EXPLORE Mentors - Institute for Educational Advancement


EXPLORE 2019 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’s 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.


Dr. Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy, Ph.D

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.


Natou Fall

Natou Fall is a third year graduate student of the Master of Architecture I program at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. She is currently working as an Architectural Design Intern at Zago Architecture here in Los Angeles. Before beginning her studies at SCI-Arc, she graduated from the Interior Architecture and Design program at the George Washington University where she received the 2016 Studio Award for her capstone project. During her time in the IAD program at GW she participated in a youth outreach program known as Design In Schools. She has worked for interior design firms Millar+Associates and JD Ireland in Washington DC focusing on residential and corporate office design. At SCI-Arc, Natou works as the Development Assistant, and aids in international outreach research and organizes fundraising events. During the breaks she has worked as a teaching assistant for study abroad courses with GWIAD in Copenhagen and Berlin.


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.


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. He 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 ArtCenter, former member of the Advisory Board of the Visual Arts and Design Academy, and A Trustee for the Rowe and Gayle Giesen Trust.


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. Alexandra (Sasha) Wright

Dr. Wright is a Plant Biologist and Theoretical Ecologist.  She is committed to addressing ecological problems through research and education and is currently working on several projects involving how plants interact in extreme environments.  She has published more than a dozen research papers on plant biodiversity and ecological responses to climate change. She is originally from Whidbey Island, Washington. She received a Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin and did post-doctoral research at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research in Leipzig, Germany. She has taught at Bard College, Sarah Lawrence College, and now at California State University Los Angeles.


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.


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