Southwestern College Alumni

Dennise gurmilan

Defying Stereotypes, Exceling in Non-Traditional Professions

In a world where gender stereotypes often dictate career choices, three remarkable women, who are all Southwestern College (SWC) alums, are challenging norms and excelling in professions traditionally dominated by men. Their journeys showcase the transformative power of education, determination, and breaking barriers.

Dennise Gurmilan, an Architecture & Planning Professional at Gensler, vividly remembers her journey at SWC. “Southwestern College was more than just an academic institution to me; it is where I discovered a career I wanted to pursue,” says Gurmilan. Throughout her time at SWC, she found unwavering support from the community, which inspired her to give back. Today, Gurmilan is helping create internships for SWC students, aiming to provide the same opportunities she once received. Her dedication to mentoring the next generation of architects speaks volumes about the impact of her SWC experience. Moreover, Gurmilan’s journey highlights the importance of representation in non-traditional fields, inspiring others to pursue their passions regardless of societal expectations.

Anitra Willis, currently serving as the Director of Enrollment Management Technology Services at UC San Diego found her path to success through SWC’s Career Center. “Being a first-generation, low-income student, the SWC Student Career Center was tremendous in helping introduce and guide me,” she shares. Willis credits SWC for igniting her passion for technology, leading her to a fulfilling career and various community initiatives. Her journey from SWC to UC San Diego stands as a testament to the transformative impact of education and mentorship. Willis’s commitment to giving back to the community through mentorship programs and educational initiatives underscores her belief in the power of education to uplift individuals and communities. Additionally, Willis’s advocacy for diversity and inclusion in the tech industry serves as a beacon of inspiration for underrepresented groups aspiring to enter STEM fields.

Roxana Kennedy, Chief of Police in the City of Chula Vista, is a trailblazer in law enforcement. A graduate of the SWC Police Academy, Kennedy’s journey to leadership embodies resilience and innovation. “I am forever grateful to Southwestern College for the experiences and exceptional instructors who invested in me,” says Kennedy. Under her guidance, the Chula Vista Police Department has embraced technology, community engagement, and transparency, transforming it into an agency that empowers and connects. Her commitment to professional growth and community welfare extends beyond law enforcement, as she actively participates in various nonprofit organizations and international medical missions. Kennedy’s leadership at the forefront of modern law enforcement exemplifies the values instilled by SWC, emphasizing integrity, inclusivity, and service to the community. Moreover, Kennedy’s success underscores the importance of diversity in law enforcement leadership, paving the way for more inclusive and community-centered policing practices.

These remarkable women alumni exemplify SWC’s commitment to fostering excellence and breaking barriers. Their stories serve as inspiring examples of resilience, determination, and the transformative power of education. Through their dedication and leadership, they inspire future generations to pursue their passions, challenge stereotypes, and make a positive impact on their communities.

At a time when diversity and inclusion are paramount, Southwestern College takes pride in nurturing individuals like Dennise Gurmilan, Anitra Willis, and Roxana Kennedy, who embody the spirit of breaking barriers and paving the way for a more equitable future.

If you are a Southwestern College alum, you too can inspire and empower through your story, your actions, and your contributions. Reach out to join in lifting up the next generation of Southwestern College students please visit


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Esteban Villanueva