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Mentor Bios

Dr. Adam Morris

  • PhD in Iberian and Latin Cultures, Stanford University
  • BA in English Literature, Swarthmore College

After earning an undergraduate degree in English Literature, I took time away from formal study to work in the publishing industry, then moved from New York to the West Coast to pursue a graduate degree in literature. In 2015, I received my PhD from Stanford University. During my graduate career, I taught both Spanish and Portuguese language, as well as survey courses in Latin American literature. I approach teaching, learning, and mentoring conversationally: my pedagogical training taught me to understand that the most important parts of teaching in the humanities are attentive listening and asking carefully constructed questions. In addition to teaching and scholarly work, I also publish literary translations from Spanish and Portuguese, and continue to develop translation and writing projects in my spare time. I’m also an amateur film buff, way-more-than-average vegetarian chef, and aspirant to fluency (someday) in German and Russian.

Ben Bewick

• Post-Baccalaureate Advanced Math, University of California, Berkeley (in progress)
• BA in Economics and History, University of Pennsylvania

In college I rowed crew and had a great coach. I learned as much from him as any professor. He taught us how to handle the rough waters of life and overcome adversity. He talked about Positive Mental Attitude (PMA). PMA is important when trying to overcome a challenge, whether in the classroom or in the proverbial river. My favorite class in college was Industrial Organization – the study of how markets are structured. I have spent my career following that passion from antitrust to investing to strategy consulting, each applied analyzing market structure in a different way. In antitrust I advised Seagate’s board on their $1.6 billion acquisition of Maxtor Corporation. I invested a $1.2 billion proprietary portfolio at Wells Fargo. And I helped early stage tech companies develop creative strategies for growth. I continue to follow my passion for Industrial Organization by taking math courses at UC Berkeley to prepare for graduate school in Economics. I feel equally passionate about helping students prepare for life after academics with insights gained from real world experience.

Daniel Friedman

• PhD in Chinese History, UC Berkeley (in progress)
• MA in Sinology, School of Oriental and African Studies
• JD, Yale Law School
• BA in English, French, and Chinese, University of Texas at Austin

I mostly studied language and literature as an undergraduate, which I loved because learning other languages and reading books and plays allowed me to explore what it feels like to be someone living a life completely different from mine. My interest in the empathetic qualities of the humanities helped inspire a passion for social justice, which led me to law school, where I represented clients in danger of eviction, imprisonment, or execution. Yet while law school fulfilled my civic inclinations, it left many of my intellectual interests unsatisfied, particularly the passion for early imperial Chinese history I developed as an undergraduate; hence my current choice of PhD program! But I don’t see history and social justice as separate pursuits: I believe that the past can and should be used to promote contemporary understandings that reduce the intercultural hostilities that predominantly hurt the most vulnerable in all societies. I approach teaching guided by the empathy I’ve learned as a student of literature, and with the sense of its importance I get from history. My ten years of martial arts teaching experience—both privately and at the dojo I co-founded—have allowed me to put that empathy into practice, providing students with the skills and confidence they need to face scary situations. When not researching Han dynasty economics and numismatics, working with tutoring or martial arts students, or in class myself, I can be found getting thrown around a dojo somewhere with a goofy grin on my face.

David Conant

• PhD in Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco (in progress)
• BS in Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego

In college I was fortunate enough to have an excellent mentor and nothing had a greater impact on my academic success or my desire to learn than her guidance. Through the years I’ve spent in academia, teaching and mentoring has always been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable practices. When mentoring students in biology, physics, calculus, and chemistry, my philosophy is to get students to think beyond the problem and to develop critical thinking skills that will serve them throughout their education. My goal is not only to help students achieve their academic goals, but to spark real interest and engagement with the subject matter. I’m currently working on my PhD in neuroscience at UCSF, where I study how the brain plans and executes speech movements. In my down time you can find me camping, experimenting in the kitchen, and glassblowing.

Dr. Grace Leslie-Waksman

• PhD in History, Yale University
• MA in History, Yale University
• B. in History, Dartmouth College

I fell in love with history and its power to illuminate the world around us years ago. I’m currently a history teacher at Drew School here in San Francisco. Before deciding to devote myself to high school teaching, I was a professor at Auburn University, Brandeis University, and San Francisco State University. While some of the names, dates, and events of history may fade with time, I hope that my students take away a deeper understanding of the past, as well as the abilities to raise questions and to think critically and creatively about the world around them, to construct a persuasive spoken or written argument, and to view their own endeavors – in school and out – within the long arc of history. I’m currently reveling in seeing the world through the eyes of my new daughter, which is a thrill and a strong motivation to grow as a teacher in and out of work. When not at school, I enjoy cooking, exploring my local farmers’ market, bicycling around the Bay Area, and catching every soccer or basketball game I can.

Greg James

• MA in East Asian Studies, Stanford University
• BA in Chinese Studies, Earlham College

I am an educator and intercultural specialist with expertise in designing and delivering training programs in English as a Second Language and Mandarin. At an early age, I developed a passion for European cultures. I reveled in visits with my Italian relatives (the food, the heated political discussions, the laughter) and studied French, Latin and German by the time I turned thirteen years old. Years of piano study and choral singing trained my ear for spoken Mandarin’s tones, which make the sound “ma” mean either “mother,” “hemp,” “to scold” or “horse.” (While Chinese grammar is relatively simple, I learned the importance of those tones, through trial and error.) After China’s opening to the west, I completed a self-designed Chinese Studies BA that included a year of language and history study in Taiwan. Living with a Chinese family and later with Chinese college roommates (five of them!) gave me deep insight into Chinese culture, etiquette and communal values. After completing my Masters in East Asian Language, Politics, Economics & Literature at Stanford, I taught English and traveled in the PRC, at a time when I was often the only American in the room or the town. In teaching Mandarin, I have experience teaching students with a variety of language skills and learning styles; with all of them, I strive to instill openness toward China and respect for its ancient, complex and fascinating culture.

Dr. Joel Street

• PhD in Classics, University of California at Berkeley
• MA in Classics, University of California at Berkeley
• BA in Greek, DePauw University

I am an Indiana native and a recent PhD in Classics at UC Berkeley; I wrote my dissertation about mythology and Plutarch, a Greek biographer and essayist. Like him, I have always considered myself a generalist more interested in how the world fits together than in any particular question or problem. The son of a home builder and a librarian, I have long been fascinated by how language structures and interacts with the world around us. In my years teaching Latin and Ancient Greek, I have seen firsthand how these so-called “dead languages” do more than give students better access to the ancient world—learning them also trains our brains in critical thinking and abstract reasoning. To that end, I have begun to advocate for Greek and Latin as ideal preparation for work in quickly changing fields like technology. I have taught students from ages ten to fifty, and appreciate the diverse ways in which people approach languages and cope with the challenge of mastering them. On the human level, I believe that the same skills are transferable to surprising corners of our lives, and that our ability to treat others with integrity and respect depends on our ability to reason effectively and communicate clearly. I am also a hiker, a coffee drinker, a collector of maps, a recently published poet, and a lover of the American sitcom.

Kristin Rowson

• MA in Secondary Math Education, Teachers College Columbia University
• BA in Mathematics with Emphasis in Computer Science, Colorado College

After teaching high school math for seven years at the Horace Mann School in New York City, I returned to San Francisco in the fall of 2014. I first fell in love with the Bay Area in 2001, when I moved here from Boston after completing a year and a half of study at MIT. As it turns out, I didn’t actually want to be a rocket scientist. I was five years old when I first began standing in front of a chalkboard and ‘teaching’ friends and family. For our careers project in the seventh grade, I declared that I would become a math teacher when I grew up, inspired by my own excellent math teacher at the time. I ended up studying Aero/Astro Engineering (aka “rocket science”) at MIT after watching the movie “Contact” in high school and forgetting about my teaching aspirations in light of how cool Jodie Foster’s character seemed to me. After a tough year and a half in Boston, I course corrected by moving to San Francisco and immersed myself in my hobby of flying trapeze, training at the Circus Center. I subsidized two and a half years of flying through the air by tutoring, rediscovered my love of teaching in the process. Eventually I headed to Colorado College to restart my seventh grade career path, and the rest, as they say, is history. I love working with students, especially one-on-one, where I am able to diagnose the rough edges of ideas where comprehension gets snagged, and tailor my explanations precisely to the individual in front of me. I relish the process of finding the explanation that helps an idea “click” with a particular student. One-on-one, I have the privilege of observing as a student gains ownership and confidence in math as his or her comprehension grows; it’s an amazing process that I get to be a part of. I’m so very glad that my crooked path led me back to teaching; apparently my seventh-grade self knew what she was talking about.

Laura Bogar

• PhD in Biology, Stanford University (in progress)
• BA in Biology, Lewis & Clark College

Since before I can remember, I have spent my leisure time wet, chilly, and covered with mud, peering through the rain at a field guide or stooping with a hand lens to look at something small. Growing up in the coastal Pacific Northwest, I learned to enjoy the incongruous vibrancy of the mosses in the muted winter lowlands, and to cherish the technicolor summer months in the high mountains. In college, I realized that biology could help me understand why my beloved landscapes look the way they do. I studied science voraciously while enjoying the freedom afforded by a liberal arts education. I taught writing and chemistry as a tutor to my peers, and led outdoor education trips to share my love for natural history. I am now embarked upon a PhD focused on fungal ecology, which allows me to spend rainy days in the forest, combing the duff for mushrooms, while leaving plenty of time for learning and mentoring in the classroom and laboratory. Although I spend less time shivering in the rain than I did in my plant-obsessed youth, I still find that I learn best when I am a little uncomfortable. In teaching, I strive to support students as they stretch beyond their comfort zones to understand the world in new ways. I am happy to work with students on subjects ranging from biology and chemistry to mathematics, statistics, and even writing, through the AP level. I think it is often easier to understand these topics by approaching them synergistically – what good are scientific data without the statistics we need to understand them, or exciting findings from the lab without the writing skills required to communicate them? When I am not working on science or mentoring, I can be found hiking with my husband and mushroom basket in tow, learning new sports (tennis, squash, climbing), and making music with friends.

Dr. Llewellyn (Trey) Jalbert

• PhD in Bioengineering, University of California Berkeley & San Francisco
• BS in Astrophysics, University of California Berkeley

Originally from Virginia, the Bay Area is my home of 10 years. I’ve held research and internship positions at Berkeley Lab and UCSF, and recently finished my Ph.D. in Bioengineering at UCSF/UC-Berkeley. A cancer survivor myself, my research involves using magnetic resonance imaging to study malignant gliomas (a common type of terminal brain cancer), and to use physics techniques to develop new imaging methods for clinical use. My teaching philosophy comes from a personal understanding of what it’s like to struggle with a subject, and what it feels like to be a teenager dealing with teachers and adults who did not understand me. I work to build a teacher-student relationship like those I experienced in college, where I learned to be a successful student and scientist. This involves getting to know my students well enough so that I can focus on meeting individual students where they are, supporting them with what they need to develop a robust understanding of the fundamentals, and identifying real world scientific situations that are meaningful to them. This enables students to apply their new knowledge to content they care about, like treating diseases, and can be exactly what many students need for concepts to click. When I’m not in the lab, I can often be found kitesurfing in the Bay and hiking or running on nearby trails. Much of my time goes toward managing a social-venture company I co-founded several years ago. I see knowledge and education as powerful tools that can be put toward building healthy communities and and making incredible discoveries, and am passionate about working with others to develop their own skills and ultimately be positive change-makers in their communities.

Megan Thompson

• PhD in Bioengineering, University of California , Berkeley & San Francisco
• BS in Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Davis

I have always been curious. This insatiable need to know has pushed me forward in all of my pursuits, both commendable (I am a voracious reader) and ill-advised (my parents lost a number of possessions to poorly executed childhood scientific experiments). This curiosity has also led me to pursue my PhD in Bioengineering at UCSF, where I study the neuroscience of speech production. This has given my an opportunity to apply accepted knowledge in computer science, biology, and mathematics to unknown areas such as mechanisms for how we speak and how we can apply this knowledge to treat speech disorders. My constant drive to know more has given me the philosophy that students, myself included, will only be motivated to learn when they are interested in the material. I got my first tutoring job when I was fifteen and I have been teaching and mentoring ever since. I have taught high school-level math, science, and language arts, undergraduate-level chemistry, and graduate-level bioengineering. I have performed STEM outreach at youth engineering camps, junior high AVID programs, and high school test preparation courses as well as developing meaningful mentor-mentee relationships with students at all academic levels. In all of these pursuits, I have striven to teach at a pace that is neither monotonous nor disorienting and to always put skills into the context of real-world applications. To achieve this end, I rely heavily on questions, both asking and encouraging them to ask, to help guide students to their own conclusions, allowing them to develop their own connection to the material. In this way I aim to not just help students with their academic pursuits, but to help them develop a learning framework that they can apply to any challenge within or beyond the classroom. In my free time I enjoy kickboxing, writing scavenger hunts, and all genre of movies.

Dr. Tom Winterbottom

• PhD in Iberian and Latin American Cultures, Stanford University
• MA in Latin American Cultural Studies, The University of Manchester
• BA in Spanish and Portuguese, The University of Manchester

I have been immersed in a passion for Latin America for more than thirteen years, ever since I spent the best part of a year living in Argentina and traveling in neighboring countries. Before that journey, I was planning on studying biology at university, with a minor in Spanish, but when I got back I realized straight away that I was going to major in Spanish and study the amazing culture of Latin America. My passion for Spanish goes back a little further, to a wonderful teacher I had in high school who made me want to teach and who made me want to inspire through her charismatic and infectious manner in mentoring students. I lived for a few years in Latin America and then moved to Stanford for my doctorate. There, I taught Spanish and Portuguese to an advanced level on an individual basis and in the classroom, and was ultimately awarded Stanford’s “Excellence in Teaching” award. My first book, a cultural history of modern Rio de Janeiro, an exploration of the city through architecture and literature, is coming out in 2016. When I’m not working with students and writing, I’m getting friends together to cook and eat or trying my hand at podcasting and learning Italian. I might also be riding my bike, watching and talking about movies, or indulging my passion for soccer, with a particularly fervent and over-the-top love of Arsenal FC.

Virginia Ramos

• PhD in Comparative Literature, Stanford University (in progress)
• MA in Interdisciplinary Humanities, San Francisco State University
• BA in French, San Francisco State University

I am a poet and doctoral student in the Comparative Literature department at Stanford University. I was born in Madrid, Spain, and moved to the US in my early college years. I later graduated at San Francisco State University with a B.A. in French and a M.A. in interdisciplinary Humanities with a focus in World Literature. I am passionate about teaching and writing, and I have enjoyed being a Spanish and literature tutor for years. I am finishing a dissertation on the Contemporary Lyrical Novel and I am interested in exploring how prose and poetry can fuse on the 20th and 21st centuries. I love languages and work primarily on Spanish, English, French and German literatures. I am interested on the question of “form as content” and its relationship to historical and societal shifts. In the past, I worked for several non-profit organizations in the promotion of human rights around the world. I believe that what makes us human is our desire to relate and our ability to care and share our stories. You can find me reading at the many wonderful cafés and parks in San Francisco, going to dinner with friends, or playing with my cats, Pepe and Tinto.