Pitt AAAC Honors 4 Distinguished Alumni as Rising African American Leaders

Issue Date: 
April 22, 2013

The University of Pittsburgh African American Alumni Council (AAAC) of the Pitt Alumni Association will recognize the inaugural winners of its Rising African American Leaders Award at the ninth annual Interfaith Baccalaureate Service at 3 p.m. April 27 in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall. The event, cohosted by Pitt’s Black Action Society, is a free public ceremony that also will celebrate the academic achievements and honors of more than 150 graduating seniors and their families.

The keynote speaker will be Candi Castleberry-Singleton, chief inclusion and diversity officer with UPMC. The awards will be presented following Castleberry-Singleton’s address. 

The Rising African American Leaders Award recognizes alumni graduating within the past decade who are younger than 40 and have demonstrated excellence in professional achievement and/or community service. The inaugural honorees are Marisa Bartley (A&S ’05), a business development officer for Citizens Financial Group, Inc.; Adam Iddriss (ENGR ’07, A&S ’07), a medical student at Johns Hopkins University; Derrick Tillman (SIS ’04), president of Bridging the Gap Development and chief executive officer of DNT Property Investments; and Sossena Wood (ENGR ’11), a doctoral candidate in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. 

AAAC president Tony Fountain (A&S ’70) said that these young leaders represent the best and brightest of the Pitt community. 

“The AAAC felt the need to recognize Pitt African American Alumni who have established a significant record of excellence in the early phases of their careers. These inaugural four awardees have received regional and national recognition and are deserving of the title Rising African American Leaders,” said Fountain. “The AAAC believes that recognizing these four outstanding Pitt alumni will help further inspire the current graduates to achieve even greater success and service.” 

Biographical information about the 2013 AAAC Rising African American Leaders honorees follows. 

Marisa Bartley, a business development officer for Citizens Financial Group, Inc., has held leadership positions within a wide variety of notable professional and community organizations. She is president of the Urban League Young Professionals of Greater Pittsburgh, a volunteer auxiliary organization of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh; has served the Pittsburgh chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and the Three Rivers Youth Workforce Investment Board Youth Policy Council; and is a member of the board of directors of the Imani Christian Academy.

Bartley’s awards and distinctions include Pitt’s 2013 Emerging Leader Award; the 2013 Professional Woman of the Year Award from the Pittsburgh Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc.; a 2012 “40 Under 40” designation from Pittsburgh Magazine; and a 2011 FAB 40 designation from the New Pittsburgh Courier. Bartley graduated from Pitt with a Bachelor of Science degree in communication in 2005.

Adam Iddriss, a medical student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, was honored as a Pitt undergraduate in 2006 with a Harry S. Truman Scholarship, one of the most prestigious and competitive academic awards of its kind in the United States. His affiliations include the Student National Medical Association, The Johns Hopkins University Medical Device Initiative, and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. 

Iddriss is the founder of Engineers for a Sustainable World, an organization that creates and helps fund service projects in developing nations, and he has provided health care assistance at clinics around the globe. In addition to winning a Truman Scholarship, he has received the 2011 Fogarty International Clinical Research Fellowship, the 2010 David Satcher Research Fellowship, and a 2008 Framework Program in Global Health Grant from the National Institutes of Health. Iddriss graduated from Pitt with Bachelor of Science degrees in bioengineering and chemistry in 2007. 

Derrick L. Tillman has worked in the real estate industry for more than a decade. He established two real estate development and investment firms, Bridging the Gap Development and DNT Property Investments, and has amassed a property portfolio of more than 30 units. He also owns the City of Bridges Café, located in the landside terminal of the Pittsburgh International Airport. Prior to founding his real estate firms, Tillman served as a director for the community empowerment organization Community Leadership Development Institute, Inc., and a branch supervisor for Dollar Bank. 

Tillman’s professional memberships include the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, BNI Bridges to Success Networking Club, and Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania. He graduated from Pitt with a Bachelor of Science degree in information science in 2004. 

Sossena Wood, a doctoral candidate in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, is the newly elected chair of the National Society of Black Engineers; she is only the sixth woman to serve in this position since the organization’s founding in 1975. She also has served the organization as vice chair and Region 2 chair. As an undergraduate, Wood served as president of the Pitt chapter of the society from April 2009 to April 2010. 

Wood is conducting her PhD research in the Radio Frequency Research Facility, where she is developing technology for the advancement of Seven Tesla MRI Machines. Her honors include a Pitt K. Leroy Irvis Fellowship as well as a fellowship from the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (GEM). Wood graduated from Pitt with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering in 2010. 

The AAAC is an affiliate council chartered and governed under the bylaws of the University of Pittsburgh Alumni Association. Its mission is to support African American alumni, faculty, staff, and students and to strengthen their connection to the University through the council’s many programs and activities. Established in the 1980s, the AAAC comprises more than 400 lifetime members. Visit www.alumni.pitt.edu/aaac/ for more information. 

Founded in the late 1960s, the Black Action Society is a student run organization of the University of Pittsburgh that works to bring about social awareness amongst African American students, faculty, and staff members.