EDI Committee Members

 

A talented and passionate team of students, alumni, instructors and staff help to foster equity, diversity and inclusion at UCLA Extension. Learn more about our committee members below. 

 

UCLA Extension Students & Alumni

Marjan Fathi

Marjan Fathi (she/her)
Pre-Medical and General Science Certificate

Marjan Fathi is a student at UCLA Extension in the Pre-Medical & Sciences Program. Originally from Chicago, Marjan graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Health with a concentration in Diversity Studies from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.

She believes effective dialogue fosters an environment both in and out of the classroom that enables all students and faculty to feel valued, empowered, respected, and safe. She is passionate about improving equity and healthcare access for patients in underserved communities.

In her free time, Marjan leads research involving seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease where she studies how laughter can play a noteworthy role in the improvement of cognitive function and overall wellness with the patients she works with. She looks forward to attending medical school and becoming a physician that works with special population groups.

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Ali Hashem

Ali Hashem
Cybersecurity Certificate

Residing in Detroit Michigan, Ali took advantage of the online program at UCLA Extension and is a graduate of the Cybersecurity Certificate program. As a first-generation college graduate and second-generation immigrant, Ali has a deep rooted passion for programs promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion all over the country.

Notably, Ali has volunteered with multiple organizations/programs within the Detroit area to provide better access to educational resources for youth. Some of the organizations include: Washtenaw County Public Defender; Vista Maria; Brotherhood Oath Mentoring Services; and MACC Development.

Prior to attending UCLA Extension, Ali graduated with a BA in political science with high distinction honors from The University of Michigan and a Juris Doctorate from The Michigan State University College of Law.

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Nikki Poosti

Nikki Poosti (she/her)
Pre-Medical and General Science Certificate

Nikki Poosti is an Iranian-American student and LA native who is currently enrolled in the Pre-Medical & General Sciences Certificate program. As an aspiring physician who formerly worked in the music industry, the certificate program at UCLA Extension has provided her the opportunity to pursue this new path to medicine.

When she’s not in class or playing the drums, she enjoys spending her time tutoring students from under-resourced elementary schools, advocating for LA’s youth in the foster care system, and volunteering at a free clinic in her community.

Her dedication to serving marginalized groups in Los Angeles has allowed her the opportunity to advocate for patients' and students’ individualized needs that are often underrepresented. Her volunteer experiences have reinforced her belief that accessible education and resources are a significant factor for building an equitable and inclusive environment for all.

Through this committee, she remains dedicated to cultivating an inclusive campus environment that celebrates the unique perspectives and contributions that each student brings to the community.

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Sai Charaan Yalla

Sai Charaan Yalla (he/him)
Sustainability Certificate

Sai is a student in the Sustainability program, having previously studied International Trade and Commerce at UCLA Extension. As an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky, Sai was the Student Body Representative on the Equal Opportunity Committee, where he helped facilitate the development and implementation of programs to ensure equal opportunity throughout student, staff, and administrative affairs.

He also helped assess the university’s Governing and Administrative Regulations, along with its Strategic Plan to ensure that they were fulfilling federal and state equal opportunity statutes, and to highlight and address areas of concern.

As a student, Sai was also a member of the founding caucus of the Student Coalition on Diversity and Inclusion, which was instituted to advocate an inclusive and equitable institution by influencing policy and fostering a culture that respects and uplifts the humanity of others. Having helped draft the mission and vision statement of the organization, Sai was responsible for metrics that advanced the organization’s core values of accountability & progress, education & advocacy, and equity & accessibility.

As a member of the UCLA Extension Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, Sai is excited to ensure that the responsibilities of the organization are fulfilled, without bias or favor, but also assure that meaningful progress is made across a variety of metrics, and that traditionally excluded individuals and groups are not only heard, but are empowered by the committee’s decision-making processes in order to perpetuate fairness regarding inequitable conditions and that effective opportunities are provisioned to all.

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UCLA Extension Instructors

Karen Grace-Baker

Karen Grace-Baker (she/her)
College Counseling, Education

Karen Grace-Baker is the CEO of Right College ChoiceTM, her educational consulting firm. For the past ten years, she has successfully guided students through the college admissions process, assisting in gaining entry to colleges and universities, including highly selective and Ivy League universities.

She holds a B.A. (Boston College), an MBA (Atlanta University), and a College Counseling Certificate (U.C. San Diego Extension). Karen is a consummate advocate for equity and access with a passion and commitment to working with underserved populations stemming from her background as a first-generation student. She is the first of seven children in her family to graduate from college and graduate school.

Previously, Karen spent 15+ years as a marketing executive with Fortune 500 companies, including General Mills/Pillsbury, Walt Disney, and Sony Music.

Karen teaches in the College Counseling Certificate program at UCLA Extension. Her expertise has enabled her to conduct workshops and seminars at professional conferences and publish articles on college readiness and admissions.

Karen previously served on the Board of Trustees for Los Angeles independent school (Hollywood SchoolHouse) and the Advisory Board for UCLA Extension. She is the Board Chair of ScholarMatch, (a nonprofit focused on college admissions for high achieving, first-generation, low-income students) and the Advisory Board for LEAD Business. She is a member of NACAC and MACAC.

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Alan K. Caldwell

Alan K. Caldwell
Public Relations, Business, Management, & Legal Programs

Alan K. Caldwell is a public affairs and communication professional. He primarily works with corporate and educational organizations to manage and protect brand reputation.  

His experience developing communication strategies that engage with diverse audiences has earned him a well-respected reputation as a strategic and authentic communicator that delivers measurable results. He is a sought-after trainer on public speaking and how to manage crisis communications.

Alan serves as an Adjunct Instructor at UCLA Extension and teaches public relations and communications. Alan is a Ph.D. student at Pepperdine University in Global Leadership and Change Management. His research and academic studies focus on methodologies and theories to solve global organizations' diversity, communication and leadership challenges.

Alan holds an MBA from Mount Saint Mary's University, a Bachelor's in Political Science with a minor in Computer Science from Baylor University, a Public Relations Certificate from UCLA Extension and is an Accredited Public Relations Professional (APR).

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Adisa Cartwright

Adisa Cartwright (she/her)
Patient Advocacy, Humanities & Sciences

Adisa Cartwright is a Registered Nurse and Health Equity Advocate. A native of Memphis, TN, she began her career in healthcare 24 years ago as a Medical Office Assistant and a Certified Nursing Assistant. 

She worked as a Medical Assistant, Psychiatric Technician, and Billing Manager prior to receiving a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Baptist College of Health Sciences in 2008, and a Master of Science in Nursing Education from Walden University in 2017.

She currently serves as Associate Dean of the Medical Assistant Program at UCLA Health, and Adjunct Faculty in the Patient Advocate Certificate program at UCLA Extension.

Her nursing specialty experience includes Mental Health, Oncology, Public Health, and Nursing Education. She is certified in Nursing Professional Development and has a passion for teaching.

She is a strong believer in the power of prayer and promotes preventative medicine. As a Registered Nurse and Educator, she has seen the detriment caused by the lack of screening for treatable diseases, as well as the lack of health literacy in many underserved communities. Her goal is to educate and empower members of the community to take the necessary steps to live a healthier life.

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UCLA Extension Staff

Rebecca Agonafir

Rebecca Agonafir (she/her)
Interim Director, Integrated Marketing

Rebecca Agonafir is Interim Director of Integrated Marketing at UCLA Extension, with marketing responsibility for UCLA Extension overall and Student Services.  In addition to previous consulting experience in the K-12 education space, she has over 15 years of experience across marketing, strategy, and finance in companies ranging from Mattel to American Express.

The experience of being the daughter of immigrants who is also a Los Angeles native has been formative in Rebecca’s commitment to issues around access, equity, diversity, and inclusion in both education and the workplace.

Rebecca has an MBA from Harvard Business School, and received a B.A. in History with a minor in Economics from Wellesley College.

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Varian Hamilton

Varian Hamilton
Business Analyst, Information Technology Services

Varian Hamilton is the Information Technology Solutions Manager at UCLA Extension. Since 2017, Varian has shared his project management and analysis skills with Extension, implementing such projects as DocuSign and the Virtual Contact Center, and working as the relationship manager/product owner for Extension’s enrollment and course management system.

Prior to joining Extension, Varian worked in the financial services and healthcare industries. Varian currently sits on the board of a local non-profit that provide scholarships for LGBTQ+ students of color, and volunteers at an HIV/AIDS service organization.

A native of Richmond, VA, Varian holds a BS in Mass Communications and a MA in Adult Education and Distance Learning.

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Krista Loretto

Krista Loretto (she/her)
Program Manager, Humanities & Sciences

Krista Loretto is Project Manager for California’s COVID-19 Virtual Training Academy and Cultural Humility for Case Investigation and Contact Tracing at UCLA Extension. In this role, Krista oversees a cross-functional team dedicated to curriculum delivery, including registration, student support, instructional design, technical support, and reporting.

Krista’s commitment to EDI is reflected in her many accomplishments at UCLA and in the community, including launching the nation’s first-ever Spanish-language Journalism program, a collaboration with UCLA Extension, Univision 34-Los Angeles, and La Opinión and serving as the lead UCLA PDP consultant for the Project Connect initiative to harmonize cultural relations at UCLA Housing and Hospitality Services.

As a first generation college student, Krista conducted original research on the social psychology of higher education before joining UCLA Community Programs as Project Director, Free the Mind Prison Project, where she educated the public about the impact of the “Three Strikes Law” and the role of education in increasing rehabilitation rates.

Krista is a graduate of UCLA and holds a Master of Science in Management and Leadership from Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business.

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Benjamin Steinsieck

Benjamin Steinsieck (he/they)
Associate Director, Budget & Financial Services

Prior to joining UCLA Extension, Ben was the Director of Finance for the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), a non-profit study abroad provider with study centers in twenty-six countries spanning five continents. While at CIEE, Ben saw first-hand how cultural immersion and direct exposure to the lived experiences of others can have a powerful and lasting impact on our capacity for empathy and understanding.

Over the years, Ben has volunteered in various roles in support of the LGBTQ+ community, including: Fenway Community Health in Boston, Massachusetts and the San Diego LGBT Community Center.

Ben holds an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

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Aymara Zielina

Aymara Zielina
Program Director, Legal Programs

Aymara Zielina is the Program Director for Legal Programs at UCLA Extension where she is responsible for the development, management, and oversight of legal course offerings.

She earned her BA in American and English Literature, Phi Beta Kappa, from Brown University. She is a graduate of UCLA School of Law, where she was the recipient of the UC Regents Merit Scholarship. During law school she served as Editor of the UCLA Law Review, Co-Chief Articles Editor of the Women’s Law Journal, and completed a summer judicial externship with the Los Angeles Superior Court.

For the last 15 years Aymara has worked in various roles in higher education administration. She is committed to issues of access, diversity, equity and inclusion in education and the workplace.

Prior to working in education, Aymara practiced labor and employment law, representing management in labor and employment matters ranging from single plaintiff cases to class actions before state, federal and administrative tribunals.

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Ex-Officio Members

Eric A. Bullard (he/him), Dean, Continuing Education and UCLA Extension

Katrin Kaehler (she/her), Director, Human Resources

Sheila King (she/her), Interim Assistant Dean and Chief of Staff

John Lyons, Associate Dean, Administration/CFO

Yuri Peraza (she/her), Director, Community Engagement

Varaz Shahmirian (he/him), Interim Associate Dean, Academic and Faculty Affairs and Department Director, Engineering & Digital Technology

Ric Zappala (he/him), Interim Assistant Dean, Student Services

 

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