Leaders Driving Change: Leaders, teams, and institutions whose bold action inspires us

Through the Leaders Driving Change series, College Futures Foundation has recognized remarkable leaders and teams in California public higher education who are driving student equity, opportunity, and success and committing to the mindset of continuous improvement. By truly centering students, exploring innovations, working collaboratively, and never settling for “good enough,” they are pushing forward meaningful change. Watch the series highlights and spotlight videos below to see how they have been successful champions of change.  

We featured leaders and teams who are creating impact in the following areas:

  • Prioritizing equity and inclusivity by building a welcoming environment that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion practices including hiring and retaining diverse and equity-minded staff
  • Easing transitions for all students by removing barriers at key entry and transition points into and through the system, making important processes such as college acceptance, transferring schools, and preparing for a career more seamless; and
  • Providing holistic student supports by ensuring that today’s students have access to a robust and complete set of resources and supportive structures to create a positive learning experience and advance them towards degrees and good jobs.

Below are highlights from our conversations. We encourage you to watch each of their spotlights to hear more and learn about the change they are making for students. 


Dr. Luke Wood – San Diego State University

“A rising tide does not lift all boats. If you truly want to improve student success and be student-centered, you start by looking at those areas of disproportionate impact. Who are those students? And then the second thing you do is you listen to them.”



Through his work as vice president of student affairs and campus diversity and distinguished professor of education, Dr. Wood is creating a more diverse, inclusive campus and faculty to ensure students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to succeed at San Diego State University. Dr. Wood drives student equity and success through transfer opportunities, cultural centers, student check-ins, and increasing representation in faculty. Learn more here.


Dr. Tenisha James – Norco College

“So what does it look like for us to think about how we help move and provide economic mobility for our students? That’s what Guided Pathways is to me – it’s about economic mobility, it’s about racial justice, it’s about removing institutional and systemic barriers to success for all students.”



At Norco College, students are getting tailored support through the onboarding process to reach their academic and career goals. At orientation, students are asked to fill out mini-surveys and answer questions like: What are your interests? What are your goals? What do you need more assistance with? What are your perceived strengths? What programs would you like more information about? Afterwards, students receive personalized outreach based on their answers, and many students have been connected to academic support, financial aid, and career development services and resources that they otherwise might not have known about or accessed. Learn more here.


The Cultural Curriculum Audit Team – Long Beach City College

“What’s really beautiful about this team of leaders is that all of us are really focused on the student. It’s not about me, the faculty member. It’s about our students. We really love what we do and we want to see the students succeed.”



Through a collaborative and values-driven process, faculty members including Suman Mudunuri, M.B.A., Verónica Álvarez, M.A., Priscilla Bravo Arias, M.S., Jerome Hunt, Ph.D., Wendy Koenig, Ph.D. and Michael Robertson, M.A. lead the Cultural Curriculum Audit program to help their peers redesign courses through an equity lens. Faculty members across the campus are invited to opt in to the audit process, and if they do, they receive support to update their courses to be more culturally relevant and their teaching approaches to be more inclusive and welcoming. Learn more here.


Chad Thompson, M.B.A. – Skyline College 

“To really have those big, big impacts, and address the equity gaps that we’re seeing, we really need to address the things outside of the classroom.”



Thompson is the director of SparkPoint at Skyline College, a hub for financial resources and support. SparkPoint supports students holistically by helping them secure food and housing assistance, hosting a community market, and offering family-centered financial and career coaching so that students can stay on track to earn a degree that can change their future. Learn more here.


Dr. Robert Pimentel – Fresno City College 

“Our students have a lot of potential. Sometimes, we limit them by not providing the opportunities that they need in and out of the classroom. Give a student an opportunity and let them rise to the occasion. For those students that sometimes don’t believe they could, they have the opportunity to be a college graduate.”



Dr. Pimentel is the new president of Fresno City College and formerly their vice president of educational services & institutional effectiveness. He is a leading figure behind the college’s “Transfer Pathways” dual enrollment program and recognizes it as “a driving force for equity.” Transfer Pathways expands the college’s dual enrollment beyond existing career technical education to now include college courses that complete credit requirements toward a four-year degree and eases transitions from high school into college–especially for first-generation students. Learn more here.


Dr. Jane Dong – Cal State LA

“There’s a sense of community here that is really critical for our transfer students to feel at home, to connect to each other, and to be successful in their academic journey. In the STAR program, we are working with our community college partners to broaden the access to education in STEM—and we are here to help students reach their career goals much sooner.”



Dr. Dong leads the Successful Transfer And Retention (STAR) program within the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Technology at Cal State LA. In addition to creating a pathway from community college career technical education programs to Engineering bachelor’s degrees, the STAR program provides transfer students the support they need to navigate ​​the processes of transferring, selecting a major, and choosing a career in STEM fields. Learn more here.

We hope this series sparked ideas for centering students in higher education and setting them on  path to success. We hope you have been inspired to be a Leader Driving Changea champion for student equity and successno matter where you are. Now is the time to make meaningful changes for all California students, their families, and the future of our state. 

Is there a California higher education leader driving equitable change we should feature in a future spotlight? Let us know by emailing us at

Topics: Leadership