The SDLA posts profiles of our Fellows at the time they are admitted to the SDLA Institute. After graduation, many Fellows change jobs and advance in their careers, which is not reflected in these bios. Accomplishments of SDLA Institute Alum can be found here.
Douglas White--Manager of Government Affairs, Cricket Communications
Whether the commitment has been local, state or federal, Doug White has been involved in progressive politics for the entirety of his career. Starting out in Governor Gray Davis’ administration, Doug quickly cut his political teeth in Washington, DC.
Additional political and policy work with the Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly, the Obama presidential campaign and Presidential Inaugural Commission, Toni Atkins for State Assembly and Howard Wayne for San Diego City Council campaigns, only furthered Doug’s resolve to become more intimately involved with the progressive cause. Currently, Doug is the manager of Government Affairs for Cricket Communications, a national wireless carrier based in San Diego.
He grew up in small hamlet of Claremont, CA and spent a decade on the east coast. Doug returned to Southern California in 2009, relocating permanently to San Diego. He is an avid half-marathoner and dedicated New Yorker aficionado. Doug received his bachelor of business administration degree in management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and his master of public administration, public and non-profit management degree from New York University.
Amanda Allen--Attorney, Hecht Solberg Robinson Goldberg & Bagley, LLP
Amanda is an associate attorney at Hecht Solberg Robinson Goldberg & Bagley, LLP. She primarily works in the areas of real estate and business litigation and is currently expanding her role in land use practice. Amanda is active in the legal community as a member of the San Diego Lawyers Club, La Raza Lawyers of San Diego and the American Constitution Society.
Amanda graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a degree in political science and public policy. She also played softball at UCLA, winning two NCAA Championships in 2003 and 2004. Amanda loved UCLA so much she stayed around for another three years and completed her law degree at the UCLA School of Law with a specialization in business law.
Amanda is a native San Diegan and returned immediately after finishing law school. Since finishing law school, she has been active in politics at the local, state and national level, most recently volunteering for the Howard Wayne campaign for city council. She aspires to continue her involvement in San Diego politics to continue to build a strong progressive community. In addition, Amanda is an avid runner and triathlete and member of the fantastic San Diego Track Club.
Tiffany Gilmartin--Clinic Fellow, Thomas Jefferson Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic
Tiffany Gilmartin is the clinic fellow for the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic. The Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic provides primarily civil legal services to homeless veterans enrolled at Veterans Village San Diego. The legal services the veterans clinic provides help struggling veterans reintegrate into society by managing the crippling legal burdens their years living on the street incurred.
In the past, Tiffany was a “freeway flier,” teaching English at far-flung campuses across Southern California including California State University, San Bernardino and San Diego State. She tired of commuting for a living and settled in San Diego, where she taught at Southwestern College for a few years. Tiffany has degrees from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, the University of Southern California, and the University of Kentucky.
After college, Tiffany served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Latvia, teaching English as a Second Language. In her free time, Tiffany is an avid CrossFitter, an urban backyard farmer, and a homebrewer of beer. Tiffany currently resides in University Heights. She is from Saugus, California.
Denise Serrano--Education & Advocacy Associate, ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Countiess
Denise Serrano is the education & advocacy associate for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, where she helps develop and implement strategies to deploy the affiliate’s 9,000 members in the region as advocates for civil liberties. Serrano builds and nurtures relationships with community leaders and coalitions that work on priority issues and statewide campaigns, including immigrants’ rights, education equality, LGBT rights and finding alternatives to the death penalty.
Serrano speaks in public and to the media on behalf of the ACLU and is the organization’s chief commentator in Spanish. She chairs one of San Diego’s most active anti-death penalty groups, Taxed to Death, which brings together local religious, civil rights and legal groups to advocate against the death penalty in the state of California and also serves on the Public Policy Advisory Committee for a coalition of LGBT organizations in San Diego. Previously, Serrano was active in the Legislative Action Committee with the California National Organization for Women (NOW).
Serrano is bicultural and binational, having been born stateside, but raised in Tijuana, Mexico. She completed all of her early schooling in Tijuana, and obtained her bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University.
Geshalem Perez-- Organizer, UDW Homecare Providers Union, AFSCME Local 3930, AFL-CIO
Geshalem Perez is an organizer for the UDW Homecare Providers Union where she helps advocate, educate, and empower in home supportive service workers and their recipients. Her prior work experience includes almost two years as the administrative assistant at the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO. After a short stint at Los Angeles Pierce Community College, Geshalem transferred to and graduated from San Diego State University in 2007 with a B.A. in Sociology with an emphasis in diversity and change. Since then, she has been actively involved in the labor movement, helping to empower workers and strengthen the middle class.
Geshalem was born in Toluca, Mexico and raised in Canoga Park, California. In 2008, she proudly became a U.S. citizen and now casts her voice in all elections as a permanent absentee voter.
Geshalem currently serves on the board of directors for Justice Overcoming Boundaries as a Fiesta del Sol co-chair, the Labor's Training and Community Alliance, the San Diego Foundation for Change and Train of Thought San Diego. She enjoys being part of the weekly open mic experience that is Train of Thought where a family of poets, storytellers, singers, songwriters, comedians, musicians and all are welcome.
Omar López--Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, School of Social Work
Omar López is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Southern California, School of Social Work. He received a BA (1999) from UCSD with a double major in sociology and Spanish literature and a MSW (2001) from SDSU. He is currently completing an MPA program at SDSU with plans to transfer and continue his graduate studies at USC. Prior to his current position, Omar worked for SDSU as field faculty and liaison with administrative responsibilities with the County of San Diego, HHSA-Child Welfare Services (CWS).
Omar has an eight-year background in county government as a child welfare social worker delivering direct services and in administrative roles, including international liaison and internship and training coordinator at policy and program support, for HHSA-CWS. Concurrently, he served as an executive board officer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Locals 535 as president, and 221 as secretary), which led to a unique perspective on administrative issues and practices. He has also worked as a research consultant for Columbia University (NY) and as trainer/instructor with SDSU Academy for Professional Excellence, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College and Rady Children’s Hospital.
He serves on non-profit boards such as the Chicano Federation of San Diego County, Inc., the House of México in Balboa Park and the San Diego Latino Social Work Network. Omar is originally from México City and immigrated to the United States in 1989 as a non-English speaking teenager. He enjoys boxing, long-distance running, yoga and watching his Chargers win! He lives in the Marina District downtown.
Norma Rodriguez--Organizer, Center on Policy Initiatives
Norma currently works at the Center on Policy Initiatives as an organizer. Her previous work experience includes grassroots organizing mainly focusing on immigration issues and civic participation. She has also been chair and coordinator of Fiesta Del Sol, San Diego's largest Latino street festival which is a two-day event celebrating the history, diverse cultures and engagement of the people of San Diego.
Norma has also taught art and Spanish. She obtained her bachelor's degree in studio art with minors in education and Chicano/Latino studies from the University of California, Irvine and a master’s degree in Latin American studies with an emphasis on international migration from the University of California, San Diego.
She is originally from Porterville, California and her parents are from Puruandiro Michoacan, Mexico. Norma had the opportunity to participate in the Mexican Migration Field Research Program, a binational research project between Yucatan and the U.S. while doing her master's work and was one of the authors of the book which published their findings. She enjoys good books, practicing hot yoga and running.
Jesse Mays--Council Representative, City of San Diego Councilmember Sherri Lightner
Jesse Mays is a council representative for San Diego City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, providing strategic advice on policy, politics and communications, as well as serving as liaison to the University City neighborhood of San Diego and UC San Diego. He served as campaign coordinator for Lightner's winning grassroots campaign in 2008.
Previously, Jesse worked in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. At ABC Studios, he worked on the creative side of top-rated network television shows. Prior to that he was selected for the Agent Training Program at United Talent Agency, where he worked for an agent representing some of Hollywood’s most sought-after television directors and writers. He has also worked for legendary feature film producers Richard & Lauren Schuler Donner and coordinated musical guests on ABC’s late night show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Jesse earned a B.A. in English from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, where he wrote his senior thesis on Margaret Fuller’s call to social activism. He grew up in Lake Forest, IL and lives with his wife, a medical student, in University City.
Kath Rogers--Programs Coordinator, Animal Protection & Rescue League
Kath Rogers lives with her husband, dog and two cats in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego. She currently works as programs coordinator for the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), a non-profit organization she co-founded in 2004.
Kath has worked to pass local and state laws, coordinated educational events, managed volunteers and staff and established a successful thrift store located at 5497 Clairemont Mesa Boulevard in San Diego to raise funds for APRL. In 2008, Kath received the Humane Society of the United States' leadership award for her role as volunteer coordinator for Proposition 2, a ballot initiative to ban certain inhumane practices on factory farms.
Kath attended San Diego City College, followed by UCSD, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. She enjoys volunteering as a history tutor for high school students and recently spent the summer teaching English and History at a low-income middle school in Los Angeles. Kath enjoys hiking, kayaking in her inflatable tandem kayak and spending time with friends and family in San Diego.
Brittany Applestein Syz--Associate, Solomon Minton Cardinal LLP
Brittany Applestein Syz is an associate at Solomon Minton Cardinal LLP specializing in real estate and corporate transactional matters. She has been able to use her legal experience to work on several pro bono cases regarding affordable housing, housing rights, and real estate issues for women’s groups and food banks.
After working for a senior citizens group in Hunters Point, San Francisco, she was asked to sit on the nonprofit’s board to assist in the development of senior housing in a resource poor area. Since moving to San Diego at the end of 2009, Brittany joined the Lawyers Club and worked with the Community Outreach Committee to construct a garden for a local women’s shelter, as well as revise their lease. In addition, she has organized volunteers to read at Porter Elementary School in Lincoln Park and to work at the San Diego Food Bank.
Brittany was a 2011 NLC fellow and was subsequently elected to be the alumni representative on the board. NLC has assisted her in becoming more involved in the San Diego community.
Brittany graduated cum laude from Harvard University, obtained her master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and received her law degree cum laude from University of California, Hastings College of the Law.
Jennifer Kish--Attorney, Law Office of Jennifer E. Kish
Jennifer Kish was born and raised in San Diego. She earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles and a law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Jenn is a recent admittee to the California Bar and is currently working as a solo practitioner in San Diego and Riverside Counties. Her practice focuses on misdemeanor criminal defense, family law and juvenile dependency and delinquency.
While in law school and since becoming admitted to the bar, Jenn has volunteered at the Madge Bradley Domestic Violence Clinic writing requests for restraining orders for survivors of domestic violence and elder abuse. In 2009, she received the Wiley W. Manuel Award for Pro Bono Legal Services from the State Bar of California for her work at this clinic.
Jenn also founded the Thomas Jefferson Chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, a national organization committed to advancing reproductive rights as basic human and civil rights. In January 2010, Jenn was elected to the board of directors of Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest. As a passionate advocate for women’s rights and reproductive rights, Jenn plans to eventually expand her legal practice to encompass those areas.
Matt Ellis--Director, Vice President, CB Richard Ellis, Inc
Matt is a vice president at CB Ricard Ellis (CBRE), a commercial real estate services firm, and the director of its carbon services business, which advises real estate owners and occupiers on carbon emissions management strategies and offsetting solutions. Prior to this, Matt was an associate broker with CBRE working on corporate real estate and led its Sustainability Practice Group - a niche practice group of brokers focused on clean technology and green building real estate requirements.
Outside CBRE, Matt co-chaired the San Diego Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council's Emerging Green Builders Committee, which engaged students and young professionals on green building topics and career development from 2009-2010.
Matt has undergraduate degrees in economics and the study of religion from UC San Diego and an M.S.B.A with an emphasis in entrepreneurship from San Diego State University. While at UCSD, Matt played water polo and competed in the NCAA Division I water polo national championship match in 2000 and was team captain in 2003. Matt is from Tustin, CA and has lived in San Diego since 1999.
Heather Laird--Learning Communities Director, Community HousingWorks
Heather Laird is the learning communities director for Community Housing Works. She oversees a number of resident services programs which aim to help low-income families move up in the world. She has been with Community Housing Works since 2007.
Heather previously ran the Americorps program at the Youth Policy Institute in Los Angeles. She was born and raised in Placentia, CA and at 19 was a director of a Placentia Community Center. Heather received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from UCLA in the Spring of 2005. Heather has volunteered at Camp Del Corazon since the summer of 2002. She helps to staff and train over 300 camp counselors each summer for the non-profit camp for children with heart disease.
Heather also currently mentors a 12-year-old foster child named Breanna. Heather spends one day a week with Breanna to provide a positive role model and help Breanna grow into a responsible young adult. Heather is passionate about equality in education and has spent the better part of her life serving her community.
Zach Goldman--Principal, Malk Sustainability Partners
Zach is a founder of Malk Sustainability Partners (MSP), a management consultancy focused on partnering with corporations to incorporate environmental values into business strategy. In this position, he has introduced executives across the health care, information communications technology and real estate sectors to best management practices and negotiated partnerships between clients and multi-national firms to draw on technical expertise.
Prior to joining MSP, Zach led client engagement as the business development manager at the Midtown Niki Group, a real estate private equity firm. He was responsible for developing client relationships and interfacing across their organization to guide transactions to successful conclusions. Zach co-developed Midtown Niki’s Green Finance program, where he helped Midtown Niki clients to build alliances with the US Green Building Council and leading technical experts.
Zach holds degrees in business administration and political science from the University of Southern California, is a US Green Building Council LEED Green Associate, and RABQSA Certified Competent in ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management Systems. As an avid backpacker, triathlete, eco-challenge racer and amateur mountaineer, Zach is drawn to sustainability by a driving passion for the outdoors.
Stephen Heverly--Council Representative, San Diego City Councilmember Sherri Lightner
As a staff member for Councilmember Sherri Lightner, Stephen focuses on energy, water and clean-tech issues and works in the Rancho Peñasquitos and Del Mar Mesa neighborhoods of her district.
Prior to working for Councilmember Lightner, Stephen was with the City of San Diego’s Environmental Services Department where he worked on policy analysis and public outreach for the city’s recycling program. He spent more than two years on the Ocean Beach Town Council Board of Directors and continues to dedicate time volunteering for local community groups. Stephen also continues to spend time volunteering on various political campaigns. Most recently, he worked alongside many environmental and clean-technology groups across California to help defeat the statewide Proposition 23 in the 2010 election.
Stephen has a B.S. in Biology from Saginaw Valley State University where he competed in pole vault and middle distances on the men’s track and field team. During his undergrad, he spent a semester abroad studying environmental science and policy at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, England. Originally from Michigan, Stephen currently lives in Ocean Beach and spends as much time as possible outdoors in San Diego’s wonderful Mediterranean climate.
Seth Klonsky--Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs, UC San Diego
Seth works at UCSD as the assistant director of alumni affairs where he oversees a broad array of programs and organizations. Seth works with alumni and volunteer leaders across all sorts of industries and interests to raise support for the university’s initiatives and priorities. His work allows him to meet incredible people and build relationships with alumni doing inspiring things around the world.
Formerly Seth was production manager for ArtPower!, a San Diego-based performing arts and film presenter. Seth is also technical director for San Diego Pride where for the past five years he has designed and overseen the construction of the annual festival. Seth has long been passionate about philanthropy among young people, making it a central theme of his volunteerism as far back as his college commencement speech a decade ago. He is chair emeritus of the Chancellor's Associates Young Alumni, a network of young people raising funds for UCSD and is currently the co-chair of the Young Professionals Council, a philanthropic organization in support of the San Diego LGBT Center.
Having grown up in Sonoma County, CA, Seth is passionate about food and food culture and spends much of his free time cooking, eating, and entertaining.
Rebecca Kanter--Attorney at Law
Rebecca Kanter is an Assistant United States Attorney at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California, specializing in complex fraud prosecutions. In her four years as a federal prosecutor, Kanter has handled a wide variety of cases ranging from border crimes to internet crimes against children. Kanter was previously an associate at O’Melveny & Myers, LLP, where she was a member of the firm’s White Collar Defense and Corporate Investigations practice group. After law school, she clerked for the Honorable Harry Hupp on the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
Kanter currently serves on the Executive Board of the UCI Alumni Association and volunteers for San Diego Coastkeeper. Kanter received her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law where she was an Articles Editor for the UCLA Journal of International Law & Foreign Affairs. During law school, she served as a Teaching Fellow and member of the Moot Court Executive Board. Kanter also taught an undergraduate seminar in the UCLA Women’s Studies Program on “Jurisprudence of Sexual Equality” and published an article entitled “U.S. v. Nippon Paper Industries: Price-fixing Conspiracy or Trade Remedy?"
A native of Orange County, California, Kanter graduated from UC Irvine magna cum laude with an honors degree in Political Science. Kanter spent a semester studying at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.
Brooke Tucker-Law Clerk/Research Attorney, United States District Court
Brooke Tucker is a law clerk to the Honorable John A. Houston, United States District Judge for the Southern District of California. Prior to her clerkship, Brooke practiced corporate litigation in the New York office of Davis Polk & Wardwell. While at Davis Polk, Brooke worked on pharmaceutical class action litigation as well as bankruptcy and security matters. She also worked on several pro bono cases. Among those cases was a successful habeas petition for a death row inmate that resulted in a new trial for the petitioner.
Brooke received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Spelman College and her Juris Doctor from Howard University School of Law. While in law school, she was a member of law review and completed internships with the ACLU of Michigan and the U.S. Attorney's Office Sex Offense/Domestic Violence division. During the 2007-2008 presidential primaries Brooke volunteered as an election protection attorney. Brooke has also volunteered with Projects Abroad in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and taken a human rights trip to Israel and Palestine.
Raised in Manhattan Beach, California, Brooke has also lived in Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and New York. She currently resides in San Diego, California.