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MBEP 8th Annual

State of the Region

Monterey Bay Economic Partnership’s (MBEP) 8th Annual State of the Region, on Friday, Oct. 14, brought together a cross-sector gathering of public, private and civic leaders to discuss some of the biggest challenges facing the region, from broadband infrastructure and the digital divide to affordable housing and inclusive economic recovery and development. After two years of virtual events, it was exhilarating to engage — live and in person — with nearly 300 leaders from across the tri-county region at the beautiful California State University, Monterey Bay campus.

We’re grateful to our event sponsors, our keynote speakers, panelists, and moderators, and to all of our participants for contributing to the success of our 8th Annual State of the Region. And at a moment in time where a more equitable economy is at the center of so many of our conversations, we’re particularly awed by the depth and diversity that exists across our region and within our organization, as evidenced by the representation at our State of the Region event.

Our own MBEP board members have a huge footprint across the region, and their presence — as community, educational and business leaders and voices of influence and change — was a powerful component of the conversations both on and off stage on Friday. 

Check out this short video recap of MBEP’s 8th Annual State of the Region, then scroll below to view individual panel discussions and each of our guest speakers. A press release for the event can be found here.

All photos and video courtesy of Lucid Sound and Picture.

Welcome Address

Cynthia K. Larive

Chancellor, University of California, Santa Cruz

 

A common thread throughout Larive’s career has been her commitment to student success, inclusion and equity. An accomplished bioanalytical chemist, Chancellor Larive is also focused on research, innovation and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs through the campus Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED). She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society, and has received campus and national awards for her teaching, research and leadership.

Read Chancellor Larive’s full bio here.

Tahra Goraya

President & CEO, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership

 

Tahra  brings to MBEP strong skills in leadership, management, policy advocacy, and public affairs. She is experienced in diverse issue areas across multiple sectors including nonprofit management, business, and government. Most recently, Tahra was an organization consultant as well as an executive coach. Previously, Tahra served as the Director for Zero to Three Western Regional Office, a national early childhood public policy and research organization; District Director for California State Senator Carol Liu; National Director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a national American Muslim civil rights organization in Washington, DC; and Executive Director of Day One in Pasadena, a substance abuse prevention and policy organization. Her familiarity in leveraging strategic relationships, building cross-cultural and cross-sector coalitions, crafting public policy, and organizing multi-faith and grassroots communities helped her succeed and pass legislation for over a dozen policies.

Read Goraya’s full bio here.

California State Senate Legislative Updates

Senator John Laird

In the State Senate, Laird chairs and serves on a broad array of committees. Prior to his Senate service, Laird served as Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency under Governor Jerry Brown and also served as a member of the State Integrated Waste Management Board. Laird was elected to the State Assembly and served three terms, during which time he authored 82 bills that were signed into law. Laird has also served as executive director of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project, taught environmental policy at the University of California Santa Cruz, hosted a news talk program on KUSP public radio, and held analyst positions in budgeting and human resources for the County of Santa Cruz.

Read Senator Laird’s full bio here.

Keynote Address

Solidarity Economics

Chris Benner

Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz

 

Dr. Chris Benner is the Dorothy E. Everett Chair in Global Information and Social Entrepreneurship, and a Professor of Environmental Studies and Sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He currently directs the Everett Program for Technology and Social Change and the Institute for Social Transformation. His research examines the relationships between technological change, regional development, and the structure of economic opportunity, focusing on regional labor markets and the transformation of work and employment. He has authored or co-authored seven books and more that 75 journal articles, chapters and research reports. He received his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley.

Manuel Pastor

Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC)

 

Dr. Manuel Pastor is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California (USC). He currently directs the Equity Research Institute at USC. Pastor currently serves on California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Council of Economic Advisors and on the California Business and Jobs Recovery Task Force.

Housing, Homelessness, and 6th Cycle RHNA

Exploring challenges and solutions to increasing
housing production across income levels and unit types

Alyssa Kroeger (Moderator)

Director of Strategic Initiatives – Housing & Broadband, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership

 

Alyssa grew up in the Old Gilroy neighborhood where vast walnut orchards once reigned prior to the development of single-family homes. There she experienced the challenges of housing insecurity first-hand and became intimately aware of disparate impacts on low-income families in opportunity zones at an early age. Regularly inspired by the community-based work and legacy of her late uncle, Padre Mateo Sheedy, she is deeply passionate about “all things justice” and actively seeks to engage with opportunities to help build stronger communities and lift the voices of those historically underserved. Alyssa comes to MBEP with a degree in International Studies and a minor in Spanish Literature from UC San Diego, and several years of experience in nonprofit housing providing direct services to ensure fair housing rights and leveraging innovative programming to help secure residents’ homes.

Wendy Root Askew

Supervisor, Monterey County, District 4

 

A creative problem-solver with four generation deep roots in Monterey County, Wendy Root Askew is a mother to a young child, wife to an architect, and daughter to a parent educator and retired Army Colonel. As County Supervisor, Askew is committed to advancing policy that promotes the ability of families – in all their forms to have their basic needs met in safe, connected communities where there is opportunity for personal fulfillment, and access to protected natural resources.  Representing the communities of Sand City, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, East Garrison, CSUMB, Salinas, and Seaside, Askew began her 4-year term in January 2021. She is a founding member of the Monterey Peninsula Housing Coalition, which is working to increase access to affordable housing on the Monterey Peninsula.

Read Supervisor Askew’s full bio here.

Betsy Dirks

Supervisor, San Benito County, District 1

 

A 20-year resident of San Benito County, Supervisor Dirks has a strong desire to see the county thrive through smart growth that will provide a place to inspire her children to raise their families there. As the current Supervisor for District 1, she continues to be committed to cultivating the aspects that make the county unique, while working to support families by increasing affordable housing, providing services to women, children and the elderly. As a working mother, former teacher and community volunteer, she brings a unique perspective and her experience as an educator, a member of the Civil Grand Jury for San Benito County, and as a volunteer with local nonprofit groups has prepared her to be a voice for families.

Read Supervisor Dirk’s full bio here.

Genevieve Lucas-Conwell

Executive Director, Coalition of Homeless Services Providers

 

Genevieve’s journey through the social impact space has been a windy road, but always with one focus: how do we make this world a little bit better. This focus has taken her from working with AIDS education programs in South Africa & Haiti, to working alongside refugees in Tucson and working with micro-finance platforms on alleviating financial insecurity around the world. She finally fell in love with the work of supporting our unhoused residents. Genevieve gained expertise in the field, serving alongside the unhoused population in both San Francisco and Santa Cruz county. Throughout her time in the sector, Genevieve started a Transitional Age Youth work-development program, co-created a women’s empowerment group for unhoused women, and managed a social-enterprise.

Living with the Pandemic, Lessons Learned

Cynthia K. Larive (Moderator)

Chancellor, University of California, Santa Cruz

 

A common thread throughout Larive’s career has been her commitment to student success, inclusion and equity. An accomplished bioanalytical chemist, Chancellor Larive is also focused on research, innovation and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs through the campus Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development (CIED). She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society, and has received campus and national awards for her teaching, research and leadership.

Read Chancellor Larive’s full bio here.

Pete Delgado

President and CEO, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System

 

Pete Delgado is President/CEO of Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. Pete is responsible for directing the leadership and operations of an integrated network of health care programs, services, and facilities. During his tenure at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System, Pete has expanded access to care, greatly increasing the services available to all members of the community regardless of their ability to pay. He is passionate about patient safety, quality clinical outcomes, exceptional patient experience, and partnering with patients and their families to achieve an improved quality of life.

Rosa Vivian Fernández

President and CEO, San Benito Health Foundation

 

Rosa Vivian Fernandez is the President and Chief Executive Officer of San Benito Health Foundation (SBHF), a non-profit community health care organization serving the San Benito County for over 40 years. She has been the President and CEO for thirteen years. Under her direction, SBHF serves more than 10,000 individuals annually at the main clinic in Hollister and the new satellite mobile unit, providing preventative and comprehensive medical, dental, vision, mental health, and health education services. In addition, Ms. Fernandez oversees a WIC program serving 2,100 women and children. Ms. Fernandez is well respected nationally for her commitment to excellence, as well as for her business acumen. She proactively addresses social health and education inequities through various organized efforts locally and statewide.

Read Read Fernandez’s full bio here.

DeAndre James

Executive Director, Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley

 

DeAndre has worked in various roles within the healthcare sector for over 20 years. He began his healthcare career as a Hospital Corpsman (Emergency Medicine & Surgery) in the US Navy. He recently served as Chief Operating Officer at San Mateo Medical Center, as well as Executive Director of Dignity Health Medical Group. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management from Southern Illinois University and a Master’s in Health System Management from Rush University. His mission is to ensure an equal and fair opportunity for every individual to attain the highest level of health and wellness regardless of socioeconomic barriers.

Federal Legislative Update

Congressman Jimmy Panetta

Congressman Jimmy Panetta proudly serves California’s 20th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. His district includes Monterey and San Benito Counties, and parts of Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties.

During his time in Congress, he has fought for immigration reform, the continued protection of our pristine coastline and environment, affordable housing, accessible health care, our agriculture industry and its farmers and farmworkers, the reduction of gun violence, our military installations that are an integral part in our community and our country’s security, and the deserved and promised benefits to our veterans. Through policy implementation in Congress and service to constituents, he remains committed to being that bridge for the people of the Central Coast to the federal government and its resources.

Read Congressman Panetta’s full bio here.

Bay of Life: Monterey Bay

This project showcases the region’s natural richness in the context of human occupation and environmental impacts, from Native Americans to Spanish colonizers and American Settlers – and up to the present day. In Bay of Life, Lanting and Eckstrom show that the region’s natural abundance is a result of a unique mix of physical features and microclimates. The project features iconic wildlife from mountain lions and peregrine falcons to salmon, whales, and elephant seals. All surviving in a region where endangered endemic species mix with cosmopolitan migrants within a complex matrix of human activities.

Frans Lanting

Frans Lanting has been hailed as one of the great photographers of our time. His influential work appears in books, magazines, and exhibitions around the world. Lanting’s work has been commissioned frequently by National Geographic where he served as a Photographer-in-Residence.

“Frans Lanting has set the standards for a whole generation of wildlife photographers,” according the the BBC. “As a chronicler of natural history today, Frans Lanting is a singular extraordinary talent,” says Thomas Kennedy, former Director of Photography at National Geographic. “He has the mind of a scientist, the heart of a hunter, and the eyes of a poet.”

Read Lanting’s full bio here.

Chris Eckstrom

 

Chris Eckstrom is a writer, editor, and videographer whose work celebrates the wonders of the natural world and explores the coexistence of people and wildlife. Her stories have appeared in National Geographic, Audubon, International Wildlife, National Geographic Traveler, and other international publications. Her National Geographic Traveler Story about Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, “The Last Real Africa,” earned her a Lowell Thomas Award for Best Magazine Article on Foreign Travel. For 25 years she has worked with Frans Lanting, her husband and partner, of field assignments from the Amazon to Mongolia.

Read Eckstrom’s full bio here.

California Assembly Legislative Update

Assemblymember Robert Rivas

Assemblymember Robert Rivas has represented California’s 30th Assembly District since 2018. While still in his first term, in the Fall of 2020, he was appointed as Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and elected as Vice-Chair of the influential Latino Legislative Caucus. A lifelong resident of the district, Rivas served two terms on the San Benito County Board of Supervisors prior to becoming an Assemblymember.

As an Assemblymember, Rivas’ first-term legislative achievements include securing enactment of the first-in-the-nation COVID-19 Farmworker Relief Package, which included critical efforts related to agricultural workplace safety, access to PPE and testing, temporary housing, and access to healthcare and the courts. He also championed the Farmworker Housing Act, which streamlines the process to build quality housing for farmworkers and their families. He knows that safe and decent housing is essential for every Californian, and he continues to lead efforts to address the state’s housing crisis.

Read Assemblymember Rivas’ full bio here.

Broadband:

Building Infrastructure to Reduce the Digital Divide & Advance Economic Growth

Alexia Garcia (Moderator)

Broadband & Farmworker Housing Policy Manager, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership

 

Born and raised in Salinas, Alexia Garcia’s deep love for her hometown– and all communities in the Monterey Bay– fuels her commitment to community advocacy and equitable policy. Alexia rejoins the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership after having spent a year managing a rapid rehousing program serving unhoused individuals and families throughout Monterey County. In 2020, Alexia earned her Bachelor of Arts in Politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, focusing her capstone research on California housing policy. Her academic background, direct-service experience, and first-generation background have underscored the urgency and importance of this work. She is especially passionate about ensuring housing for all, broadband access, climate change reform, and equity for rural communities.

James Hackett

Director, Business Operations & Development, Cruzio Internet

 

James Hackett is Cruzio Internet’s long-time Chief Operating Officer. In his 20-year tenure, he has supervised a number of significant projects and changes: the absorption of a fixed wireless company purchased in 2009; the establishment of a nearly $1M per year coworking and colocation business; the growth of internet services revenue from a $2M yearly revenue to over $6M in a 5-year period; the planning and implementation of a multi-million dollar fiber-to-the-home network in 2018; and the launch and development of the Equal Access initiative for digital equity. He directs a sales and marketing team which reliably captures a sizable share of the local market despite competition with some of the largest companies in the country. Mr. Hackett has been featured in WIRED Magazine, Telecommuter, Marketwatch, Broadband Communities, Forbes Magazine, Yahoo Finance, RCR Wireless, and other publications, and has participated in the the inaugural Facebook Connectivity Accelerator, the Wireless Innovation for Last Mile Access project and The Coalition for Local Internet Choice.

Chris Lopez

Supervisor, Monterey County, District 3

 

Supervisor Lopez was born and raised in Southern Monterey County. He was elected to serve on the Board of Supervisors in June of 2018 and took his Oath of Office in January of 2019. Supervisor Lopez is passionate about early childhood education, agriculture, safe roads, fair, equitable and accessible housing, and economic development, as well as equitable models of government. He currently serves on the following commissions amongst others, Natividad Medical Center Board of Trustees, LAFCO, Monterey County Cannabis Committee, the Alternative Energy and Environment Committee, Equal Opportunity Committee, Water Resources Agency Joint Boards Leadership Committee, and Urban County Standing Committee. He is also President of the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority, board member to Hartnell Foundation, Chair of the First 5 Monterey County, and Second Vice Chair of RCRC.

Read Supervisor Lopez’s full bio here.

Tracy Rhine

Legislative Advocate, Rural County Representatives of California

 

Tracy Rhine joined the Rural County Representative of California staff in 2016 as a Legislative Advocate. Tracy represents RCRC on a variety of issues including telecommunications, insurance, land use, and housing finance. Prior to joining RCRC, Tracy served as Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Prior to her appointment by Governor Brown to her position at the Department of Consumer Affairs, Tracy worked in the Legislature both as a Member Consultant with the Speaker’s Office of Member Services and as a Committee Consultant with the Assembly Committee on Business and Professions. Tracy began her career as a graduate research assistant with the Governor’s Office for Innovation in Government. Tracy holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government from California State University, Sacramento.

David Witkowski

Founder & CEO, OKU Solutions

 

David Witkowski is an author, advisor, and strategist who works at the intersection between local government and the telecommunication industry. He is a Fellow in the Radio Club of America, an IEEE Senior Member and Life Member of the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society, the Founder & CEO of Oku Solutions LLC, and is the Executive Director of the Wireless Communications Initiative at Joint Venture Silicon Valley. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard and earning his B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, he held leadership roles for companies ranging from Fortune 500 multi-nationals to early-stage startups. He serves as Co-Chair of the Deployment Working Group at IEEE Future Networks, as a member of the Connected Communities Forum in the Wireless Broadband Alliance, and as an Expert Advisor to the California Emerging Technology Fund.

Regional Economic Security for All

Teresa Alvarado (Moderator)

Regional Vice President South Bay/Central Coast, PG&E

 

As one of PG&E’s senior leaders in the field every day, she will be accountable for delivering high-quality performance to customers and ensuring the safety, availability, and reliability of regional operations. Previously, she was Chief of Local Impact for the San Francisco Bay Area Planning & Urban Research Association (SPUR), where she led a team responsible for implementing effective and equitable policy and planning solutions in the Bay Area. Before that, she was Deputy Administrative Officer for the Santa Clara Valley Water District where she oversaw organizational performance, board policy governance, communications, and community engagement. She currently chairs the California Water Commission, which provides a public forum for discussing water issues, advises the Director of the Department of Water Resources, monitors and reports on the construction and operation of the State Water Project, and distributes $2.7 billion for the public benefits of water storage projects.

Read Alvarado’s full bio here.

Carrie Birkhofer

President & CEO, Bay Federal Credit Union

 

Carrie Birkhofer serves as President and CEO of Bay Federal Credit Union since 1995. Carrie’s passion is to help the community thrive and expand economic opportunity by providing access to locally owned financial products and services. Under Carrie’s leadership, the Credit Union has grown from $70 million to over $1.6 billion in assets. She partners with the Senior Leadership Team and the volunteer Board of Directors to set and drive the vision and mission for the Credit Union and to ensure strategy is executed, all while keeping the member and employee experience forefront in the Credit Union’s actions. Since 2015, Bay Federal’s award-winning culture and service has consistently been recognized as one of the Best Places to Work and the Best Places to Bank.

Read Birkhofer’s full bio here.

Sandi Eason

Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer Pacific Valley Bank

 

Sandi Eason joined Pacific Valley Bank in late 2020. Previously, Sandi spent 29 years with Wells Fargo before leaving to take the position of President and CEO at Coast Commercial Bank. She returned to Wells Fargo 8 years later in 2013, completing 35 years of service in total. As a fourth generation resident of the Monterey Peninsula, she has a lifelong passion and connection with the Central Coast of California. She currently serves on the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Executive Board of United Way Monterey County, Founding Board member of the Living Breath Foundation/Cystic Fibrosis, IMPOWER, a Monterey County organization supporting women’s initiatives and scholarships and a recent former member of the Board of Councilors, Division of Social Sciences for UC Santa Cruz.

Krista Snelling

President & CEO, Santa Cruz County Bank

 

Krista Snelling joined Santa Cruz County Bank in March 2021, bringing nearly 25 years of strategic financial and operational expertise to the role. Snelling is leading Santa Cruz County Bank’s expansion into Monterey County, with a focus on regional strategies that best support the Bank’s mission to build lasting relationships and be a trusted partner to empower growth and economic vitality. In 2019, Snelling was recognized by the Sacramento Business Journal as a CFO of the Year. The following year she was named as a Sacramento Business Journal Woman Who Means Business and was awarded the Nancy Hotchkiss Woman of Impact Award by Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), recognizing her impact on the commercial real estate industry. Snelling graduated from the University of the Pacific with a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Mathematics and Economics. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in Economics from UC Davis. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Western Bankers Association and Santa Cruz County Bank, and on the Executive Advisory Council of University of the Pacific’s Eberhardt School of Business.

Regional Collaboratives Underway

Uplift Central Coast, CERF, RRT, NSF, RCC, MBHT + HTSV

Tahra Goraya

President & CEO, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership

 

Tahra  brings to MBEP strong skills in leadership, management, policy advocacy, and public affairs. She is experienced in diverse issue areas across multiple sectors including nonprofit management, business, and government. Most recently, Tahra was an organization consultant as well as an executive coach. Previously, Tahra served as the Director for Zero to Three Western Regional Office, a national early childhood public policy and research organization; District Director for California State Senator Carol Liu; National Director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a national American Muslim civil rights organization in Washington, DC; and Executive Director of Day One in Pasadena, a substance abuse prevention and policy organization. Her familiarity in leveraging strategic relationships, building cross-cultural and cross-sector coalitions, crafting public policy, and organizing multi-faith and grassroots communities helped her succeed and pass legislation for over a dozen policies.

Read Goraya’s full bio here.

Centering Equity in Programming, Policies, and Jobs

Katy Castagna (Moderator)

President & CEO, United Way Monterey County

 

Katy has a Bachelor’s degree from Brown University with concentrations in Anthropology and Latin American Studies, and an MBA with an emphasis in nonprofit management from The Anderson School of Management at UCLA. She has over 35 years of experience working and volunteering in public and nonprofit organizations in Southern California and Monterey County. She has been with United Way Monterey County since 2004. During that time she has worked in community impact, developing services such as 2-1-1, The Volunteer Center, and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance free tax prep service. She has also overseen resource development and been responsible for the major donors and grants, as well as general operations. Since 2015 she has served as President and CEO of United Way Monterey County and is leading the organization’s focus on financial stability for families through access to affordable quality child care, housing, and financial literacy.

Gary Byrne

President & CEO, Community Foundation for San Benito County

 

Gary Byrne is President and CEO of the Community Foundation for San Benito County. Joined the foundation as its first staff member in 2002, the foundation’s cumulative granting has grown to over $31 million, with assets under management close to $40 million.

Over the past 30 years he has worked in nonprofit development and management. Working and volunteering in education, social services and local and state wide nonprofits.

A native of Dublin, Ireland, 30+ years living on the central coast. Fortunate to have an amazing wife with two children and three grandchildren.

Christine Dawson

Senior Vice President Philanthropic Services, Community Foundation Monterey County

 

Biography coming soon…

 

Valentine Lopez

Chairman, Amah Mutsun Land Trust

 

Valentin Lopez has been the Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band since 2003, one of three historic tribes that are recognized as Ohlone. Valentin is Mutsun, Chumash and Yokuts. The Amah Mutsun are comprised of the documented descendants of Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz. Valentin Lopez is a Native American Advisor to the University of California, Office of the President on issues related to repatriation. He is also a Native American Advisor to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Valentin is actively involved in efforts to restore tribal indigenous knowledge and ensure our history is accurately told. Finally, Valentin is working to restore the Mutsun Language and is a traditional Mutsun singer and dancer. As Chairman, Valentin is a standing member on all Tribal committees and Boards.

 

Francine Rodd

Executive Director, First 5 Monterey County

 

Francine Rodd has been the Executive Director for First 5 Monterey County (F5MC) since January 2004. The vision for F5MC is to ensure that all children reach their unique potential in a family and community that values, respects and invests in early childhood. F5MC supports children from the prenatal stage through age five by promoting child-friendly policies and practices; advocating for changes in systems that are holding problems in place; and by funding quality, coordinated programs. F5MC is committed to actively creating a community where race, gender, sexual orientation, and physical ability do not determine access to opportunities or outcomes. F5MC has supported over 600,000 children and families since its inception in 1998.

Susan True

Executive Director, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County

 

Susan True is an accomplished social impact leader. She excels in bringing communities together to solve problems and she finds great joy in rolling up her sleeves and working with others to create meaningful change. In her role as Chief Executive Officer of Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, Susan continues her lifelong commitment to work that makes life measurably better for those that she serves. She recently led the Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s education investments – creating programs that dramatically increased literacy skills among Oakland children. She led the design of the Bay Area Council’s early childhood Talk, Read, Sing campaign – winning an Effie award for the work. Formerly, she served for eight years as Executive Director of First 5 Santa Cruz County where she led the county’s investment in children birth to five years old. Prior to leading First 5, she served as the Executive Director of CASA of Santa Cruz County. Susan was elected to the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees in 2008 and reelected in 2012, serving until 2014.

Drone Technology:

Regional Family Sustaining Jobs in Aviation, Ag, & Aeronautics

Josh Metz

Executive Director & Co-Founder, Monterey Bay DART Initiative

 

Josh Metz is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Monterey Bay DART Initiative, which grew out of his tenure as Economic Development Manager, then Executive Officer at the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA). In those roles, Josh worked with multiple public and private sector partners to advance regional recovery from the economic impact of the 1994 Fort Ord base closure. Josh was instrumental in securing the Joby Aviation presence at the Marina Airport, and continues to work to realize a robust DART-related innovation ecosystem in the Monterey Bay and greater Central Coast region. Most recently, Josh led the development of a James Irvine Foundation funded workforce development pilot project with Joby Aviation and CSU Monterey Bay. Along with supporting the continued growth of the Monterey Bay DART Initiative, Josh also serves as a Senior Economic Development Advisor to local agencies, public universities and non-profits with the Regional Government Services Authority. He holds a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from UC Berkeley, and completed post-graduate research in spatial data systems and remote sensing at UC Santa Barbara.

Advancing PK-16 Educational Collaboratives

A Fireside Chat with University Presidents & Community Colleges

Matt Wetstein (Moderator)

President, Cabrillo College

 

Dr. Matt Wetstein has been Superintendent/President of Cabrillo College since February 2018. Prior to working at Cabrillo, Matt served for 6 years as the Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Instruction and Planning at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, CA. Matt started his career in the California Community Colleges as a Political Science Instructor at San Joaquin Delta College in 1996. He holds a BA from the University of St. Francis in Illinois, and a Masters and Ph.D. in Political Science from Northern Illinois University. He is a statewide leader in the Research and Planning Community for California Community Colleges, having spent 6 years on the board of that organization and 2 years as President. He serves on a number of boards in the Santa Cruz County region, including the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce, Santa Cruz County Business Council, United Way, Santa Cruz Symphony, Agri-Culture Foundation, and is a member of the Aptos/Capitola Rotary. In 2019 he was named Aptos Chamber of Commerce “Man of the Year.”

Read Wetstein’s full bio here.

Vanya Quiñones

President, California State University, Monterey Bay

 

Vanya Quiñones assumed the position of CSU Monterey Bay’s 4th President on August 15, 2022. A neurobiologist, biopsychologist and noted researcher, Quiñones has published more than 70 peer-reviewed articles. Over the course of a 20-plus-year career at the City University of New York (CUNY) – Hunter College, Quiñones served as an assistant, associate, and full professor in the Department of Psychology before being appointed to serve as the chair of the department. She was later promoted to the role of associate provost. In 2018, she was appointed to the position of provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at Pace University where she also held the rank of full professor in the Department of Psychology.

Read President Quiñones’ full bio here.

Dr. Pedro Avila

Superintendent/President, Gavilan College

 

President Avila has worked in the community college system for 20 years and has led several successful initiatives to increase college-going rates for underrepresented student populations. He was born and spent his childhood in Guadalajara, Mexico. In 1984, his family emigrated to the US to find better opportunities. Like many migrant families, they experienced poverty and housing insecurity hardships. President Avila holds degrees in Latino studies and business from Fresno State University. A Master in Business Administration from Rockhurst University and a Certificate in Institutional Performance Assessment from Harvard’s Higher Education Institute. He holds a Doctorate in Community College Policy from the University of Maryland. His administrative experience includes serving as Associate Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management, Admissions & Records, and Information Systems at State Center Community College District. At West Hills Community College District, he served as Vice President of Student Services and Vice-Chancellor of Institutional Effectiveness & Enrollment Management. Dr. Avila’s work is grounded in his experiences as an immigrant, English-language learner, and first-generation college student.

Read President Avila’s full bio here.

Michael Gutierrez

Superintendent/President, Hartnell College

 

Michael Gutierrez comes to Hartnell College from the Los Rios College District, where he served as the president of Sacramento City College since 2017. Prior to that, he served in a variety of roles in the Texas system of higher education, including as the executive vice president for academic affairs and student success at Eastfield College in the Dallas Community College District. Throughout his career, he has been responsible for vocational education, workforce development, and economic development, working as a program coordinator for the Texas Council on Vocational Education, a research specialist for the Texas Council on Workforce and Economic Competitiveness, and as grants manager for the Dallas Community College District. He also has served as director of the South Irving Center, assistant to the president for college and resource development at Palo Alto College in the San Antonio Community College District, dean of the Education Center at Mountain View College, and executive dean at Mountain View College. He was a faculty member in government at Richland College.

Read President Gutierrez’s full bio here.

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