Notable Alumni

Richard Carranza

Richard Carranza

A native Tucsonan and College of Education alumnus from 1991, New York City Chancellor Richard Carranza oversees the largest school district in the nation. Carranza recently was interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning about the difficult choices parents and teachers face about sending students back to class in the midst of a pandemic.

Mary Sally Matiella

Mary Sally Matiella

Mary Sally Matiella, a College of Education alumna from 1973, is an American government official who served as the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management and Comptroller) during the Obama Administration. After several decades of federal civil service, Matiella served as the Assistant Secretary of the Army, holding office from February 16, 2010, until February 27, 2014.

Mark S. Hamm

Marh Hamm

College of Education alumnus from 1969 and former Arizona prison warden Mark S. Hamm is considered the world’s leading expert on prison radicalization. He is a professor of criminology in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Indiana State University. His also is a world leading scholar on terrorism and hate crimes, and the author of numerous books, such as The Spectacular Few and The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism.

Juliana Urtubey

Juliana Urtubey holding her awards

Nevada's 2021 Teacher of the year!

Urtubey earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2009 and a master’s degree in special education in 2011. She will be the spokesperson for Nevada’s roughly 27,000 educators and a resource on the state of education in Nevada.

“I owe a lot to my formation at the University of Arizona and my time at the College of Education.”

Sandra Thiffault

Sandra graduated from the UA College of Education with a B.A. in elementary education in 1977 and a Masters in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University in 2001.

Her teaching career began as a dual language teacher, and she then became a Title 1 School Improvement Specialist at the District Office. She started  her Administration career a few short years later working in a Title 1 public school, serving as Assistant Principal for two years and then as Principal. For the last five years, she has been Principal of the Mary Belle McCorkle Academy of Excellence.

During her time at McCorkle, she has successfully implemented the New Tech Model Network, which focuses on creating equitable outcomes for students by focusing on reflective and collaborative approaches to teaching and learning. She was the 2019 Susan Schilling Award Winner, which recognizes New tech directors or principals who demonstrate exemplary leadership at the school and network levels.

Sandra is also a member of A for Arizona, an educational policy advocacy group that focuses on replicating excelling schools. As of 2019, she has mentored three new administrators and four aspiring administrators. She has also collaborated with faith-based organizations to help support the communities surrounding McCorkle, which led her to receive the Community Service Award from Living Water Ministries in 2012.

Sandra centers her school’s community on a growth mindset, and believes that by teaching children how to learn, they are able to close their own achievement gap.

Joan Ganz Cooney

Just about everyone knows Big Bird, Elmo, and the Cookie Monster. In fact, to many people, these Sesame Street characters feel like family. Because of Sesame Street’s worldwide reach (it’s shown in more than 140 countries!), the program is considered the world’s largest educator. What you may not know is that the creator of Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney, is a UA College of Education graduate. After graduating from the University of Arizona in 1951 with a degree in elementary education, she worked as a newspaper reporter. In 1954, she moved to New York City to write for television. Ten years later, she won an Emmy Award for her documentary Poverty, Anti-Poverty, and the Poor, which chronicled the U.S. government’s War on Poverty program. She then embarked on one of the most significant projects of the late 20th century. After studying the use of television for preschool education and successfully soliciting more than $8 million in funding from foundations and federal agencies, Joan Ganz Cooney founded the Children's Television Workshop and created Sesame Street, the first preschool program to integrate education and entertainment and feature a multicultural cast. Since 1969, Sesame Street has been broadcast daily in the U.S. In 2007, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center was founded as a research and innovation lab focusing on the education of young children in the rapidly changing media landscape of the 21st century. It collaborates with educators and media producers to address the literacies that all children need in today’s world – from reading, writing, science, and math to mastery of communications technologies.

Ronald S. Feingold

A world-renowned expert on physical education, Ronald S. Feingold — College of Education Class of 1966 (M.Ed. in P.E.) — has spearheaded leading national and international professional organizations and was a lead writer for the New York State Education Department’s current standards in health and physical education.

A professor emeritus at Adelphi University, he chaired the Department of Exercise Science, Health Studies, Physical Education, and Sport Management for over 30 years, then serving as dean of the School of Education from 2005-2009.

As president of the Association Internationale des Écoles Superieures d’Education Physique and executive board member of the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education, he helped establish a World Summit on Physical Activity for children held in Berlin in 1999. He was also on the organizing committee for the Pre-Olympic Congress in Greece. In 2003, he met with representatives from more than 100 countries in Paris at the UNESCO headquarters as a participant in the World Summit on The Value of Sport for Children.

At the national level, he was a principal investigator assessing the effectiveness of Physical Best, a national fitness education curriculum, and spearheaded a national recognition program connecting schools to the community.

Often sought after for his expertise, Feingold has given more 70 presentations across the globe and has produced over 30 publications and six monographs. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico, an M.Ed. from the University of Arizona, and a B.S. from the University of Illinois.

Steven Goldstein

Steven Goldstein earned his B.A. from the UA College of Education in 1975. He began his professional career as a social studies and English teacher in Tucson. According to Goldstein, “My time at the UA provided the foundation for my professional career. The lessons I learned from my professors at the College of Education enabled me to be a better teacher, a stronger manager, and a more effective leader. The skills I practiced then are the same skills I use today.”

Since then, he has held a variety of corporate and governmental positions. From 1980-89, he served as Chief of Staff and Press Secretary for five different members of Congress. From there, he served as Director of the Office of Public Affairs and Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior under the First Bush administration. In the early 2000s, he was Vice President of Communications for Dow Jones & Co. and its main subsidiary, the Wall Street Journal. After that position, he worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Company, a global management-consulting firm, helping structure the corporate communications department. For several years, he served as Executive Vice President for Public Affairs for TIAA-CREF – a financial services company for those in the academic, research, medical, cultural, and governmental fields. He oversaw the company’s marketing and web strategies, as well as advertising and corporate communications.

He then worked as Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for AllianceBernstein, Senior Vice President of BP Global Solutions, and Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs within the U.S. Department of State under the Trump administration. Currently, he is Chief Marketing Officer for Long-Term Stock Exchange, a new stock exchange based in San Francisco.

Phillip B. Gordon

Former Mayor of Phoenix Phil Gordon graduated from the UA College of Education in 1972. Before serving in elected office, Gordon was a leader in the movement to revitalize, preserve, and redevelop central Phoenix. Pledging to fight crime and preserve neighborhoods, he was elected to the City Council in the late 1990s in the district that had been his home since childhood. He was elected mayor of Phoenix in 2003, with 72 percent of the popular vote, and was reelected in 2007 with 77 percent of the vote. During his tenure at Phoenix City Hall, he focused heavily on revitalizing downtown Phoenix, investing in projects such as the revamp of the Phoenix Convention Center and the creation of the downtown Arizona State University Campus.

Today, Gordon serves at the Director of Chan Soon-Shiong (CSS) Institute of Advanced Health – a nonprofit medical research organization dedicated to advancing healthcare and access through a comprehensive, national health information technology infrastructure.

Lacey Nymeyer

Olympic swimmer Lacey Nymeyer graduated from the UA College of Education in 2009 with a major in Physical Education. During her time on the UA swimming and diving team, Wildcats won the 2008 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Champsionship. She was also an individual NCAA champion in the 200y freestyle (2007) and the 100y freestyle (2008). No Arizona swimmer has ever won more individual or relay NCAA championships than Lacey Nymeyer’s 10. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she took home a silver medal as part of a 4x100-meter freestyle team. An outstanding freestyler, she is ranked among the top six swimmers in the 50-, 100-, and 200-meter freestyles, according to USA Swimming.

Her relay prowess has led to a pair of world and U.S. Open records. A 19-time All-American, Nymeyer comes from outstanding athletic stock, as her grandfather, Ed Nymeyer, was an all-conference basketball player for Arizona from 1955-58.

She was named the 2009 NCAA Woman of the Year. Nymeyer accepted the award — among the most prestigious the NCAA bestows — during the 19th annual NCAA Woman of the Year event in Indianapolis. The award honors female student-athletes who have completed their eligibility, demonstrated academic and athletic excellence, and engaged in community service and leadership opportunities.

"Without the opportunities provided to me through my participation in college athletics, I doubt I would have such a clear sense of self-worth and purpose outside the skills of my sport," Nymeyer said in her personal statement on her nomination form. 

Michael E. Pilnick

Michael Pilnick is an accomplished executive with broad experience in both domestic and international environments. Originally from New York, Pilnick received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and anthropology from the University of Arizona. He taught high school history on the Navajo Nation in the 1980s.

Pilnick continued his teaching career in New Jersey, and soon became involved in training and development of curriculum. After receiving his master’s degree in human resources from New School University, he became the senior vice president of human resources at Columbia House Company in Florida.

Pilnick joined Harcourt Education as the global head of human resources. Harcourt is a leading textbook publisher with $1.7 billion in revenue. While there, he was responsible for the firm’s human resources functions worldwide, leading human resource initiatives, and supporting the strategic and operating plans of all Harcourt businesses. From 2008-2012, he was Chief Human Resources Officer for North America and Asia Pacific Rim for Wolters Kluwer, an  information services company. He then moved onto be a partner with GDG Consulting LLC, where he advising senior executives through organization and institutional changes that resulted from mergers and acquisitions. Since 2013, he has been the Executive Vice President of Global Human Resources for First Advantage Corporation, where he leads all human capital functions and processes.

Pilnick is a much sought-after speaker and is often cited in both human resource publications and the mass media. In fact, Carol Hymowitz, writing in the Wall Street Journal, quoted him as an expert on employee recruitment efforts.

Alfredo Valenzuela

Self-taught mariachi musician Alfredo Valenzuela is the quintessential example of how a life of teaching and community engagement can fuse the power of education and the arts to serve children, youth, families, and communities.

“Dr. V,” as he is known, grew up in Arizona, worked as a ranch hand, groundskeeper, and truck driver. After serving in the U.S. Army, he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in elementary administration from the UA College of Education. Throughout his 40 years of teaching, Dr. V transformed beginning students into confident and competent musicians — so accomplished that, since 1982, they have performed with the Tucson International Mariachi Conference.

He established and directed Mariachi Los Aguilitas de Davis (the Little Eagles of Davis), the performing mariachis at Davis Bilingual Magnet School. His participation and leadership in education has built a musical bridge across traditions that span geography and culture. He has earned many honors for outstanding teaching, service to local communities, and commitment to education. Though he has retired, he can often be seen around Davis, continuing to help students in the mariachi program. Both of his sons, his daughter, and his granddaughter are also music teachers for TUSD.

Dean Ronald W. Marx presented Alfredo with an honorary degree of Doctor of Music in 2008. Currently, there is an effort underway to build a bronze statue of Dr. V for Davis Bilingual Elementary, with an associated scholarship program in his honor.

Lola White

Who better to spotlight Lola White, our very own alum (1942), who worked diligently to make the Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) Arizona’s State Butterfly.

Why this butterfly? According to White, this is a beautiful butterfly that is indeed Western, since it is only found west of the Mississippi. “This butterfly has the colors of the Arizona flag (yellow, red, and blue) and has 14 blue dots to mark the date of February 14, the day in 1912 when Arizona Territory became a state!” White says, enthusiastically.

White has been interested in butterflies since childhood. She grew up in Nogales, and her mother had a beautiful garden with many flowers and insects. “We even had flying fireflies at night and, of course, many butterflies during the warm, sunny days,” she says. “The purpose of having a state butterfly was to focus on the problems that construction, herbicides, and global warming were having on butterfly lives. Butterflies are second behind bees for plant and tree pollination.”

To celebrate the sixth anniversary of the day Governor Hull signed house Bill 2247 on June 11, 2001, making the Two-tailed Swallowtail Arizona’s State Butterfly, White developed an excellent resource for teachers and others, and it’s free! Butterfly Quest 2007 is a project that gives clear information about butterflies in readily accessible digital files. It is written so that anyone can make a presentation about butterflies, even with little or no butterfly background. The downloadable files have interesting information about butterflies and moths, the kind of plants that attract those insects, and important conservation hints. Colorful Power Point slides accompany the text.

As White says, “It’s more than a series of beautiful butterfly pictures. It’s like having a butterfly presentation available at one’s convenience.”

For more information on Butterfly Quest 2007, go to her site here, or contact White directly at

White is proof once again that the College of Education has the most amazing graduates!

Ann Young

Many of us take our education for granted, but just think how hard it would have been to stay in school if you had no permanent place to live. We’re not talking about college students — we’re talking about students in grade school, middle school, and high school. Youth On Their Own (YOTO) is a nonprofit organization that specializes in school dropout prevention for homeless and near-homeless children between the ages of 8 and 22.

Ann Young — College of Education Class of 1969 — was a counselor at Amphitheater High School in 1986 when she founded YOTO after noticing that many talented and motivated students were dropping out due to homelessness.Young recalls, “Many of our students were living from couch to couch and struggling to stay in school. Some didn’t make it. I was desperate for a way to help them stabilize their living situation so that they could graduate with their class. My church announced a meeting to talk about helping Tucson’s homeless.

"I turned to my husband and told him that I was going to that meeting to share the story of Amphi’s homeless students. We had four teenaged girls in our home that morning, two of whom had no place to go had I not brought them home. My husband felt that we were never going to be through raising teenagers!

“One thing led to another and the church (St. Andrew’s Presbyterian) opened a home for our girls. We thought we wanted a home, but we learned a lot the two years it was open. It was too expensive, too energy draining, and too limited. What did work was placing the kids from the house we opened into volunteer homes, where they had one-to-one interactions. We started giving all of the volunteer parents $100 a month to help offset some of the costs. After two years, we closed the church home, but continued to provide what we began to call stipends to the youth in the program or to their volunteer parents. We started the stipend program in 1988.

"By that time, we were helping 50 students a year. The number of students we have been able to help has doubled every year until we reached a maximum of 500 in 1992 and 1993. Hundreds of volunteers and many individuals, churches, and service organizations provide encouragement, hours of volunteer labor, and much-needed financial resources. We base our success on the graduation of our students. They don’t disappoint us. About 85 percent of our students manage to graduate from high school with a helping hand from YOTO.

“I won't be satisfied until every student who can benefit can get help from YOTO so that staying in school until graduation becomes a reality for them. That may take twice as much money as we raise now for stipends, but I do believe it can be done.”

Somehow, we think Ann Young will make it happen! Here are just some of the things YOTO helps with:

  • $125 monthly living expense stipend, based on school attendance and academic progress
  • Special-needs assistance, such as rent, utilities, sports fees, and equipment
  • School enrollment
  • Transportation
  • Finding alternative housing
  • Finding employment
  • Free medical and dental care from volunteer practitioners
  • Basic needs such as food, clothing, and hygiene/household and school supplies
  • Tutoring and guidance by volunteers
  • Identifying and securing college aid
  • Career and education planning, as well as life skills development

For more info on YOTO, go to