has been a motivation tool for her to strive towards as much success as possible. To persevere through obstacles, she can always draw strength from her family to see her through.

    Carmel Viado worked as the administrative secretary for the Department of Building and Safety for the City of Las Vegas. She served as the Vice Chair of the Building and Safety Diversity Committee, a position she held concurrently with Deputy City Clerk. She also represented the department in the City of Las Vegas’ Employee Engagement Committee. She wants to encourage, mentor, and be in a position to create avenues for other young women to achieve their own professional goals. The City of Las Vegas works with the Clark County School District in providing job experience to high school students through internships with the City’s departments – allowing her to work very closely with young minority woman. Carmel hopes to inspire others with what she has accomplished as a minority woman in a male-dominated construction industry. After NEW Leadership Nevada, she was accepted into the Strategic Manager Program with the City of Las Vegas. She will work on a special project and is looking forward to it. Currently, Carmel takes classes at UNLV working on her MA in Public Administration.

    Treasure Watanabe is a passionate, organized, creative and down-to-earth native of Hawaii and has been in Las Vegas for about six years. Treasure has a bachelor’s in Sociology and is now continuing her education by pursuing a Nursing degree. Treasure volunteers for a variety of non-profits in Las Vegas, assisting events and programs in the community. This is a great passion of hers. She is very excited and appreciative for the amazing opportunity to attend NEW Leadership Nevada because she looks forward to increasing her knowledge to better herself as a community leader and advocate.

    Ligeia Will is currently a student at UNLV majoring in Communication Studies. She has a desire to communicate effectively with others — to bring about social and political change. She is a single mother and a full time student, with a vision. Becoming a student at UNLV was no easy task for Ligeia. Her path to higher education was windy and treacherous, mired by homelessness and struggle. Prior to attending, she lived in a shelter with her children. But, these difficult experiences have fostered within Ligeia a deep sense of compassion for others – a desire to create policy that broadens educational opportunities and access to government assistance for single mothers who share her struggle. She feels that gaining an education is the single most important thing a person can do to improve themselves and their world. Ligeia also sees fortifying the bond between mother and child as important to building a stronger, more compassionate society. Current policy undermines it, forcing mother and child apart, damaging families and community relationships. Helping protect our environment by supporting green initiatives and better public health policy also motivate her. She attends community forums on the dangers of drug and tobacco use, green policy and sustainability in her spare time. When she isn’t immersed in the deeper focuses of her life, she enjoys good food. She firmly believes that society needs to improve health care and thinks this could be achieved through stricter FDA regulations that better protect our food supply, promoting a more nutritional, organic diet. Ligeia Will’s name suites her well. Ligeia means “clear-voiced, shrill, and whistling” and is a name shared by Sirens in Greek legend. Coupled with her clear, persuasive voice, we are certain that she has the will and ambition to affect the change in our world that she seeks.

  • Improving the Lives of Women through Research and Education

  • NEW Leadership Nevada 2017 Keynote Dinner

    Featuring Restaurateur and Philanthropist Jenna Morton
    Blasco Event Wing, UNLV Foundation
    4505 S. Maryland Parkway
    Thursday, June 8, 2017
    Reception at 5:00pm
    Dinner and Program at 6:00pm
    wrin@unlv.edu
    702-895-4931

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    Women's Research Institute of Nevada
    University of Nevada, Las Vegas
    4505 Maryland Parkway, Box 455083
    Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-5083
    702-895-2902

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