Meet Our Professional Staff


Serena Le, Ph.D. | Director

Serena comes to the Student Learning Center after a decade of teaching, working, and learning at Cal. She completed her Ph.D. in English here in 2019 (earning an M.A. with Creative Writing emphasis along the way) and previously served as an Artistic Literacy research associate and master teaching artist at Cal Performances. She also holds a B.A. in Music from Swarthmore College. Knowing first-hand how innovative programming, resources, and mentorship can profoundly amplify the significance and impact students imagine for their lives, she seeks to make Cal’s vision of a campus-wide platform for undergraduate creativity and discovery a robust, sustainable reality.

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Khuong Le | Coordinator

Graduating from Cal in 2018 with an Honors Degree in Economics, Khuong Le believes in the power of quantitative modeling to capture the world and its responsibility to make that world better. This belief makes Khuong passionate about her work at the SLC. Here, disrupting the notion of passive learning, she and her colleagues rely on years of data-intensive research on education to bring the student to the center of every interaction and deliver a learning experience that’s equitable, empowering, and transformative. Khuong is also an international and transfer scholar, has about a gazillion hobbies, and will probably tell you “Economic models are only as relevant as their ability to improve lives,” if you hang around her long enough.

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Language Exchange Program

Maya Mahajan | Coordinator

During her undergrad, Maya cultivated a love of learning in her work as a tutor with the SLC Writing Program. After graduating with a BA in Peace & Conflict Studies, she returned to the SLC as part of the professional staff in the Spring of 2018. Being a part of the SLC community has been an invaluable experience for her as not only a Cal student but also as a lifelong learner. She is dedicated to continuing the SLC tradition of being a welcoming and inclusive space where students can explore their identities as Cal scholars and global citizens. She is also a Coordinator of the Writing Program.

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Mathematics & Statistics

Mike Leong | Co-Director

Mike Leong has worked at the SLC Math/Stat program since he started as a tutor in 1987 during his undergraduate years at Cal. He has supported every lower division mathematics and statistics course in the form of a study group or an adjunct course. Recently, he has been teaching Math 32 for Summer Bridge and Stat 198 for students studying probability. He comes to work every day looking forward to engaging with students and tutoring staff in their learning process and practices. If you’re at the SLC on a Sunday, you might see him with his dog, Charlie!

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Michael Wong | Co-Director

After graduating from Cal in 2001 with a B.A. in Physics, Michael began working full-time in the Math/Statistics program while completing an M.S. in Physics from San Francisco State in 2009.  When not working with students at the SLC, Michael performs on the french horn in various musical groups around the Bay Area, and serves as the Artistic Director for Marching and Pep Programs for the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the Official Band of the City and County of San Francisco.

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Branden Saenz | Coordinator

Branden Saenz received a Bachelor's Degree in Pure Mathematics with a Minor in CalTeach (STEM Education) in Spring 2013. He first joined the SLC as a peer tutor in Fall 2011 and became a professional staff in Fall 2013. He has taught adjuncts supporting Math 16A, 1A and 54, Algebra II/Geometry/Pre-Calculus/Trigonometry courses for the SPEAR Middle School Academy, and Math 96 Workshop for the Summer Bridge Program in his time with the SLC. He is passionate about supporting students at UC Berkeley and beyond as well as sharing his passion about Math and learning with all he encounters.

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Brian Thorsen | Coordinator

Brian graduated from Cal in Spring 2019 with a B.A. in Statistics with a Teaching concentration. He began working for the SLC full time in Summer 2019 and joined the professional staff in Spring 2020. At the SLC, Brian is honored to serve an inclusive, collaborative community that empowers students to kindle their wide-ranging passions and push themselves to achieve new standards of academic excellence. Elsewhere on and off campus, you may spot him playing bass in various jazz groups, such as the UC Jazz Ensembles which he has played in since his freshman year!

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Hieu Nguyen | Coordinator

Arriving at UC Berkeley as an international and a transfer student during Fall 2015, Hieu started his journey at the SLC under the Math&Stat Field Study program. Beside his time in the classroom, Hieu has always found the SLC as a home away from home.  After receiving a B.A in Astrophysics from Cal in 2017, Hieu continued his journey at the SLC as a coordinator for the Math&Stat Program while working on his application for the astrophysics Ph.D program in 2020.

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Jason Ferguson | Coordinator

Jason first found his passion for teaching while he was a graduate student. He is thrilled to be able to work every day with diverse, dedicated, and passionate colleagues in the Student Learning Center. The aspect of his work he finds most rewarding is fostering an inclusive community where students' views of success in math are transformed from ability to complete exams to the ability to apply problem-solving techniques in their own academic field.

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Miranda Gonzales | Coordinator

Miranda graduated from Cal in 2017 with a B.S. in Nutritional Science. She first entered the Student Learning Center as a member of the Summer Bridge 2013 cohort. Over the course of her undergrad she supported the SLC in various capacities, cultivating a passion for student-centered service. She worked as a peer tutor with the Writing Program, and also served as a student coordinator and ambassador for Summer Bridge. Upon completing her degree, she joined the professional staff as a coordinator for the Science Program, marrying together her passion for peer pedagogy with a long-held love of science as a means of inquiry and a tool for engaging with the world. She is thrilled to be supporting undergrads in building community and collaborating to collectively thrive in the sciences.

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Shirley Ly | Coordinator

After earning her B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UC Davis in 2014, Shirley served in a variety of professions that include healthcare, biotechnology, and higher education. Through her diverse work experiences, she gained a deep appreciation for science education and discovered her passion for supporting students in navigating college. In 2017, Shirley joined the SLC Professional Team, where she is proud to be part of a highly collaborative and dynamic group of colleagues committed to learning. As Science Program Coordinator, she is thrilled that she can channel her passions every day to enrich the community of budding scientists at Cal.

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Social Science

Maya Lefao | Coordinator

Maya Lefao was born in Berkeley and raised across the South Pacific. She received her B.A from the University of California, Berkeley in African American studies with an emphasis on globalization and education; M.A in Africology from Temple University; and she is currently working on her research which explores Afro-Oceanic Indigenous Epistemology. Working at the Student Learning Center has been one of her most invigorating experiences at Cal thus far. She is excited to engage with students as they uncover the endless possibilities of human phenomena, ways in which we understand information, produce knowledge and experience wisdom.

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Strategic Learning Program


Summer Bridge

Cara Stanley | Director

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TBA | Coordinator

UCFTR (Undergraduate Course Facilitator Training and Resources)

Crystalkay Fairrington | Coordinator

Crystalkay completed her Bachelors in Spanish Language and Literature at UC Berkeley in the Fall of 2012. She joined the SLC team as an administrator for the SPEAR Program before she left the states in 2015 to pursue a Mphil in Literary Translation from Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. Her time abroad enabled her to experience another academic culture and allowed her to connect with people from across the globe. She currently coordinates the Undergraduate Course Facilitator Training and Resources Program after returning to the SLC in 2018. She uses her cultural awareness to make the program as welcoming as possible to the many students that come to collaborate and share knowledge. She is eager to continue growing the program and serving Cal scholars!

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Jee Soo Kang| Coordinator

Jee Soo Staff Profile Photo and quoteJee Soo received her B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in Educational Studies from Haverford College in 2016. After graduating, Jee Soo moved to Boston to work with elementary school students before transitioning to work in higher education. In 2019, Jee Soo began pursuing an M.A. in Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University to study the intersections between Korean drumming and political activism. She believes in the transformative power of education in fostering critical consciousness, cultivating the mutual humanization of teacher and student, and catalyzing social change.

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R. Laydei Woodard | Director

As a first-generation, low-income, working student from South Central LA, there weren’t many spaces at Cal Laydei felt she could thrive in but she found community and support when she joined the SLC as a Research Writing Facilitator. Through this experience, coupled with earning her BA in African American Studies (Honors) and Ethnic Studies, she developed a passion for the written word and its ability to impact social change. In this work, she gained a deep appreciation for helping scholars see their potential to transform the world through research and academic writing. In 2014, she became a Writing Program Coordinator and has continued fostering an inclusive community for scholars to shape their unique writing voice and support their peers to do the same.

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TBA | Co-Director


Cara Stanley | Executive Director

For over three decades, Cara has worked with Cal undergraduates to empower them to embrace their authentic selves, live up to their intellectual gifts, and take ownership of their academic journeys. In addition to her role as Executive Director, she teaches courses on Black student identity and Black feminist thought, with an emphasis on the life and work of Audre Lorde. She is the founder of the SPEAR Middle School Scholar Academy and co-founder of the VéVé Clark Institute for Engaged Scholars. Cara earned her B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley in Ethnic Studies and M.A. from San Francisco State in Interdisciplinary Social Science. She is also the Director of Summer Bridge.

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Khuyen V. Nguyen, Ph.D. | Executive Associate Director

Khuyen completed her Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies in 2011 here at Cal. A firm believer in the ability of Cal undergraduates to transform the institution and the world, she is thrilled to be a member of the SLC community. Her favorite part of the job? Colleagues who are passionate about inclusive excellence and students who are committed to unfolding into their best selves. She oversees the Economics Program, International Student Program, Language Exchange Program,  UCFTR,  Science Program, and Writing Program. 

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