A Spirit of Celebration

Eight Tritons honored at 41st annual Alumni Awards

The excitement was all around campus this June for Alumni Celebration Weekend—from a variety of university tours to a Day at the Padres, a taste of the latest campus cuisine and enlightening discussions from alumni leaders, Tritons from all over returned to campus to reconnect with their alma mater.

The weekend’s main event was the 41st annual Alumni Awards Celebration, where hundreds of alumni gathered together in a transformed RIMAC Arena to recognize eight distinguished Tritons for their impact on the world and lasting dedication to UC San Diego.

From emerging alumni to changemakers and international leaders, these remarkable individuals showcased the spirit of looking deeper and staying connected with their university.

Outstanding Alumnus

Taner Halicioğlu ’96
Outstanding Alumnus

Outstanding Alumnus Taner Halicioğlu ’96 is a seasoned computer scientist, venture capitalist and teacher, as well as a visionary in the power of data to transform the world. His clear-eyed view of how necessary data science will be in the future led him to establish the Halicioğlu Data Science Institute (HDSI) at UC San Diego, a model of interdisciplinary collaboration that recognizes data science as the backbone of many other fields.

Halicioğlu has seen the transformative power of technology as the first full-time employee of Facebook, where he built the platform’s initial hardware system. Since leaving Facebook in 2009, Halicioğlu now supports local startups and is a lecturer at UC San Diego, showing how much he values education and the difference it can make for students.

Honorary Alumna Award


Carol Littlejohn Chang
Honorary Alumna

UC San Diego alumni welcomed esteemed community leader Carol Littlejohn Chang to our ranks as an Honorary Alumna. As chair of the UC San Diego Foundation, Littlejohn Chang has made a profound impact on the university and has been a tremendous ambassador for advancing UC San Diego’s mission to address the world’s most pressing problems. A respected icon in the community and a woman who means business, Littlejohn Chang reinvents philanthropic involvement and uses her leadership and influence to meaningfully impact people and the world around her.

Changemaker Awardees


Joseph Edelman ’78
Changemaker Award

Joseph Edelman ’78 has seen great success as CEO and advisor at the New York-based investment firm Perceptive Advisors, yet his impact as a Changemaker is felt most deeply in his devotion to mental health—indeed creating a new national model for mental health at universities. A psychology major at UC San Diego, Edelman knows students are a vulnerable population for mental health issues. His support has built a remarkable infrastructure to help students at such a critical time by allowing for increased student access to specialized psychiatrists, providing students with opportunities to learn in a clinical setting and launching a pioneering research study of college mental health services.

True Xiong ’05
Changemaker Award

Coming from a refugee family, True Xiong ’05 is a first-generation college graduate who now works to ensure that younger generations thrive in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. In addition to being a software system architect at Sony PlayStation, Xiong has proven himself a Changemaker by actively promoting STEM careers to underserved students on campus and in his community. Xiong established the STEMUplift Foundation to provide scholarship opportunities for underrepresented students, and serves as a volunteer and partner with many local events and organizations advancing STEM education. As a professional now inspiring students through service and mentorship, Xiong is an exemplar of how the power of UC San Diego can carry on within alumni.


Ronda S. Henry-Tillman,
MD ’92, FACS
Changemaker Award

Ronda S. Henry-Tillman, MD ’92, FACS, was honored as a Changemaker for her new approaches to health and healing as a renowned breast cancer surgeon and chief of breast oncology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. A leader in both research and practice, she has focused her efforts especially on health disparities in underserved populations. A noted figure in medical organizations nationwide as well as in her home state of Arkansas, she is devoted to improving healthcare worldwide as well, as she regularly travels to Africa to share surgical best practices with practitioners and organizations operating without advanced education or specialized equipment.

International Award

Bryn Sakagawa, MPIA ’98
International Award

With more than 20 years of experience in global health, Bryn Sakagawa, MPIA ’98, has dedicated her career to the well-being of others worldwide, a mission that has culminated in her current role as health office director for the United States Agency for International Development’s Philippines, Pacific and Mongolia mission. Sakagawa was especially instrumental in responses to global health crises like the Ebola outbreak in Senegal and the resurgence of polio in Kazakhstan, and has been a leader in numerous other efforts to fight endemic disease. Remarkably, Sakagawa also makes time to engage with students from her former program at the School of Global Policy and Strategy.

Emerging Leader Awards

Suman Kanuganti, MBA ’14
Emerging Leader

Emerging Leader Suman Kanuganti, MBA ’14, is the co-founder and CEO of Aira, a startup company revolutionizing accessibility for people with visual impairment. Combining the technological power of smart glasses, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and geolocation along with live, remote assistive agents, Aira’s technology enables users to navigate their environment with an unprecedented level of independence. Kanuganti credits his MBA training from the Rady School of Management with helping him build the company, and he sees Aira as a way to give back—he’s donated the service to many events and locations nationwide, including UC San Diego.


Emily Foecke Munden, MIA ’16
Emerging Leader

Just three years after earning her degree, Emily Foecke Munden, MIA ’16, has become an Emerging Leader on matters of policymaking at home and abroad. Drawing upon a wealth of experience working overseas before entering the School of Global Policy and Strategy, Foecke Munden afterward joined the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C. She also serves as director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security, which bridges issues of security and health, and unites a distinguished and diverse group of leaders in the U.S. Congress. In a rapidly changing world, Foecke Munden is on the forefront of next-generation perspectives on how to find solutions in the years ahead.


Submissions are open for next year’s Alumni Awards.
Nominate an exceptional Triton today: alumni.ucsd.edu/nominate