What happens when two people who are passionate about making
educational change join forces personally and
We spoke with current CANDEL student Stephanie Morgado (MA ’15)
and alumnus Byron Laird (EdD ’18) about the challenges of being
educational leaders, how they’re bringing social justice to their
students and what it’s like to be married collaborators.
While in the CANDEL program, Cynthia Sommer (EdD ’18) rotated
into various roles at California community college campuses,
where the equity gap for Latinx students was troubling her.
“Being a Latina and first-generation college student myself, I
wasn’t comfortable with the easy story that these students were
not ready for college or that their culture doesn’t appreciate
having a higher education degree,” she said. “Given my own
background and my experiences working with some of these
students, I felt there was more to it.”
I moved around the East Coast and the Midwest a lot when I was
growing up, and I had a difficult home life. In every school I
attended it felt like I was the only Asian-American student, and
I pretty much had every racist insult possible hurled at me.
During those years, I really needed a teacher who would invest in
me as a person. I felt like I was just left to my own devices,
struggling and not understanding.
“It’s exciting to be working in an energetic environment where
you’re helping students at a formative time,” said Paul Cody (EdD
’17). “Education is empowering.” Cody, who currently serves as
the Assistant Director of the UC Davis Center for Student
Involvement, learned firsthand about the power of education to
change the course of a life. After dropping out of high school to
work, he found his way back to the classroom to earn his GED.
As the Director of Campus and Student Community Engagement,
Vickie Gomez (EdD ’15) strives to make the initiatives and
programs hosted at UC Davis as collaborative and responsive as
possible. “How we communicate and build bridges between community
members on campus and within the larger community all work toward
building a better campus climate,” she said.
“What excites me about working in the field of continuing
education is the potential to have a substantial impact on
people’s lives and career trajectories,” said Susan Catron (EdD
’12). As interim dean of UC Davis Continuing and
Professional Education (formerly called UC Davis Extension),
Catron focuses on how to best serve non-traditional, part-time
adult learners regionally and globally using a variety of
educational delivery approaches.
While others were exploring past civilizations or asking
questions in a laboratory, Mayra Llamas (EdD ’17) spent her
undergraduate days thinking about her peers and how to create a
university that served their needs. “I started college at
California State University, Monterey Bay one year after it
opened and I was a tour guide and student assistant at the
Student Information Center,” said Llamas. “I spent a lot of time
thinking about recruitment and how to tailor a tour experience to
certain groups with different goals in mind.
Joe Radding (EdD ‘10) hasn’t always worked in the field of
education, but once he made the switch, he knew it was the right
choice. “About halfway through my 35-year career in state
government, I moved to the California Department of Education
(CDE) from a non-education entity,” he said. “I had always had an
interest in education, and this was a pivotal move for me because
I found a home. I never wanted to leave the field of education. I
believe that education is the most powerful game changer when it
comes to breaking cycles of poverty and advancing our society.
Lorena Ruedas Jauregui (’06, EdD ’16) is building her career in
education around two ideas that have been important to her since
the early years of her own education: inclusion and mentorship.
“As a granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and a daughter of
educators, I’m passionate about being an advocate for students
from historically underserved populations,” she said.
Sheri Atkinson (EdD ’14) realized early in her career that
working in higher education was the best way to make a meaningful
contribution to the world. “I have a passion for social justice,
and that type of work can take place in a number of different
contexts,” she said. “The college environment is a special place
for doing this type of work because you’re impacting the lives of
students who are full of energy and the potential for growth. For
me, it’s about making space to give back to the field of
education that helped support me in my own growth.”
Two things have been especially important to Thomas Whitcher (EdD
’18) throughout his career: education and interpersonal networks.
“In all the various roles I’ve served at universities, I’ve
always been fascinated by how teams operate and how to leverage
people’s strengths to best support a team,” he said.
College can be challenging for even the best prepared students.
For Chicanx and Latinx students, the transition to college and
the rigor of their classes can be especially daunting. I know,
both as a first generation Latina and as a researcher.
Mikael Villalobos (BA ‘93, EdD ‘14) has dedicated his career to
diversity and inclusion within the field of higher education. In
his current role at UC Davis as Associate Chief Diversity Officer
with the Office of Campus Community Relations in the Office of
the Chancellor, he strives to play an active role in building a
more diverse and inclusive campus community. “Through education,
this institution has the premise and promise for changing lives,”
he said. “I firmly believe that it truly serves as the great
We asked Slilma Tukey (Cred. ’17) and Steve Platt (Cred. ’17),
both Air Force veterans beginning their teaching careers later in
life, to talk to us about why they joined the military, why
they’re making the change to teaching, and how their experiences
in the military affect their teaching practices.
For my tenth birthday my parents turned our greenhouse into an
aviary so I could raise birds. Our elementary school actually
took field trips to our backyard to see all our pets and animals.
These experiences ignited my passion for sharing agriculture.