Equity Master Class Presenters
César Cruz, Ed.D.
Dr. César A. Cruz- From marching 76-straight miles, to hunger striking for 26 days, César has dedicated his life to fighting for justice. He was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México and migrated to the U.S. at a young age with a single mother and grandmother. He grew up in South Central L.A. and moved to the Bay Area to study. César graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in History. He has been an educator for 23 years, in positions of leadership for the last 17 years, most recently serving as the Dean of Secondary Schools Program at Harvard University. He co-founded the independent school, Making Changes, out of his home, and has sought to create autonomous education spaces. For the last four years, he has overseen the Homies Empowerment Program serving gang impacted/involved youth in Oakland, CA. He is the author of two books, Revenge of the Illegal Alien, and Bang for Freedom. He received his doctorate in Educational Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, becoming the first Mexican immigrant male to do so. The recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service, César currently serves as a Bridge Fellow for the national organization TNTP (The New Teacher Project), and is on the advisory board of the education policy organization Broader Bolder Approach to Education (BBA). Amidst all, he is proudest to be a husband, and father of three children: Olin, Amaru and Quetzali.
Toby S. Jenkins, Ph.D.
Toby S. Jenkins, Ph.D. serves as Interim Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in the Graduate School at the University of South Carolina. She is also a tenured Associate Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies within the College of Education. Additionally, Jenkins has served as Director of the Museum of Education, an aesthetic research center within the College of Education for the past three years. Her scholarship focuses on the ways that culture is used as a politic of social survival, a tool of social change, and a transformative space of critical and creative pedagogy. She is also interested in how educational institutions have served as both spaces of liberation and oppression for minoritized communities. Jenkins is a highly sought-after expert in the areas of diversity, equity & inclusion, cultural inclusiveness in higher education, and student affairs administration. She regularly serves as the lead national expert for student affairs program reviews of university cultural centers and multicultural affairs departments. She has consulted for the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of Delaware, University of California-Santa Barbara, University of Southern California, University of Pittsburgh, The George Washington University, and the University of Notre Dame.
Oyame KenZoe Brian J. Selassie-Okpe, Ph.D.
Dr. Oyame KenZoe Brian J. Selassie-Okpe (O'KenZoe) is a dynamic critical theories and intercultural 2016-2017 Fulbright-Hays research scholarship recipient, scholar, professor, and academic administrator. His research focuses on intercultural communication, organizational communication and behavior, Africana womanism, non-heterosexuality’s and cultural centricities. He has served 4-year and community colleges in capacities as assistant professor, department chair, co-chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging committee, Dean of English, World Languages and Cultures, and Communication Studies, Dean of Fine, Applied, and Communication Arts, and Dean of Academic Honors. In his current role, he is the Executive Director of the Equity Institute at Skyline College. In his career prior to academia, he served as a communications officer in the Executive Office of the Mayor in Washington D.C. as well as the Chief Grants and Contracts Management Officer for the D.C. Department of the Environment.
Dr. Selassie-Okpe earned an Executive Certificate in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from Cornell University's e-Cornell Executive Program, Doctorate of Philosophy with distinction in Communication and Culture from Howard University, a Master of Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix, Master of Public Administration from Walden University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Mount Union. He has served as a Commissioner for the Government of the District of Columbia Commission on African American Affairs as well as the editor of Dr. Molefi K. Asante’s 2019 publication: 400 Years of Witnessing. Dr. Selassie-Okpe is committed to racial equity and social justice.
Melissa Moreno, J.D.
Dr. Melissa Moreno came to the California Community College system in 2008 after 23 years as a small business owner in law, hospitality, and real estate. She joined the Santa Barbara Community College District (SBCCD) as a founding Director of the national award-winning Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC). She created leading-edge experiential components for the Center, such as the Enlightened Entrepreneurship lecture series which featured luminaries such as the founders of Patagonia and Decker’s Outdoor Corporation, and created the Enterprise Launch program where students engage in the rapid development of a product or service in a single semester. She authored the Practical Guide to a Rapid Startup which shares the success of the Enterprise Launch program.
In 2014, she was promoted to Dean of the SBCC Business Division and launched the SBCC Career Skills Institute, an award-winning and innovative noncredit “flipped classroom” concept that partners with local employers and adult re-entry students to strengthen the skills of the local workforce. Industry partners include Cottage Health, LinkedIn, UCSB, other large local employers, and the Workforce Development Board. As dean, she worked with the SBCC Foundation to raise funds and support programs. For example, she helped secure a $1 million endowment for the business division, creating the Jack & Julie Nadel School of Business & Entrepreneurship.
In 2017, Melissa was promoted to Vice President to create the SBCC School of Extended Learning that continues to experience unprecedented growth and create more than $5 million in excess revenue in two years.
In 2020, Melissa joined the San Mateo County Community College District as the President of Skyline College. She is currently bringing transformative change to Skyline College through the People’s College Initiative, intended to create a lasting healthy campus climate by democratizing its governance structure to center the voices of the students, faculty, classified professionals, and management; and to bring cohesion to the antiracism and equity work – envisaged as the foundation of a civic-minded campus.
Diva C. Ward
Diva C. Ward is the Director of Grant Initiatives and Equity Projects with the San
Mateo County Community College District, an Equity Facilitator and Leadership Coach
with Leading from the Middle, and an active member of the San Mateo County Community
College District Antiracism Council.
Diva has been working in higher education for more than 25 years. Diva found her passion while working with low-income and first-generation students with the Upward Bound Program at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. She fell in love with TRIO and the richness of higher education. After spending more than ten years working with TRIO, Diva then worked in the Biotechnology field, where she was able to work with industry leaders to create programs that improved student job placement and programmatic success.
Diva has written, implemented, and directed several HSI Title V Grants that improved student success and completion rates. She also has seven years working as Director of Student Support, managing the Learning Center, and varying academic support programs and services, including tutoring, supplemental instruction, and peer mentoring.
She continues to work as a collaborator and community-building instrument of change.
The equity solutions from last year, last month, and even from 5 minutes ago are changing. Our role as practitioners of equity is to be open and responsive to the changing needs of our students, our campuses, our peers, and ourselves. We have to give ourselves the grace not to be perfect but to be perfectly committed to doing the work that has to be done.
Jeremiah J. Sims, Ph.D.
Dr. Jeremiah J. Sims may not have seen it all, but he has seen enough to know what
hunger feels like and the ways that violence transmogrifies dreams into nightmares.
A first-generation college student born in Oakland and raised in Richmond, CA, Jeremiah
experienced racism, especially in low education expectations, food insecurity, and
housing insecurity. He was also system-impacted. Jeremiah grew up in the East Bay
Area and saw fratricidal violence firsthand, both in and outside his home. Like many
poor Black and Brown students, he faced trying circumstances but eventually excelled
He credits his Heavenly Father, his faith, and his community for his academic success. As a result of his own life experiences, Jeremiah has devoted his career to the pursuit and ultimate realization of educational equity for hyper-marginalized students. He is currently the Director of Equity for the College of San Mateo. Jeremiah, a former UC Chancellor’s Fellow, is an alumnus of the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a B.A. in rhetoric, with honors and an M.A. and Ph.D. in education: language, literacy, and culture. Jeremiah has also authored three books, Revolutionary STEM education…(Sims, 2018), Minding the Obligation Gap…(Sims, et al., 2020), and The white educators’ guide to equity…(Wallace & Sims, Forthcoming). Jeremiah is also the editor for a book series on Peter Lang titled, Equity in Community Colleges.
Alvin Gubatina is an Aklanon and San Franciscan educator who has taught throughout
the bay area. From elementary to college, he has a wealth of experience inside and
outside the classroom. He uses his bachelor’s in Communication and master’s in counseling
psychology to further his work with campus leaders and community change-makers.
In addition, he is a poet and spoken word artist discovering his passion in Pin@y Educational Partnership (PEP) while at Balboa High School. Outside of the educational and performing spaces, he loves food and manages a food spotting Instagram @Grubatina. He is currently honing his craft as a Healing Centered Coach - follow his journey @CoachGooobs.