An Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, Dara HALL Mendez, Ph.D ’98 is a social and perinatal epidemiologist, researcher, and advocate for women’s, maternal, and infant health. With a focus on approaches to achieve health equity, Dara explores the complex intersections between stress, racism, neighborhoods, and contexts to better understand racial and ethnic inequities in pregnancy, birth, and women’s health. Her work has been funded by the Aetna Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. In addition to her research, Dara serves on Pennsylvania’s newly formed Maternal Mortality Review Committee and is an executive member and research lead of the Infant Mortality Collaborative for Allegheny County and Advisory Board Member for Women Engaged. A champion for women’s reproductive health and well-being, Dara shares more about her work, her time in the Upper School, and how The Ellis School influenced her career path.
A self-starter who has followed her passions throughout her decades of experience, Ginnae HARLEY '88 has worked in government service, program development, corporate product and brand development, and public education throughout her career. Through the many twists and turns, Ginnae discovered that her most rewarding experiences have come from helping other people realize their goals and dreams. Now dedicated to bettering public education, she works for the State of Tennessee in the Office of School Improvement where she creates transformational opportunities for all students, regardless of their zip code or background, to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life.
Ever since she was a student at The Ellis School, Kate Schuler-WALSH '08 knew she wanted an internationally-focused career. So she wasted no time after graduation and made the leap across the pond to study at the University of St Andrews. After receiving her diploma in Social Anthropology and Arabic, Kate moved to Amman, Jordan, to work with Syrian refugees at a non-governmental organization focused on community empowerment and sustainable economic growth. Fast forward a few years and Kate was back in the States receiving her master's degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University where she concentrated on terrorism and sub-state violence. Her global experience and expanding expertise then took her to a technology firm in Washington, D.C. where she developed analytical approaches for identifying illicit activity on the deep web. Now located in Manhattan, NY, Kate works at the New York County District Attorney’s Office where she investigates antiquities trafficking and works to repatriate stolen and looted artifacts to their rightful owners.
A professional violist who has played with orchestras all over the world, Katerina ISTOMIN '03 is in the midst of shifting her career path from music to psychology as she pursues her Doctorate of Counseling Psychology at Carlow University. A graduate of the Juilliard School, Katerina has worked as a fellow with the Music Advancement and Gluck Community Service programs at the Juilliard School and as a teaching artist in Medellin, Colombia, with the New World Symphony. With a passionate belief that music and psychology are interlinked, Katerina calls upon her past experiences to better understand human behavior and motivate her in her new journey of becoming a licensed psychologist. Dedicated to holistic wellness on and off the stage, Katerina shares more about switching her professional focus, her all-girls education, and the influence Ellis had on her after graduation.
Susan HIGINBOTHAM Holcombe, Ph.D. ’58 has had a long and illustrious career in international affairs and sustainable development. A former program director for Oxfam America, Susan served in program management positions with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Fiji, Sudan, and China as well as in the New York headquarters. She has also participated in or led field evaluations and assessments for the Ford Foundation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, World Bank, and the University of the South Pacific. A professor emerita at Brandeis University, Susan taught a range of courses in The Heller School for Policy and Management and is currently working on a book, tentatively titled Practicing Development for Sustainable Change. A global changemaker who traveled the world to improve people’s health, education, and opportunities, Susan reflects on her work overseas, her time at Ellis, and shares advice for current students.
Brittany ELLIS ’15 is a rising senior at Harvard University pursuing a joint degree in Archaeology and Social Anthropology. Passionate about the intersection of history, places, and living communities, Brittany’s initial interest in social anthropology was sparked at Ellis—namely by her teachers Dr. Bedell, Ms. Sturdevant, and Dr. Jordan. With plans to pursue her Ph.D., Brittany is currently furthering her pedigree with a summer abroad in Jordan where she is conducting research for her senior thesis. Active in her own collegiate community, Brittany serves as a news executive at The Harvard Crimson and also served as president of Harvard’s oldest feminist organization, the Radcliffe Union of Students.
After studying abroad in Paris as an undergraduate student at Cornell University, Claire RICHARDS ’12 couldn’t deny the charm of the City of Lights and chose to move to Paris to complete her Masters degree at École Nationale Supérieure de la Création - Les Ateliers (ENSCI). Claire is now pursuing her doctorate degree in France and continuing her study of hearing and haptics design with hopes of improving the lives of people living with sensory, physical, cognitive, or social disabilities. A passionate design researcher whose work is inspired by her own hearing disability, Claire reflects on life as an expat, her time at Ellis, and what’s next for her.
A Class of 1999 alumna, Jordan ZAPPALA spent her high school years in the Ellis Upper School before graduating from Notre Dame University and receiving her master’s in print journalism from Boston University in 2009. As she entered the workforce, digital content creation was taking off and traditional print journalism was declining fast, so Jordan made the decision to apply her writing background to a different career. She became a Grant Writer at the National Archives Foundation (NAF) and from there worked her way up to become the Director of Institutional Giving. An expert at switching gears with grace, Jordan recently made the decision to take a step back from her career at the NAF to focus on her newborn son and two-year-old daughter. Now a full-time Mom and part-time freelancer in the D.C. area, Jordan reflects on Ellis, motherhood, and the importance of all-girls education.
A dedicated youth activist, artist, and entrepreneur, Amanda KING ’07 is the founder and creative director of Shooting Without Bullets, a youth advocacy program that focuses on identity development in black and brown teens through the arts in Cleveland. Committed to stimulating change in the Cleveland youth community, Amanda uses her creative background to inform, impact, and empower teens on complex social justice issues directly impacting their lives today. Through photography, candid conversations, and expressive arts, she confronts issues like racial injustice and police brutality head on to influence and effect reform in Cleveland at Shooting Without Bullets. A steadfast advocate and changemaker in her community, Amanda has also served as the youth advocate for the Cleveland Community Police Commision and as the producer of UNDEREXPOSED, a documentary that followed Shooting Without Bullets artists in their own journey of self-discovery.
Ramita RAVI ’13 lived the Ellis motto, Esse Quam Videri, full tilt when she took a chance and auditioned for the FOX competition show, So You Think You Can Dance, earlier this year. Her hard work, perseverance, and talent paid off as she was awarded a spot on the show and subsequently won the hearts of viewers across the nation with her unique Indian Contemporary style. While Ramita didn’t make it to the finals, her desire to represent herself and her heritage on the stage ignited her drive to pursue dance full-time. From the Ellis Auditorium to the bright lights of Hollywood to the Big Apple’s concrete jungle, Ramita reflects on her time on one of the biggest reality shows on TV and shares how The Ellis School shaped her into the person she is today.
Lucy CRELLI ’13 is a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design who put her Apparel Design degree to the ultimate test when she presented her thesis collection at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) in September. Committed to creating garments that spark a conversation and shape a narrative, Lucy’s “The American Dream Collection” was her own personal political statement on the 2016 presidential election, combining bold colors, ethereal fabrics, and constricting, sculptural pieces on the runway. Not just an artist, but an activist and change agent on her college campus, Lucy served as president of the Global Initiative at RISD, a student-run organization dedicated to increasing engagement, collaboration, and community within the student body. Now back in Pittsburgh and searching for a job, Lucy shares what the NYFW experience was like and how Ellis inspired her higher education experience.
A storyteller who has had her byline in The Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and Teen Vogue, Jamie Beth COHEN Schindler ’93 is an Ellis lifer, political activist, and writer in the process of penning her first Young Adult novel, WASTED PRETTY. This past year, Jamie co-founded the Lancaster Action Now Coalition (LANC) to support, protect, and empower marginalized communities following the 2016 election. Propelled into action like a true Ellis girl, Jamie’s desire to stand up, speak out, and get involved has led to educational opportunities and meaningful conversations across communities, class levels, and party lines in rural Pennsylvania. When she’s not planning her next LANC event or working on her upcoming book, Jamie is a dedicated mother of two and works in higher education admissions.
Joyce Fu has spent her post-collegiate career living and breathing the world of professional sports. A dedicated young athlete who excelled on the field and in the pool, Joyce’s path into the fast-paced world of multi-million dollar contracts, collective bargaining agreements, and front page headlines began with an internship with the Pittsburgh Steelers and has taken her all the way to the big leagues as part of the International Business Development team at Major League Baseball (MLB) headquarters. When she’s not promoting events for the MLB across the globe, Joyce is navigating motherhood in the Big Apple and journeying back to Pittsburgh to visit family and friends. An Ellis girl from kindergarten to grade 8, Joyce shares how she got started in professional sports, what it’s like working behind the scenes, and her favorite Steel City team.
Lauren BYRNE Connelly ’02 has dedicated her professional life to building better communities in her hometown of Pittsburgh. As the Business Development Manager at Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, Lauren oversees grant programs, community development programs, and works with local businesses to assist with training, financing, and real estate decisions. Prior to working for the county, Lauren was the Executive Director of Lawrenceville United where she worked with residents through the neighborhood’s resurgence to ensure they were empowered as stakeholders in the midst of heightened growth and development. As she celebrates her fifteenth reunion, Lauren shares how she lives the Ellis motto, Esse Quam Videri, to this day and offers advice to the next generation of Ellis girls.
Marsha BROWN, Ph.D. ’97 is a licensed psychologist with specializations in forensic and clinical psychology in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. An avid reader of true crime novels since she was nine years old, Marsha’s interest in human behavior and how it is related to crime began young and grew with age. After receiving a theater degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Marsha dabbled in different fields before deciding to attend graduate school and eventually pursue her Ph.D. in psychology. In her work as a forensic psychologist, Marsha conducts psychological evaluations to assess, address, and diagnose mental disorders in clinical and forensic settings. A proud Ellis alumna celebrating her twentieth reunion this year, Marsha shares lessons she’s learned from her career, her best Ellis memories, and her advice for young women entering the workplace.
After graduating from Ellis, Marina LORENZINI ’12 carried her passions and her suitcases across the Atlantic to attend college in Lugano, Switzerland. Marina was inspired by Ellis’ art history programming and global focus so much that she chose to study Modern and Contemporary Visual Art, Ancient and Medieval Mediterranean History, International Antiquities Law, and four languages: Italian, Latin, Arabic, and German at Franklin University Switzerland. After receiving her degree, Marina moved to Morocco to work for Al Akhawayn University where she prepared the university for American institutional accreditation. Now that she’s back in the States, Marina is working at the American Middle East Institute in Pittsburgh to develop international trade and development relations between the U.S. and the Middle East and North African Region. Committed to causes in Pittsburgh and across the globe, Marina shares more about her time overseas and her time at Ellis.
A dedicated change agent in the city of Pittsburgh, Julie STRICKLAND-Gilliard ’02 is a community program manager at Global Links, a medical relief and development organization committed to supporting health initiatives and environmental stewardship in Pittsburgh and within the healthcare system. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Proud Haven, a nonprofit that provides support for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, and Pittsburgh Cares, a nonprofit that promotes volunteerism via flexible service projects in the region. A busy mom of four who works tirelessly to better her community and those around her, Julie shares how Ellis alumnae have supported her throughout the years, her best Ellis memory, and her advice to young women in the workplace.
Jennifer L. CARTER, Psy.D. ’92 is a licensed clinical psychologist who knew from the time she was in the fourth grade that she wanted to work with people. With plans to become a psychiatrist, Jennifer majored in pre-med at The College of William & Mary before ultimately realizing that psychiatric care was not the career for her. So she switched gears and pursued graduate and doctorate degrees in psychology. Dedicated to helping people through their mental, emotional, and behavioral issues, Jennifer spends her days talking to people, listening to their stories, and understanding their lives at her private practice in Frederick, Maryland. Attending Ellis for her Upper School years, Jennifer shares her advice for young women in the workplace and reflects on how Ellis shaped her path.
An Ellis lifer, Ann CANCILLA Gaudino, Ed.D. ’85 is the true definition of a lifelong learner. After graduation, Ann received her doctorate degree in Education Administration and Policy Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, a Specialist degree in Education Administration from Wayne State University, and Master and Bachelor degrees in Music from the University of Michigan. Currently an associate professor at Millersville University, Ann teaches graduate and doctoral courses in education and education leadership to the next generation of teachers and administrators. When she’s not in the classroom, Ann is the founder and editor of the Excellence in Education Journal, an online journal that promotes and circulates scholarly educational writings in a public forum with no fee. Dedicated to supporting teachers and students across the world, Ann’s commitment to transforming lives through education is inspiring, and for her—it all began at Ellis.
Bonnie WEST ’09 lives her life in technicolor. A dedicated painter and self-proclaimed life artist, Bonnie studied studio art, art history, and museum studies at Chatham University, where she was part of the last all-girls cohort in the school’s history. Armed with a vision and a paintbrush, Bonnie interprets her life experiences via colors on canvas. Her dedication to art is evident, as she works to juggle the creative and business sides of her craft, with her job as the Assistant Curator at The Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, PA. With a go-getter attitude and signature Ellis girl hustle, Bonnie reflects on her art, her future, and how they’re both a work in progress.
Dr. Jo LANG Kim ’90 has been a champion, advocate, and an ally for pregnant and postpartum women’s mental health for nearly 15 years. Determined to destigmatize mood disorders and prevent women from suffering in silence, Jo leads the nation’s only professionally-staffed 24/7 crisis line for perinatal and postpartum women at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois. She also oversees a perinatal depression screening program, sits on the board of a non-profit, Beyond the Baby Blues, which provides access to free support groups for struggling women, teaches medical students at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, and partners with leaders in the field to research and identify new ways to treat perinatal mood disorders. An Ellis alumna from the Class of 1990, Jo reflects on her commitment to helping women through their darkest hours and offers advice for the next generation of Ellis girls.
Colleen DAILY Simonds is a Class of 1995 alumna and Ellis Board of Trustees member who recently moved back to the Steel City after thirteen years in the Big Apple. Following graduation from Duke University, Colleen pursued a career in merchandising which led her to positions at retail powerhouses, Gap Inc. and J.Crew. After seven years at J.Crew where she ultimately ended up running their wedding and womenswear divisions, she took a leap of faith and started her own interior design business. Now that she’s back in Pittsburgh for good, Colleen is figuring out what’s next for her business, while juggling life with two kids and overseeing the renovations and design of her family’s new Shadyside home.
Whether she’s fighting for fossil fuel divestment, completing community-based research for the Honor’s College, or overhauling housing recycling programs, Sage LINCOLN ‘12 is a changemaker and trailblazer at the University of Pittsburgh. A fifth-year student triple-majoring in Ecology and Evolution, Environmental Geology, and Urban Studies, Sage’s involvement in environmental activism on and off campus is highly impressive and noteworthy to everyone around her. She has received multiple scholarships during her academic career, including Ellis’ own Arbuthnot Award, the prestigious Udall Undergraduate Scholarship, and the Vira I. Heinz Scholarship. Motivated and driven by the connection between environmental and social issues, Sage shares how Ellis prepared her to succeed and explore her passions in college and beyond.
For as long as she can remember, Heidi HOLZAPFEL ‘97 knew she wanted to someday be her own boss. The daughter of a local business owner and an Ellis girl through Middle and Upper School, Heidi’s entrepreneurial spark was ignited at Ellis, propelled her forward to get an M.B.A., and most recently, motivated her to open her own business. Fusing together her love of dogs and her passion for entrepreneurship, Heidi opened the Soggy Doggy Shop, a petself-wash and grooming boutique, this past December in Wexford, PA. With hopes to create partnerships with local animal rescues and someday open a second location, Heidi is determined to grow her business and be an advocate for animal rescue in the Pittsburgh area.