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Meet the newest class of 40 Under 40
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 over 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, associate director of alumni relations.
Melissa Carella, ’13, ’19G
BA – English
MA – English
Marketing Manager – Triverus Consulting
“I have always been eager to help others. I believe that my hands-on approach to leadership was learned through mentorship I received at Salem State. My advisors for my B.A. and M.A., Professor Rod Kessler and Keja Valens, were heavily invested in my success and taught me about perseverance, as well as believing in yourself. These are important lessons I will carry with me forever.”
In her role as a marketing manager for Triverus Consulting, Melissa is passionate about spearheading marketing initiatives and driving strategy cross-functionally to drive brand awareness and corporate growth. Triverus is a technology consulting firm founded based on a desire to enhance the value inherent in their clients, colleagues and community. Working with an organization passionate about giving back is a dream for Melissa, who spends time outside of work volunteering at an animal shelter and fostering dogs.
Aside from her professional career and volunteer activities, Melissa recently collaborated on a journal article with former Professor Nancy Schultz and classmate Jennifer Ray, which was published in a literary journal. “I am a proud SSU alumni and grateful for everyone I have met there who has inspired and pushed me to be the best version of myself."
Victoria Chase ’16
BS – Political Science
Assistant Attorney General – Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
”The political science department at Salem State taught me about the power of state and local governments and how every policy and person in a system make an impact.”
Vikki Chase ‘16 is an Assistant General Counsel for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services where she provides legal support to MassHealth with a focus on eligibility matters.
“The courses I took, professors I learned from and projects I worked on taught me how to be an effective and informed advocate.”
At Salem State, Vikki discovered her interest in public health and healthcare systems. Following graduation, she continued studying health law and policy, first gaining a Master of Science, then attending law school. Vikki strives to bring all her learning and experience to the table when working with and advocating for her clients.
Vikki’s time at Salem State set the foundation for a career in public service. She is always available to current students and members of the Salem State community interested in pursuing a legal career.
Sidi A. Diarra ’16
BA – Economics
PhD Candidate – Huazhong University of Sciences and Technology
In 2011 Sidi Diarra ’16 had the chance to come to the United States to start his bachelor's degree at Salem State University, he had an amazing experience and wants his younger sister and brother to come study in the United States.
Sidi was president of the African club for two consecutive years at Salem State. During his term they won the award for best event of the year. He also created the African Leadership Conference, which took place in 2013 and saw the participation of eight universities from Massachusetts.
He also created the African debate in 2014, which was the first in the history of Salem State University and had participation from universities like McGill from Canada, two universities from New York and four from Massachusetts.
Sidi also had the chance to be elected student trustee. This was the first time for an African student.
In 2019, after a strong preselection by the Chinese Government Scholarship, he was awarded a scholarship to go to China to start a PhD Program in land resources management at Huazhong University of Sciences and Technology.
In 2020, he created an agency to give a chance to students from Côte d'Ivoire to come to the United States to continue their study, and in 2021, he created an e-commerce to boost trade between Côte d'Ivoire and China.
Derek DiGregorio ’04
BA – Theatre Arts
Stage Manager – Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
Derek DiGregorio ’04 has been stage managing professionally on Broadway, Off-Broadway, on tour, and regionally for over 15 years. Broadway credits include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Kinky Boots, and The Book of Mormon. National tour credits include The Book of Mormon, High, and Looped. Off-Broadway and New York credits include Little Miss Sunshine at Second Stage, and Applause at New York City Center Encores. Regional credits include 18 productions at Goodspeed Musicals including Pippin, 1776, Big River, 42nd Street, Annie Get Your Gun, How to Succeed in Business…, Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, Show Boat, and City of Angels. Credits at Yale Repertory Theatre include Safe in Hell, Comedy on the Bridge/Brundibar, & Black Snow. He received a BA in Technical Theatre from Salem State College in 2004 and an MFA in Stage Management from Yale School of Drama in 2007.
Julianna Donovan ’20G
MBA – Business Administration
Marketing Manager – Howland Capital
Owner – Salem Style
“My experience at Salem State gave me the knowledge, tools, and confidence I needed to further the path in my corporate career as well as running my small business. The first thing I think of anytime I am giving a presentation or crafting a marketing campaign is: ‘Tell me what you're going to tell me, tell me, then tell me what you just told me.’ Professor Scott Blackman said this to his class regarding how to give an effective presentation.”
Julianna Donovan ’20G always knew she wanted a creative career. Throughout her many roles, one theme has remained in focus: creating a connection. No matter the industry, her focus has been using her creativity to tell the brand story, to not only understand the customer, but to connect them to the company's mission. At Howland Capital, she strives to make current and future clients feel connected to the firm. Within her own small business, she strives to connect her customers not only to Salem, but to her family's history of crochet. Julianna is also passionate about making the financial services industry more diverse and inclusive through promoting equitable opportunities.
She is a member of the Salem State University Alumni Association Board of Directors and has been an advocate for Viking Warrior Day, Salem State's annual day of giving.
Errin Douglas ’18
BA – Business Administration
COO – The Davis System LLC.
Errin Douglas ’18 is the chief operations officer of The Davis System, LLC. She is a 2018 graduate of Salem State University with a B.S. in business administration and was a Katzman’s Entrepreneurship Scholar. Since graduating, she has served in a variety of capacities for several elected officials such as Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, and State Representative Liz Miranda.
Errin has also spent some time at the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Emerge Massachusetts.
Drew Duperval ’18
BA – Business Administration
Founder – EntreDupe Consulting LLC & EntreDupe Productions
Drew Duperval ’18 is a business consultant helping freelance start-ups and first-generation business owners structure their ideas so they can monetize their passion, start their business and manifest their five-year vision.
Drew has written business plans, consulted dozens of businesses and entrepreneurs and spoken to hundreds of students, parents and entrepreneurs at various workshops, conferences and events along the east coast.
EntreDupe Consulting LLC is dedicated to helping freelancers and entrepreneurs earning under $500k/year scale with less than 15 employees, while EntreDupe Productions, based out of Massachusetts, is a fully professional video production company dedicated to helping businesses, entrepreneurs, & creatives express their ideas.
In his spare time, Drew hosts and records the "I’m a Young Hustler Under 40" Weekly YouTube VLOG to give daily insight into his life as a freelance entrepreneur, creating generational wealth & breaking generational curses.
Natasha Evans ’16
BA – Art and Design Art Education
Art Educator – Hampton City Schools
Natasha received her Bachelor of Art and Design in art education from Salem State University along with her Massachusetts State Licensure in art education. While there, she earned the Academic Certificate of Excellence for Art Education. Prior to this, she earned her associate's certificate of residential planning from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
Natasha has been involved with the art and design industry for over 15 years. Her work includes being head artist, event creator and promoter of C-Space Dayton, an art space created for members of the grassroots and feminist arts movement of Dayton, Ohio. She was the co-founder of the North Shore Arts and Music Festival, an event which served as an affordable place for new and aspiring artists to display and sell their work. This event raised money for local nonprofit arts and music education organizations.
Her lifelong love of the arts has led her to collaborate with others on various projects including graphic design, performance art, photography, art directing, makeup artistry, sculpting, and painting. This passion for the arts and expertise in cognitive development allows her to plan for a multitude of developmental needs. Her understanding of design and her deep appreciation for color help to create lively and fun compositions.
She currently serves underprivileged communities in coastal Virginia by creating and implementing lesson plans, informational slides and demonstration videos which teach visual art, culture and art history to students.
As the lead art director at On Waves' Design, Natasha researches best practices for trending designs and serves as the primary content editor. Natasha combines her knowledge of human development and psychology with science-based research to color and layout choices that fit her clients’ needs.
Leah Falkowski ’08
BS – Education and Sociology
Toddler Teacher – Jewish Community Center
Kid's Club Staff – YMCA
"Salem State has provided me with traditional early childhood foundation courses in appropriate educational practices, child development and curriculum design. My sociology courses gave me a good background for dealing with people from different cultures and ethnic diversity."
Leah Falkowski ’08 has worked at the Sterling Center YMCA in Beverly in various capacities for over 20 years, including gymnastics instructor and birthday party staff, camp counselor, Kids' Club, and many age groups of childcare, infant through pre-K.
Leah has remained involved in the Salem State Young Alumni Society by helping to organize events for graduating seniors, works as an usher at graduation and volunteers at the homeless shelter in Salem. Other volunteer activities include singing in the choir, playing in the hand bell group and teaching Sunday School at her church.
In her senior year Leah received the Senior Award. She was also inducted into the Pi Lambda Theta Education Honor Society and the Alpha Kappa Delta Sociology Honor Society. Leah recently completed her master's degree in education at Gordon College.
Jessica Giannino ’14
BA – English
State Representative, Sixteenth Suffolk District – The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Jessica Giannino ’14 was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2020. She is currently serving in her second term in office representing the people of the 16th Suffolk District, Revere and Saugus.
Jessica began her career in politics as a city councilor at-large for the City of Revere in 2012 while a sophomore at Salem State. Since that time, she has worked on countless issues that impact the daily lives of the citizens of Revere, as well as ordinances that will affect generations to follow.
In 2013 her inclusive style and strong leadership qualities prompted her colleagues to elect her vice president of the council. In 2016 and 2018, Jessica had the honor of serving as city council president.
Jessica graduated from Revere High with honors in 2010 and Salem State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2014. While at Salem State, she continued to be involved by serving as the vice president of the Student Government Association, president of the Student Commuter Association, and member of the honors societies Sigma Tau Delta and Pi Lambda Theta.
Jenn T. Grace ’04
BS – Communications/Advertising
Founder and CEO – Publish Your Purpose, a Certified B Corp
An award-winning author, nationally recognized speaker and savvy publishing strategist, Jenn T. Grace ’04 is the founder of Publish Your Purpose, the acclaimed hybrid publishing company that gives first-time authors the secrets to getting their books written, finding an eager audience and marking their place in the publishing world. Publish Your Purpose is a certified B Corp social enterprise that meets the gold standard of socially and environmentally friendly business practices.
Jenn leads ambitious authors through every aspect of writing, editing and publishing so their book strategically aligns with their business goals. Whether it’s a business guide that shows the breadth of their ability or an emotional memoir that takes readers deep into life’s challenges, she helps authors articulate their purpose and fulfill their mission.
Jenn has published the books of over 150 business owners, entrepreneurs, speakers, and memoirists so more diverse stories can exist in the world and her authors can make a positive impact and achieve the recognition and success they deserve. She is the author of six books, including her memoir, “House on Fire.” Jenn has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and CNBC.
Jenn lives in Connecticut with her family and enjoys being outside with her son, kayaking and admiring the birds and nature around her.
Tatsuya Ito ’11
BFA – Theatre
Associate Technical Director – University of Illinois
Tatsuya “Tito” Ito ’11 is an associate technical director at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois and a member of the scenic technology faculty. Tatsuya started his career off freelancing in the greater Boston area working for companies like Bent Productions, Company One, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, and Suffolk University, amongst many others. He would work his way from an over-hire carpenter to technical director at Stoneham Theatre. Looking for a change of pace, he was fortunate to become the shop foreman at Brandeis University, where he discovered his love for working in educational theatre.
In graduate school, he spent his summers in New York to work for Productions on Point, a layout and survey company focusing on live events, and Los Angeles to work for Center Theatre Group. In 2011 Tatsuya received his BFA from Salem State University and is currently finishing his thesis to complete his MFA in technical design and production from the Yale School of Drama.
Cassandra Keane ’18, ’22G
BA – Business Administration, Marketing
MBA – Administration and Management
Product Business Manager – Sanofi Genzyme
“Attending Salem State for both my undergraduate and graduate education was the best decision I have ever made in my life. Salem State gave me the tools I needed to compete and be successful not only in business but in life. My time here gave me the ability to grow and be the confident and intelligent woman I am today.”
After graduating undergrad early with honors, Cassandra “Cassie” Keane ’18, ’22G proceeded to persevere. Cassie landed a job working in account management for construction materials and worked there for nearly three years. Her goal was to be the first person in her family with a master’s degree. While working full time she also began to attend Salem’s MBA program full time. Cassie now works for Sanofi Genzyme as a product business manager. It was her goal to be in a patient centric company and role to serve others.
Mashooma Khalifa ’12
BS – Biology
Minor – Chemistry
QC Manager – ElevateBio
“I will always cherish my time at SSU. Of course, the university was instrumental in providing the education around the science curriculums, however, it was more so influential in the day-to-day life events and life situations that every student gets involved in. It was during my time here when true life lessons were also taught: how to be successful, how to be influential, how to be remembered, and above all, how to be a good person”.
Prior to high school, it was Mashooma’s passion to take apart things and understand how they operated, how they functioned together and how to assemble them again, whether it be general electronics, desktop computers or laptops. During high school and then the start of college, she imagined herself as a scientist – someone working in a laboratory making a difference.
The idea of understanding how things work and connected, especially in the science and healthcare side, has really helped catapulted her career: helping design and building genetic therapeutic cures for patients in need.
Eric Lampedecchio ’08
BS – Business Administration
Vice President of Learning and Development – Pentucket Bank
“As the first member of my family to go to college, finding the right major was a learning experience. After taking Introduction to Business with Professor Blanchard, I knew that a degree in business administration was the right choice for me.”
Since completing his bachelor’s degree and beginning a career in financial services, Eric Lampedecchio ’08 has grown from an entry level role at a local financial institution to the position of vice president of training & development at the largest state-chartered credit union.
Since graduating, Eric has achieved several accomplishments and recognitions, including the 2017 Rising Star Award from the Warren Group, a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Revere in 2019 for his efforts as a board member for the Revere Senior Citizen Prom, appointment by the mayor to the Riverfront Development Advisory Group, and an Outstanding Graduate Certificate for completing his master’s degree with a 4.0 GPA.
“Completing my bachelor’s degree at Salem State while working and commuting created a challenging and rewarding experience that provided me with a well-rounded education, crucial life skills and the foundational knowledge that I needed to begin a successful career.”
Kelsey Lima ’18
BS – Social Work, Geography
Clinical Social Worker – Department of Public Health
The sense of family Kelsey Lima ’18 felt beyond the classroom in residence life, campus recreation and B.E.E.S were special to her. After graduating from SSU, Kelsey began her career at the Department of Children and Families (DCF) while pursuing her MSW. Now as a clinician at a Department of Public Health (DPH) hospital, she serves Boston’s most underserved population living with complex medical and psychosocial challenges. Most recently, Kelsey returned to campus as an adjunct instructor in the School of Social Work.
In Kelsey’s spare time, she is immersed in community service. Kelsey is a fellow with the International Legal Foundation, providing remote consultation to defense attorneys abroad. Additionally, she conducts pro bono forensic psychological evaluations for survivors of human trafficking.
Kelsey takes pride in serving as a board member of the Friends of the School of Social Work and her city’s DEI Task Force. She enjoys volunteering with the Council of Social Work Education and mentoring BIPOC MSW students across the nation in its Minority Fellowship Program.
Kevin David Linton, PhD ’12G
M.Ed. – Higher Education Student Affairs
Director of TRIO SSS – Salem State University
Kevin David Linton ’12G appreciates how instrumental Salem State University was in his career preparation. As a proud graduate of the higher education student affairs (HESA) M.Ed. program, he learned the skills necessary to become a successful and impactful student affairs professional. His graduate assistantship and practicum experiences at SSU also gave him the opportunity to explore the field of higher education and helped him realize how much he enjoys supporting college students.
After graduating with his degree, Kevin was hired by TRIO Student Support Services where he has held several roles, including assistant coordinator, coordinator, student success counselor, and assistant director. This past January he was promoted to director where he oversees the federally funded program which serves 325 first-generation college students each year.
A first-generation college student and TRIO alum himself, Kevin holds a Ph.D. from Lesley University, M.Ed. from Salem State University, and a B.A. from the University of New Hampshire.
Adam M. Lord, CPA, CNAP ’08
BS – Business/Accounting
Minor – Political Science
Partner – Penchansky & Co., PLLC
Certified Public Accountants
“Credit to my success lies in the foundation of my education derived at Salem State, and the community that harvested and shared with me in the triumphs and challenges during those years. Being prepared for the CPA exam and what the accounting industry was going to require came from hard work, the curriculum and the amazing educators, who I still think of fondly and with inspiration.”
After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting in 2008, Adam Lord, CPA, CNAP ’08 secured a job at a CPA firm and began the task of applying his college education to real life scenarios by preparing financial statements, tax returns and performing attestation services for business and individual clients. The education gave the ability to work with mentors, applying the complexities of what public accountants must do, but also, putting oneself in front of a client and having a conversation on a range of topics that went beyond accounting, creating a well-rounded businessman.
After relocating to Manchester, NH, passing the CPA exam and obtaining the additional CNAP (Certified Not-For-Profit Accounting Professional) and becoming involved in the Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program, Adam founded the NH Log Cabin Republicans, which is NH’s largest conservative gay rights organization, working toward promoting the State of NH as an inclusive, equitable and diverse state, welcoming to all.
In addition, he is serving his second term as a board member on the board of directors to the NH Society of CPAs, while chairing the marketing committee. In 2019, he was made a partner at his firm, Penchansky & Co., PLLC, Certified Public Accountants, and hopes to hire from Salem State to carry on the tradition of making CPAs out of Salem State’s accounting students. He lives in Manchester, NH with his husband, Matthew.
Erin Mayo ’16
BS – Education and History
Student Affairs Scholar Practitioner
“In my role as serving as an admissions ambassador for the office of undergraduate admissions, I was able to share my enthusiasm of Salem State to prospective students to help them find their home at the university.”
As an admissions ambassador president, Erin Mayo ’16 was able to lead the ambassador team through daily tours and larger events such as open houses/ accepted student days.
Erin enjoyed many courses through the history department including HST 210: Legal History, where she found her passion for policy and interned for Senator Warren in the summer of 2015. Erin pursued her Master of Arts degree at George Washington University studying higher education administration, concentrating on policy and finance. Having lived and worked at a variety of higher education institutions in Washington D.C., Arlington, VA, Chicago, IL, State College, PA and now back home in Massachusetts, Erin believes that these experiences have helped her to grow as a professional.
Erin is an advocate with the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) where she has been advocating for the Respond, Innovate, Support, and Empower Students (RISE) Act in Congress. With dedication and persistence, Erin has assisted in securing Senator Markey’s co-sponsorship of this important legislation which would increase equity for students in higher education.
Erin will have a chapter published in a book called "DISABLED Faculty and Staff in a Disabling Society: Multiple Identities in Higher Education." The book will be released July 2023 by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD).
Erin credits Dr. Mary Dunn, former assistant dean of undergraduate admissions, with being a resource and a mentor to her in career.
Theresa Melito-Conners, PhD, ’11G
MA – School Counseling
Professional Speaker – Dr. MC’s Self-Care Cabaret
Out of District Special Education Coordinator – Melrose Public Schools
Theresa Melito-Conners, Ph.D. (Dr. MC) is the founder of Dr. MC’s Self-Care Cabaret, a suite of theatre-inspired self-care and professional development services for helping professionals. The Self-Care Cabaret encompasses workshops, a podcast and educational curricula — focused on accessible, realistic strategies that equip and empower.
Dr. MC holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Lesley University, where her studies focused on self-care and renewal for helping professionals. In addition, she has an M.Ed. in school counseling from Salem State University and a B.A. in theatre studies from Emerson College. Her true joy is bringing her scholarship, experience and zest to audiences of all kinds nationwide.
Her time at SSU shaped the underpinnings of the Self-Care Cabaret, as the work is rooted in mental health and psychology. SSU will always be a special place for Dr. MC, as her mom also graduated from SSU. As a high school student, SSU provided amazing exposure to college academics, often accompanying her mom to courses and campus events.
Dr. MC is a regular guest on high-profile podcasts and publications. She has a growing social community @DrMCselfcare on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and lives in Massachusetts. Learn more at drmcselfcare.com.
Mike Mitchell ’07
BA – Sports, Fitness and Leisure Studies
Assistant Director of Alumni Relations – Salem State University
“I landed at Salem State by accident, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Mentors and advisors took me under their wings and helped prepare me for life after college in the best possible way.”
Currently serving in the office of alumni relations at Salem State, Mike Mitchell ’07 began a successful career in event and relationship management shortly after his graduation from Salem State.
Getting started at a family entertainment center, he quickly put his degree in sports, fitness and leisure Studies (now SMS) to work. Mike then parlayed the operational and administrative experience of running that same family entertainment center to work in the world of sports and entertainment.
Mike joined the front office of the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League for a few seasons, and then went on to enjoy several years of hosting exciting events, concerts and shows with Spectra Venue Management (now OVG), like Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen, the Eagles, WWE, the Harlem Globetrotters, and more.
When the time came to make a change, an opportunity opened up at his alma mater and Mike jumped at the opportunity.
“Being a part of the Salem State community again has been an incredible experience. Getting to work with fellow alumni on creating opportunities for current students and staying connected has truly been a labor of love.”
Danielle Morgan Acosta ’09G
BA – Higher Education in Student Affairs
Associate Dean for Student Success, Student Engagement – Clark University
Immediate Past President – ACPA
Dr. Danielle Morgan Acosta ’09G is a passionate and collaborative creator, motivator and enthusiastic student advocate who educates students and staff about leadership, history, sustainable change, and finding their voice and passions. Thousands of students at Salem State, Florida State University and Clark University have been impacted by her coaching, mentorship and academic and social initiatives to optimize their experience.
Since her time as a graduate student at Salem State, Danielle has been an active member of ACPA - College Student Educators, International, named one of the Top 100 Association’s Changing the World in 2020 for their commitment to student development, racial justice and boldly transforming higher education. She served three terms as an elected member of the governing board, coordinated the annual convention in 2017 and served as president of ACPA in 2021-2022, leading the association’s strategic plan, imperative and priorities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
A first-generation college graduate, Danielle says, “My time at Salem State gave me a strong foundation for my career, instilled in me a passion for mentorship and service and connected me to great faculty, colleagues and students I still call friends.”
Danielle lives in Worcester, MA with her partner, dog and two cats.
Cameron Morissette ’11
BA – Geological Sciences
Associate – Senior Project Geologist at Mott MacDonald
“Salem State’s Geological Sciences Department changed the way I look at our planet. I owe my career to those early days when my professors showed me how the Earth functions. I fell in love with the environment.”
Cameron Morissette ’11 was a fast riser starting with his undergraduate work at Salem State University. As a student he assisted Dr. Brad Hubeny in the geological sciences department, with fieldwork and research, and they co-authored a research paper together in 2011. Cameron was one of the first students to receive research grant monies at SSU.
“I was never a perfect student, but the professors supported, encouraged, and invested in me. Any success I’ve had stems from the fantastic teachers in the Geology Department.”
After graduation, Cameron earned a full scholarship to the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography. His work as a research assistant led him to seek a position in which he could use his geological sciences background for renewable energy projects.
Cameron obtained his master’s degree in 2014 and began working in the offshore surveying field, spending years in Africa, Honduras and across the U.S. mapping the ocean floor for wind energy and other infrastructure projects.
Since 2017, Cameron has been working with Mott MacDonald, a global engineering firm. He specializes in environmental impact assessments for renewable energy projects and is a key team member on several wind energy projects in the USA. He holds a Professional Geologist license in New York and a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager credential. In 2021, Cameron was made an Associate at Mott MacDonald.
Gaetano Mortillaro ’17
BA – Political Science and Government
International Tax Associate – PwC
“With the desire to escape poverty, the only path through the educational system was through scholarships. With a combination of outside scholarships and those earned through Salem State University, I graduated debt free.”
Gaetano Mortillaro is an international tax associate in Boston, Massachusetts, where he helps clients address their cross-border tax needs both locally and globally by managing their global tax rates, finding areas of cost reduction and responding to inquiries from regulatory authorities. Gaetano filled the position in the fall of 2021 after graduating from Boston University School of Law with his JD and Tax LLM.
Gaetano studied political science and led the Pre-Law Society as a member of Salem State’s Commonwealth Honors Program. He grew up in poverty and living in subsidized housing with a disabled single father. He was born with a rare genetic condition that required countless surgeries during his youth, burdening his height and mobility and causing severe pain at times. Overcoming such burdens instilled within him the grit and humility that colored his positive outlook on life: “If you presume the best possible interpretation and give people the benefit of the doubt, but are also steadfast in advocating for yourself,” he says, “it tends to produce the best possible results.”
His experiences growing up in poverty with a major disability drive his future aspirations to hold political office. “The skills I acquired at Salem State University carried me through my post graduate education and helped me ensure I could secure a position that would lay the foundation for my life, in an economy where so few have such a privilege.”
Pedro Palandrani ’18G
MBA – Business Administration
VP, Director of Research – Global X ETFs
“After having the opportunity to work in multiple industries, including financial services, tourism and retail, I started to realize while at Salem State that finance and investments were without a doubt my passion. I was lucky to land an internship opportunity at Cabot Wealth Management while doing my MBA at SSU which opened the doors to a career in the field. Professor Miranda Lam served as a recommendation, and I will always be thankful for that.”
Pedro Palandrani ’18G leads Global X ETFs’ thematic research efforts as a director of research. He joined Global X in 2019 as a Research Analyst covering the Thematic Growth suite of ETFs, including those in the technology, people, and infrastructure categories. Prior to joining Global X, Pedro held the role of equity research analyst at Cabot Wealth Management where he worked on the firm’s growth-oriented investment strategy, utilizing ETFs to construct multi-asset class portfolios.
Pedro earned his MBA from the Bertolon School of Business at Salem State University and a BA from Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) in Venezuela.
Pedro has been featured in multiple media outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, Bloomberg, Forbes, and others.
“While at SSU, I collaborated to make the Bloomberg lab a reality. I'm happy to see that what started as a conversation with Rob Lutts, has now become a fantastic tool for business students at SSU.”
Sebastien Poirier ’09
BA – Athletic Training
Senior Medical Director – Detroit Pistons
Sebastien Poirier ’09 began serving as senior medical director of the Detroit Pistons in 2022 after having spent the previous six years with the Brooklyn Nets. He graduated from Salem State University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training. He then earned his doctorate degree in physical therapy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 2012.
Sebatien began his basketball career in 2013 with the Oklahoma City Thunder organization where he worked as an assistant athletic trainer with the Thunder and as head athletic trainer of their G-League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue. He then spent the next six years with the Brooklyn Nets as the assistant athletic trainer from 2016-2018 and as head athletic trainer from 2018-2022.
In addition to being a licensed physical therapist and athletic trainer, Sebastien is also a board-certified specialist in orthopedics and is pursuing a fellowship in manual therapy.
He currently resides in Ferndale, Michigan with his wife Christina and their two cats, Neon and Beau.
Katie Pustizzi, MFA ’15
BA – Dance
Dance Instructor – Dean College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gann Academy, Aurora Borealis Dance Company
Katie Pustizzi, MFA ’15 is an interdisciplinary movement artist in the greater Boston area. She teaches dance at many different schools, including Dean College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Emmanuel College. She frequently shares her improv-focused creation process as an artist-in-residence at various universities across the country.
For 10-years, Katie served as the founder/artistic director of Aurora Borealis Dance Company, a mentoring-centered youth ensemble for aspiring movement artists under the age of 20. Katie is now pursuing her work as an independent-artist through her newest project, “Liquid Spine,” a global dance series that explores the environmental needs of our water systems through movement, film, and site-sensitive creation.
Katie is deeply interested in international exchange as a form of artistic research and connection. In 2019, she explored Gaga with Batsheva Dance Company in Israel. Most recently she danced with the contemporary dance company Senza Confini Di Pelle in Sardinia, Italy. She is thrilled to continue to blend her passion for travel, activism and dance through "Liquid Spine."
Widline Pyrame ’10
BA – Psychology/Sociology
CEO and Founder – Fusion Dolls
Born in Haiti, Widline Pyrame ‘’10 is helping break the socialization cycle in which children are not exposed to toys and dolls that look like them. She has made it her mission to empower children to be proud of their identity and build their confidence.
In 2019, Widline founded her own LLC, Fusion Dolls, a multicultural toy company created to spread diversity awareness and promote self-love in children, youth and beyond, helping them feel beautiful on the inside and out. She's won first place in the EforAll Pitch competition and was runner up for the HarborOne Bank Small Business Pitch competition and recently opened her own storefront at the Westgate Mall.
Widline has been featured in Boston College Law School Magazine ("Building a Better Dollhouse"), Patch, WGBH's "In It Together," Channel 7 Boston, The Enterprise, and more.
Kerry (Stokes) Ramsdell ’10
BS – Criminal Justice
Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety – Endicott College
“My professors and coaches challenged me to get out of my comfort zone, which led me to develop knowledge, confidence and leadership skills that have served me well throughout my career.”
Starting as a young girl, Kerry traveled to Salem State to participate in Coach Tim Shea’s youth basketball camps. As a young adult, she continued her Salem State journey where she received her criminal justice degree and played on the women’s basketball team, serving as captain her senior year.
After graduation, she accepted an entry level police officer’s job and found her next passion. After working in both the campus and municipal setting, Kerry found her home in campus policing at Endicott College. Over the last 12 years of her career, she has accepted various promotions and successfully worked her way through all the ranks of the Endicott College Police Department. Without the challenges and confidence building that her professors helped provide, she would not have been in a position to accept the position of chief.
She has accepted various awards and recognitions including 2022 and 2023 Special Recognition from the MA Association of Women in Law Enforcement, and a four-time Endicott College Women of Impact Award recipient.
As a dedicated leader, Kerry is passionate about giving back to her community. Together with the campus police department, they have donated over $5,000 to breast cancer awareness and the American Cancer Society, via the Pink Patch Project.
Kerry knows the value of education and personal safety; she guest lectures to Endicott students and is a certified RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) instructor and teaches self-defense tactics.
Yoscairy Raymond ’19
BA – Social Work
CEO/Owner – Olive Branch Multiservice
“During my time at SSU, I learned so much and am so grateful for all the amazing people I met along the way. With those now friends and mentors I have cried and laughed but I always came out with motivation and inspiration to help others.”
When Yoscairy Raymond ’19 obtained her social work degree and worked in the field she realized that while she did have a passion to help others, it went beyond just connecting them to resources that are meant for only temporary support. Yoscairy wanted to see people succeed. This and wanting to serve her local church on a full-time level is the reason Yoscairy took a leap of faith and began her business, Olive Branch Multiservice, in the middle of a pandemic.
April 2021 was a life-changing moment for Yoscairy when she realized she could help people break the generational curse of poverty by giving them the tools to succeed without having to reinvent the wheel. Through her business and partnerships with other entrepreneurship organizations, Yoscairy has been able to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs to make their passions a reality. Olive Branch Multiservice supports entrepreneurs with every step of their journey, and more information can be found at www.obmultiservice.com.
She is also the secretary, worship voice lead and children's ministry director of her church, Iglesia Peña de Horeb. Yoscairy is a consultant and instructor for the Center for Women in Enterprise of Eastern MA and a mentor for the EforALL Entrepreneur Small Business training program.
Brock Riley ’20
BA – History
Minor in Geography
“My time at Salem State was one of the most important periods of time in my life, and has made me the person I am today. I would not have been able to accomplish what I have without my professors, friends, teammates, and coaches that I had during my amazing time in Salem.”
After attending a few colleges before finding a perfect fit in Salem, Brock Riley has had one of the most successful athletic careers in Salem State history. He is one of only a handful of Vikings to make it to the professional ranks in Baseball. During his time at Salem, he was only the 2nd ever Viking to be selected to the world-renowned Cape Cod Baseball League where the top college players in the United States go to play for the summer, and was also the only MASCAC conference player in over 5 years to earn a selection. He also was ranked as the #11 Major League Baseball prospect in Massachusetts in 2018 by Baseball America, and ranked a top 25 MLB draft prospect in the United States for D3 baseball by Perfect Game in 2019, all while making the dean's list in the classrooms of SSU. He went on to play parts of 4 professional seasons for 6 teams, including the Lake Erie Crushers in Ohio, the New York Boulders in New York, and the Great Falls Voyagers in Montana. Riley currently is the physical education teacher at Tyngsborough Elementary School in Tyngsborough MA where he has been for two years, and was a special education teacher in Lowell MA before that. On top of teaching, the 27-year-old also is the head baseball coach for Tyngsborough Middle School, and is a pitching coach for the Chatham Anglers in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Riley is excited to use his past experiences to eventually work in baseball or business.
"Because of my time at SSU, I feel confident that I possess the skills to be successful in any endeavor I choose."
You can find Riley somewhere in Salem every October.
Tony Rossi ’10
BA – Art
Minor – Advertising
Actor, Writer, Speaker – Tony Rossi Coaching
A Melrose, MA native, Tony Rossi ’10 currently lives in Chicago working as an actor and freelancer. He’s written articles for Backstage.com, studied at Second City Conservatory and created the Actor Problems podcast.
After hitting an emotional low point while waiting tables, Tony started working with a life coach and reading more self-help books. Today, he works as a mindset coach for actors, helping actors across the country and internationally manage their mental health to better help navigate their acting careers.
Outside of his professional endeavors, Tony is an advocate for both physical and mental well-being. He completed his first marathon in Chicago in2022, as well as the Boston Marathon in 2023. As an asthmatic who suffered a facial fracture just months before his Chicago marathon, he frequently reminds his peers that “We can be #NotPerfect while still getting the things that we want."
Billy Sawyer ’09
BA – Graphic Design and Interactive Multimedia
Minor – Advertising
Creative Director – C-4 Analytics
“Success is not linear.”
After graduating from SSU in the spring of 2009, Billy Sawyer ’09 began his professional career as junior digital designer at Neal Advertising. Here he climbed the corporate ladder and soon found himself as the digital art director for the agency. Billy perfected his craft in this position, designing promotional ads for some of the area’s largest automotive dealer groups.
In June 2015, Billy joined C-4 Analytics, a digital marketing leader in Wakefield, Mass. Here he advanced from senior web designer to creative director. He now oversees a team of 14 graphic designers, crafting strategies for 700+ client relationships. Billy takes great pride in the fact that he’s hired four SSU graduates to join his team at C-4.
It’s been his mission to continuously improve the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of creative work for his clients. To date, his team has won 111 digital marketing/design awards while working alongside brands like GM, Audi and Honda.
Billy continues to revisit SSU to review portfolios of students nearing graduation. With his consistent dedication to helping students meet their full potential, Billy was selected to be the university’s keynote speaker at SSU Portfolio Day in 2021.
Alexandra Slazar-Makarewicz ’08, ’12G
BS – Communication
MEd – Student Affairs, Higher Education
Stay-at-Home Mother and Community Organizer – Wakefield Public Schools
“Sitting down and introducing myself to President Harrington as she ate her lunch in the dining hall changed my life forever. She became my mentor, my friend and someone who I owe all my knowledge, skills and success to. She taught me on how to be a leader who can enact change by listening, observing and being on the ground floor.”
Alexandra Slazar-Makarewicz ’08, ’12G’s oldest son required early intervention and all three of her sons are on IEPs for different disabilities. She has since become an advocate for special education within her community, working to develop a community for families to share resources, stories and feel safe to ask for help. A place where they and their children are accepted with no judgement.
Alexandra was president of the PTO for Doyle Integrated Preschool for three years. She helped to bring enrichment programs to students, educate and advocate for families in special education and build a community among the Doyle families by making and delivering 80 welcome kits for Doyle students and their families. She served on the Leadership Committee for Wakefield Public Schools and is currently a candidate for the Wakefield School Committee.
Cassandra Soffron ’18
BS – Biology
Nurse Practitioner – Salem State University
Cassandra Joy Soffron is a Nurse Practitioner working at Salem State University Counseling and Health Services.
Graduating from SSU in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a concentration in biomedical science, and minors in chemistry, physics, and music.
In August of 2018, Cassandra began an intense direct entry nurse practitioner program at Boston College. During that NP program she worked as a nurse at Seacoast Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Gloucester. Upon graduation from Boston College, she was awarded the Clinical Excellence in Adult Gerontology award for my department. Additionally, she earned the Mary Pekarski Award from Boston College’s chapter of Sigma Theta Tau and is honored to be part of this year’s SSU 40 Under 40.
Working on campus since September of 2020, Cassandra enjoys working with students at Salem State, helping them navigate their medical journey during college, many of whom are doing so for the first time.
Besides clinical work, being involved in programs is one of her favorite parts of being a college health nurse practitioner. With the help of colleagues, they piloted “Safer Sex 2 U” on campus, a program designed to deliver safer sex supplies to any SSU student for free.
Outside of her work at Salem State, she volunteers as a camp nurse at the Metropolis of Boston Camp, which is an overnight camp for kids to have fun while learning about the Greek Orthodox Faith.
In her free time she prioritizes spending time with her big family, friends, and Yorkie named Rocky.
Stephanie Spillane, MEd ’04
BA – Education Studies in Elementary
BA – Mathematics
School Principal – Brockton Public Schools
Stephanie Spillane, MEd ’04 is currently the principal of East Middle School in Brockton, Mass. She holds a Bachelor of Education Studies in elementary education and a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from Salem State and a Master of Elementary Education from Fitchburg State College. All her professional experience has been in public education, and within her time as a classroom teacher, she also coached women’s soccer, women’s basketball and co-ed volleyball teams at the middle school level.
Stephanie credits the Salem State staff for her success in education. “Dr. Richard Elia was one of the main reasons why I have such high expectations. He had a way of breaking apart each writing assignment and facilitating a conference for edits and revisions. Conferencing with my students has been one of my most cherished times in the classroom, and it is because of the times Dr. Elia took with his students to discuss feedback that I realize is one of the most powerful tools for teaching and learning.”
Also, as a student who struggled with mathematical concepts, those concepts finally started to make sense in college. The mathematics department “is the reason why I have such a deep investment in making mathematics make sense for my own students.”
In addition to being a principal, Stephanie also works part-time as a professional learning specialist for Carnegie Learning, as well as providing professional development for supporting elementary and middle school mathematics through Commonwealth Consulting Agency, LLC.
Alayna Travaglione ’19
BA – History
MA – History
Current MA student in Library and Information Sciences
Metadata Specialist - The South Carolina Historical Society
“I was young when diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I learned then how the struggles of the past inform the present and how the echoes of our history are everywhere.”
Salem State’s history department nurtured in Alayna Travaglione ’19 a passion for history and for preserving and upholding the marginalized voices of the past. She was able to take this passion through study abroad programs at Oxford University in England and Sant’Anna Institute in Italy.
Today, Alayna is the metadata specialist for the South Carolina Historical Society, a non-profit organization founded in 1855 to preserve the history of South Carolina. The society works with various networks such as PBS, CNN and the television show, “Who Do You Think You Are.”
Alayna handles 18th and 19th century documents including plantation journals, medical journals kept by plantation doctors, slave bills of sale, overseer reports, etc. She is honored to have an important role in unearthing these documents as they help to add to the evolving conversations regarding slavery in America. These stories include an enslaved family escaping a plantation, medical procedures performed on enslaved children and a will in which a white slaveholder emancipated an enslaved boy named Frank, leaving him his entire estate.
Alayna discussed the gravity of the project’s impact for the society’s “Caralogue” magazine, titled, “Their Stories: The Enslaved People in the Listening to Silences Digitization Project.”
Mike Vella ’05, ’08G
BA – History
MA – Higher Education
Director of Talent Acquisition – Werfen
“I credit a lot of my success to my time at SSU. It’s a school that doesn’t give you the road map, but they do hand you the keys and teach you how to drive. Where you go from there is up to you!”
Mike Vella ’05, ’08G graduated from Salem State and began working as a high school history teacher while pursuing his master’s in higher education and student affairs at the university. He began his higher ed career at Brandeis University as a residence director. In 2014, Mike decided to alter his career path and make the leap into the corporate world by becoming a learning and development specialist for UniFirst.
Mike was promoted to talent acquisition and development manager at UniFirst where he would lead both the training and recruiting departments for 14,000 employees. Mike fell in love with recruiting and was promoted to the head of talent acquisition at UniFirst. Mike grew his team from five to 25 professionals during his seven years at UniFirst while building the entire recruiting function. In May of 2022, Mike began working as director of talent acquisition for Werfen in Bedford, Mass., which is a global medical device company.
During his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife Amy and their two kids. When he is not doing that, Mike loves to watch documentaries on World War II and podcasts about what is happening on Wall Street.
Andrea Walsh, MS, ECMH-E® ’09
BA – Psychology, Minor in Education
Mental Health and Disabilities Manager – Pathways for Children
"I feel connected to Salem State University as many classmates became colleagues, co-workers or friends. I’ve had the opportunity to work with interns from the same program I participated in."
Andrea Walsh, MS, ECMH-E ® ’09 initially enrolled as an education major at Salem State University. But after meeting her mentor, Dr. Andrea Zeren, Andrea realized her passion to help others went beyond just teaching. She embarked on a psychology degree and became a social worker. She started as a preschool teacher while earning her graduate degree and most recently, served as the mental health and disabilities manager at Pathways for Children, a community based educational program for families in need.
Andrea has currently taken a small career break to enjoy some time at home with her young children, but that hasn’t stopped her from continuing her education and training. While staying home, she was awarded the certified early childhood infant mental health family associate endorsement and has also obtained her DESE license to work as a social worker or school adjustment counselor in a public-school setting. She is also currently training to become a Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) parent consultant advocate.
"The internships I participated in during my time at Salem State University were invaluable to help me realize my career path was going to be different than I initially thought. My first psychology class with Dr. Andrea Zeren made me realize children needed more than great teachers to advocate for them."
Andrea also worked at Salem State’s pre-school while a student there and credits the director, Beverly Gearson, for believing in her as a teacher and encouraging her to continue her education.
In Andrea’s position as mental health and disability manager for Pathways for Children, Andrea helped coordinate a Christmas Toy Drive for families in need. She volunteered with Horizons for Homeless Children in a shelter in Salem and has spent countless hours advocating for children.
Catherine Workman ’06
BS – Sociology, Criminal Justice
City Councilor – Ward 4, Keene, New Hampshire
Director of Social Services – Genesis, Langdon Place of Keene
“I credit my time at SSU for giving me the opportunity to find myself as a person. SSU honed not just my professional skills but also my confidence- making it possible for me to believe I could achieve my wildest dreams.”
Catherine “Catt” Workman ’06 was 35 without formal experience in civic engagement when she decided to run for city council. She knew she had a strong voice and passion for the little city of Keene she now calls home.
Her grassroots campaign was a success and her election helped to usher in a new era of youthful commitment and energy to city government. While she has served on various committees since 2020, she is most proud of the social justice work advancements she has influenced. Catt was instrumental in the development of the first city-sponsored Juneteenth event. After being selected by the mayor for the Ad Hoc Racial Justice and Community Safety committee, she was later elected to serve as chair to the newly formed regional coalition called The Monadnock DEIB Coalition.
Catt’s “regular” job is also in service to the community: Throughout her 20-year career in human services, she has been an advocate for the most vulnerable adult populations.
- Aasma Aziz Sahotra '18G
- Barbara Baggs '13G
- Amy Barry '12
- Katie Bedard '08, '13G
- Alex Booker '14
- Alliane Brennan '19G
- Chris Corrente '10, '12G
- Jake Cotter '12
- Martine Francois '07, '15G
- Nicole Freeman '12
- Nicole Goggin '14, '17G
- Eliaquin ‘Quin’ Gonell '09, '15G
- Kyle Gregory '13
- Jessi Hardesty '11
- Amanda Kennedy-Paige '12
- Amanda Knox '13
- Stephen LaMonica '13
- Fillette Lovaincy '19G
- Brianne McDonough '14G
- Alexandra McDougall '04
- Stacy McMaster '07
- Monieke McNeil '13
- Nathan McNiff '06
- Robbie Millwee '09
- Jesse Moreira '17
- Shelby Morrison '08
- Kati Nalbandian '15
- Nikolla Papa '19
- Ben Patriquin '11
- Timothy Patterson '12
- Zoila Quezada '07G
- Alexis Raasch '18
- Jen Ratliff '18
- Erik Sayce '14
- W. Jackson Schultz, III '14
- Debra Lee Surface '05, '19G
- Kelsey Utne '12
- Kathleen Vander Kaaden '10
- Marquis Victor '09
- Gavin Walsh '07
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, 2023.
- 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, 2024.
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