Alumni Notes: Fall 2017


Adam Richard Pearce BS’12, a graphics editor at The New York Times, married Zoia Alexanian on Feb. 28 in New York City. Adam, who earned a degree in math from UTD, previously worked for Bloomberg Graphics. They live in Queens with their dog, Darwin, and are expecting a baby girl in January. Best Whooshes to the happy couple!

Martinella Dryburgh PhD’10 has been appointed the Leslie B. Crane Chair of Leadership Studies at Austin College, in addition to her title as director of the Posey Leadership Institute. At UTD, Martinella was a member of Pi Alpha Alpha, the national honor society for public affairs and administration, and graduated with her doctorate in public affairs. The School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences alumna said she would like to thank Dr. Doug Kiel, professor of public affairs and administration, for his “exceptional mentoring, helpful guidance and warm friendship throughout the years.”

Arun Gupta PhD’12 and his Dallas-based renewable energy startup Skyven Technologies won $1 million as the grand prize winner at the 76West Clean Energy Competition. The event, which focuses on supporting and growing clean-energy businesses and economic development, included two rounds of on-stage pitching in front of a panel of judges. Gupta and his team pitched Skyven’s Intelligent Mirror Array, “a technology that produces industrial heat without the need to burn fuel.”

Harrison Coney BS’12 was appointed to the Southern Methodist University cybersecurity advisory board. Harrison, who is the information security officer at Cognosante, is certified in risk and information systems control and holds a bachelor’s degree in management information systems.

Christopher Boone PhD’13 was named to the National Minority Quality Forum’s 2017 “40 Under 40 Leaders in Minority Health” list, a distinction reserved for “the next generation of thought leaders in reducing health disparities.” Christopher is vice president for real world informatics and digital strategies at Avalere Health and is a professor at the University of Cincinnati. He earned a PhD at UTD in public affairs.

Darrin D’Agostino MBA’14 was named executive dean at the College of Osteopathic Medicine and vice president for health affairs at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. He will oversee curriculum, graduate medical education, clinical outreach and research expansion. Previously, Darrin served as associate dean of community health and innovation and professor of medicine at the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

Fraz Jamil BS’14 launched Nexrage Studios, a Dallas-based software development company he started as a student. Crediting the UT Dallas community, Fraz, who earned a degree in computer science, said he utilized his college network — friends majoring in finance, for instance — to learn how to navigate the legal and less familiar areas of starting a business. As for future endeavors, Fraz said he hopes to give back to the community by connecting high school students to entrepreneurs in the computer science industry.

Jenna Abante BS’15, MS’16 (right) knows how to make her younger brother feel special. The alumna of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences greeted brother Jason Abante BS’17 with a larger-than-life-sized poster of himself following his graduation from BBS, the first of eight spring 2017 commencement ceremonies.

(Photo by Saher Aqeel, The Mercury)

Lauren Featherstone BA’15 set a world record score for the 1983 classic arcade game “Tapper.” After a 24-hour marathon session at Free Play arcade n Arlington, Texas, Lauren racked up a score of 14,000,600, topping the previous record of 10,361,550. Her feat, verified by Twin Galaxies for Guinness World Records, earned her a cash prize.

Emiola Banwo BS’16 was the first UT Dallas student to be accepted into the prestigious KPCB Fellows Program in Silicon Valley, where he participated this past summer. While there, Emiola worked as a product designer for the KPCB portfolio company BetterWorks. As a student, Emiola served as president of the UX Club and the Entrepreneurship Club at UT Dallas. He earned a bachelor's degree in computer engineering.

Hope Steffenson BA’17 spent her summer working as a clerk at the Pacific Legal Foundation — a public interest legal organization in Sacramento, California. She started law school at Notre Dame in the fall.


Janice Hollar MBA’02 was named chief financial officer of Achieva Credit Union. Janice previously worked for RP Financial and the Kennedy Space Center Federal Credit Union, and served as senior vice president at the Shared Services for Credit Unions organization based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Courtney Emich Spellicy BA’04 began her career in the field of social work as a legal advocate for victims of family violence, before moving 11 years ago into the commercial real estate industry. She is now with the Buildings + Places (B+P) practice of AECOM, an integrated global infrastructure firm. In her client services role, Courtney helps grow the firm’s design presence in multiple markets throughout North Texas. In 2006, Courtney was named an outstanding alumna for the School of Interdisciplinary Studies (formerly the School of General Studies).

Sarah Islam BA’05 was named one of 21 Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellows for 2017 at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The Newcombe Fellowship is the nation’s largest award for PhD candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. As a Fellow, Sarah receives a 12-month award of $25,000 to support her final year of dissertation work in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. As a student at UT Dallas, Sarah was among the first group of Eugene McDermott Scholars, the University’s most selective and generous undergraduate merit award program. She earned her bachelor’s in political science, with an emphasis in global politics.

Shamsia Sheehan BA’05 joined the Dallas office of Kane Russell Coleman Logan PC as an associate attorney in the firm’s real estate group. Before entering private practice, Shamsia worked at one of the world’s leading investment management firms in New York. She received a Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma in 2010 after earning a bachelor’s degree in government and politics from UTD.

Cassi Rozanski BA’06 was named the head women’s basketball coach at LeTourneau University. She previously had coaching stints as an assistant/ coordinator at UT Rio Grande Valley and UT Tyler. Cassi (née Little), who majored in interdisciplinary studies, was a four-year starter for UTD’s basketball team and is in the top 10 for career rebounds and blocked shots.

Victor Odundo Owuor MBA’08, PhD’10  earned a Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist designation. He is a research associate and head of the business and governance track for the research division of the private foundation One Earth Future. After completing an MBA at UTD, Victor earned a doctorate in public affairs.

Lewis Giles BA’09, MA’11 has been promoted to assistant director of the University of North Texas Dallas’ law library. Previously, he served as a student program development specialist for Dallas County Community College District. He earned a bachelor’s in art and performance and a master’s in emerging media and communications at UT Dallas, in addition to completing a master’s in library science at UNT.

Megan McDowell MA’09 has translated eight books in the past two years. McDowell told that “translation is like creative reading. You have to read really deeply and have an interpretation and feel for a text in order to re-create it.” At UTD, she studied in the Center for Translation Studies while earning a degree in humanities-literature studies.


Kim (Martin) Barnarr MS’91 is serving as vice president of tax for Sabre Corp. at the company’s Southlake, Texas, global headquarters. Sabre provides technology solutions to the travel industry. Kim graduated with a master’s degree in management and administrative services.

Kevin Felder BS’91 was elected to the Dallas City Council. He represents District 7, which covers portions of southern and eastern Dallas. Kevin graduated from the Jindal School with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Jeffrey Lamb BA’95, MA’97 has joined the United Nations Development Program serving as a regional technical advisor on climate change. In this role, he advises and assists national governments in Asia and Latin America to develop large adaptation projects that are supported by the Green Climate Fund. Jeffrey earned his bachelor’s in government and master’s in international management at UT Dallas as well as an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Eric Evans BS’96 was named chief executive officer of East Houston Regional Medical Center by HCA Healthcare, Gulf Coast Division. Eric began his career at HCA after graduating with a degree in business administration. He most recently served as senior vice president of strategic planning.

Kevin Mullen BA’97, MA’99 was named a “Texas Super Lawyer” in the field of Employment & Labor Law. Only 5 percent of Texas attorneys make the annual list, which is published in Texas Monthly. Kevin also opened his own law firm based in Austin, Texas — The Mullen Firm PLLC — where he specializes in representing employers in labor and employment, OSHA and compliance matters, and assisting executives in negotiating employment agreements, non-competes and severance packages.

Derrick Morgan BA’99 was named senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs for the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers. Previously, Derrick served as chief of staff to Sen. Ben Sasse and before that on Vice President Dick Cheney’s senior staff during the presidency of George W. Bush in several capacities, including assistant to the vice president, special counsel and staff secretary.

Daniel Porter BA’99 was named chief of police for Nolanville, Texas. Daniel, who has more than 35 years of law enforcement experience, earned a sociology degree from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.


DeAnna Julie Dodson BS’85 — under the pen name Julianna Deering ( — published the fifth title in her Drew Farthering Mystery series, Murder on the Moor. Book six, Death at Thorburn Hall, will be released in November 2017. DeAnna earned a degree in business administration.

Charisse Dye BS’86 was appointed chief financial officer of the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library System. “With more than 20 years as a leader in executive finance, and a dozen more in hospitality management, Charisse brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will be immediately applicable in her work with the library,” said Tim Rogers, executive director of the Metropolitan Library System.

Joshua Chowritmootoo MA’89 has published two books of poetry: Conscience and In Search of the Self and Eternity. He earned his degree from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.


H.B Paksoy BS’76 published his 18th book, Mayor of Pompington, a story about a small-town mayor thrust into international politics. Paksoy left his mark on campus; in 1975 he planted a live oak tree on campus to honor his son, Selim. Forty years later, the tree flourishes, providing welcome shade outside Green Hall.