COMPASS Founders Win Alumni Service Award


Denis Asafu-Adjei


Alana Cheeks-Lomax


Tamara Hamilton


Betty Mbom


Bariela Zeledón

Beyond the Fence Title

Denise Asafu-Adjei, Alana Cheeks-Lomax, Tamara Hamilton, Betty Mbom and Mariela Zeledón, the five founders of COMPASS (COaching Minority Progress and Academic Success in Science), won Carnegie Mellon’s 2021 Alumni Service Award for their committment to their alma mater and to changing the world. COMPASS guides first-year underrepresented Mellon College of Science students toward successful CMU experiences.

“The CMU Alumni Awards celebrate the pride of being a Tartan, of the achievement and commitment that CMU alumni carry with them throughout their lives and careers,” said Chris Stengel, CMU Alumni Association Board president and School of Computer Science and Tepper School of Business alumnus. “I’m so proud to honor these accomplished alumni who are examples of what a CMU education can do, and who are blazing the trails for future generations of Tartans.”

As students, Mellon College of Science 2008 alumnae Asafu-Adjei, Cheeks-Lomax, Hamilton, Mbom and Zeledón saw a need to guide first-year historically excluded and underrepresented MCS students through their CMU experiences. With an idea and leadership from Mbom, they founded COMPASS in 2007 and have dedicated their time and energy to nurture the student-generated program’s success ever since. Their strong COMPASS commitment for the last 13 years includes speaking with individual students, serving on advisory boards and meeting the current class.

Each alumna also has built a successful career alongside her mentorship contributions to future generations of Tartans.

Asafu-Adjei is a urologist, director of male reproductive medicine and assistant professor at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago. Cheeks-Lomax is the head of inclusion and diversity for Cash App at Square, where she is responsible for the strategic development of the business unit’s global strategy focusing on the development of an inclusive culture and the employee experience. Hamilton has spent the past decade in the public health and environmental protection sector in New York City and southern Florida. Mbom is a cell and molecular biologist and vice president of applied experience at Syapse, a health care technology company generating real world evidence to improve cancer care. Zeledón is a clinical social worker and human geneticist and was most recently with Unity Care, providing bilingual psychotherapy to low-income children and teenagers.

First presented in 1950, the Alumni Awards pay tribute to individuals distinguished by their service to the university and outstanding accomplishments in the arts, humanities, sciences, technology and business. To date, nearly 900 alumni, faculty and students have been honored with these awards.