EXPLORE Mentors - Institute for Educational Advancement


EXPLORE 2018 Mentors


Dr. Aaron Blaisdell, Ph.D

Dr. Aaron Blaisdell received a B.A. in Anthropology from SUNY Stony Brook; an M.A. in Anthropology from Kent State University; and his Ph.D. in Psychology (Behavioral Neuroscience focus) from SUNY Binghamton. He then spent two years as a Postdoctoral fellow in Psychology at Tufts University and became a professor of Psychology at UCLA in 2001. Dr. Blaisdell is currently a Professor with tenure at UCLA and is a participating member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute and the Integrative Center for Learning and Memory. He has previously served as President of the International Society for Comparative Psychology and of the Ancestral Health Society. His lab is interested in animal cognition and behavior, namely describing how animals build and use representations of their world. For this, his laboratory uses Pavlovian and instrumental conditioning procedures to investigate questions at the interface between associative and cognitive processes, related to how animals reason, integrate information and approach problem solving.


Abby Daniels

Abby Daniels brings nearly 20 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising, marketing, communications and public relations to IEA. Prior to joining IEA, Abby served as Director of Communications at the MIND Research Institute, where during her 12-year tenure she helped grow the nonprofit from serving 14,000 students to well over one million with its K-12 math education programs. At MIND, she formed key philanthropic partnerships, resulting in major investments from Fortune 500 companies and national foundations, and also worked to establish the organization’s brand identity, visibility strategies, social media presence and website traffic. Abby is a passionate advocate of social change through building education equity for all learners, and she is excited to apply her passion and skills to serve the needs of gifted students and their families. She received her BA from University of Pennsylvania, enjoys reading the work of great fiction storytellers, playing volleyball and golf and attempting knitting projects.


Enjoli Ferrari

Enjoli collaborates with youth leaders, eco clubs, teachers and partnering organizations to host and co-host sustainability-driven events in Los Angeles County. As an ISA Certified Arborist and the Youth Leadership Manager at TreePeople, Enjoli works with students to expand on “green geared” projects ideas. She leads Youth Leadership Summits during the school year and acts as the connecting link to project resources and step by step project support. She is passionate about supporting youth leaders and connecting them to community-based learning opportunities.

Enjoli has a strong connection to edible gardening and farm to table dining. She worked for Enrich Los Angeles as a garden steward at seven schools spread through Los Angeles County where she incorporated a new homemade edible snack from the garden each week. The interest of edible gardening and the connection between local, healthy and seasonally sourced foods sparked an interest in her and fueled her desire to increase people’s understanding and bring a more tangible experience between individuals and the food they consume. This experience transitioned into her hosting “Summertime” farm to table community style dinners in partnership with Cottonwood Farms in Panorama City.

Other passions include Horticulture, Plant-based Medicine, Herbal Studies and all things empowerment.


Dr. Amy Caitlin-Jairazbhoy

Dr. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy’s research, writing, teaching, curatorial activities, and multi-media publications often have an applied focus, aimed at community development of minority traditions, especially in diasporic settings. She served as curator and presented the first concert and lecture tour outside India with a group of African-Indian Sidi performers from Gujarat, in September 2002, traveling with them in England and Wales. Her recent publications include Sidi Sufis: African Indian Mystics of Gujarat (Apsara Media 2002: 79-minute CD), the volume co-edited with Indian Ocean historian Edward Alpers, Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians (New Delhi: Rainbow Publications and New Jersey: Africa World Press, 2003), the DVD The Sidi Malunga Project (2004), and the DVD From Africa to India: Sidi Music in the Indian Ocean Diaspora (with Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy) (2003). Funding for her research has come from such agencies as NEA, NEH, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Philosophical Society, Fulbright, the Indo-US Subcommission, and the American Institute of Indian Studies.

Dr. Catlin-Jairazbhoy studied piano, voice, and musicianship at the Peabody Conservatory from 1961-1966, teaching there and at the Junior Composers Camp (now the Walden School) from 1964-1966 as a protege of its founder, Grace Cushman, who fostered creative explorations of non-Western musical systems. Sensing the need for intercultural understanding as evidenced by America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, she left the Conservatory for a liberal arts education at Vassar College, where she continued her keyboard improvisations for modern dance classes, attending Wesleyan University classes in India’s music. Concluding that music was her best tool for promoting interculturalism, she enrolled at Yale University School of Music, intensifying her Indian music studies at Wesleyan, as part of her doctoral coursework at Brown University, with concentrations in Ethnomusicology, South and Southeast Asia (Bali) and Anthropology.

For over 30 years Dr. Catlin-Jairazbhoy has studied classical and folk music in India, where she continues to perform Western classical and Indian-influenced contemporary music in concerts, oratorios, schools and orphanages, and on All India Radio. Her career is dedicated full-time to music scholarship, field research and documentation, community advocacy, and performance, integrating her Western classical vocal training with non-classical, non-Western music.



Betty Kassis

Betty Kassis is co-principal of I/O, a Los Angeles based practice focusing on the development of dynamic architectural methodologies integrating design, technology and advanced fabrication techniques. Prior to joining I/O, Kassis gained experience working on numerous award-winning projects for the office of world renowned architect Frank Gehry, where she was project designer on multiple projects of various scales in different cities. She has also worked for the firm of Neil Denari, NMDA, on the award- winning Endeavor Talent Agency in Beverly Hills. Kassis was born in Beirut, Lebanon. She studied at the Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles, the Ecole Speciale d’Architecture in Paris and the Lebanese American University in Beirut. Her work was exhibited in multiple venues such as the Rotterdam Biennale, Beyond Media in Florence and StudentWorks in Istanbul.


Stan Kong

Stan Kong received a Bachelor of Science degree from Art Center College of Design in Product Design. He began his career as a product designer and has taught a number of courses and workshops ranging from product design to sketching and rendering. He was also an assistant professor at a Pasadena City College where he taught and managed the product design program.

Mr. Kong has received numerous awards including The ArtCenter “Outstanding Service Alumni Award”, The NAACP Ruby McKnight Award, The Risser “Outstanding Teacher of the Year” Award, The Los Angeles County Cherry Blossom Festival “Teachers

Making a Difference” Award, U.S. Design Patent, the Art Director’s Club of Los Angeles Award of Excellence, and Honorable Mention presented by Porsche for concepts in product and transportation design. Mr. Kong is a founding member and former Co-Chair of Legacy Circle at Art Center, former member of the Advisory Board of the Visual Arts and Design Academy, and A Trustee for the Rowe and Gayle Giesen Trust.


Dr. Luciano Nocera, Ph.D

Dr. Luciano Nocera is a Computer Scientist and an Associate Director for the University of Southern California’s Data Science Institute (DSI), which is an informatics research center that focuses on data-driven solutions for real-world applications. His research is motivated by the need to address fundamental data science problems related to applications with major societal impact in four major domains including Transportation, Social Media, Security and Health. He received his BS in Physics and MS in Remote Sensing from the University of Paris VII and later pursued his Ph.D in Computer Science.


Dr. Van Savage, Ph.D

Dr. Van Savage is a graduate of Rhodes College where he received his Bachelor’s in Physics. He later earned his Doctorate in theoretical particle physics from Washington University, where his training emphasized applied math approaches to problem solving. He is currently the Principal Investigator in the Savage Lab and an Assistant Professor at UCLA and Santa Fe Institute where he teaches and researches in Biomathematics, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology departments. Dr. Savage’s research interests include biological vascular networks and mathematical asymptotic analysis. The major goal of his research is to quantify and understand the possible functions, forms, and interactions of biological systems that result in the extraordinary diversity in nature.


Dr. Pamela Yeh, Ph.D

Dr. Pamela Yeh is an evolutionary biologist and studies how human activities affect the evolution of species, focusing on the evolution of birds in urban environments and the evolution of drug-resistant bacteria in urban and agricultural areas. She is also interested in the role biology plays in public health, and how biological data and insights can both inform public health research as well as public health policy. She received her BA in Biology from Harvard-Radcliffe Colleges, her Ph.D in Evolutionary Biology from University of California at San Diego, and conducted post-doctoral work in the Center for Genomics Research at Harvard University and the Systems Biology Department at Harvard Medical School. She is currently the Principal Investigator for the Yeh lab and an Assistant Professor in the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Biomathematics departments. She has been at UCLA since 2013.


about explore
explore mentors
Prospective mentors
apply now