Meet the Staff
Miriam is a first-generation college student born and raised in Mexicali, Mexico. She is a higher education professional with over 24 years of professional experience in student affairs. As the Director of EOP, she is responsible for providing leadership and direction to a team of 22 professional staff members and more than 100 para-professionals. Prior to this role, Miriam was at SDSU Imperial Valley Campus, where she worked for 22 years passionately serving underrepresented students, primarily low income and first generation college students. There, she had multiple leadership roles including Director of Student Affairs, Assistant Director for Partnership Programs, International/Graduate Programs Coordinator and Academic Advisor.
Miriam has an associate’s degree in Business Transfer from Imperial Valley College, a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Management and a master’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in International Business both from SDSU. She found her passion of serving students while working as a student assistant in Student Affairs during her undergraduate program. Miriam is not only passionate but committed to the success of all students, in particular those students who lack the social, cultural and financial capital to succeed in college.
Dr. Henry Villegas has 28 years of experience in higher education administration having served as the Assistant Athletic Director at Indiana State University, the Associate Athletic Director for Student Development at the University of New Mexico. He currently serves as the Associate Director of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs at San Diego State University where he oversees the retention efforts of the unit. Villegas received his associate’s degree in liberal studies from Southwestern Community College, a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science Education from Indiana State, his Master’s Degree in Counseling from Indiana State University and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from The University of New Mexico in 2016. His research centered on in the impact of college athletics on Black student-athlete social mobility.
Bryan Spencer is an Assistant Director in EOP overseeing the SDSU Guardian Scholars Program. He has served his entire 12-year career in higher education with EOP. After graduating from San Diego State University in 2006 with a B.S. in Business – Management Information Systems, he was hired by EOP to serve as an Outreach Officer with the Outreach, Recruitment, and Admissions (ORA) unit designing and implementing its Early Outreach Program and Volunteer Program. After acquiring his M.A. in Education, Emphasis in Multicultural Counseling and Social Justice, with the Community Based Block Program (CBB, 2010), he was hired as an EOP Counselor serving 6 years until he was appointed to his current position. Bryan has also served as the Assistant Coordinator (2009-2012) and Coordinator (2013) of the EOP BEST Summer Bridge Program. He has coordinated the SOAR Mentor Program, pairing upper division mentors with incoming students, protégés, to support their transition to SDSU. He also volunteers as a student organization faculty/staff advisor for AB Samahan and Delta Sigma Psi.
Shareka White, Assistant Director, Educational Opportunity Programs & Ethnic Affairs has approximately 8 years of extensive professional experience in higher education. Shareka started as a student worker and worked 5 years in admissions and recruitment where she also oversaw the specialized recruitment of Native and African American students as the Assistant Director of Specialized Recruitment. Prior to being the AD in EOP, Shareka worked with intercultural programming and cultural relations in Student Life and Leadership for 8 months which she was integral in the development of our Black Resource Center. She advises the Afrikan Student Union, Student African American Sisterhood, and Presidential Scholars Leadership Association. Shareka earned both her BA in Sociology and MA in Postsecondary Educational Leadership – Student Affairs degree at SDSU, and she is currently enrolled in the joint PhD program between SDSU and Claremont Graduate University.
Adam Adams is a Counselor for the Office of Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at San Diego State University. Previously, Adam worked for the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois as a Counselor where he assisted students as they worked towards their personal, educational, and career goals. He has over 5 years of experience in various areas of higher education including educational planning, career counseling, personal counseling, transfer planning, classroom instruction, program development, and outreach. Adam is a first generation college student with a passion for education and a background in communications and counseling. Adam received both a B.A. in Communication Studies and B.S. in Psychology from Iowa State University. He obtained an M.S. in Counseling: and Community Counseling, Oklahoma State University. Adam is dedicated to supporting EOP students while on their journey to achieving their goals.
Mercedes Albarran is a Counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at San Diego State University (SDSU) as of July 2018. She has a passion for supporting and serving first-generation, low-income, and underserved students. Mercedes previously served as the Academic Advisor for Compact Scholars and Academic Student Success Programs in the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement, where she advised both Compact Scholars and commuter students. Mercedes received her B.S.
Mercedes has experience working as a professional advocate for student success with diverse students in various educational settings including early childhood education, the K-12 sector, and in higher education. Prior to joining SDSU in 2015, Mercedes served as an Academic Advisor for the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego. She is also an alumna of San Diego State University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Development from San Diego State University and a Master of Science degree in Educational Counseling with a Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Credential from the University of La Verne.
Mercedes works with students holistically and is dedicated to providing guidance and support to students in reaching their educational and career goals here at SDSU.
Michelle Cadena is a counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program. Previously, Michelle worked for the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California, coordinating the Increasing Access via Mentoring (I AM) and SummerTIME (Tools, Information, Motivation, Education) programs. Both programs supported and mentored first generation high school seniors on the college and financial aid application process as well as provided them with resources through summer classes, on college level writing and college knowledge, to support them with their transition from high school to college.
Michelle is an alumna from SDSU, having received her B.A. in Psychology and her M.A. in Education with an emphasis in Multicultural Counseling from the CBB program. During her studies in the program she began working with TRIO as a counselor intern, and later on as an academic advisor for the SDSU Talent Search Program. During this time she also worked in the CBB program as a Practicum Supervisor for two years.
Michelle’s experiences as a transfer student together with her education and work experience have cemented her desire to work in education and provide support to students, in navigating their college experience and future goals. Michelle’s motivation, passion, and commitment to students’ access to education and resources, stem from her family’s experiences, her own experiences in higher education and her learning and growth through her professional journey.
Victoria started her career in higher education at a small private university in San Diego, as part of the start-up team for an Upward Bound Program that served San Diego High School students. She went on to counsel students in the Educational Opportunity Program at California State University, Fullerton, where she also advised first year remedial students in the Intensive Learning Experience Program. She spent her last year at CSUF as the Graduation Specialist for the College of the Arts. Victoria obtained a B.A. in Human Development, Azusa Pacific University and an M.A. in Educational Counseling, Azusa Pacific University.
Victoria joined San Diego State University’s EOP in summer of 2017. Her experiences as a transfer, re-entry, and first generation student drives her passion for assisting EOP students to reach their goals.
Born in San Diego, California and fourth child of five from Mexican parents and heritage. Obtained an Associate’s degree from San Diego Mesa College and immediately afterwards acquired a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from San Diego State University. Previous employment experiences vary from computer sales, automotive technician, and college counselor for UCSD/GEAR-UP. Currently employed at San Diego State University under the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships and working on a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership: Post-Secondary Student Affairs. I consider myself as a down to earth, easy going individual. I enjoy traveling, Mexican food, and family time. Please stop by and say hello, I’m eager to get to know our SDSU EOP students! Go Aztecs!
Robert Guzmán is currently a counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program at San Diego State University and a lecturer for the Center for Latin American Studies, SDSU, where he teaches the History of Mexico and two film studies courses (one of which is on-line) on Latin America. From 2006 to 2016, Mr. Guzmán was the EOP tutoring supervisor where he managed tutorial support to over 3,000 EOP students. Mr. Guzmán has over twenty-five years of experience working in higher education with expertise in Financial Aid, Admissions, and Outreach to local communities, and Internship development. He has received numerous institutional grants to expand the services at SDSU’s EOP tutorial center as well as with the creation of outreach support services for historically marginalized students. Mr. Guzmán currently supervises the EOP Transfer Bridge Program, a transition program designed to help first year transfer students to become connected with the University. He also advises two student organizations: The EOP Student Advisory Board (ESAB) and the EOP Student Parent Association. Mr. Guzmán received his B.B.A at the University of North Texas in 1991, his M.A. in History at the University of North Texas in 2002 and will receive his Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration at San Diego State University in 2017. He has received numerous awards for his commitment to student excellence: The Presidential Staff Excellence Award (Tutorial Center) in 2010 and the Most Influential Faculty Award in 2013 and 2016.
Melisa Lopez is a Counselor for the Office of Educational Opportunity Program. Melisa has over eight years of higher education experience and is an EOP alum. She is the staff advisor for Lambda Sigma Gamma Sorority, Inc., and the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) at SDSU. In addition, she serves as a mentor under the Provost Undergraduate Mentoring Program (PUMP). Melisa has a passion for supporting and serving first-generation, low-income, and underserved students. She’s dedicated to supporting students holistically on their academic, professional, and personal journey.
Prior to joining San Diego State University in March 2016, Melisa Lopez worked at Oregon State University and Eastern Oregon University. At Oregon State University she was the Assistant Director for Diversity & Cultural Engagement, where she managed the Centro Cultural César Chávez Cultural Center. Prior to that she worked for the College Assistance Migrant Program as an Outreach and Retention Coordinator. At Eastern Oregon University she served as an Admissions Counselor and Campus Visit Coordinator. Melissa received her B.S. in Human Development and Family Sciences, Oregon State University and an Ed.M. College Student Services Administration, Oregon State University
Melisa is originally from Oregon and comes from a large first-generation migrant household. Melisa’s hobbies and interests include: live shows, yoga, beach, hiking, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, exploring new areas, college football, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
Mr. Oliveira has been a counselor with EOP since 2015, previously serving as a Graduate Assistant for the EOP Guardian Scholars Program. He currently serves as the staff adviser for the Guardian Scholars Student Advisory Board (GSSAB). He was a Science and Physical Education teacher for the Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista, CA for five years. Prior to his brief teaching career, Mr. Oliveira served as the Assistant Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life at SDSU for six years before moving on to serve as Coordinator for Fraternity and Sorority Life at San Jose State University for two years.
Mr. Oliveira has a B.A., Kinesiology, San Diego State University and an M.A., Postsecondary Educational Leadership with emphasis in Student Affairs, SDSU California Single Subject Teaching Credential, San Diego State University. He was actively involved at SDSU as a student leader in Nu Alpha Kappa Fraternity, Inc. and was a co-founder of the United Sorority and Fraternity Council (USFC). He served as the inaugural President of the USFC and later became the staff adviser for this council for culturally-based Greek Letter Organizations as well as staff adviser for the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) for historically African-American Greek Letter Organizations. He takes pride in the development of the USFC as a model for several CSU campuses to empower culturally-based fraternities and sororities and as a catalyst for equity and inclusion of campus Greek communities across California and beyond.
He has continued to be actively involved in Nu Alpha Kappa since his undergraduate years. He was a National President of the organization and continues to serve as a co-founder and Board member of the NAK ALAS (Alumni Association) in San Diego. He now serves as the staff adviser for the NAK SDSU chapter. His attributes much of his personal and professional growth to his involvement as an undergraduate student at SDSU.
As a first generation college student from an immigrant family, he has developed a
passion for the empowerment of underrepresented students like himself. He has worked
with students of diverse cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds throughout
his career and enjoys the daily opportunity to pay it forward as an EOP Counselor.
Mr. Oliveira is committed to student success by supporting students' academic and
personal growth towards the development of their full potential.
Cara Yoo is a Counselor for the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at San Diego State University (SDSU) as of June 2019. Previously, she worked for SDSU Pre-College Institute, Upward Bound/ Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) Academy, as a Counselor where she provided academic and personal advising to high school students from low-income backgrounds and underserved communities in San Diego County. She has over five years of experience with personal and educational counseling in various settings including the K-12 sector as well as young adults and adults in residential community.
Cara is an advocate who deeply cares about educational equity and closing achievement gaps. She is committed and devoted to serve EOP students to achieve their goals in their educational journey and reach their full potential. Cara has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego and a M.A. in Educational Counseling with a PPS Credential from Point Loma Nazrene University.
Kesia spent seven years in the foster care system. This experience taught her how to advocate for herself, how to navigate systems, how to problem solve and how to get the best out of herself and others. Kesia was born in Alameda County but has great ties to San Diego. Kesia graduated from Madison High School in 2005, and attended her first year of college at Cuyamaca Community College. Kesia transferred to San Francisco State University in 2008 and graduated with her Bachelors in 2011. Kesia earned her Masters in Organizational Management from Ashford University in 2018.
Kesia has worked for renowned nonprofits for over 10 years. This professional experience taught her a lot about what works, what does not work, and ways to improve community programming and program development. Kesia’s career in higher education began in 2016 serving as the Student Services Specialist at Cuyamaca Community College for the NextUp! Program. Prior to joining the SDSU EOP family, Kesia served as the foster youth liaison at San Diego Mesa College. Kesia has volunteered and dedicated her time to motivate, teach and be a role model and community leader. Kesia’s passion is helping youth and students become their best selves. Kesia has done this through helping organizations evolve and excel to meet the needs of youth and students. Kesia is looking forward to working with students to aid in their personal, professional and educational goals.
Outreach, Recruitment and Admission
Lorena has worked in higher education throughout most of her professional career. She feels fortunate to work with a team of experienced and talented staff who understand the soul of higher education lies in helping others realize their academic and personal dreams across generations, ethnicities and backgrounds. Lorena believes this transformation happens by fostering a personal connection with EOP participants. “Our students need to feel they belong at SDSU and that their hard work has earned them a place here.”
Lorena completed the Clear Cross-Cultural Multiple Subject Teaching Credential at SDSU and the Master of Arts in Guidance Counseling, with a PPS Credential at the University of Redlands. Her expertise include, bilingual education, guidance counseling, Instruction in K-12 and higher education settings, supervision of student teacher candidates and counseling interns, establishing intersegmental collaborations, and pioneering innovative outreach and retentions programs for first-generation populations. This year Lorena will complete her 19th year as a staff member at SDSU.
As the liaison for EOP transfer students, Lorena looks forward to meeting you this year at one of our outstanding, best-of-the-best, service area community colleges. Each academic year she connects with incoming EOP eligible transfer students to provide a supportive pathway during their transition into San Diego State University. The personal and academic success of the students in her care continues to be Lorena’s number one motivation.
Dominiko serves as our EOP Outreach Specialist and is a proud product of the Southeast San Diego community. Dominiko is a two-time alum of San Diego State University, and has started his career in student affairs at SDSU in 2020. He truly believes that education is the key to open doors that may have been non-existent, and education will continue to be that key because it changes one's trajectory. This is his foundation of love for helping students, families, and the community. Dominiko works with diverse college student populations and youth inside and outside the classroom. His professional interests include outreach, access, and retention programs for underrepresented students. Dominiko prides himself on self-care, community care, and mentorship.
Dominiko’s passion has always been to pay it forward and help others. His commitment to the process is not only professional, but it is also personal because of the individuals who have helped him and it is his turn to be that guiding hand. He loves every opportunity to speak to students and parents. His ability to speak with honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability aids in his hopes of addressing mindsets and inspiring positive action.
Rocio is the first in her family to graduate high school, go to college, get a Master’s degree, and have a career. She was raised in a low-income neighborhood in Oceanside, is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and eldest of three. She attended UC Santa Cruz as an undergraduate student where she formed a part of EOP and was involved in several student-initiated outreach and retention efforts and student organizations. That is where her interest in student affairs began. Rocio graduated with honors from UC Santa Cruz with a double major in Latin American and Latina/o studies and Community Studies.
She then got her Master’s degree in Postsecondary Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Student Affairs from San Diego State University. Rocio wants to continue to support access, retention, and inclusion efforts of underserved students throughout her career.
Operations and Support
Charlotte joined SDSU Student Outreach Services in 1991 and continued in Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs where she creatively enhances the department’s mission since 2000. A transfer student from San Diego City College with an associate degree in Marketing/Interior Design she earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration/Facilities Management at The Union Institute, Cincinnati, OH. Charlotte is proud that EOP makes educational dreams come true.
Johanna joined EOP in 2018 as a Lead Office Operations Coordinator. Prior to joining EOP, she worked in the SDSU President’s Office for 10 years. First as a scheduler for President Weber, then in the role of Assistant to the President for President Hirshman and President Roush. She has many years of experience in a professional Administrative Support role, many of those years were spent at the San Diego Union Tribune. She is proud to be a part of EOP and loves the passion of all those working for the underserved, low income and first generation students. She is committed to helping in the success of the students in all EOP programs.