National Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month

Loyola University New Orleans will be spotlighting some of our prominent faculty, staff, students and alumni in our monthly Heritage and Awareness Month web series.

This month we're spotlighting Hispanic/Latinx members of our community. Learn about some truly remarkable, interesting and accomplished people:

Rana Thabata

Tom Llamas, ‘01


Tom Llamas, '01, is an Emmy award-winning journalist, anchor of ABC News "World News Tonight" weekend editions, and ABC News Chief National Correspondent.

Llamas was born and raised in Miami after his parents immigrated from Cuba in the 1960s. At Loyola, he was a member of the LA Gamma chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism and in Drama and Speech. He also completed a program at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, focusing on Raul Castro and Cuban-American voters.

Llamas joined ABC News in 2014 and reports for all ABC News programs and platforms. Before joining ABC, he was an investigative reporter, anchor, and contributing correspondent for WNBC in New York, reporting on the 2016 presidential campaign, the Boston Marathon bombings, Arizona wildfires, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. He has covered nine hurricanes, including Katrina, and in 2011 won an Emmy Award for his coverage of Hurricane Irene.

Llamas is winner of two Edward R. Murrow Awards for feature and hard news reporting and was part of the WNBC team that won the Murrow for breaking news coverage of Hurricane Sandy in 2014. In 2012, he was honored with the prestigious El award by El Diario, the country's oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper.

Joann Cassamá

Joann Cassamá


Joann Cassamá, a junior majoring in Biology (pre-med), is the newly elected Executive Vice President of the Student Government Association. She is also an office assistant in the Office of Residential Life and in the Office of the President.

Although born in Boston and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Joann identifies strongly with her Afro-Latina culture. Her father was born in Guinea Bissau, in Western Africa, and her mother was born in Mexico. Both of her parents became citizens in the mid-1980s and early 90s."My family always valued family and caring for others," Joann says. She believes that is the source of her passion for helping others and for bringing communities together. It is also why she resonates so much with the Jesuit value of being "with and for others."

Joann is a former e-board member of Loyola's Black Student Union and is currently a volunteer tutor at the girls’ home of Boys Hope Girls Hope of New Orleans. Back home, she has served as a member of and mentor for Breakthrough Greater Boston, a year-round, tuition-free program that offers six years of academically intensive support to highly motivated, under-served middle and high school students. In 2014 Joann was admitted into Harvard Medical School’s Health Professions Recruitment and Exposure Program.

As newly elected SGA Vice President, Joann looks forward to delivering on the SGA’s promise to help Loyola students make the most of their college experience.

Hernan Espinal

Martha Alguera


Martha Alguera, Office Manager in the Department of Music Industry Studies, describes herself as a Nicaraguan-born New Orleanian. She was born in Granada (the oldest colonial city in the Americas) and brought to New Orleans at three weeks old.

Martha is newly appointed to the Department of Music Industry Studies, but she has long roots at Loyola. She was a student assistant in the Office of the President from 1996 to 1998. After leaving for a while to start her family (she has two daughters, Alexis and Lola), she returned to pursue her degree in Music Industry Studies, with a concentration in Public Relations, and joined the professional staff of the Office of the President in 2014. She became Executive Assistant to Fr. Wildes in 2017.

Martha’s study of music business, and now her appointment in Music Industry Studies, are the culmination of her lifelong devotion to music. She comes from a long line of musicians. Her multi-instrumentalist grandfather (cello, violin, guitar, and piano) was the leader of a traveling orchestra in Nicaragua. In her early twenties, Martha wrote her first musician’s bio for her friend, Big Chief Alfred Doucette. Her success in writing for and assisting Doucette and other musicians, such as Irma Thomas, Dave Bartholomew, and Cyril Neville, led to invitations to write for, and the bilingual publication El Tiempo. Today, "Mid-City Martha" has a radio show on 102.3 WHIV, sings with The Yemaya-ya’, and owns a music company called Music Synergy through which she organizes national events, such as the Prince Second Line (2016) and Fats Domino Second Line (2017. She also produces live local music events, such as the annual city-wide "Pisces Party."

Martha is former Secretary of New Orleans Women in Music and the State Chapter Lead for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. In spring 2018, she was featured in The Feminist Forum magazine article, "When Women Take a Stand."

Her advice to young people? "Never give up on your dreams. Just do it! Stay involved in your community, focus on the positive and most importantly, believe in the good of the people."

Brian Davis

Dr. Maria Calzada


Interim Provost Maria Calzada joined the faculty in the Department of Mathematics in the fall of 1991. In 2012, she was appointed Dean of the College of Humanities and Natural Sciences (now the College of Arts and Sciences). She became Interim Provost in spring 2018.

Dr. Calzada was born in Panama, Republic of Panama. She came to the United States to attend college and obtained her A.B. in Economics and Mathematics from Boston College in 1986. She earned M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mathematics from Tulane University in 1988 and 1991.

Dr. Calzada’s research interests include mathematical computations, with an emphasis on applications in statistical quality control. In fall 2007, she was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to collaborate with the Loyola Chemistry Department and the Australian Defense Force Academy on projects that explored new methods for determining isotopic ratios.

Dr. Calzada also enjoys teaching collaboratively with other faculty in the Mathematics Department and in the natural sciences. Her long history of pedagogical collaborations culminated in a number of projects designed to promote original teaching methods in mathematics and science courses. She received the Loyola Faculty Senate Teaching Award in 2004 in recognition for her efforts.

Notwithstanding her penchant for collaborative teaching, Dr. Calzada has a special affinity for teaching freshman level calculus. She hopes that college students will learn, understand, enjoy and use calculus as a base for deeper mathematical and scientific explorations.