College Access in a Digital Era: A Practitioner Convening — March 9, 2018

College Access in a Digital Era: A Practitioner Convening — March 9, 2018

College Access in a Digital Era — a practitioner convening to address digital issues in the college access space — happens Friday, March 9, 2018, at LA84, near USC’s University Park Campus.

Featuring keynote panels and interactive workshops, this inaugural event brings together diverse stakeholders — about 100 academics, practitioners, foundations, and nonprofits — to highlight key concerns, share best practices, and develop innovative implementation strategies using technology to promote college access. The convening is part of USC Pullias Center for Higher Education’s effort to improve college-going outcomes through digital tools.

Free registration is now open to all stakeholders in the digital equity space.

Members of the media: Email Siel Ju at for a media pass.


This event is made possible through a grant provided by ECMC Foundation.

Be sure to follow the Pullias Center on Facebook and Twitter for updates and announcements as the convening approaches.

LA84 Foundation, 2141 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90018


8:30am – 9am
Registration: Light breakfast served

9am – 9:30am
Welcome Address: Dr. Zoë Corwin
Activity: Speed connections

9:30am – 10:30am
Researcher & Practitioner Perspectives on Digital Equity
Moderator: Antar A. Tichavakunda, USC
Invited speakers:

  • Charles H.F. Davis, III
  • Oscar Menjivar, Teens Exploring Technology (TXT)
  • Cecilia Rios Aguilar, UCLA
  • Jean Ryoo, UCLA

10:45am – 11:45am
Practitioner Perspectives on Digital Tool Implementation
Moderator: Marie Groark, Get Schooled Foundation
Invited speakers:

  • Geri Coats, Righetti High School
  • Cheryl Gonder, James A. Foshay Learning Center
  • Matthew Waynee, LAUSD/USC Cinematic Arts and Engineering Magnet School

11:45am – 12:45pm
Lunch provided
Explore poster sessions, showcasing research from USC, UCLA, and UCI, and demos of digital tools

12:45pm – 2pm
Workshop: Assessing resources and developing an action plan

2pm – 2:30pm
Culminating discussion: Dr. Zoë Corwin


View/Download Agenda PDF

Speaker bios


Antar A. Tichavakunda

Antar A. Tichavakunda is a Dissertation Fellow in the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. Prior to his studies, Tichavakunda taught high school English in Washington, DC Public Schools. His research focuses on increasing college access, Black students’ experiences at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs), and agency.

Charles H.F. Davis III
Assistant Professor of Clinical Education
Director of Research & Chief Strategy Officer, USC Race and Equity Center
University of Southern California

Dr. Charles H.F. Davis III’s scholarship broadly focuses on issues race and racism in education with a specific focus on advancing racial justice on college and university campuses and beyond. His award winning research on digital media tactics and Black student activism in college has been recognized by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Colorlines by Race Forward, and other national media outlets.

Oscar Menjivar
Founder and CEO
Teens Exploring Technology (TXT)

Oscar Menjivar is a social entrepreneur, leading and developing new programs for low-income communities in South Los Angeles. Oscar founded TXT: Teens Exploring Technology, a nonprofit organization that provides programs to help inner-city youth develop leadership, coding, and entrepreneurial skills through the use of technology. The organization began with Oscar and a dozen students meeting at coffee shops for free Wi-Fi. In the years since, TXT has grown by leaps and bounds. This year, as a testament to Oscar’s leadership and TXT’s impact on the South LA community, the City of Los Angeles partnered with TXT to provide a new 4,000 square foot community center. Oscar received his Master’s degree from Pepperdine in Learning Technology and his Bachelor’s in Science in Computer Information Systems. In 2016, Oscar presented at the White House’s South by South Lawn event, earning recognition from President Obama. He was also a featured presenter at the 2017 SXSWedu Festival.

Cecilia Rios-Aguilar
Associate Professor of Education
Director of the Higher Education Research Institute, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies
University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Cecilia Rios-Aguilar’s research is multidisciplinary and uses a variety of conceptual frameworks—funds of knowledge, community cultural wealth, and the forms of capital—and of statistical approaches—regression analysis, multilevel models, spatial analysis, and social network analysis—to study the educational and occupational trajectories of under-represented minorities and various groups of marginalized students. Currently, Dr. Cecilia Rios-Aguilar and her colleague Regina Deil-Amen are examining if and how a text messaging platform can help community college students navigate the financial aid process more effectively. Dr. Rios-Aguilar and her colleague Dr. Regina Deil-Amen also received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to conduct the first study to assess how community colleges adopt and use social media technology for strategic purposes. The three-year national project explored the relevance of social media technology to engage students, build connections, and improve outcomes within community colleges. Dr. Rios-Aguilar has published her work in several journals, including Teachers College Record, Language Policy, Community College Review, and the Journal of Latinos and Education. Dr. Rios-Aguilar’s research interests include critical quantitative research methods, big data, social media, community colleges, and educational policies. She obtained her Ph.D. in Educational Theory and Policy from the University of Rochester, her M.S. in Educational Administration from the University of Rochester, and her B.A. in Economics from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México [ITAM].

Jean J. Ryoo
Director of Research, Exploring Computer Science
University of California, Los Angeles

Dr. Jean Ryoo’s work focuses on equity issues related to STEM and computer science (CS) education, seeking ways to support efforts that value the perspectives and cultural practices that non-dominant youth bring to learning environments. She is a Co-PI on a new effort–funded by the National Science Foundation and Gates Foundation–to understand youth’s CS learning experiences in relation to engagement, agency, and identity, from the perspectives of first-time CS high school students who are underrepresented in the field. She previously worked at the Exploratorium of San Francisco where she collaborated in research-practice partnerships to understand the ways equity-oriented STEM-rich making and tinkering could support learning valued both in and out of school. Dr. Ryoo received her BA from Harvard University, her MEdT from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, and her PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles.


Marie Groark
Executive Director
Get Schooled Foundation

Get Schooled inspires young Americans to get engaged in their education and connects with them using the tools, motivation and recognition they need to succeed.  Get Schooled has engaged with more than ten million young people since its launch in fall 2010 and has had a meaningful impact on critical indicators like school attendance and FAFSA completion rates. Before joining Get Schooled, Ms. Groark served as a Senior Program Officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, leading its efforts to improve educational outcomes through advocacy and communication work. She also spent five years as a management consultant specializing in strategy development with PwC Consulting advising public and private sector clients.  She began her career as a social studies teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx. She has a B.A. from New York University, a Master’s in Teaching from Teacher’s College at Columbia University and a Masters of Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

Geri Coats
Instructional Technology Coordinator
Righetti High School, Santa Maria, CA

Geri Coats works with teachers and students to help integrate technology into classroom practice in a way that is painless and benefits student learning. She has taught various levels of English/Language Arts ranging from Intervention for students significantly below grade level, up to College Prep students in the 12th grade. As a former Department Chair, she has organized and facilitated information for the largest core department on site and work to support the students and staff in the classrooms. She has also worked as an Intervention Specialist on site, completing assessments, progress monitoring, placement, and organizational structures to benefit students. She is also a self-identified “tech junkie.” She became a Google Certified Innovator in Sydney Australia, 2011 cohort, is board President of Santa Barbara CUE as well as an iSTE member to continue growing in this vein.

Cheryl Gonder
Lead Teacher and Coordinator for Academy of Finance
James A. Foshay Learning Center

Cheryl Gonder serves as the lead teacher and coordinator/director of the Academy of Finance (AOF), which connects high school students with the world of financial services. The AOF offers a curriculum that covers entrepreneurship, banking and credit, financial planning, international finance, securities, accounting, and economics, among other topics. Serving students in our inner-city neighborhood and partners with companies like City National, KPMG, NFTE and UBS, the AOF ensures that students are at the vanguard of business education and reap the benefits of work-based learning opportunities.

Matthew Waynee
Media Art Teacher
Head of Cinematic Arts Department
LAUSD/USC Cinematic Arts and Engineering Magnet School

A produced Hollywood screenwriter and teacher with nearly 20 years experience, Matthew Waynee currently works at LAUSD / USC Media Arts & Engineering Magnet, where he serves as the head of its Cinematic Arts Department and co-chair of its annual Festival of Arts that takes place on USC’s campus.  He has taught Filmmaking 1, 2 & 3, AP Studio Art, Documentary Filmmaking, Ad Design, Digital Photography, Animation, and Game Design.  He has written grants that have won $75,000 from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.  He has set up partnerships with DreamWorks Animation Studios, NBC/Universal, AFI, The L.A. Times, the Getty Center, and Santa Monica’s KCRW, to give his students real world opportunities to create professional films and media projects.  In 2016, he was recognized for his work and received the National Teacher of the Year Award from Magnet Schools of America.  Waynee will be presenting at this year’s CUE National Conference in March 2018.


Zoë Corwin
Associate Research Professor, Education
Pullias Center for Higher Education
University of Southern California

Dr. Zoë Corwin’s research has examined college preparation programs and access to financial aid for underserved students, college pathways for foster youth, and the role of social media and games in postsecondary access and completion.  She is co-editor of Diversifying Digital Learning: Online Literacy and Educational Opportunity and Postsecondary Play: Games, Social Media and Higher Education with Johns Hopkins Press and Preparing for College: Nine Elements of Effective Outreach with SUNY Press. Corwin directs the Pullias Center’s First in the World project funded by the US Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education which uses game-based strategies and social media to engage students in learning about college and following through on actual college steps.