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Class Notes: 1996

Class of 1996

Jill Cheng (BA Architecture, 1996), AIA, LEED AP BD+C, was recently promoted to Associate Principal at Los Angeles firm CO Architects. She has more than 20 years of experience in planning, design, and project management in institutional projects, include healthcare, higher education, justice, and K-12 facilities. A member of the firm from 2001-2017, Jill rejoined CO Architects in 2020 to lead the day-to-day management of the UCI Health-Irvine Medical Center project, the country’s first all-electric hospital.

Class of 1996
Devin Reese smiling

Devin Reese has always had a thing about turtles. Thanks to her Cal Berkeley training as a herpetologist (reptile and amphibian researcher), Devin has written the first scholarly book that’s entirely about tortoises. She drafted it with Dr. George R. Zug, Smithsonian Emeritus, to offer up everything you’d want to know, plus things you wouldn’t care to know, about the Testudinidae, the unique family of turtles that comprises the tortoises. See here: 

Class of 1996 Cara Houser in front of a mural of an eye

After graduating with a degree in Political Science, Cara Houser spent 20 years learning how to survive and ultimately thrive in the ultra-male, pressure cooker real estate development business. During that time, her teams produced over 3,000 homes in the San Francisco Bay Area, creating over $1.5B in value. Now she is a career strategist and empowerment coach helping high impact women leaders step into their power & go from burned out to lit up in their lives and careers. She wrote a book called Burned Out to Lit Up: Ditch the Grind and Reclaim Your Life, a playbook for burnout recovery, which was released in October 2023. She lives in El Cerrito, CA with her husband, fellow Cal alum and fellow Cal sailing team All-American Dave Houser, and their two teenagers Stella and Alden. Go Bears!!!

Class of 1996

Melinda Ng‘s debut novel Mattie and the Machine has been released by Santa Monica Press (under the pen name Lynn Ng Quezon). The YA historical is a fictionalized account of 19th century inventor Margaret Knight’s journey to obtaining her first patent.

Publishers Weekly wrote this about the book:

Nineteenth-century inventor Margaret “Mattie” E. Knight (1838-1914) struggles to win legal rights to her invention, which automated the paper-bag-making process, in this empowering, well-paced STEM narrative by Quezon, a fictionalized account of Knight’s life. Mattie, a 15-year-old mechanic living in post-Civil War Massachusetts, works in Columbia Paper’s all-female division. While the other women fold bags, Mattie maintains the machines that aid the process. When dismissive Charles Yates, Columbia’s original owner’s grandson, takes over, he employs several male workers, including Frank Niebuhr, whom Mattie trains as a mechanic. Mattie and Frank grow close until she learns that all the new male hires earn more than the women. After Mattie asks Yates for equal pay and is denied, she claims that she can invent a machine to fold the bags automatically. Yates proposes a bag-manufacturing competition between Mattie and Frank; if Mattie wins, he’ll give the women raises. But if Frank wins, she’ll be demoted from her mechanic role to paper bag folding. By populating the cast with resourceful women, such as Mattie’s roommate Eliza and her coworker Ida, a widowed mother of two, Quezon examines historical societal working conditions and expectations through a nuanced, feminist lens.

For more about her and her book, visit:

Class of 1996

This April, Conchita Lozano-Batista joined Earthjustice as their General Counsel.

Class of 1996

Michael Neuman, Ph.D. ’96, writes: “Happy to say I’ve moved to Point Reyes, where I kayak, swim, run, hike, and bike regularly; volunteer with several nonprofits; and see Byron Miller Ch.E. ’77. My sixth and seventh books, Handbook of Regional Design and Sustainable Infrastructure for Cities and Societies, came out last year after Engendering Cities was published in 2020, all by Routledge. I’m a lead author with Cynthia Rosenzweig’s Climate Change and Cities, out this year by Cambridge University Press. On the side, I am a half-time professor of sustainable urbanism at the University of Westminster in London.” 

Class Secretary: Eda Chao, 393 Dean St Apt 2B, Brooklyn, NY 11217,