Loyola University Chicago


Achieving College Excellence

Meet the ACE Staff

Full-Time Staff:

Part-Time Staff:

Full-Time Staff:

Roy Saldaña, Jr.

ACE Project Director

As the Project Director, Roy is tasked with the coordinating of support services and program components, overall project administration, collaborating with other university student support units, staff supervision, budget administration, and project evaluation.

Roy earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Humanistic Studies with a Spanish minor from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay.  After several years in the workforce, he enrolled in Graduate School and eventually earned a Master of Science degree in Library and Information Science with a specialization in Community Informatics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  As an undergrad, Roy changed his major 4 times.  During the process, he learned that creativity in developing one’s career development path from the first day of freshmen year is critically important!

As his first opportunity of professional employment, he worked for the School District of Howard-Suamico for 1.5 years providing support services to English as a Second Language and American Indian students grades K-12.  For the next four years, he was employed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an Assistant to the Director/Counselor in the Office of Minority Student Affairs. Annually, he advised a cohort of TRiO/Student Support Services’ students, coordinated campus events including career fairs, graduation ceremonies, a scholastic awards banquet, the national TRiO/McNair Scholar's Graduate School Fair, and was a member of a variety of campus committees.  Prior to joining Loyola University Chicago, he was the Director of The TRIO/Educational Opportunity Center for The City Colleges of Chicago where he assisted first-generation and/or lower-income adult Chicago residents nineteen years of age or older seeking to enhance their literacy skills, educational credential attainment, and career opportunities.

Roy is a huge fan of music collecting and attending concerts.  He has never discarded a cd, cassette, or record despite changing music format trends.  His book shelves are a detailed library of music including soul, 80s pop, and 90s Euro dance.  He loves attending concerts of one-hit-wonder artists, 80s-90s bands that no one remembers, and legendary performers who saw their heyday well before he was born.  You’ll likely find him at Reckless Records on the weekends enjoying the treasure hunt!

Office: Sullivan Center for Student Services, LSC, Room 260B  Phone: 773.508.2722 E-mail: rsaldana@luc.edu

Monica Cohen

ACE Counselor


As the Achieving College Excellence Counselor, Monica provides numerous services to ACE students, including academic support, financial literacy, career counseling, mentoring, and graduate school preparation. The Counselor is committed to creating strong involvement and community among ACE students.

Monica earned both a Bachelor's degree in Human Development and a Master of Arts in Higher Education Administration from Boston College. Prior to starting at Loyola Chicago, Monica has four years of experience in Student Affairs, including work with students that identify as first generation and/or having high financial need, as well as time in both Residence Life and Career Services.  During that time, Monica was involved in developing multiple retreats, which is experience she has drawn upon in working with ACE student leaders to craft the Continue To Dream Retreat here with ACE.

Monica benefitted from a strong support network of peers, faculty, and staff during her undergraduate career, and is excited to be a part of ACE to "pay it forward" through providing the same level of guidance and support that allowed her to persist through college.  Additionally, as an East Coast transplant here in the midwest, she would love to hear any recommendations you have to add to her ever-growing Chicago Bucket List.

Office: Sullivan Center for Student Services, LSC, Room 238A  Phone: 773.508.2721  E-mail: mcohen8@luc.edu

Kathleen Dillon

ACE Counselor

As the Achieving College Excellence program's Counselor for juniors and seniors, Kathleen advises students academically and also aids in financial literacy, graduate school selection and preparation, and career counseling. Most importantly, Kathleen is an advocate for the ACE Scholars, reaching out to individuals across campus and the community on their behalf.

Kathleen received her B.A. in English Literature (with a minor in Politics & Government) from North Park University here in Chicago. After working as both a substitute teacher and assistant teacher for grades K-12, Kathleen went on to pursue a Master's in English Literature with an emphasis on Pedagogy from Loyola University Chicago. While at Loyola, Kathleen worked as the graduate assistant Tutoring Coordinator fro ACE. After finishing her time at Loyola, Kathleen began work as an Adjunct Professor, teaching first-year and developmental writing at College of Lake County and North Park University. Kathleen draws heavily on her teaching experience when planning ACE workshops and in her day-to-day interactions with students.

Kathleen will be constantly reminding students to take a deep breath or write in a journal. Her office will always be a place for tea and conversation. And expect her to ask what you learned in class today, because, as any good teacher knows, the best way to truly understand what you just learned is to teach the information to someone else!

Office: Sullivan Center for Student Services, LSC, Room 238B Phone: 773-508-2790 Email: kdillon5@luc.edu

Riza Belen

Program Coordinator

Riza Belen, a Loyola alumna has joined our team as a Coordinator tasked with coordinating the daily operations of the department.  Riza will establish and maintain systems for ongoing operations such as record keeping, data management, program marketing, specialized tutoring and other areas necessary for program enrichment and development. In addition, Riza will help train faculty and staff across the university regarding the national TRIO initiative and help facilitate support services for low-income, first-generation, and students with disabilities.

Riza received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (with a Minor in Psychology) at Concordia University, River Forest.  While attending Concordia, Riza worked at a Women’s Shelter as a Counselor and Legal Advocate.   She also worked at John Stroger Hospital (formerly Cook County Hospital) as a Caseworker before getting her Master of Social Work degree at Loyola University Chicago.  Before joining ACE, Riza had the privilege of serving the Little Village Lawndale High School Campus as TRIO Upward Bound, College and Career Coordinator.

 For more than 20 years, Riza has been an active member of Circa Pintig Cultural Group, a Filipino American group that uses theater as a tool for social change.  Aside from her love of theater, Riza enjoys reading and is always on a hunt for the best Ramen in Chicago!  

Office: Sullivan Center for Student Services, LSC Phone: 773-508-8235 Email: rbelen1@luc.edu

Part-Time Staff:

Michelle Thomas

Tutoring Coordinator


My name is Michelle Thomas and I am the ACE Graduate Tutoring Coordinator. I graduated from Loyola University Chicago with my BS in Mathematics and minors in Statistics and Computer Science in 2016. I am now earning my MS in Applied Statistics here at Loyola. I have been a peer tutor mentor at ACE since 2013. Before working at ACE I volunteered as a tutor in CPS schools. I have also worked at Loyola's Tutoring Center as a supplemental instructor. I mainly tutor math and statistics courses but also have experience in working with students on study skills and other courses. I look forward to continuing to work within the ACE community this year!

 Cecilia Gomez

General Assistant

My name is Cecilia Gomez and I am the general assistant for the ACE program throughout the summer. I received my BA in Psychology with a concentration in Human Services and a minor in Sociology from DePaul University. Throughout my undergraduate career, I was very active within the TRIO programs at DePaul and Oakton Community College by volunteering during meet-and greets with Upward Bound students, giving tours of the campus, participating in college transfer fairs, and more. I also was Secretary of the Peer Mentors for the Psychology Department at DePaul University where I mentored college students and assisted them with picking classes, understanding their financial aid award letters, and more. Simultaneously, I was an Intern for Northwestern University’s Project Excite Program aimed at supporting gifted underrepresented minority students and their families. While being an intern I assisted with coordinating events and an advocate for the students while being a Teacher Assistant. After graduation, I worked as a Parent Educator at Christopher House for over a year assisting low-income at risk teen parents with accomplishing goals, referring them to community resources, and more.

Now, I am going back to school in order to pursue a M.Ed. in Higher Education at Loyola University. I hope to educate first-generation, low-income, and minority students of the endless possibilities that open up when getting a Higher Education and to support them through their journey.