Meet the CAA Alumni Scholarships Team


Tairinda (Tai) Rushing
Senior Director, Alumni Scholars Program | 510.900.8241

Tairinda (Tai) Rushing is the Senior Director of the Alumni Scholars Program overseeing scholarship administration and student programming for the Cal Alumni Association (CAA). She is a social justice advocate and dedicated student affairs professional with over 15 years of non-profit management experience.

Tai started working in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco in 2003, teaching entrepreneurship and business development to middle school students through the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. Her first experience working with and empowering marginalized students was the genesis of what would become a rewarding career. Since then, she has had the pleasure of leading and serving a number of youth-focused, college access and success organizations. Prior to her tenure at CAA, Tai served as the Associate Director of Admissions for Diversity Programs at the University of the Pacific where she formalized partnerships with university stakeholders and community-based organizations to recruit a diverse pipeline of talented students to the university.

Tai is a proud alumna of Xavier University of Louisiana. In an effort to expand her impact on student success in higher education, she completed her Masters in higher education and student affairs at the University of San Francisco. At USF, she refined her student affairs praxis and student centric approach to organizational leadership. Outside of CAA Tai serves the community through her active participation in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She enjoys spending time with friends, family and her daughter Chloe.


Fritzie A. de Mata ’05, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Alumni Scholars Program | 510.900.8232

Fritzie oversees the programming that supports our Alumni Scholars. She graduated from Berkeley in 2005 with a degree in English and political science. As an undergraduate, she was part of the Cal Leadership Symposium and Student Homecoming Team. She participated in service learning programs as an AmeriCorps Bonner Leader with the Cal Corps Public Service Center and as a literacy tutor for BUILD. She also helped institutionalize recycling programs in all the residence halls on campus and was an undergraduate research apprentice with URAP. She is a former Alumni Leadership Scholar.

After college, she worked as a reunion gift campaign assistant at UDAR before attending UC Santa Cruz for her doctorate in literature specializing in world literature, Asian American studies, critical race and Ethnic studies, and critical theory. At UC Santa Cruz, she worked as a graduate student mentor with EOP’s Pathways to Research Program, assisting students on their undergraduate research and guiding them through the graduate school application process. She is committed to diversity and justice in education as manifested in her work as a scholar, teacher, and mentor and is passionate about issues relating to diaspora and migration.


Vanessa Diaz ’09
Program Manager, Volunteer Engagement, Alumni Scholars Program | 510.900.8184

Vanessa Diaz leads recruitment, training, and management of alumni volunteers and works to expand the role of alumni volunteers in helping current scholars. She is a Cal grad and former recipient of both the The Leadership Award and the Mildred Jordan Sharp Scholarship, and is passionate about public service and education.

At UC Berkeley, Vanessa was involved with the Public Service Center and ran multiple after-school and summer programs for underserved students in the Bay Area through the BUILD program. She was also a founding member of Cal’s chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Sorority, Inc., an academic organization with service, community activism, and political awareness at its core. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A in peace and conflict studies and a minor in education, and received her Master’s degree in human rights with her thesis focusing on the American education system.


Valeska Castaneda-Puerto ’16
Program Manager, Student Support, Alumni Scholars Program | 510.900.8236

Valeska is a queer Xicana immigrant who came here under asylum as a child, single mother, and a first-generation underrepresented transfer college student. Valeska received her B.A. in American Studies with a concentration in race, class, gender and immigration policy, and was a CAA Leadership Award scholar. Valeska experienced the financial and personal impact that CAA has within our Berkeley community.

During her time at UC Berkeley, Valeska was involved with several organizations that aligned with her passion for social equity, such as the Student Parent Association for Recruitment and Retention and the Public Service Center. While at Cal, Valeska organized A Trail for Humanity, which raised awareness regarding the violence occurring alongside the U.S. and Mexico border for undocumented migrants. As the founder of the movement, the Trail involved organizing community members and collaborating with more than 180 immigration human rights organizations to walk for 26 days and over 350 miles from Merced, California to the U.S.–Mexico border. As KASP’s Coordinator of Student Engagement for the Alumni Scholars Program, Valeska will fuse her organizing experience with CAA involvement to provide professional, academic, and personal advising to build a network for KASP scholarship recipients.


Joanna Juarez ’16
Coordinator, Selections and Communications, Alumni Scholars Program | 510.900.8346

Joanna Juarez was an Achievement Award (TAAP) scholar while at UC Berkeley. She served in TAAP’s leadership board as the administrative chair. Through her experiences as a scholar and leadership board member, she experienced the impact that the Alumni Scholars Program has on the undergraduate experience and is enthusiastic to be part of the team that made her time at Cal memorable.

Joanna received her B.S. in social welfare and ethnic studies and a minor in public policy. At UC Berkeley, she not only served on TAAP’s leadership board but she also volunteered her time at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC) and the YWCA’s English-in-Action program and worked as an AVID tutor for Berkeley Unified School District.


Johanna Romero ’15
Senior Coordinator, Student Support, Alumni Scholars Program | 510.900.8208

Johanna Romero is a first generation, queer, Salvadoran woman and graduate of UC Berkeley. She received her B.A in peace & conflict studies with a minor in global poverty & practice. As the student support coordinator for the Alumni Scholars Program, she supports scholarship recipients with professional, academic, and personal advising. Johanna brings her experiences in practicing healing justice, equitable education, and program management to build a student-led vision of academic achievement and civic engagement. Johanna has had the privilege of growing in community spaces including the UC Berkeley Public Service Center, Queer EcoJustice Project, SEEDs Community Resolution Center, Restorative Justice Center, and Teachers 4 Social Justice.


Myrtha Ortiz
Program Manager, Student Support, Alumni Scholars Program | 510.295.4072

Myrtha Ortiz is a queer first-generation Latina and a UC Berkeley Alumna. She received her B.A. in Geography with an emphasis on urban communities and education. As the Program Manager of student support for the Alumni Scholars Program, Myrtha enjoys supporting students in their transition into UC Berkeley while helping continuing students navigate life after Cal successfully. She strongly believes in changing systems of higher education so that first-generation, low-income and students of color have access to a college experience. Myrtha also believes that attaining higher education can become a factor for families’ access to social mobility!

As a Cal student, she was involved with the YMCA’s Teen Center, the Chicanx/Latinx Student Development Office and CED’s Center for Cities and Schools. Prior to working at CAA, Myrtha served as a College Adviser with UC Berkeley’s Center for Educational Partnerships in Richmond, CA. Myrtha is passionate (and can talk to you about) educational equity, college access, and navigating life as a first-generation professional.