In honor of the 150th anniversary of women’s admittance at Berkeley, the following list recognizes 10 inspiring women graduates as introduced by California magazine. These enterprising female leaders have ignited positive change in the world around them by standing up for what they care deeply about. From saving marine life to challenging stereotypes through stand-up and ensuring children receive proper school lunches, Cal alumnae truly leave a lasting impact.
Katherina Audley ’95
Marine conservationist Katherina Audley ’95 is the founder and director of the Whales of Guerrero Research Project. Audley launched the organization to support biodiversity, marine restoration, and responsible ecotourism in the small fishing village of Barra de Potosí. She has participated in cutting-edge marine wildlife research projects around the world since graduating from Cal. Audley and her team of community members—educators, fishermen, and scientists—have made a number of scientific discoveries about the whales, dolphins, and the other species of marine mammals in southwest Pacific Mexico. By protecting these animals, they have revived their local ocean and economy. Learn more about Audley and her work in Barra de Potosí.
Erika Cheung ’13
You might know Erika Cheung ’13 from the documentary about the downfall of the Silicon Valley healthcare company Theranos, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley. Cheung worked at the company for seven months before she quit and was among the first to open up to health regulators about its ethical issues and wrongdoings. She went on to become the program director of Betatron, a technology startup accelerator in Hong Kong. She is the co-founder and executive director of the nonprofit Ethics in Entrepreneurship, which works with founders of emerging companies to enable them to foster and sustain an ethical workplace culture. Read about Cheung and what speaking up in a thorny ethical situation did for her.
Marina Crouse ’95, M.A. ’97
When Marina Crouse ’95, M.A. ’97 isn’t teaching Spanish at Diablo Valley College, she’s keeping the blues alive with her singing and songwriting. Her debut album Never Too Soon earned her national recognition. Since its release in 2018, Crouse has been one of the most distinctive and powerful voices leading the Bay Area music scene. Part of what makes her captivating is that her music embodies her Chicana heritage. She graduated from Berkeley with a bachelor’s in Latin American studies and a master’s in Hispanic languages and literature. Learn more about Crouse and her music.
Feeling proud? Get a monthly dose of Cal pride in your inbox.
Subscribe to The Cal Connection.
Young Jean Lee ’96
In 2018, experimental playwright Young Jean Lee ’96 became the first Asian-American female to have a play staged on Broadway. At age 29, she formed her own nonprofit theater company. She wrote and directed ten pieces for the company and toured her plays to more than thirty cities around the world. Lee’s plays spark interesting conversations and questions about gender and identity politics. Earlier this year, her play We’re Gonna Die was staged in New York. It was first performed by Lee herself in 2011. Learn more about Lee and her first work on Broadway, Straight White Men.
Sara Maamouri M.A. ’00
Berkeley Journalism graduate Sara Maamouri M.A. ’00 is a Tunisian-American documentary film editor based in the Bay Area. Her work encompasses social justice, political, and educational issues and has been screened at film festivals worldwide. Maamouri focuses on Arabic films in order to showcase authentic representations of Muslim women. Her films, like We Are Not Princesses, are known to shatter Muslim women stereotypes with their courageous and dynamic female characters. Learn more about Maamouri and her projects.
Cynthia Marshall ’81
Dallas Mavericks Chief Executive Officer Cynthia Marshall ’81 became the first African-American female CEO in the NBA in 2018. Marshall has been a fierce trailblazer from a young age—she was Cal’s first African-American cheerleader, the only African-American in her sorority, and the first in her family to graduate from college. Additionally, she was the first African-American to chair the North Carolina Chamber. She served as president of AT&T in North Carolina, then senior vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer for the company, all the while adopting four kids and beating colon cancer. Read about Marshall’s journey and the life lessons she learned along the way.
Zahra Noorbakhsh ’06
Zahra Noorbakhsh ’06 is revolutionizing comedy by embracing diversity and her unconventional story. Through comedy, she makes a point to counter the assumptions audiences tend to make of her as a woman, a Muslim person of color, and an LGBTQ individual. Noorbakhsh’s work offers a perspective and narrative that are not customarily encountered in comedy. She is the co-host of the #GoodMuslimBadMuslim podcast, which explores the American Muslim female experience. In 2019, both performances of her stand-up comedy special, On Behalf of All Muslims, were sold out. As a senior fellow at Pop Culture Collaborative, she has called much-needed attention to the stereotypes she has surmounted in order to give way to a fresh, inclusive format for stand-up comedy—one that brings the more uncommon narratives into the limelight and makes them common. Learn more about Noorbakhsh and her style of comedy.
Amy Qin ’10
New York Times reporter Amy Qin ’10 has been on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan and the Hong Kong anti-government protests. She was part of a team of New York Times journalists that was named a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for stories revealing China’s repression of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. As the lead writer on stories revolving around culture, politics, and society in China, she was dispatched to Wuhan in January to cover the outbreak of the coronavirus disease and its effect on locals and life in Wuhan. Learn more about her experience reporting in China’s COVID-19 epicenter.
Emilie Röell M.A. ’10
Emilie Röell M.A. ’10 is the founder and director of Doh Eain, a social enterprise launched in 2017 and based in Yangon, Myanmar. Doh Eain, which is Burmese for “our home,” protects the architectural heritage as well as the cultural and historical identity of Yangon by converting trash alleys into gardens, street markets, playgrounds, and art galleries, plus other spaces where community members can make memories. Röell’s focus at Doh Eain is on overall strategy and business development. Since 2013, she has been helping conserve heritage and nature in Myanmar while creating direct, sustainable community impact. Learn more about Röell and the work the Doh Eain team does.
Alice Waters ’67
Chef and food activist Alice Waters ’67 is the owner of Chez Panisse, a restaurant and café in Berkeley, which she opened in 1971 following her study abroad experience in Paris as a French cultural studies student. She is a proponent of local, sustainable agriculture and founded the Edible Schoolyard Project (ESY). For 25 years, ESY has been creating hands-on, educational culinary experiences at King Middle School in Berkeley that help kids cultivate a positive relationship with food and nature. Waters advocates for sustainable food curriculums in K–12 public schools as well as meal programs that provide free, regeneratively-farmed lunches and support the health and well-being of kids, farmers, farmworkers, and school food service workers. Read this Q&A with Waters on the implications of sheltering in place during COVID-19 as they relate to food and cooking.
Read the latest from California magazine, published since 1872 by the Cal Alumni Association.
by Luciné Jamkochian