18 Under 40
Southwestern University alumni enter a variety of industries after graduation, leading fulfilling lives that contribute to the well-being of humanity. To honor our youngest graduates, Southwestern celebrates their achievements through the “18 under 40” alumni recognition program.
“18 Under 40” recognizes 18 Southwestern graduates, under the age of 40 by the nomination deadline each year, who are already making significant contributions to their professions and/or communities. The achievements of the honorees are inspirational to Southwestern students and serve as a source of pride for the Southwestern University community.
Who can be selected?
To be selected for the “18 under 40” Award, nominees must be a graduate of Southwestern University, be younger than 40 years old at the time of the nomination, and have:
- attained prominence in their business, profession, or vocational endeavors and/or
- performed distinguished community service locally, regionally, nationally and/or globally
Who can submit a nomination?
Nominations may be made by any of the following:
- Any alumnus/a or friend of Southwestern University, including self-nominators
- Any member of the Southwestern University faculty or staff
- Applications will open December 17, 2020 for the 2021 honorees
- Nominations will be due by Sunday, March 14, 2021. Click here to nominate yourself or a classmate.
- Selected honorees will be informed by Friday, March 26, 2021.
- The 2021 honorees will be announced to the public in May 2021.
Want to see last year’s honorees?
Read the full article on the 2020 -18 under 40 cohort in the 2020 fall edition of the Southwestern Magazine or stop in to see the 18 under 40 wall in the Wilhelmina Cullen Campus Welcome Center the next time you visit Southwestern.
Paige Duggins-Clay ’14 | Austin, TX
An English and education double major with a minor in race and ethnicity studies, Duggins-Clay earned her J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law. She currently is an attorney at Husch Blackwell LLP, where she specializes in education law and civil rights. Whether working on behalf of educational insti-tutions or representing disenfranchised and disadvantaged individuals, Duggins-Clay strives to make communities better. She credits Southwestern with helping her turn her passion into her career: “As the daughter of an educator and as an African-American woman, I came to Southwestern knowing I was passionate about education, civil rights, and social justice. Southwestern gave me the amazing opportunity to pursue each of these areas both individually and intersectionally.”
Stacey Faulkner ’06 | Austin, TX
A political science and communication studies double major, Faulkner always knew she wanted to work in the music industry. She worked at a law fi rm in Georgetown while at Southwestern, which led to a position with Warner Music Group as coordinator of contract administration and eventually spearheading Warner’s international licensing program. Today,
she serves as team lead specializing in contractual rights at Facebook, where she is able to combine her knowledge of contracts, licensing, and music. Faulkner appreciates how Southwestern’s flexible curriculum allowed her to forge her own path: “The opportunity to craft independent studies and find internships specific to my interests helped me hone my interests and narrow in on my strengths and further build them out.”
Yesenia Garcia Herrington ’03 | Austin, TX
Herrington studied theatre and communication at Southwestern before earning her M.F.A. in acting from The University of Texas at Austin. She currently serves as professor of drama at Central Texas College and is a member of the adjunct faculty at Austin Community College and Temple College. In addition to teaching acting, voice, and the history of theatre, she serves as the resident director at Central Texas College, where she focuses on producing works written by women and people of color. In 2020, she earned a Special Merit Certificate in Directing from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. For Herrington, writing her own one-person show for her capstone project at Southwestern was particularly rewarding. “The sense of accomplishment that I achieved was extremely satisfying and self-affirming,” she says.
Patrick Keenan ’11 | Converse, TX
After suffering an injury as a member of the Pirates baseball team his sophomore year and completing his journey through the rehabilitation process, Keenan became interested in pursuing a career that would let him combine his love of science with his love of sports. He graduated with a major in kinesiology and a minor in exercise and sports studies before earning his doctor of physical therapy degree from the U.S. Army–Baylor University Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy. Today, he serves as executive fellow to the chief of the Army Medical Specialist Corps. He is grateful for the support and encouragement he received from his kinesiology professors at Southwestern. “They were always gracious with their time, responsive to student (and student–athlete) needs, and demanded excellence from their students,” he says.
Brad Knapp ’04 | New Orleans, LA
An international studies major and art history minor, Knapp earned his J.D. from the Southern Methodist University (SMU) Dedman School of Law. He is currently a partner at Locke Lord LLP, focusing primarily on bankruptcy and bankruptcy litigation. He has also served as an adjunct professor of law for the SMU PRO Paralegal Studies Certificate program. Knapp notes that while Southwestern’s emphasis on critical analysis, discussion, and writing prepared him for a legal career, the Southwestern Experience provides additional benefits. “I find the liberal-arts background and exposure to so many areas of study have provided a useful ability to connect with clients and coworkers from a huge variety of backgrounds,” he says.
Megan Bush Knapp ’04 | New Orleans, LA
Knapp earned her B.A. in biology and communication studies from Southwestern and her M.P.H. in behavioral science and health education from Emory University. She currently is the assistant director of the Tulane Prevention Research Center at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, where she helps manage and conduct research on modifying environmental determinants of obesity to influence physical activity and eating behaviors. She also is a doctoral candidate in global community health and behavioral sciences at Tulane. Knapp encourages Southwestern students to explore different intellectual interests. “The beauty of a liberal-arts education is the opportunity to be exposed to diverse topics and areas of study,” she says.
Bhavik Kumar ’06 | Houston, TX
After graduating from Southwestern with a major in chemistry and a minor in biology, Kumar earned his M.D. from the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine and his M.P.H. from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. He currently serves as medical director at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, where he sees patients for primary care, trans care, and reproductive healthcare. He also serves as medical spokesperson for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and has been an outspoken advocate for reproductive rights. Kumar recalls why he chose to attend Southwestern: “I wanted a college that was close to a bigger city but offered smaller class
sizes and a more intimate experience.”
Joi Lakes ’01 | North Hollywood, CA
A communication major with minors in political science and sociology, Lakes earned her J.D. from the New York University School of Law. She currently serves as a director of business affairs and legal counsel for Disney Television Animation, where she negotiates deals to hire talent such as writers, animation directors, and showrunners and acquires new intellectual property to turn into animated television shows. Lakes credits receiving a King Creativity Grant while a student at Southwestern with inspiring her to follow her dreams. She offers some important advice to current Southwestern students: “Don’t be afraid to fail spectacularly. You will learn the most from your biggest disasters.”
Michael B. Maine ’07 | Seattle, WA
Maine earned his B.A. in business at Southwestern and his M.B.A. in sustainable systems at Presidio Graduate School (formerly Bainbridge Graduate Institute). He is a photographer, media producer, and consultant who helps people find, develop, and share their stories. In 2019, Maine founded the We Out Here festival in Seattle, which is a celebration of the existence and excellence of the Black community in the city. He is a current board member and past president of Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking. Maine encourages current Southwestern students to be their authentic selves: “You are the only you that exists. Allow yourself to really be you.”
Maria Maconda Mathis ’17 | Florence, TX
Mathis began her Southwestern career as a psychology major but switched majors after being inspired by a feminist studies class. She was active with a number of student organizations, including Planned Piratehood, the Sexual Assault Risk Reduction Committee, Muslims and Allies, and the Student Health Advisory Committee. She currently serves on the boards of the Brown Foundation Inc., Bat Conservation International, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Central Texas, where she teaches classes and cofacilitates support groups as a volunteer. Mathis is the director of sales and marketing at Quarter Circle 10, a specialty weapons manufacturer. “All the professors I took at SU contributed to my growth and acted as mentors in different capacities that I continue to value today,” she says.
Paloma Mayorga ’10 | Austin, TX
A studio art major and art history minor, Mayorga is an artist and independent curator who currently serves as development coordinator at Big Medium, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting artists and building community through the arts. She also serves as director of PrintAustin, where she organizes an annual monthlong printmaking festival. Mayorga appreciates how Southwestern encourages students to think, create, and connect in new ways. “The art courses at Southwestern were really quite interdisciplinary, with assignments always being paired with art and art historical literature,” she says. “It inspired me to be able to study various movements, seeing that my work as an artist could be part of a larger conversation.”
Adam A. Meltzer ’05 | Austin, TX
After graduating with a B.A. in business from Southwestern, Meltzer earned his M.B.A. from St. Edward’s University. He currently is the managing director of asset management for Vida Capital Inc., where he oversees the acquisitions and sales of all life settlement assets for Vida Capital. Meltzer was one of the first 10 employees of Vida Capital, which is now a multibillion-dollar alternative asset management firm with more than 120 employees. “Entering a start-up as a young utility player and growing with the company to a leadership position has been an invaluable experience and could not have been possible without my liberal-arts education,” he says. “The ability to adapt and grow has been a hallmark of my career.”
Kari Torres Meyer ’06 | Austin, TX
After graduating from Southwestern as a double major in political science and Spanish, Meyer began her career as the legislative assistant for Texas State Representative Burt Solomons. She went on to serve in various roles for Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus before pursuing her interest in energy policy by accepting a managerial position at CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipally owned electric and natural gas utility. Today, she is director of federal and state relations for CPS Energy. Meyer credits her participation in Student Foundation and her job with the Office of Admission while at Southwestern with preparing her for success in the real world: “As a result of these experiences, I was able to enter the professional world with relevant and applicable skill sets and experiences.”
Hope Revelle ’08 | El Paso, TX
Revelle earned her B.A. in political science from Southwestern, her J.D. from the Loyola University New Orleans School of Law, and her LL.M. from the Emory University School of Law. As a solo practitioner, she focused on immigration law. She is currently serving as a judge advocate for the U.S. Army, where she practices criminal law as a defense counsel for soldiers. While at Southwestern, Revelle studied comparative politics and architecture in Italy. “Studying abroad was the most beneficial and influential experience of my life,” she says. “Living and studying in another country and experiencing a different culture firsthand changed my perspective on every aspect of life.”
Bethany Smith Scully ’03 | Falls Church, VA
An elementary education major and political science minor, Scully interned for U.S. Representative Pete Sessions ’78 before working full-time in his office after graduation. She went on to serve as scheduler for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison for five years, an experience that inspired her to pursue her M.P.P. from George Mason University. Today, she serves as an advisor to the chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence, directing and coordinating the vice president’s schedule and travel. Scully remembers what attracted her to Southwestern: “The smaller class size and campus layout were both very appealing when I was researching schools. After an on-the-spot tour of the institution, my parents and I were sold on Southwestern.”
Landon Sommer ’07 | League City, TX
Sommer participated in the 3-2 engineering program at Southwestern, earning his B.A. in physical science from Southwestern and his B.S. in biomedical engineering from Texas A&M University. He began his career as a biomedical flight controller for Wyle (now part of KBR), where he supported International Space Station real-time mission operations. He currently serves as Human Landing System human systems integrator at KBR. Sommer advises current Southwestern students to take advantage of all the experiences available to them: “An opportunity that you never expected to show up could be the best opportunity for you and one that you may end up loving to do.”
Mark Stoner ’03 | Houston, TX
A business administration major and economics minor, Stoner has been interested in business ever since starting a lawn-mowing service at the age of 12. Today, he is a partner at Bayou City Energy, a private equity firm that provides capital to producing operators in the oil and gas sector. He helps oversee the firm’s investment origination and deal execution and is a frequent presenter at industry conferences. Stoner chose to attend Southwestern because he wanted to be part of a smaller educational community: “I knew Southwestern’s more intimate class sizes would lead to closer friendships, foster more meaningful student–professor relationships, and facilitate a higher standard of personal accountability.”
Matt Trawick ’10 | Dallas, TX
After graduating from Southwestern with his B.A. in environmental studies, Trawick earned his M.S. in environmental science and public policy from Texas Tech University and his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. He currently serves as regional criminal enforcement counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), providing legal advice to the EPA’s special agents as they investigate potential criminal violations of environmental laws. Trawick appreciates how Southwestern’s interdisciplinary approach to learning prepared him for his career: “Environmental studies allowed me to take science classes to understand how natural systems function, as well as humanities classes to understand how people interact with and affect the environment.”
Christopher M. Bailey ’07 | San Antonio, TX
While studying abroad in Jamaica, Tokyo, and London as an undergraduate, Bailey was able to develop an understanding of international affairs and how to work with different cultures, so he decided to major in political science and pursue a career in international humanitarian law. Bailey is currently serving as a judge advocate for the 25th Air Force. In 2013, he earned the Department of Defense Bronze Star Medal for exceptionally meritorious achievement. Bailey appreciates how SU prepared him for his career: “Today, every industry and profession is experiencing rapid changes, so the aptitude to work in an interdisciplinary environment with diverse colleagues is a key skill and is where the Southwestern education really shines.”
Matthew A. Barnes ’06 | Lubbock, TX
Barnes earned his B.A. in biology at Southwestern and his Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame. He is now an assistant professor of natural resources management at Texas Tech University and the editor of invasivore.org, a website that educates the public about invasive species through the culinary arts. He has been awarded grants and fellowships from the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Science Foundation. Barnes relishes his collaboration with his undergraduate mentor, Dr. Romi Burks. “The invitation to work in her lab gave me my first exposure to ecological research and helped me discover my passion and career path,” he says.
Dya Campos ’02 | San Antonio, TX
After graduating from Southwestern as a history major, Campos earned her executive M.B.A. from the University of San Antonio before studying executive education at Harvard Business School. She is currently the director of government and public affairs at H-E-B, where she advises on executive communications while creating and executing lobbying strategy within local, state, and federal legislatures. In 2015, she was named one of the top political influencers in Texas by Capitol Insider. Committed to her personal growth, Campos recalls why she was originally attracted to the University: “Being challenged and getting to study with some of the best thought-provoking professors drove me to Southwestern.”
Nicholas R. Cox ’11 | Plano, TX
After graduating with a B.S. in chemistry from Southwestern, Cox earned his D.D.S. from the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio (UTHSCSA). He is the owner of and an independent general-practice dentist at Cox Family Dentistry in Plano. He has served as president of UTHSCSA’s Xi Psi Phi International Dental Fraternity, participated in multiple medical mission trips to provide free dental care to underprivileged communities in Texas, and volunteered as a coach and mentor for various baseball leagues. His favorite memories of Southwestern are of “hanging out with friends”—fellow members of the baseball team and his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta—“that I would have for the next 12 years and counting.”
Joanne Chiang DeHerrera ’01 | Orlando, FL
A communication studies major and biology minor, DeHerrera is the senior production manager of lifestyle content for the Golf Channel. She also cochairs the Women’s Network at the Golf Channel, a group within the NBCUniversal Diversity and Inclusion team that organizes opportunities to give back to the community. Throughout her career, DeHerrera has traveled to Greece, Italy, China, and England to cover five Olympic Games for NBC, for which she has received seven Sports Emmys. She advises current students to “never stop networking and talking to people” because it’s helpful to “learn how people got to where they are.”
Sara Garcia Duran ’00 | Dallas, TX
A policy studies and Spanish double major, Duran is currently a partner in mergers and acquisitions at Sidley Austin, LLP. After graduating from Southwestern, she earned her J.D., with honors, at the University of Texas School of Law. She has served as a fellow on the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity as well as a member of the board of directors at both the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center and the Dallas Women’s Foundation. She is frequently cited in lists of best lawyers in the state. Duran appreciates “the totality” of her Southwestern Experience. “I benefited from the broad liberal-arts curriculum and the constant push to think critically about what we were learning,” she says. “I think I really learned how to learn while I was at Southwestern.”
Margaret Fitzgerald ’01 | Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Fitzgerald came to Southwestern wanting to study psychology, but after taking an Introduction to Accounting class, she immediately switched career paths. Fitzgerald has worked for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, DC, and currently, she is the managing director of Hines Luxembourg, where she oversees the European office in investments, management, and accounting. Living and working in Europe have provided her with a whole new perspective on working with various cultures and backgrounds. She advises students “to make the most of your experience in and out of the classroom because the other education is just as important as the classroom experience.”
Josh T. Franco ’06 | Washington, DC
Franco is a national collector for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. An art history major and English minor at Southwestern, he earned his master’s and Ph.D. in art history from Binghamton University. He cofounded the U.S. Latinx Art Forum, where he serves as the secretary and membership coordinator, and he recently conducted an oral-history interview with cultural icon Cheech Marin. As an author, artist, and academic, Franco credits the University with providing him a “strong foundation”: “Southwestern excels at encouraging the curious, and the art history department is second to none. I work closely with many peers from Ivy League backgrounds, and I’ve never felt behind them in our field.”
Juan Juarez ’11 | Austin, TX
During his time at Southwestern, Juarez majored in political science, minored in communication studies, and participated in a number of activities and internships—such as the Wind and Chamber Ensemble, Mock Trial, the Bobby Bones Show, and the state legislature. These opportunities allowed him to gain valuable research and writing skills while developing a passion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. Today, he is a Fisher Fellow and instructional leader at KIPP Texas Public Schools and is pursuing his Ph.D. in educational leadership and LGBT mental health. He appreciates Southwestern “because of its small class size, how specialized the professors are in their field of study, and the ability to explore different fields of study.”
Joshua T. Keltner ’04 | Littleton, CO
Upon graduation, Keltner left Southwestern with a B.A. in economics and a B.M. in cello performance. He says that the combination of these two seemingly disparate areas was “like having two eyes: it gives depth perception, something a unidirectional education simply can’t give you. I’m eternally grateful that Southwestern provided such an opportunity.” He went on to earn a master’s in cello performance from the University of Massachusetts and a J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School. Keltner is currently an attorney at Sweetbaum Sands Anderson, PC, in Denver, Colorado, and is the cofounder and treasurer of Peace Notes International, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing music education internationally.
Carla Marienfeld ’01 | San Diego, CA
Marienfeld is currently an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), medical director of the UCSD Addiction Recovery and Treatment Program, and program director for the UCSD Addiction Psychiatry Clinical Fellowship. After leaving Southwestern with a B.A. in chemistry, she graduated with honors from the Baylor College of Medicine and joined the Yale School of Medicine, where she founded the Yale Global Mental Health Program. “To this day, much of my academic career involves service on boards and committees, as well as in professional organizations,” says Marienfeld. “So much of my ability to succeed in these roles began to develop during my time at Southwestern.”
Anna Flora Matis ’06 | Houston, TX
A communication studies and art history double major with a minor in French, Matis is currently a senior educational consultant for world languages and a product development manager at Seidlitz Education. After graduating from Southwestern, she earned her M.A. in foreign-language education from the University of Texas. She has published two books, 7 Steps to a Language-Rich, Interactive, Foreign Language Classroomand Boosting Achievement: Reaching Students with Interrupted or Minimal Education. Matis now presents at conferences and trains educators across the state. Having studied in both London and Budapest at Southwestern, Matis reflects, “Southwestern truly gives you the pathway to be a citizen of the world.”
Miriam Matthews ’03 | Arlington, VA
Matthews studied psychology and anthropology at Southwestern before earning her M.A. and Ph.D. at Claremont Graduate University, in California. She also served as a visiting fellow at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford, in the U.K. Today, as a senior behavioral and social scientist at the RAND Corporation, she helps improve policy- and decision-making by designing and leading research in the areas of political psychology, diversity, and multiculturalism. She looks back fondly on her classes with Dr. Melissa Johnson, whose classes, she says, were “mind-blowing”: “The readings and lessons encouraged me to think about the social world in ways I had never previously considered, and I loved it.”
Akshay Nanavati ’09 | Basking Ridge, NJ
Shortly after his first year at Southwestern, Nanavati started his training for the Marine Reserves and was deployed to Iraq following his junior year. After returning home, he decided to use his experiences, history major, and philosophy minor to pursue a humanitarian career. Since then, he has quit a corporate job to build a global business, run ultramarathons, and explored some of the most hostile environments on the planet. He is the author of Fearvana: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth, and Happinessand the founder of the nonprofit Fearvana Foundation. Nanavati says his philosophy and history courses at SU “stand out” because his studies “live with me to this day and still apply to the work I now do.”
Michael T. Nguyen ’03 | San Francisco, CA
A computer science and music double major, Nguyen is a patent attorney in Silicon Valley who has spent nearly a decade practicing intellectual property law. He is also a successful community organizer, advocate, fundraiser, and drag entertainer, chairing the board of directors of the nonprofit Gay Asian Pacific Alliance and serving on the board of directors for Livable City, an organization dedicated to providing accessible, affordable, and plentiful housing and public transportation. He traces his various advocacy roles to a an ethics class, a leadership conference, and an internship he engaged in while at SU: “Before, I was a mere spectator, but because of those three experiences, I am no longer on the sidelines and am dedicated to correcting social injustices I see in the world.”
Kelly Parmet ’09 | Bellaire, TX
Parmet majored in kinesiology because she had always wanted to work in the healthcare field and was interested in a focus on rehabilitation and helping others. Today, she serves as her hospital system’s clinical fieldwork coordinator and senior occupational therapy assistant. Parmet has garnered a number of awards for her efforts, including the Harris Health System Occupational Therapist of the Year in 2014. She shares that “Coach Francie Larrieu Smith was a wonderful mentor. … A world-renowned distance runner, she demonstrated to her students and athletes the importance of achieving that same level of excellence inside and outside the classroom. She also showed the importance of being a lifelong learner.”
Ebony Rose ’02 | Fort Worth, TX
A communication studies major and political science minor, Rose is currently the senior learning and development consultant at Texas Christian University. After graduating from Southwestern, she earned an interdisciplinary master’s degree from New York University in African-American cultural studies and cinema and media studies. She serves her community as vice president of the Tarrant Literacy Coalition and as the mayoral appointee for the Community Development Boar d in Fort Worth. As a first-generation college student, “Southwestern taught me possibility,” reflects Rose. ”My story would not be what it is had it not been for the moments I learned what was truly possible thanks to the experiences I had at Southwestern.”
Marcela Berdion-Straub ’05 | Houston, TX
Born in Austin to parents from Spain and Mexico, Berdion-Straub majored in business and political science. She earned her J.D. at Southern Methodist University and served for nine years as an in-house litigation and trial attorney for Andrews Kurth Kenyon, LLP. She is currently lead counsel at TEP Barnett USA, LLC, an affiliate of Total, the fourth largest oil and gas company in the world. She says that she “fell in love” with Southwestern’s beautiful campus, liberal-arts focus, and small, personal environment. “Studying abroad my junior year in Salamanca, Spain, was one of the most impactful experiences of my life,” she adds. “It helped me connect more deeply with my culture and was likely another piece of the puzzle that led me where I am today.”