Su Jin Gatlin Jez

A Message from Our Executive Director

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

For the past several weeks, I’ve sat down with policymakers, education leaders, partners, and other stakeholders to have meaningful conversations about some of the greatest challenges facing California higher education. What’s most striking is the spirit of collaboration and the growing momentum behind a broad range of initiatives to modernize postsecondary education in California. It’s certainly an exciting time to be the new executive director of an organization on the front lines of developing solutions that will allow more Californians to achieve, contribute, and succeed in today’s economy.

Higher education has empowered me to grow as a scholar, leader, and community member. I want all Californians to have this opportunity to reach their potential, regardless of their background or what life throws at them. As it is for many of you, this work is personal for me. As a first-generation college student, woman of color, daughter of an immigrant, and STEM major, I come to California Competes with a deep understanding of what it’s like to face systemic barriers while attempting to earn a degree. I think it’s fair to say many of today’s students have it even harder. They’re up against burgeoning income and wealth inequality, under-resourced institutions, and a growing basic needs crisis in our state.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue my listening tour as I gather a broad range of perspectives on our strengths and opportunities as an organization and collectively, as people who care passionately about California’s higher education, workforce, and economy. Fortunately, I have the benefit of building on the tremendous respect and recognition earned by California Competes’ past executive directors as well as drawing from the wisdom and passion of our Leadership Council and staff.

I look forward to connecting with many of you during my travels across the state and invite you to reach out with comments, ideas, and questions. Thank you for your attention to our progress and for your commitment to reimagining a 21st-century system of higher education for all Californians.

Sincerely,

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Su Jin Gatlin Jez, PhD
Executive Director 


About Dr. Jez

As Executive Director, Dr. Jez leads California Competes' work to develop nonpartisan and financially pragmatic recommendations for improved policies and practices in California higher education. 

She previously served as Associate Professor of Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Sacramento. She also served as the Director of the CSU Student Success Network.

Dr. Jez is an accomplished researcher whose work appears in a variety of publications including Teachers College Record, Education Policy Analysis Archives, Research in Higher Education, Community College Review, and Michigan Journal of Race & Law. She has presented across the country and internationally on key issues in higher education and systems change. 

She holds a PhD in administration and policy analysis and an MA in economics from Stanford University. She received a BA in statistics and a minor in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

What motivates you to advance California Competes' mission?

This work is deeply personal to me. My parents ended up in California after leaving challenging circumstances. As a first-generation college student in our state, I had the opportunity to grow as a person, scholar, and community member. The benefits of higher education have profoundly impacted my life. I want all Californians to have this opportunity to reach their potential, regardless of their background or what life throws at them. Moreover, as a state, we must make this happen if we want to grow, or even maintain, our state's standing as a world leader.