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On Purpose: Portrait of Emerging Alumni

August 16, 2018
To commemorate our 150th anniversary in 2018, the College of Liberal Arts commissioned 60 photographs taken by Xavier Tavera. Departments and programs partnered with Tavera to envision their images and to write the narratives that accompany each photograph. View On Purpose: Portrait of the Liberal Arts.

Four Alumni stand in business attire on the interior steps at Northrup hall.
Picture L to R James Baltazar, Erika Dani, Megan Gooden, Osman Ahmed

As one of the original collegiate units of the University of Minnesota and encompassing the foundational disciplines of higher education, the College of Liberal Arts has produced hundreds of thousands of impactful and memorable alumni.

For the past 25 years, we have recognized over 1,700 seasoned graduates with the Alumni of Notable Achievement Award. Recently, near the launch of this momentous anniversary year, the CLA Alumni Society added recognition for recent grads already making a large impact in the world: the Emerging Alumni Award. These two awards honor a wide range of CLA graduates who deepen a culture of engagement, have achieved creative excellence in their careers, volunteer their time, and who mirror the community at large.

An anniversary year allows reflection, but at the same time inspires us to dream forward. Building on the success of their predecessors and paving the way for those who rise next, these CLA Outstanding Alumni Award recipients represent but a few of the remarkable individual achievers and everyday heroes who add to CLA’s enduring legacy as a generator of the most desirable college graduates globally:

Osman Ahmed (BA ‘12, political science and global studies) - A former refugee from Somalia, Ahmed has pursued the American Dream in Minnesota, building a stellar career in public service. During college he volunteered on political campaigns, honing his leadership among African and African American communities in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties. Now a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives and working for U.S. Senator Tina Smith’s field office, he has proven himself a dedicated community and coalition builder, committing himself to mentoring high school and college students, building broad intercultural understanding, and creating effective public policy.

Erika Dani (BA ‘09, German and global studies) - After graduating from CLA, Dani‘s first jobs included assisting homeless individuals and working as a leasing agent where she helped lift first-time renters into safer living conditions. These early professional experiences sparked her entrepreneurial spirit, inspiring her to move across the country to pursue a master’s degree in city and regional planning. She has parlayed her compassion and problem-solving skills into a successful real estate development career and a platform for championing affordable housing as a means of personal and economic empowerment.

James Baltazar (BA ‘09, political science; MURP ‘12, urban and regional planning) - A “nontraditional” CLA student who graduated at age 31, Baltazar poured himself into internship opportunities with state and federal senators which he credits for his success in graduate school and his career with the US Departments of State and Housing and Urban Development. Baltazar is already deeply admired as a catalyst for change and a program innovator.

Megan Gooden (BA ‘13, English) - Gooden’s passion for theater and literature, a deep sense of empathy, and the skills of applied problem solving and critical thinking nurtured through her CLA education landed her on a career path providing treatment for mental illness and chemical dependency and later in training capacities for health organizations. Colleagues admire her creative approach to care and community reintegration, and her drive to bring stakeholders together across numerous sectors and agencies. Never tiring of her personal artistic pursuits, she also remains involved as a volunteer in theater production and education.