Cesar Almeida

Alumni News

Conserving Ghanaian Music, One Beat at a Time

Teaching artist, creative director, and music producer Cesar Almeida (BS18) recently added podcast host—and Fulbright Scholar—to his already impressive list of accomplishments.

In September, Almeida, who first traveled to Ghana on a study abroad trip, returned to the West African country on a Fulbright Student Award to produce a podcast about music conservation and ownership in Ghanaian communities.

A collaboration with the University of Ghana, the project involves interviewing Ghanaian musicians, traditional leaders, music producers, and copyright lawyers. Using his mobile studio, Almeida will also work with local groups to cocreate traditional music as part of ongoing efforts to conserve Ghanaian culture.

He says he prefers the term “conservation” over “preservation” to describe his work, because “conservation is about having agency in the process and actively furthering the creation of Ghanaian music.”

During Almeida’s first trip to the country, he took drumming classes at the University of Ghana and re-created traditional Ghanaian songs on the drum pad. Last year, with support from Davis Projects for Peace, he returned to host a one-week workshop where students learned to record and remix local music.

He credits SESP faculty for inspiring him to pursue his interests in education, media, and technology, and he calls music educator Kalonji Nzinga (PhD18) a great mentor.

“He motivated me to pursue my path by sharing his own research on hip-hop,” Almeida says. “He never hesitated to connect me with other mentors in the music industry and with opportunities to create and perform music.”

He adds that he hopes his work “informs and inspires people to take ownership of their creative work and to continue contributing to the creation of traditional music—in Ghana and in other communities around the world, such as Ecuador, mi patria.”


Math Meets World

Math Meets World

Chris Nho (BS12) is a big believer in making math accessible. So he puts it in unexpected places: On stop signs. In laundromats. Even in bars at happy hour.

It’s more than a hobby for Nho, a high school math teacher in San Diego and former math specialist for Chicago Public Schools (CPS). He’s on a mission to get parents and kids to start talking about math—and to redefine what it means to be a “math person.”

Working with Public Math—a nonprofit collective of teachers, designers, artists, researchers, writers, parents, and citizens—Nho dreams up ways to put playful math experiences in public places. The group sees playgrounds, public transportation, waiting rooms, and everyday objects as perfect venues for their work.

Going out for a drink after work? You may stumble upon a happy hour where a Public Math member is distributing coasters with geometric designs, allowing patrons to mull over math patterns—with a Moscow mule. “Chris is creative, encouraging, and super intuitive about how people think,” says Christopher Danielson, founder of Public Math. “When we’re brainstorming, it’s like the relationships you imagine jazz musicians must have—this idea that one solo then influences another.”

Another Public Math effort can be seen at Mr. Bubble, a “mathematized” laundromat where Chicagoans can read math prompts on washing machines while doing laundry.

Nho taught high school math on Chicago’s South Side after graduating from SESP and led professional learning and math initiatives for CPS until moving to California.

Before partnering with Public Math, Nho often posted stickers on stop signs, subtly pointing out their eight 135-degree angles. Nho believes the power of math is protective. Geometry versus defacement laws? “I’ll just say I’m putting up math problems,” he says. Who can argue with that?

Lindy Knight (MSEd15) and Charles Stone (MSEd15)


Lindy Knight (MSEd15) and Charles Stone (MSEd15), who met and started dating while both were graduate assistants in the Master of Science in Education program office, were married July 6 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Wedding invitee and MSED program assistant director Brad Wadle remembered to bring their SESP nametags, which they pinned on their wedding attire.

Amy Glazier-Torgerson (BS15) and David Sanchez (BS17)

Amy Glazier-Torgerson (BS15) and David Sanchez (BS17), who also met at SESP, were married in 2016. The couple recently moved to Seattle, where David is pursuing his master’s degree in speech language pathology at the University of Washington and Amy, who met her goal in the 2019 Chicago Marathon, is working as a high school counselor.

Megan Granski (BS13)

Megan Granski (BS13), who is pursuing a doctorate in counseling psychology at New York University, married Alexander David Sommer on June 8 in Beacon, New York.

Our Alumni


Darkhan Bilyalov (MSHE10), assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, visited campus and spoke to MSHE students in a class on global partnerships. He received his PhD in higher education administration from Pennsylvania State University in 2017.

Sean Kavanaugh (MSHE11), director of student services at Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies, was one of four MSHE alumni who shared their stories with newly admitted students during the program’s 2019 Preview Days. Kavanaugh is pursuing a doctorate in education at Johns Hopkins University. Other panelists included Skyler Adams (MSHE18), assistant director of undergraduate admission at Northwestern; Julie Hammer (MSHE09), Northwestern’s associate athletic director for career enhancement and employer relations; and Bridget O’Connell (MSHE17), academic and career coordinator for the engineering program at Wilbur Wright College, part of the City Colleges of Chicago.

J. S. Puller (C07, MSEd11) is the author of Captain Superlative!, published in 2018. The debut novel was named to the preliminary list for the 2020–21 Missouri Association of School Librarians Readers Awards and is a nominee for the 2020 Rhode Island Children’s Book Award. It was also named to the 2019–20 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List, the Great Texas Mosquito List, and the Sunshine State Young Readers Award List and was a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Matthew Tzuker (MSHE11) wrote the commentary “Sorry, Professors, but Presidential Searches Should Be Secret,” published in June in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Tzuker is a recruiting partner at Heller Search Associates, an academic search firm.

Fatima Varner (PhD11) of the University of Texas at Austin, Vivian Wong (PhD11) of the University of Virginia, and Christina LiCalsi (PhD14) of the American Institutes for Research recently received grants through the National Center for Education Research.

Levi Mele (BS13) is an assistant area director for AmeriGas Partners, the largest retail propane distributor in the US. He and his wife, Shanna, have four children and live in Sparks, Nevada. They all love exploring Tahoe and the Sierras.

Shao-Yun Guo (MSEd15) is a math teacher at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep in Chicago, who also hosts trivia nights at local pubs and eateries. Of the latter gig, Guo says it’s “very similar to teaching, since trivia questions involve collaboration and high cognitive demands.”

Milvia Rodriguez (MSHE15), assistant director of student affairs, academic advising, and financial aid at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, received the Marlene F. Richman Award for Excellence and Dedication in Service to Students.

Amber Barger (MSLOC16) is working on her doctorate in education at Teachers College, Columbia University, focusing on adult learning and leadership.

Jeff Kim (BS16) is a global diversity and inclusion project leader for Cincinnati- based consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble.  

Diane Arthur (BS17) is a 2019–20 Princeton in Africa program fellow working with the Kucetekela Foundation in Lusaka, Zambia.

Johnny Buse (MSEd17) is in his third year of teaching English at Eric Solorio Academy High School in Chicago’s Gage Park neighborhood. He is assistant coach for the boys’ cross-country and track teams and the chair of the English department. Last summer he spent four weeks in Guatemala learning Spanish at Proyecto Lingüístico Quetzalteco de Español in Xela.

Diane Muller Knoepke (MSLOC17) was named Chicago Women in Philanthropy’s Programs and Capacity Building Committee Member of the Year for her success in planning, moderating, and cochairing CWIP educational events.

Sara Ivory (MSEd19) is the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme curriculum coordinator at Chicago’s Ogden International School. Over the summer she taught a master’s-level science methods class at Loyola University Chicago. She continues to collaboratively develop curriculum for OpenSciEd and Northwestern’s, projects that aim to get materials to teachers implementing the Next Generation Science Standards.

Michelle Zheng (BS19) teaches chemistry and environmental science at Oak Park and River Forest High School in Illinois.


Jolen Anderson (BS00, JD03) was appointed global head of human resources at the worldwide banking and financial services company BNY Mellon, headquartered in New York City. Anderson had most recently served as Visa’s first-ever chief diversity officer.

Gretchen P. Frickx (MSHE05) is program director for the Global Pathway Program at DePaul University. She helps international students improve their English proficiency while they take credit-bearing courses at DePaul.

Nava Cohen (WCAS97, MSEd07) received the 2018 Farrand Baker Illinois Classical Conference Latin Teacher of the Year Award. Serving on committees and in various roles for the ICC and the American Classical League, Cohen often presents Latin pedagogy sessions at local, state, and national conferences. This fall she is a teaching assistant for her mentor, Gary Saul Morson of Northwestern’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

Mimi Engel (PhD09), associate professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, was one of five SESP alumni who recently received grants through the National Center for Education Research.

Neal Sáles-Griffin (BS09) was appointed managing director of Techstars Chicago, a business networking company that runs a 90-day startup accelerator program. Sáles-Griffin is an entrepreneur who cofounded Starter League, a nontraditional coding school.


Bryan Saltzburg (BS92), president of TripAdvisor Flights, Cruise & Car, was appointed to the United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board. His favorite travel destination? Ko Phi Phi, Thailand.

Liz Osterhus Fleuette (MA93) was named chief people officer of Marketing Management Analytics, a business unit of Ipsos Company that provides predictive analytics services.

Michael J. Fegan (BS94) joined Dime Community Bank, a lender based for more than 150 years in Brooklyn, New York, as chief technology officer. He previously served as chief information and operations officer at Investors Bank.

Mike McGrew (BS96, MSIMC97) was promoted to senior vice president of corporate communications at Constellation Brands, an international producer and marketer of beer, wine, and spirits. McGrew joined the Fortune 500 company in 2014 as senior director of communications for the beer division.


Betsy Holden (MS78, MBA82) was appointed to the board of directors of National Retail Properties, a real estate investment trust that owns upwards of 2,300 retail stores across 48 states. She is a senior adviser with McKinsey & Company and previously served as co-CEO of Kraft Foods.