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Notable Alumni

Careers and Alumni

From passionate student to accomplished professional

Your SFA degree is preparation for a lifetime of accomplishment. Whether you pursue an advanced degree or step right into your career, you’ll have the skill set to tackle tough challenges, make important decisions and serve diverse communities.

In other words, you’ll be ready to do the work that means the most to you.

Featured alumni

Katy Portillo, Class of ’11
BS in hospitality administration

Katy Portillo

Katy put her hospitality administration knowledge for people to work right after graduation as a Hilton sales and catering coordinator. But soon she began serving canine customers when she started a gourmet dog treat company with her mom while working her way up the hotel ranks.

When she wasn’t planning events for Hilton, Katy was using her culinary talents to prepare dog cookies and her company’s “infamous” chicken feet, which she sold to dog owners at local farmer’s markets and festivals. Eventually, she decided she wanted to be her own boss and opened Susie’s Snack Shop, named after her late corgi, in her hometown of Denton. It’s become a regular stop for pups on their way home after a hard day at the dog park. Katy is working on a second location.

“The knowledge I gained, the experiences I had and, most importantly, the friendships I made during my time at SFA are things that I carry with me every day.”

Winter 2021 Sawdust Magazine feature story

Hennii Céspedes, Class of '17 and '21
MEd in teaching and learning

Hennii Cespedes

Hermelinda "Hennii" Céspedes '17 & '21 earned a Bachelor of Science in human sciences, child development and family living concentration, as well as a Master of Education in teaching and learning, ESL/Bilingual concentration at SFA. She's currently a sixth-grade teacher at Anthony A. Andrews School in the Bering Strait School District in St. Michael, Alaska. The village is on the east coast of St. Michael Island in the Norton Sound, an inlet of the Bering Sea. It is 125 miles southeast of Nome in the Central Yup'ik region of Alaska.

Fall 2021 Sawdust Magazine cover story

Holly Dempsey, Class of '00
BS in hospitality administration

Beau and Holly Dempsey

Holly Dempsey met her husband, Beau, as a freshman at SFA. They both graduated in 2000 and combined their professional worlds — hospitality and environmental science — to create Longhorn Organics, known for its aquatic environments and animal habitats around the country.

“We build 100% of our projects in virtual reality before we begin construction,” Holly said. “A company sends us details of what they would like to build, and we create a fabrication model based on what is actually constructible. Once that’s approved, we build as much of the project as possible here in chunks that we call spools. Each spool is individually tagged with GPS coordinates on a three-way axis.”

The Dempseys are now working on ways to clean wastewater. “The same filtration we use to sustain aquatic life can be used to protect our water resources and safeguard the environment,” Beau said.

Spring 2020 Sawdust Magazine
cover story

Adison Dolch, Class of '17
BS in hospitality administration

Adison Dolch

After earning his bachelor’s in hospitality administration with a culinary concentration, Adison Dolch joined Marriott’s Voyage program as a culinary manager in training at the Marriott International in the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center.

Since then, Adison has worked in high-volume kitchens managing day-to-day operations, modifying menus and creating dishes for a range of cuisines, from fine dining Italian to traditional Mexican. Now at Virago, Nashville’s favorite sushi bar, his team is adding modern touches to traditional Japanese dishes.

“The classes I took at SFA were hands down the foundation of everything I’ve done so far as a chef. They gave me an edge over my peers because I could also manage the business side — not just the food. My time under the East Texas pines helped me form an appreciation for an education outside the traditional culinary school route many chefs take. I feel I have a more well-rounded and wider grasp of the industry.”

Adrian Gutierrez, Class of ’16
BS in human sciences

Adrian Gutierrez

Adrian’s interest in the field of child welfare began while he was a student at SFA. He completed a practicum with Buckner Children and Family Services in Lufkin and worked as an alternative response specialist for Child Protective Services and ACH Child and Family Services in Fort Worth before moving into his current role as a juvenile case manager in Baytown.

“While studying at SFA, I formed meaningful relationships with professors and peers who have influenced my career. Each course provided knowledge of every aspect of life span development while expanding my understanding of the value of communication and relationships. I highly recommend the human development and family studies program to anyone with a passion for working with children and families and helping them grow.”

Siobhan Wilkes, Class of ’10
BS in hospitality administration

Siobhan Wilkes

Siobhan was drawn to SFA’s hospitality administration program because service to others “has always been the foundation of who I am. SFA always focused on service to others and the community, so it seemed only natural to choose that as a major and a career.”

Her alumni connections helped her obtain all her jobs, from front office operations at the Hilton Downtown Fort Worth, to cluster revenue manager for four Aloft hotels in Texas, to her current role supporting eight hotels across the country.

For her current role, Siobhan applies lessons she learned at SFA, including “leadership is about supporting and empowering.” She mentors up-and-coming managers as they pursue their goals. Siobhan also puts into practice a mantra from her hospitality and marketing courses: “Always be bold and dare to do things differently.” To ensure outstanding service, she has examined analytics and developed creative approaches to price strategy.

“Luckily, I was able to lay that foundation during my time at SFA!”

Stephany Herchman, Class of ’16
BS in dietetics and nutritional sciences

Stephany Herchman

Stephany’s dietetic internship through SFA at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital put her on a path to the Congenital Heart Surgery Unit at Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas. She is innovating an outpatient nutrition program for congenital heart disease patients with single ventricles who require consistent and ongoing nutrition monitoring.

“The dietetics program at SFA prepared me in many ways for my current role as a pediatric dietitian. The professors were not only passionate about the field but also invested in my education. The didactic courses reflected what I went on to experience in my dietetic internship and provided essential building blocks for my continued education. I can’t wait to see more practicing dietitians from SFA!”

Kristy Norman, Class of ’97
BS in fashion merchandising

Kristy Norman

Kristy is the owner of 903 Handmade, a boutique in downtown Tyler showcasing unique handmade goods from East Texas. Norman pursued a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising and discovered her passion for making jewelry while in an art class at SFA. She now sells the stamped jewelry known as Lou C’s Designs at the boutique.

Kristy’s goal is to provide a space for people to come to every day and buy something handmade and local, she said.

Winter 2017 Sawdust Magazine feature story

Sydni Mitchell, Class of ’10
BS in child development and family living

Sydni Mitchell

Sydni majored in child development and family living (now human development and family studies) and minored in management. Her interest in leadership and public policy started as an undergraduate; she was president of both the Jacks Council on Family Relations and the Student Government Association. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, she earned her master’s degree in public administration at SFA while serving as student regent for the SFA Board of Regents.

Sydni’s job involves two main areas: media contact for state and campaign offices, and policy analyst for committees on education, higher education, finance, veteran’s affairs and military installations. She said her SFA education helps her to communicate effectively through various channels and to understand and evaluate how policy decisions will affect constituents.

Nathan Slinkard, Class of ’17 and ’18
MS in human sciences

Nathan Slinkard

After earning two degrees from SFA — Bachelor of Science in dietetics and nutritional sciences and Master of Science in human sciences — and completing his 1,200-hour dietetic internship, Nathan passed the registered dietitian exam, moved to Arkansas and began working in the field.

Now he’s a district dietitian for Aramark in higher education. He provides nutrition counseling for students on topics such as disease management, food allergies, sports nutrition and eating disorders. He also promotes health and wellness through tours, tablings and speaking events to campus groups and athletic teams. He supports seven universities in the district, including two in Missouri. He also serves on the board of directors for the Arkansas Academy of Nutrition Dietetics.

“I believe that SFA’s nutrition faculty members make this program one of the best in the country. Today, I credit my proficiency in motivational interviewing, public speaking and knowledge of nutrition science to my time at SFA.”

Olivia Bufalini, Class of ’18
BS in interior design

Olivia Bufalini

As SFA interior design students faced limited internship opportunities during spring 2020 because of COVID-19, faculty members reached out to the program’s alumni for help. Olivia was one of 30 alumni who responded within an hour. She created a virtual internship students could complete as part of their coursework so that they could graduate.

“I was honored to have a chance to help them any way I could.”

Carla Coffee, Class of ’92
MS in human sciences

Carla Coffee

“My Master of Science in human sciences has allowed me to advance in my career as a teacher. I teach not only at the high school level but also at the collegiate level.”

More notable alumni

  • Mario Figueroa, Class of ’18
    Pastry Cook, Marriott Marquis Houston
  • Jonathan Gonzalez, Class of ’15
    Director of Clinical Services, Abshire Dietary Consultants
  • Kathleen Higgins, Class of ’18
    Director, Bluejack National
  • Lauren Papanos, Class of ’16
    Owner, Functional Fueling Nutrition


School of Human Sciences
Faculty Directory

Human Sciences Building North
Room 101

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 13014, SFA Station
Nacogdoches, Texas 75962