Proud recipients of University of San Diego’s Kaleidoscope Award for Exceptional Governance.
Scott Grimes, Chair
Scott Grimes is Vice President of Endangered Habitats Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that promotes the conservation of wildlife habitat and open space in Southern California. The Conservancy owns and manages more than 7,000 acres of conserved open space. He is the author of three books, as well as book chapters and papers on policy issues related to urbanization, community development and regionalism. Grimes holds a Bachelors degree from UCLA and a Masters in International Public Policy from UC San Diego.
Rudy Vargas, Vice Chair
Rudy is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Price Philanthropies Foundation. Rudy uses his experience to leverage community resilience, government, and philanthropy in order to make a bigger impact in City Heights. Prior to joining Price, Rudy served as a representative to US Senators Kamala D. Harris and Alex Padilla. As Border Affairs and District Director for the San Diego and Imperial counties, he led district operations and engagement throughout the distinct communities in the region. He had the opportunity to serve in the Senate after several years of working at the San Diego City Council. As Councilmember Marti Emerald’s representative to City Heights, Rudy worked alongside City staff and community leaders to steer multi-million dollar projects which included parks, a new fire station, and the first skate park. Rudy has also worked at a number of local non-profits providing resources to some of our most underrepresented communities. Rudy serves as Vice-Chair of the Ocean Discovery Institute Board of Directors, is the Immediate Past President of the City Heights Rotaract Club, and enjoys photography and cycling. He holds degrees in Political Science and Environmental Studies from San Diego State University.
Kurt Gering, Secretary
Kurt Gering is Executive Vice President of Human Resources at National Funding. With over 20 years of experience in organizational development, he has expertise in workforce planning, performance management, individual development, and succession planning. He holds certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR-CA). Prior to National Funding, Gering served as the Director of Talent Culture & Capability for the San Diego Country Regional Airport Authority, Vice President of Organizational Development & Training at GreatCall, Inc., and as Director of the Master of Science in Executive Leadership at the University of San Diego. He holds a M.B.A from the University of San Diego and a M.Ed. from the University of Minnesota.
Mindy Dominek, Treasurer
Mindy is an Audit Managing Director in the Investment Management group at Deloitte & Touche LLP, with over 23 years of experience. Mindy has served a wide variety of investment management clients, including private equity funds, hedge funds and investment advisors as well as broker-dealers, banks and fintech organizations.
In addition to financial statement audits, Mindy also has experience with IPO’s, readiness and examinations of internal controls over financial reporting under Sarbanes-Oxley 404, service auditor reports for broker-dealers and investment fund administration (SSAE 18 attestations), and custody exams.
Mindy spent five years in Deloitte National Office as part of the Internal Inspections group leading the inspections of asset management engagements across the firm. She currently serves as a deputy Investment Management Professional Practice Director in the West Region, providing support to audit professionals around all aspects of audit quality.
Bachelor of Science – Accounting from the University of San Diego Certified Public Accountant (California)
Drew Auker is a broker associate at Ascent Real Estate in San Diego. With over 10 years experience in the real estate industry, Drew remains the top-performing individual agent at Ascent and has been ranked in the top 1% of all REALTORS® in San Diego County for the last three years.His expertise lies in business planning, investment strategy, and relationship marketing. Drew attributes most of his success to building solid foundations within his community to create advocates for his business. As such, nearly 95% of Drew’s business comes from referrals. While his relationships span the county, Drew primarily focuses his attention on developing partnerships and representing clients the San Diego metro area neighborhoods including City Heights, North Park, Kensington, Mission Hills, South Park, Hillcrest and University Heights. “Relationships first. Then real estate.” – Drew Auker
Carolina Barraza has been involved with Ocean Discovery Institute since 2004 and is a program graduate. She grew up a City Heights’ resident and understands first hand the work of Ocean Discovery. Barraza worked full time for the organization for 3 years leading Events and Communications which included marketing materials, and public relations such as television, radio, and print. She joined the team full-time in 2011 and during her time, successfully executed several events to engage community members and supporters, including a black tie annual fundraising gala that raises one-third of the organization’s annual budget. She had six years of experience prior, working part-time coordinating Ocean Discovery after-school and summer programs. Barraza speaks English and Spanish. She holds a B.A. in International Relations and Latin American Studies from CSU Chico and a Masters of Science in Homeland Security. She is currently a Marketing Consultant in downtown San Diego.
Heather Bentley is a drug development professional, and neighbor, volunteer, and long-time supporter of Ocean Discovery Institute. As the former head of Program Management at Neurocrine Biosciences and the current Executive Director, Franchise Team Lead – Epilepsy, she specializes in integrated program planning under conditions of uncertainty and optimizing teams for next-level results. She began her career in medical research at UCSD, and over the past 20+ years has contributed to the development of approved drugs for Parkinson’s, gout, and various pain disorders. She is an active member of Athena San Diego and a champion for diversity and inclusion in biotech.
Heather holds a B.A. in Spanish from the University of California, Riverside, and a Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute.
Theodore J. Griswold
Ted Griswold is a partner with the law firm of Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, LLP, and chairs the firm’s Native American Practice Group. His practice emphasizes natural resource, wetlands, habitat planning, Native American law, intergovernmental agreements, and environmental land use issues. A former research scientist, he has been practicing environmental law in southern California since 1992 and is involved with civil and community benefit organizations throughout San Diego County.
Stewart A. Halpern
Stewart has a broad business background with over 30 years of experience as the top financial executive of companies such as San Diego-based Mad Catz Interactive, videogame publisher Rock Star Games, and entertainment entrepreneur Russell Simmons’ Rush Communications, along with extensive Wall Street experience as a sell side equity analyst and investment banker.
Currently he is independently advising a number of private companies on strategic, financial and operational matters while also serving as the Chairman of the SANDAG TransNet Independent Taxpayers’ Oversight Committee, a member of the Board of Directors and Chairman of the Audit and Investment Committees of the Himalayan Cataract Project, Treasurer of the Board of Directors of San Diego Coastkeeper, Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Free Flight Exotic Bird Sanctuary and a member of the Board of Directors of America’s Finest Charter School.
Stewart earned a Bachelor of Sciences degree from Yale College and a Master’s degree from the Yale School of Management. He currently resides in La Jolla.
John E. Johns
Now retired, John was the principal and president of Providence Marketing Corp. His company provided strategic counsel, marketing, and advertising services to select companies and organizations that include SCJ Johnson, ITW, Jarden Corporation, Hill and Knowlton, The American Film Institute, and National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He is the co-founder of New West Products, Inc., a consumer products company that was acquired by ITW. Prior to moving to San Diego, John was Publisher and Editorial Director of East/West Network in Los Angeles. During this time, he was Adjunct Professor in the USC School of Journalism and served on the Advisory Counsel for the Long Beach University School of Journalism. He has served as Interim Chairman of Camp Ronald McDonald and Vice President of Southern California Children’s Cancer Services. A graduate of Brown University, John currently serves on the boards of Ocean Discovery Institute and The Educate a Child Trust (Sri Lanka) and the Advisory Board of Children and Nature Network.
Tara Marathe is an executive leader and life-long STEM advocate with broad experience in organizational strategy and communications in the academic, nonprofit, and private sectors.
She most recently served as VP, Chief of Staff at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, spearheading strategic and operational initiatives in support of the organization’s mission to advance scientific discoveries to clinical breakthroughs for patients. Prior to SBP, she worked at the National Math and Science Initiative where she was responsible for leading communications, branding, and public policy strategy to improve student access and achievement in STEM. Her past roles include serving as an editor at the journal Science and helping to research and write an award-winning book about the history of health care quality improvement at Baylor Health Care System.
Tara holds a B.A. in Biology with a concentration in cell and molecular biology and biochemistry from Colby College and an M.S. in marine and environmental science from the University of Maryland.
Daniel McClellan, Captain, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret.), serves as an International Consultant advising clients on policy and strategy, organizational leadership and maritime affairs. While living and working abroad, he has supported consulting projects to improve national preparedness and response to a broad spectrum of maritime and organizational risks. During his 27 years of distinguished service with the U.S. Coast Guard, he served as Chief, Office of Strategic Analysis, and as Commander of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, supporting maritime security operations. He was selected to lead the development of the nation’s first National Strategy for Maritime Security and served as the U.S. Coast Guard representative to the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Interagency Ocean Policy Group. Captain McClellan holds a B.S. in Government from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, a M.S./MBA from Johns Hopkins University, and served as a National Security Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Jessica Mier is Deputy Chief of Staff to Congresswoman Sara Jacobs where she oversees all staff and field operations of her district office while supporting the Congresswoman’s activities in Washington, DC. Among her many responsibilities, Jessica serves as the lead on immigration and refugee policy. Prior to joining Team Jacobs, Jessica was the District Director for Congresswoman Susan Davis.
Jessica has over 15 years of public service experience with various levels of government. She is involved with various political and civic organizations in the San Diego region, including Chair of MANA de San Diego’s Membership Committee, Secretary of the Stonewall Citizens’ Patrol and a member of the League of Woman Voters.
Jessica is a graduate of Sacramento State University. During her personal time, she enjoys spending time at home with her husband and their cat, Lady Kitty Bumpkin.
Dr. Noelle Norton
Noelle Norton, PhD, was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2013. Norton joined the University of San Diego faculty in 1994, and had previously served as associate dean, co-director of USD’s Living Learning Communities program and director of the Honors Program while maintaining her faculty role in the Department of Political Science and International Relations. Under her leadership, the College of Arts and Sciences is addressing the advancement of liberal arts at USD; revising its core curriculum; creating new interdisciplinary programs; and implementing new methods for including adjunct faculty in the USD community.
Norton has been published in the journals Congress and the Presidency, Political Research Quarterly; Policy Studies Journal; Legislative Studies Quarterly; Women and Politics; Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences; Policy Studies; and two edited volumes, Gender, Power, Leadership and Governance (Kelly/Duerst-Lahti, 1995) and Women Transforming Congress (Rosenthal, 2003). She is also the author of Creating Gender: The Sexual Politics of Welfare Policy with Georgia Duerst-Lahti and Cathy Johnson (Lynn Reinner Press, 2007). Norton is co-authoring a paper and edited volume on U.S. congressional handling of international women’s rights legislation.
Claudia Rodriguez is a first-generation college graduate from City Heights and Ocean Leader since 2004. She is currently Director of College Access for College Avenue Compact, a unique partnership with Price Philanthropies, San Diego State University, and San Diego Unified School District for guaranteed admission to SDSU for Hoover cluster students. With over 9 years of experience in college access and youth development, she has expertise in program development, public speaking, project management, college/career coaching, and community engagement. Prior college access work includes a GEAR UP partnership grant, Ocean Discovery Institute’s Leaders Initiative, and UC Berkeley’s Center for Educational Partnerships. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley and supports admission efforts seasonally as an Alumni Ambassador.
Jasmine Sanders is a climate scientist, strategist, advocate, and native of Monroe, Louisiana. She is the Executive Director of Our Climate, a climate change advocacy organization energized by its youth grassroots movement. Striving to raise awareness of the intersecting effects of climate change and the communities of color who are disproportionately affected, she utilizes the positivity that results from uplifting our youth to make a global impact. Guided by her southern roots and seeing the impact of climate change on the Gulf Coast, Jasmine has been a passionate, environmental advocate for over a decade. Prior to her appointment as Executive Director of Our Climate, she managed the strategic initiatives and special projects for HIAS, an $80million international refugee rights protection agency, operating in 16 different countries with over 900 employees. Her passion for environmental issues and keen academic aptitude in the sciences and mathematics won her the coveted internship with the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee and a policy fellowship with Terpstra Associates, a DC lobbying firm where she advocated on Capitol Hill for agricultural and environmental issues. She holds a graduate degree from the University of Essex with an MSc in Tropical Marine Biology. Specializing in climate change, her graduate thesis detailed the Shifts in the Genetic Composition of three DMS-consuming cnidarians. Ms. Sanders is a graduate from the University of South Alabama with a BS in Biology and a minor in Spanish. She currently resides in Washington, DC.
Vanessa Sandoval grew up in City Heights, first joining Ocean Discovery in 2005 when she participated in the Bahia Program. She has been involved ever since as a staff member, volunteer, and Ocean Leader Alum. Her involvement sparked a passion for nature, conserving aquatic habitats, and improving the quality of life in underprivileged communities.
Vanessa attended Mira Mesa Community College then transferred to UCSD, where she majored in Urban Studies and Planning. Afterward, Vanessa lived in Anchorage, Alaska where she worked as a Planner at Kuna Engineering (formerly WHPacific, Inc.) and worked with native tribes in the Arctic and Southwest to develop transportation and regional energy plans. Vanessa currently works as an Environmental Planner for the City of San Diego, where she manages several wetland restoration projects and procures environmental permits for stormwater maintenance projects.
Sean Caddell is a Luxury Property Specialist with Willis Allen Real Estate in Del Mar. In addition, he utilizes his interior design and architectural talents to offer his clients full service home consulting. Caddell graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A in Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising
Trestand “Tres” Conrique is an entrepreneur, business strategist, executive coach and affiliate professor with over 35 years demonstrated performance in leadership of global entrepreneurial business and not for profit organizations.
Through his engagements as a company founder, principal, executive officer, executive coach and director in varied industry, university, educational and nonprofit environments, Tres blends relevant intercultural, strategic, tactical, behavioral, and experiential learning approaches to deliver results.
Currently, Tres is a strategic business consultant and affiliate faculty at the University of San Diego in the School of Business, University of Grenoble – IAE Graduate School of Management and CETYS University Mexico. Conrique serves as a director for the University of San Diego School of Business and Ocean Discovery Institute. Formerly has served on the Board of Directors of California State University San Marcos Foundation, California State University San Diego Entrepreneurial Management Center, Oakland East Bay Leadership Foundation, and Junior Achievement Oakland and San Diego – all organizations that focus on instilling valuable skills in stakeholders to be an authentic leader. Tres holds a B.S. in Accountancy and earned an M.S. in Executive Leadership from the University of San Diego.
A leader with private, public and nonprofit sector experience, Ileana currently works for the Google team at Alphabet, Inc. Ovalle has held several management positions at Google Fiber, Cox, San Diego Grantmakers, and at the cities of San Diego and Encinitas. As a bilingual business & community leader, she is committed to abundant and pervasive technology and access for our communities and families. Ovalle is an avid volunteer in education, diversity and the environment. She has served long term commitments on the board of Ocean Discovery Institute, Junior Achievement, South County Economic Development Council, Board of Governors of The San Diego Foundation and as an appointed Library Commissioner by the Mayor of San Diego. Ileana attended San Diego State University, University of San Diego and has a certificate in Fundraising and Development from the University of CA, San Diego.
Scott Pearson is Director of Environmental Services for San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), where he is responsible for overall leadership and direction to the Environmental Services organization. This organization is responsible for environmental regulatory compliance, including regulations related to the protection of air and water quality. Prior to accepting this role, he served for four years as Senior Environmental Counsel in the Law Department for Sempra Energy, the corporate parent to SDG&E. Overall, he has practiced for thirteen years as an environmental attorney. Pearson holds a B.S. in Business and Management from the University of Redlands, and a juris doctor degree from the UCLA School of Law.
Clifford has been a financial executive for the past 25 years and is a Financial Advisor in Rancho Santa Fe, assisting clients in their personal, business, family and philanthropic, financial planning needs. Early in his career he grew a small food processing company into a nationwide company. His background includes; Private Banking, Investments, Mortgage Lending, Commercial Banking, Financial Modeling, Business Valuation, Trust and Retirement Planning. Clifford earned his BS BA from Roosevelt University in Chicago and has and resided in Olivenhain, California for 20 years. He has also served in prominent volunteer positions at Greyhounds as Pets, taught business planning to graduate engineering students at UNM, participated in technology transfer at Sandia National Labs business incubator, was Past President of NM Entrepreneurs Association and also involved in Cancer Research fund raising. Clifford Schneider is Series 7 licensed, Series 66 licensed, and holds insurance license #0I44549.
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