Dr. Darla M. Cooper is an educational leader and expert in research and evaluation dedicated to using inquiry, data, and evidence to improve the lives of all community college students. Dr. Cooper currently serves as the Executive Director for the Research and Planning Group for the California Community Colleges (RP Group). Dr. Cooper has worked in the California Community Colleges system for over 20 years, having previously held institutional research director positions at three colleges. She led Student Support (Re)defined, a landmark research project that examined what supports student success, and is currently co-directing Through the Gate, a research study that examines what happens with students who appear ready to transfer, but do not. Dr. Cooper has worked on other projects designed to promote student success including the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence and the American Association of Community Colleges’ (AACC) Pathways Project. Dr. Cooper also has direct experience assisting students in achieving their educational goals in her previous work at the University of Southern California as a director of research and information, student services counselor, and ombudsperson. She holds a BA in Psychology from the University of California, San Diego, and an MSEd and EdD from the University of Southern California.
Evan joined FACCC in 2012 as its Membership Director, was promoted to Associate Director in 2016, and named the association’s sixth Executive Director in 2019. As a graduate of Sierra College, he personally understands the life changing impact of community colleges because his educational experience was transformed by its faculty. During his time at FACCC, the association has successfully turned multiple bill ideas in law, including statutes that increased funding for student basic needs, created new emergency grants for students, and boosted retirement benefits for faculty.
Before joining FACCC, Evan served as the Executive Director for the Democratic Party of Sacramento County and as a consultant for membership associations. Additionally, he has worked on numerous legislative and local political campaigns and served in leadership positions with political clubs and organizations in Sacramento.
He received an Associate’s Degree in Social Science from Sierra College, a Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies from the University of California at Berkeley, and a Master’s Degree in Government from California State University, Sacramento. Evan recently earned his Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential.
Dr. Lande Ajose
Dr. Lande Ajose is the Senior Policy Advisor for Higher Education for Governor Gavin Newsom. She is responsible for developing and shaping the Governor’s higher education policy agenda, which is focused on protecting college affordability, preserving college access, and increasing system efficiency in order to meet the state’s need for a skilled and educated workforce. Prior to this appointment, she served as executive director of California Competes, a nonpartisan, nonprofit project that develops and advocates on behalf of policies to equitably boost California’s postsecondary degree attainment. Her experience in higher education spans college admissions at Vassar College, education and workforce development funding at the James Irvine Foundation, and research and evaluation at MDRC, where she managed a comprehensive evaluation of the Achieving the Dream Initiative. An ardent advocate for college affordability, in 2014 she was appointed to the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) by Governor Jerry Brown and served as chair for two years until her resignation in May 2019. She has served on boards of the Institute of College Access and Success (TICAS), the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) and, until her appointment to the Governor’s office, she was a WASC Senior College and University Commissioner. She currently serves on the advisory committee for the Higher Education Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California and on the Board of Trustees at Occidental College. A graduate of Occidental, she earned her master’s degree from the School of Public Affairs at UCLA and holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was recently awarded an honorary doctorate from her alma mater.
Dr. Portia Jackson Preston
Portia Jackson Preston, DrPH, MPH is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health at California State University, Fullerton. Her research focuses on multilevel approaches to self-care, and stress as a driver of health inequity. Her recent projects examine stress and coping practices among university staff and undergraduate students. She has published previously on professional quality of life, well-being, and self-care practices among university staff serving high-need student populations, and the role of organizations in mitigating workforce burnout. She speaks widely on individual and organization level strategies to promote well-being and sustainable performance. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, her Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and her Doctorate of Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles.