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University Advising Center Staff


Derek Furukawa

Derek T Furukawa, Ph.D.

Director of Undergraduate Academic Advising & Student Achievement

Dr. Furukawa joined the University Advising Center staff in December 2012 as the Director of the Advising Center as well as Coordinator of Undergraduate Advising for the university.  In 2015, he was promoted to Director of Undergraduate Academic Advising and Student Achievement with additional responsibilities for campus-wide advising and student success.  He has been in advising for over a decade, having worked in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the College of Education at the University of Maryland.  Dr. Furukawa earned his Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in August of 2011.  His dissertation research explored the factors influencing college choice among high achieving students.  Dr. Furukawa holds a master's degree in Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Maryland and bachelors degrees in English and Spanish from the University of Northern Colorado.  He is active in the  National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) and has presented regionally and nationally on topics ranging from social media integration to masculinity in advising to transfer student transition from 2-year to 4-year institutions.  At Nevada, Dr. Furukawa also serves as President of the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society and Faculty Advisor for Circle K International and Kappa Phi Lambda.  He takes great pride in his work with developing student success programs and student leaders.  When he's not on the campus, you may find Dr. Furukawa on the golf course or mountain bike trails in the area or volunteering in the community.

Aqueelah LaGrone

Aqueelah Thompson, M.A.

Director, University Advising Center

Aqueelah Thompson has been a part of the University Advising Center staff since July of 2007 and was promoted to Director in July 2015. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership, Higher Education Administration at the University of Nevada, Reno where she was a member of the women's basketball team. She began her advising career in 2004 as a graduate assistant Athletic Advisor, and officially became a professional advisor in athletics in August of 2005. Being an alumni of the University of Nevada, Reno, she takes pride in her alma mater and knowing about the different degrees offered. She enjoys working the undecided student population and helping them achieve their educational and career goals.  Aqueelah enjoys spending time with family, baking, working out, and planning events.

Dawn Aeschlimann

Dawn M. Aeschlimann, M.A.

Academic Advisor

Dawn has been working at the University of Nevada, Reno since 2007.  She has worked primarily at the University Advising Center with a short period with Financial Aid. Dawn graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Marketing in 2003. After working for a few years in management and production Dawn decided that it was time to complete her goal of attaining a master's degree. In 2008, Dawn completed a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership with an internship in teaching an Academic and Career Exploration course. She currently works closely with Residential Life and Housing and the Living Learning Community and serves as a member on the campus Food Committee. Dawn has been involved in workshops across campus which included topics on Major Exploration, Utilizing Your Advisor, and the Path to Academic Preparation and Exploration. She enjoys working with students in pursuit of academic success and really takes pride in understanding the different degrees offered at the University. Outside of work Dawn enjoy spending time with her family and traveling when she can.


Academic Advisor

Keith Bingham

Keith Bingham, M.Ed.

Academic Advisor

Keith joined the University Advising Center in February 2015. Prior to the University of Nevada, Reno, he worked as a Program Coordinator at Colgate University's Center for Leadership and Student Involvement, where he advised student organizations, their student leadership, and assisted in developing and presenting leadership development programing. Keith began his academic advising career at Colorado State University, where he advised student-athletes as an academic mentor and tutor while enrolled in graduate school and after graduation as an Academic Coordinator. He also worked in secondary education in Colorado in various positions, including time as a social studies teacher. Keith earned a master's degree in Educational Leadership from Colorado State University in 2007 and bachelors degrees in Public Relations and Communication, with a Journalism Concentration, from Auburn University. Prior to Colorado State, he worked in the field of college athletic media relations for several years. Keith particularly enjoys the exploratory and mentoring aspects of advising, especially helping students discover the connections between their unique skill sets and areas of study and potential career fields. Outside of work Keith enjoys spending time with his family, and hiking and fly fishing in the mountains. 

Leal Photo

Grace Cardenas Leal, M.S.

Academic Advisor, Coordinator, Pre-Professional Advising

Grace has been with the University Advising Center as of September 2014.   With a Masters of Science degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Saint Mary's College of California, Grace has over 15 years of experience in academic advising with active participation and conference presentation in the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) speaking on topics related to diversity, professional career preparation and building sustainable programs for students.  Prior to coming to the University, Grace held directorship positions at Saint Mary's College, California State University, Monterey Bay and Humboldt State University.  As an academic advisor, Grace places a high value on creating supportive environments to help students in the process of self-authorship and finding purpose in their life to achieve their academic, socio-cultural and professional goals.  Grace holds a deep appreciation for creativity, music, nature photography and meditation.  Having lived in Hawaii, Japan, Canada, Alaska, California and now in Nevada, Grace enjoys meeting new people and hearing about their stories. 

Cherie Youngblood, M.B.A.

Academic Advisor

Cherie is the newest member of the University Advising Center as of January 2016.  Her experience involves counseling students in all academic and vocational areas to support student academic success, retention, timeliness to degree, and intellectual and personal development in addition to educational, career and personal counseling support.  Prior to pursuing a career in higher education Cherie worked in the for-profit and non-profit sector managing contracts, implementing and marketing community related program services.  She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Cal State University Dominguez Hills and Master's in Business Administration from Westwood College.  Cherie enjoys working in a capacity where she can help guide and mentor students in achieving their  educational goals which can lead them to career success.  Cherie is fan of action and sci-fi films, bowling, working out and attending social and networking events.

Office Staff

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

Administrative Assistant

Vicki has been with the University Advising Center since May 2013.  She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.  Vicki moved to the Tahoe area in 1988 and resided in Truckee, CA for 21 years.  She has worked with students in many capacities which include: Science Docent at Glenshire Elementary, Site Council, Men's Tennis Coach - Truckee High School, as well as working with music students.  She comes from a large non-profit background which most recently includes the Robert Z. Hawkins Foundation as well as the Reno Philharmonic Association, where she served as the Office Manager and Executive Assistant at both locations.  Vicki has a son who graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in Computer Science and Engineering with a minor in Mathematics.

Reena Spansail

Graduate Assistant Academic Advisor

Reena is a graduate student pursuing her Masters in Secondary Education through the College of Education here at the University. She graduated summa cum laude in cursu honorum with her B.A. in English Literature and Studio Art from the University of Nevada, Reno in the Spring of 2015. While completing her undergraduate degree, Reena was a member of the honors program, Phi Kappa Phi, and Circle K International. She enjoys working with students of all ages, including her elementary art students, Washoe County high school students, and the undeclared students that come to the University Advising Center. When not working with students, Reena pursues her passion for painting and writing by engaging with various community and personal projects. Her most recent project was a mural partnership with Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful.

Student Support

Aldrin Santamaria

Peer Advisor

Aldrin is a fourth year honors student graduating in May 2016 with a B.S. Biology and a minor in Community Health Sciences. A scholar first and foremost, he spends a significant amount of time in Dr. Matthew Forister's bug lab catching butterflies and working on his senior thesis. During sparse spare moments, Aldrin can be found with either his Alpha Kappa Psi or Phi Mu Alpha fraternity brothers, volunteering with Circle K International, or in various cafes in one of several countries.

Taylor Stichauf

Peer Advisor

Coming soon...

Alyssa Yocom

Peer Advisor

Alyssa is a third year student in the Honors Program pursuing a double major in Finance and Economics. ​She aspires to become a Financial Advisor following graduation.  She is passionate about helping others academically and professionally and she enjoys spending her free time volunteering and traveling.

Giovanny Pacheco

Student Assistant

Giovanny graduated with Honors from Procter R. Hug High School in 2013 and is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science and Engineering.  He is involved with Circle K International and Dean's Future Scholars. In his free time he enjoys running, hiking, swimming, cooking and exploring different cities, foods and cultures.

McXine Salva

Student Assistant

McXine, pronounced "Mac-xine", graduated with an Honors and Advanced Diploma from North Valleys High School in 2013.  She is currently pursuing a major in Elementary Education.  She spends most of her free time volunteering with Circle K International and at a local elementary school near campus.  She likes exploring unknown places, so if there's ever a chance for her to travel, she most likely says yes to it.

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