The First-Generation Mentor Program connects first-generation students with staff and faculty mentors who offer academic, professional, and personal support.

Browse the Mentors below. If any stand out to you, then you can reference them as you are filling out the form.
(if none stand out we can choose one for you after the form has been filled out.)

Connect me with a Mentor!

Program Mentors

Academic Affairs

Portrait of David Connelly

David Connelly

Associate Vice President, Academic Programs


Get to know your mentor

I am the Department Chair of History and Political Science. I earned my Ph.D. from the University at Albany in Public Administration with an emphasis on organizational behavior. My undergraduate (History) and masters degrees (MPA- Public Finance) are from BYU. I study organizational leadership and have interests in sustainability, information technology applications, economic development and probably 10 other things as well. I have a number of eclectic hobbies but try and do all of them while watching college sports.

Portrait of Wade Oliver

Wade Oliver

Director, University Advising


Get to know your mentor

Wade is the Director of University Advising at UVU. He was the first in his family to attend and graduate from college and is thrilled to help others do the same. Major college sports fan. Family man. Loves the outdoors.

Portrait of Karen Merrick

Karen Merrick

Director, Teaching and Learning Support


Get to know your mentor

Karen Merrick has worked with the support of the online components of UVU courses for over 16 years, first with the Distance Education department and now with the Office of Teaching and Learning. Originally, Karen received her Bachelor’s degree for BYU in Elementary Education and taught Third grade. She enjoys the rewarding experience of working with students and helping then to succeed with the technology of online course materials.

Student Affairs

Portrait of Kyle Reyes

Kyle Reyes

Vice President, Student Affairs


Get to know your mentor

Dr. Kyle A. Reyes serves as the Chief Diversity Officer and Assistant Professor of Education at UVU. He leads UVU’s Strategic Inclusion and Diversity Plan comprising nearly 40 campus initiatives. Dr. Reyes teaches courses in Multicultural Education, ESL Methods, and Family & Community Partnerships. His research focuses on developing greater access to higher education for historically underrepresented students. Dr. Reyes serves on many community boards including Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education and the Utah Governor’s Multicultural Commission. Kyle received his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah.

Portrait of  Michelle Kearns

Michelle Kearns

Associate Vice President, Student Success and Retention

Get to know your mentor

Michelle Kearns has 25 years of experience in higher education holding leadership roles in both academic and student affairs. She has worked in Financial Aid & Scholarships, University College, First Year Experience, Student Success, and Retention. Michelle is a student advocate at heart and delights in helping students navigate their university experience. Michelle holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, a master’s degree in Public Administration, and is nearing completion of a doctorate of education degree in Higher Education Administration with a dissertation focused on college completion.

Portrait of Martha Wilson

Martha Wilson

Assistant DIRECTOR, First-Year Experience & Student Retention


Get to know your mentor

Martha Wilson is an Assistant Director in the First-Year Experience & Student Retention office at Utah Valley University. Martha is a first-generation college graduate, and has experience working in higher education in the areas of recruitment, admissions, academic advising, first-year programs, and orientation. Martha loves travel, RVing, and spending time with family.

Portrait of Noemy Medina

Noemy Medina

Assistant Director, First-Year Experience & Student Retention

Get to know your mentor

Noemy Medina is the Degree Completion Program Manager for the First-Year Experience & Student Retention. She was born in Los Angeles and raised in Perris, California. She was a first generation student and earned a B.A. in Spanish Linguistics from UCLA and an M.S. in Higher Education from California State University, Fullerton. As an undergraduate she was working to become a high school teacher, but in graduate school realized she really wanted to work with college students. She is committed to help students recognize their strengths, identify their passions, and to learn the tools to be successful college students that will leave college with a degree and a plan for their future. Noemy enjoys hiking, cooking, and crocheting.

Portrait of Rachel Montalvo

Rachel Montalvo

Program Coordinator, First-Generation Students

Get to know your mentor

Rachel started as a Program Coordinator for First-Generation students in 2019. She has an AAS from BYU-Hawaii and is currently a student at UVU pursuing two bachelor degrees, one in Communication with a Public Relations emphasis and the second in Spanish with a minor in Latin American studies. Helping others to be successful in college lead her to pursue working with first-generation students. She is passionate about connecting people to the resources they need to thrive, particularly within the Hispanic community. She is a native of California but has lived in Utah for several years. Reading, Latin dancing, traveling (especially to Mexico), and spending time with her family are some of her pastimes.

Portrait of Andrew Stone

Andrew Stone

Associate Vice President, Enrollment Management


Get to know your mentor

Andrew Stone is Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at UVU. For over ten years he has worked in higher education in various capacities, including: Assistant VP for Recruitment & Outreach, Director of Admissions, Program Director of New Student Orientation, and Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Higher Education at the Utah System of Higher Education. Throughout his professional career he has been committed to developing programs and outreach to support access, efficiency, and overall student success. He loves working at UVU because of UVU’s commitment to students, open admission, and inclusivity. Andrew received a Master’s and Ph.D in Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Utah and a BS in Psychology from Utah Valley University.

Portrait of Kameron Barkle

Kameron Barkle

Admissions Counselor


Get to know your mentor

Kameron has been an Admissions Counselor since 2018. He has a fresh understanding of what it is like to be a first-generation college student, which is why he is passionate about helping these students succeed. He graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Life and will be finishing his Master of Public Administration in December 2017. He loves being in the university environment and wants to work in the Student Affairs area. He enjoys cooking and running half marathons.

Portrait of Sue Stephenson

Sue Stephenson

Career Counselor, Career Development Center


Get to know your mentor

Sue is a career counselor and the coordinator for the National Student Exchange program through the Career Development Center. Sue has taught College Success, Career & Major Exploration, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People classes at UVU. She is a certified resume writer and interview coach. She volunteers as a UVU mentor, for the Women’s Business Network, and in the prison setting. Her focus is on making it easy for students to take action by getting really clear about who they are and what they want and then articulating their value in such a way that they even impress themselves!

Portrait of DaSheek Akwenye

DaSheek Akwenye

Director of Campus Recreation


Get to know your mentor

DaSheek is the Director of Campus Recreation & Wellness department at Utah Valley University. DaSheek was born and raised in Windhoek, Namibia and came to the U.S on a Track & Field scholarship. He is a former UVU student-athlete from 2002 to 2004 and is a previous UVU 400m record holder. Enrolling into college as a first-generation international student, DaSheek has had to overcome a variety of personal challenges that have helped him aspire to grow professionally as well as personally. DaSheek received his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a minor in Communications and a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from Utah State University. DaSheek and his wife have four beautiful kids. He loves all dimensions of exercising for fun and enjoys spending time with his family, playing a variety of sports, and attending wolverine sporting events with his kids.

Portrait of Kimberly Reynolds

Kimberly Reynolds

Program Manager, Outdoor Adventure Center

Get to know your mentor

Kimberly Reynolds has worked for the Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC) for over fifteen years. She has a degree in Recreation from Utah State University and is certified as a yoga and spin instructor. She also teaches various fitness classes for the Student Life and Wellness Center. She believes that the college experience should include educational experiences outside of the classroom, as well and inside. Working for the OAC allows her to lead, train, and engage in many outdoor excursions. She finds balance trail running, biking, hiking, playing in the snow, and spending time with her energetic dog.

Portrait of Victor Narsimulu

Victor Narsimulu

Program Director, Cultural Envoy


Get to know your mentor

Victor Narsimulu is the Program Director for Cultural Envoys. Victor got his Bachelor of Arts degree from Brigham Young University Hawaii, a Master’s degree from Brigham Young University Provo in Organizational Behavior and a second Master’s degree in Education from the University of Utah. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Utah in the Anthropology program. Victor is married to Melinda Narsimulu and they have two beautiful children, Sione and Aiere Narsimulu. Victor’s inspiration comes from his mother Rosarine Valesi Narsimulu who reinforced the importance of remembering his culture while growing up in Fiji. Victor’s research has been around Pacific Islander epistemology and Pacific Islander ways of knowing, doing and being.

Portrait of Agustin Diaz

Tino Diaz

Program Director, Educational Opportunity Center


Get to know your mentor

Agustin Diaz, or more commonly known as Tino, has nothing but love for his family, community and education. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY Tino has had to overcome a number obstacles and challenges to be where he is now. He is the first in his family to attend college and comes from a strong tradition LatinX and Afro-Indigenous cultural heritage. He is currently a doctorate student working on rhetoric and student protest in higher education and considers himself a storyteller, activist, a spoken word poet and avid hip hop, soul & reggae fan. Tino is also the Educational Opportunity Center director at Utah Valley University and teaches public speaking and interpersonal communication at UVU and grounds his courses with social justice themes. His two boys, Luca and Matteo are his life and his the spirit of his grandmothers and ancestors, are his guides.

Portrait of Yudi Lewis

Yudi Lewis

Program Director, Latino Initiative


Get to know your mentor

Yudi has been working at Utah Valley University since 1997. She is currently working as the Program Director over the Latino Initiative. Yudi Lewis has two Bachelor of Science degrees in the areas of Business and Psychology. She holds a Master in Business Administration (MBA) and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy at the University of Utah. Yudi oversees the Latino Initiative budget and the UVU Latino Outreach events. She enjoys helping student achieve their academic goals.

Portrait of Ezra Mintz-Fernandez

Ezra Mintz-Fernandez

Program Manager, First-Generation Student Completion Initiative


Get to know your mentor

Ezra is the Program-Manager for I Am First. Originally from sunny Miami, FL, he has a BS in Communications from Florida International University. He also has an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Nevada - Las Vegas. He has seen the doors that education has opened for himself, and he is passionate about helping students have those same doors opened for them. In his spare time, Ezra enjoys watching sports, hanging out with his wife and two dogs, and working out.

University Marketing

Portrait of  Candida Johnson

Candida Johnson

Assistant to Associate Vice President, University Marketing & Communications

Get to know your mentor

Candida Johnson is the Assistant to the Associate Vice President of University Marketing & Communications. Candida was born in Connecticut and raised in San Antonio, Texas. She is a first-generation, non-traditional graduate of UVU. Candida has extensive project and people management experience which has helped her greatly in her position. She came to UVU four years ago when her family moved from San Antonio. Her broad range of public sector experience has allowed her to successfully transition and provide support to University Studios & Broadcast Services and University Marketing & Communications. She is committed to helping all students pursue their educational dreams. Candida loves to hike, camp, kayak, read and spend time with her family.

Portrait of Erika Sargent

Erika Sargent

Communication Specialist - Bookstore/Student Development and Well-Being

Get to know your mentor

Erika Sargent is the Marketing & Communications Manager for the UVU Bookstore and Student Development and Well-Being. She received her B.A. in Communications with an emphasis in Advertising from BYU. Before joining UVU, she worked as the Marketing & PR Director for the publishing house Familius where she published her first book.

College of Engineering and Technology

Portrait of David Oakeson

David Oakeson

Academic Advisor, College of Engineering and Technology

Get to know your mentor

My name is David Oakeson. I grew up in South Jordan, Utah and went to Bingham High School. I received a bachelor’s degree at BYU in math and art education. I received a master’s degree from the University of Utah in educational administration. I taught high school math and art in the Granite school district in Salt Lake City for 30 years. I worked at BYU as an academic advisor in their chemical engineering department for four years and I am currently working at UVU as an advisor in the college of engineering and technology. I am married to Sandra Oakeson and we have one child, Abe who is 10 years old. I love to fish, watch “The Great British Baking Show,” and garden.

Portrait of Jonathan Allred

Jonathan Allred

Assistant Professor, Engineering Design Technology

Get to know your mentor

Jonathan Allred, MEd, is an Assistant Professor for the Engineering Design Technology Department at UVU. He teaches various types of engineering design software, principles of mechanical design, architectural rendering, and Statics. He has over 14 years of professional experience as a project manager/designer. Jonathan continues to consult on design projects when he is not in the classroom. He received his Master of Education (MEd) in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences from USU. He obtained his Bachelor of Science (BS) in Technology Management from UVU. As a mentor, he enjoys helping students recognize the opportunities and resources at UVU and in industry.

Portrait of Susan Thackeray

Susan Thackeray

Assistant Professor, Technology Management


Get to know your mentor

Dr. Thackeray is an Assistant Professor in Technology Management in the College of Technology and Computing at Utah Valley University. Her passions, experience, and recognitions align with preparing and transitioning students efficiently into the workforce. She attended college as an untraditional student in a discipline that is underrepresented by females. Dr. Thackeray earned a Bachelor of Science in the field of digital media, a Master’s Degree in instructional technology from Utah State University, and a Doctorate from Northeastern University (Boston) with a research focus of underrepresented populations in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). She is an avid reader and enjoys supporting the arts.

Portrait of Matt North

Matt North

Professor, Information Systems and Technology

Get to know your mentor

Dr. Matt North has been a professor in the Information Systems and Technology department at UVU since 2015. He teaches database design, development and administration, and data analytics. He is the author of the textbook Data Mining for the Masses, as well as numerous journal papers, articles, book chapters, and conference presentations. An award winning professor and scholar, he is a Fulbright alumnus, and the recipient of the Ben Bauman Award for Excellence and the Gamma Sigma Alpha Outstanding Professor Award. As a first-generation college graduate, Dr. North loves the university's mission with emphasis placed on engaged, student-focused education. His office is in the Computer Science building 601A, and contains an impressive collection of eBay and The Simpsons memorabilia. Come by, take a look, and introduce yourself!

Portrait of Rawan Al-Nsour

Rawan Al-Nsour

Assistant Professor, Mechatronics


Get to know your mentor

I earned my Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in May 2015 and I am currently an Assistant Professor of Mechatronics at the Engineering Technology Department at Utah Valley University (UVU). Prior to that, I was a Lecturer in the same department and before that an Adjunct Faculty in the Pre-Engineering Program at the Engineering Technology Department at UVU. Also, I joined Brigham Young University (BYU) as an affiliate Assistant Professor to work on research on Mechanical Engineering Department. I am proud to represent Women in Engineering in the Engineering Department here at UVU and encourage all students to be part of it.

Portrait of David Frame

David Frame

Assistant Professor, Mechatronics

Get to know your mentor

Starting from the lower third of my high-school graduating class, I excelled as a first-generation college student. Leveraging two AS degrees from a community college, I garnered BS and MS degrees while working full time in the technology industry. For thirty years in various industries from automotive to particle accelerators to semiconductors, I have excelled as a technologist and engineer: Designing systems, patenting ideas, validating and measuring the previously immeasurable high-speed digital signals, and teaching others to do the same. I have turned my focus to hands on education, where I began. Jumpstarting the next generation!

Portrait of Stefan Harlan

Stefan Harlan

Assistant Dean of Advancement, College of Engineering and Technology

Get to know your mentor

Stefan Harlan previously worked with a Private Military Company. Stefan was the founding Executive Director for Bridle up Hope – The Rachel Covey Foundation, where he helped create the strategic plan which resulted in millions of dollars in philanthropic gifts. Directly out of his MBA, Stefan worked in NY with a fortune 100 company. He has also worked with several smaller companies as COO and CFO. Stefan was instrumental in launching the first American managed Hotel and Business Center in Moscow Russia, which at the time was revolutionary in offering US dial tones out of Moscow, Russia. This hard currency hotel to this date, is still the hotel in Moscow where the President of the United States stays when he is visiting Moscow. Stefan was a Captain in the US Marine Corps, holds an international MBA from The American Graduate School of International Management (Thunderbird) and has a B.S. from Brigham Young University.

Portrait of Amanda Bordelon

Amanda Bordelon

Assistant Professor, Engineering

Get to know your mentor

Amanda Bordelon received her BS ‘05, MS ‘07, and PhD ‘11 from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Civil Engineering, with a research emphasis in concrete pavements. She enjoys evaluating the failure or degradation of materials and infrastructure. Beyond teaching and research, Amanda is a board member for the local American Concrete Institute (ACI) Intermountain Chapter, a voting member on several ACI National committees, and serves as the faculty advisor for the UVU Concrete Canoe Team and Proposed UVU Society of Women Engineers and Engineering Technologists. Amanda also is currently the Coordinator for the new Civil Engineering Program at UVU.

Portrait of Kazem Sohraby

Kazem Sohraby

Associate dean, student affairs, college of engineering and technology

Get to know your mentor

Dr. Sohraby received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the New York University (Polytechnic), M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and B.S. with highest honors in Electrical Engineering from the Amir Kabir University. He holds a M.B.A from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and has had educational and professional training at MIT's Sloan, the University of California Berkeley, and the George Washington University. Prior to joining academia, he was a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories. He has contributed to research, scholarship, and student educational experiences funded by the NSF, NASA, AT&T Research, Lucent Technologies, eBay, and projects with the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). He led curriculum changes, established new engineering programs enhancing student retention and success, and supported student educational activities funded by the industry. He has 22 granted patents and patent applications, published two text books and over two hundred articles.


College of Health & Public Service

Portrait of Matthew L. Duffin

Matthew L. Duffin

Associate Professor and Chair, Criminal Justice

Get to know your mentor

He was a military Judge Advocate, prosecutor and defense attorney for more than twenty years. He has served as an Associate Deputy General Counsel (International Affairs) in the Department of Defense during the Iraq War, as legal advisor to the Criminal Investigative Task Force prosecuting GITMO Detainees, and as an Assistant Professor at the United States Air Force Academy. He currently serves as a Small Claims Judge, Pro Tempore. Professor Duffin earned a Master of Laws in Military Law from the Army Judge Advocate General’s School, and Juris Doctor and Bachelor of Science degrees, both cum laude, from Brigham Young University.

Portrait of  Dr. Marcy Hehnly

Marcy Hehnly

Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice

Get to know your mentor

Dr. Marcy Hehnly is a first-generation graduate and received a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Troy State University in Alabama while serving on active duty for the United States Army. Upon exiting the Army, Marcy joined the Cobb County Police Department in Georgia where she was an officer for 10 years as an undercover Narcotics Agent. She completed her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management and her PhD in Human Services with a concentration in Criminal Justice. People always told Marcy that she would never be able to succeed and this led to her motivation to not only succeed, but to teach in higher education at UVU in the Criminal Justice Department!

Portrait of Laurel Bradshaw

Laurel Bradshaw, DNP, FHEA, RN

Associate Professor of Nursing

Get to know your mentor

I am an Associate Professor of Nursing at Utah Valley University, teaching in the Associate, Bachelor, and Master degree programs. My background is in Emergency Medicine, as I have worked many years in the American Fork Hospital Emergency Department. I have been teaching Nursing at Utah Valley University for seven years. My husband and I have six children and 14 grandchildren (the joy of our lives).

Portrait of Sandra Wilson

Sandy Wilson

Associate Professor, Dental Hygiene


Get to know your mentor

Sandy is an Associate Professor in Dental Hygiene. She is a First-Generation college graduate. She believes that any student can succeed, especially with a strong support system. Sandy is interested in dental hygiene education research. She is a Higher Education Academy Fellow, a UVU Service Learning Fellow and has completed UVU courses in Global and Intercultural Studies. She believes in life-long learning and is constantly challenging herself by enrolling in learning opportunities. Sandy holds an education Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction, a BA in Broadcast Journalism and an AAS in Dental Hygiene.

Portrait of Tom Sturtevant

Tom Sturtevant

Associate Dean, Health and Public Services


Get to know your mentor

Dr. Sturtevant is an Associate Dean in the College of Aviation and Public Services and has over 30 years of experience with a unique blend of emergency response and educational program development and administration. Dr. Sturtevant is a first-generation college graduate, a published author, Certified Fire Protection Specialist, Member Institute of Fire Engineers, and has assessed several foreign emergency response training and certification programs.

Portrait of  Rodger Broome

Rodger Broome

Assistant Professor, Emergency Services

Get to know your mentor

I have retired from a career in law enforcement and fire/emergency services after having been a patrol officer, firefighter/EMT, hazardous materials technician, arson investigator, and SWAT medic. I have taught for 7 years as a police field training officer, 7 years as a fire/EMS training officer, and 13 years in fire/emergency services and psychology. I am still a reserve police officer and EMT for a small city in Utah and volunteer on my state’s Critical Incident Stress Management team. I am married to Anne Hsu who is also a psychologist and have four children and 2 grandchildren. My hobbies include cycling, powerlifting, Kenpo karate, music (percussion) and reading philosophy.

Portrait of Ryan Vogel

Ryan Vogel

Assistant Professor and Director of National Security Studies

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Ryan Vogel is an assistant professor and the founding Director of National Security Studies at Utah Valley University. Before coming to UVU, Professor Vogel served at the Pentagon as a senior policy advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He began his career at the Pentagon through the Presidential Management Fellowship program and was awarded the Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service in 2014. He has taught law and national security courses at American University in Washington, D.C, BYU Law School, and the Chicago-Kent College of Law. He earned a J.D. and an M.A. in international affairs from American University. Professor Vogel is an alum of Utah Valley University.


College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Portrait of Janet Colvin

Janet Colvin

Associate Dean, Humanities and Social Sciences


Get to know your mentor

Janet Colvin has worked in the field of communication for the last twenty years. She is fascinated by the different factors that affect the world of communication and all that influences our ability to communicate in the world around us. Dr. Colvin is an associate professor and Communication Department Chair at Utah Valley University. Though communication can be used in many different ways, the areas that most interest her are intercultural, group, organizational, and instructional communication. Dr. Colvin has won numerous teaching and research awards including a Board of Trustees award for outstanding contribution to the university. She has published a book, journal articles and book chapters, as well as participating in regional and national and international conferences. She has devoted a significant amount of research time to studying peer mentor and tutor relationships as well as issues of how communication affects diversity and inclusivity.

Portrait of Leo Schlosnagle

Leo Schlosnagle

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Get to know your mentor

Dr. Schlosnagle is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Utah Valley University. He earned his B.A. in psychology at St. Mary's College of Maryland, and his Ph.D. in psychology at West Virginia University. Dr. Schlosnagle's doctoral training is in life-span developmental psychology, and his research interests include program evaluation, disability, health, aging, and judgment and decision making. Dr. Schlosnagle's professional experiences include case management of minors in state custody, program design and administration for Big Brothers Big Sisters, resource development and multidisciplinary research at West Virginia University, and serving as an Assistant Professor and Faculty Senator at Utah Valley University.

Portrait of Kumen Louis

Kumen Louis

Native American Specialist/Academic Advisor

Get to know your mentor

Kumen Louis grew up on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. His upbringing gives him an interesting perspective on diversity and education. In the summers he spent time with his grandmother and was taught some essential living skills. He has used his unique upbringing to navigate the world of education. Kumen’s parents were first-generation students and have relayed their educational mishaps and experiences to their son in order for him to find success. Kumen has been at Utah Valley University for six years and works in Multicultural Student Services as the Native American Specialist/Academic Advisor. He has a Master’s of Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instructional Design.

College of Science

Portrait of Daniel horns

Daniel Horns

Associate Dean, College of Science


Get to know your mentor

Daniel Horns is a Professor of Geology in the Department of Earth Science, and an Assistant Dean in the College of Science and Health, at Utah Valley University. Danny earned a B.S. in Geophysics from UCLA and a Ph.D. in Geology from UC Davis. Danny’s teaching and research focus on assessment of earthquake and landslide hazards. In his free time, Danny enjoys skiing, mountain biking, hiking, cooking, and traveling around the world with his family.

Portrait of Jim Murphy

Jim Murphy

Assistant Dean, College of Science

Get to know your mentor

Jim has spent the majority of his professional career in education and with non-profit organizations throughout the country. He has directed statewide Special Olympics programs in both Utah and Vermont along with serving as the executive director of the International Special Olympics Winter Games held in Park City and Salt Lake City. Other career highlights include directing hospital foundations in Utah and Colorado, and leadership positions at the University of Utah, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Moran Eye Center, Hale Center Foundation for the Arts & Education, BYU, and Utah Valley University where he is currently serving as the Assistant Dean in the College of Science. He holds a Bachelor’s in Music Education/Performance, and a Master’s in Educational Psychology. Jim and his wife Jill are the proud parents of 6 children, have 5 grandchildren, and for the most part enjoy a very energetic black lab named Sullivan.

Portrait of Joshua Premo

Joshua Premo

Assistant Professor, Biology

Get to know your mentor

I completed my B.S. in biology, history, and anthropology at SUNY Plattsburgh and my M.A.T. in biology education at Binghamton University before teaching middle and high school science. After a number of years, I returned to school to research social aspects of student engagement during science learning. I earned my Ph.D. in 2019 from Washington State University and now teach both biology classes and train preservice teachers at UVU as an assistant professor in the biology department. As a first generation-student myself, I recognize the variety of hurdles that can arise during undergraduate and am here to help.

Portrait of  Dr. Sebastien Tauzin

Sebastien Tauzin

Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Biotechnology

Get to know your mentor

Sebastien Tauzin is an Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Biotechnology at UVU. Sebastien earned a Ph.D. in Cell Biology and Pathology from the University of Bordeaux, France. At UVU, Sebastien is doing research to understand the molecular mechanism of inflammation. In his free time, Sebastien enjoys hiking, camping and BBQ with family and friends. As a first-generation student himself, he is proud to be part of the I am FIRST program and to support the first-generation students at UVU.

Portrait of Olga Kopp

Olga Kopp

Professor, Biology

Get to know your mentor

I am a professor in the Department of Biology. I was born in Colombia, up in the Andes of South America. My parents only had elementary school but they instilled in us the love for learning. They worked hard to give us our high school education. After finishing high school, I had to work six years to be able to pay for college. I was given an assistantship to do my Masters and Ph.D. in Tennessee which I finished in 2001. As a first-generation student, I would love to help our students succeed and achieve their dreams.

Portrait of Bonnie Andersen

Bonnie Andersen

Associate Professor, Physics

Get to know your mentor

Dr. Bonnie Andersen is a faculty member in the Physics Department. Her research includes thermoacoustic engines, the clarinet, and the human voice. She is a passionate teacher. She is involved with women’s leadership and outreach for youth. She is currently the president of a Women’s chapter at UVU. She has been a presenter at UVU PREP and SheTech. She is a co-adviser for the Women in Physical Sciences club at UVU. She organized Science Summer Camps for first-sixth graders. She shares her love of science with her two children. She incorporates science into their class parties.


School of Education

Portrait of Bryan Waite

Bryan Waite

Associate Professor, Education; Director, Global Intercultural Distinction


Get to know your mentor

Dr. Waite is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Secondary Education Department at Utah Valley University. He is also the director for UVU’s Global/Intercultural Engagement initiative. His teaching and research focuses on multicultural education, global and intercultural engagement, ESL methods and assessment, and theories of second language acquisition. Dr. Waite works on various committees at the state and school level focusing on issues of English language learners and how to better serve their needs in the K-16 environment. Dr. Waite received a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin, an M.A. in Spanish Education and a Ph.D. in Social, Multicultural, and Bilingual Education from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Portrait of Axel Ramirez

Axel Ramirez

Professor, Secondary Education


Get to know your mentor

I am a professor of education at Utah Valley University. I am a first-generation immigrant and first-generation college student. I became a teacher even though I felt a lot of pressure to choose a different major and there were many obstacles along the way. I have never regretted choosing education as a career and love to help others see the power of a college education.


School of the Arts

Portrait of Lara Beene

La Beene

Assistant Professor, SCHOOL OF THE ARTS


Get to know your mentor

La Beene is a Utah native and an Assistant Professor of Costume Design in the Theatre Department. She has her MFA in Costume Design and Technology from Brigham Young University and has taught at the University of Utah and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She was the first in her family to go attend college and graduate. She teaches stage makeup and costume design & construction courses. She is also the resident costume designer for a local children’s theatre and freelance designs with theatres across the United States.


University College

Portrait of Elena Garcia

Elena Garcia

Assistant Professor, Literacies and Composition


Get to know your mentor

Elena G. Garcia is a professor in the Department of Literacies & Composition and is the Faculty Director of the Writing Center. She has been at UVU since 2013. She earned her PhD in Rhetoric and Writing—with an emphasis on literacy, pedagogy, and writing studies—from Michigan State University. Both her BA and MA in English Education are from Western Michigan University. A first-generation student herself, Elena understands how confusing college can be, so she devotes a lot of her teaching and mentoring energies on learning how to “do college.” Elena also does research on academic and non-academic (such as factory) writing practices. She is married to Ben G. Goodwin, who is also a professor in Literacies & Composition. Together they develop course curricula, present at academic conferences, and publish. Elena loves crafting and spending time at home with Ben, her little dog Alfred, and her cat Circe.

Portrait of Danielle Watson-Bowers

Danielle Watson-Bowers

Adjunct Faculty, Literacies & Composition

Get to know your mentor

I spent 22 years attempting to graduate and met horrendous obstacles along the way. However, I now hold a degree in Behavioral Science and I am attending Harvard University for my Masters in Anthropology. I have two awesome children and a small farm at home. We travel all over and are constantly planning new adventures. As a nontraditional student, I understand the need for help and support so many students need. I look forward to meeting with and assisting students who understand the value of a good education.

Portrait of Ben Johnson


Ben Johnson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor & Associate Chair

Get to know your mentor

Ben is always interested in working with first-generation college students to help with goals. He is Associate Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Student Leadership and Success Studies, and his teaching and research interests include higher education leadership, student metacognition, faculty-student mentoring, history and philosophy of education, and comparative and international education. He enjoys hiking, ultimate frisbee, Dutch Golden Age paintings, speaking Dutch and French, spending time with his family and friends, and working with great students. Ben has a master’s degree in history from BYU and another masters and Ph.D. from Ohio State University in Educational Policy and Leadership. Please feel free to stop or set an appointment with Ben.



Woodbury School of Business

Portrait of Ephraim Zamora

Ephraim Zamora

MBA Talent Source Coordinator


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Ephraim is an experienced career professional. He has filled positions in finance, sales, project management and in Higher Education. He successfully grew and sold his very first business when only a teenager and he knew then that he wanted to work in business. He graduated from Monroe College in New York with a Bachelors in Business Management and Project Management. He also has completed his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Utah Valley University. Ephraim is the first from his family to graduate. He is proof that you can do it!

Portrait of Hadley Gasser

Hadley Gasser

Program Manager, MBA Program

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Hadley believes that higher education is the key to a healthy society, and it is within higher education that successful social movements start. It is through education that people understand the structures of power and how different groups and institutions fit within that structure and begin to recognize inequities prevalent in society. It is Higher Education that introduces ideas of power, privilege, subordination, and other ways that minority and marginalized groups are kept in that space. Hadley has been working on ways to garner belonging in students, especially those from typically underrepresented and underserved groups. His work at UVU is aimed at increasing inclusion of diverse populations by helping faculty and staff to understand inclusivity and use inclusive language when interacting with other faculty, staff, and especially when working with students.

Headshot of Wilson the Wolverine

Questions? Ask Wilson