Meet the Nina Scholars Staff




Maricopa Scholarship Coordinator: 
Leona Morales (480) 731-8460



IUPUI Program Director: 
Charles Johnson (317) 278-7878



Ivy Tech Program Manager: 
Michael Kendall (317) 921-4617

Jo Ann Martinez

Jo Ann Martinez

Program Director
(602) 496-1771 |

Jo Ann López Martínez grew up in Parker, Arizona. She attended Arizona State University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a minor in Chicana/o Studies followed by a Master of Education degree in Higher Education. Her first professional experience led her to work as a Program Advisor at Mesa Community College where she also briefly taught Introduction to Chicano Studies and Sociology of the Chicano Community. Later, she returned to ASU and led the Barrett Summer Scholars program, a summer residential camp for gifted Arizona middle school students, then as a liaison for ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix, a charter school in partnership with ASU, and followed by serving as the Program Director of the Hispanic Mother-Daughter program. Currently, she supports students of the ASU Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars program. She looks forward to making an impact on future first-generation college students, their families and their communities, and on continuing her crusade in promoting higher education! She is married and has two children. She recently completed a Doctor of Education degree in Leadership and Innovation from ASU.


Jillian Rolfe

Jillian Rolfe

Program Coordinator
(480) 727-6561 |

Jillian Rolfe was born and raised in Gardiner, Maine. She moved to Arizona after graduating from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine with her bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Jillian has enjoyed helping people in need since she was very young.  She worked in many different capacities with multiple populations including students, geriatric patients, veterans, individuals with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis and those struggling with a substance use dependence or mental health needs. She worked as a staff member with students at the Boys and Girls Club of America and as an intern at Colegio de Educación Especial San Rafael. She worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Maine Veteran’s Home and Woodlands Senior Living. She was an intern working with individuals with an HIV/Aids diagnosis at the Frannie Peabody Center for HIV and Aids, and with those struggling with a substance use dependence at Seaside Family Heath. She recently worked as a case manager at Lifewell where she supported individuals diagnosed with serious mental illness (SMI). Jillian is currently the Program Coordinator for the Nina Scholars, supporting students in their goals for higher education.


Tiffany Thornhill

Tiffany Thornhill

Nina Scholars Course Instructor

Tiffany Thornhill was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and moved to Arizona in July of 2011. Tiffany spent several years working in administrative roles for government organizations before pursuing degrees in higher education. Tiffany was a Maricopa Nina Scholar (Cohort 15) and an ASU Nina Scholar (Cohort 17) and served as a Graduate Assistant for the ASU Nina Scholars program while pursuing her graduate degrees. She received an associate’s degree from Glendale Community College, and a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), Master of Social Work (MSW) and Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Arizona State University. Tiffany began instructing the CPP Nina Scholars course in the Fall of 2020 and has constructed course content intended to encourage, empower and inspire the incoming cohort of ASU Nina Scholars.

Tiffany has a strong passion for addressing historical trauma, racial injustice, systemic oppression, behavioral health, mental health, substance abuse and Indigenous wellness. Tiffany is vehement about being a voice for anyone being oppressed, especially those experiencing oppression for the way they were born, and those living with challenging mental health symptoms. Tiffany believes that no one should have to suffer behind choices they didn’t make for themselves and her primary focus is on liberation from oppression in all forms.



Cynthia Alaffa

Program Coordinator
Bridging Success / Nina Scholars

Cynthia Alaffa grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. She attended Arizona State University as a first-generation student. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social work from ASU and two Master’s degrees, in Social Work and Higher Education, also from ASU. During her time as a student at ASU, she worked with two programs as a mentor that guided students through their higher education journey. Upon completing her graduate programs, she decided to venture out and dedicated 2.5 years as a school social worker. Although school social work was very rewarding, she found that her heart was leading her back to working in higher education. Cynthia has always had a passion for serving students and helping them along their educational journey. Cynthia is also analumnus of foster care and has used her personal experiences through higher education to support and help students grow. She believes that when students have the proper people and tools supporting them on their journey, they can succeed in anything they do. Outside of work, Cynthia loves to travel and experiences new places. She also enjoys working on herself in the gym.