Meet Our Team

Meet Our Team

- Faculty Advisors -

Tamara Black

Assistant Professor (Teaching) of Writing 

Dr. Tamara Luqué Black joined the University of Southern California’s Writing Program in 2014, bringing with her more than a decade of teaching experience. After earning a PhD in Sociology from UCLA in 2008, she balanced her energies across teaching and consulting. In her private consulting practice, she advised undergraduates, graduate students, and non-profit organizations on the design and implementation of qualitative research and writing projects within the social sciences and humanities. From 2011 until 2014, she served as a lecturer and faculty coordinator for an interdisciplinary course within UCLA’s Freshman Cluster program.


Now a proud Trojan, Dr. Black enjoys teaching a variety of lower- and upper-division courses in rhetoric and composition at USC, including Contemporary Economics, Identity & Diversity, Technology & Social Change, Advanced Writing for Economics, Advanced Writing for the Arts & Humanities, and Advanced Writing for the Social Sciences. Like her teaching, Dr. Black's service contributions emphasize student support and pedagogy through activities such as coaching Fulbright applicants, organizing professional workshops on topics including Peer Response and Student Mental Health, and serving as one of the faculty advisors for the Shaukat Initiative’s student leadership team.

Message to Students and Parents

        On behalf of The Shaukat Initiative’s student leadership team and faculty advisors, welcome! We are so excited that you will be participating in our program at the University of Southern California. Our instructors have designed their courses especially for you, on a range of topics in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities.

        In addition to imparting subject-specific concepts and skills, each course engages with the ethical concerns raised within that field of study. To rise to the demands of the 21st century’s most recalcitrant problems, young people must acquire knowledge and hone critical thinking and moral reasoning capabilities. The Shaukat Initiative pursues these goals in tandem in an environment that is stimulating, safe, and fun. Classes are small, interactive, free, and taught by a highly motivated team of caring USC undergraduate and graduate student instructors.

       I am more impressed than ever by the commitment, preparation, and passion with which The Shaukat Initiative’s instructors approach their work. We look forward to working with you, and again, welcome!

Lucas Herchenroeder is Assistant Professor (Teaching) and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Classics at USC. He received his M.A. in Classics from the University of Maryland (2003) and his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California (2010). Dr. Herchenroeder’s teaching and research interests span broadly over the languages, literatures, and cultures of classical antiquity. He teaches courses regularly in Latin and Greek literature, and on topics in classical thought and culture in USC’s General Education program. He is a lover or books and of the arts, and passionate about working for a strong role for the humanities in higher education.  

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Lucas Herchenroeder

Assistant Professor (Teaching) of Classics 

Message to Students and Parents


I am thrilled to be returning to work with the Shaukat Initiative in its second year. I have been continually impressed — and inspired — by the ingenuity and thoughtfulness of its young students, and by the great devotion of its talented leadership and teaching staff. The program represents the best of what Trojans are capable of in reaching the world outside of the classroom, and I am grateful for the chance to help our next generation of leaders find their scholarly bearings.


Sheila Sofian

Professor of Cinematic Arts 

Sheila M. Sofian creates films that investigate social issues utilizing a unique hybrid of animation and documentary. Sofian has produced seven award-winning independent animated films. She recently completed production on “Truth Has Fallen”, a feature length animated/live action documentary about people wrongfully convicted of murder and flaws in the United States legal system that led to these injustices. Sofian has received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Rockefeller Media Arts Award, the Roy W. Dean Film Grant, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Women in Film Foundation and the Pew Fellowships in the Arts. 


Sofian studied at The United World College of South East Asia in Singapore and Old Dominion University in Virginia before receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film and Animation at the Rhode Island School of Design and her Master of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts. Sofian was head of the Animation Program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia from 1992-1997. She chaired the Animation Program at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita from 2001-2006. Sofian is currently Full Professor at the University of Southern California. Her work can be viewed at

Message to Students and Parents


It has been a great pleasure working with the Shaukat Initiative. This student-run organization aims to provide thought-provoking and stimulating courses to high school students and to give the USC student instructors the tools they need to become effective teachers. It has been a great honor to assist these dedicated instructors with their mission and to witness the growth of both the instructors and students throughout the course. I am so impressed with the selfless dedication of these instructors. Their enthusiasm in contagious, and the students benefit from the course content as well as the example these instructors set. 

- Executive Board -

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Pratik Thakur is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Biological Sciences with Economics and Health Policy minors. Previously, in his hometown of Kansas City, Pratik both volunteered and worked with younger students, teaching them math and science-related topics. Now, at USC, Pratik volunteers with Share A Meal, an organization that delivers meals and other necessities to homeless individuals across Los Angeles, and works as a sports writer for the school newspaper, the Daily Trojan. He is also a part of USC’s Thematic Option Honors Program, a liberal arts alternative to the conventional general education courses. Finally, when he is not busy, Pratik plays intramural soccer, where his team unfortunately only won one game.

Pratik Thakur


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My name is Jack Rasmussen, and I was born and raised in Los Gatos, California. As someone inclined to pursue Entertainment, my interests brought me to Los Angeles to study Business, Cinematic Arts, and Sports Media Industries at USC. I am a Warren Bennis Scholar at USC, an active member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, a Marshall Student Ambassador lead, and an Assistant Director of Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society. My curious mind has led me to hold positions for Aflac, MTV, KSCO Radio Station, and Northwestern Mutual this upcoming year. I love to write and discuss philosophical ideas, passions being developed this summer at Stanford University, where I study Technology Entrepreneurship and Designing Your Life. 

Jack Rasmussen


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My name is Omer! like Homer Simpson without the “H” and I am super enthusiastic about playing sports such as soccer, surfing, and volleyball. I was born and raised in Pakistan, where I completed my High School education. Recently I graduated from USC with a BS in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. As of now, I’m taking part in colorectal cancer research and studying for the MCAT to pursue medical school. My main goal in life is to serve humanity by establishing my own social work organization that empowers underprivileged children through education and character development. 

Omer Zaffer


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My name is Samantha Lee (or Sam if you’re in a rush), and I use she/her/hers pronouns. Originally from Memphis, Tennessee, the birthplace of soul music and the best kind of barbecue, I came to USC to double major in screenwriting and history and am now going into my junior year. Besides the Shaukat Initiative, I perform sketch comedy with a troupe here at USC, work for the Daily Trojan, serve on the executive boards for the history and women in film societies, and have a student worker position at the School of Cinematic Arts.

Samantha Lee

Chair of Internal Relations

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My name is Sean Silvia! I am from Washington, D.C. and my pronouns are he/him/his. I am a junior History and Archaeology double major with a minor in Classics. I am the President of USC’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta the History honors society, Vice President of STARC the student Archaeology organization, founder and Student Editor/Advisor for The Scroll History Research Journal, an Undergraduate Student Consultant for the American Language Institute, a History Department Research Assistant, and creator of the educational Archaeologists Anonymous YouTube series. I am also a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Kappa Phi honors societies.

Sean Silvia

Chair of Outreach

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Hi! I’m Neha (think neigh-ha, like a laughing horse :)) Yadav. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am a second-year undergraduate student majoring in Biomedical Engineering, with a possible minor in either Health Innovation or Human Rights. On campus, I’m involved with Engineers Without Borders, UNICEF USC, and the Associated Students of Biomedical Engineering’s STEM outreach initiative, Project in a Box. I also helped found and am currently working on a startup that provides nutrition education to students in underfunded schools. I have always been passionate about education and I firmly believe that equal access to education can revolutionize the world for the better. Furthermore, I’m very passionate about social justice and activism, and I’m extremely excited to join the Shaukat Initiative because it allows me to fuse these three interests into one course! In my spare time, I’m usually reading, playing tennis, procrastinating heavily on assignments, or attempting to learn how to skateboard (the number of falls I’ve had is atrocious). In the future, I hope to help maintain more equitability in healthcare by designing low-cost medical technologies and providing them to those who need them.

Neha Yadav

Chair of Operations


Chenyi is a third-year undergraduate majoring in Narrative Studies and Comparative Literature. She was born and raised in Qingdao, China, and attended a Chinese-Canadian program before coming to USC. On campus, she works for Annenberg TV News in the Annenberg Media Center. She is a broadcast producer for Trojan Vision, where she has worked on two student-produced comedy shows, But Seriously and The Breakdown. She is also an active member of the First-year Advocacy Board and Queer International in the LGBT Resource Center. Chenyi hopes to apply her interests in interdisciplinary learning to designing classes that inspire and empower others. Outside of school, she enjoys seafood and a good ping-pong match.

Chenyi Zhao

On Leave

- Instructors -

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Advaita Chandramohan is a rising senior studying Biomedical Engineering with minors in Applied Analytics and the Classics at the University of Southern California. She has been designing classes for  students of all ages since high school, teaching different cohorts everything from reading and writing to science and engineering. She is very excited to be working with Shaukat Initiative this semester! In her free time, Advaita enjoys baking, playing the guitar, and reading.

Advaita Chandramohan

Female Creators Throughout History

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My name is Haemin (Jenny) Lee and I am a fourth-year undergraduate student studying computer science and computer engineering. I usually go by Jenny, and I use she/her/hers pronouns.  I am from San Diego, California, and some of my interests include hiking, finding good eateries, creating art, and making cool things! On campus, I am the president for USC Makers, and a researcher at the Interaction Lab. I'm super excited to teach with the Shaukat Initiative this year (second time!) and I can't wait to see how it goes!

Haemin (Jenny) Lee

Female Creators Throughout History

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My name is Ammar and I’m a third year undergrad majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in History. I’m from Dallas, Texas and some of my interests include cooking, playing basketball with friends, and going to movie screenings around LA. On campus, I am a supplemental instructor for organic chemistry, research assistant in the Andrei Irimia lab, and part of the Novus Think Tank organization. After coming to USC, I became interested in exploring how neuroscience, history, and storytelling intersect. As a first time Shaukat Initiative instructor, I hope to further delve into these interests this fall by leading discussions on how pandemics and times of trauma are processed into our personal and collective memories.

Ammar Dharani
Remembering a Pandemic

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Emily is a Senior from Ventura County who is studying French, and Law History Culture. After originally coming to USC as a business student, she took time to realize her passion in the humanities, particularly history. As an undergraduate, she is interested in exploring the formation of early societies; thinking of the intersecting roles of religion, law, and community. Outside of Shaukat, she is a Trip Lead with Peaks and Professors, a social media coordinator for the Secular Student Fellowship, a member of the First Generation service organization, Fisher Fellows, and the Treasurer for Clio, the History department’s Student Association. In her free time she enjoys reading in her hammock, skating, baking random desserts, and thinking of our position in the universe!

Emily Johnson

The American Allusion


My name is Garrett and I’m a recent graduate from the Computational Neuroscience program and second-year MA student in the Media Arts, Games, and Health program. While I began my journey at USC focusing on the technical aspects of brain-computer interface (BCI) systems, my work at the Center for Neural Engineering broadened my perspective to include often-neglected features of neurotechnology design such as acceptability, accessibility, and high-quality user experiences. To begin targeting these interdisciplinary challenges, I’ve spent the past year collaborating with faculty from Viterbi and the School of Cinematic Arts on Brains@Play to develop an open-source framework for integrating biosignals into modern web applications. We’re very excited for everyone with a brain—whether a high school student in Los Angeles or children with severe motor disabilities in Canada—to participate in the creation of the next generation of brain-responsive applications. What will you create with us?

Garrett Flynn

Neurotechnology with Everyone

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Kaisa Liljenwall is a second-year undergraduate student studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. She has a passion for serving her community and has participated in multiple initiatives to support underserved individuals in her hometown of Astoria, Oregon. Kaisa looks forward to working with the Shaukat Initiative and sharing her love for discovering how to live wholesomely. She is a member of the Project in a Box initiative and Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC). In her free time, she is an avid piano player, crime podcast junkie, and an admirer of people who have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (all 2650 miles of it!!).

Kaisa Liljenwall

Living Fulfilled: An Introduction to Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul

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Khounish Sharma is a fourth-year undergraduate student at USC majoring in Human Biology and Economics with the aim to study medicine in the future. Over the past couple years, Khounish has taken a keen interest in the field of economics as a study of human choice and interaction along with its intersection with health policy as powerful tools to improve overall community health both locally and worldwide. On campus, he serves as the co-president of the Kidney Disease and Screening Awareness Program (KDSAP), former community outreach director of Southern California Healthcare Outreach (SCHO), Anemia Initiative project lead in USC Project RISHI, and is involved in research at CHLA exploring the tumor microenvironment and its role in cancer progression. In his free time, he enjoys reading, producing hip-hop music, watching movies, and weightlifting. Khounish is very excited to start teaching with the Shaukat Initiative for the first time this Fall and can’t wait to learn with everyone!

Khounish Sharma

Building the Base: Exploring the Fundamentals of Economics and Personal Finance

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Mihir Kumar

Building the Base: Exploring the Fundamentals of Economics and Personal Finance

Hello! My name is Mihir Kumar (he/him/his) and I am a rising senior studying Human Biology and Economics with a minor in Mathematical Finance on the pre-Health track. I have been tutoring/teaching for the last 5 years in a variety of subjects including math, science, college essays, and more. As mentioned in our course description, economics and finance are truly everywhere, from the American healthcare system and health outcomes to effective and sustainable social impact to constructive policy-making and more. I am so excited to be co-teaching my first class with Shaukat and exploring these topics with a variety of different student backgrounds. Beyond Shaukat, I am also involved in USC Kidney Disease Screening and Awareness Program (KDSAP), Project Rural India Social and Health Improvement (RISHI), USC Emergency Medical Services (EMSC), Southern California Healthcare Outreach (SCHO), and the Convergent Science Institute-Cancer (CSI-Cancer). In my free time, I really enjoy a good game of chess, reading up on the financial markets and investing, swimming, and trying out new restaurants in LA! Thanks for reading through this, and I look forward to meeting all of you soon!


My name is Maria “Lupita” Roa, but you can call me Lupita! I am a rising senior studying Animation and Digital Arts with a minor in Comedy at USC. I use she/they pronouns and was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. I now live in Los Angeles with my two dogs and my little sister who I take care of. I’m passionate about telling one-of-a-kind character-driven stories about underrepresented groups and perspectives. I also love working with kids and helping them in the same way my professors have helped me throughout my life, education is power! 

Maria "Lupita" Roa

Animation 101

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Nishan Sohoni is a fourth year student at USC majoring in Neuroscience and pursuing a Masters in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine. On campus, he serves as a supplemental instructor for general biology, community outreach director of a pre-health centered organization, Inter-Health Council, a counselor for Troy Camp, and an undergraduate research assistant in a lab that focuses on neural stem cells. Throughout high school and college, Nishan has been passionate about both mentorship and education as powerful tools to instill confidence and inspire his peers. He sees critical thinking as the most important skill for students to have in order to become well rounded, thoughtful, and sharp members of society. Nishan is extremely excited to teach in his second semester with Shaukat Initiative this fall! In his free time, he enjoys playing the piano, baking cakes for his friends, and exploring new restaurants in Los Angeles.

Nishan Sohoni

Prophets of Conspiracy

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Hi! My name is Riya Valaulikar, and I’m from Memphis, Tennessee. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I’m a sophomore at USC majoring in Environmental Science and Health with a minor in East Asian Languages and Culture. I’m super excited to be a part of the Shaukat Initiative this semester and have the opportunity to teach about topics that interest me. Besides Shaukat, I’m also a part of Peer Health Exchange, Dear Asian Youth, and Spanglish. In my free time, I enjoy dancing, reading, learning languages, and watching figure skating (even though I can barely stand on ice).

Riya Valaulikar

A Deep Dive into Tropes and Clichés

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Hi, my name is Zachary Gee and I am a junior here at USC. I am majoring in Classics and minoring in Linguistics. I was born here in Los Angeles and grew up in Sacramento, California. I am a tutor for the USC Athletics Department, as well as an ambassador in the Dornsife Transfer Ambassador Program. For fun, I am a part of Troy Philippines, USC’s Filipinx Organization, and a catcher for Trojans Club Baseball. My pronouns are he/him/his.

Zachary Gee

Comedy and Politics

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My name is Kendrew Zarzuela, and I am a pre-law senior studying political science at USC. I was born and raised for a while in the San Fernando Valley but moved around quite a bit. I’ve lived in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, and even a small town called Cleveland, Tennessee (located near the state line between Tennessee and Georgia). On campus, I am involved with Troy Philippines and its outreach program that teaches local high school students about college readiness and other developmental subjects. Outside of school I play plenty of sports including basketball, tennis, and golf. 

Kendrew Zarzuela

Comedy and Politics

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Hey there! I’m Dahlia Earleywine and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I was born in Los Angeles but have spent the majority of my life in Albany, New York. I’m a third-year student at USC studying Health and Human Sciences, and I’m also on track to get a master’s degree in Global Medicine. I hope to be a physician one day, but in the meantime, I’m the External Vice President of the USC Inter-Health Council. I’m also involved with Trojan Tutoring, a club through which I get to help out in math classrooms and co-direct an after-school mentorship program at Foshay Learning Center. I’m also a research assistant for the USC Family Studies Project, a psychophysiology lab that studies relationships between family members, friends, and romantic partners. Though I’m pre-med, I love studying literature and art history, and have thoroughly enjoyed the interdisciplinary humanities classes I’ve taken through the Thematic Option program at USC. In my free time, I love to run, draw, paint, and spend time with my friends.

Dahlia Earleywine

Prophets of Conspiracy