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Meet the Inaugural 40 Under 40 Class
A diverse panel of judges representing many areas of the Salem State community selected this year’s class from a pool of talented applicants. These areas included student life, academic affairs, alumni, and university volunteers.
“Through the 40 under 40 program we are able to shine the light on fellow Vikings who have graduated in the last 15 or so years,” shared Debra Lee Surface ’05, ‘19G, president of the Alumni Association and member of the inaugural class. “There are so many talented and accomplished alumni transforming communities, breaking glass ceilings, and creating change. We are proud to recognize our inaugural class, representing the achievements of our entire Salem State alumni community that is 70,000 strong.”
“This class of truly remarkable achievers is a testament to the work ethic, talent and perseverance that makes up a Salem State graduate. We are excited to honor them and celebrate their achievements thus far and hope that their accomplishments will inspire the next generation of Vikings. We know the sky's the limit for all of them,” said Mike Mitchell ‘07, assistant director of alumni relations.
Aasma Aziz ‘18G
Master of Social Work (MSW)
Founder - One Little Light and Aasma’s Dream
“I wanted to do something that would help women and minorities, so I decided to start a nonprofit and a clothing business to give women that opportunity for a better life.”
As a young woman growing up in Pakistan, Aasma Aziz ‘18G always knew she wanted to make a difference. So, while she was in her MSW program at Salem State, she founded One Little Light and Aasma’s Dream.
The organization is dedicated to creating opportunities for disadvantaged persons by addressing inequality and increasing access to education and strengthening families and communities. The business works with artisans and organizations that are helping women in difficult circumstances.
“I was attending an Agency Practice class and was given the assignment to write a fundraising proposal. The assignment helped to clarify how I would start a nonprofit program and got me familiar with the basics of fundraising and reaching out to people.”
Aasma credits a great deal of her success to relationships she created at Salem State. Specifically, the Enterprise Center and Professor Martin Schneer, a visiting instructor in the School of Social Work.. “He was very helpful to me and continues to be supportive to this day as a member of my nonprofit board.”
Barbara Baggs ‘13G
Master of Business Administration (MBA)
Director, Ophthalmology Operations - Mass Eye & Ear
Typically, managing one medical office would be challenging enough. As director of ophthalmology operations for Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Barbara Baggs ‘13G is tasked with performance oversight of administrative staff, physician assistants and the physicians themselves for the ophthalmology and otolaryngology departments of multiple medical offices.
“One day, I woke up and decided I wanted a master’s in business administration. Salem State paved the way for me to make that happen. Throughout my time at Salem State, it was evident that this community is dedicated to making opportunities for anyone who was willing to put in the work. I will always be grateful to Salem State for the tools it gave me to be successful in life and in business.”
In addition to the tremendous work Barbara does with her day-to-day role at Mass Eye and Ear, she also finds time to give back to Salem State. For many years, Barbara served as a founding member of the Bertolon School of Business Alumni Network, Dean’s Advisory Council and Alumni Association Board of Directors. In 2019, Barbara was named a recipient of the George H. Ellison Volunteer of the Year Award.
Amy Barry ’12
BS - Communications
Sports Information Director, Suffolk University
“During my senior year internship I worked in Harvard's Athletic Communication office, which opened up the world of athletic communications.”
This Viking is now a national award-winning sports information director at Suffolk University. Amy Barry ’12 has been recognized by the CoSIDA Publication and Design contest numerous times, garnering 19 honors for 13 publications including six 'Best in the Nation.' Amy was voted by peers as Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Sports Information Director (SID) of the Year and also works part-time within the Red Sox organization, where she was recently recognized as the Employee of the Season in 2019.
In addition, Amy has led a number of fundraising initiatives within Suffolk University and the Greater Boston Community. She is most proud of the 2019 Bench Press for Breast Cancer event and Suffolk women's hockey's work with the Special Olympics of Massachusetts in 2019-2020.
“Without the internship requirement I may have never learned that the athletic communications realm existed.”
Amy credits Salem State Professor Peggy Dillon with driving her into her career path, as well as former athletic director and women's basketball head coach Tim Shea.
Catherine (Katie) Bedard ‘08, ‘13G
BS - Business Administration
Masters in Business Administration
Global Product Marketing Manager - Amphenol ICC
“My education at Salem State provided the foundation for my success today.”
As Global Product Marketing Manager for Amphenol ICC, Katie Bedard ‘08, 13G has carved out a combined sales, marketing, and operations role that ensures no day is ever the same.
At present, she oversees the product management team for the Mezzanine business unit. Her challenge is to ensure that the company’s product portfolio delivers the value that customers demand in the constantly evolving technology world. After receiving individual recognition for outstanding customer service in 2012, Katie’s exemplary leadership paid off in 2018, and most recently in 2020, when her business unit earned “Business of the Year” for superior growth in revenue and margin.
“I knew that I would pursue a career in business by early high school. The quality of education at Salem State is excellent. Since I worked while earning both of my degrees, I appreciated that the professors had both academic and practical experience. It made for an engaging environment that encouraged realistic solutions for everyday application.”
Alexander Booker ‘14
BS - Political Science
Fellow - Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch
“I gained a sense of purpose from my time at Salem State. I graduated with the tools necessary to begin making my dreams a reality.”
As a fellow with a Washington DC law firm, Alexander Booker ‘14 represents employees and unions confronted with wage and hour, discrimination, harassment, and other workplace issues. He also advises whistleblowers whose disclosures shine light on violations of law and gross mismanagement within the government of the United States.
Getting his start in politics as a legislative aide for Gloucester state representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Alex always knew he wanted to dedicate his career to making society a more equitable place for all.
“Serving as the student trustee sparked an interest in advocating for others, demonstrated the power and methods of involvement as a means to reform and improve organizations and systems, and gave me the confidence to take on increasingly challenging endeavors in my personal and professional life.”
While the future is bright for Alexander, he always remembers his time at Salem State.
“I continue to be available and always enjoy the chance to speak with current and former students who may be interested in law school or working at the Massachusetts State House.”
Alliane Brennan ‘19G
MEd, Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA)
Program Coordinator, LEAD - Salem State University
“This has truly been a journey for me, but at the center of it has always been my desire to educate, support and connect with students.”
In her role as program coordinator for the Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy, and Diversity (LEAD) office at Salem State, Alliane Brennan ‘19G provides opportunities for undergraduate students to develop leadership and inclusion skills. Among her many responsibilities, she advocates on behalf of vulnerable student populations by overseeing the Salem State University Food Pantry, creating programming and training for multicultural and LGBTQIA+ students, and is the co-advisor to the Student Government Association.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought a tremendous spike in the need for pantry resources. In response to this, Alliane created a virtual fundraiser and raised over $8,000 to fund the pantry. In addition, she established a partnership with the local Salem Food Pantry in order to more fully support the community.
While a graduate student at Salem State, Alliane took a class that she credits with strongly impacting her career and life. “The Multiculturalism course taught by Dr. Lee Brossoit changed my life in many ways. It informed how I see, appreciate and consider the myriad of cultures, backgrounds and identities of the students we serve at Salem State and beyond-- this has proven vital for my work within LEAD.”
In 2018, Alliane received the Distinguished Service Award for Scholarship from the SSU School of Graduate Studies.
Christopher Corrente ‘10, ‘12G
BA - History
MEd - Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA)
Coordinator of College Based Advising - UMass Lowell
“My decision to enter into student affairs was shaped by the relationship I had with the Salem State community.”
In his role at UMass Lowell, Chris Corrente ‘10, ‘12G manages many engineering students ranging in size from 300-600 in any given year, studying any one of eight engineering disciplines. He serves as the coordinator of the college of engineering’s summer bridge program, co-advises a first-year living and learning community, sits on UMass Lowell’s Council of Advisors, and much more.
“I was fortunate to be taught by some wonderful faculty members with a wide range of diverse experiences. The faculty truly pushed us to think outside the box, but also outside our comfortable zones to fully recognize and be prepared to handle the positions we would hold.”
In addition to his many roles within UMass Lowell, Chris serves as vice president of administration for the Salem State University Alumni Association Board of Directors, a project coordinator for Project Bread, and was a founding member of the Salem State Young Alumni Society. In 2018, he was named the George H. Ellison ‘54 Volunteer of the Year by the Alumni Association.
Jake Cotter ‘12
BS - Chemistry
President/COO - Prospective Research, Inc.
“I would spend all night in Meier Hall bouncing from lab to lab to carry out some crazy idea that I had. Almost none of them worked, but the real value was in the process. Come up with an idea, find all the things you need to do, actually do it, and see what happens.”
It was this kind of entrepreneurial spirit that led Jake Cotter ‘12 to establish his own biotechnology company with a fellow Salem State alumnus, Dakota Hamil ‘12. Prospective Research uses live bacteria to replace the use of antibiotics in farm-raised fish. In the long term, this process will help improve the health of fish, thereby making it healthier for humans to consume by not spreading antimicrobial resistance.
Starting with a $100,000 investment from SOSV, Jake spent four months in Ireland learning how to build their business from the ground up. Since then, it has been off to the races for Jake and his business partner.
In addition to his service to Salem State as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Arts & Sciences, the President’s Advisory Council for Campaigns and the Salem State Alumni Association Board of Directors, Jake is a mentor for the RebelBio mentor program.
To learn more about Prospective Research, Inc., visit www.prospectiveresearch.com.
Martine Francois ‘07, ‘15G
BS - Chemistry
MEd - Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA)
Director of TRIO SSS - Salem State University
“For as long as I can remember, Salem State has played an important role in my life.”
As a student at Salem State majoring in chemistry, Martine Francois ‘07, ‘15G realized that being in the sciences and helping others reach their academic goals could work hand-in-hand. Starting her career as the science coordinator for TRIO Student Support Services (TRIO SSS) at Salem State, Martine knew it was the right place for her.
“I loved being a chemistry major and thought I would end up working in a lab, but I also loved working with other students, helping them achieve light-bulb moments.”
Now, several years later, she serves as director of TRIO SSS at Salem State, working daily to create an environment where students have the opportunity to be successful. This includes writing and receiving grants for the creation of a science tutoring center and starting a summer bridge program for TRIO-eligible, first-year students.
As if her daily work wasn’t enough, Martine also volunteers for Girls Incorporated of Lynn, specifically in their middle school after-school program, serving as a mentor and program facilitator and as a member of their board of directors. She created two workshops for Girls Inc., a social justice program called Girls Challenge Racism and a STEM program that focuses on basic forensic science skills called Crime Fighters.
In 2019, Martine received the Mentoring Star Award from Girls Inc. She was also awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award from Salem State.
Nicole Freeman ‘12
BA - History
PhD candidate - Ohio State University
.“I got the opportunity to intern at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. I was nervous but was encouraged to do it by Salem State history professors. I'm so glad I did because it changed my life.”
Nicole Freeman ‘12 is a history PhD candidate at Ohio State University where she studies Central and Eastern European 20th century history with a focus on forced migration, displacement and the experience of civilians in the aftermath of war, violence and genocide.
Currently, Nicole is writing her dissertation on the care and education of Jewish children in Poland and Germany after the Holocaust. She has conducted research at archives and libraries across the United States, Poland, Germany, and Israel and has presented her research at many academic conferences in the US and abroad. In addition, she has taught courses on the history of the Holocaust and modern European history at Ohio State University.
Nicole has been awarded several research fellowships and grants including the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad, Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center, American Jewish Archives, and Hadassah-Brandeis Institute and more.
“Salem State, especially the wonderful faculty in the History Department, provided me with the tools, skills, and opportunities needed to succeed in a PhD program.”
Nicole Goggin ‘14, ‘17G
BS - Business Administration
Masters in Business Administration
Senior Associate, Payfactors
“Salem State has provided me with the traditional foundation for entering the workforce: communication, planning, and the standard business course work. But what I really gained was the ability to pivot and adapt efficiently.”
As a Senior Associate for the innovative company Payfactors, Nicole Goggin ‘14, ‘17G partners with and assists clients with their tactical compensation administration initiatives. During her career, she has been awarded an Above and Beyond Award and Chairman’s Award for her work on major projects and initiatives.
Nicole has remained involved in the Salem State community. She has served as President of the Bertolon School of Business, held a seat on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors and participated on the Bertolon School of Business Dean’s Advisory Council.
In addition to volunteering with Salem State, she gives back to her high school alma mater by speaking to seniors and raising money for two scholarships for the graduating class.
“I have very fond memories of my time at Salem State, both during my undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Salem State provides an outstanding education at a great economic value to students, and I personally want to assist in the continued success of the university and its students.”
Eliaquin ‘Quin’ Gonell ‘09, ‘15G
BA - History
MEd - Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA)
PhD candidate - University of Vermont
.“Salem State was where I was introduced to social justice. The inclusivity training I received as a resident assistant during my undergrad years were formative in my identity as an advocate for marginalized or oppressed groups.”
Eliaquin ‘Quin’ Gonell ‘09, ‘15G knew early on that education was the path for him. Presently, as a PhD candidate in the educational policy program at the University of Vermont (UVM), Quin spends his time dedicated to reforming access to equitable education for marginalized communities.
“The course that had the greatest impact on my growth as a confident practitioner of equity pedagogies was the social justice course taught by Dr. Lee Brossoit in the HESA graduate program. Additionally, working in my undergraduate education with Dr. Avi Chomsky was pivotal in helping me develop the agency I enjoy now as an advocate for systemic reform.”
Quin’s work continues to inspire. In 2020, he was named Graduate Assistant Fellow of the Year at UVM. He was named Alumni Teacher of the Year in 2016 by the Massachusetts State Universities Council of Presidents and was inducted into the Salem State University Northeast Regional Educators Hall of Fame in 2015.
Kyle Gregory ‘13
BFA - Theatre Arts
“The Salem State Theatre and Speech Communication Department faculty prepared me the most. I was the type of student that treated myself as a professional artist and I took full advantage of my professor's office hours and lunch breaks. I left Salem State feeling confident, ready to pursue a career in the arts.”
It’s that professional attitude and drive that has brought Kyle Gregory ‘13 to where he is today. Since graduating from Salem State, Kyle has self-published the children's book Nimbly Wimbly and the Great Dry Drought, graduated with his Masters in Fine Arts from Lesley University and written, directed and produced his first film Blood Brothers with his company APM films.
While a student at Salem State, Kyle was cast in the play Our Lady of 121st Street, directed by Professor Bill Cunningham. “I grew up in Fall River, Mass., a rough place filled with people with big hearts. Our Lady was the first play I’d ever read that reminded me of my hometown and the humans from it. Our Lady inspired me to think about writing. Bill inspired me to write. And so I did.”
Jessi Hardesty ‘11
BA - Art + Design
Artist, Professor and Curator - Carroll Community College
“I learned that the world beyond college is not always forgiving, but that it is also very much what you make of it. Salem State prepared me to expect the unexpected, be flexible and go after what I want.”
Laying the groundwork through constant learning and mastery of her craft, Jessi Hardesty ‘11 was working in a photography lab and bookbindery following graduate school, when she found herself in the right place at the right time. After a chance meeting, Jessi was in the world of academia teaching courses at the Community College of Baltimore County. Soon after, she moved on to Carroll Community College, where, five years later, she continues to serve as a professor and curator as well as the Director of Visual Arts.
In addition to her talents as a creative professional, Jessi has taught art to students in underfunded communities throughout the greater Baltimore area, been a visiting artist at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA , exhibited in numerous exhibitions nationwide, and in 2019 she received the Mentor of the Year Award from Carroll Community College.
“Professor Benjamin Gross always reminded me that the artist’s life is not for everyone; that you have to really want it, more than you want anything else. He reminded me that it wouldn’t be an easy path, and it would require commitment. His true and honest support meant the world to me. Professor Haig Demarjian, who I was an assistant to during my time at SSU, continues to be a close friend that cheers me on in my creative and professional life.”
Amanda Kennedy-Paige ‘12
BS - Cell and Molecular Biology
Senior Research Associate - Ultragenyx Gene Therapy
“My time at SSU was fruitful and rewarding. My professors instilled a lot of practical knowledge that I now frequently use in my day-to-day activities and their advice has allowed me to navigate through a lot of difficult decision points in my career path.”
Amanda Kennedy-Paige '12 knew she wanted to be a biologist early in life. As an undergraduate she spent a summer in Egypt working to collect biodiversity data within the Sinai Peninsula. After graduation, to further her experience in the field, she spent the summer working in the jungles of Honduras. There she taught field genetics and performed PCR tests using only a portable generator for power. It was in these harsh conditions that she realized "this is where I belong”.
Since that summer, she’s worked with DNA, RNA, and various biological sequencing methods at the Broad Institute, a non-profit organization focused on biomedical and genomic research. Wanting to have more control over her own experimental design and research, Amanda is now a senior research associate for Ultragenyx Gene Therapy in Woburn. Ultragenyx Pharmaceuticals is a biopharmaceutical company committed to bringing products to patients for the treatment of rare and ultra-rare diseases, with a focus on serious, debilitating inborn genetic diseases.
“My molecular biology and biochemistry studies with Dr. Tracy Ware taught me a lot about DNA and its various applications in the biotech industry. This knowledge and her mentorship have significantly shaped my professional life.”
Amanda has been recognized by Ultragenyx for her commitment to improve the lives of their patients. She enjoys volunteering her time by sharing her expertise with Salem State biology students, by judging Women in STEM competitions for middle school students, and by participating in a variety of STEM-related panels in the Greater Boston area. Amanda currently serves on the Salem State University Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Amanda Knox ‘13
BA - History
Assistant Archivist - Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women, Brown University
“I remember having several ‘ah ha’ moments walking through the streets of downtown Salem, where Dr. Margo Shea taught us to ‘look up’ at buildings in order to glimpse old advertisements and signs that give us information about cultures and communities past and present.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amanda Knox ‘13 immediately began curating and processing oral histories from members of the Brown University community regarding their experiences with the pandemic. Interviews are added to the Pembroke Center Oral History Project which began in 1982 and is also managed by Amanda. This work is being recognized in various locations, including Smithsonian Magazine.
“I felt and feel so honored to have gone to a university where the faculty were open, available and invested in my life after Salem State. I continue to think about and refer to the practical courses in history making and public history that I enjoyed so much.”
Learn more about Amanda’s work: Alumnae Oral Histories | The Pembroke Center Oral History Project and As COVID-19 Reshapes the World, Cultural Institutions Collect Oral Histories
Stephen LaMonica ‘13
BS - Business Administration
Assistant District Attorney - Essex County District Attorney’s Office
“Being a peer mentor and member of the Student Leader Advisory Counsel at the Bertolon School of Business made me more comfortable speaking in front of people and not being afraid to challenge those who do not agree with your position.”
As assistant district attorney for the Essex County District Attorney’s Office, Stephen LaMonica ‘13 finds this skill to be critical to his success. While it wasn’t originally his plan, law school came calling for this business graduate. Stephen credits much of his success in law school and after to numerous conversations with his student advisor and Business Law professor, David Goodof.
“Dr. Goodof played a major role in my development as a student that prepared me for law school immensely. He is a big reason why I succeeded not only at Salem State but while in law school as well.”
In addition to his many talents inside the courtroom, Stephen has stayed busy in the community as well. In 2018, he completed the Boston Marathon and in 2019, the Chicago Marathon, both as a charity runner. Professionally, he was recognized by District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett at the Massachusetts District Attorney’s Association Prosecutors Conference with the 2019 Spotlight Award for Essex County.
Fillette Lovaincy ‘19G
MEd - Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA)
Program Coordinator - Emmanuel College
“Salem State’s HESA program was truly the best choice for me. I was offered experiences that I’m not sure I would have gained at other programs or colleges.”
Deciding to take a year off in between undergraduate and graduate school, Fillette Lovaincy ‘19G served as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Girls, Inc. of Lynn.
Working with high school juniors and seniors to navigate the college application process, she decided that working in diversity and inclusion was the logical next step and enrolled in the HESA program. Now, as program coordinator for the Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Emmanuel College, she continues to help make the world a more inclusive place.
“No matter what college or organization I am a part of, I will always remember Salem State as the place that enabled me to think more creatively and internationally about what we do, how we do it and who we do it for”.
During her time at Salem State, FIllette was recognized with several campus awards, including induction into the Civic Engagement Hall of Fame and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award.
Brianne McDonough ‘14G
MEd - Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA)
Co-op Faculty, Khoury College of Computer Sciences - Northeastern University
“I love working at this unique intersection of academia and industry. Within STEM and technology I've developed a passion and energy for advocating for women and LGBTQIA+ groups in this sector and infusing diversity and inclusion throughout my work.”
One of the things that Brianne McDonough ‘14G enjoyed the most about the HESA program at Salem State was that the curriculum allowed the opportunity to pursue several different assistantships within the many areas of higher education. After accepting a full-time position in research at MassBay Community College, Brianne became hooked on assessment research and grew an interest in workforce development and community and partnership development.
As a faculty member in Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University, Brianne teaches a professional development course to undergraduates to prepare them for the first, full-time, co-op experience. Within this role, Brianne is also responsible for engaging and collaborating with employer partners and host organizations to design and deliver early talent programs, recruiting events, and co-curricular programming.
In addition to her daily work, Brianne remains committed to service. She’s volunteered for TechTogether, the ReachOUT Conference and currently chairs the Civic Engagement Committee of the Salem State Alumni Association.
Photo credit: Liz Linder Photography
Alexandra McDougall ‘04
BA - Theatre and History
Product Designer-Proactive Armour
“Theatre trains you to think on your feet. Having initially focused on being an actress full-time, I learned how to be flexible and grow where I was planted.”
As product designer for Proactive Armour, Alexandra McDougall ‘04 is now tasked with managing the process of developing products and securing patents for equipment used to protect American military members. She credits a great deal of her success to the training she received during her time at Salem State.
“Being able to think quickly and effectively, and as someone who is comfortable in front of an audience, makes me a real asset to our organization and an incredible team player. Never in a million years did I think I would be a military contractor, but sometimes the best stories are the unpredictable ones.”
In addition to her current work, Alexandra is also now a published children’s writer, creating her first publication, “Corona Pirates: A Guided Journal for Children,” to help kids navigate their feelings during COVID-19. Learn more by visiting www.corona-pirates.com.
Stacy (Smith) McMaster ‘07
BS - Communications, Public Relations
Vice President, Customer Experience - PureB2B
“The pride I take in my work, my confidence and my no limits mentality all relate back to my time at Salem State. My college experience taught me the value of believing in a mission and what hard work and dedication can truly accomplish.”
When one door closes, another opens. Stacy (Smith) McMaster ‘07 found herself challenged when her former employer closed, however she did not lose her spirit and drive. Never deterred, she accepted a position as an account manager with PureB2B and never looked back.
In the last five years, she’s ascended through the ranks to her current role, vice president of customer experience. Stacy oversees a global team of 18 professionals who manage client relationships with the ultimate goal of driving revenue and retention. Her team has been a major contributor to PureB2B’s 10x revenue growth during her time in the role.
“Salem State undoubtedly gave me the foundation I needed to excel in my career. I walked onto campus for the first time in 2003 committed to not taking my time there for granted. Responsible for paying for my college education, I was on a mission from day one to get as much out of my college experience as humanly possible.”
Monieke McNeil ‘13
BS - Criminal Justice
Vice President and Director of Performing Arts- Socio-Economic Foundation of Boston
“Through the rich, diverse campus and abundance of various classes, led by fantastic professors, I was able to obtain a better understanding of myself as a person.”
For as long as she can remember, Monieke McNeil ‘13 always knew she wanted to make a difference in her community and the lives of others.
It was through her various experiences in undergrad and graduate school that she was able to confirm what she knew all along.
As vice president and director of performing arts for the Socio-Economic Development Foundation of Boston, Monieke challenges herself each day to improve the lives of young people struggling with addiction and the criminal justice system. As the host of her own radio show on 97.9 FM, “Up Close,” she dedicates airtime to understanding and processing current political events and issues of interest.
“Salem State University allowed me accessibility, through various internships and employment opportunities, to explore exactly who I was meant to be. I am deeply passionate about our community, our issues and those individuals affected due to lack of resources. It is our responsibility to be that voice for those who cannot speak.”
Nathan McNiff ‘06
BA - Theatre Performance
Founder/CEO - The Wandering Stage
“I wanted to come up with a full theater set up that was affordable for smaller arts groups. If I could make it mobile I could save on rent and utilities and I could pass those savings on to clients. A theater that could be set up anywhere would allow communities without theaters of their own to bring cultural events to their citizens.”
Nathan McNiff ‘06 is the founding director of The Wandering Stage, a 20-foot, custom built trailer that brings a full theater setup across New England. The Wandering Stage has worked with the The Lowell Memorial Auditorium, the Peabody Essex Museum and the Firehouse Center for the Arts as well as towns and projects that did not have access to a brick and mortar theater, such as The Resilient Town Festival in Lawrence, Mass.
In addition to his many projects to date, Nathan was given a commendation from Congresswoman Lori Trahan and The House of Representatives for his work with The Columbia Gas Explosion.
“When you attend Salem State for performance you also take shop classes that teach you the technical side of theater. This not only gave me a deep appreciation for what goes on backstage but also gave me a well-rounded knowledge of what a mobile venue would need to include.“
Robbie Millwee ‘09
BS - Business Administration
Senior Accountant - Great HealthWorks
“Because of some of my experiences on campus, along with my internship, I was able to develop the confidence I needed in myself that encouraged me to continue beyond any failures I may encounter.”
Robbie Millwee ‘09 knew pretty early on that he was destined for business. After taking an accounting course in high school, he realized how much he enjoyed it.
Now, as senior accountant for Great HealthWorks in Hollywood, Fla., Robbie continues to grow and exceed professional expectations while also making sure to give back to his company and his community.
Not only has he created a system for compliance with the federal Wayfair ruling at his company, Robbie is also tasked with calculating and accruing monthly sales tax due for all 50 states and Canada, including the reconciliation pertaining to those accounts.
Outside of work, Robbie serves with community organizations focused on diabetes awareness, cancer research and other health and wellness initiatives. He also maintains an active presence at all Salem State alumni programming in Florida each year. In the spring of 2020, Robbie was appointed to the Salem State Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Jesse Moreira ‘17
BA - Biology
PhD Candidate - Boston University
“At Salem State, I was supported through the help of the Biology Department. The faculty encouraged and guided me through becoming interested in curing disease to pursuing graduate study in the medical sciences.”
Since he graduated from Salem State in 2017, Jesse Moreira ‘17 became fully immersed in the medical field, pursuing his masters degree and doctorate in physiology at Boston University, something he enjoys more and more each day.
Active in the medical research community at Boston University, the American Heart Association and American Physiological Society, Jesse is doing everything he can to not only improve himself personally, but also advance the lives and careers of others through his research on cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
This promising medical researcher has already been recognized by the American Heart Association and the Physiological Society for his work in hypertension and experimental physiology research. With an anticipated doctoral graduation of May 2021, Jesse is looking forward to his next research challenge in the form of studying the mechanisms of heart failure.
When he’s not leading research, Jesse spends time each semester talking with Salem State seniors in the biology program about going to graduate school, selecting a discipline and navigating the application process.
Achievement hasn’t been without challenges, but Jesse attributes much of his success to the training he received as an undergraduate student.
“I was so well prepared to study medical physiology and neuroscience at the graduate level following my classroom experiences with Dr. David Mercer and Dr. Nelson Scottgale, and laboratory experiences with Dr. Fidelis Manyanga, amongst many other incredible faculty. It’s an honor to come back now and share my experiences to help motivate the next generation of young scientists.”
Shelby Morrison ‘08
BS - Business Administration
Chief of Staff - RAW Art Works
“I started at Salem State as an art major, but then switched to business. The Bertolon School of Business helped me understand how organizations grow and thrive. The entrepreneurship course with Professor Gina Vega, particularly, was one of my favorites.”
Describing it herself as an opportunity by chance, Shelby Morrison ‘08 is tasked with the day-to-day operations of RAW Art Works in Lynn.
Serving as chief of staff to the organization, RAW Art Works is a youth arts organization rooted in art therapy. During Shelby’s time with RAW, the organization’s operating budget, staff size and physical space have doubled.
“Salem State’s courses were essential to my daily work. I consider myself an ‘intrapreneur,’ someone who can take an already existing business and help it expand. I made sure to keep my courses well-rounded through electives in art, urban planning, gender studies, and literature.”
Outside of her role with RAW Art Works, Shelby also serves her community as treasurer on the board of trustees at the Salem Academy Charter School.
Kati Nalbandian ‘15
BA - Theatre Arts, Minor in Public Relations
Arts Administration, Boston University
Photo credit: Cynthia August Images
“The professors in the Media and Communication Department were supportive of my aspirations when we had a project that allowed me to dream up an arts venue business. Now, I'm studying arts administration to learn how to make it happen.”
After graduating from SSU, Kati Nalbandian ‘15 began working with Creative Salem, engaging in marketing and events efforts. The local business soon grew to become Creative Collective LLC. In 2020 Kati chose to return to school to pursue a graduate degree in arts administration. While studying, Kati is now juggling multiple projects as co-producer with theatre company The Ridiculous Project (with other SSU Theatre Alumni), event coordinator with Harrington Events and office manager with Cape Pond Ice in Gloucester, Mass.
While working with the Creative Collective, Kati worked alongside Salem Main Streets for many events and projects, as well as the City of Salem's Haunted Happenings. Community-based volunteer work evolved from this by supporting HAWC, Haven from Hunger at Citizens Inn, and recently with Beverly Homecoming Committee and Beverly Cultural Council.
Kati is motivated by connecting others and finding ways to support communities in the creative sector. Salem State was a reason for being here, and the north shore quickly became home!
Nikolla Papa ‘19
BS - Business Administration
Investment Banking Analyst - StormHarbour
“Taking FIN-301 with Professor Sanjay Jain the first semester of my sophomore year was one of the best decisions I made during my time at SSU. I was always interested in finance from a young age, but his enthusiasm for the field influenced my decision to pursue finance as a career.”
As an investment banking analyst at StormHarbour in New York, Nikolla Papa ‘19 is tasked with advising C-Level Executives on capital raises, mergers and acquisitions, and other strategic advisory initiatives. Nick is currently working with a team of four on a mandate to raise $1.3 billion for a pre-revenue clean tech company in order to build out the infrastructure needed to begin production.
Typically two years in length, entry-level analyst positions provide closer to four years of real world experience due to the long days and nights, sometimes up to 100 hours per week. An incredibly competitive field, Nick finds the challenge invigorating.
“Salem State prepared me for my career in two key ways: acumen and leadership. Without either of these, I don’t think I would be in the position I’m in today. Both are critical in your ability to influence and advise clients on what’s best for the multi-million dollar company that they’ve built from the ground up.”
Never one to forget where he came from, Nick found it important to give back. A first-generation immigrant and first-generation college student himself, Nick established a scholarship award at Ipswich High School devoted to helping lower income students who have overcome insurmountable obstacles through persistence, grit, and resiliency. The award is now in its fourth year.
Ben Patriquin ‘11
BA - Art + Design
Vice President & Creative Director - Canale Communications
“Salem State students are hard workers, and at the time, my fellow designers and I would push each other and strive for greatness.”
As vice president and creative director for Canale Communications, Ben Patriquin ‘11 tackles everything that falls under the umbrella of visual communications: from photo shoot direction to scientific illustration artistry to logo development. He takes his Salem State work ethic to the office each day, where he leads and oversees a dynamic creative team as part of a larger communications agency.
Canale Communications specializes in the life science and biotech industries, and through his work, Ben has helped develop nearly 100 websites and brands within the industry. Canale has earned multiple recognitions for these projects, including from organizations such as PRSA,GD USA, Hermes and Web Awards.
“What I loved about my time at Salem State was that I could get as much as I wanted out of it – the more I wanted to do, the more my professors encouraged me. Even if I didn’t always succeed, I still came away with valuable lessons learned. The breadth of experience helped me hit the ground running after graduation.”
When he’s not running the show in his daily life, Ben can be found chasing around his three children or advocating for mental health as a member of the advisory board for THERO.org. Additionally, Ben devotes time to an internship program his company initiated to address racial disparity within the biotech industry, called Black Empowerment in Biotech.
Learn more by visiting www.beinbiotech.com.
Tim Patterson ‘12
BS - Business Administration
Director of Account Management - BitSight
“Salem State's culture of work ethic, accountability and continuous improvement has set me up for success in my current career. Motivating my team to tap into their thirst for knowledge, work collaboratively and be goal-oriented was something my professors at Salem State always did for me.”
Tim Patterson ‘12 always knew he wanted to work in sales, but during his time at Salem State, his interest in technology was piqued. It was when he accepted an opportunity at LogMeIn that he found his two worlds colliding, in the best possible way.
After two and a half years at LogMeIn, Tim decided to join a fast-growing startup, with a mission to bring universal understanding to cyber risk, a critical and global challenge. Six years ago, Tim became a very early employee at BitSight, a cybersecurity company pioneering the Security Ratings market, and is now the director of account management. It's in this role that Tim oversees a team of seven employees, divided between offices in Boston and Raleigh, NC.
Even though the world of cybersecurity is a busy one, Tim always finds time to give back to his community. In addition to the nearly quarter-million dollars he helped raise for the Jimmy Fund, Tim sits on the advisory committee for the Automotive Department at Medford Vocational Technical High School.
Dr. Zoila Quezada ‘07G
MEd - Educational Leadership
Director of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Roger Williams University
“Salem State University provided an amazing opportunity for me. When I was a graduate student it was beautiful to study on a campus that exuded diversity and welcomed me with open arms. The educational leadership program prepared me for a leadership opportunity in K-12 and I took all those skills and transferred them into my higher education career. The opportunity to study and be employed as a graduate assistant by the department of residence life was the filling component to my whole experience at Salem State. As the first residential academic specialist, I received mentorship from the department as well as the support and empowerment that was very influential in my success at Salem State.”
The spring semester of her last year of graduate work, Dr. Quezada began as the Upward Bound and EARLY program coordinator with the TRIO/SSS office at Salem State. After earning her master’s degree in educational leadership from Salem State, Dr. Quezada ‘07G continued working in higher education by accepting a position as assistant director of diversity and multicultural affairs at the Brown University Medical School.
It was during that time she decided to pursue her education even further. Enrolling in the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at Johnson & Wales University, Zoila graduated with her EdD in educational leadership in higher education in 2019. Today, she maintains that commitment to inclusion in her role as director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.
In addition to her commitments in the director role she is also a personal transformational coach and consultant in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Alexis Raasch ‘18
BS - Sport and Movement Science, Aquatic Management
MS - Recreation and Sport Science, Sport Coaching
Head Swimming and Diving Coach - University of Jamestown
“It is exciting to be not only a college head coach at 22 years old, but also to build a brand new program which has never existed before at the university.”
Alexis Raasch’s ‘18 many accomplishments include starting the women's swimming and diving team at the University of Jamestown where there was not a team prior . Previously she was a coach at the University of Texas (Permian Basin) as well as an adjunct faculty member. She is also the coach owner of the James River Masters, a USMS affiliated masters swim team.
Alexis' other accomplishments include being an invited research fellow for the American Swimming Coaches Association, NAIA campus liaison for Champions of Character, selected NAIA National Convention speaker and staff advisor to the Student Athletic Advisory Council. She currently is researching and preparing final drafts for her book which focuses on leadership issues in context to female sports coaches and intersectionality.
Alexis credits Salem State with preparing her for her career in more ways than she could have imagined, from technical aspects of swimming and assisting professors in their courses to the business administration side of sports management. “I am confident I have the skills to start a team - with success in every aspect of on deck and administrative work- because all of my classes at SSU taught me relevant information for my career.”
Jen (Howard) Ratliff ‘18
BA - History
Public Historian and Archives Assistant - Salem State University
“Salem State gave me the practical experience I needed to become a public historian.”
Jen Ratliff ‘18 maintains that being a public historian should be a life-long study. She continues that study with an unwavering commitment to sharing untold stories.
“My work advocating for the memorialization of an unmarked pauper burial ground has been my most rewarding accomplishment so far.” Her efforts received recognition in the Salem News and by Salem State University, as well as several government officials, the Salem Historical Commission and Historic Salem, Inc.
As if discovering a previously unmarked burial ground in Salem wasn’t enough, Jen spends her time working directly with local history as an Archives Assistant at Salem State’s Frederick E. Berry Library and currently sits on Salem’s Cemetery Commission. Jen has served on numerous city boards and societies, dedicated to preservation and Salem history, such as the Salem Historical Society and the Pioneer Village Advisory Board. She has also worked with a robust list of local cultural heritage organizations including: Essex Heritage, Salem Maritime National Historic Site, Christmas in Salem, and Historic Salem, Inc. She does this all while pursuing a master’s degree in Archives Management at Simmons University.
She credits her time as an undergrad student at Salem State for her success, saying: “Dr. Kimberly Alexander, who taught my very first Salem State course, helped me realize the most important lesson of all: it is okay to try and to fail. Even the most respected and knowledgeable historians don't have all of the answers. I use this assurance when embarking on my own projects and assignments.”
Erik Sayce ‘14
BS - Communications
Owner - Goodnight Fatty
“Seeing the university grow, with the city alongside it, really helped cement my decision to stay in Salem.”
For Erik Sayce ‘14, the journey to his current destination was nontraditional, to say the least. Unsure of what he wanted to study, he changed majors a few times, ultimately graduating with a degree in communications and a minor in computer science.
One night, with a hankering for cookies and milk, and then, after some convincing of a local coffee shop owner, Erik launched Goodnight Fatty with his now wife Jen, serving their own take on the beloved dessert on the weekends in an effort to help raise extra cash for their pending nuptials. Four years later, they outgrew the coffee shop, now operating out of the Salem Carriage House and have one of the most booming businesses on the North Shore.
“Goodnight Fatty has been my main focus, pride and joy since graduating. We’ve been able to give back to several nonprofits we admire and we support numerous fundraising efforts both large and small. We shop locally, employ locally and feel our biggest contribution is backing people we interact with on a regular basis.”
Jackson Schultz, III ‘14
BS - Computer Science
Technology Audit - Google
“I remember when I received my first job as an IT auditor, I told one of my favorite professors and asked for his advice. Though happy for me, he advised me not to become ‘an empty suit who lacks true technical knowledge.’ After spending some years in the industry, I began to realize what he meant. Since then, I’ve worked hard to enhance my technical acumen and apply it to my career.”
As the lead cybersecurity instructor for a bootcamp through Southern Methodist University and a technology auditor at Google, Jackson Schultz ‘14 is no stranger to the fact that technology and cybersecurity are becoming an increasingly more important part of our daily lives.
While not directly in a hands-on technical role, he still has to know what’s happening at all levels of the industry. Jackson serves as a self-described middle man between business and technology personnel, and still has to leverage some of the programming skills learned during his undergraduate degree at Salem State from time to time.
Through continued professional development, Jackson obtained a Masters Degree in Cybersecurity through Brown University, and has secured the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification, as well as the GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC).
As if that weren’t enough, in his spare time, Jackson also volunteers with an organization, iQ4, which helps educate undergraduate students on key cybersecurity fundamentals to prepare them for both interviews and day-to-day life in the industry after graduation.
Debra Lee Surface ‘05, ‘19G
BA - Art
MBA - Master of Business Administration
PhD Student - University of Massachusetts Lowell
“To be a resource of knowledge to young marketers, leaders and innovators, we must always be accessible. So, I made the decision to leave industry, to address concerns, through research and teaching, together. It is in this way I am able to mentor the next wave of business executives, and apply what I have observed both in best practices and poor practices to solve problems.”
When Debra Lee Surface ‘05, ‘19G arrived at Salem State, she felt a connection to the campus immediately. As a student in the Commonwealth Honors Program, she remains grateful to professors like Rod Kessler and the late Richard Elia, for taking her under their wings and leading her to success. Later, inspired by her undergraduate experience, Debra Lee decided to return to pursue an MBA in the Bertolon School of Business.
Beginning her marketing career with local credit unions establishing financial literacy programs, civic engagement opportunities and corporate social responsibility, Debra Lee decided it was time for a change. After over twelve years in financial services, Debra Lee realized she was called to do more. She finds herself in the midst of her second year in the PhD program at the Manning School of Business at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, specializing in marketing and corporate social responsibility.
Previously serving her alma mater in many capacities, Debra Lee currently serves as president of the Salem State University Alumni Association Board of Directors. A 2019 inductee to the University’s Civic Engagement Hall of Fame, Debra Lee remains committed to volunteerism throughout the North Shore and is a long serving member of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless Board of Trustees. The 2017 recipient of the Alumni Association's Rising Star Award, Debra Lee was honored in 2013 by the Cooperative Credit Union Association with the same distinction.
Kelsey Utne ‘12
BA/BS - History and Political Science
PhD Candidate - Cornell University
“My colleagues often comment on my dedication to unraveling the backstory, piecing together disparate facts and sources to tell a more complete story. That comes from my time at Salem State. My professors taught me to contextualize any event, question, or fact historically, globally and locally.”
Since the day she set foot on campus, Kelsey Utne ‘12 dedicated herself to uncovering the whole story. Now, as a PhD candidate at Cornell University, she specializes in histories of commemoration and death in modern South Asia.
After spending a year in India as Salem State’s first student Fulbright grantee, Kelsey went on to earn a master’s degree in international studies from the University of Washington and a Master of Arts in history from Cornell University in 2017. Along the way she has learned to read and speak Hindi, Urdu, Persian, and some Arabic.
Recognized by the U.S. Department of State, the Social Science Research Council, and the American Institute of Indian Studies, to name a few, Kelsey’s dissertation explores how people interface with the past and construct ideas of heritage through commemorative sites, or lack thereof. She also teaches history and writing classes for the Cornell Prison Education Program.
Kelsey expects to complete her doctoral program in 2022.
Dr. Kathleen Vander Kaaden ‘10
BS - Geological Sciences
Planetary Scientist - Jacobs Engineering Group
Originally choosing to attend Salem State as an education major, Kathleen Vander Kaaden ‘10 took an elective that changed her life, and she’s never looked back.
“I took a summer elective and had an opportunity to attend field camp with Professors Pete and Jeannette Sablock. I was hooked almost immediately. They helped me apply to graduate school and the next thing I knew, I was on the move.”
Kathleen was accepted to the University of New Mexico, where she completed both her master’s and doctoral degrees.
After three years in her doctoral program, she was offered the chance to intern at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and she jumped at the opportunity. She worked in the office of astromaterials, for the head curator, and focused primarily on the planetary makeup of Mercury and the Moon.
“In my current role, I work to determine the interior structure of rocky planetary bodies, typically using lava compositions found at the surface and measured by spacecraft. The majority of my research focuses on understanding how the planet Mercury has changed and evolved over time using data from the MErcury Surface Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft coupled with laboratory experiments.”
There is no doubt that the sky's the limit for Kathleen, as far as her professional pursuits go. While her work may have taken her far from home, she's never forgotten that it all started for her at Salem State.
Marquis Victor ‘09
BS - Communications
President and Founder - Elevated Thought
“With a major in communications, a focus on public relations and a minor in sociology, my education at Salem State pushed my understanding of what it means to be human, while having the space to answer those questions through creativity.”
Marquis Victor ‘09 is founder of Elevated Thought, headquartered in Lawrence, Mass. Elevated Thought creates positive social change through challenging the trappings of systemic oppression.
“As a founder and director of an art and social justice nonprofit organization working with youth in an under-resourced community, I am reminded of pervasive institutional shortcomings on a daily basis and believe these faults maintain limitations, both internal and external, on youth I work with and their peers.
Salem State was a critical time in my personal and professional growth. I would not be able to do the work I am doing the way I am, if I didn't have the support and space to envision Elevated Though like I did at Salem State.”
Marquis, in addition to being named the 2018 Rising Star by the Salem State Alumni Association, has earned numerous awards throughout the greater Lawrence community and beyond.
Gavin Walsh ‘07
BS - Business Administration
Senior Director, Global Sales - Seismic Software
“Whether it was classes taught by Professors Joseph Aiyeku, Elizabeth Haran, Linda Coleman, Robert Blanchard and so many others, or my time as a student-athlete and then coach with the lacrosse team, I learned a great deal at Salem State that I use in my everyday life.”
In his role as a Senior Director of Global Sales for Seismic, Gavin’s passion is all about helping Go-to-market organizations solve their most important challenges by connecting them to the right technology solutions. Seismic is the most trusted sales and marketing enablement software for such companies as Wayfair, IBM, American Express, and more.
“For me, one of the things I loved most about Salem State was the diversity of the student body, especially the socioeconomic diversity. Understanding that the way you view and experience the world each day is not the singular experience really helps you to empathize and put you into the shoes of another, which in turn allows you to collaborate and succeed at a much higher rate.”
When he’s not in the office, Gavin enjoys working with SeismicCares, a program dedicated to helping organizations that support causes for children, the homeless and more, but he always stays connected to Salem State, too.
“There are countless ways that Salem State helped prepare me for life after college. The relationships I formed and connections I made at Salem State are the strongest in my life.”
40 under 40 Nomination Information and Criteria
- Must have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree from Salem State.
- Must be under the age of 40 as of December 31, 2021.
- Has made significant contributions to their respective professional disciplines, communities, and/or Salem State University. Examples include but are not limited to:
- Company achievement or another significant award
- Notable career growth (senior position, position of significant influence, fast riser, etc.)
- Elected office
- Board service
- Notable published works
- Successes in entrepreneurship, business, nonprofit, etc.
- National media coverage
- Notable civic involvement, leadership or recognition
- Thought leader or "voice" in field/industry
- Must be willing to submit a photo that can be published by the Salem State Alumni Association. Statement magazine, and various school communication vehicles, as appropriate
- Resume, copy of state-issued ID (for age verification) and supporting information will need to be provided
The deadline for nominations is January 31, 2022.
Nominate a Viking!
Thank you to our selection committee:
- Melissa Arroyo
- Dr. Lee Brossoit
- Robert Ellison '92
- Anthony Guerriero '92
- Jim Lampassi '81
- Cynthia McGurren '83
- Joanne Mendes '79