Get to know Shauna

Dr. Shauna Moriarty-Bennett

Dr. Shauna Moriarty-Bennett

DRC Director

Past Professional Experience Highlights: I have worked in higher education for the past 23 years, in community college, state university, and private university settings.
Favorite Quotes: “Communities designed with just one kind of person in mind isolate those of us defying our narrow definition of personhood.” – Haben Girma
“Disabled Students Need Equity, Not Just Access: We Must Challenge Our Biases and Create Inclusive Experiences for All Students.” – Dr. Amanda Kraus
What I most love about the DRC: I love working in the DRC because I work with an incredibly brave and dedicated team of professionals and student leaders who invest each day in dismantling ableism and promoting equity.

Get to know Zoila

Zoila Lara-Cea

Zoila Lara-Cea

DRC Student Ambassador

Education Goal: Three-Dimensional Arts: Ceramics
Career Goal or Interest: My goal is to be an arts educator/activist. I want my work to support my community by providing tools for healing, connecting/reconnecting to ancestral ceremonial practices, and empowering those who are othered within society.
DRC Student Ambassador Priority: As a former special education teacher and a longtime advocate for those who are labeled as “disabled,” I hope to continue my work as someone who supports different thinkers and others within the disability movement. My hope is to be a contributing part of a thriving community that empowers its members.

Get to know Ciara

Ciara Hernandez

Short-Term Hourly Professional, Front Office

Current Education highlights: Senior at Cal State San Marcos

Past Professional Experience Highlights: Been at the DRC 5 Years

What I love most about Palomar: The beautiful views of the San Marcos Hills and flowers on campus.

What I most love about the DRC: The students who inspire me to stay determined in life no matter what obstacle is thrown at me. Each student comes here with the urge to get to their goal even if it means taking less units, returning students who need breaks or figuring out the unknown.


Get to know Maricela

Maricela Becerra

Part-time LD Specialist

Past Education highlights: High School drop out who attended community college and then transferred to UCLA. Went on to Sac State where I received my M.A. and certificates in adult learning disabilities, ASL, dyslexia.

Current Education highlights: About to finish my first year in my Education for Social Justice Phd program.

Past Professional Experience Highlights: Tenured Bilingual (Spanish) Learning Disabilities Specialist of almost 11 years.

Favorite Quote: “The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy” ― bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

What motivates me in the work of building accessible learning and spaces for interaction for students: The equity in the services I provide and how services really do transform lives.

Proudest moment or accomplishment at the DRC: I got my Palomar computer programs to work most of the time lol.

Palomar Professor who inspires me and why: The only professor I know at Palomar is Leigh Ann, and she is an Energizer Bunny doing it all with a smile.

Palomar Staff who inspires me and why: In my limited time here, I think there is not one person who inspires me, but I do see how hard the staff and faculty work for their students and that is really inspiring.

What I most love about the DRC: That the people are nice! I love the humor that is shared in the department.

What is one thing I do that the DRC: I believe in my students. I believe they can reach whatever goal they have set up for themselves, at times despite what their assessment scores reveal.

What I love most about Palomar: How many services there are for students.

One thing I have learned over the pandemic: That our students mental health was really affected, and services were deeply needed.

Example of a student who changed my perspective about disability: Any student who achieves higher than their ability is a rockstar to me. It does not make sense why they are able to push through the ability but they do so the only explanation is that they are amazing.

What is key to creating community at Palomar: Communicating often with other people, being kind, and laughing together often.

Person with a disability who expanded/shaped my mindset and daily work and why: All my students. My students are in the heart of what I do and why I do it. Their stories change the narrative of what we know and the services we offer — different perspectives will help evolve our practices as educators.

What does a campus or world built with UDL at the forefront look like: It will highlight the vision we have for our students and fortify them as scholars.

Something else about me: I’m really happy to be at Palomar serving students, they are pretty awesome 😊

Get to know Alma

Alma Vasquez

Testing Center Assistant

Favorite Quote: “The point is: People improve when they get external love and support. How can we hold it against them when they don’t?” – Michael, The Good Place

What motivates me in the work of building accessible learning and spaces for interaction for students: Accessibility benefits everybody. Everyone, at some point in their lives, will find themselves in a position wherein accessible technology, services, etc. can help.

What is key to creating community at Palomar: Kindness and the bravery to explore new people, places, and situations.

Something else about me: I have notes scattered on paper and internet devices on ideas that I think would make great tv shows.


Get to know Leigh Ann

Leigh Ann Van Dyke

Leigh Ann Van Dyke

Learning Disability Specialist and Professor

Past Education highlights: Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology from SDSU; Master of Science Degree from Fresno State in Rehabilitation Educational Counseling and Counseling; Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor since 2013.

Professional Experience Highlights: I have worked in the Community Colleges for over 20 years. I also teach study strategies, anxiety and stress wellness, and nervous system techniques.

Favorite Quote: No matter what path you take there will always be a lesson to learn.

What I most love about the DRC: The DRC has the most phenomenal and professional staff that care about students and students’ success.

Something else about me: I have an amazing son and daughter. My daughter is currently studying at UC Santa Barbara. I consider myself a lifetime student, as well as a teacher. Some of my greatest mentors have been family, friends, teachers, college professors, colleagues, and many students who have played major roles in shaping my character, supporting my path toward evolving, and challenging me to keep growing. I also have a passion for travel; it has promoted a deeper sense of understanding, discovering, connecting, and going outside my comfort zone.

Get to know Liz

Liz Wilke

Liz Wilke


Past Education highlights: Master’s Degree in Counseling with an Emphasis in Education from University of San Diego, Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from University of Montana

Past Professional Experience Highlights: I have worked in higher education for the past 11 years, 9 of those years supporting students with disabilities to ensure equal access to education. Previously I worked in the foster care system for 5 years and spent a year as an Adult Case Manager.

Favorite Quote: Be the change you wish to see in the world.  

What I most love about the DRC: I love working in the DRC because I am proud to be a part of a team of like-minded people who’s focus is seeking equity for our students.

What is one thing I do that the DRC: I am a co-founder of Social Connections, a group that meets monthly to create a safe-space for students to socialize and have fun. While I am no longer hosting the groups I am happy that it continues to thrive!

One thing I have learned over the pandemic: Anything is possible, you just have to think outside the box.

Something else about me: I am an avid traveler (pre-COVID) and have been to 28 countries and counting. I love getting off the beaten path and learning about different cultures. So far my favorite country to visit was Vietnam.


Get to know Sandy

Sandy Ricketts

Sandy Ricketts


Past Education highlights: Sandy received her Bachelor’s in Child Development with a minor in Psychology from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She went on to complete her Masters in Social Work from California State University, San Marcos.

Professional Experience Highlights: Sandy currently serves as a Disability Support Programs and Services Counselor and previously served as a FAST Scholars and NextUp Counselor at San Diego Mesa College. She has an extensive background in social work, case management and counseling.

Something else about me: During her spare time she enjoys traveling, hiking, and spending time with her family.

Get to know James

James Hartwell

James Hartwell

DRC Student Ambassador

Career Goal or Interest: My career goal is to establish and grow my own freelance graphic design and multimedia company. I aim to provide a wide range of services including branding, print design, digital design, and video production to clients in various industries. I am passionate about creating visually stunning and effective designs that will help clients achieve their business goals. Through hard work, dedication, and building a strong portfolio, I hope to establish a reputable and successful business that will allow me to be my own boss and have creative control over my projects.

DRC Student Ambassador Priority: As an Ambassador for Disability, Accessibility, and Inclusion at Palomar, my goal is to work toward creating a more inclusive and accessible environment for individuals with disabilities. This includes raising awareness and understanding about the challenges and barriers faced by individuals with disabilities, as well as promoting the implementation of inclusive practices and accommodations. I hope to collaborate with different departments across the college to ensure that the needs and perspectives of individuals with disabilities are considered in decision-making and planning. Ultimately, my goal is to create a campus community where everyone feels valued and included, regardless of their abilities.


Get to know Jasia

Jasia Weir

Jasia Weir

DRC Student Ambassador

Education Goal: Math Major

Career Goal or Interest: I am interested in becoming a math professor.

DRC Student Ambassador Priority: I want to work on bettering our current systems at Palomar by making learning more universally accessible so that everyone can be included. I also hope that in this role of Student Ambassador that I am able to be the voice for those who need it.