Magaly Lavadenz, Ph.D., Executive Director

Dr. Magaly Lavadenz currently serves as Distinguished Professor of English Learner Policy, Research and Practice in the Department of Educational Leadership and Founding Executive Director of Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Equity for English Learners. Previous academic appointments include as Chair of the Teacher Education, Founding Associate Director of LMU’s doctoral program in Educational Leadership for Social Justice, and as Founding Director of Spanish and Mandarin Bilingual/Bicultural and TESOL programs.

She is the current President of Californians Together, a statewide advocacy organization that promotes quality education for the state’s dual language learners and emerging bilingual students. Past leadership positions include past president of the California Council on Teacher Education, the California Association for Bilingual Education, and as founding president of the California Association of Bilingual Teacher Educators. She also works actively with district, county and school partners to support equitable access to quality multilingual education in the state, nation and internationally.

Her research in the areas of preparation and support of teachers of English Learners, Latin@ communities, and biliteracy has been published in journals, book chapters and books, including Latinos and Civil Rights in Education: La Lucha Sigue with Anaida Colón Muñiz. She has served as principal investigator for over 34 grant projects.

Dr. Lavadenz completed a Ph.D. in Education, specializing in Language, Literacy and Learning, from the University of Southern California. Born in Cuba, Magaly is a former elementary bilingual classroom teacher and K-12 English as a Second Language Teacher Specialist. She has presented at international professional development and research conferences in over 20 countries.  

Dr. Lavadenz completed her B.S. (magna cum laude) in Elementary Education from Oakland University in Michigan, an M.A. in Educational Psychology and Counseling from California State University, Northridge and a Ph.D. in Education, specializing in Language, Literacy and Learning from the University of Southern California.

Elvira G. Armas, Ed.D., Director of Programs and Partnerships

Dr. Armas serves as the Director of Programs and Partnerships for the Center for Equity for English Learners (CEEL) at Loyola Marymount University. She is also an Affiliated Faculty member in the Department of Educational Leadership at LMU and has taught reading, writing and second language learning methods as well as language foundation courses at several universities. During her 30 years in the field of education, Dr. Armas has served as a bilingual classroom teacher, mentor, trainer, district advisor, professional development leader, curriculum materials developer, and language and literacy specialist at the district, county and state level.  Her research interests include teaching and learning in biliteracy programs, professional development, home-school partnerships and educational equity.  She has published research and policy briefs, articles and book chapters in these areas. Dr. Armas holds a Teaching Credential, with Bilingual Authorization in Spanish as well as an administrative credential from the state of California.  She earned an Ed.D. from the University of Southern California in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Language Literacy, and Learning.              

Gisela O'Brien, Ph.D., Biliteracy & EL Education Specialist

Gisela O'Brien joined the staff at CEEL|LMU in 2003 to oversee the Journalism for English Learners Program implemented at several school districts both in Central and Southern California. She also supports the Center's efforts in research, curriculum and professional development focusing on the instruction of English Learners.

As an educator, she has worked as a bilingual teacher, staff developer and curriculum/materials designer and curriculum specialist in the areas of literacy, ELD and SDAIE. Dr. O'Brien has served as a project advisor and coordinator for several research grants as well as advisor/reviewer at the state and national level including the Framework for English Language Development Standards.

She has co-authored and published several articles in educational journals and books on bilingual education and models for staff development.

Dr. O'Brien earned a B.S. in Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles and an M.S. degree in Educational Leadership from California State University, Los Angeles. She received her Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis on Language, Literacy and Learning from the University of Southern California.

Marco A. Murillo, Ph.D., Research Associate

Marco A. Murillo serves as a Research Associate supporting multiple research and evaluation projects.  Previously he served as Postdoctoral Scholar in the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Education. In this role, he conducted comprehensive evaluations of UC Berkeley’s Academic Talent Development Program and the UC Network Schools, which were developed as part of university–school district partnerships to serve low-income students. Dr. Murillo also served as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (GSEIS) examining the postsecondary paths of graduates from an urban, high immigrant school in Los Angeles. Dr. Murillo earned a B.A. in Political Science and History for the UC San Diego and a Ph.D. in Education (Urban Schooling) from the UCLA GSEIS. His research interests focus on the secondary school experience of immigrant youth as well as issues relating to college access for low-income, students of color.

Sylvia Jáuregui Hodge, M.Ed., Doctoral Fellow and Assistant Director

Sylvia Jáuregui Hodge is completing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership for Social Justice at Loyola Marymount University. She is a former educator having worked at highly-diverse, multilingual, Title I public schools in Texas.  In 2014, she was awarded a fellowship from the National Head Start Association in Washington D.C., where she co-authored Two Generations Together: Case Studies from Head Start, a report on successful two-generational approaches used by Head Start and Early Head Start programs.  
Her doctoral research focus is on school funding policies and how they affect the educational opportunities of English Learners. She received her Master's degree in Educational Policy and Planning from the University of Texas at Austin, and her Bachelor's degree in Urban Learning and teaching credential from California State University, Los Angeles.


Tony Plana, Affiliated Faculty

Tony Plana recently starred as Ignacio Suarez, the widowed father to America Ferrera’s Ugly Betty, in ABC’s landmark, groundbreaking hit series for which he received the 2006 Golden Satellite Award from the International Press Academy, an Imagen Award, and an Alma Award. Ugly Betty received the highest ratings and the most critical acclaim of any Latino-based show in the history of television, most notably 11 Emmy nominations and a Golden Glove Award for best comedy. Previously, he also starred in Showtime’s original series, Resurrection Boulevard, and was nominated for two Alma Awards for best actor. Resurrection Boulevard was the first series to be produced, written, directed and starring Latinos and awarded an Alma Award for the best television series of 2002. Besides recurring roles on Alpha House, Madam Secretary, Jane the Virgin, Elementary, The Fosters, The Blacklist, Colony, One Day at a Time with Rita Moreno and Super Store with America Ferrera, his latest television projects include principal roles in the newly released series Lethal Weapon with Damon Wayans for Fox, Start Up with Martin Freeman for Sony’s Crackle, The Punisher with Jon Bernthal for Netflix, Academy Award winner Paolo Sorrentino’s The Young Pope with Jude Law and Diane Keaton for HBO and the soon to be released Mayans MC for the FX Channel.

As an actor Plana has starred in more than 70 feature films, including JFK, Nixon, Salvador, An Officer and a Gentleman, Lone Star, Three Amigos, Born in East L.A., El Norte, 187, Primal Fear, Romero, One Good Cop, Havana, The Rookie, Silver Strand and Picking Up the Pieces with Woody Allen. He has also appeared in the action thriller Half Past Dead with Steven Segal; The Lost City, with Andy Garcia, Bill Murray, and Dustin Hoffman; and Disney’s highly acclaimed GOAL, The Dream Begins! Recently released feature films include America with Edward James Olmos, Pain & Gain with Dwayne Johnson and Mark Wahlberg directed by Michael Bay and Roman J. Israel, Esquire with Denzel Washington directed by Dan Gilroy.

In 2005 he was honored as Educator of the Year by Loyola Marymount University’s Department of Education. In 2008 he was awarded Loyola High School’s Cahalan Award as a distinguished alumnus and a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Imagen Foundation. In 2009 the HOLA organization honored him with the Raul Julia HOLA Founders Award for excellence. In 2010, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa selected him as worthy of one of the highest honors bestowed by the City of Los Angeles, The Dream of Los Angeles Award for his contributions to the media arts and education. He is the proud recipient of the 2013 ALMA Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of La Raza and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers’ Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016.