NSS Dean's Board of Advisors

For more information on how to join the NSS Dean's Board of Advisors, please contact René Vellanoweth, Dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences, at [email protected] or (323) 343-2000

Dean's Board of Advisors

Thanks to the following NSS alumni and community members who give their time and talents to the college. 

Man with white hair wearing black rimmed glasses and white jacket

Jeffrey (Jeff) Silverman, NSS Dean's Board of Advisors chairman, retired as corporate vice president for Technical Operations at Celgene Americas in April 2018. He previously worked for Alpha Therapeutics, acquired by Grifols in 2003. Jeff received a B.S. in biochemistry in 1977 from Cal State LA and was honored as the 2010 Distinguished Alumnus of NSS. He received an MBA from Claremont Graduate University. He lives in Pasadena with his spouse and Cal State LA alumna, Amelia Perez-Silverman. Amelia received a BS in Environmental Health Science in 1976.

Silverman is a second-generation Cal State LA alum. His late father, Ron Silverman, was alumnus and faculty emeritus of Art. He taught at Cal State LA from 1955 – 1988. The elder Silverman established the Ronald Silverman Endowed Scholarship Fund, which was set up to provide financial support to art education students at Cal State LA. He passed away in October of 2017. Jeff Silverman's mother, Marilyn taught kindergarten in Montebello before focusing on raising a family. Marilyn passed away in August 2021.

Black and white picture of bald man and glasses

Principal in Charge and CEO, Nelson Algaze, consults with clients to develop and evaluate real estate, facility development and design strategies. With over 30 years of industry experience, Nelson has made a commitment to innovation and authenticity in his approach. His personal portfolio includes corporate designs that have been described as innovative and timeless. He encourages everyone at the firm to "Design Think", which can be described as the overall vision of our company: To provide business-drive design solutions with artistry and savvy. He understands how to make a good company. He invests in our people and has a strong interest in professional development in his role. His energetic personality and down-to-earth attitude weave enthusiasm and transparency into all interactions, highlighting his passion for the company, our employees, and clients.


Image of board member Christara Avaness

Christara Avaness is a Family Medicine trained physician with a passion for Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine.  She focuses on addressing the root cause of disease through lifestyle practices, primarily treating her patients with a customized high-enzyme nutrition plan as well as phytoceuticals (physician-formulated vitamin, mineral, and herbal extracts) that have been meticulously sourced and formulated in her own Los Angeles based lab facility. 

Dr. Avaness received her medical training at Western University of Health Sciences and received her Bachelor of Science in Biology/Biological Sciences from the University of Southern California. She completed her Family Medicine residency in the hospital at College Medical Center in Long Beach, California.

Dr. Avaness has dedicated herself to the extensive study of herbal medicine, research, and learning from natural healers around the world. She is committed to lifelong learning and making her healing contribution. She is very excited to support the health & wellness movement at Cal State LA! 

Headshot of man with gray hair and glasses in black suit, link pink shirt and black and white polka dot tie. US flag in background Ron Bates, Ph.D. has served the public for more than 50 years beginning in 1969 as an administrative assistant for the City of Los Angeles and rising to the position of city manager for several Southern California cities, including Buena Park, South Gate and Pico Rivera. He also has worked in the private sector as a financial consultant; served as Mayor on the Los Alamitos City Council; and was president of the League of California Cities and the Southern California Association of Governments. In 2014, Bates received a National Public Service Award from the American Society of Public Administrators and the National Academy of Public Administration. The award recognizes government leaders who have made outstanding and lasting contributions to public service.

Headshot of Black man in black suit, white shirt and blue tie Derek Cotton is with Capital Group where he serves as a Manager of Talent Acquisition, responsible for a team of four, which handles the recruitment for the sales and sales operations group. He has direct recruitment responsibility for Private Wealth Advisors within the Private Client Services Group. Derek has over 15 years of recruitment experience through his previous employment with TPx Communications, Farmers Insurance, and Egon Zehnder International, a global retained search firm where he identified top candidates for some of the world’s leading firms.

Derek has an International MBA from Pepperdine University, which included a year of study at Mexico’s Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics from San Diego State University where he also earned a minor in Naval Science.

Derek formally sat on the Board of Southern California Leadership Network and served as the Chair of the Marketing Committee. He previously was a founding Board member of the Southern California Diversity Council, a membership organization committed to advancing the diversity and inclusion conversation.

Derek is deeply involved in the Olympic sport of fencing, has sat on the Board of Directors, been the US referee to three Olympic games, and was elected to an International Commission overseeing referees.

Derek is married and is the proud father of one son.

Headshot of white man with glasses and a beard. Wearing a light purple shirt John Dietler is the vice president at SWCA Environmental Consultants, a national firm that provides comprehensive environmental planning, regulatory compliance, and natural and cultural resources management services. In this role, he provides strategic direction and leadership in the region's financial performance, business and client development, staff management, and in maintaining the firm’s reputation for high-quality scientific and technical consulting.

Dr. Dietler has over twenty years of experience conducting archaeological research in academic and applied settings. His research interests are broad, and he has published on the intersections of craft production and the origins of political complexity in prehistory, technological innovation at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and Victorian mortuary practices. His projects have received awards from the California Preservation Foundation, the Los Angeles Conservancy, and the City of San Gabriel

With master’s and doctoral degrees in anthropology from UCLA, the majority of Dietler's work has centered around the Los Angeles area. His Southern California team at SWCA includes numerous California State Los Angeles graduates.


white woman with blond short hair with black sweater and white collared shirt Pam Duffy practices in the areas of commercial real estate, land use, and development, with a special expertise in large public and private entity transactions. She has acted as lead counsel for numerous major development projects, including one of the largest rebuilding projects in San Francisco history, the $2.5 billion Sutter Health/California Pacific Medical Center, which includes five campuses and two new hospitals spread across the city. She is currently lead counsel for the LA Clippers’ new Inglewood, CA arena.

She is renowned for her in-depth understanding of the long-term implications of development requirements and how they affect construction, financing, operation, leasing, and sale of a development project. Pam is unusually skilled at helping clients find elegant solutions to the challenges that arise in the development of complex public/private projects.

Pam serves on the Board of Directors of the National Advisory Council of the Institute of Governmental Studies at U.C. Berkeley and is a member of the Advisory Board of the College of Natural & Social Sciences at California State University, Los Angeles. She has previously served on the boards of the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center, the San Francisco Chapter of Lambda Alpha, The Exploratorium, San Francisco Planning and Urban Research (SPUR), The City Club, the International Museum of Women Advisory Committee, the Old Mission Dolores Restoration Project, the Margaret Jenkins Dance Co., the United Cerebral Palsy Association of San Francisco, and KQED, Inc.

Additionally, she was a member of the San Francisco Mayor’s 2015 Housing Working Group, and a mayoral appointee to the Citizen’s Advisory Committee on the Reuse of Treasure Island Naval Base.

Pam graduated with honors from California State University, Los Angeles, in 1970 and earned her law degree, cum laude, from Loyola University, Los Angeles, in 1978. While at Loyola, she was elected to the St. Thomas More Law Honor Society and served as a Lead Articles Editor of the Loyola Law Review.


Woman with dark hair and black jacket and mustard shirt From 2011 – 2015, Monica E. Guardian served as the Special Operations Administrator for the Family Violence Operations Division of the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. She served the City of Los Angeles for over 14 years, including two Mayoral Administrations.  In 2014, Monica was selected to be part of the U.S. Speaker and Specialist Program Bureau of International Information Programs through the U.S. Department of State.

Monica spent four years assigned to the City Attorney’s award-winning Neighborhood Prosecutor Program where she collaborated with the Los Angeles Police Department, city agencies and area stakeholders on projects designed to improve the quality of life and increase safety in the community. She has been recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with their 2009 Public Service Award and by the City of Los Angeles for her continuous efforts to educate and raise awareness among its residents.

She is committed to her communities and proves so by serving as a board member of the Los Angeles Police Department Hollenbeck Police Activities League (Hollenbeck PAL) and a board member of Northeast Community Clinics. In May of 2016, Monica was appointed as Senior Advisor by Sheriff Michael J. Brown of the Bedford County, Virginia Sheriff’s Department and designated Director of West Coast Operations for the Safe Surfin’ Foundation – a non-profit organization preventing children from being victimized by Internet predators. Monica is now serving a second term and as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for Northeast Community Clinics, a Federally Qualified Health Center. (FQHC) member for 4 years.

In 2016, Monica joined the healthcare sector and in 2018 was appointed as the Director of Workforce Development Department for AltaMed Health Services Corp., the largest Federally Qualified Health Center in the U.S.  Monica also serves as Director for the East Los Angeles Area Health Education Center (AHEC), through the California Statewide Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program. She currently serves as an instructor for the University of Southern California's Annenberg Center for Third Space Thinking. 

Monica holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from Mount St. Mary’s College and is the proud parent of two college-bound children.


Gary Matus is Managing Director of RSR Partners.  He recently received the Alumnus of the Year Award in February of 2017 and received the College of NSS Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2004. 

Prior to RSR Partners, he was a managing partner of Egon Zehnder International, heading the firm’s Financial Services Practice. Before entering search, Gary held a number of senior management roles with Bank of America, including chief marketing officer. He has also served as president and chief executive officer of Iwerks Entertainment. Gary began his career as a national brands product manager with Colgate-Palmolive.

Man with gray hair, dark blue shuit, blue and white collared shirt, and red print tie Gary graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with a degree in history. He also received an MBA from the Arizona State University/Thunderbird School of Global Management. Additionally, he has a post-graduate degree from the Anderson School of Management at UCLA in director education and certification. Gary lives in Pasadena, California and currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Thunderbird School of Global Management, where he received his MBA, on the Board of the Los Angeles YMCA, Board of the Los Angeles Ketchum-Downtown YMCA. He is also actively involved with his alma mater CSULA, serves on its President’s Council and is a member of the College of NSS Advisory Board.



Headshot of woman with blue blazer, dark hair and gold earrings Alma Rosa Nieto is an immigration attorney and legal analyst based in Los Angeles, CA. She is a frequent contributor to Telemundo, Al Jazeera America, MSNBC, MSN Latino, NBC Latino, CNN, La Opinion. Alma Rosa was born in Los Angeles, California but raised in Mexico City. At 11 years old, she moved to Mexico City where she attended the prestigious “Instituto Anglo-Español.” Upon completing her education in Mexico City, Nieto returned to Los Angeles where she completed her undergraduate degree at California State University, Los Angeles. She then earned her Juris Doctorate degree at the University of California Hastings College of Law. 

Over the course of her legal career, she has represented thousands of clients and educated millions through her frequent educational appearances on television, radio, and weekly presence on social media. Notwithstanding her regular weekly appearances on Telemundo, Nieto hosts a weekly Facebook Live segment through the Telemundo Facebook page in Spanish on Thursdays reaching 250,000-500,000 viewers per segment. She highlights the latest in immigration news and answers hundreds of questions from the audience. Her video coverage of the immigration implications of the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act took social media platform Facebook by a storm, reaching over 74,000 people and the video being re-shared 774 times in only a matter of one hour.

Her expertise is sought after by many leaders in the telecommunications arena and landed her an exclusive invitation to President Obama’s town hall meeting in Miami where he discussed his 2014 Executive Actions on Immigration. Nieto is currently a board member of the Media Advocacy Committee for the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Also, she currently is the Immigration legal analyst for Network Telemundo news. In 2018 she was the recipient of an Emmy award for Noticias Telemundo Mediodia.


Sally (Sarah) Pratt

Sally (Sarah) Pratt is Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern California and currently serves as Director of Faculty Development for the Humanities.  She served as Vice Provost for Graduate Programs at USC from 2010 to 2020 and, before that, as Dean of Academic Programs in USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences.  Outside the university, she served on the boards of a number of academic organizations and as President of the AAU Association of Graduate Schools, as Chair of the Executive Board of the Council of Graduate Schools, and as President of AATSEEL (American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages).  In all these positions, she has been particularly concerned with the intellectual and emotional well-being of students – specifically, students’ ability to grapple with complex issues calmly, rigorously, and fearlessly, and their ability to find joy in the process of learning.  Given this commitment, she has also focused on the university’s ability to support faculty and staff, who need the tools to be productive in their own spheres and to understand that they play a key role in helping students find fruitful paths forward.

Pratt’s research focuses primarily on Russian poetry.  She has published three books,  Nikolai Zabolotsky:  Enigma and Cultural Paradigm from Northwestern University Press; Russian Metaphysical Romanticism from Stanford University Press; and The Semantics of Chaos in Tiutčev from Sagner Verlag; as well as numerous articles on Russian poetry, Russian women’s autobiography, and twentieth-century Russian literary criticism.  Her most recent articles are “Disruption of Disruption:  The Orthodox Christian Impulse in the Works of Nikolai Zabolotsky and Olga Sedakova,”Pushkin Framing Mary:  Blasphemy, Beauty and National Identity,” and “In-Betweenness as a Device: Notes on Lidiia Ginzburg with Digressions on Barthes and Foucault.”  Her current project is a study of the way “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” written by the English poet Thomas Gray, was translated and transformed in the Russian poetic tradition.  She did her undergraduate work at Barnard College and Yale University, and received the PhD from Columbia University. 

David Galaviz

David Galaviz serves as Associate Vice President for Government and Community Partnerships with USC University Relations. David’s primary role is to create a shared vision with USC’s neighbors and develop partnerships with local elected officials, civic leaders and community-based organizations in South L.A. and the Eastside. He is also responsible for engaging USC schools and departments and facilitating their community engagement strategies.

David’s oversees an incredible team of six community organizers committed to creating partnerships that strengthen the community, civic, and cultural fabric of all neighborhoods served by USC. Over the last eighteen months, Galaviz was responsible for facilitating the university’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic.  This included working with his team to distribute over six million pounds of food to needy Angelenos, developing vaccine sites, awarding over $200 thousand from the USC COVID 19 Community Fund to local partners and co-hosting vaccine town halls featuring the Keck School of Medicine. 

Prior to this, he established the first Office of USC Local Government Relations and served as Director of Community Outreach for the USC Health Sciences Campus.  During the USC Village renovation process, David was responsible for educating local residents and generating public support for City Council approval. These multi-year efforts resulted in over one-thousand community members attending City Council hearings and speaking in support.  During the final unanimous City Council vote, over nine-hundred community members travelled to City Hall to advocate for the project.   David also played a key role in organizing support for the $374 Million Coliseum renovation, and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art located in Exposition Park. These efforts included direct engagement with community members, developing messaging and marketing materials, and establishing trusting relationships with diverse stakeholders. 

Prior to his tenure with USC, Galaviz served as Legislative Director for State Senator/Assemblymember Gilbert Cedillo and was responsible for issues including immigration, public safety, economic development and labor. Galaviz currently serves as a board member for the Central City Association of Los Angeles, Weingart ELA YMCA, Exposition Park Master Plan Community Advisory Committee, Salesian High School Strategic Planning Committee among other organizations. He is also a former member of the Cal State L.A. Alumni Association Board of Directors.  In his spare time, he is a youth soccer and basketball coach. Galaviz holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from CSULA and a master’s degree in public administration from USC.