Category Archives: Alumni Spotlights

Alumni Spotlight: Sony SVP Mike Abary

Alumnus Mike Abary ‘88 Senior Vice President of Sony Electronics began his college career as a Business Administration major with a concentration in marketing. Mike said “My degree provided me with a foundation on which to rely upon. Skill sets such as critical thinking, problem solving, and understanding people – these were fundamental skills I learned from CSUEB that I have carried throughout my career.”

Mike wants students to know pursuing their careers is a journey that should be enjoyed, and the steps taken and the skills gained are more important than the destination.

In college he recalls working 20 to 30 hours per week, but found working part time without a degree   presented limited opportunities. After college he pursued a career as a stock broker but found that was not the right path for him: the dynamic wasn’t right, people in the field were much older than him and he just wasn’t passionate about that industry. So he decided to head south of CSUEB (instead of north) and discovered Silicon Valley. Later he found his true calling in  technology product marketing at Sony, a place that felt rewarding and effective in a positive way to people’s lives.

Mike said, “I often go to electronic stores and listen in on many shopper’s conversations to see why they choose Sony when they make purchases. There’s nothing more gratifying than to know your work affected their decision to purchase, and to believe you will positively affect people’s lives through the products you bring to market.”

When asked if he knew he would be a SVP of Sony, Mike replied, “I was always ambitious, always driving for higher positions, and my next goal is becoming a CEO.”

Mike’s advice to students is, “Never stop believing in yourself, and letting perceptions about attending state school stop you from reaching for the sky.” He states he is proud to be a Cal State East Bay Alumni because the school  provides high quality academics, is down to earth, diverse, and he met his wife at Cal State East Bay.



Alumni Spotlight: Sabrina Rodriguez

Emmy award winning Anchor and Reporter for Fox 40 News. Sabrina earned her degree in Mass Communications with a focus in Broadcasting from California State University East Bay (CSUEB) in 2005 graduating as a Summa Cum Laude. Sabrina credits her degree and internship at KTVU as helping her get her foot in the door. As a young child Sabrina always wanted to be a reporter. Her original plan was to become an English high school teacher when she began her studies at Cal State East Bay but those plans quickly changed. Sabrina decided to follow her long term dreams and passions of becoming a reporter.

Sabrina states that not making it in TV News was never an option for her and when she sets her mind to something she sticks to it. Sabrina said “Without the hands on experience I got at CSUEB (Video production and editing) and my internship, I would have never been able to put together a resume tape to get hired.”
Sabrina wants her viewers to know, “I really am passionate about making the world a better place. My life’s purpose is to achieve a position of influence and break convention. The idea behind that is history repeats itself because the same people (ideologically not necessarily the actual person) keep getting placed in positions of power and influence. The only way to enact true change is to also get to that position and do something different and unconventional.”

Sabrina currently lives in Sacramento, CA and in her down time she enjoys running and actually did her first marathon this year and is training for her second one. She also rock climbs and has climbed Yosemite in the past.
Sabrina advice to students,“ Always work to the best of your ability and full potential, Don’t do anything half-way, because that’s your name, your reputation, and how people will know you. Once an opinion of you is established it’s hard to change it and always get job-related promises in writing. ”

FaceBook Fan page:
Twitter: @SabrinaRFox40

Alumni Spotlight: Derek Gordon

Derek is currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Pathbrite an early stage start-up in the education technology space. Pathbrite is a company with a focus on People Portfolios. The company’s motto is “The best way to collect, track and showcase a lifetime of learning and achievements, and to go beyond flat resumes or timelines to really stand out from the crowd.” Derek has also served as the Communications Director for the San Francisco AIDS foundation. Derek states “I’ve witnessed the majesty that is tens of thousands of people walking to raise money to end the HIV pandemic and the heartbreak of watching too many wonderful men still in the prime of their life cut down by AIDS.”

Derek holds a degree in Mass Communications from Cal State East Bay. Derek states that earning his degree has enhanced his ability to write efficiently and to write well. In his career he credits story-telling as being at the heart of everything he has done up until this point. Derek said, “My Mass Communications training also taught me to be a strong public speaker and to organize information effectively.”

Since graduating Derek has had a relationship with the same extraordinary man for 24 years, who he shares a home with in San Francisco that he says he fell in love with more times than he could count. Derek loves to cook and enjoys wine, he loves to travel and tend to his garden in his spare time. Derek said, “I have a passion for urbanity and loves cities, the people in them and their customs. Virtually every city I’ve ever visited I’ve wanted to move to for awhile to really deeply learn it and know it and understand it.”

Derek’s advice to CSUEB students is to “learn to write well. Learn to present yourself well. And never stop learning. The world changes at an amazing pace these days and you can’t possibly imagine the sorts of skills and knowledge you’ll need 25 years from now, so never stop learning.”



Derek’s blogs: and

Alumni Spotlight: Dianna Huff

This English grad teaches students that you don’t always know where life will take you. Dianna didn’t begin her college career in the English program; instead her journey at California State University East Bay (CSUEB), began in nursing that didn’t go as she planned. Before earning both her Masters and Bachelors degrees in English, she struggled in her nursing courses and received low grades; this is something all so familiar to students. After she found out that nursing wasn’t right fit, she gave business a crack and it still wasn’t the right fit.

It wasn’t until she started taking English classes to boost her GPA, when she inspired by Professor Williams, a premier story writer, that she found her passion for English. It was Professor William’s praise of her writing that gave her the confidence to choose English as her major. The degree taught her to think strategically, research, analyze well thought out plans, analyze business websites and support with evidence.

Diana said she had a late start and her first job was an office manager for a manufacturing company. She originally thought she was going to end up teaching high school but she went to a guidance counselor and took the career assessment test and discovered at that point marketing communications was the perfect fit.

Dianna states that one of things that California State University, East Bay is good at is creating people who work – either for themselves or others – and who sustain the economy. Dianna currently lives in New Hampshire with her fifteen year old son, who she spends much of her time with when away from work. Dianna originally grew up here in the Bay Area in Alameda, CA. She’s owned her own business since 1998, DH Communications, a business-to-business Website marketing firm. Dianna’s advice to students, “Keep learning constantly, this doesn’t mean you need to go back to school but you should always keep learning in whatever career you end up in.”

Alumni Spotlight: Gene Daniels

A Newark, CA chairman of the Newark Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and insurance agent at State Farm. At State Farm he oversees education and business issues. Gene plays an important part in mentoring student at Newark Memorial High School by serving on the Advisory Board of Ohlone College. Gene is a well accomplished individual and recently received an African American Heritage Leadership Award for being such a prominent community leader. As a charter member of the Fremont Union City Newark Sunset Rotary Club (F.U.N. Sunset Rotary Club), he is a part of numerous community service projects. You can check out Gene’s business page over at Gene Daniels-State Farm Agent

Alumni Spotlight: Shakira Niazi

 Shakira is the founder of Salvare La Vita Water, which launched in February 2011. Shakira earned her B.S. in Finance from California State University East Bay (CSUEB). She has worked in the banking world at credit unions, mortgage companies and in real estate. After reading Creating a world without poverty by Muhammad Yunus she was inspired to start her own business, Salvare La Vita Water, to help solve the world water crisis. The way Salvare La Vita Water functions is very different from a non-profit it does not rely on donations. Part of the proceeds from each bottle of water goes towards building wells and providing “water points” to poor villages around the world, and Shakira often gives ownership to local women.  Shakira partners with local non-government organization (NGO) in villages in countries like Afghanistan that relies on wealthy people. Shakira states that when you have to walk an hour from residence to a creek, when you are only nine years old, when do you have time for school?  Shakira wants people to choose this brand when they shop at the grocery store because choosing this brand is a noble choice. Shakira goes on to say: “Business was built by humans and they have a conscious” Shakira advice to current students is to “Marry your hobby and passions.”

Alumni Spotlight: Nick Vasallo

Nicholas Vasallo is a Dublin, CA based composer and adjunct lecturer at Cal State East Bay. Since he earned his B.A. in Music back in 2007 at CSUEB he’s accomplished quite a bit. After graduating from CSUEB, Nick earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts (DMA) in Music Composition from UC Santa Cruz. In his first year at UC Santa Cruz he was honored with the David Cope Award for Compositional Excellence and went on to win the UCSC Student Composer’s Award, San Francisco Choral Artist’s New Voices Award, Truman State University MACRO Award, International Prize for Excellence in Composition. Nick has recently released a new CD he composed entitled “MONUMENTS EMERGE” released internationally by Innova Recordings. You can check out his CD here: Nick’s most recent project was the formation of a technical post-death metal band called OBLIVION where he writes and does the lead vocals. Oblivion’s debut album is set to release this summer. You can check out Oblivion here: Even after achieving all of this, Nick passion for music drove him back to the classroom.

Nicks says:

“During my dissertation research/writing year–2010-2011, I was lucky to find adjunct professor and lecturer positions at Los Medanos College, Gavilan College, and here at CSU East Bay. I have been teaching every since and completed my doctorate in June of 2011. I absolutely love teaching and working in academia, I truly believe that teaching music is my calling.”

All of us at CSUEB are very proud of Nick for his accomplishments and giving back to Cal State East Bay by becoming a professor and  teaching  future generations of Music talent the same art he learned several years ago.