Skip to main content

Program Leadership

Obama Scholars Program Leadership


Ryan Preston-Roedder is the Obama Scholars Program faculty advisor and a professor of philosophy. Before joining the Occidental Department of Philosophy in 2017, he taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Scholar at MIT, and held a Faculty Fellowship at the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard. Ryan specializes in moral and political philosophy, moral psychology, and philosophy of religion. His recent publications consider ways in which faith, trust, and other attitudes draw us into valuable forms of community with other people. His current research explores meaning in life and the problem of the absurd, the nature and significance of the religious outlook, and the moral and political significance of love.


Candace Mixon headshot

Candace Mixon is the Obama Scholars Summer Faculty Mentor, where she plans a leadership program for the new cohort during their first summer after selection to the program and mentors them during their summer internships and research. She has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Occidental College in the Department of Religion and taught in the First Year Seminar program, and previously taught at Macalester College and Dartmouth College. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Religious Studies, but prior to that she served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer and has been a board member of the nonprofit organization The Durham Bike Co-op. Her academic research involves contemporary devotional practices in Shi’a Islam in Iran through studying material and visual culture. She’s also published on topics in religion and film, Islamic theology in North America, and Islamic reform. 


Jennifer Locke is the Obama Scholars Program administrator and Occidental’s director of national and international fellowships. She joined Occidental in 2018 after more than five years as the assistant director of fellowships and career advisement at Pomona College. Jennifer has a Ph.D. in English from UC Irvine, following her undergraduate study at Pomona, where she majored in English and music. An active member of the National Association of Fellowships Advisors, she has presented on topics ranging from assessment practices, effective recruitment and advising for fellowships and awards, and retaining first-generation students in the fellowships process.