Meet Our Staff

Gaby Bermudez Ramirez, M.A. (she/her) | Assistant Director for Community Engaged Leadership

Contact Gaby for questions or concerns related to the MICAH Summer Fellowship, Community Based Internship, and BAY Collaborative Programs.

As a first generation student, Gaby began her journey in higher education through student organizations, Greek Life and Cultural Centers at Sacramento State University, where she earned her degree in Social Work. She found her passion for social justice education, student activism and advocacy - later pursuing a Masters in Higher Education and Student Affairs at the University of San Francisco. Her career has been dedicated to creating and supporting leadership programs and initiatives, particularly those that serve students of color and first-generation students. In 2021, Gaby joined the CILSA team where she is committed to the improvement of the student experience, developing strong campus collaboration and will expand community partnerships within the Bay Area and Tijuana.

William Besson (he/him) | Assistant Director for AmeriCorps VISTA Program (845) 588-0771

Contact William for questions or concerns related to the AmeriCorps VISTA Program.

In his first year at SMC as an undergraduate, William Besson (a.k.a. Will) started working with CILSA as a Jumpstart Corps Member, and continued as an Engaged Learning Facilitator for the remaining three years while earning his B.S. in Psychology (Behavioral Neuroscience) with a Biology (Pre-Med) minor in 2016. He is currently pursuing his M.A. in Counseling, and his master's project addresses issues of hegemonic masculinity online. As a dual-citizen (U.S. & Singapore), he attempts to provide an international perspective to CILSA, in line with our efforts to think globally and act locally. In 2006, he withdrew from high school in Singapore to soul-search. Before moving to California, he waited tables, served in the Singapore Army, and worked as a freelance facilitator and instructor. His experiences in national service and as an educator showed him the importance of and challenges in the pursuit of truth and social justice. His work with CILSA as a student leader gave him the tools to engage in the necessary work; he draws on all of the above in his role as Manager of CILSA's unique AmeriCorps VISTA program.

Sarah Beth Dempsey, Ed.D. (she/her) | Director of Engaged Learning and Research (925) 631-8543

Contact Sarah for questions or concerns related to faculty development, community partner relationships, and community engagement courses for the core curriculum.

Sarah Dempsey is committed to creating opportunities that empower students to be engaged in their own personal and academic development.  Her dedication to higher education administration started when she was a student leader at Sacramento State University where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree.  She earned her Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary's College, Master of Science degree in Student Counseling and Personnel Services at Kansas State University, and continued her counseling training in sexual assault counseling and alcohol and drug counseling in Santa Barbara.  For over nine years she worked for the University of California system coordinating programs and activities designed to enhance student success: undergraduate pathway programs for underrepresented students, enrollment management, and academic advising.  Sarah's area of interest is social justice in higher education.

Samantha Giordano, M.A. (she/her) | Director of Community Partnerships and Programs (925) 631-8168

Contact Samantha for questions or concerns related to the MICAH Summer Fellowship, the Place Based Justice Network, and alumni engagement.

Samantha Coon developed a serious interest for service and social justice during her high school years at a small Catholic school in southern California.  With its strong sense of community and Lasallian foundation, Samantha found St. Mary's College to be the perfect institution for her undergraduate studies, where she completed her B.A.  As a freshman she became involved in CILSA through the non-profit organization Jumpstart.  Samantha's passion and knowledge for service and social justice continued to grow throughout her SMC career with Jumpstart and CILSA.  This, in combination with her interest in non-profit work, prompted her to study development aid and to travel to Rwanda as a January Term student during her senior year. In Rwanda, Samantha volunteered with several different non-profit and non-government organizations, and had the opportunity to interact with many individuals who have passionately dedicated their lives to service and social justice.  Samantha learned not only about the fundamental details of a successful organization, but was also inspired to make a commitment to service and social justice post-graduation.

Tianna Lui (she/they) | Jumpstart / AmeriCorps Compliance and Budget Assistant (925) 631-4855

Tianna has been committed to working with youth in educational sectors for several years now. In their undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley, they were involved with Jumpstart from the very beginning. Starting as an AmeriCorps member, to Team Leader, then Program Assistant, Tianna has seen and worked through various aspects of the program to help ensure that the Jumpstart mission is being met. Currently, as the Compliance and Budget Assistant for St. Mary’s Jumpstart, Tianna is able to further their work within the program by supporting students through administrative processes alongside fostering a connection to Jumpstart as a whole. With her expertise in the hands-on work with children and administrative work, they are hoping to further the values of social justice and community collaboration in the program.

Scott McCamish (he/him) | Community Engagement Administrative Coordinator 

Scott McCamish steps into a staff position within the CILSA department after having spent the last four years as a student at Saint Mary's pursuing his bachelor's degree with a double major in JCL and Communication. Through a deep engagement with his coursework, and motivated to think reflectively and critically by professors, Scott began developing an awareness of the racial, gender, and economic privileges that have informed his life experiences. Seeking knowledge and perspectives that would expand his socio-cultural frame of reference, Scott intently absorbed information from liberation theorists and critical scholars while exploring wisdom offered by the practices of world religions and spiritual philosophers. At the intersection of his social justice education and an emerging dedication towards a faith based career, Scott enters CILSA grateful to be able to serve the Saint Mary’s community and inspired by the wealth of knowledge and social justice experience found within each member of this department. 

Bianca Meza, M.Ed. (she/her) | Assistant Director for Jumpstart (925) 631-4855

Contact Bianca for questions or concerns related Jumpstart in Oakland and early childhood education co-curricular community service projects.

Bianca Meza’s journey through the field of education began during her undergraduate studies at Washington State University where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development with an ECE focus. She continued on to serve as an AmeriCorps College Coach & College Access Coordinator for two years before earning her M.Ed in Student Development at Seattle University. These experiences shaped her commitment to community, education and justice. As the Jumpstart Site Manager, she is committed to establishing intentional partnerships with Oakland Child Development partners/teachers and developing opportunities for students to explore the ways in which they create welcoming classroom spaces that embrace children as individuals, celebrate culture, and promote early literacy.

Jennifer Pigza, Ph.D. (she/her) | Associate Provost and Executive Director of CILSA (925) 631-4755

Jennifer Pigza also serves as a faculty member in the graduate program in Leadership for Social Justice and Leadership doctoral program. She brings to Saint Mary's experiences in nonprofit social service agencies, service-learning, college teaching, living and learning programs and higher education administration. She writes about critical pedagogy, student learning and critical reflection, teaching for social justice, and institutionalizing service-learning. She traces her commitments to faith-justice to early experiences working with homeless people in Baltimore, attending service immersions in Mexico, institutionalizing service-learning in Maryland high schools, and investing four years with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.