Voices from the Margins: Supporting Vocational Exploration with Underserved Students
January 16-18, 2020, Occidental College, Los Angeles

Registration Deadline: December 20, 2019


The goal of this regional gathering is to explore with NetVUE colleagues how to foster meaningful vocational exploration with underserved students. Underserved students come from a variety of social locations and possess different social identities. These students could include first generation college students, students of color, LGBTQIA+ students, students from low income families or communities, and other traditionally marginalized student populations.

The goals of the regional gathering are to:

  1. Examine the unique experiences and challenges students from marginalized communities experience on predominantly White college and university campuses;
  2. Consider how these experiences and challenges impact the way in which educators, mentors and religious and spiritual leaders engage in critical conversations about spirituality, religious belief and practice, and vocation;
  3. Identify current best practices or potentially innovative ways of fostering culturally sensitive, relevant vocational exploration among students from marginalized communities; and,
  4. Provide an opportunity for NetVUE colleagues to learn from one another about how to integrate new ideas or best practices into existing vocational exploration initiatives on their campuses.

Keynote Speaker:

Our keynote speaker is Dr. Varun Soni, the Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California (USC) and the first Hindu to serve as the chief religious or spiritual leader of an American university. He is also Vice Provost of Campus Wellness and Crisis Intervention, Adjunct Professor of Religion and University Fellow at the Annenberg Center on Public Diplomacy. For more information about Dr. Soni:  https://varunsoni.com/bio2/.

Workshops -- Click here for additional biographical information 

Chris Arguedas MS, Interim Director of the Intercultural Community Center at Occidental College, will speak about supporting LGBTQIA+ students including his work as the leader of Occidental College’s Queer and Trans Work Group. Chris Arguedas has a master’s degree in higher education administration for Florida International University.

Mariam Ashchyan serves as the interim case manager for the disability services & dean of students office at Occidental College, returning to Oxy after serving as the first academic success coach graduate intern. Mariam's philosophy is rooted in taking a holistic approach with students, which includes providing academic, personal and emotional support. She provides academic accommodations for students with disabilities, as well as ongoing case management to help students develop skills and strategies for success. Mariam earned her masters of educational counseling from the University of Southern California in 2017.

Stephanie Calderon will speak about college access for culturally and linguistically diverse students and families. Calderon’s master’s thesis centers on the experiences of young men of color who participated in college access programs as they transition to four year institutions.

Dr. Laura E. Enriquez PhD, Assistant Professor of Chicano/Latino Studies, University of California Irvine, Martha Morales Hernandez and Eliabet Barrios Mateo will speak about fostering educational equity for undocumented college students. Dr. Enriquez leads the Undocumented Student Equity Project and the UC Collaborative to Promote Immigrant and Student Equity. Martha Morales Hernandez is a doctoral student at the University of California Irvine. Her research focus is on the role of immigration status in shaping the educational experiences and mental health outcomes of undocumented youth in institutions of higher education. Elisabet Barrios Mateo is a doctoral students in Sociology at the University of California Irvine. Her research examines the impact of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on immigrant young adults’ sense of belonging.

Duane “Deejay” Johnson, the Student Leadership Programs Manager at the University of California Santa Barbara Residential and Community Living, will speak about supporting LGBTQIA+ students. Deejay has a graduate degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and previously worked as an Assistant Director of an LGBT+ Resource Center at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

Luci Masredjian serves as the director of disability services & student support at Occidental College. Luci's role includes supporting all students who have, or think they may have, a learning difference, chronic medical or psychological diagnosis, or any type of disability, via accommodations and general support. Luci strives to cultivate and support an inclusive and compassionate campus community that is educated about individual differences and the richness they bring to our community. Of particular interest is ensuring that the policies of the disability services office are accessible and inclusive, especially for students who may not have the cultural capital to understand that these services are also for them. Luci earned her masters of education in student development from Seattle University in 2011.

Marissko M. Wheaton PhD and Esmeralda Hernandez-Hamed will speak about the research and work the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, is doing to promote racial equity in postsecondary education. Marissko M. Wheaton is a postdoctoral scholar and Esmeralda Hernandez-Hamed is a Project Specialist at the Center for Urban Education.

Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto and Senior Consultant with the Center for Progressive Renewal, will speak about intersectionality. In 2008, Rev. Reyes-Chow was the youngest person ever elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, (USA).

Erica Rosales, will speak about improving college access for low income, first generation students. Rosales is the Executive Director of College Match, a nonprofit in Los Angeles County helping hundreds of low income students reach their full college match potential. She has a Master’s in Education at UCLA.

Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza PhD, Founder and Executive Director of the Social Justice Learning Institute in Inglewood, California, will speak about strengthening college persistence for young men of color. Dr. Scorza is currently on the Inglewood Unified School District Board of Education and the UCLA Alumni Association Board.

Dr. Deanna A. Thompson will speak about how to engage in vocational exploration with students experiencing illness and trauma. Thompson is the Director of the Lutheran Center for Faith, Values, and Community and Martin E. Marty Regents Chair in Religion and the Academy at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. She is author of five books, including The Virtual Body of Christ in a Suffering World and most recently, Glimpsing Resurrection: Cancer, Trauma, and Ministry.

Daniel Tillapaugh PhD, will speak about supporting historically underrepresented men in higher education by reframing masculinity through resilience and community cultural wealth frameworks. Tillapaugh is associate professor and chair in the Department of Counselor Education at California Lutheran University, where he primarily teaches in the Counseling and College Student Personnel Program. Tillapaugh has a Ph.D. in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego and a M.Ed. in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland.

Paloma Vargas, PhD, will address issues of justice, equity, and access in higher education for traditionally underserved and minoritized groups (Latino/a, African America/Black, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans). Vargas received her Ph.D. in Medical and Molecular Parasitology from The Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at New York University. As Director of Hispanic Serving Initiatives at California Lutheran University, Paloma's work on campus focuses on being the liaison between all departments and divisions at Cal Lutheran on issues of equity and accessibility.


Chris Arguedas MS is currently the Interim Director of the Intercultural Community Center at Occidental College. Chris Arguedas has a master’s degree in higher education administration for Florida International University. Prior to working at Occidental College, Arguedas worked at the University of California Santa Barbara where he led multicultural education programs.

Lina Calderon-Morin is the Assistant Director of Student and Community Engagement at Occidental College. Prior to working at Occidental, Lina Calderon-Morin was the Program Manager for College Access Plan and an educational consultant for the Southern California College Access Network. She has a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California.

Elena Jaloma Scott has been working in higher education for 17 years, most of that time has been focused on working with first generation, low income, and marginalized student populations. She has a sincere passion for serving students from these backgrounds and is thankful for the opportunity to be on the journey with her students as they work incredibly hard to make a dream a reality. Elena started in financial aid and has found that those skills have helped her better serve students. She has a master’s degree in counseling and guidance and a master’s in public policy administration, both from California Lutheran University.

Dr. Zandra Wagoner is the interfaith chaplain and associate professor of religion and philosophy at the University of La Verne. She is an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren and holds a Ph.D. in religious studies. As chaplain, she directs the multi-religious Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, furthering the university’s commitment to diversity, community engagement, ethical reasoning, and the development of the whole person. Dr. Wagoner also teaches for the philosophy and religion department, including introductory courses in religion and specialized courses in the areas of gender/sexuality, contemporary theology, interfaith cooperation, and the environment/animals in the study of religion. She is actively involved in interfaith efforts locally and nationally.

Costs for the Gathering:

For participants from NetVUE member institutions: the registration fee of $50 per person covers all conference costs, including lunch and dinner on Friday and lunch on Saturday. Participants must make their own hotel reservations at the Holiday Inn Express. While NetVUE will pay for lodging for NetVUE members on Friday evening, attendees who desire to stay additional nights will have to pay at their own expense.

The registration fee for non-NetVUE members is $100 which includes the conference meals but does NOT include lodging. Non-NetVUE members may still use the conference hotel but must pay for their own lodging costs.

Hotel Reservations:

The Holiday Inn Express
3500 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91107

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Holiday Inn Express in Pasadena. NetVUE will cover accommodations for Friday night for NetVUE members. Each guest will be required to have a credit card on file for incidentals. The hotel is 9.6 miles from Occidental College or about a 25 minute drive. The hotel has complimentary parking and a free breakfast daily.

Conference participants should contact the hotel directly to make their hotel arrangements. 

Thursday Arrivals:

People planning to arrive on Thursday evening should use this link to make reservations for Thursday evening.

Participants will need to make a separate reservation for Friday evening. Please email Stephanie Tsui, Sales Manager of the Holiday Inn Express, at stephanie@hiepasadenaca.com to make reservations for Friday and use the following phrase in the subject line: “Occidental Conference.” In the content of the email, indicate that you are arriving on Thursday night.

Friday Arrivals:

Participants should email Stephanie Tsui, Sales Manager of the Holiday Inn Express, at stephanie@hiepasadenaca.com and use the following phrase in the subject line: “Occidental Conference.”


To register for the conference, please visit: https://www.cic.edu/programs/2020-netvue-regional-gathering-occidental. The registration deadline is December 20, 2019.

Directions and Map:

Directions to Occidental College are found at: /contact-us/maps-directions

Tentative Schedule:

Friday, January 17, 2020

Breakfast at the hotel

Uber, Lyft or rental car to campus

8:00-9:00 a.m. Check in (coffee, tea and muffins provided)
9:00-9:15 a.m. Welcome from Occidental College
9:15-10:00 a.m. Opening Keynote Address
10:00-10:45 a.m. Small group discussion
10:45-11:00 a.m. Break
11:00 a.m.-noon Breakout Session I
Noon-1:00 p.m. Lunch at Occidental College
1:00-2:00 p.m. Student and Alumni Panel
2:15-2:45 p.m. Small group debrief the student and alumni panel
3:00-3:15 p.m. Break
3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Breakout Sessions II
4:30-5:30 p.m. Breakout Sessions III
5:30-6:30 p.m. Reception at Occidental College
6:30-7:30 p.m. Dinner at Occidental College
Saturday, January 18, 2020

Breakfast at the hotel

9:00-10:30 a.m. Plenary Session -- Panel of Practioners
10:45- 11:15 a.m. Interfaith Service
11:15-11:45 a.m. Final Comments and Farewells

Box lunches can be provided to participants as they leave the campus.


The Rev. Dr. Susan Young, Director for Religious and Spiritual Life, Occidental College
(323)259-1308 or young@oxy.edu.


This event is made possible by the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE). NetVUE is administered by the Council of Independent College with generous support from the Lilly Endowment, Inc.

Contact Office for Religious & Spiritual Life
Herrick Interfaith Center

Occidental College, F-8
1600 Campus Road
Los Angeles, CA 90041