Dr. Trista Beard, NTSAF Director

Dr. Beard’s responsibilities include program design and vision, long-term strategic planning with the Board, building partnerships to empower students, and promoting the Fund across USC, across Los Angeles, and nationally, as a unique model of a student-funded, student-governed scholarship opportunity. Dr. Beard is a first-generation college student from a working class rural town. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Rochester, a Master’s from Simmons College in Boston, and her Doctorate in Education from USC. After teaching English in Japan, she began working at USC in study abroad programs where she became an expert on global learning and international programs. Her research interests in higher education focus on first-generation college students, social capital exchange, persistence, and the development of success models.

Carina Gonzalez, NTSAF Advisor

Carina serves all Topping Scholars & Fellows by providing holistic and strengths based advising. As a first-generation college student, she understands the importance of having a support system and mentors in order to be successful in college. Carina earned her Bachelor of Science in Criminology from the University of La Verne and her Master of Education in Educational Counseling from the University of Southern California. Her mission in life has always been to help others and make a positive change in someone’s life. It is this mission that drives Carina’s passion for helping students to succeed in achieving their academic and career goals. Her experience in higher education includes student advising, leadership development, programming, and teaching a values course. When she isn’t working Carina enjoys spending time with her family and friends.

Jenny Ha, Governing Board Chair 2019-2020

Jenny Ha is a sophomore at the University of Southern California majoring in Sociology with a minor in Law and Public Policy. She is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees and a first-generation student, who was born and raised in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. After enduring the direct impacts of an underfunded education system at an under-resourced Title I school district, she advocated for educational equity in her community by giving school-wide presentations, contacting local leaders, and collaborating with nearby schools. Her passion and drive have allowed her to work with Michelle Obama’s ‘Better Make Room’ National College Access Campaign, Oklahoma Senator Michael Brooks, and Oklahoma City’s City Council. Jenny believes that education is a right, not a privilege. It is one of her goals to eliminate the achievement gap and revitalize the graduation, literacy, and college-attending rates across the nation, through scholarship and retention programs like the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund.

Alanis Gonzalez, Program Coordinator

Alanis Gonzalez is a current graduate student at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. She earned her B.A. in Sociology & Chicanx/ Latinx Studies from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and proudly identifies as a first-generation college student. Using her experiences and involvement within the TRIO Upward Bound Program, Alanis makes an effort to work with underserved communities in the pursuit of higher education and be a catalyst of change. As a program coordinator for the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund, Alanis has manifested meaningful relationships with not only her colleagues, but with Scholars/Fellows as well. Alanis is passionate about serving others, lifting others up as she continues in her path, and continuing to break institutional barriers for generations to come. “Life is like a ball game. You’re always expecting the pitcher to throw a fast ball, but every once in a while, you’ve gotta adjust to a curve.”  

Carlos Robles, Outreach Coordinator

Carlos Robles is a current graduate student at the Rossier School of Education pursing a Masters of Education in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs. He earned his B.A. in Media and Society from the Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) in Geneva, New York. While attending HWS, Carlos served as a student representative for the Strategic Diversity Plan Committee where he worked alongside other students, senior staff, and faculty members in creating a more diverse and inclusive campus community. He also served as a study mentor for over two years helping students adjust into the college life and create solutions to several other difficulties that students face in higher education. Combining both of these passions, Carlos hopes to continue pursuing a degree and career where he can better help students from diverse backgrounds enter college environments that are not only supportive but also welcoming. 

Mariana Branicio, Student Office Assistant

Mariana Branicio is a junior majoring in Business Administration with a double minor in Communication Design and Web Technologies and Applications. She is the daughter of first generation immigrants, who was born in Brazil, and raised in Brazil and in Singapore. She is currently a member of USC’s Trojan Marketing Group, Fashion Industry Association, and Bloom Boutique, a resale boutique that donates all proceeds to local shelters. After graduating from USC, she hopes to pursue a career in marketing consulting for NGOs and nonprofits.