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Columbia College West Coast

James Stone CC’90, Trailblazer Awardee, and Dean Josef Sorett pose at the 2023 West Coast Honors celebration.West Coast Honors

In March 2023, the Columbia College Alumni Association and Dean Josef Sorett kicked off the inaugural celebration and recognition with the West Coast Honors in Los Angeles and San Francisco. This new annual tradition saw more than 150 alumni and guests gather to recognize four outstanding Columbia College West Coast (CCWC) alumni for their professional accomplishments and for embodying the spirit of the west coast as well as pioneering service to Columbia College.

Each year, members of the CCWC community will receive the Spirit of Creativity and Innovation Award for exceptional professional achievement, and the Trailblazer Award for pioneering and distinguished service or volunteerism to the College. Understanding that many west coast alumni are unable to travel east to stay connected to Columbia College, CCWC will celebrate the thriving west coast community in the community.

Columbia West Coast Honors 2024 Celebration

Join fellow alumni and Dean Josef Sorett for the second annual Columbia College West Coast Honors celebrations, scheduled to be held in Los Angeles and San Francisco, on Wednesday, June 5, and Thursday, June 6, respectively.

West Coast Honors: Los Angeles | Wednesday, June 5

6:30 - 8:30 p.m. PDT

Spring Place (Beverly Hills)
9800 Wilshire Boulevard Beverly Hills, CA 90212


West Coast Honors: San Francisco | Thursday, June 6

6:30 - 8:30 p.m. PDT

4 Embarcadero Center #Level San Francisco, CA 94111


2024 Trailblazer Award Honorees

  • Lauren Accordino CC’06
    Lauren Accordino CC’09, Early-Stage Investor, Tech Coast Angels Venture Group and Faculty Advisor, UCLA Anderson

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    Lauren Accordino is an early-stage venture investor and advisor. She has been a member of Tech Coast Angels Venture Group since 2016. Her experience spans corporate finance and operations. Lauren formerly ran Corporate Development and Strategic Operations at Carvana. Prior to that she worked Jones Day in the Business Restructuring & Reorganization Group where she led business development. Lauren worked in investment banking at Montgomery & Co., advising growth stage companies on M&A and Private Placements in the digital media and technology sectors. She started her career in the analyst program at Morgan Stanley in New York City on the trading floor of the Institutional Equity Division.

    Lauren is passionate about investing and entrepreneurship; she is currently serving as a Faculty Advisor in the Executive MBA program at UCLA Anderson. She co-founded an educational enrichment program for elementary students and is currently in stealth mode launching a new business venture. Lauren advises numerous early-stage companies and sits on nonprofit boards.

    Lauren graduated from Columbia College in 2009 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and was a member of the varsity tennis team. She is a member of the Columbia College Alumni Association Board of Directors and co-chair of the Young Leaders Council. Lauren was a leader on her 10th & 15th Reunion committee, and is a member of both the BAC and Columbia SoCal alumni groups. In addition to her involvement at the College, Lauren and her husband (Mike CC'07) are active volunteers and leaders in the athletics alumni community.

    Lauren currently lives in Manhattan Beach with her husband and three children.

  • Christopher Jones CC’07
    Christopher Jones CC’07, Chief Executive Officer, Suitebriar Inc.

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    Christopher Jones is the Chief Executive Offier of Suitebriar Inc., a Google Cloud premier channel services partner focusing on value-added services including cloud training and change management consulting. He was previously a Key Account Executive at Google Cloud in San Francisco, where he was recognized as a two-time President’s Club award winner. Prior to joining Google in 2015, Jones was the inaugural West Coast Region Business Development Manager at Citi Private Bank in San Francisco.

    Jones serves on the boards of the Columbia Young Leaders Council (YLC), and the Columbia University Alumni Association (CAA) where he co-chairs the committee on associations and clubs, and he is a former elected President of the Columbia University Black Alumni Council (BAC). He resides in Northern California where he enjoys volunteering as a juror for the United Nations Documentary Film Festival in San Francisco, attending NorCal Club events, and cooking homemade wood-fired pizzas with his family.

    He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Columbia University and an MBA from UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business.

2024 Spirit Of Innovation & Creativity Award Honorees

  • Melissa de la Cruz CC’93
    Melissa de la Cruz CC’93, New York Times Bestselling Author

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    Melissa de la Cruz is the #1 New York Times, #1 Publisher’s Weekly and #1 IndieBound bestselling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages. Many of her more than seventy books have also topped USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists and been published in over twenty countries. She is the principal and founder of Melissa de la Cruz Studio at the Walt Disney Company, which creates and develops intellectual property for Disney throughout all its platforms.

    De la Cruz’s novel, The Isle of the Lost, the prequel to the Disney Channel Original Movie Descendants, spent more than fifty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, fifteen at #1, and has over a million copies in print. Descendants starring Kristen Chenoweth and Dove Cameron was the #1 cable TV movie of 2015, and #5 of all time, and its soundtrack the #1 bestselling album on iTunes. The series’ subsequent books, Return to the Isle of the Lost and Rise of the Isle of the Lost, were also New York Times bestsellers for many weeks. Beyond the Isle of the Lost, comes out in May 2024 as a prequel to the next Descendants movie: Rise of Red. There are currently eight million copies sold of the books worldwide.

    De la Cruz is also known for the Blue Bloods series (with three million copies in print), and the Witches of East End series starring Julia Ormond, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Rachel Boston and Mädchen Amick on Lifetime Television. She is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Queen’s Assassin and the Alex & Eliza series. Her recent hits include the Never After series and Disney’s The Super-Secret Octagon Valley Society for middle-grade readers along with Going Dark and The Headmaster’s List for young adults. Upcoming books include the YA romantasy The Encanto’s Daughter and The Four Stages of Courting Dalisay Ramos, an adult romance, both featuring a Filipino protagonist.

    De la Cruz’s four Hallmark Christmas movies, Christmas in Angel Falls, Angel Falls: A Novel Holiday, Pride Prejudice and Mistletoe (based on her novel) and Sense, Sensibility and Snowmen, were the top-rated movies for their Christmas season on the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. Current projects in active development are The Ring and The Crown with 20th Century Television, Blue Bloods with Paramount and The Headmaster’s List with director Vince Marcello of The Kissing Booth. Going Dark has also been optioned for film/television.

    Melissa de la Cruz is the co-director of YALLFEST (Charleston, SC) and the co-founder of YALLWEST (Santa Monica, CA), the two largest and most vibrant young adult book festivals in the country, attracting more than 30,000 readers every year.

    A former fashion and beauty editor, Melissa has written for The New York Times, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Allure, The San Francisco Chronicle, McSweeney’s, Teen Vogue, CosmoGirl! and Seventeen. She has also appeared as an expert on fashion, trends and fame for CNN, E! and FoxNews.

    Melissa de la Cruz grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. At Columbia University, she majored in art history and English. She lives in West Hollywood with her husband and daughter.

  • Sean Duffy CC‘07
    Sean Duffy CC‘07, Chief Executive Officer, Omada Health

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    Sean Duffy is the Co-founder and CEO of Omada Health, a virtual-first care provider for prediabetes/obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and musculoskeletal disorders.

    With nearly two decades of healthcare experience, Sean is widely recognized as a thought leader on the industry’s future. He has written extensively about digital health and the healthcare trends in The New England Journal of Medicine, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, and TechCrunch, among other publications. Sean has also spoken at notable conferences such as the World Economic Forum annual conference, Clinton Global Initiative Health Matters Summit, the Society for Behavioral Medicine, the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference, and others.

    Under Sean’s leadership, Omada has been recognized as one of Fast Company’s “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World” and a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum.

    Prior to Omada, Sean worked at both Google and IDEO. A former MD/MBA candidate at Harvard, he holds a BS in neuroscience from Columbia University.

Past Honorees

2023 Trailblazer Award Honorees

  • Vijay Mohan Headshot
    Vijay Mohan CC’01, Co-Founder and Partner, Sixth Street

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    Vijay Mohan is Co-Founder and Partner of Sixth Street, a global investment firm. Mr. Mohan oversees Sixth Street’s Strategic Capital Group, which is the firm’s versatile unit for investing globally and across sectors. He also has responsibility for several of Sixth Street’s sector-focused teams, including the Healthcare and Life Sciences group.

    Prior to co-founding Sixth Street in 2009, Mr. Mohan was a Managing Principal with Bardin Hill (the then Halcyon Asset Management). Prior to joining Bardin Hill, he worked in the largest proprietary investment group at Goldman Sachs alongside many of Sixth Street’s co-founding partners. Mr. Mohan began his career with Goldman Sachs in the Technology, Media and Telecom Group of the Investment Banking Division.

    He received a B.A. in economics, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Columbia College and has been an active alumni member. He currently sits on the Board of Visitors and is Vice Co-Chair of the Fund Development Council West. He previously served on the Core to Commencement Steering Committee and on the Board of the Young Leaders Council.

    Mr. Mohan was born and raised in New York and has been living in San Francisco since 2009 with his family, including his identical twin boys. He currently serves on the Board of Playgroup Preschool, Town School for Boys, and is the former Chair and a current Board Member of the Bay Area Discovery Museum, whose mission is to transform research into early learning experiences that inspire creative problem solving.

  • James Stone headshot
    James Stone CC’90, Head of West Coast Investment, PennantPark

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    James Stone is Co Vice Chairman of the Fund Development Council and focuses on FDC West. He is also on the Board of the Columbia Alumni Association of Southern California. James graduated Columbia College in 1990 with an AB in History and earned an MBA from Columbia Business School in 1996. He has made his career in finance and investment working in New Yok at DLJ, Bankers Trust, Imperial Capital, Macquarie Capital and Cowen and Company. James is currently a Partner at Pennantpark Investment Advisers. He joined PennantPark in 2015 as Head of West Coast Investment and moved in that year with his family from New York back home to his native Los Angeles.

    James has been married to Regine Stone for more than 27 years and they have two daughters. Amelia is a Sophomore at Columbia College and a member of the Class of 2025 and Isabel is a high school senior.

2023 Spirit of Innovation & Creativity Award Honorees

  • Courtney Lilly
    Courtney Lilly CC’97, Executive Producer/Showrunner, grown-ish, black-ish, and mixed-ish (ABC)

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    Courtney Lilly, who this year renewed his overall deal with ABC Signature, has been with the Studio, part of Disney Television Studios, for seven years. He recently wrapped showrunning the eighth and final season of black-ish, as well as co-showrunning grown-ish, which is now in its fifth season.

    Lilly started his career as a writer on Arrested Development and has written for shows such as My Boys, The Cleveland Show and Undateable. He won a Nickelodeon Writing Fellowship in 2000. Before that, he was a reporter for the Providence Journal-Bulletin.

    Black-ish has been nominated for four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy as has won four NAACP Image Awards for Best Comedy Series. The show also won the prestigious Peabody Award in 2015.

  • Marco Zappacosta
    Marco Zappacosta CC’07, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Thumbtack

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    Marco Zappacosta is the co-founder and CEO of Thumbtack. Recognized on Forbes’ 2015 30 under 30 list, Marco and Thumbtack have been featured in media outlets
    including The New York Times, Fortune, The Wall Street Journal and CNBC and were recently acknowledged as one of GlassDoor's Best Places to Work and Highest Rated CEOs lists. Marco co-founded Thumbtack after graduating from Columbia University, where he majored in Political Science. He and his family live in San Francisco. His favorite personal Thumbtack project was hosting a Halloween party that included a Thumbtack bartender, magician, and photographer.

A Special Thank-You to the West Coast Honors Engagement Committee:

Armond Adams CC'06, Co-Chair
Emily Miles Terry CC'89, Co-Chair
Lauren Accordino CC’09
Sarah Aibel CC’92
Katie Benevenuto CC’05
Maxwell Johnson CC22
Irene Heejin Koo CC’20
Courtney Lilly CC’92
Vijay Mohan CC’01
Kenyatta Monroe-Sinkler CC’91
Jenn Ryan CC’89
James Stone CC’90
John Vincenti CC’90
Courtney Wilkins CC’07
Marco Zappacosta CC’07
Kevin Zhang CC’14