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Emerging Leader Award Recipients

Each year, UCEAP recognizes one individual to receive the Emerging Leader Award. This award recognizes an outstanding UCEAP alumnus or alumna who has graduated within the past 15 years and has a record of extraordinary service and achievement. 


Shelby Bridget Justin and Justin Christine Liboon

Emerging Leader Award Recipients

University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana, 2018, UC Berkeley

(Abla) Shelby Mack is an advocate for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, who has dedicated her life towards addressing gender-based violence in the US and in the Volta Region of Ghana. Abla has recently earned her Master’s Degree in Performance Studies at Northwestern University ‘22 and was a Yale ESI-Prep Research Fellow ‘19 at Yale University. She is also a former Fulbright Recipient ‘19 and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies (with a concentration in Education & Black Studies) from the University of California Berkeley ‘18.

Currently, she is working as an Assistant Director for Evanston’s Theatre Project, where she conducts performance ethnographic based-work, which embodies storytelling & narration through interview transcriptions. In the fall of 2023, she hopes to work in Admissions and Counseling at a 4-year university, and continuing her advocacy work in Ghana.

Since Abla has a deep passion for the fields of Performing Arts, Mental Health, and Disability Studies, she was awarded the Wellcome Trust MA Studentship to conduct research through the Medical Humanities Department at the University of Birkbeck, London. Wellcome Trust is a prestigious scholarship that funds curiosity-driven research, specifically examining areas of mental health, climate change, and infectious disease.

In the future she plans on going back to school and receiving her Masters in Social Work and she plans on studying how auto-biographical survivor narratives can improve medical ethics which can be used as a diagnostic and form of therapy. She understands that this form of treatment has not been widely used or accepted within developing countries like the Volta Region of Ghana, where sexual health education access and resources are limited.

Her lifelong mission is to support the mental health community by forming connections across the diaspora and she plans on doing this by becoming a trained Licensed Social Worker and Therapist who specializes in advocacy for the victims of sexual assault, art therapy, trauma, addiction, and other forms of gender-based violence towards Ghanaian women and African/Black women of the diaspora.

However, none of this would have been possible without the resources provided by the UCEAP Study Abroad Program at UC Berkeley and the Gilman’s Scholarship which enabled her to study at the University of Ghana in the summer of 2018. Following her transformational study abroad experience, Abla made a conscious effort to keep in touch with local community members and administrators at the University of Ghana and eventually made her way back to Ghana in the spring of 2021. During her time there, she met with political figures and local community members; and was able to successfully launch her family’s international NGO called Youth in Action, which is a non-profit organization that offers youth development services, education access, employment assistance, and environmental justice in the Volta Region of Ghana.

Currently, Abla works at Youth in Action NGO part-time as a Communications Director (virtually), where she helps with social media management, fundraising/grant writing, and networking. She has been back and forth to volunteer with her family and adopted community in Dzodze since 2021, and plans on continuing to build her relationships with UCEAP, the University of Ghana, and other local non-profits in Ghana that work with Ghanaian women sexual assault/human-trafficking survivors.

UCEAP Egypt 2009-10, Korea 2011-12, UC Merced

As the newly appointed field Director for the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Dr Martinez exercises her leadership position to inspire the next generation of students to purse higher education and provides them with the financial opportunities that allow them to follow their respective dreams.

Throughout her many talks with the association, Dr Martinez always outlines the importance and feasibility of working and studying abroad. Having traveled to many different countries as a student herself, Dr Martinez uses her own experiences to inspire those who believe such experiences are out of reach for them. As an NIH, Minority Health, and Health Disparities International Research Training Program Fellow (MHIRT); her academic and research training includes extended experiences from all around the world, skills which she uses not just to advance her training but also to relate with, and better connect with her diverse patient population! Her academic and research training includes extended experiences in Italy, Egypt, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, and Japan. She was most recently named Alumni of Year by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.

(watch the 2022 Alumni Awards celebration event)

American University in Cairo, Egypt 2010-11 and Yonsei University, Korea 2011

Justin is the Weekend Morning Anchor and Reporter for News 13 in Asheville, North Carolina. He is a 2016 winner of the National Associate of Television Arts and Sciences Southeast Emmy Award for Live News Reporting, and a 2019 Regional Murrow Award winner. He has covered big stories including Hurricanes Maria and Matthew from the Carolinas and Harvey in Southeast Texas, the Emmanuel AME Church shooting, riots in Charlotte following an officer-involved shooting, and historic flooding in Columbia. Born and raised in San Diego, Justin graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Mass Communications. He is a proud member of the National Associate of Black Journalists. Justin studied abroad with UCEAP in Egypt and Korea, and credits the footage he shot in both locations with helping him get his first job in journalism.

National University of Singapore, Singapore 2013

Justin is an emerging leader in environmental conservation and public lands management. He began his career with the National Park Service in 2014 as a vegetation intern for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. After graduating from UCLA (Class ’15) with a B.S. in Biology, he served as a biological science technician leading habitat restoration, native plant nursery, volunteer stewardship, youth training, and native seed banking programs in partnership with Los Angeles-based non-profits. Since 2016, he has coordinated the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, a coalition of agencies, NGO’s, academia, and community organizations whose common goal is to revitalize and restore the Los Angeles River. Now working as a management assistant for the Santa Monica Mountains, he coordinates post-Wooley Fire recovery projects.

University of Santo Tomás, Chile, 2008

Christine is the Employment Services Coordinator for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in San Diego. She coordinates the Vocational ESL Plus Program for nearly 500 refugees every year, many newly arrived from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She started with IRC four years ago as an instructor in the VESL instructor, and has taught English to over 450 adult refugees. She works in San Diego, home to a large resettled population, to educate the greater community about the barriers faced by people forced to leave their homes due to war and violence and shape a more positive understanding of what it means to be a refugee. She has also advocated for enhancing trauma informed care processes within the IRC programs. In addition, Christine volunteers with the United Nations Association of San Diego, and has worked as an interviewer and evaluator for non-profits conducting evaluations of educational organizations. Christine received her B.A. in Ethnic Studies from UC Riverside, and she spent a semester abroad with UCEAP at the University of Santo Tomás, in Concepción, Chile. She received her CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in Barcelona in 2012, and speaks Spanish, Castellano, and Tagalog.

Queen Mary, University of London, 2005-06

Jeremy is a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, representing the United States in environmental law cases that involve endangered species and other wildlife. He also counsels federal agencies on how to best comply with environmental statutes in carrying out their missions. Jeremy studied at the Queen Mary, University of London in the United Kingdom, and graduated from UC Riverside.

Paris Center for Critical Studies, France 2005-06

After returning to UCSD, Alicia gave back to the program by working with the campus office on student outreach and other activities. Currently, Alicia oversees Strategic Partnerships at Google.  In her spare time, she has dedicated herself to the Google Art Project, a stunning global cultural experience online that brings the world's richest institutions and rarest collections into an open digital ecosystem. “My UCEAP experience abroad permeates nearly every facet of my life, and I would be proudly honored to express my thanks to the organization and help continue alumni efforts and the current program today.” Alicia was a recipient of the UCEAP Dan Wise Scholarship, a scholarship funded by Linda Duttenhaver, for year long participation in a UCEAP program. Alicia was honored to be introduced and receive this award from Linda at our annual conference! 

Complutense University of Madrid, Spain 2004-05

After graduating, Jessica joined Teach for America in 2006, where she began teaching English at Richmond High School in Richmond, CA. She has been a passionate urban school educator for the past 9 years. She continued teaching at the same school for 6 years. During her last year of teaching, she attended UC Berkeley’s Principals Leadership Institute, where she earned a master’s degree in education and her administrative credential. The next year Ms. Petrilli became an administrator at the neighboring Helms Middle School, and now, in her third year at that school, she is ending her first year as principal. Jessica says of her work, “Teaching and leading in a high need school like Richmond High and Helms Middle School is my passion. I believe that education is the key to freedom, so I take the responsibility to provide an excellent education for our students very seriously. As a first generation college student myself, I live and breathe the belief that through education you are free to discover who you are and what potential is waiting to be fulfilled. I am committed to staying in public education, and will continue serving the communities of Richmond and San Pablo through my work as a school leader.”

Thammasat University, Thailand, 2010

Josue Lopez Calderon is the 2014 recipient of the UCEAP Emerging Leader Award. Josue graduated from UCLA in 2010 with a B. A. in International Development Studies. He studied abroad with UCEAP at Thammasat University, Thailand in 2010 where a blog of his experiences attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of State. Upon returning from Thaliland, Josue has pursued a career in Washington D.C. and is currently a U.S. Department of State Gilman International Scholar, focusing on a proposal on how to implement financial and technological growth and innovation in the Latino community by using Asia's educational model for science and technology. Currently, Josue works for the U.S. Treasury Department, as a Business Development Specialist. Josue published an article earlier this year for The Huffington Post in English and Spanish to raise awareness about the need for diverse candidates and the scholarships and fellowships available for study and intern abroad programs.