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Class Notes and more

The Wilds of Imagination

To write a book, says Robin McLean ’11MFA, first, get rid of the beeping sounds and flashing lights of modernity. Next, watch the Milky Way galaxy spin across the big dark sky, where there’s no light pollution. Then, get to work. At Ike’s Canyon Ranch, the writer’s retreat McLean recently co-founded in Nevada, you can do just that. McLean would know—this is where she penned her most recent books.

Named a best book of fiction by The Guardian, McLean’s novel Pity the Beast (2021) upends the classic Western with a female protagonist, animals whose thoughts we can hear, and a landscape that’s a main character. Her most recent short story collection, Get ’em Young, Treat ’em Tough, Tell ’em Nothing, was released in October.

To get to Ike’s Canyon Ranch, a former stagecoach stop, you must leave the pavement of the Loneliest Road in America—a 400-mile empty stretch of U.S. Route 50—and cross another 50 miles of gravel that often washes away. Once there, you might hear the footfalls of Penny the donkey, a whinny from one of the wild horses that drinks from the nearby stream, or the rattle of the wind through the tack shed windows. Beyond that, all you’ll hear are the sounds of your own imagination.




Black and white image of a person speaking into a microphone

Nora Gallo ’20 testifies at the Connecticut State House in support of reforms.

Honoring Every Voice

Nora Gallo ’20, a survivor of campus sexual violence, began her activism against sexual violence and trauma in 2018 by volunteering at the UMass It’s On Us chapter.

Today, Gallo is co-director of the activist group Every Voice Coalition (EVC) and is well known within the Massachusetts legislature—and beyond—for speaking to her experience and the importance of survivor-centered reforms in public policy. So far, she has helped pass new campus sexual violence legislation in five states, providing increased access to resources for survivors and increased safety measures on college campuses.

Last spring, Gallo and her team at EVC received the 2022 Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award from the Department of Justice. This award honors those whose leadership, vision, and innovation have led to significant changes in public policy and practice that benefit crime victims.

Gallo says the high-level spotlight on the group’s work to end the “epidemic of campus sexual violence” is an important recognition of “the outstanding and much-needed leadership of hundreds of survivor and student leaders across the country who are advocating for their rights.”



Class Notes

Couple posing in an office.

Not Holding Back

Terrell Hill ’18PhD is the founder and president of Black Leaders and Administrators Consortium Inc. (BLAC), a nonprofit that fosters the professional development of Black leaders through training, mentoring, and networking. When Hill struggled to find a position as a school superintendent, he was motivated to investigate hiring barriers in the industry more broadly. Through his doctoral work, he discovered that Black administrators often face barriers stemming from limited educational opportunities or relationships with decision-makers as their white colleagues. His recommendation: a professional affinity group to assist future leaders in their professional growth and career progression.

Almost complete jigsaw puzzle of a pink flower.

Putting the pieces together

Will Carswell ’00, owner of Zen Art & Design in South Deerfield, MA, has turned his love of jigsaw puzzles into a unique business. The company offers artisanal wooden puzzles with designs that are dry mounted on eco-friendly natural birch slabs. Digitally created and laser cut, the puzzles often include uniquely shaped pieces, such as a starfish piece in a beach-themed puzzle. Profiled in the Greenfield Recorder, Carswell discusses how puzzles were a mainstay during the difficult times of the Great Depression, and are to this day a wonderful way to bring families together.

Person smiling on the Thames riverbank in front of Big Ben.

So Proud

When Deanna Kenyon ’19 first transferred to UMass as a sophomore, she was grappling with her identity as a cis-bisexual woman, trying to find her place socially and in a male-dominated field. Her acceptance into the UMass Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons) program gave her the confidence she needed to excel at UMass and beyond. She graduated cum laude with a degree in environmental science and now leads critical research on renewable energy technologies for Johnson Matthey (JM) in London, one of the largest renewable energy companies in the world. Kenyon also co-chairs her company’s global PRIDE committee, which supports JM employees around the world, and recently received a Stonewall Silver Employer Award for championing LGBT+ workplace initiatives.

1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s | 2020s


Florentinus Gregorius Winarno ’71PhD and his grandson Amadeus Driando Ahnan-Winarno ’20PhD, both accomplished food scientists, spoke at TEDxJakartaStudio events held in Indonesia. Winarno’s interview “Geographical Indication: Biodiversity and Indigenous Wisdom” covered Indonesia’s food resources in Bahasa, Indonesia. Ahnan-Winarno delivered a presentation titled “Tempe[h], Indonesia’s Greatest Best Kept Secret” on the potential of tempeh as a traditional food technology for producing nutritious, sustainable, and affordable meat alternatives.

Deborah Hopkinson ’73 is an award-winning children’s author of more than 60 books, including My Little Golden Book About Betty White and several historical fiction and nonfiction picture books set in New England. Her latest picture book, Only One, came out in April.

Eliane Sciammas Markoff ’75 and her husband, Gary, started Wellesley-based nonprofit gallery Art in Giving to raise money for childhood cancer research after their nine-year-old daughter, Rachel Molly, died of a brain tumor in 1992. Over the past three decades, the organization has raised more than $2 million for basic childhood cancer research through the sale of fine art. To date, funding has gone to top researchers nationwide, including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, and Stanford University School of Medicine.

James M. Odato ’77 is the author of This Brain Had a Mouth: Lucy Gwin and the Voice of Disability Nation, published by the University of Massachusetts Press. In this biography, Odato provides an intimate portrait of Gwin, an author, advocacy journalist, disability rights activist, feminist, and founder of Mouth magazine—a radical disability rights publication known for its acerbic, sometimes funny, and often moving coverage of people from throughout the disability community.

Kevin O’Hara ’77 is the author of Ins and Outs of a Locked Ward: My 30 Years as a Psychiatric Nurse. Having written three other books, this is O’Hara’s first memoir, which focuses on nursing at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, MA. O’Hara is a Vietnam veteran, a past Norman Rockwell model, and the 2012 recipient of a John F. Kennedy National Award, which is presented annually to an American of Irish descent who has distinguished themselves in their chosen profession.


Susan Rich ’83 recently published her fifth poetry collection, Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry, 2022). Rich has spent time living in Bosnia and Herzegovina, West Africa, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, and has done human rights work with Amnesty International in addition to her work as a poet.

Susan L. Stearns ’86 has been named executive director of NAMI New Hampshire. Stearns has been serving as deputy director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) New Hampshire, and she has worked in the nonprofit sector in New Hampshire for over 30 years, advocating for families, children, and individuals with disabilities.

Marissa Delinks ’88, a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, was selected by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly as one of their 2021 Top Women of Law. She was also named one of American Lawyer magazine’s 2022 Northeast Trailblazers. Each year, American Lawyer recognizes attorneys who have “moved the needle” and are “agents of change” in their respective fields.

Lauren Turner ’89 has been named the senior vice president for talent and inclusion at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Most recently, she served as the senior associate vice chancellor of human resources and organizational strategy and effectiveness at UMass Lowell.


Kimberly J. O’Shields ’90 is president and CEO of Continuum Solutions LLC (CSL), a woman- and Black-owned business that focuses on using technology to automate well-being services in educational and corporate settings. CSL strives to provide continuity of well-being services during distance learning or working remotely.

Eric Feinstein ’91, founder of Remember Sambor Genealogy, was recently featured in the Orthodox Jewish magazine Mishpacha. He cites his UMass education as something that prepared him for his career as a genealogist. Feinstein specializes in European archival research and is fluent in Russian, French, and German, and has a working reading proficiency in Polish, Hungarian, Czech, and other Slavic languages, which “gives him firsthand access to the most obscure pieces of information.”

Daniel Leonard ’92, ’00MA and Lorena Hernández Leonard ’02 produced the animated short film Demi’s Panic, which was an official selection at film festivals around the world, won several awards, and was long-listed for the 94th Academy Awards. Inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, the film tells the story of a young Latina living in New York City when an unprecedented storm changes her city and her life.

Trisha Blanchet ’93 (as T.M. Blanchet) is the author of Herrick’s End. Her debut novel is the story of a shy Boston kid who finds himself sucked into a dangerous, magical world below the city when he goes in search of a missing friend. Blanchet pulls from her time working at a domestic violence center and explores themes of abuse, justice, and revenge.

Ousmane Power-Greene ’99, ’06MA, ’07PhD, associate professor of history at Clark University, has had an “unusual last three years during the pandemic,” from teaching in Wuhan, China, in the summer of 2019 before the pandemic hit to the fall 2022 publication of his debut novel, The Confessions of Matthew Strong. According to the publisher, the book is “a wildly original, incendiary story about race, redemption, the dangerous imbalances that continue to destabilize society, and speaking out for what’s right.”

Marc Williams ’99MS, a sports marketing pioneer and pop culture expert, was named one of the 100 Most Influential Blacks Today by CORE Magazine. Williams has worked for three of the largest sports brands in the world—Champs Sports, Footaction, and Reebok—and is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost experts on branding, sports marketing, consumer behavior, and hip-hop culture.


Cassie Sanchez ’08MEd, ’20PhD recently joined the national nonprofit Warrior-Scholar Project as director of education. Sanchez was formerly an assistant editor and research assistant with UMass Amherst and brings decades of experience to her new role.

Brothers Khalil Abdullah ’09 and Ahmed Abdullah ’10 are included in a list of 10 Black Innovators who Changed the Gaming Industry. Their company, Decoy Games, created the award-winning game Swimsanity! and strives to be a symbol of inclusion, diversity, and inspiration in the gaming industry.

Jose Cotto ’09 was named to the 2022 Nonprofit 40 Under 40 list by City & State New York. Cotto is a licensed clinical social worker who serves as senior vice president for residential treatment at the Institute for Community Living, a human services organization that provides mental health care, housing, and social support services.


Tara DeZao ’12MBA was featured in Adweek’s 2021 Pride Stars. DeZao is currently a director of product marketing for MarTech and Adtech at Pegasystems and was previously at Oracle’s in-house agency. Throughout her career, she has worked to prioritize support of LGBTQ+ communities both inside and outside the company. She is also active within the UMass alumni community, helping graduates prepare for corporate life with a focus on gender equity.

Laura Butler Kisty ’14 won the Stevan Porter Emerging Hospitality Leader of the Year Award at the 2022 American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Night of a Thousand Stars Gala in Los Angeles. Each year, this event celebrates the industry’s top property-level talent. Seven awards were given this year to celebrate the diversity and inclusion of the hospitality sector.


Gabrielle Taylor ’20 and current student Masha Leyfer ’23 are two of the creators of the game Vertl, a Yiddish version of the popular word game Wordle, hosted by the Jewish news outlet The Forward. They met at UMass, where Leyfer, a linguistics and sustainable community development major, received help with her computer science homework from Taylor, who is now a software developer.