2024 Fellows

Wheelhouse 2024 Fellows


We welcome these California community college CEOs as members of the seventh cohort of the Institute on Leadership.

Pedro Avila, Superintendent-President, Gavilan College
Dr. Pedro Avila is the 8th Superintendent/President of the Gavilan Joint Community College District. He has over 20 years of experience in higher education, with a focus on increasing college-going rates and success for underrepresented student populations. Dr. Avila’s work is grounded in his personal experiences as an immigrant, English-language learner, and first-generation college student. He was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and emigrated to Castroville, California, with his family in 1984. Like many migrant families, they worked as farmworkers and experienced poverty and housing insecurity. Dr. Avila’s experiences have shaped his commitment to equity and inclusion in higher education and his passion for helping students achieve their academic and career goals. Dr. Avila holds a Doctorate in Community College Policy from the University of Maryland, a Master of Business Administration from Rockhurst University, and degrees in Latino Studies and Business from Fresno State University. He also earned a Certificate in Institutional Performance Assessment from Harvard’s Higher Education Institute.
Rudy Besikof, President, Laney College
Dr. Rudy Besikof began his fourth year as President of Laney College in Oakland in Fall of 2023. He has been at the college since 2018, when he was first hired as its Vice President of Instruction and has been an educational administrator since 2011. He received multiple Certificates of Recognition and Achievement for his work in the classroom teaching English as a Second Language and Education courses designed to prepare future teachers of ESL. In addition, he has taught doctoral-level Educational Leadership courses, published professional articles in publications such as the Community College Journal for Research and Practice, and presented nationally his dissertation methods and findings, first for the Council for the Study of Community Colleges and then for the Council for Resource Development. Dr. Besikof is a 2010 graduate of UCLA’s Educational Leadership Doctoral Program. His dissertation, The Role of the Community College President in Fundraising: A Best Practices Study, was recognized with the UCLA School of Education’s Outstanding Dissertation Award. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and French and a Master’s in English/Applied Linguistics, both from the University of Colorado. 
Jamal A. Cooks, President, Chabot College
Dr. Cooks brings over 20 years of teaching, research, and leadership experience to the Chabot College presidency. He has served as vice president of academic services at Chabot since 2022, although he assumed the role on an interim basis in 2021. Prior to community college administration, Dr. Cooks served as a full professor at San Francisco State University, where he was also the associate director for the Educational Leadership doctoral program. Dr. Cooks has taught in the K-12, California State University and community college systems. In 2017, he was the recipient of the National Council of Teachers of English’s Halle Adolescent Literacy Educator Award.
Dr. Anthony Culpepper, President, Los Angeles Southwest College 
Dr. Culpepper has served in various progressive Administrative Leadership roles that include President, Interim and Acting President, Executive Vice President, Vice President (CBO), Chief Negotiation Officer, Vice President (CFO). Dr. Culpepper serves as President of Boards: President of the Board: Los Angeles County Regionalized Business Services Corporation. Instruction Leadership: Full Professor/Instructor at Trident University (Full-time), Professor/Instructor (tenure-track) as an Irvine Scholar at Pepperdine University (Full-time), Full Professor at Ashford University, Professor/Instructor at the University of La Verne (adjunct) and as Academic Leadership; Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs at Ashford University, several roles as Dean which includes the Colleges of Business Administration and Information Systems at Trident University. His education includes 37 units at LASC, AA (Long Beach City College), BS (CSU Dominguez Hills), MBA (Pepperdine University), Ed.D in Organizational Leadership (Pepperdine University), and J.D. (University of West Los Angeles School of Law). He possesses three finance and accounting certifications as a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Certified Financial Manager.
Albert Garcia, Superintendent–President, Sacramento City College
Albert Garcia became the president at Sacramento City College in April of 2023. After teaching for four years at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia, he worked as a professor in the English Department at Sacramento City College in 1991. With a tenure of over 30 years at the college, he served SCC as a professor with two terms as the English Department Chair, as Dean of the Language and Literature Division, and as Vice President of Instruction. In 2018, he held an interim role as Associate Vice Chancellor of Instruction at the Los Rios Workforce and Economic Development Center. Albert has a BA in English from CSU, Chico, an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Montana, and an EdD in Higher Education and Organizational Change from Benedictine University. He grew up in rural Northern California and as a young man worked as a ranger in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Virginia Guleff, Superintendent–President, Butte College
Virginia Guleff was appointed the Superintendent/President of Butte-Glenn Community College District effective July 1, 2022. She was previously the Vice President of Instruction and Accreditation Liaison Officer for Butte College, where she oversaw all instructional programs including the economic and workforce development arm of the College as well as all accreditation activities, for six years. Virginia began in the California Community College System in 1986 as a tutor at De Anza College. She has served as a classified employee and a part-time faculty member at De Anza College; a full-time tenured faculty member, an ESL coordinator, and as Chair of English, Communication and World Language in the San Diego Community College District; Dean of CTE, Transfer and Basic Skills as well as Vice President of Education and Student Services at Mendocino College; and Vice President of Instruction at Solano College. President Guleff’s leadership at Butte College is focused on securing DEIA2 practices into the foundation of the College. 
Dr. Ashanti T. Hands, President, San Diego Mesa College
President Ashanti T. Hands, Ed.D., leads San Diego Mesa College, a fully accredited, comprenhensive college committed to equity and excellence. We honor our diverse community of students, faculty, professional staff, and administrators who collaborate to foster scholarship, leadership, access, and innovation in an inclusive learning environment. By promoting student learning and achievement that leads to degrees and certificates, transfer, workforce training, and lifelong learning, we empower our students to reach their educational goals and shape their future.
Lennor Johnson, Superintendent–President, Imperial Valley College
Dr. Lennor M. Johnson serves as the Superintendent/President for Imperial Valley College. He has spent over 26 years working in higher education in both the university and community college settings. Throughout his career, he has served in several leadership and faculty roles, including campus director, vice president, dean, professor, graduate curriculum chair, academic advisor, director of admissions, and director of marketing & community relations. All through his career, three core values have driven his decision-making: an unrelenting commitment to helping underserved students, eliminating social and academic barriers to student success; and fostering excellence in everything we do. These values have kept him focused on improving the lives of students and future generations and have resulted in tremendous success for the students and institutions he has served. His greatest honor came in 2023 when Imperial Valley College won the coveted Aspen Community College Excellence prize.
Tina King, President, San Diego College of Continuing Education
Dr. Tina M. King serves as the President of San Diego College of Continuing Education where she oversees and advocates for 20,000 students. Prior to her role as President, she served as Assistant Superintendent and Vice President for Student Affairs (ASVPSA) at Southwestern College. Dr. King also serves as a professor at San Diego State University, teaching equity-minded approaches to student success to graduate students in postsecondary educational leadership. Dr. King received a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with a minor in Pan-African Studies and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from California State University Northridge. She holds a Master of Arts in Education and a Single Subject Teaching Credential from the University of Southern California, and a Doctorate in Community College Leadership from California State University, Fullerton. Dr. King’s research focuses on Faculty and Staff Validation and Academic Achievement among Black Males at Community Colleges.
Kim Lopez, President, Cañada College
Kim Lopez serves as President of Cañada College in Redwood City, California, a position she has held since 2021. In August 2019, Ms. Lopez became Acting President at the College of San Mateo (CSM) and in 2020 she was named Interim President, a position she held until June 2021. She also served as Vice President of Student Services at CSM. Prior to joining CSM, Ms. Lopez served as Dean of Counseling and Enrollment Services, and later Vice President of Student Services at Cañada College. Prior to Cañada College, she was a Faculty member at the College of the Siskiyous, serving as the Director for EOPS, CARE, CalWORKs, and TRIO, and as a Counselor. Ms. Lopez holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UC Santa Barbara and a Master’s degree in Counseling Education from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Rick MacLennan, Ed.D., Chancellor, Ventura County Community College District 
Rick MacLennan, Ed.D., was selected by the Board of Trustees to serve as Chancellor beginning July 2022. He has more than 30 years of experience in educational leadership at community colleges in Idaho, Maryland, and Washington. Dr. MacLennan is dedicated to supporting Moorpark, Oxnard, and Ventura colleges and the District Office in providing equitable, student-centered access to quality and relevant educational programs and support services. He is committed to the community colleges’ missions of access and opportunity and believes that students are unique individuals with meaningful differences in their learning styles and abilities, attitudes toward learning and life, past educational experiences, culturally based values, and interests and goals.  
Marvin Martinez, Chancellor, Rancho Santiago Community College District
Marvin Martinez was appointed the Chancellor of the Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD) in July 2019. As Chancellor of one of the largest community college districts in the state of California, Mr. Martinez oversees a district that covers one quarter of the land area of Orange County. RSCCD has eight major facilities locations, including the main college campuses of Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College. Mr. Martinez served as a member of the board of the Chief Executive Officers for California Community Colleges (CEOCCC) from 2015-2022 and is currently the Chair of the College Board’s Community College Advisory Panel. He also serves on the Chapman University Attallah College of Educational Studies Advisory Board. Chancellor Martinez, a native of El Salvador, immigrated to Brooklyn, New York and then moved to Long Beach, California where he graduated from Long Beach Wilson High.  Martinez earned a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Los Angeles
Cynthia Olivo, President, Fullerton College
 Dr. Cynthia Olivo began serving as the 10th president of Fullerton College in January 2023. Her personal history as the granddaughter of migrant farmworkers, the daughter of a single mother, a first-generation college student and third-generation Chicana, deeply inform her empathetic and equity-driven approach to leadership in higher education. Dr. Olivo’s influence extends beyond Fullerton College, serving as: the President of the Chief Student Services Officer Association; the President of the California Community College Organizacion de Latinx Guidance, Empowerment & Advocacy for Success (COLEGAS); and as a founding member of The Coalition, an organization that includes African American Male Education Network and Development (A²MEND) and Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education (APAHE). Dr. Olivo’s academic credentials include a Ph.D. in education with an emphasis in urban leadership from Claremont Graduate University, as well as a Master of Science in counseling and guidance and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from California State University, San Bernardino.
Robert Pimentel, President, Fresno City College
Dr. Pimentel is the President of Fresno City College, where he focuses his efforts on improving the lives of students from the most marginalized communities. His work focuses on diversity, equity, inclusion, and data-informed campus improvements. Dr. Pimentel has over 10 years of experience working with dual enrollment students, early college/ middle college high schools, working with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students and working with men of color. His work aligns very well with the mission and vision of Fresno City College which focuses on anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dr. Pimentel is a product of the community college system, he earned his Associate Degree in Liberal Arts from West Hills College Coalinga, a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Fresno State, a Master’s of Social Work from Bakersfield State, and a Doctorate in higher educational leadership from Fresno State.
Torence Powell, Superintendent–President, Napa Valley College 
Dr. Torence Powell currently serves as the Superintendent/President of Napa Valley College. During his junior year of high school, Dr. Powell was close to dropping out of school until his counselor encouraged him to take his first community college class at Cosumnes River College. The success he experienced in that first college class motivated him to continue his educational journey and has made him a firm believer in the transformative power of the Community College system. An Urban Planner by training, Dr. Powell worked in the areas of affordable housing and transportation planning before returning to higher education in 2010. He currently serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Cal Poly Pomona doctorate program in Education. Dr. Powell is a first-generation community college student, as well as the first person in his family to graduate from college. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Science from CSU, Los Angeles; a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from the University of Redlands; a Master’s degree in Urban Design and Planning from the University of Washington; and a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from UC, Davis.
Vincent Rodriguez, President, Coastline College 
Dr. Vince Rodriguez was born and raised in Orange, California. He graduated from Orange Coast College with an Associate degree and went on to earn his doctorate in Educational Leadership from California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Rodriguez has been employed at Coastline College for 25 years and has worked as a classified employee, instructor, and administrator. Over his 25 years at Coastline, he provided leadership at each of Coastline’s learning centers and spent many years overseeing a Distance Learning Program that accounted for nearly 75 percent of the enrollments at the college. Dr. Rodriguez worked at the college while finishing his degrees. He believes his experience helps him relate to Coastline students because he understands what it means to be a college student who is also working full-time to support their family, like many of Coastline’s students. Dr. Vince Rodriguez is a strong believer in education being the most powerful tool in providing social justice for traditionally disadvantaged students. 
Carla Tweed, President, Coalinga College
Dr. Carla Tweed was named President of West Hills College Coalinga in January 2022. Dr. Tweed is a proud alum of the district she is currently serving and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science from Chapman University, a Master’s degree in Education, and a Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership in Organizational Leadership, both from Brandman University. Prior to her appointment, she served as the Executive Vice President at Yuba College.  
Kristina Whalen, President, Foothill College
Dr. Kristina Whalen is the 8th president of Foothill College. She started in the role in March 2023 after serving as a vice president of instruction at Las Positas College and as the associate vice chancellor of Enrollment Management and Instructional Success at City College of San Francisco. While in these positions, Dr. Whalen played an active role in strategic planning, guided pathways, and accreditation and has developed a special commitment to data-informed practices to improve the student experience. She has been recognized for her leadership with numerous awards and was a member of the 5th cohort of the Aspen Institute’s Rising President’s Fellowship.
Jennifer Zellet, Superintendent–President, Antelope Valley College 
Dr. Jennifer Zellet serves as the Superintendent President of the Antelope Valley Community College District. In her 20+-year career in Higher Education, she has worked in public and private, 2- and 4-year institutions. Starting as an English faculty, she has continued to serve in the California Community College System since 2008 as Dean, Vice President of Instruction, and now Superintendent President. Her focus at Antelope Valley College is a renewed culture of service to students and the community, returning from pandemic times to a new vision of education that equitably prepares students for well-paying jobs and careers with growth potential. She is dedicated not only to traditional transfer pathways but also to ensuring that students have broad access to Career and Technical Education that supports both their upward mobility and local industry partners’ needs, ensuring that both our students and the community continue to thrive. Dr. Zellet has an earned Ph.D. in English and an MLitt (Master of Letters) in Scottish and Irish Studies, both from the University of Aberdeen, in Aberdeen, Scotland. 

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