Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

School of Communication Alumnus Wins New Rising Aztec Award

Luke Sophinos is one of the 10 up-and-coming alumni awarded the Rising Aztec Award.

 School of Communication Alumnus Wins New Rising Aztec Award

by Sofia Bert

November 6, 2019

SDSU Alumni announces 10 recipients of the Rising Aztec Award, a new award that recognizes up-and-coming alumni who make San Diego State University part of their lives and careers.

One of these 10 recipients is Luke Sophinos, School of Communication ‘18, College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts alumnus who founded CourseKey, a platform offering time and attendance tracking software for more than 80 institutions.

Sophinos is well known and active in San Diego’s startup and entrepreneurship community and remains committed to SDSU by supporting student entrepreneurs through mentorship and membership on the ZIP Launchpad Advisory Board.

The Rising Aztecs initiative will emphasize collaboration from across campus, with representation of diverse colleges, demographics and professions. This inaugural initiative is part of SDSU Alumni’s homecoming program, celebrating SDSU’s exemplary alumni.

As a compliment to SDSU Alumni’s Awards of Distinction, the Rising Aztecs will be selected by the SDSU Alumni Board of Advisors, recognizing a select group of alumni building their lives and career.

Rising Aztecs are alumni under 40 with extraordinary career achievements and/or awards. They have demonstrated a commitment to the university and alumni community through engagement with SDSU Alumni and/or university programs such as the Aztec Mentor Program (AMP), Aztecs Hiring Aztecs (AHA), SDSU Alumni lifetime membership, student support, philanthropy involving the university, Aztec Club membership, support for SDSU athletics, or other forms of SDSU involvement.

Bestowed for the first time this year, Rising Aztec awards will be presented biennially, rotating with the SDSU Alumni Awards of Distinction.

Other awardees include:

Alex Morea (’04, mechanical engineering)

Alex Morea is CEO of Formula Plastics, a precision tooling and injection molding company for cutting-edge technology and medical devices located in Tecate, Baja California. A former MESA student at SDSU, in 2018 he established the Alex Mora Endowed Scholarship for SDSU MESA Engineering Students, ensuring support for SDSU MESA students for years to come.

Dylan M. Aste (’06, computer science)

Dylan M. Aste, an Assistant United States Attorney, prosecutes civil matters for the U. S. government in federal court where he has recovered more than $12 million and has twice received a certificate of commendation from the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for outstanding performance and invaluable assistance in support of the activities of the Civil Rights Division. He is an ardent supporter of SDSU Athletics and the Aztec Mentor Program.

Kevin Gelfand (’11, entrepreneurship)

Kevin Gelfand is co-founder of Shake Smart, the first student-owned business on campus, which has grown to 300 employees at 15 stores in six states. Recognized in 2018 as one of INC Magazine’s Rising Stars and Forbes “30 Under 30,” he supports SDSU’s entrepreneurial initiatives with campus speaking engagements, student mentorship, and by providing career opportunities.

Katie Howland (’13, interdisciplinary studies)

Katie Howland is executive director of Millie’s Bookshelf, a San Diego-based humanitarian literacy nonprofit that installs micro libraries promoting reading programs for refugee children worldwide. As leader of San Diego’s only nonprofit operating in overseas refugee settings, she works closely with the university’s International Security and Conflict Resolution department to ensure exposure for Aztecs to career options in humanitarian-related fields.

Anita Walia (’13, public health)

Anita Walia serves as a program coordinator with San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency where she explores opportunities for student involvement in Health and Human Services for hands-on experience in supporting the San Diego community. She helped establish the School of Public Health Alumni Board at SDSU, where she now volunteers.

Jordan Harrison (’14, marketing)

Jordan Harrison is senior director of programs at Reality Changers, a San Diego nonprofit serving low-income and first-generation students, many of whom have attended SDSU. He serves as a mentor for students, provides leadership for student groups, and is working to launch a post-undergrad mentor program through SDSU’s Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB).

Hana Creger (’15, sustainability)

Hana Creger is a public policy advocate who helps develop and implement local and state-level policies to address climate change, poverty, and social injustice most directly affecting economic, social, and health outcomes for low-income communities of color. An AMP participant, she is also a philanthropic supporter of the College of Arts and Letters.

Chris Hokokian (’15, finance)

Chris Hokokian has earned top accolades in his position at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management including recognition as one of the company’s top-producing financial advisors. Serving a second term as the Aztec Football Legacy Group president, he also supports Athletes Going Pro, a program assisting SDSU student-athletes transitioning into professional careers after sports.

J.J. Lewis (’17, educational leadership)

J.J. Lewis is superintendent & CEO for Compass Charter Schools, a public, virtual charter school system operating in 18 counties across California. Having doubled the number of students served by his schools, he has been recognized by multiple organizations for his work in education and the community wherein he is an enthusiastic advocate for SDSU.

The awards are presented by SDSU Alumni, which will honor the awardees at a February 25 reception at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center followed by their introduction at the Aztec men’s basketball game with Colorado State at Viejas Arena.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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