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Alumni Council Directory 2022-23

Executive Committee

The following is a list of Executive Committee members. Expand for brief bios and additional information about these individuals. 

Ayanna Johnson '09, president

I am a public health professional focusing on strategic partnerships and workforce development for the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration. Previously, I supported the creation of our nation’s public health agenda, Healthy People 2030 at HHS and led healthy aging initiatives. I was also a health policy fellow for the 19th US Surgeon General. I received my MSPH in reproductive, perinatal and women’s health from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. As part of my role as Alumni Council president, I am a member of the College’s Board of Managers. Outside of work, you can find me in the nation’s capital spending time with friends and family, exploring the city, enjoying a comedy show or traveling. I’m a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

My Swarthmore experience was invaluable and I want to foster alumni engagement with the College and help current students create organic connections with alumni, to explore the diversity in our alumni experience.

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James E. Sailer '90, vice president

For the past 17 years, I have worked at the Population Council, an international nonprofit research organization dedicated to improving reproductive health, education, and development opportunities for women, men, and especially adolescent girls. I now lead the Council's Center for Biomedical Research, which develops, tests, and secures regulatory approval for novel contraceptives like Norplant, Mirena, and Annovera. My work has taken me to Europe, Chile, Mexico, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, and India. I live in Brooklyn near Prospect Park with my wife, oversized dog, and sometimes our college student son. Many of my best friends come from my days at Swarthmore. Notable personal achievement: I won Carl Kasell's voice on my answering machine as a successful contestant on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." I joined the Alumni Council because I love meeting and working with other Swarthmore alumni, and with Swat students.

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Emily Mindel Gottlieb '95, secretary

I serve as Deputy Director for Law and Policy at the Center for Justice & Democracy, a nonprofit consumer organization dedicated to protecting the U.S. civil justice system. Swarthmore inspired and prepared me for this career path of public policy engagement. A native New Yorker, I returned to the city after college and currently live there with my husband and two children. For many years I've been actively involved with my high school as an Alumni Council member, class officer, task force co-chair and now member of the Board of Trustees — volunteer opportunities I truly value since they allow me to stay connected and give back to my school community. I also enjoy travel (six continents down, one to go!), yoga, baking, movies and the NYT crossword puzzle.

I joined the Alumni Council because it's a way to become more involved with the school, engage with a cross-section of alumni, contribute to alumni initiatives and support current students. I welcome questions about working as an attorney in the public interest sector.

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Sinan A. Kazaklar '14, chief of staff

Since graduating from Swarthmore in 2014, I have lived in London and San Francisco and am finally moving back to the East Coast in spring. Being an international scholarship student from Turkey, I have received a great deal of support from Swarthmore before, during, and after my time on campus and have been doing my best to give back to the community. I am excited to take it one step further with the Alumni Council and hope to help the College continue its tradition of diversity and excellence.

I joined the Alumni Council, because I wanted to connect with current students as well as alumni to help where I can in areas such as being an international student, career prospects, and life after Swarthmore.

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Twan Claiborne '07, alumni engagement liaison

I currently live in Harlem, New York, my home of eleven years. Entering my twelfth year in education, I am a Grade Level Dean at a private Quaker special education school in Brooklyn Heights. Outside of work, I am involved in various sports leagues and community organizations, including the New York Gay Football League (NYGFL), Big Apple Recreational Sports (BARS) and New York Collective of Radical Education (NYCORE). I also play dodgeball competitive in the Elite circuit of USA Dodgeball, participating in various tournaments across the country.  Additionally I am involved in New York LGBTQIA+ nightlife as the drag artist Kenya Keepup.

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Maria Paula Mello '08, student engagement liaison

I am an assistant professor of special education at St. John’s University in New York City. I am also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). In this role, I train future special education teachers and conduct research to improve the quality of life for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). My research focuses on the availability and development of post-secondary opportunities for young adults with IDD, specifically in the areas of college immersion, independent living, housing, and self-advocacy.

I joined the Alumni Council so I could give back to the Swat community and stay connected to other Swatties and to the college.

Jason Gray Zengerle '96, Swat Talks director

I’m a writer for The New York Times Magazine. Over the years, I’ve also worked at GQ, New York Magazine, and The New Republic. One of my favorite things during my time at Swarthmore was writing seminar papers. When it dawned on me during my senior year that my days of writing those papers were about to come to an end, I decided to become a journalist so that I could keep on writing. 

I primarily cover politics—in 2019, I won the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting from Syracuse University—but occasionally my editors indulge me and let me write about basketball. I live in Chapel Hill, NC, with Claire Farel ’97 and our two children. If any alumni ever want to talk about journalism, politics, or the suddenly mighty Swarthmore men’s hoops team, they should get in touch.

I joined the Alumni Council to broaden and intensify my efforts to mentor Swarthmore students interested in journalism.

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Daniela Kucz '14, special projects officer

I'm based in DC, where I work for a tech company in the federal health space. I previously worked in the non-profit world, where I focused on advancing reproductive health. In my spare time I enjoy cooking, baking, finding new music, and running. 

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Saba Thackurdeen '12, special projects officer

I am a biocultural conservationist working as a grant maker to uplift nature, people, and their wellbeing. I spent 7 years working as an ally and environmental anthropologist with indigenous communities in the South Pacific. I currently serve as Program Associate for the Environment at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

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Charles T. Sussman '05, special liaison on athletics and wellness

I graduated from Swarthmore in 2005, double majoring in engineering and economics. While at Swarthmore, I served on the Student Council. I was a four-year letter winner and a two-time captain of the Men’s Lacrosse team, earning Academic All-Conference as well as Honorable Mention All-Conference honors. Since graduating, I have worked in the financial services industry, starting at Lehman Brothers in New York, moving to Royal Bank of Canada in Calgary, and then landing at Bank of America back in New York, where I am currently a managing director as the head of oil derivatives trading. I am also chair of the Garnet Club Advancement Council. I reside in New York City with my wife, Brooke, and two daughters, Wyatt and Gray. I am also on the board of Redefine Her Street, a nonprofit started at Swarthmore by fellow Alumni Council member Christine Kim ’17. In my free time, I enjoy running and skiing.

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BoHee Yoon '01, nominating chair and immediate past president

I have been counsel at Fortress Investment Group since 2014, and was previously secretary of Drive Shack Inc. (NYSE:DS) and an associate at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, where I served on the diversity committee.  I have been a member of Alumni Council since 2016 and currently serve as its president, and have served as an ex officio member of Swarthmore's Board of Managers since 2020.  Since 2019, I have also served as a member of the inaugural Advisory Board of the Studley Graduate Program in International Affairs (GPIA) at The New School. In 2016, Fordham Law School's Asian Pacific American Law Students Association presented me with The Honorable Denny Chin '78 Alumni Award for Excellence in the Legal Profession. I graduated from Swarthmore with a B.A. in political science. I earned an M.A. in international affairs from the Studley GPIA at The New School in 2006 and a J.D. from Fordham Law School in 2009. I reside in Manhattan with my husband, Jose Claros, Jr. and our rescue dog, Oliver.

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The following is a list of all other current Alumni Council members. Expand for brief bios and additional information about these individuals. 

Debby Bacharach ’​​​88

I live in Seattle with my partner John Palmieri ’86 and our children David and Rose ’24. I started out as a Writing Associate at Swarthmore, which became my whole career. I ran writing centers, taught college writing, and am back to being a writing tutor again. I also just published my second book of poetry, Shake and Tremor. I love to dance.

I joined the Alumni Council because I want to serve a place I am passionate about, use my skills to help (WA here!), and meet more alums who never cease to fascinate me.

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Tom Blakelock '21

At Swarthmore, I earned my B.A. in Economics and Mathematics. As Senior Class President in 2021, I had the honor of working with the class officers and commencement planning committee to develop and execute our senior week, virtual commencement ceremony, and in-person grad celebration. Additional positions I held at the college include: RA, Econometrics TA, Science Associate, and LaunchDeck Data Science Mentor. I am now working at Swiss Re as a Solutions Origination & Market Analyst within L&H Solutions Americas. In my free time, I love getting morning coffee with friends and catching up on all my fav Netflix series in the evening. I look forward to working with Alumni Council.

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Michael A. Costonis '92

I am the Executive Vice President, Chief Operations Officer for CNA Financial, a leading global commercial insurance company. At Swarthmore, I was a co-captain of the Golf Team, and a member of several student organizations most notably the College Judiciary Committee. After graduation, I had a 26-year career at Accenture, where I was a Senior Managing Director.  I have remained part of the Swarthmore community by helping to establish the Pat Trinder Memorial Scholarship. I am married to Marissa Costonis, and have two children, Mac Costonis (Villanova School of Business, '23) and Mia Costonis (Springside Chestnut Hill, '21). My family and I live in Lower Gwynedd, PA and enjoy surfing, cooking, and playing with our dog, Mochi.

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Thomas A. Finholt '83

I have benefited tremendously from my experiences at Swarthmore and I am eager to pay back some of that debt through service on the Alumni Council. I am currently deeply invested in higher education, both as a parent with kids in college, and as the dean of the School of Information at the University of Michigan. This joint perspective provides a unique vantage to help advise Swarthmore on the many challenges ahead, such as making the case for liberal arts education and finding ways to eliminate educational privilege.

I joined the Alumni Council to pay back the debt I feel I owe Swarthmore -- through service to current and past students. I'm happy to speak with anyone about life after Swarthmore, and in particular those pursuing careers related to data science.

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Kathy Pearce Gledhill '80

I am the CFO of the Risk and Insurance Management Society, a non-profit association. At Swarthmore, I majored in economics. I was co-captain of the Women’s Swim Team for three years and represented the school at Division III Nationals as part of a relay team. I have an MBA in Finance from New York University and have spent most of my career working with or for entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations. I enjoy mentoring founders and currently volunteer as a Global Advisor for How Women Lead. I reside five miles from the ocean in Little Silver, NJ and enjoy biking to the beach along with gardening, reading, and cooking.

I joined the Alumni Council to help students navigate their paths ahead both while at Swarthmore as well as after graduation.

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John Goodman ’60

For sixty years I've been proud and grateful to have been so lucky as to get a Swarthmore education. The critical thinking and communication skills I honed here prepared me very well for many different kinds of career steps (college professor, consultant, interactive science museum founder/designer, grant writer, inventor, and more). I want to help Swarthmore continue its tradition of admitting, supporting, and educating students who will be competent, creative, and compassionate world citizens.

I joined the Alumni Council to help Swarthmore and all of its students and alums get more of whatever they seek from our beloved school.

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Margaret Huang 87
 Margaret Huang

I am the founder/CEO of Credence LLC, an online interactive leadership development program that builds the courage and skills senior teams need before they can successfully undertake systemic change initiatives that will advance equity and diversity and support growth in alignment with their organizational values. I have worked as a senior executive in financial services and international business in Asia for companies such as GE Capital, GE International, Jardine Matheson and in two national nonprofits - Facing History and Playworks. I currently reside in Oakland, CA.

I joined the Alumni Council to actively help organize fun ways for Swatties to gather and convene.

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M. Jawaad Hussain 05

After graduation in '05, I moved to Brooklyn for medical school. I then returned to the greater Philadelphia area, studied pediatrics, and am now a professor of pediatrics and director of complex disease management. My sleep deprivation is no longer caused by studying for biology exams but rather by trying to keep up with my three children.

I joined the Alumni Council because it is a good way of giving back to a community that matters so much to me.

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Brandy Monk-Payton 07 ​​​​​​

I am an Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. I received my PhD in Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, which extended my studies as a "special" major in Film and Media Studies at Swarthmore. My research focuses on the theory and history of African American media representation and cultural production. I have published essays in various edited collections and academic journals like Communication, Culture and Critique, Film Quarterly, Feminist Media Histories, and The Black Scholar. I am currently writing my first book on Black celebrity in late 20th and early 21st century U.S. television and digital media culture.

I joined the Alumni Council because Swarthmore taught me how to think - the school allowed me to develop a curiosity for the world and to search for my place in it. I am passionate about community-building and I want to help alums network with each other, specifically through arts and culture as well as social justice. I am also interested in fostering programs for 1st generation alumni who are trying to figure out their post-grad personal and professional life paths as Swatties.

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Chinyere Odim 17
Chinyere Odim

I am a doctoral student of Sociology at Brown University. My research is focused on intersections of class, race, and power within elite independent schools. From Brooklyn, NY and now living in Providence, RI, I can usually be found strolling city streets, critiquing Duolingo’s Chinese translations, and playing pickup soccer.

I joined the Alumni Council to build community across generations and ensure voices of Black alumni remain a part of institutional conversations.

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Chris Rodger 97
chris rodger

Swarthmore was and continues to be foundational in my life, and I am very appreciative of the intellectual challenges, opportunities for learning, and particularly the friendships the college helped me create. After graduating with both an engineering and an economics degree, I took a job that I didn't find fulfilling and soon left to earn a Masters in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University. My education has afforded me the opportunity to spend the last two decades working in the field of policy analysis, using data and evidence to help understand and remove barriers to physical, emotional, and financial well-being. Outside of work, I am an avid runner and fitness buff, and my Quaker Matchbox wife and I take an annual week-long backcountry canoe trip. We are fortunate to share a small, old house outside of Boston with our many cats.​​​​

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Jigme Tobgyel 17
Jigme Tobgyel

I was born and raised in the Kingdom of Bhutan and currently work in Content Strategy at Netflix in Los Angeles, a role that spoke to me because of the importance of representation and diverse storytelling -- values that were instilled and nurtured in me by the Swarthmore Community during what I still call the "best four years of my life." Outside of work, I am involved with the mentorship organization America Needs You, and you will also find me on Sunday morning zoom calls with five of my best friends from Swat. I hope to get more involved with the Alumni Council in the years to come.​​​​​

I joined the Alumni Council to help nurture the same environment that made me feel so at home during my time at the college - I am open to chat about work, life, and anything else in between.

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Ian Yarett ’09

After graduating from Swarthmore in 2009, I first worked as a writer and editor for Newsweek magazine before going back to school to pursue a career in medicine. I’m now completing my residency in Internal Medicine at NYU. I look back on my Swarthmore years with great appreciation and am re-inspired by the campus community every time I visit. I hope to have the opportunity to give back to this community as a member of the Alumni Council.

I look back on my Swarthmore years with great appreciation and as a member of Alumni Council I hope to inspire, and surely be inspired by, the current generation of students.

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