Education Wildcats for Life

The Wildcat for Life concept was developed by the Alumni Association in 2007 in an effort to capture the essence of what it means to be alumni of The University of Arizona. The Education Wildcats for Life series specifically highlights College of Education alumni, their accomplishments, and the diverse career paths they have chosen after earning degrees through our many programs. 

Tia Tsosie-Begay
Bachelor of Arts in Education – Elementary Education, B.A.E., 2002
Master of Education – Educational Leadership, 2005

Tia Tsosie-Begay is a member of the Navajo tribe from Northern Arizona who moved to Tucson from the Navajo Reservation in 1998 to earn her bachelor’s degree from The University of Arizona. You might recognize her from features in Scholastic Teacher Magazine, National Public Radios 'Best Teachers in America' series, and, most recently, in Tucson Values Teachers 'Teaching in Arizona' film documentary.

She graduated from the College of Education in 2002 with an Elementary Education, B.A.E., and again in 2005 with an Educational Leadership, M.Ed. Tsosie-Begay is currently a TUSD fifth-grade teacher at Borton Magnet School, which specializes in systems thinking and outdoor learning.

In her 17 years of experience, she has been a general education teacher for students in grades 1-5, served as a physical education teacher for students in grades K-8, and spent several years coaching and mentoring other educators as a Title I program facilitator in the Sunnyside Unified School District. This year she is focused on completing her National Teaching Board Certification to earn the distinction as a teacher of the highest caliber. Outside of work, she serves on the Board of Directors for Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona and Tucson Values Teachers. Her current classroom goal is to continue expanding her knowledge in creating an inclusive, culturally responsive classroom that supports child development in the middle grades.

Tsosie-Begay is especially proud of her elementary education degree from the University. She feels that the coursework grounded her in using models and mathematical practices that support all levels of student thought. She continues to attend professional development offered as a way to continue expanding her mathematical instruction and looks for ways to continue her collaboration with the college by working alongside teacher candidates who bring new perspectives to the classroom. “Being a part of the mentor teacher community at The University of Arizona,” she says, “is my favorite way to give back to the Southern Arizona community.”

Stephanie Choi
Bachelor of Science – Literacy, Learning, and Leadership, 2017
Bachelor of Arts – English, 2017

Stephanie Choi graduated from The University of Arizona in 2017 with both a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Science in Literary, Learning, and Leadership. She currently works in Massachusetts at Smith College in the Center for the Environment, Ecological, Design, and Sustainability. She started in this position in January 2019, after working in local government sustainability in Cleveland, Ohio for a few years before traveling abroad for some time.

In her role as sustainability coordinator, Choi manages communications and student engagement for the office. Her favorite parts of her work are crafting narratives that tell the Sustainable Smith story and working with all of the amazing students (even if it's mostly virtual these days!).

As an undergraduate student, she was very involved in sustainability initiatives both on and off campus. She was an eco-rep in Arbol de la Vida her first year, a member of Students for Sustainability all four years (she even served as co-director her senior year!), and a presenter with the Environmental Education Exchange. She was (and still is!) specifically interested in the intersection of environment/nature and artistic practice. As part of this interest, she led environmental art projects, like the Plating the Desert exhibition that explored the intersection of environment, desert food, and community (more on the exhibtion here: bit.ly/3k6sPrN).

In talking about her studies, Choi says, “I loved that I was able to combine and apply my studies to create and lead projects on the ground.” The classes she took through the Literacy, Learning, and Leadership program equipped her with emotional intelligence, multicultural awareness, and an understanding of how the three L’s happen across various mediums and in various settings. She says she also appreciated that she could count all of her internship work towards her degree!

In talking about putting her education to work with Smith College, she says, “It's fun, but also more challenging in some ways, being on the other side of the work as a staff member! Smith is great, but I am a Wildcat for life!”

José Luis Santos
Bachelor of Arts – Mexican American Studies, 1993 (College of Social and Behavioral Sciences)
Master of Arts – Educational Psychology, 1997
Doctor of Philosophy – Higher Education Economics and Finance Policy, 2004

José Luis Santos’ career in education began after serving as a marine from 1987 to 1993 and receiving a Mexican American Studies, B.A., from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. A College of Education twice alum, he graduated in 1997 with an Educational Psychology, M.A., and in 2004 with a Higher Education Economics and Finance Policy, Ph.D.  

Now he serves as president of JLS Strategies Group, LLC, a public policy advocacy and consulting firm that informs policy and practice to drive change and continuous improvement. He also serves as vice president and team lead of program strategy at 2U, Inc., an educational technology company that works with nonprofit colleges and universities to offer online degree programs. Prior to these roles, he was vice president of higher education policy and practice at The Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving access, affordability, completion, and post-enrollment success for low-income students and students of color. He also served as associate professor of higher education economics and finance policy at Pepperdine University. He was an assistant professor in the higher education and organizational change division at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

During his studies at The University of Arizona, Santos was very involved in a number of areas on campus. He served as the assistant director of the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Office, worked as a senior institutional researcher, and founded the Latina/o Policy Research Initiative, an initiative he started with College of Humanities Former Dean Chuck Tatum. Through this initiative, he worked with the Arizona Legislature, Former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, and Arizona’s Congressional delegation to inform and advise on policy related to the Latina/o population – particularly, the Latina/o achievement gap.

When asked about the driving force behind his work, Santos says that it is “his belief that federal, state, and institutional policies may not adequately support increased educational and economic outcomes for traditionally underrepresented students (low-income, people of color, first-generation, and veterans), but rather, perpetuate inequitable outcomes leading to further stratification.”

Kathleen Rose
Master of Education – Counseling & Guidance, 1985
Doctor of Education – Educational Leadership, 2004

Kathleen Rose first came to the University of Arizona in 1984 to pursue a Master of Education in Counseling and Guidance. Her educational journey with the college continued when she went on to earn an Educational Leadership, Ed.D. with a minor in Higher Education.

Rose has been serving the California Community College system since 2002, including the past four years as president and superintendent at Gavilan College in Gilroy, California. Before she was unanimously named Gavilan’s president and superintendent in July 2016, she served as Gavilan’s executive vice president and chief instructional officer for seven years. From 2002 to 2009, she worked at Hartnell College in Salinas, first as the dean of the College of Fine Arts, Language Arts, and Social Sciences, and then as the vice president of academic affairs.

Before establishing herself in the community college system, she worked for Chapman University for 18 years as associate dean and campus director, where she administered undergraduate and graduate programs in Arizona and California at military and community locations.

She also holds a National Counselor Certification and has worked as an agency counselor and private therapist. She has spoken at national conferences on issues in higher education, particularly leadership development for women, and has served on numerous doctoral dissertation committees. She is a proud 2011 graduate of Leadership Gilroy, a non-profit community leadership program, and is an active member of the Gilroy Rotary Club.

Rose continues to serve as a faculty member and doctoral mentor for the Ed.D. program at Brandman University. This year, she is working with seven community college leaders from across California who are moving through the doctoral program. They will be working on a thematic dissertation on culturally competent leadership. Rose says she is certain her studies in the college have supported her ability to teach, mentor, and support doctoral students.