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Literature Alumni Highlights

Composite Major in Literature

Stephen Lehtonen Stephen Lehtonen, ’03

Lehtonen heads up the Southwest region for Grail Research, a strategic research firm that blends strategy consulting and market research to provide organizations with answers to their most important business questions. He is also the Board Chair for Breakaway Education, an after school partner for K-12 schools and a talent pipeline provider for the next generation of educators. The organization recruits, trains, and supports aspiring educators to take their passion and teach it to K-12 students in after school programs.


Aimee Bender Aimee Bender, ’91

Aimee Bender is the author of five books, including The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998), a NY Times Notable Book; An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000), an L.A. Times pick of the year; The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010), winner of the SCIBA award for best fiction; and The Color Master, a NY Times Notable Book for 2013. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches creative writing at USC. She has been featured on a UC San Diego “We Are Tritons” campus banner.

Dr. Gregory Buford

Dr. Gregory Buford, ’90, MD, FACS

In addition to running a successful practice as a Denver, Colorado Board Certified Plastic Surgeon and national expert on non-invasive surgical technologies, Dr. Buford is a published author, writing on both medical and business topics.

Kate Cook

Kate Cook, ’03

Director, Marketing at Pivot TV Network/Participant Media

Prior to her current job, Kate Cook held senior marketing positions at Participant Media and A&E Television Networks. She started her career working in production at MTV Networks, Hoosick Falls Productions, and Ironweed Films before moving into brand strategy and Saatchi & Saatchi.

Paul Flores

Paul S. Flores, ’95

Paul S. Flores is a published poet, performance artist, playwright, and well known spoken word artist. His PEN Award winning novel ALONG THE BORDER LIES reflects his experience growing up in Chula Vista, CA, on the border of Tijuana, Mexico. Flores work explores the intersection of urban culture, Hip-Hop and transnational identity. His spoken word poem “Brown Dreams” from Def Poetry on HBO has been viewed on YouTube 100,000 times, and continues to inform and influence young people all over the United States.

Literatures in English

Carol Becker

Carol Becker, Ph.D. ’76

Carol Becker is Dean of Faculty and Professor of the Arts at Columbia University School of the Arts and a member of the Global Agenda Council on the Role of Art in Society for the World Economic Forum. With research interests that range from feminist theory, American cultural history, the education of artists, art and social responsibility, to South African art and politics, she has published numerous articles and books on cultural criticism. She was honored by UC San Diego as the 1999 Outstanding Alumna and was recognized during the 50th Anniversary Year in 2010.

Adriana Cara

Adriana Cara, ’92

Founding Attorney, Cara & Garland, APLC, one of the few female- and minority-owned law practices in San Diego County. In a June 2015 profile story in the San Diego Union Tribune, Cara confided that reading literature is an essential part of who she is and has served her well since her days at UC San Diego, providing an enjoyable escape during her stressful law school days and a solid foundation for developing persuasive legal arguments as an attorney.

Kathryn Frengs

Kathryn Frengs, ’01

Global Marketing Communications Lead, Firewood Marketing at Google

Kathryn Frengs started her professional life as an Intern in The Clinton White House, was Staff Assistant and Field Rep to U.S. Congresswoman Jane Harman, and has worked, among other places, at Apple, in Paris and in the U.K.

Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson, ’74, Ph.D. ’82

Kim Stanley Robinson is a renowned science fiction author, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. He has penned more than 20 books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Fifty Degrees Below, Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt, and Antarctica. According to a 2013 article in the New Yorker, he is "generally acknowledged as one of the greatest living science-fiction writers." He was honored by UC San Diego in 2005 for Professional Achievement and by Muir College as a 2011 Environmental Fellow.

Alan Russell

Alan Russell, ’78

Bestselling author of ten mystery novels, including Burning ManShameMultiple WoundsThe Hotel Detective, and Political Suicide, Alan Russell’s books have been nominated for most of the major awards in crime fiction, including a Lefty award for best comedic mystery, a USA Today Critics’ Choice Award, two San Diego Book Awards for best mystery novel, and the Odin Award for Lifetime Achievement from the San Diego Writers/Editor Guild. Alan served as editor of The Guardian newspaper while a student at UCSD and returned to UC San Diego in 2014 to give the Warren College commencement keynote speech. He lives with his wife and children in Encinitas, California.

Literatures in French

Sandra Dijkstra

Sandra Dijkstra, Ph.D. ’76

Sandra Dijkstra is the founder, owner, and president of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She is agent to authors in the arenas of both fiction (literary and commercial) and nonfiction (including history, politics, current affairs, business, science, and religion). Over the years, Newsweek dubbed her "the best agent in the West," Esquire chose her as one of the nation's "top five literary agents," and the Los Angeles Times proclaimed her an "über-agent" and "the most powerful literary agent on the West Coast." She was honored by UC San Diego as the 1993 Outstanding Alumna.

Lynn Freer

Lynn Freer, ’74

President, Spidell Publishing

Lynn "Ms. California Tax" Freer is President of Spidell Publishing, Inc., where she devotes herself full time to analyzing, writing about, and teaching California tax law and procedures. Her biggest challenge?: “Finding good writers. Writing and accounting do not come from the same part of the brain. It’s so technical—and you have to understand the law. So finding people who can—and want to—write on the subject is difficult.”

Literatures in German

Kat Burnside

Kat Burnside, ’96

Communications Strategist, VIVA Strategy + Communications,

Kat Burnside is a communications strategist with a background in global public relations strategy, crisis communications, outreach campaigns, and marketing efforts. She spent the first eight years of her career in broadcast news, and was responsible for daily news content and special live event coverage for CBS Radio in Boston.

Literatures in Italian

Kristen Barnhisel

Kristen Barnhisel, ’93

Winemaker, White Wines at J Lohr Vineyards and Wines

Barnhisel has spent over two decades earning a reputation for her winemaking acumen and her versatility working with an array of grape varieties. After studying Italian literature at UC San Diego, Barnhisel became one of the first women, and first Americans, to work harvest season for Ruffino in Italy. In addition to her role as winemaker, white wine, for J. Lohr, Barnhisel serves as a director for the American Society of Viticulture and Enology.

Literatures in Russian

Deborah Kirkham

Deborah Kirkham, ’94

COO, Pole to Win International

As Chief Operating Officer, Deborah Kirkham oversees international operations across the U.S., Europe and India. In her career, she has led, mentored, and assembled world-class teams for industry giants such as Check Point, Bandai Namco, LucasArts, and Sega. Prior to becoming COO, she was President of e4e Interactive Entertainment and oversaw the merger with Pole To Win which energized the company’s global expansion.

Literatures in Spanish

Christopher Yanov

Christopher Yanov, ’99

Founder, Reality Changers

Since Chris Yanov founded Reality Changers in 2001, the program has helped award nearly five million dollars in scholarships to inner-city students. Reality Changers students are part of the Chancellor’s Associates Scholars Program at UC San Diego. He has been named one of the most-admired CEOs by the San Diego Business Journal and one of San Diego’s new civic power brokers by San Diego Magazine. In 2015, he received UC San Diego’s True Triton Award for volunteer service.

Literatures of the World

Tova Weintraub

Tova Weintraub, ’07

Brand Marketing Manager, Cinedigm

Tova Weintraub has a professed passion for developing branding campaigns for companies and clients and robust career experiences in the entertainment industry. Before her current post, she held positions at 20th Century Fox Film, Mattel, and Allied Integrated Marketing, where she managed Paramount and DreamWorks accounts.

Careers in Literature

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