ON JANUARY 16, 2021, we began a social media campaign called #StaffSaturdays to better showcase the personal side of our staff members. These posts have appeared on Instagram, Facebook and on Ostrow’s exclusive social media network, Ostrow Connect. Each week’s post has been catalogued below:


Bridget Samuels
Project Director


What is one place you absolutely have to travel to in your lifetime, and why?

I’ve always been intrigued by Stonehenge and Easter Island. They are mysterious to us today but showcase the amazing knowledge and ingenuity of the people who traveled so far and worked so hard to build these incredible cultural monuments.


What inspires you?

Being a part of translational research is so inspiring to me. I started college as a pre-med but ended up in theoretical linguistics, which is very interesting to me but has little immediate impact on people’s lives, and I really felt that absence. It is amazing to witness breakthroughs with the potential to change the way diseases are treated, cured and even prevented.


Introduce us to your immediate family (including pets).

My husband, Kay, is from Slovenia but has adapted very well to the Californian lifestyle! Our lives revolve around our two dogs (Kona and Aspen) and two horses (Gigi and Ari). Ed. Note: Aspen is pictured above with Bridget.



Posted 4/3/2021

Jimenez Family standing in a park

Marina Jimenez
Senior Clinical Administrator


Where is one place you absolutely have to travel to in your lifetime, and why?

Italy. I have been quite a few times, but my roots and heart are in this country.


What is a fun fact about you that people might not know?

I married a Bruin. I mean, a Bruin married me, a Trojan.


What inspires you?

Perseverance. I had a chemistry teacher in my early college years tell me that I might want to choose another career because I was not excelling in chemistry. Go ahead, tell me no or that I can’t do something, and I will try my hardest to prove you wrong.


What is the last movie you saw?

Um. I have seen many beginnings of movies but rarely an end because I always doze off. So the last beginning of a movie I watched was The Life Ahead with Sophia Loren.


Introduce us to your immediate family (including pets).

I have been married 26 years to Eric. We have 3 awesome sons, Adrian, 24; Brandon, 22; and Marco, 18. We have a 14 year-old Havanese dog named Kramer, a cat named Cookie and two turtles that were left behind when Marco went to college.


What are your hobbies outside of the dental school?

My hobbies are pretty much anything right-brained. Canvas painting, knitting, DIYs and cooking for sure-proving my chemistry teacher wrong! Cooking has definitely taken over my spare time, and I am proud to say I have ventured outside of my cooking comfort zone! I have made from scratch tamales, pasta (fusilli are my fave!), tangerine jam, bread, pizzelles, Costa Rican tostones, vegan ice cream and crème brulée, to name a few. I have taken quite a few live online classes — even one hosted in another continent!


Also, during our lockdown time, early on in the pandemic, I set up a little happy place rock garden on our grassy area near the sidewalk. Kids have enjoyed walking by and playing with it, even leaving their own painted rocks! Someone even painted a perfect picture of my dog on a rock!


What would the perfect weekend look like for you? How would you spend it?

A perfect weekend for me would be relaxing on a quiet beach with a fully stocked air stream trailer.


In times of great uncertainty, how do you stay grounded?

I remain grounded by realizing how fortunate we are to be able to spend time alone to think of the bigger purpose of life.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

You are who you are when no one is looking.


Posted 3/27/2021

Mariam Agazaryan portrait


Mariam Agazaryan
Special Events Coordinator


What is a fun fact about you that people might not know about?

My corgi, Fitz, has a Squishmallows toy named after him. My best friend worked on the marketing firm in charge of naming the toys, and she named the Valentine’s Day Corgi edition after my pup.


Introduce us to your immediate family.

My husband Mike and I met on the very first day at UCSB (our alma mater — Go Gachos!) and have been together ever since. In 2017, we welcomed our little corgi, Fitz, and it’s been the three of us ever since. Fitz can best be described as a spunky little pup with a big personality and little legs. For anyone who’s had a corgi, he’s still in his teenage rebellious phase and we’re just impatiently waiting for it to be over.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

As a first-generation woman prone to anxiety, I was too afraid to take chances and risks. A mentor of mine gave me a book and it completely changed the way I see and do things. It’s called Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. The title alone helped me overcome my fears and advocate for myself both professionally and personally. Sometimes you have to take risks in life in order to move ahead, and this book helped me with that. To everyone out there, especially our graduating seniors, keep your head up and don’t doubt yourself. You’ve got this!


Posted 3/20/2021

Jennifer howard portrait

Jennifer Howard
Administrative Assistant


Where is one place you absolutely have to travel to in your lifetime, and why?

Italy! The food, the wine, the art, the beautiful countryside … it’s definitely at the top of my wish list!


If you were only able to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Hmm … it’s a toss-up between pizza and popcorn!


What is a fun fact about you that people might not know about?

I worked for the Television Academy Foundation years ago, and I interviewed numerous television pioneers, including Barbara Eden, Harvey Korman, Bob Mackie, Julie Andrews, Al Michaels and Roy Disney Jr.


What inspires you?

My family


Introduce us to your immediate family (including pets).

I’m married to Paul, and I have two kids: a son, Rory, and a daughter, Chloe. We also live with my parents, Wally and Debie Lott. And our pets are Moe, Lol, and Tuffy (dogs), Vinny (parrot), Flash (tortoise), and Galavant and Steve (chameleon and gecko).


What is one thing you couldn’t live without every single day?

Coffee or wine!


What are your hobbies outside of the dental school?

I’m a master’s student at Rossier, so right now, all of my free time goes towards studying!


What would the perfect weekend look like for you? How would you spend it?

On a road trip to Big Sur, or a beach getaway to Hawaii!


Who is one person who has made a huge impact on your life, and how?

My mom — she’s the best person I know.


If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead), who would you select and why?

Charlie Chaplin, Lucille Ball and Mel Brooks


In times of great uncertainty, how do you stay grounded every day?

Going for walks out in the sunshine and fresh air, listening to my favorite podcast or my favorite music.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Just keep swimming (thanks Dory!)


Posted 3/13/2021

Kim Eeles with family at birthday party


Kim Eeles ’00
Director, Student Life and Well-Being


Where is the most interesting place you have traveled to?

This summer, we rented an RV and took a family road trip. We drove up through California, attended a cousin’s small wedding in Oregon, visited friends in Coeur d’Alaine, Id., stopped in Zion and arrived back home. We spent 10 days on the road and had a blast. I’ve never done anything like that before and can’t wait to do it again (although my 11-year-old daughter would oppose.) Someday, I would love to fly to the South, rent an RV and spend a few weeks traveling to some of the big football schools for tailgating and games.


What is your favorite food to cook?

I’m not a huge fan of cooking, although I do it all the time to keep my family happy. And I definitely don’t like to bake — I save this for my mom and my kids. My favorite local restaurant in Long Beach is Panvimarn Thai Food.


What is your ideal way to spend the weekend?

I love having family and friends over at my house — barbecues, holidays, pizza nights, whatever! I think everyone knows that my house is always open. We are currently renovating our kitchen and family room so that we have the perfect gathering place. I live on a corner lot with a pretty big front yard. In the summers, I come home from work on Friday nights to find the neighbors already starting their weekend in my yard — with pizza, bikes and fun. And on Saturdays (in the summer) we set up slip-and-slides and blow-up pools for the neighborhood kids and adults to enjoy. I didn’t have a lot of neighbors or extended family around as a kid, so it’s important for me to give that to my kids.


Posted 3/6/2021


Christine Wade
Admissions Counselor


Where is your favorite place to travel?

I love traveling, and I miss being able to do so because of the pandemic. If I had to pick a favorite place to travel to it would be Oahu. My mom, sister and I went there for Christmas a few years ago and we loved it.


What is your favorite local restaurant?

My favorite local restaurant is the Green Onion in San Pedro, Calif. They have some of the best Mexican food in town!!


What do you like to do on the weekends?

I love being outside and try to go on a long hike every weekend.


Posted 2/27/2021

Rena Robles and family

Rena Robles
Executive Assistant


Where is one place you absolutely have to travel to, and why?

I would love to travel to my grandparents’ and mother’s birthplaces in Indonesia. My grandparents have passed away in the last four years, and the stories they shared of their lives before immigrating to Holland, and eventually California, were filled with a vibrancy that I want to experience with my own senses.


What is a fun fact about your that most people don’t know?

My family farms our own tempeh, a traditional Indonesian soy product made from fermented soybeans. My grandfather was the self-proclaimed “Tempeh Farmer,” and I dream of starting a business to continue his legacy.


Introduce us to your family.

My heroic husband Eric, an ER nurse; our first son, Henry, age 3; our second son, Simon, who will be 2 in March; and the family dog, Murphy, a black boxer, age 7.


In times of great uncertainy, how do you stay grounded every day?

I go outside to get grounded. Lately, it’s a walk around an empty campus, putzing around the yard while watering the plants and chasing my toddlers at the beach or a park. Hopefully in Summer 2021, my husband and I can share our love for camping in the great outdoors with our sons.


Posted 2/20/2021


Rebecca Jackson
Enterprise Applications Specialist


Where are the most interesting places you have traveled?

The most interesting places I have traveled would be Bali, Indonesia or Begur, Spain.


What is your favorite item to bake?

Baking is a passion of mine and something that I actually do on the side when not working at the dental school. My favorite items to bake are pound cakes and cookies.


What’s a fun fact about you?

Being that I work at Ostrow, a fun fact about me is that I was born with two front bottom teeth. Of course, my parents insisted on having them removed, so for years I was the little girl missing teeth at the bottom until my permanent ones grew in.


Posted 2/13/2021

Cory berry portrait


Corey Berry
Admissions Counselor


Where is your favorite place to travel?

Travel is at the top of the list as favorite things to do. My favorite destination is Europe! I love exploring and seeing how other people live. My favorite cities are Budapest and London. I specifically love Hungarian food and the architecture of Budapest and the pubs and subway system of London.


What is your favorite food to cook?

I love cooking shows, especially the everyday cooks we now see on Facebook. I cook so many different recipes, so I don’t have a favorite food to cook. I just love cooking and using my brand new stainless steel cookware — all cultures, from the simplest to the complex — even if I mess up. But that’s the joy I get from cooking. Nothing is perfect 🙂


What inspires you?

I am inspired by people, especially those who are not always seen or heard. I have always been captivated by people’s struggles and how they overcome them. That inspires me to continue being exactly who I am, loving who I am and hopefully being an inspiration to someone else.


Posted 2/6/2021


Linda Hattemer
Executive Assistant


What is one place you absolutely have to travel to in your lifetime?

Ricky Gervais made a travel show called An Idiot Abroad and features Karl Pilkington, a guy who has no interest in travel. I’m that guy! I’ve been to enough places to know I’d rather be home on Kauai.


If you were only able to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Pizza from Brick Oven in Kalaheo, Hawaii.


What is a fun fact about you that people don’t know?

I ran a marathon. It was fun except for all the running.


What inspires you?



What is the last movie you saw?

A Call to Spy


Introduce us to your family.

Husband Eric Hattemer of ITS and our cats named His Excellency The Cat Overlord of Los Feliz (Chili), and Lola


What is one thing you couldn’t live without every day?



What are your hobbies outside the dental school?

I play the flute. I was the principal flutist of two Hawaii Youth Symphony orchestras. I still perform with friends.


What would the perfect weekend look like for you?

Reading at home with my cats as shown on Instagram @catoverlordbookclub


Who is one person who’s made a great impact on your life?

Professor William Ouchi of UCLA Anderson. He hired me twice!


If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead), who would they be?

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane to talk about their books and Dolly Parton because I love her music.


In times of great uncertainty, how do you stay grounded?

I go to an outdoor CrossFit gym. It’s fun and humbling.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Ganbatte, a Japanese word that means, “Do your best.”


Posted 1/30/2021


Michelle Bingham
Quality Management Coordinator


If you were only able to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?



Give us a fun fact about you.

I graduated from USC Dental Hygiene School in 1990.


Introduce us to your immediate family.

My husband Tony and I have been happily married for 30 years. Tony is a general contractor and is self-employed. We have one son, Jordan, and one daughter, Julia. Jordan is married to his beautiful wife, Kristen, and they have blessed us with our first granddaughter, Penelope May, aka “ Poppy.” Jordan and his family live in the Seattle area, and he is a financial planner. Julia was a student-athlete at ’SC on the women’s soccer team and graduated last spring from the Annenberg School of Communication. Post graduation, Julia was drafted by the Chicago Red Stars professional women’s soccer team and is also currently in grad school here at ’SC pursuing a master’s degree in educational counseling from the Rossier School of Education. We have one dog, Sadie, who is a maltipoo.


What are your hobbies outside the dental school?

I love exercising — especially weight lifting. I live by it!!!


In times of great uncertainty, how do you keep yourself grounded each day?

During this uncertain time what keeps me most grounded is being grateful every single day. Having a positive attitude, staying connected to my closest friends and family and getting fresh air daily are all things strive for daily.


Posted 1/23/2021

Ben Creighton
Enterprise Applications Supervisor


What would the perfect weekend be like for you?

The perfect weekend for me is always outdoors. Much to the chagrin of my wife, I have amassed quite a few bikes, surfboards, paddleboards, tents, kayaks, backpacks and other miscellaneous outdoor equipment. There are few places in the world where you have access to the variety of climates and experiences available to us in Southern California. Whenever possible, I load up the truck and head to the mountains, the desert or the beach — more often than not with my wife and sons in tow. This winter, we’ve been hiking and mountain biking the desert — Joshua Tree and Mojave, most recently, and the month prior, Zion. This coming summer, we have two multi-day hikes planned — the Lost Coast just north of San Francisco and Evolution Valley in Kings Canyon National Park. I won’t recount the many clichés of disconnecting from our modern world, but I’m always happiest in my sleeping bag, staring up at the stars and listening to the sounds of the night.


If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead), who would it be and why?

I suppose the first inclination is to pick someone iconic — famous historical figures or celebrities — however I’ve met my share, and I never really found them markedly different than the rest of us. I think I’d most like to see people I have known and love.

First, my father who passed away some years back. You would be hard-pressed to find someone with more literary knowledge than him — he read incessantly and was a newspaper editor and literary critic his entire life. I miss our conversations about books, music and film. He was friends with George R.R. Martin prior to Martin publishing A Game of Thrones – A Song of Fire and Ice, and he would have really, really loved the show. We’d have to watch that while we were eating.

Second, would have to be my late step-brother. We were close in some fairly dark and tumultous times, and when our parents parted ways ,we fell out of touch. Unfortunately, he passed away at 21 and, at that point, I hadn’t seen him for two or three years. There were many things left unsaid. Don’t do that — it will haunt you.

Finally, my mom. Happily and remarkably, she is still alive. This year, she endured radiation and chemotherapy in complete solitude and isolation due to the risk of contracting COVID-19. It was a tough ordeal, but she pulled through with her strength, charm and good wit intact and is now (against some very long odds) cancer-free. They come no tougher than that lady. We are planning a massive celebration at a to-be-determined tropical beach resort at the earliest opportunity.


In times of great uncertainty, how do you stay grounded?

I think the real challenge is to not let the times grind you down. As always, I keep it moving. All of that anxiety and angst needs an outlet. I’ve built a pretty decent gym (at no small expense) in my backyard, and my sons and I have been working out daily. If we can’t make it all the way to the woods or desert, we just jump on the bikes and ride to the beach, go hike Griffith Park or march up and down the Culver City Steps.

Intellectually, I try to find some variety as well. I’ve got many books (both the paper and digital variety), so if I don’t have the time to actually get out in the world, a book is always the next best thing. I’ve dragged my vinyl out of the basement, set up the turntable, and I’ve been listening to a single LP in its entirety every day. I’ve had a chance to watch some classic films with my youngest son — he’s now a Cohen brothers fan. A friend gave me a chess set, which I’ve just set up in the living room. Also, as many people may know, my wife and I bought a 110-year old house in West Adams about five years ago. It was a “fixer.” And by fixer, I mean it probably should have been torn down. So I’m still working on the house … always working on the house … always … still … forever.

The pandemic has stripped us of so much, not just the office, nightclubs, movies, parties etc. but also the many tiny moments and interactions that fill the gaps of our days. These little fragments are as important as the larger events, their collective sum more critical to our well-being and happiness than we had ever imagined. I’ve tried to fill that void by just speaking with people. It doesn’t have to be anything profound. It doesn’t need to be personal. Just enough to let us know we aren’t alone, we’re connected, and we will get through this.


Posted 1/16/2021