Advisory Committee

The Tarjan Center Advisory Committee (TAC) provides advice and assistance to the Center on program objectives and project development. A key function of UCLA Tarjan Center is to share information to the community in areas of mutual interest. In turn, we rely on feedback from the community to help inform our work. Our TAC includes persons with disabilities and their family members, as well as representatives of community agencies and federal partners, such as Disability Rights California, USC UCEDD, the UCEDD at UC MIND Davis, and the State Council on Developmental Disabilities.

If you are interested in joining our TAC, please email Beth Stoffmacher, Director of Operations, at

Hear What Our Tarjan Advisory Committee Members Have to Say:

Tarjan Advisory Committee Members

Desiree Boykin is native of Los Angeles, California graduating from Dorsey High in 1997. After high school started El Camino College in Torrance California later transferring to Cal State University Dominguez Hills in Carson California. Desiree Boykin learn about South Central Los Angeles Regional Center applied for services and started attending there local Self advocacy group in 1998. In 1999 she ran won the sit of President of SCLARC Self- Advocacy group Serve as President from 1999- 2003. Desiree Boykin was recommended to the SCLARC... more

Emily Bridges, MPH, CHES, works for the Independent Living Resource Center of the Tri-Counties in Ventura, CA. She is the Public Health Advocate at ILRC and has worked at this Center for Independent Living since July 2020. She has her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Tennessee and her Master of Public Health from the University of Georgia. While at UGA, she earned her graduate Disability Studies Certificate from their UCEDD, the Institute on Human Development and Disability. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist.

Emily has extensive lived,... more

Haley Brown is a 2nd year Ph.D. student in School Psychology at the University of Oregon. She is interested in creating equitable school systems that support students with disabilities. Specifically, she is interested in mitigating and addressing disproportionality in assessment and reducing exclusionary disciplinary practices, understanding perceptions of school climate for students with disabilities, and cultivating educator knowledge in disability and mental health to help promote positive student-teacher relationships. Haley earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Adolescent... more

Dr. Judith Carroll is an associate professor in the department of psychiatry at UCLA where she conducts research examining patterns and predictors of accelerated aging in various populations across the lifespan (e.g., maternal-child health, late life, cancer survivors), with a focus on psychosocial and behavioral factors like stress, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. Dr. Carroll is also a mother of two children with neurodevelopmental disorders. She is keenly interested in bringing her perspective and experiences to help support the mission of the UCLA Tarjan Center.

Aaron Carruthers is the Executive Director of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities. He has worked in civil rights policy and programs for over twenty years, including in the State Senate, for California’s Attorney General, and as an appointee of two Governors. He is currently carrying out the Council’s goals: housing, employment, and safety. Last year, SCDD’s work impacted more than 1.9 million Californians and SCDD was named Employer of the Year for people with disabilities. He is a graduate of the National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities and was... more

Connie Huang Chu is a Managing Attorney at Disability Rights California, where she directs a state-wide group of attorneys and advocates who work to remove barriers to employment, including increasing access to competitive integrated employment for people with significant disabilities. Previously, Ms. Chu was a staff attorney at Bet Tzedek Legal Services, and an Irmas Fellow at Public Counsel in Los Angeles.

Ms. Chu received her B.S. in Gerontology and her J.D. from University of Southern California. She currently serves as a board member of the Legal Aid Association of California... more

Rudy A. Contreras, M.A., MSG

Chief Executive Officer of Southern California Resource Services (SCRS) & Fiesta Educativa

Rudy Contreras is the CEO of Southern California Resource Services and Fiesta Educativa. After Honorably Serving in the United States Marine Corps, Mr. Contreras has dedicated over 22 years towards working with and for people with disabilities. Mr. Contreras is the CEO of Southern California Resource Services for Independent Living (SCRS-IL), 1 of the 28 Centers for Independent Living in the State of California.

In 2016, he Co-Founded the First Annual Disability Pride Parade and Festival in the City of Downey. The success and need for this historic event quickly became an Annual... more

Eric Endlich, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and founder of Top College Consultants®, guides neurodivergent students nationwide through the college application process. He co-teaches the UC Irvine continuing education course for educational consultants, Working with Students with Learning Differences, and co-manages an 18,000-member ... more

April Fante serves as the Program Manager for Disability Support Services (DSS) at the North Orange Continuing Education (NOCE). She is a member and active participant of the California Association for Postsecondary Education and Disability (CAPED), Autism Spectrum Disorder Interest Group (CIG), Orange County Local Partnership Agreement (OCLPA) Steering Committee, Postsecondary Education Transition Consortium (PSETC), NOCE Student Equity and Achievement, and has over 20 years of experience in postsecondary education. April has served as a DSS Instructor, Counselor, Curriculum Writer, and... more

Emily Hotez, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor and developmental psychology researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine. She currently serves on the leadership teams of two national autism research networks: The Autism Intervention Research Network on Physical Health (AIR-P) and The Autism Transition Research Project (ATRP). In these roles, she prioritizes research that promotes the health, well-being, and thriving of autistic individuals across the life course. She is also a co-lead on the Life Course Translational Research Network (LCTRN) and... more

Ricka Glucksman Kelsch has over thirty years experience teaching dance from K-Higher Education. She created the dance program at Notre Dame Academy in Los Angeles where she taught for almost 20 years. She co-taught the Musical Theater Workshop at UCLA with John Hall, and was the Middle School Dance Company Director and teacher for twenty two years at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica, California, where she received the Bravo Award for excellence in teaching the arts. Ricka has an extensive choreography resume, which includes stage, film and commercials. Her recent... more

LEND Self Advocacy Faculty since January 2019. Have over 25 years of experience of self-advocacy in developmental and intellectual disability Appointed by governor Brown, then appointed by governor Galvin Newsom for my second term for The State Council on Developmental Disability member at LARGE. Committee that I am appointed to for the State Council: Executive committee Positioned to the consumer advisory committee, self-determination(co-chair), legislation committee I also sit on the self-determination advisory committee as well as the self-determination work group. Sit on Developmental... more

Deaka McClain is a lifelong advocate for the disability community, using her platform to continuously make positive changes, whether through public speaking, volunteering, storytelling and poetry, or simply connecting with people on an individual basis. Having been born with cerebral palsy, Ms. McClain knows firsthand the power of positive change and the value of using one’s voice.

After receiving her BA in Journalism from CSULB in 2009, Ms. McClain went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Public Administration in 2016.

Ms. McClain is Co-Founder & VP of Public Relations... more

Nicole Patterson has had the pleasure of working in the field of empowering people with disabilities for the past 25+ years. Her experiences include having Cerebral palsy, working with people with all types of disabilities providing assistance, advising people on their rights, and help educate people providing services to people with disabilities. She currently works for the California State Department of Developmental Services, as the Advocacy & Self-Advocate Liaison Specialist. She provides a voice, to the Director and the Department, on issues/problems that people with disabilities... more

Katty is the mother of a son with Cerebral Palsy. His journey has served as the inspiration to build bridges and create opportunities for our special needs families in the Los Angeles area. Most recently, she created two organizations as springboards to reach deeper into the special needs community, not just for the individual, but for the families, caregivers and medical / service providers who form the foundation of the support network.

Adrian’s Place Santa Monica is a community hub and facility offering recreational and social programs for teens and transitional aged adults... more

Kamille Roese is currently working on obtaining a Master's degree in Psychological Research at Cal State Fullerton. She is researching autism in adults as a graduate student under Dr. Sasha Zeedyk and Dr. Yasamin Bolourian. She graduated from the University of California, Riverside with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a minor in Applied Statistics in 2021. While at UCR, she worked on an Honors thesis pertaining to autism, alexithymia, and music therapy under Dr. Jan Blacher. In the past she was an advisory committee member for NeuroPREP. Additionally, she has guest... more

Steve Ruder worked as a direct service staff in the areas of supported employment and supported employment for over 30 years before coming to the UC Davis Center on Excellence in Developmental Disabilities as a Community Program Supervisor in 2013. He established and has been the facilitator for the Northern California Business Advisory Council (BAC) in 2015. The BAC hosts events for businesses to provide in-service trainings to other businesses about pathways they use to hire people with disabilities, supports and services they receive from our partner agencies, the skills of the... more

Dr. Alina Sala is currently working as a DSPS Counselor/Faculty at San Joaquin Delta College. During her 5 ½ years at Delta college Dr. Sala has expanded the summer transition learning community program for incoming HS students with disabilities (Transition for Academic Success is Key – TASK). Dr. Sala is co-lead for the Chicanx/Latinx Task force advocating for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion while implementing multidisciplinary strategies for the Delta college district. Advocating for the DREAMers Success Center on the San Joaquin Delta College for the DREAMer students.

She is an... more

Bhumit Shah is a person living with Cerebral Palsy (CP). He is in his 40s, resides at home with his parents, and has a great support system of family and friends. Bhumit has learned through experiences that are extremely important to develop a large network of people of all abilities. Over the years, Bhumit has become a self-advocate for himself and others. He has held multiple positions in both the private and public sectors. He is currently an Advocate at Disability Rights California in the Advocacy and Community Engagement Unit. Additionally, he also utilizes a variety of the same... more

Chantal’s first experience with  developmentally disabled individuals was working full-time at Fairview State Hospital in Orange County  CA. While attending UC Irvine Chantal  taught self-help and community living skills to developmentally disabled and autistic adolescents in preparation for their de-institutionalization after the passage of the Lanterman Act. After graduating with a BA in Social Ecology, Chantal worked as a case manager at Orange County Regional Center.

Little did Chantal know that these work experiences would come in handy years later, when her son Jeremy... more

Liam is a special education teacher at Brea Olinda High School, working with students with moderate and severe support needs. He has taught in schools for 9 years, and has worked with people with disabilities since 2004. Liam additionally works with adults who are blind or visually impaired, teaching orientation and mobility, technology skills, and living skills. He was one of the supervisors who helped launch the Charles Soltes Long Beach VA Blind Rehabilitation Center in 2012, where he oversaw a manual skills program and woodshop program designed for veterans who are blind or visually... more

Mr. Witherspoon serves as a representative with self-advocates and their networks and the programs and activities of the USC UCEDDD. He represents the USC UCEDD at local meetings as requested by the Director. He currently serves on the State Council of Developmental Disabilities. With the State Council, Wesley is the chair of the Employment First Committee. He also involved with other committees .In addition, he is the representative for the USC UCEDD for the Self-Advocacy Statewide Network. He also serves on the Community Voter Outreach Committee for the Los Angeles County Registrar-... more