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Posts Tagged Dr. Marie-Elaine Burns

Merritt College Honors its Valedictorians and Salutatorian

30 May 2017

Merritt College is proud to introduce our highest achieving students of the Class of 2018 who were honored at the 63rd Annual Commencement Ceremonies on May 23. In a reflection of Oakland’s diverse culture, they come from all over the world, have studied a wide range of academic interests, and have bold opinions of their own. But they all share the belief that Merritt has been a great educational beginning to their lives as they move on to help shape the world.


Alessandra Chimienti: From Italy to Merritt College With a 4.0 GPA and Role as Valedictorian


After just one semester at Merritt College, Alessandra Chimienti’s business instructor, Fereshteh Mofidi told her that she would be Valedictorian of her graduating class. Alessandra found that hard to believe at the time, given the fact that she had arrived from Italy less than two years earlier without knowing a word of English. Plus she was still trying to get accustomed to an American college and the language.

But on May 23, her instructor’s prediction came true as Alessandra was called to the podium to deliver her speech as the Valedictorian. She was also chosen to represent Peralta District’s International Students community by being the Valedictorian and delivering a speech for their graduation as well.

Despite the initial language difficulties, Alessandra achieved this incredible honor as Valedictorian for receiving the highest GPA in all her studies, maintaining a 4.0 throughout her two years at Merritt College. She received three Associate Degrees in Accounting, Business Administration, and General Business, and three Certificates, all in business.

“It’s not easy for international students to leave their friends and family to pursue their education in another country,” says Ms. Mofidi. “But it shows how strong they are about their goals. Alessandra is so intelligent that she would ask me questions that I had to research myself to find the answer. That’s why I knew she was destined to be the Valedictorian. I wish her the best of luck.”

Born in Puglia, in the south of Italy, Alessandra earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education with highest honors (summa cum laude) before coming to the United States as an Au Pair for an Oakland family who she loves and considers her “American family” for their ongoing support and for serving as a role model for her.

With a future goal of studying business, her first challenge was to learn the language. She accomplished this by taking intensive English classes, volunteering as a tutor for two years in an elementary school in Oakland, and following subtitles on American television shows on Netflix. When she felt comfortable enough to start college, she ended up at Merritt and has never looked back.

During her two years, she has served as treasurer of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and worked in Business Services where, she says, Dr. Dettie Del Rosario has mentored her and been an inspiration. “I felt so honored working in the Business Office and being the PTK treasurer,” says Alessandra, “as they have exposed me to the
business operations of the community college system, taught me skills that I would have never learned just by studying, and allowed me to utilize the education I have achieved at Merritt.”

Dr. Del Rosario says she feels blessed to have the opportunity to mentor Alessandra. “She is willing to learn and always shows enthusiasm and commitment. She displays professionalism in dealing with faculty, staff, and students who come to the office. Her attention to details, her resourcefulness, and her great personality will be her keys to a successful career.”

Alessandra’s next goal is to get an MBA, and she doesn’t hesitate to give credit to Merritt for getting her to a place where that is possible. “All of my family in Italy is thrilled and proud of me for my accomplishments, and this alone makes all my hard work worthwhile. I miss them every day, and my achievements are my way of telling them that I love them,” she says. “Even my mother is coming to America for the first time to see my graduation. I couldn’t have had a better experience at Merritt. I’ve loved my time here at this beautiful college, and I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life.”


High-Achieving Valedictorians and Salutatorian Highlight Merritt College’s 62nd Annual Commencement


With the theme, “Moving In, Moving Through, Moving On,” Merritt College celebrated its 62nd Commencement Ceremony on Wednesday, May 24. Out of a total of more than 900 students who received associate degrees or certificates or who will be transferring on to further their education, more than 350 participated in the ceremony. Honored during the ceremony were two valedictorians and the Salutatorian, all introduced by Dr. Jeffrey Lamb, Vice President for Instruction.


Valedictorian Asmita Neupane

Valedictorian Asmita Neupane came to Merritt from her home country of Nepal. She achieved a 4.0 in her studies and received an Associate’s Degree in Health Sciences with her ultimate dream goal of becoming a nurse. She is currently getting experience by volunteering at San Leandro Hospital.

Valedictorian Anya Elizabeth Edwards majored in Administration of Justice and graduated with an Associate in Science for Transfer Degree with a 4.0 GPA. She will be transferring to Cal State East Bay and in the future plans to work in the law enforcement field.


Salutatorian Bernice Diaz Estrada

Salutatorian Berenice Diaz Estrada was born and raised in Oakland and graduated from Oakland High School. She came to Merritt because of the excellent reputation of the Radiologic Science Program and is hoping to start the program soon. In the meantime, she has earned Associate Degrees in both Health Sciences and Natural Sciences and a Certificate in Teacher Assistant. She graduated with a 3.96 GPA.

Commencement Speaker Dr. Siri Brown, a passionate and committed educator at Merritt who is currently serving as Interim Dean of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, gave a truly inspirational speech honoring the graduates for their successes no matter how long it took, how many challenges they had to face, or how many people may have discouraged them.

For the first time, Merritt’s newly appointed president, Dr. Marie-Elaine Burns, presided over the ceremony.

“It is an honor to have participated in this year’s Commencement ceremony and be surrounded by all of the students who worked so hard to get to this point,” says President Burns. “Whether they are getting associate degrees, certificates, or transferring, we are proudly looking forward to watching them achieve success beyond college and demonstrating how much Merritt College has changed their lives.”

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Peralta Colleges Chancellor Announces Finalists for President of Merritt College: Public Forum To Be Held Nov. 26

19 November 2012

OAKLAND, CA, Nov. 19, 2012 — The Chancellor of the Peralta Community College District, Dr. José M. Ortiz, has announced that the Presidential Search Committee has selected three finalists for President of Merritt College in Oakland, California.

The finalists are Norma Ambriz-Galaviz, Ed.D., currently Vice President of Instruction for Mission College of the West Valley Mission Community College District; Edward Bush, Ph.D., currently Vice President of Student Services for Riverside City College; and Marie-Elaine Burns, Ed.D., currently Vice President of Student Affairs at San Jose City College.

Each of the three candidates will participate in a public forum on November 26, 2012, beginning at 12:30 p.m. in the Newton/Seale Student Lounge, Merritt College, 12500 Campus Drive, Oakland. The forum schedule is as follows: Dr. Ambriz-Galaviz, 12:30 p.m.–1:15 p.m.; Dr. Bush, 1:20 p.m.–2:05 p.m.; and Dr. Burns, 2:15 p.m.–3:00 p.m. Members of the college community and the public are invited and encouraged to attend the public forum.

The forum will be moderated by Dr. Siri Brown, a Merritt College Ethnic Studies Department faculty, and will consist of a brief introduction of each candidate, followed by a short presentation and a question and answer session.  Comment forms will be given to all who attend and the completed forms will be given to the Chancellor for his review.

The Chancellor will interview each of the candidates and make a final decision as to which will become the next President of Merritt College.

Finalist biographies follow and photographs of the candidates can be found on the Peralta Colleges Website.

Dr. Norma Ambriz-Galaviz has served since 2008 as Vice President of Instruction for Mission College of the West Valley Mission Community College District. Dr. Ambriz-Galaviz was employed for 17 years at Chabot College, Hayward, California, and she also worked at Cabrillo and Hartnell Community Colleges holding various academic and student services positions from psychology instructor, counselor, Special Student Services Dean and Social Sciences Division Dean. Coupled with numerous college committees, task forces and/or selection committees, Dr. Ambriz-Galaviz has earned a reputation of being well versed on the day-to-day operations of both student services and instruction.  She is known for her advocacy and collaborative approach that promotes academic excellence, student success and the college.

Dr. Ambriz-Galaviz holds a Doctorate Degree in Education-Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne, a Master of Science Degree in Counseling, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from San Diego State University, and an Associates of Arts Degree in Administration of Justice from Hartnell College.  Her doctoral degree explored “The Use of Strategies Used among California Community College Chief Administrative Officers to Produce Change.”

In addition to her career in higher education, Dr. Ambriz-Galaviz is active in a variety of national, state and local organizations.  A member of National Hispana Leadership Institute, Association of California Community College Administrators, Silicon Valley Education Committee, California Community College Chief Instructional Administrators, Alameda County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.   She recently completed her elected two-year term to California Community College Instructional Chief Officers Council representing the South Bay region.  She has served as an evaluator on four accreditation teams for ACCJC.  Dr. Ambriz-Galaviz was recently recognized by State Senator, Ellen Corbett for her outstanding service to the Latino community.

Dr. Edward Bush currently serves as the Vice President of Student Services for Riverside City College.  He has over 18 years of experience in higher education with 15 of those years with the Riverside Community College District. He has served as an associate faculty member in student activities, Director of the Educational Talent Search federal TRIO grant, and Dean of Student Services.  In addition, he has served on numerous college and district-wide committees and has been active with several community organizations including serving on the board for two non-profit foundations.  Dr. Bush has also worked as an adjunct instructor for the Graduate School of Education at the University of Redlands and is currently an adjunct instructor at Brandman University. Dr. Bush has taught courses in student development, organizational theory, and research.

Dr. Bush received his Bachelors of Arts degree in Political Science from University of California, Riverside, Master’s Degree in Public Administration from California State University, San Bernardino, and his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Claremont Graduate University. Dr. Edward Bush is a published author with 8 peer reviewed publications appearing in journals including: Black Issues in Higher Education, Community College Week, Diverse Educational Horizons, Journal of African American Males in Education, and the Community College Journal. Dr. Bush is the co-author of the soon to be released book “The Plan: A Guide for Women Raising African American Boys from Conception to College.”   He has been a presenter at four national conferences, including the National Association of Black School Educators, the National Association of African American Studies, the Institute for Race Relations, and the National Convening of Postsecondary Education Support Programs for Former Foster Youth.

Dr. Bush is the co-founder of the newly launched national “I Have a Plan” campaign to register and equip one million African American boys and young men (from conception to 24 years of age) with a written plan that outlines a clear path for success by the Year 2015.  Dr. Bush is a founding member and President of the African American Male Education Network and Development (A2.M.E.N.D).  In 2009 Dr. Bush was recognized by the Riverside Chapter of the NAACP with the Drum Major Award in Education at their annual freedom fund dinner.

Dr. Marie-Elaine Burns has served as the Vice President of Student Affairs at San Jose City College for the last seven years.   She is a native Californian, born in San Mateo and raised in the San Francisco.

Her postsecondary educational accomplishments include a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Broadcast Communication Arts from San Francisco State University, a Masters of Science Degree in School Management & Administration, and a Doctorate Degree in Institutional Management both from Pepperdine University.

Dr. Burns has worked in higher education for more than 30 years  primarily responsible for college access, student retention, support services, transfer and graduation success. She has worked at universities and colleges throughout the state including  San Francisco State University, University of Southern California (USC), California State University at Long Beach, California State University – Dominguez Hills, Los Angeles Harbor College, Hartnell College (Salinas), Skyline College (San Bruno), and Foothill College (Los Altos Hills).

Dr. Burns is the President, Owner, and Chief Executive Consultant of Mammoth Concepts, Educational Consulting for a Changing World.

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