Summer 2020

10x10: 10 Wildcats Who are Sustaining Wonder

10x10 alumni

For the 10th summer in a row, we introduce you to 10 alumni who graduated 10 years ago and remain connected to the University of Arizona. But first, we checked in with some of the alumni in our first 10 by 10, published in 2011.

The Original 10 by 10 Class

A few members of the class of 2001 share how their relationships with their alma mater continue to evolve.

Joel Dembowski, an Eller College of Management alumnus who lives in Phoenix, has noticed campus improving over the years.

“It’s great seeing the impact fundraising has on facilities, which is critical to attracting students,” he says.

Christine M. Thompson also lives in Phoenix, and she takes pride in seeing the university’s reach in her city.

“Driving downtown, I pass by the Phoenix Biomedical Campus and see that collaboration between Arizona and other universities,” she says.

Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a juris doctorate from Arizona.

Tucsonan Seton Claggett recently became a commercialization partner with Tech Launch Arizona. Claggett, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hydrology and completed a program through the McGuire Center for

Entrepreneurship, provides expertise for new technologies developed at Arizona.

“Tech Launch is helping researchers and professors do good in the world. That’s a big deal,” he says.

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Sustaining Wonder

Wildcats are willing to think big. They ask important questions — where do I belong? How can I help? How can I keep growing? Each of these graduates remains on a Wildcat Journey 10 years after graduating. 

Meet the class of 2010: They’re keeping wonder alive for themselves and helping others discover it. 

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Dominic Ortega

Dominic Ortega
Business Administration, B.S. | Director, Incident Response and Threat Management, American Express | Phoenix 

Why Arizona? My parents and all their siblings went to UArizona. They’re each one of seven. I heard a lot about how great it was, and it was a tremendous experience.

The Future: I learned from my father to adapt and make the best of situations. And so I want to continue learning, growing and making life fulfilling.

Wonder Moment: I saw a YouTube video of a hacker figuring out the password to a wireless router. I got lost trying to understand how this could happen, and it led me down a path to cybersecurity. To this day, I’m making the world safer and protecting data.

Continuing the Cycle: Knowing the effect scholarships had on me, I want to give something back and positively impact others.

Last Big Thing: I got a kitten, my first pet. Merlin meows at me every time I get water, even if he’s in a dead sleep. 

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Yadira BeriganYadira Berigan
Spanish, Ph.D. | Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Spanish and Portuguese Department, University of Arizona | Tucson 

Destiny: I’m an Arizona graduate, parent and professor, and I just feel so at home. I might have come here by chance, but it’s where I need to be.

Personal Giving: I am grateful to the Writing Skills Improvement Program, especially my tutor, John, for support and amazing coaching during my dissertation writing. I also support the study abroad programs in the Spanish and Portuguese department because this is a wonderful experience for our students.

Biggest Inspiration: I see the students on the Mall doing their thing, and I want to be at work every day for them, trying to help them with their dreams. Nothing could be more rewarding.

Favorite Spot: The Arizona Room. I went with my son when he was an undergraduate engineering student. We sat by the window so I could watch the students going back and forth.

Next Big Thing: I’m doing some research on relations between Latin American countries. And right now I’m fine where I am. I love my job.

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Brian WheelwrightBrian Wheelwright
Optical Sciences, B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. | Optical Scientist, Facebook Reality Labs | Sammamish, Wash.

Why Help Students? Arizona was very good to me. Undergraduate scholarships, including the generous Jack S. McDuff Scholarship, helped me survive without going into significant debt. I feel obligated to give back.

An Intriguing Challenge: I chose my major when I overhead students in a physics class discussing plans to drop out of optical sciences because it was “too counterintuitive.” 

Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity: Regents’ Professor Roger Angel was my adviser for my Ph.D. program. He taught me to ask the right questions, challenge assumptions and combine technologies in novel ways.

Worth a Visit: Bear Down Kitchen in Arizona Stadium’s Lowell-Stevens Football Facility. The north window shows a view of campus and the mountains. 

Wonder for Others: I have two siblings at Arizona. When I look at how they learn, interacting remotely with professors and other students, it makes me wonder what higher education will look like in 10 to 20 years.

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Brandon SternbergBrandon Sternberg
Business Administration, B.S. | Vice President, Barclays | New York City

Ambitious Wonder: Growing up in Tucson, my dream was to work in New York after college. I graduated soon after the 2008 financial crisis, and it was difficult to stand out from the pack. I had to put myself out there and show initiative.

Ready to Connect: I’ve met with Eller students in New York and talked with them about my former work as a consultant and my current position in industry. It’s humbling and fulfilling when I can help students find jobs. I was in their shoes, and alumni helped me.

Advice for Students: Really enjoy your time at Arizona. Focus on networking, but also stay true to your character and integrity.

Still a Wildcat: Arizona Athletics was a big part of my upbringing because Tucson revolves around it to a great extent. Paying it forward for Arizona Athletics now is important to me. 

Future Focus: I just had a baby daughter. My big thing is to give her and my wife my all.

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Robert Kraemer
Special Education, Ph.D. | Associate Professor, Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Utah | Salt Lake City

Keeping in Touch: Elena Plante, head of the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Department, was my mentor and the reason I chose Arizona. She’s still a good friend who visits and skis with us.

On Graduate School: I learned about myself and my desire to support people, especially because I was changing careers. I’d been a software engineer and wanted to mentor students. 

New Project, Old Friend: Along with a colleague from Arizona, we’ve begun a five-year clinical study investigating aphasia treatment for nonfluent stroke patients. It’s the first time I’ve conducted clinical research on the adult population. 

History and the Next Generation: My wife and I started a scholarship to honor titans of the field who’ve mentored speech- language pathologists, clinicians and faculty around the country. We want to support students and provide perspective on these individuals who’ve had such an impact.

Missing Tucson: I miss the Mexican food and the saguaros. My kids were born there, and my son, who is 17, sometimes talks about going to college at Arizona rather than Utah.

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Andrew SchultzAndrew Schultz
Business Administration, B.S. | Co-owner, Arizona Party Bike; Territory Manager, Reynolds American Inc. | Phoenix

Great Advice: My best friend, Elma Delic ’11, pushed me to get involved with Associated Students of the University of Arizona. It changed my college experience to discover that even though it’s a huge campus, there’s community once you break it down.

Life Changing: I spent a summer in Nanjing, China, as part of Eller’s first global cohort. It’s a huge city, in which we had the chance to immerse ourselves in the culture and business of China.

Witnessing Wonder: I volunteer to interview potential incoming Eller students. It’s great to see the optimism and excitement they have for their futures.

Meeting a Need: I’m working on developing a personal finance workshop for high-school-aged kids to start them off on the right foot.

Instant Rapport: I love that I could be walking through  almost any city in an Arizona shirt, and someone will say, “Bear Down!” I don’t think any other school has that kind of mentality.

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Edward Bennett
Business Administration, B.S.; Master of Accounting | Senior Manager, Finance Effectiveness, PricewaterhouseCoopers | Mount Prospect, Ill.

A Good Memory: Hanging out at the Wildcat House with my military buddies was a Friday tradition. It was cool to merge worlds with them and my friends from Eller and the Honors College over a beer.

Changed by Wonder: I finally valued mentorship when I aligned myself with amazing professors like School of Accountancy Associate Director Katie Maxwell and then my first professional employers, Mari and Mike DeVries. Now, finding coaches and making myself available to mentor is a driving factor in my personality.

A Dynamic Career: I didn’t start out with a grand scheme of being an accountant or wearing a pocket protector. But it’s the language for any company, and I love what I’m doing. Being promoted to senior manager this past year has been a tough challenge but offered incredible opportunities to grow.

Why Give? I was the first in my family to go to college. It’s important to me to give others that opportunity.

Looking Forward: I’ll become a dad soon. I want to teach my son good morals and teach him about business and the Wildcats.

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Tara MaloneTara Malone
Judaic Studies, B.A.; Nursing, B.S. | Registered Nurse, Banner Health | Tucson

Zealous and Committed: Those are two of the words that describe my experience as a student and an alumna. I give as much as I can because it’s been a great college for my entire family — my father, brothers and sister.

Growing Up Wildcats: I’ve carried on the tradition of going to Arizona games with my kids. My 14-year-old son has aspirations to join the football team.

A Constant Reminder: My husband and kids and I had a portrait taken at Old Main and keep it in the stairwell.

Nursing through the Pandemic: There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty, and we’ve had to learn new procedures quickly. But everybody’s working together.

Next Big Thing: I’m pursuing a doctor of nursing practice degree from the University of South Alabama. I want to know more about diseases and treatments. I also plan to return to Thailand, where many of my relatives are physicians, and help people who lack good access to health care. 

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Monica Z. YoungMonica Z. Young
Sociology, B.A.; Anthropology, M.A. | Research Specialist, Arizona State Museum | Tucson

A Journey Begins: Deciding to apply for a master’s program with encouragement from J. Jefferson Reid, professor emeritus of anthropology, was a wonder moment. Times had changed since I finished my bachelor’s degree more than 20 years before. I was incredibly surprised to be accepted.

Courage Paid Off: The program was the most challenging experience of my life, and I felt out of place at first. But in the end, it built my confidence.

Proud and Grateful: I work full time at Arizona State Museum with people who are committed to preserving our cultural resources and regional history. I also work part time at Mission Gardens, where the San Agustín Mission once stood. My academic journey led me to these places.

Continuity: I want to keep learning for the rest of my life. I wonder how that will play out when I’m retired, and I hope love of learning will be my legacy for my children and grandchildren.

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Edmund MarquezEdmund Márquez
Communication, B.A. | Owner, Edmund Márquez Allstate Insurance Agencies | Tucson

Then and Now: My wife, Wendy Montano Márquez ’95, and I met at Arizona when I was 19 and she was 20, and we spent a lot of time on campus together. Now we love visiting the football stadium, and we’re always proud to find our tile in front of McKale Memorial Center.

A Role Model: Sal Baldenegro, founder of the Mexican American Students’ Association, embraced Latino students and opened our minds to wonder what was next and what was possible.

A Friend in Football: I took communication classes with Tedy Bruschi ’95, a linebacker for the Desert Swarm defense. He’s the greatest guy. He used to have dinner with my family, and we’d write papers together.

He Listened: For many years, I was two classes short of my degree. I even walked with my graduating class in 1996. My grandma kept saying, “Mi hijito, you need your degree. How are you going to ask your kids to get a degree if you don’t have yours?”