Alumni Achievement

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 celebrate our youngest graduates, Southwestern announces a new alumni recognition program – “18 under 40.”

“18 Under 40” recognizes 18 Southwestern graduates, under the age of 40, 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.

If you know someone who contributes to their profession and/or community, please nominate them for this prestigious honor. Click here to view the online nomination formNominations are due by Sunday, March 1, 2020. Please contact alumni@southwestern.edu with questions.

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

Nomination Timeline:

  • Nominations are due by Sunday, March 1, 2020.
  • Selected honorees will be informed by Friday, March 20, 2020.
  • The 2020 honorees will be announced to the public in mid-May 2020.

Want to see last year’s honorees?

Read the full article on the 2019 -18 under 40 cohort in the 2019 spring edition of the Southwestern Magazine or stop by in to see the 18 under 40 wall in the Wilhemina Cullen Campus Welcome Center the next time you visit Southwestern. 

  • Christopher BaileyChristopher 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 BarnesMatthew 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 ’02Dya 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 ’11Nicholas 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 ’01Joanne 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 ’00Sara 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 FitzgeraldMargaret 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 ’06Josh 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 ’11Juan 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 ’04Joshua 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 ’01Carla 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 ’06Anna 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 ’03Miriam 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 '09Akshay 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 ’03Michael 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 ’09Kelly 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 ’02Ebony 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 ’05Marcela 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.”