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2018 Speakers

Emerald ArcherEmerald Archer, PhD

Emerald Archer, PhD, is the director of the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary’s University. She has dedicated her career to studying questions related to gender equity and women’s representation in non-traditional domains such as the United States military. Through the Center, Archer's primary goal is to promote and increase gender equity in California and our region. She leads the Center's efforts related to applied research, education and policy analysis. She holds a PhD in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Karen BassKaren Bass

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass was elected to her fourth term representing the 37th Congressional District in November 2016. Rep. Bass serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where she is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Africa. She was selected by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to serve on the prestigious Steering and Policy Committee, which sets the policy direction of the Democratic Caucus, as Organization, Study and Review Chair. Rep. Bass also plays a leadership role in the Congressional Black Caucus, where she serves as second vice-chair for the 115th Congress. Prior to serving in Congress, she made history as the first African-American woman to serve as Speaker of the California Assembly. In this powerful state legislative role, she helped California to recover from its greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Cecilia CabelloCecilia Cabello

Cecilia Cabello is chief of staff to Los Angeles city controller Ron Galperin. She joined the controller's office from the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, where as director of government relations she was responsible for the union's political and governmental relations in Los Angeles County. She was tapped as Hillary for America's California state director during the 2016 general campaign and California deputy political director for the 2016 primary campaign. Cabello was previously Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's director of intergovernmental relations. She also served as Garcetti's senior legislative deputy during his three terms on the L.A. City Council and long tenure as council president. Cabello is a veteran public policy and political expert whose previous roles include vice president at Mercury Public Affairs, chief political advisor to the Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, and special projects manager for then-U.S. Rep. Hilda L. Solis. Cabello currently serves on the boards of Avance Democratic Club, Latino Victory and Equality California. She is a graduate of Columbia University.

Zaira CedanoZaira Cedano

Zaira Cedano has a BA in political science and a MA in health policy and management from Mount Saint Mary's University. Most recently, Cedano worked for the Congressional Leadership Fund as the Los Angeles County field director for California's 25th Congressional District (Rep. Steve Knight). She has worked on a number of political campaigns including for Meg Whitman, Neel Kashkari and David Hadley. Cedano was previously the chair of the 59th AD Committee, where she actively volunteered in recruiting and assisting local candidates and fundraising. Over the years, she has helped the Republican Party of Los Angeles County in voter registration, staffing new citizen ceremonies and community engagement. In addition, she is currently the executive director of the LAGOP. Cedano has been politically active in Los Angeles County for a number of years, and will continue her political engagement as she reaches out to diverse areas in the county.

Danielle CendejasDanielle Cendejas

Danielle Cendejas is a political strategist and board member of Latinas Lead California. She is the senior vice president at The Strategy Group, a national political consulting and direct mail firm. She works with candidates on their campaign strategy and manages the development and execution of direct mail programs and campaign plans. She has also created direct mail, most notably for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Congressman Pete Aguilar, Congressman Salud Carbajal, and California's 'No on Prop 32' campaign. Prior to joining The Strategy Group, Cendejas was a field organizer and delegate tracker for Obama for America in 2008, worked in the California State Legislature and on a congressional campaign. She graduated with her BA from Gonzaga University in 2004.

Tori ChicaTori Chica

As a vice president of Cerrell’s Campaigns & Issues Management practice area, Tori Chica specializes in strategic communications, campaign management, stakeholder engagement and media relations for private and public sector clients. With more than a decade of political campaign and public policy experience, Chica has played a game-changing role on numerous campaigns nationwide and excels in crafting messages that resonate with target audiences. Prior to joining Cerrell Associates, Chica was lead manager of the Strategic Research Department for President Barack Obama’s successful reelection campaign in 2012. She was a key player in developing proven opposition communication messages for use in both earned and paid media. She has also worked in U.S. Senate offices and on the reelection campaigns of two U.S. senators, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. She serves as director of operations on the board of the National Women’s Political Caucus – LA Westside Chapter. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with a BA in political communications.

Myrka DellanosMyrka Dellanos

With over a decade in front of the camera, Myrka Dellanos, is a two-time Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist who has gained credibility and the love of millions in the United States and Latin America. Dellanos graduated with a BA in broadcast journalism from the University of Miami with a double minor in Spanish and music. She became known internationally as the anchor of Univision Network’s highest-rated news magazine program, Primer Impacto, where she covered important news events around the globe. She also hosted her own primetime interview show titled “Exclusively with Myrka Dellanos.” She is the recipient of three ACE Awards; two Emmys for reporting and writing; and she was honored as an Outstanding Young Woman of America and is part of the Who’s Who among Hispanics in the United States. A dedicated humanitarian, she founded the nonprofit organization mROC (Missions Reaching Out Compassionately), whose mission is to help underprivileged women and children in South Florida and Latin America.

Caroline EdwardsCaroline Edwards

Caroline Edwards is a producer and creative executive who, using her expertise in entertainment, works to employ the full influencing power of the entertainment industry towards political activism. Before the presidential election of 2016, Edwards worked on projects for SKY, Discovery Channel, Warner Bros television, Endemol Shine studios and Time Inc. In 2016, energized by the first major party nomination of a woman and recognizing the critical stakes at play, Edwards pressed pause on her career in Hollywood to work for the Clinton campaign in Virginia, where she served as a regional Get Out the Vote director in a crucial swing state. Now at ICM Partners as the creative director of the Politics Department, she works with top creatives, activism organizations and politicians to effect policy change and bolster advocacy and engagement throughout Hollywood. Additionally, Edwards is a co-founder of The Next Collective: a political organization for women in their 20s & 30s that is a subsidiary of the L.A. Women’s Collective, a local Los Angeles PAC that helps elect Democratic women to higher office.

Elizabeth EspinosaElizabeth Espinosa

Elizabeth Espinosa is an Emmy Award-winning television personality who was named by The Hollywood Reporter as one of "Hollywood’s Most Powerful Latino Talent Under 40 in the Entertainment Industry." She was also handpicked by Oprah Winfrey to join the network's first reality TV show in 2011. Espinosa is also the first Latina on KFI-640 AM's weekday lineup, the number one talk radio station in the country. Listeners can tune in to KFI to hear “Sunday Mornings with Elizabeth Espinosa” from 6-8 a.m. She also continues to report for KTLA-5's morning and primetime newscasts. Espinosa was also a co-host of "Studio SoCal" weekly in depth news analysis talk show on PBS SoCal. She has also held past hosting roles on her own CNN primetime daily talk show Sin Limites, the San Diego FOX affiliate, Univision’s flagship Los Angeles station, KMEX 34, FOX 11‘s “Good Day LA,” and as the national correspondent for “Good Day LIVE.” Politicians, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, California State Senator Gil Cedillo and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have all honored Espinosa for her contributions to the community and to humanity.

Filla-PhotoJackie A. Filla, PhD

Jackie A. Filla, PhD, is an associate professor of political science in the History & Political Science Department at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Her research interests include state and local politics, direct democracy and women’s representation in local government. Filla spearheads programming for the University’s annual Ready to Run™ nonpartisan campaign training for women. Prior to coming to Mount Saint Mary's, she was an assistant professor and faculty affiliate at the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Penn. She has been awarded grants from the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation and the Women and Girls Foundation and has been published in Urban Affairs Review and State and Local Government Review.

Ilissa GoldIlissa Gold

Ilissa Gold is a labor relations representative for the California School Employees Association, representing classified public school employees in the Torrance, Redondo Beach, and Palos Verdes Peninsula school districts. She previously worked as the legislative analyst for the California Contract Cities Association, responsible for advising member cities of pending legislation in California and in Los Angeles County that would impact them, and prior to that as the southwest associate regional director for J Street, the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans, where she worked with JStreetPAC-endorsed candidates for Congress from the Southwest region. She is the president and founder of the Miracle Mile Democratic Club and is one of the youngest Democratic Club presidents in all of Los Angeles County, and was also elected to the Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee from Assembly District 50 in 2016. In 2018, she was appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to the City of Los Angeles Central Area Planning Commission. A native of Nashville, Tenn., Gold received her BA in government from Cornell University and her JD from Washington University.

Erica JacquezErica Jacquez, PhD

An accomplished government relations expert with more than 18 years of experience, Erica Jacquez, PhD, is the executive in charge of government affairs at the Directors Guild of America. Previously, she worked in various federal, state and local government relations roles. She was appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010 to serve as the intergovernmental affairs and public engagement liaison between the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Congress and the public nationwide. She later served as a legislative analyst in the executive office of the President, Office of Management and Budget’s Legislative Affairs. She also worked for L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina as the 1st district field and unincorporated services director. In 2015, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed her to the City of Los Angeles’ Housing Authority and Health commissions. She also serves as a board member of the Honor PAC and Latinas Leads California. Erica earned a PhD in policy, planning and development and an MA degree in public administration with an emphasis in political management, both from the University of Southern California. She also is a graduate of Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Executive Leadership Program and the Center for Creative Leadership. 

Kyung Lah Kyung Lah

Kyung Lah is a senior national correspondent for CNN based in Los Angeles. Lah returned to CNN U.S. from CNN International in 2012. She has broken and covered a number of stories in both of her roles with the network. Lah traveled to Malaysia and Australia to cover missing flight MH370, and to Japan to cover the historic ambassadorship of Caroline Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of her father's assassination. Lah exclusively interviewed serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin shortly before he was executed on death row, as well as a number of alleged sexual harassment victims of former U.S. Rep. Bob Filner. Before rejoining CNN U.S., Lah served as the Tokyo correspondent for CNN. In March 2011, Lah was in Tokyo as the 9.0 earthquake struck Japan. She remained in Japan covering the 15,000 killed in the tsunami and the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years at the Fukushima nuclear power plant triple meltdown. Lah has reported extensively throughout East Asia, reporting stories of conflict and human struggle from China, Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia and Pakistan. Lah previously served as a national correspondent for CNN Newsource based out of Washington, D.C. She joined CNN Newsource from KNBC-Los Angeles, where she served as a morning news reporter for Today in L.A. and as a midday anchor. Prior to that, Lah was a reporter in Chicago at the CBS affiliate, WBBM. Lah also worked as a general assignment and longform investigative reporter at ABC affiliate KGTV in San Diego, where she won a regional Emmy for specialty reporting. Lah graduated with honors from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

Connie LeyvaConnie Leyva

Sen. Connie Leyva was elected to the 20th State Senate District in 2014. Prior, Sen. Leyva was elected as the first woman to be president of the California State Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, representing more than 2.1 million workers throughout the state. She is committed to getting California working again, with schools, jobs and opportunities that provide every family and community with the chance to prosper. She runs a fundraising drive coordinated with local Stater Bros stores that have helped raise more than $1.2 million for leukemia research. She partnered with the United Way to open a food pantry that has been a helping hand to nearly 4,000 people during the economic downturn. For more than 15 years she has helped thousands of needy children through the Shoes That Fit program and Kingsley Elementary. Sen. Leyva is the current vice chair of the California Legislative Women's Caucus.

Sonya LogmanSonya Logman

Sonya Logman has served as deputy secretary of business and consumer relations at the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH) since 2015. BCSH is charged with overseeing eleven state departments comprised of over 5,500 state employees and $2.0 billion dollars in annual expenditures. For more than a decade, Logman has dedicated her career to public service in various state-wide offices within the executive branch. Prior to her current role, she served as director of external affairs at the California Exposition and State Fair, where she contributed to the operation of the 750-acre state owned facility located in Sacramento. Logman served as deputy appointments secretary in the Office of Gov. Jerry Brown from 2011 to 2013. From 2006 to 2010, she served four administrations in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor as capitol director, fiscal analyst, administrative assistant and intern. Logman currently serves as a board member of Close the Gap CA, a campaign to increase the number of progressive women serving in the California Legislature.

Holly MitchellHolly J. Mitchell

Sen. Holly J. Mitchell has served in California’s Legislature since 2011 and was elected in 2014 to represent the 30th Senate District. Sen. Mitchell, who focuses on reducing poverty, chairs budget subcommittee No. 3 on Health & Human Services. She is also a member of the Senate’s governing body, the Rules Committee, and serves on the Health, Insurance and Labor committees. She founded the Senate Select Committee on Women and Inequality, and is a member of the Democratic, Black and Women’s caucuses. She previously represented the 47th and 54th Districts in the Assembly, where she chaired the budget subcommittee on Health & Human Services, as well as the Select Committee on Foster Youth. Previously, she was a field deputy in the Los Angeles district office of State Sen. Diane Watson. As a policy analyst for the California Senate's Health and Human Services Committee she sought fiscally sound ways to expand vital services. As legislative advocate of the Western Center for Law and Poverty she helped develop the Healthy Families program, later serving as executive director of the Black Women's Health Project in Los Angeles. As the chief executive officer of Crystal Stairs for seven years prior to taking public office, she championed statewide family-focused policymaking. Senator Mitchell seeks to improve the quality and accessibility of the state's health and education systems. She focuses on job creation and balancing business, human and environmental needs to expand economic opportunity while protecting natural resources.

Veronica PadillaVeronica Padilla

Veronica Padilla joined Pacoima Beautiful as deputy director in April 2010 and became the executive director in July 2013. Padilla graduated from UCLA with a BA in geography/environmental studies in 2003 and in 2006 received a MA in urban planning from UCLA. Her experience includes private sector and non-profit work including environmental consulting, GIS mapping, and government sector work for the Los Angeles Housing Department. She is also a City of Los Angeles Planning Commissioner. As an urban planner, she works to develop a community of leaders. Her goal is to improve the welfare of people by creating equitable, healthy and safer communities now and for the future.

Celestine PalmerCelestine Palmer

Celestine Palmer is president emeritus and founder of the Los Angeles African American Women’s political action committee (LAAAWPAC); founder of Los Angeles African American Women’s Public Policy Institute (LAAAWPPI); and co-founder of Women Building for the Future political action committee. LAAAWPAC is committed to promoting candidates to public office and supporting issues that address the concerns of the African-American community by contributing financial resources and using collective voices for political impact. The LAAAWPPI is a 10-week intensive training program for African-American women, and was created as a separate nonpartisan and nonprofit foundation. Palmer became actively involved in the political process as a member of her Los Angeles Teacher’s Union when elected to the House of Representatives and delegate to conventions. In the California State Democratic Party, she served as vice chair and chairperson of the California Democratic Party’s Women’s Caucus.

Alice PetrossianAlice Petrossian, PhD

Alice Petrossian immigrated to the United States at the age of nine and did not speak any English. She entered public schools in Los Angeles and graduated from California State University of Los Angeles majoring in speech and drama. She went on to receive multiple teaching and administrative credentials, a masters degree in education administration and completed her course work towards a PhD in educational policy at the University of Southern California. Petrossian is currently the president of the Los Angeles County Commission for Women. She retired from the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) as chief academic officer/deputy superintendent. Prior to joining PUSD, she served in multiple administrative positions in Glendale Unified School District, including 10 years as the assistant superintendent of educational services. Throughout her 44-year career, Petrossian has been an educational leader and advocate for all students. She has continuously volunteered in organizations, especially those involving women's and children’s causes. 

Mona SanchezMona Sanchez

Mona Sanchez has been professionally fundraising in Los Angeles for more than 11 years. She previously ran a successful business hosting events for celebrities, athletes, individuals and nonprofits. After college she became an elder care advocate working with individuals to help them navigate the care process with private companies and the veterans administration. In 2007, she seamlessly transitioned her skills in event planning and government relations background into fundraising. While with Niko Consulting she was able to raise millions of dollars in numerous state and local races. Three years ago, she moved into a partnership with Nicole Ward and they started W&S Consulting Group. Together, they have proven to be a strong and successful force in the world of political and nonprofit fundraising.


Naomi SeligmanNaomi Seligman

Naomi Seligman transforms talented people and organizations into powerhouses of influence. Her hard-hitting strategies have put clients on the map for over 20 years, in a career spanning both coasts and the very different worlds of Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. She has led hugely successful local, state and national campaigns for advocacy organizations, elected officials, writers, tech innovators and entertainment industry luminaries, through robust partnerships, cutting-edge tactics, creative marketing and media buzz. Seligman is the co-founder of Tower26, a strategic communications and public affairs agency. She is the former director of communications for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. She created and led a national social action and entertainment campaign for "INOCENTE," the 2013 Oscar-winner for Best Documentary Short at the Academy Awards and led the communications efforts for the Global Survivors Network on the 2011 Oscar-nominated short documentary, "Killing in the Name." She launched the ‘Rebuild The Dream’ Campaign Tour with Van Jones and Shepard Fairey. Seligman has been featured in media including CNN, NPR, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Julie StrombergJulie C. Stromberg

Julie C. Stromberg is a civil litigator with extensive experience litigating matters in state and federal courts. She serves on several board of directors, including Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Los Angeles City College Foundation, Miracle Mile Democratic Club, Democratic Club of the San Fernando Valley, and National Women’s Political Caucus. A 2015 graduate of the Emerge California inaugural Southern California class, Stromberg also serves on the Board of Advisors for Equality California, the Council District 4 Discretionary Funds Task Force, and is an elected Board Member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (“GWNC”), where she founded the GWNC Sustainability Committee. In 2015, Stromberg was appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve on the Community Forest Advisory Committee. Last, in 2017, she was appointed by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (AD 50) to serve as a delegate to the California Democratic Party.

Cheryl TurnerCheryl Turner

Cheryl Turner is a trial lawyer and transactional attorney who earned her BA and JD degrees from the University of Southern California. For over 20 years, she’s managed her own legal practice with an emphasis on business, tax, insurance, real estate, transportation and construction law. She was recently appointed by California Gov. Jerry Brown to the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians where she works to ensure that only qualified persons are licensed vocational nurses and psychiatric technicians. Prior to her appointment, Turner was selected by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve on the Los Angeles Convention and Exhibition Center Authority as a commissioner where she eventually rose to the rank of vice president. She is the current chair of the legal committee of the 21-member board of directors of the Apartment Owner’s Association of Los Angeles County. Turner also serves on the board of the FAME Santa Monica Redevelopment Corporation, which develops, constructs and manages senior housing projects in the City of Santa Monica.


Emily WilliamsEmily C. Williams

Emily C. Williams works as a senior deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the Second District. One of her primary responsibilities is to articulate and implement the supervisor’s multi-faceted approach to ending the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Prior to joining the County, she worked for The Princeton Review, the Feminist Majority Foundation and the City of Los Angeles. During her 14-year career with the City, she worked first as a policy advisor with the Human Relations Commission, then as a civilian commander overseeing non-tactical training for the Los Angeles Fire Department, and finally as deputy chief of staff to former City Councilmember (now U.S. Rep.) Tony Cárdenas (CA-29). Williams earned a BA in political science from UCLA and an MPP from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. She is a 2017-18 Fellow with the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC and is entering her 14th year as an adjunct instructor at the Los Angeles Police Academy. She is the co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Women Get It Done, a national network of women building an intersectional feminist movement to fight for gender equity, racial justice and equal rights for all.

Felicia WilliamsFelicia Williams

Felicia Williams provides consulting services to various cities on land use, sustainability and financing structures for major projects. Her previous work experience includes corporate finance at Edison International / Southern California Edison; fixed-income investment banking at RBC Capital Markets, First Albany Capital, and Goldman Sachs, and real estate consulting at Kosmont & Associates. Williams has a strong commitment to civic engagement and has served as a commissioner in the City of Pasadena since 2006. She is currently on the Planning Commission and previously served on the Convention Center and Rose Bowl boards, and environmental and transportation commissions. She has volunteered on numerous campaigns (both Democrat and Republican), served as co-chair of ACT/Arroyo Democratic Club and as a delegate to the CA Democratic Party. She received her MBA in finance from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, her MA in urban planning from UCLA, and her BA in public policy from Stanford University.