2023 Celebration of Excellence Business & Social Sciences


Opening Remarks

Aaron Korngiebel, Dean of Business & Social Sciences

BSS Faculty Recognitions of Excellence

BSS Scholarship Recipients

BSS Division Award Recipients

Stanford University Institute for Research in Social Sciences

Presented By: Dr. Carolyn Ybarra

Konnilyn Feig Memorial Scholarship

Presented By: Dolores Davison

Closing Remarks


Erica Higgins

Nominated by: Professor Kathryn Maurer

I am nominating Erica for excellence in resilience and community building. Erica was a student in my Fall 2022 Magic, Science & Religion class, and in addition to working really hard in the class, and earning a solid "A" for her final grade, Erica was also a huge contributor to a positive classroom "vibe" and building community in the classroom--at a time when connections with others was so critical for many students and the instructor! I also am so proud of Erica and all she has accomplished in overcoming extreme barriers to her education and not only persevering, but thriving. Well done, Erica!

Gabe Shain

Nominated by: Professor Julie Jenkins

I am so pleased to be giving Gabe, one of our Anthropology majors, an Excellence Award this year. Gabe contributed to the Ethnography of Foothill project by conducting research on how community is formed and maintained in the Horticulture Department. Gabe did an amazing job in conducting interviews and observations, writing up his conclusions, and presenting it at the RSLS. I also wanted to acknowledge that Gabe is incredibly skillful at creating community too- particularly the kind of communities that he wants to belong to by being totally honest and authentic. As a member of one of my classes, I can’t help but think that Gabe really set the tone in helping develop networks of support that allowed us to learn a little more deeply. Congrats, Gabe!

Alekos Kapur

Nominated by: Professor Samuel Connell

Alekos has been a star scholar and incredible leader on campus. This award is well-deserved. He has been instrumental in growing our campus community and we are the better for it. As he continues on in life, I hope that he remembers to stop by our world to let us know of his successes, especially when he gets that PhD. (that's an inside joke because it's the last thing he wants, because his mom already has an Anthro PhD).

Tamar Grosskopf

Nominated by: Professor Kathryn Maurer

I am nominating Tamar for all around excellence! I had the privilege of being Tamar's instructor in both Fall 2022 and Winter 2023, and was impressed with her work ethic, curiosity for a broad range of subjects, and passion for learning. Her assignments were always prepared with care, going above and beyond stated expectations, her exams were exemplary, and her contributions to classroom discussions made us all think more deeply about the topics. She was always willing to help her peers and the instructor with any request! It's also been fabulous watching Tamar contribute to the revival of The Script and become an Ambassador for the Global Experiential Learning Florence program (where she is now so won't be able to accept the award in person).

Abigail Manalese

Nominated by: Professor Julie Jenkins

Abigail is not an Anthropology major but has contributed so much to the Anthropology Department over the last two years. As one of the founding research members that helped start the Ethnography of Foothill project, she has guided and supported other students in their own research projects. She has spent countless hours in the Center for Applied Anthropology, organizing and keeping the space open for the community to enjoy. All the while, she has been working as a research intern for a project at Stanford and secured a Community College Global Affairs Fellowship, where she’ll be spending a part of her summer in Washington D.C. Congrats, Abigail!

Jonatan Naranjo

Nominated by: Professor Samuel Connell

The torch has been passed in anthropology and Jon is running with it. His passion for the community and our student well-being has been evident from the moment he arrived on campus. It is my sincere hope that he jumps into academia in the future, with his keen mind and helpful demeanor he should go far!


Koki Sumi

Nominated by: Professor Brian Evans

Koki first attempted my classes several years ago as an international student from Japan. He tried hard but the language barriers made success too difficult. He returned to Japan and kept studying English - and then returned to Foothill. I am so proud of his amazing efforts - he not only is passing,... he earned an A in Political Economy and is currently earning an A in Global Economics. In addition to this, he is an extremely humble and all-around nice person. Thank you Koki for making the most of your opportunity to study abroad.

David Kim

Nominated by: Professor Brian Evans

David has been an absolute star. He got either an A or an A+ in all the courses I teach - typically with the top score. But what truly sets him apart is his service to others. He has always been there to help others in all sorts of ways. He volunteered to be a student TA in my online Microeconomics class for several quarters - this was unpaid. He is currently in Guatemala as a member of the FH Teacher Corps - again volunteering his time to help others. Thank you David for everything you have given Foothill.


Leo Mancilla

Nominated by: Professor Alexis Aguilar

Succeeding in a class does not come easy to Leo due to a learning disability. Nevertheless, he successfully completed my Physical Geography class by being committed to learning the material and applying it. He was always attentive during class and eager to participate. I was impressed by his well-researched final project on the impact of ancient humans on mastodons, which he presented to the class in an engaging manner. I highly commend Leo for his persistence and determination to overcome obstacles and achieve his objectives.


Heather Yee

Nominated by: Professor Bill Ziegenhorn

Heather has been an exceptional student. She has excelled throughout the year in my U.S. history survey series of classes. She is currently working on a review and analysis of a monograph on the Spanish flu of 1918. Last quarter, she volunteered at the Museum of American History researching information on and writing labels for some of the artifacts in their collection. She plans on transferring next fall to UC Santa Cruz and pursuing a major in history with the goal of possibly teaching or working in the field of public history.

Anya Nazarova

Nominated by: Professor Bill Ziegenhorn

Anya did excellent work in my U.S. history course winter quarter. For her research project, she went outside of her already existing work with the Cupertino Historical Society as a Mellon Scholar intern and volunteered with the California History Center at De Anza College. Here she came in contact with Tom Izu and Susan Hayase at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose and spent a considerable amount of time building a website for the museum's Hidden Histories Project that, when finished, will showcase the personal stories and community history of San Jose's Japantown.


Niko Razavi

Nominated by: Professor Mona Rawal

Nikolas aka Niko, is a student who is very respectful to the faculty, he participates in the Foothill community at a deeper level and is sensitive to the needs of our community as well. Niko has excelled not only in his course work in my Hum 5 class, but he does have a very strong presence as a community member who cares for his fellow students and also brings very engaging conversations in his class participation.


Dominic Trindade

Nominated by: Professor Mona Rawal

Dominic joined my Philosophy 7 class in symbolic logic at the age of 14. He has been a very diligent student for sure but his USP lies in him thinking out of the box. He came up with very different solutions to logical problems, he thought about solving the problems with his own strategies and sometimes even challenged the logicians from the ancient times! He shows the spirit of philosophical inquiry in his work and his questions.


Leo Kim

Nominated by: Professor Eta Lin

I am enthusiastically recognizing Leo Kim for the BSS Excellence Award in Psychology. My first interaction with Leo was over the holiday break last year when he contacted me via email from South Korea to inquire about classes. He enrolled in my Statistics class and did he excel! Leo received the top scores on the exams, seamlessly learned the computer statistical package SPSS, carved time out of his busy schedule to help his fellow peers. Not surprisingly I asked him to serve as an embedded tutor for my Statistics and Research Methods classes. My students were so appreciative of his positive energy, patience, and constant support. Leo also has a keen interest in conducting research, and he serves as a research assistant on various projects ranging from allyship to social media usage at Stanford University. He is also conducting his own project on social media usage and its impact on the mental health in younger adults. At Foothill, he also works as an embedded tutor for the Math Performance Success Program and the English department, serves as the co-president of the Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Club (e.g., promoting diversity in STEM-related disciplines, using technology for the greater social good) and the Founding Director of OwlHacks, serves as a student advisor to the Science Learning Institute, and he volunteers as a tutor for English and math for Dreamcatchers, which is a program for low-income middle school students. I am impressed and amazed by his ability to successfully balance the responsibilities of school, tutoring, extracurricular activities, interning, and community volunteering. In the fall, he will pursue a Computer Science and Psychology major at Yale University.

Diego Gianni Vasquez

Nominated by: Professor Tiffany Rideaux

I am happy to nominate Diego Vasquez for his academic excellence and civic engagement. I am especially impressed to be able to observe these qualities in the online environment. Diego has shown a strong commitment to learning through repeatedly submitting thoughtful and detailed work in both biopsychology spring 2022 and abnormal psychology currently. In community discussions, Diego is supportive while probing classmates towards deeper reflections on how the course material connects to current events and social justice. I have utmost confidence Diego will continue to manifest strong social science skills for critical inquiry and human rights.

Lillian A. Swedlow

Nominated by: Professor Ben Stefonik

Lily Swedlow, an aerospace engineering major, is an invaluable member of the Foothill community. Lily loves Foothill. She has attended other community colleges but found her home here and explained to me that she fell in love with the sense of community she found in the clubs and the Science Learning Institute (SLI). Lily is not only an outstanding student, but she is a skilled community-creator. She co-founded the Astronomy Club, the ADHD Club, and Project Playground, which provides support to students who are interested in pursuing research and service leadership projects. Lily works for Pass the Torch and the SLI, and she holds leadership positions in several clubs on campus. She is a leader among the student body and continually seeks out opportunities to make positive contributions to our campus life. And on top of it all, Lily is kind, caring, funny, and compassionate. She exemplifies excellence through her commitment to our campus life, and I am proud to nominate her for the BSS Excellence Award.

Zoey Brenner

Nominated by: Professor Florina Petcu

Zoey Brenner has taken three of my classes, so I had the privilege to see her grow and become one of my strongest students. She excelled in all my classes and continues to demonstrate eagerness for learning, critical thinking, and creativity. Zoey is a responsible and motivated student who is very much liked by her peers. She never hesitates to help in the classroom with grace and a smile on her face. Zoey responds well to challenges. Her final presentation in the Biopsychology class was inspiring and worthy to be taken into consideration to be presented at the next Foothill College Symposium. Recently I have noticed Zoey growing more confident and outspoken, having the courage to challenge information rather than accept it at face value. She will attend the University of Utah and plans to study abroad in Korea next year. Her achievements and qualities stand as a testament to her excellence.

Seymour Keola Asing

Nominated by: Professor Eta Lin

I am happy to recognize Keola Asing as a recipient of the BSS Excellence Award in Psychology. She took both my Social Psychology and Research Method classes. Keola did well on her assignments, quizzes, and exams, but more importantly she was always engaged in class discussions, asked insightful questions, demonstrated a high level of maturity, and has a deep sense of social responsibility. When she took my Research Methods class, she and her group members were particularly interested in college students’ perceptions of issues concerning modern redlining, healthcare, access to nutritional foods and technology, and crime & safety in their communities. Despite some group challenges, Keola practiced patience and understanding, and she focused on the task at hand, which was to complete a powerful and impactful research project on social justice issues. In addition to being a high achieving student, Keola is involved in various college clubs and community organizations. At Foothill, she has served as the AAPI Heritage Month Chairperson, the Vice-President of the Debate Club, and the President of the InterClub Council representative: People of the Pacific Club. For the past two years, Keola has volunteered in “Brown Bag” events to distribute healthy foods to low-income seniors in Japantown, and she was the co-lead project organizer for “Her Drive, Co” (e.g., raised funds, delivered hygiene products to domestic violence survivors). At Friends Quaker Meeting House, Keola volunteers as an early childhood educator, and she is teaching English through the Teacher Corps program in Guatemala. I cannot think of a better teacher and role model for our young people! I commend Keola for her dedication and commitment to giving back to her local and global communities, and for her strong desire to care for her fellow human beings. In the fall, Keola hopes to transfer to Barnard College.

Schyler Martin

Nominated by: Professor Ben Stefonik

The first thing I would say about Schyler Martin is that they bring a vivacious and infectious positive energy to any space they enter. Schyler is an intellectual with a creative spirit and an appreciation for the silly, the absurd, and the wonderous. As a Biology and Environmental Science major, Schyler is also committed to advancing humanitarianism and environmental justice. Schyler is deeply committed to building community and contributing constructively to the Foothill campus. They have worked for the Science Learning Institute and Pass the Touch, they have co-founded several clubs, and they currently hold leadership positions in the Astronomy Club and ADHD Club. Schyler has fallen in love with Foothill and is amazed at the great resources that both the school and KCI offer students. Schyler has the skill set and personality to motivate and inspire people and I am proud to nominate them for the BSS Excellence Award.

Tarika Modi

Nominated by: Professor Florina Petcu

Tarika Modi impressed me from the moment I met her in the General Psychology class last year. She was curious, respectful, and passionate about psychology. Her maturity led me to believe that she was already a seasoned college student, but she will start attending Scripps College this upcoming fall. Tarika is an intelligent but modest student, she works hard but goes out of the way to help others. Tarika’s initiative and kindness set her apart from other students. She followed my recommendation for the class to use a study guide, but she took it a step further and partnered up with another student to create study cards for all her peers. Her generosity was inspiring! It is not often that a student chooses to thrive from the success of others. Overall, she continues to be an excellent student and person that makes a professor’s job meaningful.


Seymour Keola Asing

Nominated by: Professor John Fox

I have had many excellent students, and Keola Asing is among the top of the top. A sociology major, she excelled in the two classes she took from me, but what sets her apart is that sociological thinking comes naturally to her. Her research skills are excellent-- she is genuinely interested in her research topics, which always have a social justice focus. For example, she absolutely rocked the Research and Service Learning Symposium for the past two years, with topics including environmental racism and the forced sterilization of women of color. Right now she is teaching for the Guatemala Teacher Corps and she sounds like an educator when she says that "Education is the key to empowerment." Whether she continues in education, public health policy, or another field, she will continue to use her skills to help others, and for this reason I grant her the Excellence in Sociology Award

Senja Johnson

Nominated by: Professor John Fox

When the pandemic devastated the on-campus community at Foothill College, we needed students to rebuild the on-campus presence, and not just in the classroom. Senja Johnson was one of those students. Not only did she excel in two of my classes, but when we had to rebuild the student clubs, she was one of those who stepped up to lead the Gender and Sexuality Alliance Club. She came to Foothill determined to excel and she has done so because of her dogged determination and strong academic abilities. What I love about Senja is her grit--won't stop until she finds the answer, whether it's a problem posed in class, a matter in the club, or her academic career-- a trait I consider vital to success. Now she is off to thrive at UC San Diego, where she will continue to make a difference in the lives of others. Her grit, compassion, intelligence, organizational skills, and intellect are among the many reasons I grant her the Excellence in Sociology Award.


Lacey Hough

Nominated by: Professor Dolores Davison

Despite personal challenges, Lacey excelled this year as one of the most dedicated and focused students I have had the pleasure of working with. Even in the online environment, her focus shone through, and I am so pleased that she has been able to persevere and do extraordinary work through the challenges she has faced. I cannot wait to see what she does as she moves forward in her educational goals, because I have no doubt that she will make her family and friends proud.

Amanda Vazquez

Nominated by: Professor Dolores Davison

I was fortunate enough to have Amanda in two classes this year, and was privileged to get to know her through my drop-in hours. As the mother of two babies under the age of 3, with a husband deployed overseas, Amanda still made time to make sure I was doing okay and to keep me apprised of everything happening so that she didn't fall behind. She is an exceptional student and an even better person, and I am honored to have had her in my classes.


This year's BSS scholarship recipients are: Esmeralda Villalobos, Nicole Nguyen, David Kim, Nuray Yilmaz, and Jax Blom!

BSS Division Award Recipients

This year's BSS Division Award recipients are: Leo Kim, Lillian A. Swedlow, and Schyler Martin!

Stanford University Institute for Research in Social Sciences

These students were chosen as the top research assistants who volunteered at Stanford this year, as part of the Stanford Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS) collaborative Research Experience Program with Foothill College.

This year the committee chose four students. The independent reviewers chose one Interns of the Year and three Intern of the Year Finalists.

Maya Marquez-Garcia ~ 2023 Intern of the Year

Internship supervisor Bethany Nichols, faculty Michelle Jackson, Stanford University Department of Sociology

Research on Sexual Violence, Economic Well-being, and Resilience

"Maya worked on my dissertation project which examined sexual violence, economic well-being, and resilience. Last summer, she was immediately emersed in intensive data collection with survivors of sexual violence. Although her team members had been conducting interviews for many months with survivors of sexual violence, Maya was new to this experience. She tackled the challenge head on, diligently learning our interview protocol and how to write fieldnotes. In one interview, in particular, her insights and experience were quite valuable. The respondent disclosed that they had a personality disorder. Maya had prior knowledge of this disorder because of her research and academic interests in psychology. As our team reflected on this interview, Maya stepped-up and shared valuable insights about the disorder which helped us interpret this interview.

Maya has also been intensely engaged with research beyond data collection. On my project, she has learned how to code and analyze interview data. Based upon her analyses, she has written numerous analytical memos. Her memos have advanced a project that she, other interns, and I are collaborating on together. Together, we are writing a paper manuscript that reveals the "shadow side" of resilience. In this manuscript we show how survivors experience disruption in their mental and emotional well-being, physical well-being, and relationships, despite being resilient in other areas of life. Maya's data analyses have been crucial to advance our findings for this project.

Maya goes above and beyond in everything that I ask. Whenever we have lighter work weeks on the project, she reaches out to see how she can support me and the project in new ways. I'm continually amazed by the driven and empathetic human that she is. Maya desires to get her PhD upon completing her Bachelor's degree, and I hope that the mentor/mentee relationship that we have developed is just the start of many fruitful collaborations to come."

Gabriel Dominguez ~ Intern of the Year Finalist

Internship supervisor Hannah D’Apice, faculty Christine Min Wotipka, Stanford University Graduate School of Education

Comparative Research on Higher Education in 88 Countries

"Over the past year as an intern, I've been very impressed with how Gabriel has balanced his RA responsibilities on top of his multiple part-time jobs, while maintaining consistent communication about his research progress and overall schedule.

Gabriel has also completed work thoroughly across the multiple tasks he's been assigned. Early on, this included reviewing university websites to determine if they had programs or policies related to Indigenous peoples. More recently, that has included reviewing reports from the UN and international organizations. Across tasks, Gabriel takes detailed notes and comes prepared to our meetings with a report of what he's collected, what he found interesting, and what he had questions on.

Gabriel has absolutely demonstrated engagement with the research. He conveys his interest in the topic not only through his thorough work, but also through his ability to make connections across the different tasks. For example, now that we are going through census data on Indigenous populations, Gabriel is able to identify which countries name specific Indigenous groups—based on prior data collection from universities and international organizations—versus which countries use pan-ethnic designations that fail to acknowledge different Indigenous groups/tribes.

Finally, Gabriel has gone above and beyond as an intern. For example, when reviewing reports from international organizations, my main interest as a supervisor was to see whether/how they reported population data. Gabriel not only noted this data, but also pointed out common themes the reports covered overall, and how these changed over time. For example, reports from the 1980s tended to note violence against Indigenous groups, while later reports in the 2000s began noting advances Indigenous peoples were achieving in their national contexts. This thematic information was not necessarily asked for by me as a supervisor, but will be incredibly valuable for a larger understanding of how Indigenous groups have been recognized and portrayed in official records over time."

Wenting Ying ~ Intern of the Year Finalist

Internship supervisor Matt DeButts, faculty Jennifer Pan, Stanford University Department of Communication

Media Research on Western Journalism Coverage of China

"Wenting has done everything for us — in English and Chinese. In English, she hand-coded ten thousand headlines into categories and helped refine our codebook; in Chinese, she research citizen complaints and identified trends in tones and topics. In our research, some tasks are unavoidably repetitive, and some people (especially with the extensive professional training that Wenting possesses) might feel they are too trivial. Wenting performed all tasks on time, with an incredible degree of thoroughness, without complaint. All this, while raising a child and being a full-time student!

Three items bear mention for the “above and beyond” section. At one point, our research team required a list maintained by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Wenting called them on her own initiative to obtain information on where the list is held and how it could be accessible. She offered to ask a friend to get the list in-person. On another occasion, our team was looking for a list of environmental disasters in China in the past 20 years. Again, Wenting found — on her own initiative — an environmental record database and ordered a copy online, and presented it the following week. The list was tremendously helpeful. And on a final occasion, Wenting used a personal connection to set up a meeting with an expert in Chinese keyboard inputs to better flesh out one of our research designs. In and across all cases, her input was invaluable, and has made a tremendous contribution to the quality of our published work.

I cannot imagine a more deserving candidate of this certificate than Wenting. I am so so grateful to have worked with her, and I can’t wait to see what she achieves next."

Talya Kass ~ Intern of the Year Finalist

Internship Supervisor Josephine Tan, faculty Deborah Gruenfeld, Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Organizational Behavior

Psychology/Organizational Behavior Research on Hand Movement Gestures during Political Debates

"I have been very impressed with Talya's quality of work. She is extremely detail oriented and it shows in the work that she is passionate about the tasks I give her. She takes initiative in her work and has always taken the opportunity to clarify if she ever needs more information. I give her the freedom to set her own deadline and she has always delivered quality work in a timely manner (and at times even faster than what I expected). Her enthusiasm for research is infectious and inspires me to become more engaged with the research as well.

One notable example of her going above and beyond what was asked of them, was when I tasked her to make experimental stimuli for one of my surveys. I asked her to help me craft 5 videos, all with differing social interactions that are rather complex to do. Talya not only completed it successfully but also found a way to improve upon the original request, and took the time to ensure that the result was better and more effective for the resulting participants who took my survey. Additionally, in another instance, I asked her to help me look through a survey I wrote up and to spot any mistakes I may have made. She took the time to take the survey multiple times, screenshot any issues she encountered and provided comments and suggestions for each, which was beyond what I expected. These examples clearly demonstrate Talya's immense dedication to her work and her passion for research."


Dr. Konnilyn Feig was passionate about and active in human rights and social justice issues and projects all of her life, and encouraged her students to engage in their own passions for community service. Dr. Feig also strongly advocated, supported, and taught in the Honors Institute at Foothill College.

Lia Fernandez-Grinshpun

"Despite playing a vital role in our system of higher education, community colleges are routinely overlooked, leaving many individuals unaware of their benefits. Recognizing this knowledge gap, I founded College Mosaic, a student-led organization dedicated to empowering students to seek alternatives to traditional four-year post-secondary education. It started with designing and launching the College Mosaic website, a one-stop-shop for prospective community college students with transfer resources, student stories, and a robust transfer student network.

On-the-ground peer-to-peer community outreach was the next big step. Months of pitching my vision culminated in a partnership with Foothill College’s outreach department and securing buy-in from various high school administrations. Energizing audiences who did not initially see the value in my lofty mission taught me how to be an effective communicator; I needed to be concise, empathetic, and consistent to overcome their reluctance. Soon after, I recruited a peer to speak with me at public and private high schools across the Bay Area. Bringing a fresh perspective to my initial approach, he came up with the idea of weaving in trivia questions during our outreach events. By implementing gamification, students and their families became actively involved when we gave them the information they needed to think critically about the next stage of their educational journey. This experience taught me the importance of teamwork; without the guidance of the outreach department at Foothill and a newfound partner, I would not have been able to effectively engage my community."


Our donors and fundraisers for all of their generosity and hard work:

  • FHDA Foundation Staff
  • Dr. Judy Miner
  • Dr. Bruce Swenson

Our administrators President Kristina Whalen, Kurt Hueg VP of Instruction, Ram Subramaniam Associate Vice President of Instruction.

Our fabulous faculty who spend countless hours nurturing our students.

Families and friends for encouraging our students as they pursue their academic endeavors.

Special thank you to our BSS Celebration of Excellence Committee: Brian Evans, John Fox, Eta Lin, Kerri Ryer, Bill Ziegenhorn, Julie Jenkins, Mona Rawal, Alex Collins, Dolores Davison