First Person, Singular

Professor Leeva Chung surrounded by students

Their faces glow, lit from within with an infectious energy, infusing each word as if time might run out before their story can be shared. Each of the seven is, in their own unique yet universal way, the epitome of a Changemaker. Students and scholars, inspirational and aspirational, professors and seekers, they all share a single purpose: to make a real and abiding difference in the world. 

Listen, look and learn.

“I felt like a failure, but people at USD made it their mission to make sure I succeeded.”

Ophelia Augustine ’13 says her journey at the University of San Diego truly started when people reached out to help her and, in turn, showed her how to make a tangible difference in the world.

Ophelia Augustine '13“When I came to USD, I had six classes and worked part-time at Home Depot and Copley Library. I was helping out my parents and raising two kids. In community college, I could take that class load and get straight A’s. I thought I could do the same thing here, but it was too much.

I didn’t know how to ask for help. I was ashamed and embarrassed.

What brought me back the next semester were the people — the faculty and staff who reached out to me and said, ‘We’re not going to let you fail.’ That’s when I knew I belonged here.

People here made a difference in my life and made me see that I’m making a difference too. In the Black Student Union, our mission is to break down stereotypes. We want people to hear the stories of their fellow students and realize what they have in common.

I’ve been on a difficult journey and I’m finally graduating. Now that it’s about to come to an end, I’m asking myself, ‘Did I do everything I was supposed to do? Did I make an impact? Did I help create change? It came so fast, but I’m excited because this is going to be a new chapter in my life and I know I can’t be afraid of change. USD has given me everything — I’ve changed so much here. I’m ready to see what the world has for me. I’m ready to leave so there’s room for another student whose life can be changed.”

“My forecast is that the University of San Diego’s positive impact on society will be incredibly strong.”

For independent marketing consultant and USD Trustee James D. (“Jamey”) Power, IV ’85, the liberal arts education he received as a history major gave him the bedrock foundation that allowed him to succeed in life.

James D. Power, IV '85“For me, my parents really had the biggest impact on my life. We’re all on this earth to make a difference, and that is one of the core values of J.D. Power and Associates.

I started working at a very young age, simple tasks like preparing surveys for mailing by taping quarters onto cover letters. Little fingers can do things like that pretty well. The tasks progressed as I got older. Those days had a huge impact on me. It’s trite to say, but I really learned the value of a dollar, of responsibility, of seeing how a business worked.

Both my parents went to Catholic colleges, and that was an important influence on them. I knew I didn’t want to go back east. I was won over by the university when I came to campus on Admit Student Day. It wasn’t until sophomore year that I really understood the concept of a liberal arts education and how it was meant to prepare me for life.

My favorite professors helped me open my mind to understanding how history has an impact on where we are today as a society and culture. Through the years, what I’ve found in business is that history is a tremendous foundation, because business is ultimately about people and why they do what they do.

Being involved today is my way of reminding USD that alumni matter. I wanted to make a difference, and felt that the university was ready to move up to the next level. I believe that USD is in a wonderful spot right now. This relatively young university has made tremendous progress and its best days are still ahead if it.

What the University of San Diego does is produce successful alumni, and the more successful alumni that USD creates, the more of an impact they will have on the world.”

“I met with Mother Hill to talk about becoming a nun, but I kept it to myself.”

Sister Virginia Rodee ’57, ’74 (MA), Assistant Vice President for Mission and Ministry, firmly believes that God wants people to be happy so their gifts can come to life.

Sister Virginia Rodee '57, '74 (MA)“I started here as a student in 1953 and everything was brand new and beautiful. Today, students talk about how beautiful the university is, but in those days it was breathtaking. The dorm rooms were furnished to feel like home. The doors had panels of colored glass and sunlight shown through, making colored light dance everywhere.

Founders Chapel was a special place. Morning Mass was at 7 and the nuns were finishing morning prayer. They prayed for us every day and it was so comforting. Their love was so concrete. They laughed and were absolutely genuine. Also, they were very educated and had experienced the world. I was attracted to that.

Mother Hill’s cross is something I cherish deeply. She received it in Belgium in 1907 when she made her Final Profession. When our Religious pass away, we’re not buried with our cross, only with our rings. So when I heard about her death, I asked the Superior if I might have her cross. I don’t even know why I moved forward with that, but I realize now how incredibly special it was to me. It’s an endearing symbol of her rich life legacy, and a timeless connection to the university she helped build.

I made my Profession in Rome in February 1966. Two years later, at a meeting here on campus, the announcement was made that I would go to Korea. I was so elated! I left on Feb. 14, 1968. Aside from six years in Rome and some time to come back here for study and for family visits, I was in Korea until 1997 when I returned to USD. It was like coming home. God has been very good to me. I am very blessed.”

“I used to be shy and terrified of the unknown. It’s OK if you fail, but it’s not OK if you fail because you’re too afraid to try.”

Changemaker Scholarship recipient and McNair Scholar Hannah Wolf ’13 has found that the most important thing is to be herself at the most basic level; that’s when fundamental change takes place.

Hannah Wolf '13“I’ve grown tremendously in the last decade. It’s been a long process to learn who I am as a person, and learning to like who I am as a person. In 2012, I went to China with Dr. Yi Sun for 24 days and looked at the consumption by women in the middle class of brand name products and the intangible experiences like traveling, studying abroad and going out to eat. In the midst of it all, I found that I love academia and that I love research. I’m looking at how research can fit into the broader scope of international business.

The first day was rough. My two semesters of Chinese were completely useless. I couldn’t even order a bottle of water and went back to my room and cried. But by the last day, I was taking the subway by myself in rush hour and I was fine. I thrived there. I loved it and can’t wait to go back. I know it sounds grandiose, but I want to help Americans see China the way it is — not through rose-colored glasses and not with red fear or the fear that they’re stealing jobs or jeopardizing Internet security.

If we can see other people as having the same hopes and dreams and the same problems and fears that we do, then they’re not some faceless entity that we’re scared of — they’re someone like us.

I’m not saying it’ll bring world peace, but at the very least, it might make people stop and think before they do something or speak up when they might not otherwise. I may only be able to affect that kind of change among my friends, but even if I change one person’s view, it’s a start.

To be a Changemaker, you have to be yourself. So often we act the way we think people want us to act, but you have to be your true self.”

“The way I look at it, it’s not about what you’ve done, it’s about what you can still do.”

For Changemaker Scholarship winner Dylan Heyden ‘13, there’s an undeniable synergy between his life passions of surfing and service. And the world will be all the better for it.

Dylan Heyden '13“Before I came to USD, the idea of service for me, like it is for a lot of people, was pretty simple: how can I contribute and make an immediate impact with my contribution? Whether it’s serving a certain number of meals, providing a certain number of donations … it’s easy to try to measure service in that way. Now, I feel like more comes with the feeling of solidarity you get being with other people who share your level of commitment and ideals. And there are lots of people like that at USD!

Surfing puts me in the mind frame of living simply, living humbly. You get this joy of just being in the water; if anything I think that’s a feeling that’s universal, something that connects people all over the world. I’m currently working on a senior thesis on how sustainable surf projects can promote peace within destabilized communities, and I’ve done some volunteer work in Nicaragua where we are trying to develop a sustainable businesses for local people based off surf and eco-tourism.

When I think about winning the Changemaker scholarship, the first thing that comes to mind is a sense of gratitude for the many opportunities it will create for me. It’s proof positive that I’m on the right path to making a difference in the lives of others. I’m really excited about the opportunities the future holds, and I know my experience at USD will help me maximize those opportunities.”


“Don’t even think about sitting at the same desk two days in a row in my class. Settling into routines is not part of the program.”

For Communication Studies Professor Leeva Chung, student engagement is all about inspiring young minds to make connections that spark learning into action.

Leeva Chung and students“This might sound counterintuitive considering where my career path has taken me, but I really didn’t enter the communication profession to become a teacher. I grew up in the ’70s in San Francisco, and went to five different elementary schools. I really had to adjust to different types of teaching, whether it be 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders all being taught together in one classroom, being bussed into a predominately African-American school as an Asian-American or being taught in a non-traditional format where parents determined the curriculum.

It was challenging at times, but it also taught me how vitally important it is to connect with people. All kinds of people. People who may not look, act, or talk the same, but people who are in search of knowledge, of love, of connection.

I want to get my students thinking creatively and collaboratively, which is one of the reasons I have them work in concert with USD’s E-Waste Collection Center on marketing ideas. It’s a project with a lot of moving parts, but in a nutshell, my students create a marketing campaign for the center and then help implement the strategy over a semester. I want there to be a connection between what they learn, and how they apply it. I also want them to be creative and to take some risks. This project provides them that opportunity.

If you had to explain my style, it’s organized chaos. Literally. I’m organized in my intended outcomes and what I want my students to connect with, but the process by which they get there can be chaos. But then again, that’s life, right?”

“We’re telling the stories that don’t jibe with the main narrative of U.S. history.”

Forming connections with cultures familiar and diverse equips Ethnic Studies Professor Alberto Pulido’s students with the wisdom and perspective to transform their lives by being a real part of their community.

Alberto Pulido“USD has really made it a point of emphasis for our students to see the world, but I feel that we have a really important story here in San Diego. The fact that we’re so close to the international border, every culture of the world is represented in San Diego, so you don’t have to go far to learn much.

I grew up here, and recently had the opportunity to produce a documentary on the rich history of San Diego’s Lowrider culture. It’s a story about politics, self-preservation, self-expression and resilience. It’s also a story about families and communities, and my hope is that it debunks the widely held theory that Lowrider culture is inextricably linked with gangs and violence.

I am a firm believer in experiential learning, and think it’s important to take my students to Tijuana. The proximity can heighten the sense of realism, I think.

We go to a place called Casa Migrante. The house is run by an order of missionaries who are specifically committed to work with migrant people. They don’t care about politics; they just want to provide these people with something to eat, a place to sleep, a shower. The simple things that we all too often take for granted.

These topics, these issues, need to be out there in the community. I think we’ve gained our reputation by just being visible. You don’t always have to interact with people just because you want something. It’s just as important to listen and be present as anything else.”

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