Aggie Heroes

Speaker Biographies

Charity Maeda Van den Akker

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Charity Maeda Van den Akker is the Assistant Director of Student Retention and Completion at USU, overseeing Aggie First Scholars and Supplemental Instruction. Born and raised in Hawai’i, she loves everything about the ocean, our place in the environment, and ono food. Charity is a first-generation college graduate and professional, who identifies as woman of color. She loves serving college students and seeing their development as leaders within communities. She earned her Bachelor of Science from USU in Interdisciplinary Studies and her Master of Science from Southern New Hampshire University in Higher Education Administration. Charity cares deeply about serving others who are navigating their journey in college.

Gonca Soyer

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Gonca (Gonja) was born and raised in Turkey. She moved to the US more than a decade ago to pursue a graduate degree. She received her Master’s and PhD degree in Educational Psychology from University of North Texas. Since she relocated to Logan with her husband and two kids, she has been teaching at USU and SLCC as an adjunct instructor. She teaches psychology, and family and development related classes. Apart from teaching, Dr. Soyer serves as a board member to CAPSA (citizens against physical and sexual abuse). Gonca loves baking, hiking, and organizing road trips with her family.

Spencer Bitner

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Spencer Bitner has been working in student affairs at Utah State University for over ten years. He has worked in several capacities engaging with students as a student body officer advisor. He is passionate about enabling students to make great memories and have exceptional experiences. He looks for ways to improve student life through understanding what students want and meeting them where they are at. He believes that the power of individual relationships can truly change the world. He is a true-blue aggie having received both his undergraduate and master’s degrees at USU. He loves his family, loud music, and all things outdoors.

Brianna Littlecrow

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Bree Littlecrow is a very outspoken young women who comes off from the Navajo Reservation. She is more than honored to speak for herself and others who are struggling the same battles as she once did. She hopes to open your hearts, minds, and emotions with her speech tonight because she knows how scary it is to hide behind your own thoughts from tough battles.

Mary Phan

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Mary Phan is 2nd-year student in the School Psychology PhD Program. She is interested in implementing mindfulness-based interventions with underserved youth in public schools as well as promoting social justice through policy changes. She received her BA in psychology at Temple University. Mary is also a Health Policy Research Scholar supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health.