California Competes 10th Anniversary Celebration

March 1, 2022

On Tuesday, March 1, 2022, we celebrated a decade of igniting change across higher education and looked ahead to the next decade of advancing reforms that empower all Californians to achieve their education and career dreams.
Together with policymakers, higher education and business leaders, advocates, partners, and friends, we reflected on California Competes’s accomplishments, growth, and future trajectory.



James Kvaal

Under Secretary, US Dept. of Education

Full Bio:

James Kvaal was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Under Secretary on September 14, 2021. James Kvaal formerly was president of the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), a research and advocacy nonprofit dedicated to affordability and equity in higher education. TICAS is nationally recognized for its research and policy recommendations on student debt.

Kvaal served in the Obama Administration as the deputy domestic policy adviser at the White House and deputy undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education. He led efforts to cut student loan monthly payments, hold career colleges accountable for excessive debts, and make community colleges tuition-free. He helped organize the White House Summit on College Opportunity, which featured more than 100 college presidents and other leaders committing to actions to help more students graduate from college. He also has served in senior roles in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Kvaal taught at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, and graduated with honors from Stanford University and Harvard Law School.


Steven Choi

68th Assembly District

Dr. Steven Choi was elected to represent California’s 68th Assembly District in 2016. Dr. Choi began his career in public service when he was elected to the Irvine Unified School District Board of Education in 1998. He left that post in 2004 when he was elected to join the Irvine City Council, where he served for eight years before being elected Mayor of Irvine in 2012. In addition to his work as an elected official, Dr. Choi has served as a professor at a number of colleges and universities throughout Southern California. Dr. Choi has a bachelor’s degree from Kyung Hee University in South Korea, a master’s degree in Library Science from Louisiana State University, and a PhD in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Choi and his wife Janie live in Irvine where they raised their two children, Daniel and Michelle.


Jose Medina

61st Assembly District

Assemblymember Jose Medina was elected in November 2012 to represent California’s 61st Assembly District, which consists of Riverside, Moreno Valley, Perris, and Mead Valley. He currently serves as chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education.

Mr. Medina has been a steadfast voice for students, teachers, families, and the Inland Empire, championing legislation and securing funds for higher education, healthcare accessibility, affordable housing, the arts, and social justice. He authored AB 101, making California the first state to mandate Ethnic Studies as a high school graduation requirement.

Since his first term, Mr. Medina has secured $25 million in on-going funds to the UC Riverside School of Medicine, $9.7 million to support the development of the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture and Industry, $3.5 million for the development of the Mission Heritage Plaza, and $7 million to support the restoration and preservation of the Harada House.

Assemblymember Medina is a proud UC Riverside alumnus, with a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies, and a master’s degree in History. He has two adult children and two grandchildren. He currently resides in Riverside with his wife, Linda.


Kevin McCarty

7th Assembly District

Kevin McCarty was elected to the California State Assembly in 2014 to represent the 7th Assembly District, which includes Sacramento, West Sacramento and parts of unincorporated Sacramento County.

McCarty serves as Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, which oversees the largest component of California’s multi-billion dollar budget. As Chair, McCarty made historic investments in public education including expanding access to preschool for low and middle income families, providing greater career technical education programs, and increasing student enrollment at our public colleges and universities.

Other legislative priorities for Assemblymember McCarty include addressing housing affordability, fighting climate change, championing criminal justice reform, curbing gun violence, tackling the opioid crisis and advocating for the middle class.

McCarty began his public service career as a Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Commissioner and served on the Sacramento City Council from 2004 to 2014. As a Councilmember, he created innovative youth programs and wrote common-sense gun laws, tackled sub-standard rental housing, and crafted clean air policies. He created Sacramento’s Little Saigon district, the City’s Whistleblower Hotline program, and the Independent Auditor department.

A lifelong Sacramentan, McCarty went to local public schools, attended American River College, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from CSU Long Beach and a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from CSU Sacramento.

McCarty and his wife live in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Sacramento with their twin daughters.

John Laird

17th Senate District

John Laird was elected to the State Senate on November 3, 2020, carrying all four counties in the district with a combined margin of over 145,000 votes, and was sworn in to represent Senate District 17 on December 7, 2020. In the State Senate, Laird chairs and serves on a broad array of committees: Chair, Senate Budget Subcommittee #1 (Education), Vice Chair, Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Member, Appropriations Committee, Member, Budget & Fiscal Review Committee, Member, Joint Legislative Committee on Budget, Member, Judiciary Committee, Member, Labor, Public Employment & Retirement, Member, Natural Resources & Water Committee, Member, Rules Committee, Member, Joint Legislative Committee on Rules.

Prior to his Senate service, Laird served as Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency under Governor Jerry Brown from January 5, 2011 until January 7, 2019. Laird also served as a member of the State Integrated Waste Management Board from 2008 to 2009. In 2002, he was elected to the State Assembly to represent the 27th District, which included portions of Monterey, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties, and was reelected in 2004 and 2006. While serving the maximum three terms in the Assembly, Laird authored 82 bills that were signed into law.

Prior to serving in the State Assembly, Laird was an elected as a member of the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2002. In 1981, Laird was elected to the Santa Cruz City Council, and served nine years until term limits ended his council service in 1990. He was a two-term mayor from 1983 to 1984 and from 1987 to 1988, making him one of the first openly gay mayors to serve in the United States.

Laird has also served as executive director of the Santa Cruz AIDS Project, taught environmental policy at the University of California Santa Cruz, hosted a news talk program on KUSP public radio, and held analyst positions in budgeting and human resources for the County of Santa Cruz.

The son of teachers and raised in Vallejo, Laird graduated with honors in politics from the University of California – Santa Cruz in 1972. He has been a long-time resident of Santa Cruz with his spouse John Flores. He has traveled extensively, is fluent in Spanish, enjoys conducting family history research, and is a life-long Chicago Cubs fan.

Connie Leyva

20th Senate District

Reelected to represent the 20th State Senate District in 2018, Senator Connie Leyva is serving her second term in the California State Senate. The district includes the cities and communities of Bloomington, Chino, Colton, Fontana, Grand Terrace, Montclair, Muscoy, Ontario, Pomona, Rialto and San Bernardino.

As our State Senator, Senator Leyva is committed to improving California’s schools, environment and communities, as well as creating quality jobs throughout the 20th State Senate District and California. She firmly believes that California families benefit most when we invest in and help strengthen small businesses and other job drivers that create good paying jobs in our local communities.

Senator Leyva serves as Chair of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Democratic Caucus, as well as on the Business, Professions and Economic Development, Elections and Constitutional Amendments and Health committees. She also currently serves on the California Air Resources Board, as well as the Senate Select Committees on California-Mexico Cooperation, Manufactured Home Communities and Ports & Goods Movement.

A lifelong activist standing up for working people and families, Senator Leyva started working at her local Alpha Beta market as a senior in high school. She served as both Union Representative and President of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1428, helping grocery workers gain a stronger voice for fair wages and benefits. Following in that tradition of community service and action to improve the lives of others, she was elected in 2004 as the first woman President of the California Labor Federation, representing more than 2.1 million workers throughout the state.

In 2008, as then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama was days away from securing the Democratic Party nomination, Senator Leyva served on the Democratic National Committee Platform Drafting Committee. She was one of only twenty leaders selected to serve on this influential platform decision-making body.

Raised in Chino, Senator Leyva has lived in the Inland Empire since she was a small child. She attended local schools and graduated from the University of Redlands with a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders.

Senator Leyva and her husband Al, live in Chino and are the proud parents of adult twin daughters, Allie and Jessie.

Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh

23rd District

Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh is a native Californian and the daughter of Mexican immigrants and credits her family with teaching her personal responsibility, the value of an education and hard work and that home ownership is the cornerstone of the American Dream.

Ochoa Bogh is a graduate of San Bernardino High School and the University of California, Santa Barbara. She worked towards her teaching credential at the California State University, San Bernardino. She went on to teach English language learners at the elementary school level before becoming a real estate agent. She has been a proud Realtor for the past 18 years, helping others to achieve the American Dream. Ochoa Bogh served on the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District board and is a former board Chairwoman/President of the Yucaipa Valley Chamber of Commerce as well as a former board member of the East Valley Association of Realtors.

In November 2020, Ochoa Bogh was elected to represent the nearly one million people of California’s Senate District 23. The district includes all or portions of the following communities: Banning, Beaumont, Big Bear City, Big Bear Lake, Cedar Glen, Calimesa, Cherry Valley, Crestline, Homeland, Hemet, Highland, Lake Arrowhead, Loma Linda, Menifee, Mentone, Nuevo, Phelan, Pinon Hills, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, San Bernardino, San Jacinto, Wrightwood, and Yucaipa.

She has been appointed vice chair of the committees on Education; Banking & Financial Institutions; Labor, Public Employment & Retirement; and Public Safety. She is also a member of the committees on Budget & Fiscal Review; Business, Professions & Economic Development; and Housing.

Throughout her career, Bogh has been a champion for stronger schools, lower taxes, better infrastructure, and more affordable home prices. In the State Senate, she will work to lower the cost of living in California, support a strong economic recovery, preserve local control, and reverse the cycle of higher taxes and increased government intrusion.

Senator Ochoa Bogh and Greg Bogh, her husband of 24 years, live with their son, two daughters and a Cocker Spaniel named Penny in the city of Yucaipa.

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California Competes’s Past, Present, and Future

To reflect on California Competes’s decade of impact, Executive Director Dr. Su Jin Gatlin Jez speaks with four past leaders and alumni of the organization (Bob Shireman, Dr. Lande Ajose, Ria Bhatt, and Dr. Valerie Lundy-Wagner).

The Leaders that Guide Us

Showcasing some of the visionaries that set the direction for California Competes work in transforming the state’s higher education system into one that is a vehicle to shared prosperity.

elizabeth hill

Elizabeth Hill

aída álvarez

Aída Álvarez

Roger Niello


Meet the Leadership Council

Insights that Inspire Us

In celebration of our 10th anniversary, we engaged higher education and workforce leaders to share their insights on our shared goals and priorities and what they envision for the future of California’s higher education and workforce systems.

Us Department of Education
Under Secretary James Kvaal»

California Community Colleges
Chancellor Eloy Oakley»


Founding Director of The Center for
Urban Education (CUE) Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon»

Trusted by Decisionmakers Across the Higher Education Ecosystem

Related Research & Resources

California Competes and EdTrust-West joined forces to launch The California Alliance for Student Parent Success and unveiled its new website,, a single stop for all its endeavors to support student parent success in California. This site serves as an information hub for resources, advocacy efforts, and engagement opportunities, all aimed at fostering systemic change and empowering student parents along their educational journey. 
California Competes
Current Project
A user-friendly tool for identifying public benefits that students can leverage to make college more affordable.
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