Steps | Summer 2017,
08:54 AM

Rising Above the Odds

By Christine Vaughan

Nastassja McDonald - Biological Sciences, 2012

Nastassja was a familiar face across campus by the time she graduated. Not only was she active in numerous campus organizations, but she became the first ACE Scholar featured as a student speaker at commencement. Nastassja continued her education at Michigan State University, earning her master’s in cell and molecular biology.

Today, she is a Life Science Specialist at VWR International and lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Mikey, and their son, Gideon.

“At CSUSM, I was part of a close-knit community of people who were genuinely invested in my success,” she said. “ACE Scholars Services will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my support system during my time at CSUSM, and I never would have made it this far without their guidance.”


Henry Pennerman - Sociology, 2008

Henry was on the original advisory committee before the formation of ACE Scholars Services and became the first ACE Scholar to graduate. He worked at CSUSM while an undergrad and became a fulltime employee after earning his degree. He also earned his master’s in sociology at CSUSM. Today, he is a programming analyst at UC Irvine.

“My time at CSUSM and involvement with ACE Scholars Services were very formative experiences in my life,” he said. “Not only did it get me into my current career, but it also shaped my world view. I learned the importance of critical thinking and decision-making, invaluable skills such as resourcefulness and perseverance, and the importance of being a responsible, contributing and socially conscience member of my community.”

Read more about what ACE alumni are doing now at