HDO Class of 2015: Student Biographies

Muna Mitchell

Muna is a licensed Texas Professional Engineer who designs bridges and related structures for Walter P. Moore. She is a former civil engineering manager for the Lower Colorado River Authority whose educational experience includes a Bachelor of Arts in Plan II (1995) and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering (1996) from The University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Houston (1999). Muna’s time away from work is spent on the three R’s: reading, running, and remodeling.

Paige Vurpillat

Paige has led professionals to greater productivity and process improvements for over 14 years, serving both B2C and B2B markets. Her experience with technology implementation and individual productivity has served global audiences and projects within several Fortune 500 companies, in addition to K-12 education, government, and non-profits. Paige is an Austin native, and enjoys listening to live music and traveling with her husband.

Neil Crump

Neil has been the Plant Construction Manager at The University of Texas at Austin since 2007, leading in-house renovation and construction projects. Before coming to UT he was the VP of Facilities Services with Velocity Credit Union and prior to that a Work Center Manager in the volume manufacturing group at Applied Materials. In his spare time he enjoys cycling, scuba, photography and home remodeling projects.

Michael Larson

Michael Larson is a Content Strategist and Senior Facilitator with Blank Page, a people-focused design and strategy firm in Austin, Texas. Michael has 14 years of experience working with boards, executive teams, and operational groups to facilitate people-centered systems that think strategically, make decisions with compassion and clarity, and continuously self-evaluate to respond to changes. Michael is known for creating programs that focus on connecting stakeholders with an organization at a deep level, exploring the links between why the organization exists and a stakeholder’s choice to invest.  Michael focuses on inclusive discovery, strategic planning, deliberate decision making, and honest evaluation of results.

Patty Prado

Patty is an experienced manager, public speaker, and college admissions professional at The University of Texas at Austin. She works towards creating a collaborative, fun, and meaningful work environment within her organization and team. Outside of her role overseeing Visitor Services for the Office of Admissions at UT Austin, she enjoys swimming, yoga, hiking, and traveling with her family.

Holly Earnest

Despite her background in youth and community outreach, in 2009 Holly accepted a position at a Montessori preschool in Austin, quickly discovering an affinity for the fresh perspectives and eager curiosity of preschoolers. In addition to a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies, she currently holds an Early Childhood Montessori teaching certificate from the North American Montessori Center (NAMC) and is in the process of earning Early Childhood certification with the American Montessori Society (AMS). When not immersed in educating children (or herself), she enjoys spending time with her husband Rich – watching movies, discovering new restaurants, and occasionally enjoying kayaking or yoga. Holly’s passions are twofold: developing innovative and lasting solutions to breakdowns in productivity and communication and helping students of all ages grow to be healthy, whole, vibrant individuals.

Cyndee Blockinger Lake

Cyndee has 26+ years of leadership and business success in the healthcare, insurance, high-tech and service industries. With a proven track record of strategic thinking, sustainable change leadership, reduction in variation and process improvement, product development, project execution, customer service, healthcare compliance and building high performing cultures, she has influenced the growth and success at large, mid-size and small businesses across the country. Cyndee is a lifelong entrepreneur and contributor to her community, and actively pursues opportunities to mentor and coach the next generation of our workforce through programs like A Better Chance, Build and Chi Omega to increase their leadership skills and outcomes of their educational goals. Cyndee lives in Georgetown with her husband and four dogs and has three grown children who visit often.

Janna Rich

Janna is an eight-year employee of an Austin-based biotech company where she focuses on international distribution. Janna’s educational and employment background is in psychology and social service, and she is looking forward to the unique HDO program. While she originally hails from chilly Erie, Pennsylvania, she and her husband have called Austin home for 8 years. Janna enjoys cooking and being outdoors with her two Labradors.

John O’Leary

After initially studying civil engineering, John graduated with a geology degree before starting a 32-year-long career in the international oil and gas industry, always working in large organizations. John has received both international and national awards for technical presentations and has taught numerous courses, utilizing skills learned as a son, husband and father of professional educators. John has lived and worked around the globe for nearly twenty years (becoming a Green Bay Packers shareholder along the way) before settling in Texas and becoming a US citizen. He relaxes by playing tennis and cycling and his greatest personal achievement is walking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago, across northern Spain, with his oldest son, and earning an MA in HDO from UT Austin.

Laura A. Wagner

Laura earned a B.A. from UT Austin’s College of Liberal Arts in 1988 where she majored in English and French. She began her career in communications at NACE International in Houston as a books editor, followed by eight years at the UT Health Science Center-Houston campus as a writer and editor of internal and external communications. In 1998, Laura joined asset manager Invesco as a financial writer and progressed to her current role as head of brand communications. Laura has been happily married for 25 years and has two sons: Dylan, 20, a sophomore at Trinity University, and Jackson, 15, a sophomore at The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, one dog, and three cats. She enjoys cooking, gardening, attending music festivals, playing board games, and learning new things.

Yu-Chieh Su

Yu-Chieh received her B.A. Political Science in 2011 from the National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan. She is interested in labor-capital relation and feminism and also follows issues related to female workers in East Asia. Following graduation, she worked for the Institute of Occupational Medicine and Industrial Hygiene at National Taiwan University. In 2012, Yu-Chieh became a legislative fellow and public relation practitioner in the Taipei City Council. She analyzed and proposed many labor policies regarding labor laws, atypical employment, and employment predicaments of new immigrants and dispatched workers. She is a literature lover, with the Red Chamber Dream, Gone with the Wind, and Harry Potter among her favorite novels.

Heather Watson

You’ll find Heather in the middle of the action at growing companies – taming disruption by recruiting talent, structuring teams and reworking strategy. As an executive who’s built five businesses, she’s intrigued by the problems of scaling, specifically regarding solutions and effects on company culture. Heather prefers people over pro-formas, engagement over Excel, and creativity over compliance. On weekend mornings she’s digging, late afternoons she’s slicing and dicing, and she thinks you can never have too many stamps in your passport.

Vicki Zuzak

Vicki works at USAA as a Lead in Organizational Effectiveness. Vicki has collaborated both internally and externally with business partners and clients to transform strategy, service delivery and organizations with a business driven focus. She brings expertise in understanding the business from a strategic standpoint, cascading the strategy to the function or business and tying goals, metrics and initiatives to the business strategy. Before USAA, Vicki worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers in the HR Shared Service Center as the Operational Effectiveness Senior Manager. Prior to that, she was part of the People and Change Practice. In earlier employment, Vicki spent 12 years with The Hackett Group in Cleveland, Frankfurt and Atlanta holding various benchmark and transformation positions. Vicki is a graduate of Kent State University and has both her SPHR and Green Belt Six Sigma certifications.

Graham Chapman

Graham currently serves as the Assistant Director for IT in the Office of Student Financial Services at UT Austin. Prior to that, he managed one team running the university portal and another responsible for the campus developer middleware layer. Graham completed his B.A. in Plan II and Philosophy in 1998. In his free time, he enjoys woodworking, being outdoors, and trying new things in the kitchen.