If you ask Katie Andresen '08, the sixth "C" would most certainly be Community. It's her job title, yes, but it's also how she approaches every aspect of her life, whether it's the focus of her research, her volunteer work with Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign, or the intentional way she connects with people.
Looking back, it's easy to see how community has always been at the heart of Katie's academic interests, though it wasn't always clear in the moment. With a life-long interest in world events, Katie says, "I loved taking Russian History with Mrs. McKeeHAand every history of 'not America' I could find." She continued to delve into these topics while studying politics, Italian, and Arabic as an undergraduate student at Princeton, then in her job after graduation at the Japanese Consulate in San Francisco. From there, she moved abroad to earn a master's degree in dispute and conflict resolution at SOAS University of London. Katie says, "I was curious about how foreign policy is made and how agreements are made. To me, conflict resolution was interesting, and my research topics as an undergrad included violent elections and peace processes, and how to mitigate violence." It was through her studies in conflict resolution, Katie says, that she was able to identify the tools and skills needed to facilitate belonging, deepen engagement, and create a harmonious community.
After finishing graduate school in 2015, Katie was looking for a new creative challenge and outlet for research, and this inspired her to start the podcast Mixed Kid Chronicles. As producer/founder, she oversees all aspects of the show, from lining up guests, writing scripts, sound editing, and so much more. Mixed Kid Chronicles explores the intersection of race and society, focusing on topics about being multiracial. Katie shares, "Identity has come up for me in a lot of ways. I grew up in the Bay Area (diverse) but in Menlo Park (primarily white) and reflected on my own self. At Castilleja, I was an individual and empowered and didn't think about how 'the world' perceived me." The podcast has given her, and a whole community of listeners, a platform to explore meaningful questions. Season One was an ambitious undertaking, with a release of 14 episodes, and Katie is currently working on Season Two, due to debut in January 2020. Did we mention this isn't even her day job?
This fall, Katie joined All Raise, and she is thrilled to be working for an organization dedicated to bringing together female founders with VC funders, including Castilleja parents and trustees Aileen Lee P'24 and Theresia Gouw P'21. It's a mission that deeply resonates with Katie, who says, "I've been blown away by how much the organization has accomplished and by women who are passionate about changing the landscape and democratizing the future by bringing a more diverse set of founders together." As Community Manager, Katie is running everything digital, including launching an online community where women can connect. "There is power in women coming together who are passionate about a cause and being able to work on it full-time. I'm creating content, and there are so many great stories to tell."
While her journey has taken her many places beyond the Circle, Katie continues to cherish the Castilleja connections that remain a part of her life today: "I had so many teachers who really made an impact on me," including Chris BlairHA, John KlopaczHA, and Connie RichardsonHA. And while math was a challenging subject, she will always remember Mr. Wong for his excellent teaching–and advice to never buy a new car because it loses so much value! Katie remains close with friends from her class and other classes, and she frequently recognizes people in San Francisco, where she lives. Once while taking the Cal Train home, "some girls recognized me and started singing the Castilleja song! It's such a joy. The sense of community at Castilleja–there is nothing that tops it."
Aurora Real de Asua
Class of 2012
Recently, Aurora Real de Asua '12 was listed as one of the Hot New Faces of Chicago Theatre in the Chicago Tribune. It's an exciting milestone for the actor / writer / director who has been dreaming of a career in the arts since she was four years old.
It all started when Aurora begged her parents to let her put on a play for her fifth birthday. Aurora shares, "They built a makeshift wooden stage in Rinconada Park and helped me adapt Cinderella into a two-page script that my fellow four-year-olds could pronounce. I invited all of my friends, and we spent two hours performing the ten-minute play over and over and over, constantly switching parts and costumes. My favorite character was (and is) Gus, the little fat mouse, and I refused to play any other character. During that day I remember thinking: 'Oh my God, I'm a mouse! I could be a mouse as a job! I could be a mouse for life!' It was a eureka moment, and I never really looked back. It was the infamous call of the mouse, and I had to respond."
Since her debut role as Gus the Mouse, Aurora has been training in her craft ever since. She starred in several productions as a student at Castilleja, then attended Northwestern University to study acting, where she was awarded the Agnes Nixon Prize in Playwriting. Still, success after graduation did not come overnight. Aurora says, "The hardest part about being an actor was graduating from this awesome, fancy school that had given me four years of awesome, fancy projects to make me feel like I knew exactly what I was doing and then all of a sudden finding myself alone on Monday mornings with nothing to do, no projects racing my way, just a pile of dirty dishes next to a pile of rejections that had to do with my eyebrows being too thick."
Aurora is open about the challenge of building her career after college: "It was a shock not to have a ladder to climb anymore, not to have someone telling me exactly what steps I needed to take in order to become successful. It was brutal and lonely, and I was introduced to the very fragile, quiet parts of myself that I hadn't known yet. But it also taught me to see success as my relationship to my own creativity rather than any outward sign of achievement…I did a lot of reading, a lot of mystics, a lot of Rumi and John O'Donohue and Tolstoy. I tried very hard to be kind, and I tried not to be afraid of the silence, which is perhaps the most terrifying thing to a loud creative person. And I practiced gratitude, over and over and over again. (Still practicing)."
Aurora's gratitude for her Castilleja mentors is an incredible tribute. As she shares, "I have always felt like my entire Casti experience was this slow building of a boat where every person I interacted with added a crucial component that would keep me afloat on the stormy, stormy seas to come. Each teacher, faculty, and staff member buoyed me with such love and support that it is hard to pull out just a few. Everywhere I turned I bumped into incredible kindness and mentorship. That said, I give eternal credit to Kristin Walter for giving me the opportunity and the space to develop my love of theatre. I credit Mr. Blair for treating me like I was a full-fledged adult and never expected anything less. I credit Madame Repellin for stoking my curiosity for the world. I credit Ms. Sherouse for letting me put on an outrageous Scottish accent during our Macbeth trial at eight in the morning and letting me come in full costume. I credit Bertha, Antonio, Israel, Eloisa, and Candy for keeping me so full and never judging me when I went back for third and fourth helpings of that green apple curry. I credit Mr. Smoot for teaching me about beauty and contradiction. I credit Ms. Trilling for showing me how to wear black. And whoever it was who came up with Spirit Week? I credit the hell out of them for making me realize how much I loved dressing up in costume."
As Aurora reflects on those who have supported her journey, she is excited about her next phase. She is working on several plays she has written, including Wipeout–the story of three seventy-year old women taking their first surf class–and a play based on the life of Frida Kahlo told from the perspective of the hairs in between her eyebrows, aptly called The Hairs In Between Frida Kahlo's Eyebrows. She is also developing a one-woman show based on Jane Goodall, shooting a documentary film about the culture of female friendships in the Basque Country, and applying to grad school for filmmaking.
Looking back on it all, what is her proudest moment? Aurora says it was "the moment I realized I could stand on stage in front of a huge audience and not need to be the center of attention. When I was in seventh grade I tried to belt over the rest of the chorus when we performed 'Our Day With Thee.' I've come a long way."
Aurora will be performing in two upcoming plays in Chicago: The Wickhams (Northlight Theatre, November 7–December 15) and Top Girls (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, January 16–February 22). You can reach her at email@example.com.
Joyce Adams Hanna-Smith
Class of 1952
Long before running was in vogue, Joyce Adams Hanna-Smith '52 was making it fashionable. Joyce laughs as she recalls, "It was before the fitness boom. People would stop me when I was running to ask if I was okay. They weren't used to seeing women run." While "athleisure" is a popular trend now, there weren't even running clothes for women when Joyce started in the 1960s. Joyce didn't let this stop her–she ran in a tennis dress, and she ran fast. Joyce was nationally ranked 26th for the marathon in her 40s and ran the New York City Marathon for her 60th birthday. She celebrated her 65th birthday by competing in the Pikes Peak Ascent, a 13.2-mile race that finishes at 14,000 ft. summit. She finished first in her age group.
Joyce has a passion for fitness and health, and she shares it with others. In fact, she has been encouraging people toward their own fitness goals as a health educator and Associate Director of the Health Improvement Program (HIP) at Stanford for the past 27 years, a job she says "fell from heaven." It's easy to see why she is perfect for the job: "I really like to see people set and reach their goals, and I love to help motivate people."
The highlight of Joyce's work week is running Living Strong, Living Well, a free fitness program for cancer survivors that Joyce started at Stanford. At the time, "we were just starting to learn that cancer survivors benefit from exercise. Before, there were concerns about fatigue and risks to their immune system. Then the research came out that exercise actually improves outcomes." From there, Living Strong, Living Well was launched in 2002. Today, the program runs in 14 locations from San Francisco to San Jose through YMCAs with certified fitness trainers who receive special training from Joyce and her Stanford colleagues. "It's very rewarding. It's a 12-week program, and I attend the first and last day of the program. To see the change in people is amazing."
Joyce is also proud of the changes she has seen over time around the Circle as her daughters Kristine Hanna-Lomax '78 and Katie Hanna Dickson '80 (pictured above) attended, and now that her granddaughter Ally is a senior in the Class of 2020. "I think it is so great the young women are involved in things that are outside of their world, learning respect for everyone, and appreciating diversity. I am so proud Castilleja teaches this. Those young women are going to be the ones who change our world for the better. The education they receive at Castilleja and awareness they get of the outside world is going to benefit us all." While opportunities such as Global Trips are newer initiatives, Joyce also notes what has remained consistent around the Circle since she was a student. Here, she made lifelong friends–she still has regular lunches with Castilleja classmates–and developed a strong work ethic: "I learned how to study and how to learn something. That's quite a gift to receive from school." Joyce still reads with a yellow highlighter in hand!
As Joyce drives to her office at Stanford each day, she loves seeing people out biking or running. "I see a woman running while pushing a cart with two young toddlers in there, and I think about the amount of preparation she did to do this. That must have taken one hour for her to get everything ready, and that is very endearing for me to see." What Joyce doesn't realize is that she was part of that preparation process. She changed the way women think about their own fitness and wellness, and she helped build a world where that mom could wake up and decide to go running in the first place.
Leslie Cardozo Stafford
Class of 1993
When Leslie Cardozo Stafford '93 was presented with the Distinguished Alumna Award at her Castilleja 25th Reunion last fall, there was much to celebrate about how this "professional volunteer" embodies the 5Cs in her community. Leslie is President of the Special Education PTA of Redwood City and a tireless advocate for parents of children with special needs. She volunteers with several other educational organizations and joined the Superintendent's Advisory Council last year. Next month, Leslie will become Chair of the Parent Advisory Board to the Stanford Autism Center, where she has facilitated a monthly parent support group and serves as a parent advisor for a program supporting parents of newly diagnosed autistic children. To date, the Early Support Program has provided help with resource coordination and parent education to over 2,000 families!
Leslie says she discovered the many challenges families face as she "started to navigate the world of special education and raising a special needs child." She spent years learning about student rights, evaluation timelines, and how to qualify for special education services. Now, Leslie takes all the knowledge she gained and uses it to support other parents. "I felt that I couldn't take all that information and store it away while I knew so many other families could find it helpful." She forges relationships with school district administrators to bring greater transparency to families and advocates for best practices for students. Leslie's passion is evident: "I can't stop trying to help families."
Leslie's community leadership is inspired by her son, Peyton, who recently turned 10 years old. "I am so proud to see how far my son has come since he was first diagnosed with a speech delay which later became a full autism diagnosis. He lost all of his language, his social awareness, and much of his motor skills." Leslie left work to focus on Peyton, and through years of therapy, inclusive school programs, and activities to help with his motor development, her son is thriving at the public school he attends. Leslie says "he is extremely social, active, and will talk your ear off if you ask about sports, history or Fortnite," and she is also proud of the deep empathy he has for students with needs and all his friends as a result of his educational journey.
As an advocate for improving educational opportunities for others, Leslie is grateful for the strong foundation she gained at Castilleja from so many teachers: "Judy Johnson worked with me to find a writing style; Robert GliddenHA solidified my love of math; Judith RinoHA, Elyce MelmonHA, and Susan BarkanHA taught me to appreciate classical literature. Carolyn BishopHA taught me to push through the books with weak female characters (I'm looking at you Daisy Miller and Tess of the D'Urbervilles) and to write all the things I would change about their stories. Doris MouradHA made me want to major in Chemisty in college. Eryl BarkerHA was the first to have us dissect frogs, pigs, cow eyes and create Hydrogen Sulfide by putting sulfur in water. Nancy Hoffman '76 knew what it was like to be a Castilleja student and was always so kind to me with her open-door policy. MJ BlockHA in the office was such an important person in my life, giving me time to come in and sit with if ever I needed a break, and she had the best butterscotch candies. Sherry Rusher and Mercedes McCafferyHAwere such strong Spanish teachers." Leslie shares Peggy McKeeHA was an especially influential teacher, with "her funny phrases to remember historical facts (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived!) and I haven't met a Castilleja graduate yet who can't still name every river in Europe! […] Her tips got me through college and her perseverance has helped me to find my drive to help others."
Leslie and her husband James recently celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary. They live in Redwood City with their son Peyton and Leslie's mom.
Class of 2006
Suelyncreates paintings that advance her passion for combating climate change. In her series "Still Burning," she captures the moments before, during and after the California wildfires. She portrays billowing flames over open highways and the remnants of towns ravaged by fires. Another series called "Natural Change" was inspired by NASA satellite imagery. Suelyn found the satellite images to be beautiful source material, providing a "macro view of what's going on" and "perspective we don't have on a day-to-day basis." Suelyn's art will be featured in the Anita Seipp Gallery at Castilleja in April.
Suelyn fondly reminisces upon her time on the Circle, where she developed her interests in art and the environment. She enjoyed her art classes, citing Deborah TrillingHA as a formative influence. She was "moved" when Al Gore spoke at Castilleja shortly after the publication of An Inconvenient Truth. Suelyn also excelled in math, gaining the confidence to pursue engineering and design. Castilleja teachers made math "fun", Suelyn states. "I remember learning how to calculate Pi by walking around the Castilleja Circle's perimeter."
Suelyn followed her interest in math to Northwestern University, where she graduated with degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Design. She enjoyed her engineering coursework and immersed herself in the creative process of design. This combination of studies taught Suelyn that "you can have both an artistic background and an engineering background." She appreciated pursuing both avenues and immersing herself in different aspects of academic life. While at Northwestern, Suelyn was a celebrated student leader. She earned the McCormick Alumni Leadership and Service Award in recognition of her leadership excellence and contributions to the community.
After Suelyn graduated, she spent several years working in design at startups in Palo Alto, Amsterdam, and San Francisco. She was a senior design manager at Opower and lead product designer for Hillary for America. She also taught interaction design at California College of the Arts for two years. In September Suelyn decided to become self-employed to focus on her art. Suelyn characterizes her choice as scary but gratifying. "I felt like I jumped off the corporate ladder," she explained. "I found my own way in terms of what makes me happy and what I find meaningful."
Suelyn continues to work as a product design consultant, finding time for her painting. She works in series, beginning by creating sketches and compiling source material. Grouping her paintings by topic, Suelyn engages with relevant documentaries, photographs and literature. She begins with small paintings, working bigger as her ideas solidify.
Dividing her time between art and design, Suelyn notes some comparisons between the two. She discusses how art is individualistic where design is collaborative. Design is a way to solve user problems while art is a form of personal expression. "I think of art and design as pretty different," she concludes. But her passion for the environment unifies her interests in art and design as she builds "a network and a community of people who care about climate change."
Suelyn describes the importance of the Castilleja community as she moves from one phase of life to the next. Many of her best friends went to Castilleja, supporting her as she transitions into a new chapter. Reflecting upon Castilleja, Suelyn references Michelle Obama's new book Becoming. In it, Obama writes about how great friends are the "secret sauce" for success. This idea resonates with Suelyn. "I met so many smart, confident, ambitious women at Castilleja," Suelyn recalls. "We really learned to support each other and love each other."
Suelyn's "Natural Change" show will be on exhibit in the Anita Seipp Gallery at Castilleja School from April 11–May 2. Join us for a Gallery Opening with the artist on Tuesday, April 30, 5–7pm.
Dr. Shira Lipton
Class of 1997
Board Certified Dermatologist
Shira developed a fascination with skin when she was a little girl, and by the age of 10, already knew she wanted to pursue a career in dermatology. She credits Castilleja with instilling in her both the confidence to pursue her dream, and the importance of giving back. “From a very early age, Castilleja encouraged us to think about service, and that’s where my commitment to our community began.” Today, she keeps Palo Altans healthy as a doctor and can be found offering free skin checks to underserved patients in the community.
Q: What year did you graduate from Castilleja?
Q: Where did you continue your education after graduation?
A: I went to Stanford University to earn my undergraduate degree, UCLA for medical school, and completed my dermatology residency at UCSF.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue dermatology?
A: When I was only eight years old, I developed a fascination with skin. While friends would recoil from rashes, I found skin intriguing! My mother was convinced that I was destined to become an esthetician. However, my father — a physician — had other ideas. He taught me that there were specialists in medicine, called dermatologists, who learned how to take care of people with skin problems. So my future professional destiny was sealed by the time I was 10!
Castilleja gave me the confidence and opportunities to make my dream a reality. It instilled in me the sense that I could do anything I put my mind to, no matter how daunting the challenge. To this day, I credit Castilleja for my determination, my understanding that it’s healthy to make mistakes, and my love of learning.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your work?
A: Practicing dermatology has many rewards. It allows me to work with patients of all ages; coordinate care with colleagues from multiple specialties, including rheumatology, oncology, and primary care; and it gives me opportunities to prescribe state-of-the-science drugs and treatments.
Q: What made you decide to practice in Palo Alto?
A: Palo Alto has always been home to me. I attended Castilleja and Stanford, and after I completed my training, the opportunity arose for me to work at the Palo Alto Medical Clinic – and I jumped at the chance!
Q: Can you tell us about some of your volunteer activities?
A: I have been very fortunate to work at the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, where we are committed to serving all members of our community. While at Castilleja and Stanford, I provided care for underserved patients at RotaCare, a clinic devoted to taking care of patients who lacked or had minimal insurance. It was a privilege and an honor to serve a leadership role in this organization, and I carry many of the skills I learned to my practice today.
Dr. Shanti Perkins
Class of 1990
While a student at Castilleja, Shanti developed a passion for science along with a desire to connect with others and give back to her community. She knew that a career in internal medicine would allow her to pursue these passions while building long-term relationships with patients. When she’s not practicing medicine, she volunteers with Girls to Women, a non-profit that provides after-school and summer youth development programming to underserved girls in East Palo Alto, Shanti’s hometown.
Q: What year did you graduate from Castilleja?
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in East Palo Alto.
Q: Where did you continue your education after graduating from Castilleja?
A: I completed my undergraduate degree at Harvard University, and my medical degree and residency at the University of California San Francisco.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue medicine, and what made you choose internal medicine?
A: I decided to pursue medicine because of my love of science and biology – and because I love making connections with other people, working with others, and giving back to my community. I ultimately chose internal medicine because it gives me the opportunity to build long-term relationships with my patients.
Q: Can you tell us about some of your volunteer activities?
A: While I was a college student at Harvard, I volunteered at the Philips Brooks House – a student-run service organization – where I was a big sister for an 8-year-old girl from a marginalized community in the Boston suburbs. I continued mentoring after college and currently volunteer with the organization Girls to Women, an after school program for girls in East Palo Alto, raising funds for their annual 5K. Girls to Women is founded and led by my mother, Patricia Foster, and I’m happy to follow in her footsteps and continue this service to my community.
Q: What made you choose to come back and practice medicine in Palo Alto?
A: I had always planned to come back to Palo Alto so that I could serve my community and be close to my family.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us today?
A: Yes! I have two daughters – one is currently a 6th grade student at Castilleja and the other is a 4th grader who I hope will attend Castilleja in a few years. I want my daughters to receive the same educational foundation that I did, as well as the strong sense of confidence and service fostered by the entire Castilleja community.
Class of 2009
Third Year Law Student at Stanford Law School
While a student at Castilleja, Julia spent time volunteering at Walter Hayes Elementary School and later as a member of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s Student Advisory Board, where she helped compile policy recommendations for the Congresswoman. As a current student at Stanford Law School, she is focusing on issues of gender equity – a passion she credits to Castilleja. “Seven years of all-girls education gave me an incredible appreciation for how rare and wonderful it is to have strong female voices in every classroom, female leads in every play, and women running (student) government.”
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your pro bono work at Stanford Law?
A: As a first-year, I did pro bono work at Stanford’s Social Security Disability Project (SSDP) to help provide homeless and at-risk clients access to their Social Security benefits. As a second-year student, I plan to work with Stanford’s Housing Pro Bono Project, which helps low-income East Palo Alto renters resolve landlord disputes – whether the client is facing eviction, habitability issues, discriminatory behavior, illegal increases in rent, or other housing problems.
Q: Where did you volunteer while you were a student at Castilleja?
A: My primary volunteer activity was spent working with children in my old kindergarten classroom at Walter Hayes Elementary School. Since Palo Alto public schools operated on a different schedule than Castilleja, I spent my breaks reading stories to students, preparing and running educational activities, and helping administer state-mandated assessments. In high school, I served as a member of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo’s Student Advisory Board where I researched and drafted policy recommendations for a year-end report presented to the Congresswoman, including on how to incentivize HPV vaccination.
Q: How do you feel your education at Castilleja prepared you for your future?
A: Seven years of all-girls education gave me an incredible appreciation for how rare and wonderful it is to have strong female voices in every classroom, female leads in every play, and women running (student) government. As a result, my focus in law school is on issues of gender equity and removing real-world barriers to the kind of female excellence I was surrounded by at Castilleja. To that end, I spent the summer of 2017 interning at the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project. I am the president of Stanford Lawyering for Reproductive Justice and serve on the board of Women of Stanford Law. This summer, I’ll be at a law firm where I hope to work on Title IX litigation—advocating for survivors of campus sexual assault.
Q: As you know, we are undertaking an effort to increase enrollment to provide more educational opportunities for girls and young women. Are there any comments you’d like to share about this effort?
A: Castilleja’s investment in its students pays dividends in this community every day. I think seeking the opportunity to double down on your commitment to Palo Alto by populating it with more young women dedicated to service while responsibly managing growth deserves fair consideration by the people of Palo Alto.