Steven Liang ’10: 2020 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree

Pitzer’s Young Alumni Achievement Award recognizes graduates of the last 10 years who apply Pitzer’s unique educational experience to their professional life and find creative and innovative ways to make impactful changes in the community.

Steven Liang
Steven Liang ’10: 2020 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree. Photo credit: Joe Sherman ’10

Steven Liang ’10 is a film director and storyteller who is known for his short films AfueraComing Home, and Falling for Angels. He has also directed two documentaries, A Better Life and Trans Lives Matter National Day of Action. Topics such as resilience, the American dream, and underdogs inspire his work. In 2019, Liang was selected to participate in the Ryan Murphy TV HALF Initiative’s Directing Mentorship Program. From 2016 to 2018, his web series was in development at the Warner Bros.-based Stage 13. He is the recipient of the 2017 Film Independent Directing Lab Fellowship, the 2017 Armed with a Camera Fellowship, the 2015 Carl David Memorial Fellowship, and the 2013 AbelCine Documentary Grant. He was also a finalist for the 2016 ABC-Disney Directing Fellowship. At Pitzer, Liang was active at CAPAS and worked as an RA at Holden Hall. In his senior year at Pitzer, he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Taiwan. Steven holds a BA in Asian American Studies and self-designed Communication Studies from Pitzer College. He also holds an MFA in Film Directing from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Mere Abrams ’10: 2019 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree
Inducted in 2019

Pitzer’s Young Alumni Achievement Award recognizes graduates of the last 10 years who apply Pitzer’s unique educational experience to their professional life and find creative and innovative ways to make impactful changes in the community.

Mere Abrams '10. 2019 Young Alumni Award
Mere Abrams ’10, 2019 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree

Mere Abrams is a gender specialist and consultant who is helping the world understand that “the idea that there is male and female isn’t incorrect, it is just incomplete.” Abrams, whose pronouns are they/them/theirs, is a writer, speaker, educator, researcher and social worker. They reach a worldwide audience through public speaking, publications, social media—@meretheir has 17,000 Instagram followers and counting—and their gender support services practice,

Abrams’ writings and work have been featured in numerous publications and media outlets, including The Transgender Teen: A Handbook for Professionals and Parents Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Youth; Who Are You?: A Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity; Healthline Media; and CBS News. They are currently working on a pair of books for teens, parents and professionals on gender health and gender development.

They also have served as the associate director of clinical research and the director of community engagement at the University of California, San Francisco’s Child and Adolescent Gender Center (CAGC), where they developed city- and county-wide programs for transgender, nonbinary and gender-expansive youth. They continue to collaborate with CAGC on a longitudinal National Institutes of Health-funded study—the first of its kind—that measures the impact of puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones on children and adolescents.

At Pitzer, Abrams designed their own major, community-based research, and founded Girl Talk, an ongoing program for underserved teens at Garey High School in Pomona, CA. They worked closely with the College’s Community Engagement Center (then known as CCCSI) as a student and as an urban fellow after graduation. They served as CCCSI’s liaison for the Pitzer in Ontario (now CASA Pitzer) program and Prototypes Women’s Center. Abrams went on to earn their MSW degree from Smith College’s School for Social Work.

“My Pitzer education supported personal and professional growth and exploration at a time when I needed it most,” Abrams says. “At Pitzer, I developed a deeper understanding of my individual identity and personal values that would later shape my chosen career and life path.”

Noreen Barcena ’09, 2018 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree
Inducted in 2018
Noreen Barcena '09
Noreen Barcena ’09

Young Alumni Achievement Award recipient Noreen Barcena ’09 has been practicing criminal defense, immigration and family law since earning her JD from the University of La Verne College of Law. At Pitzer, she was a psychology and organizational studies major with a minor in Chicano studies.

On learning of her selection as the YAA awardee, Barcena said: “I feel honored, and humbled because the award means that I’m at the beginning of a journey in my life and career. It gives me hope that my work is not in vain, and it fuels my passion to help my community through Ferias Legales, the organization my friends, colleagues and I founded. Immigration law is a constant uphill battle of trying to keep families together, helping people seek refuge from their countries, and standing up to constant criticism and backlash. This award is a reminder to me that I need to keep fighting for my clients, my community and my people.”

More information about Noreen Barcena ’09

Tricia Morgan ’08, 2017 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree
Inducted in 2017

Tricia Morgan '08
Tricia Morgan ’08

Tricia Morgan ’08 is the associate director of the Pitzer College Community Engagement Center (CEC) and the Pitzer in Ontario program. Morgan first joined Pitzer as a New Resources Student in spring 2006. After graduating with a degree in sociology she joined the CEC staff. Morgan has played a key role in successfully attaining a place for Pitzer College on the Presidential Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, obtaining the coveted Carnegie Community Engagement Classification and guiding multiple winning student letters in the Debating for Democracy annual competition through Project Pericles. Her real joy consists of working and learning collaboratively with students through social justice projects happening both on and off campus. Morgan is currently enrolled in the doctoral program at Claremont Graduate University’s School of Educational Studies with a concentration on higher education. Her research interests include access and equity in higher education, social justice leadership, student success and mindful community engagement. “Tricia Morgan is an outstanding leader and proponent of Pitzer’s core values,” said Kassidy Cuccia-Aguirre ’18. “Not only does she work tirelessly to help everyone at Pitzer, but her dedication extends to our local communities. She embodies our values and is someone Pitzer students can strive to be.”

More information about Tricia Morgan ’08

Betty Avila ’08, 2016 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree
Inducted in 2016

Betty Avila '08
Betty Avila ’08

Betty Avila ’08 is a native of Los Angeles, CA, born and raised in Cypress Park. Her career has centered on the intersection of the arts and social justice, with particular focus on community building, public space and youth empowerment. Avila recently joined the Self Help Graphics & Art, a nonprofit visual arts center, as associate director and has held positions with The Music Center working on public participatory art programs, Levitt Pavilion MacArthur Park as community relations manager and The Getty Research Institute as audience outreach specialist. Avila sits on the board and is the immediate past-president of Multicultural Communities for Mobility, an organization that supports low-income cyclists, pedestrians and public transit users of color through advocacy and education. She played a major role in transitioning this small program to a scaled-up independent organization that serves communities across Los Angeles County. Additionally, Avila has volunteered with the Heart of Los Angeles, assisting college-bound students throughout Los Angeles with the college application process and personal statements.

As a student at Pitzer, Avila was a founding member of the Latino Student Union and sat on the executive committee of Student Senate. She says the support she received from professors such as Maria Soldatenko, Ethel Jorge and Nigel Boyle was crucial to her success.

Avila received her BA with honors in English and world literature and Spanish literature, has an MA in arts management from Claremont Graduate University and was a recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to Korea.

Jamilah King ’07, 2015 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree
Inducted in 2015

jamilahprofileSince graduating from Pitzer in 2007, Jamilah King has been writing illuminating, in-depth articles and essays about the intersection of race, class and gender. As a writer and editor, she has explored issues ranging from the #blacklivesmatter movement to the digital divide to New York City’s stop-and-frisk program. In 2013, Ebony magazine named her one of the most dynamic editors working in new media.

King’s resumé reflects a writer who uses her way with words to create a more just society. She writes for the digital news and lifestyle magazine TakePart, a division of Participant Media, which produced the documentaries An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting For “Superman” and Food, Inc. As a senior editor at Colorlines, a daily news site devoted to examining racial justice issues, King managed breaking news assignments while covering urban politics and youth culture. She served as an associate editor at WireTap, a digital magazine produced by a nonprofit dedicated to advancing social justice and civil rights. King’s work has been featured in Salon, The Nation, San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Advocate and Al Jazeera America, and she has appeared on National Public Radio, MSNBC and WNYC.

King said her career has been indelibly shaped by her relationships with Pitzer students, staff and faculty, including Professors Laura Harris, Dipa Basu and Sumangala Bhattacharya.

“I chose Pitzer because it was committed to truth and justice, which are two values that I hold dear in every aspect of my work, and I’m honored to share this award with a community of people who have helped me thrive,” she said.

King’s own commitment to truth and justice extends into her work in the community. She’s served on the steering committee for the Queer Women of Color Film Festival and is a board member of Women, Action and the Media. She speaks regularly on social justice issues at conferences across the country. During her time at Pitzer College, King was active in the Black Student Union and Pan-African Students Association, and served as a resident assistant in Mead Hall for three years. She majored in English and world literature and Black studies.

Brianne Davila ’04, 2014 Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree
Inducted in 2014

Brianne Davila '04Brianne Davila ’04 is an assistant professor of sociology and American ethnic studies at Willamette University whose deep-seated commitment to social justice has shaped an exceptional academic career.

Only three years after earning her PhD in sociology and feminist studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Davila has established herself as an expert in the sociology of education, social inequality, the Latina/o experience, and racial, gender and class issues.

Davila said Pitzer greatly influenced her career and life path. Her experiences at Pitzer, both inside and outside the classroom, encouraged her to pursue academic research for the purpose of social change.

“I am thrilled to receive Pitzer’s Young Alumni Achievement Award,” Davila said. “I am grateful to my mentors who encouraged me to pursue graduate school and research opportunities: Pitzer professors Ann Stromberg, Dipa Basu, Maria Soldatenko, and especially Jose Calderon, whose courses in Chicana/o studies and sociology were the first formal settings where I was able to learn about my own communities—a truly life-changing experience.”

Davila said Pitzer greatly influenced her career and life path. Her experiences at Pitzer, both inside and outside the classroom, encouraged her to pursue academic research for the purpose of social change.Only three years after earning her PhD in sociology and feminist studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Davila has established herself as an expert in the sociology of education, social inequality, the Latina/o experience, and racial, gender and class issues.

The recipient of more than 20 awards, fellowships and grants, her work has been recognized by the National Center for Institutional Diversity, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Sociological Association. This fall, Davila will return to Southern California when she takes a tenure-track position in the Department of Psychology and Sociology at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

Kimberly Bautista ’07, 2013 Inaugural Young Alumni Achievement Award Honoree
Inducted in 2013

Kimberly Bautista '07Kimberly Bautista ’07 is an award-winning filmmaker who created an international domestic violence prevention campaign that evolved out of her 2012 documentary, Justice for my Sister.

Justice for my Sister chronicles a Guatemalan woman’s quest for justice after her sister is murdered. In conjunction with the film, Bautista holds violence prevention and leadership development workshops throughout Guatemala and the US. Locally, Bautista has co-hosted events with organizations such as the Los Angeles Police Department and East Los Angeles Women’s Center. In 2011, she launched Texting Peace, a text message-based domestic violence prevention helpline in Guatemala that provides advice and advocacy to those seeking support.

Bautista recently won the 2012 HBO/ National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) Documentary Filmmaker Award for Latino filmmakers. In 2010, NALIP selected her for their Latino Producers Academy fellowship and a yearlong Latino Artists Mentorship.

“The wonderful thing about media is that it takes something that’s based on academic research and makes it accessible to more people,” Bautista said. “For me, film has been a way to democratize knowledge.”

At Pitzer, Bautista co-founded Speak Out For Them, a campaign to raise awareness about women murdered in Juarez, Mexico, and a video pen-pal web program between young women in Quito, Ecuador and young Chicana women in Pomona, CA.

A media studies and Spanish major at Pitzer, Bautista received the Kallick Community Service Award and Center for California Cultural and Social Issues Award. She graduated from the Social Documentation Master’s program at University of California, Santa Cruz, where she won the Princess Grace Award for distinction in the fields of theater, dance and film and a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Creative Arts Grant.