Our Team

Board of Directors

The San Diego Mesa College Foundation is made up of passionate and determined people. We share a vision of a world where nothing stands in the way of a person working hard to get an education.

Board Members

Steve Cooke
more_vert Steve Cooke

President, Public Director


Bio to come soon

Elizabeth Armstrong
more_vert Elizabeth Armstrong

Retired Community College
Administrator, Professor


Originally from the United Kingdom, Elizabeth Armstrong earned degrees in chemistry from San Francisco State University. Following graduation, Liz taught chemistry at Skyline College in San Bruno for 15 years.

She became dean of math, science, and technology, then vice president of instruction at Cañada College in Redwood City. In 2002 Liz moved to San Diego to serve as vice president of instruction at San Diego Mesa College with her career culminating as the interim president of the college.

Having watched many students succeed because of their community college experience, Liz believes deeply in the power of education to change students’ lives and help them achieve their dreams, and in the essential role of education in a democratic civil society.

Chris Manis
more_vert Chris Manis

Vice Chancellor, Facilities
Management SDCCD


Christopher Manis is the Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management for the San Diego Community College District where he oversees facilities and construction for California's second-largest community college district. In addition to overseeing the district's $1.6 billion bond construction program, Chris is responsible for maintenance of facilities as well as the District’s police department.

Prior to his current role, Chris served as Deputy Director of Installation and Logistics at MCAS Miramar in San Diego. He previously held the same position as an active-duty military officer before he retired from the U.S. Marine Corps. While in that position, he received the Secretary of the Navy Award for Energy for seven of eight years, as well as the Presidential Award for Leadership in Energy Management. He has more than 20 years of experience in facilities management, including the oversight of a $750 million capital improvement and sustainability building program.

In addition to his facilities management experience, Chris has solid educational credentials. He earned an MBA from Indiana University's Kelley School of Business and a Bachelor in Science from the University of Idaho, Moscow. He is also a LEED Accredited Professional in Building Design and Construction.

Claudia Estrada-Howell
more_vert Claudia Estrada-Howell

Supervisor, Transfer Center/Career


Claudia Estrada-Howell is currently the Supervisor for the Transfer, Career and Evaluations Department at San Diego Mesa College.  She is also the co-coordinator for “The Stand” a free food pantry and professional clothing closet. Before arriving at Mesa she worked for California State University San Bernardino over 15 years. Claudia is a proud CSUSB Alumni and is currently completing a Doctorate in Educational Leadership at the same institution.

Additionally, Claudia earned a certificate in “Educational Leadership” at Harvard University.  Claudia is a proud recipient of the “United States Volunteer Award for Service” (Gold Level) awarded to her by President Barack Obama.  Additionally, in 2014 she was named a “Women of distinction” by Senator Mike Morell’s 23rd district. Her experiences as a first-generation college student drive her passion for helping students achieve their lifelong career aspirations.

Barbara Busch
more_vert Barbara Busch

Retired Industry Professional


Bio to come soon

Lisa Cole-Jones, J.D.
more_vert Lisa Cole-Jones, J.D.

Development Coordinator,


Lisa joined the San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) as Development Coordinator in 2017 to facilitate the fundraising program in support of the San Diego Promise. In that time, Lisa has implemented an annual fundraising plan that includes diverse fundraising activities, such as monthly giving, major gifts, grant writing and events. She oversaw the Evening with Annette Bening to Benefit the San Diego Promise gala in fall 2018, which netted over $200,000 in support for the San Diego Promise. Lisa has developed partnerships with the four institutions which comprise the SDCCD, launched a coordinated planned giving program, and facilitated fundraising activities leading to a cumulative $1 million in philanthropic giving to this program.

Prior to joining the SDCCD, Lisa served as the Associate Director of Development at the National Conflict Resolution Center, where she managed donor communication, grant writing, Board of Directors engagement and major events. Lisa holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Arizona State University, a Master of Social Work from San Diego State University, and a Juris Doctorate from California Western School of Law.

Howard Eskew
more_vert Howard Eskew

Professor of Business,
San Diego Mesa College


Howard Eskew is a Business Professor at San Diego Mesa College. His expertise is in accounting, entrepreneurship, and personal finance. Howard has a strong passion for providing financial education. He drives the financial literacy efforts at Mesa College and created and coordinates the Financial Literacy Speaker Series and Financial Opportunity Clinic. Prior to coming to Mesa College, Howard spent over 25 years in the financial services industry.

He held the position of Executive Vice President / Chief Credit Officer for Columbus First Bank, in Worthington, Ohio for which he was one of the founding members. Howard is a strong partner and tireless advocate for the community. In addition to servicing on the Mesa College Foundation Board, Howard services on advisory boards for San Diego County Economic Education, San Diego Financial Literacy Center, San Diego Workforce Partnership, and the Western Association of Food Chains.

Howard possesses his MBA and a Master’s degree in Accounting. He has been inducted into numerous honor societies and graduated Magna Cum Laude and valedictorian. Howard frequently presents at educational and industry conferences and is a published author. In 2015, Howard received the Outstanding Professor Award at San Diego Mesa College.

Cathy Gillhooly
more_vert Cathy Gillhooly

Director of Business Development,
California Coast Credit Union


Bio to come soon

Dr. Ashanti Hands
more_vert Dr. Ashanti Hands

Vice President, Student Services,
San Diego Mesa College


Dr. Ashanti Hands serves as Vice President for Student Services at San Diego Mesa College, where she has responsibility for over 20 student services departments and functions including Admissions, Counseling, Financial Aid, Student Health, Disability Support Services and Programs and more. Ashanti is committed to developing equitable opportunities for students by developing strategic goals to guide current and future program development including Student Success and Equity, San Diego Promise, Guided Pathways and more.

Ashanti is a faith-driven, family-centered, equity-minded educator who is not averse to disrupting the status quo. She is all in when it comes to creating the conditions that matter for students to succeed. Ashanti received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, San Diego and a master's degree in education with an emphasis in multicultural counseling and doctoral degree in educational leadership from San Diego State University. She has served in higher education for 24 years.

Simone Henriques
more_vert Simone Henriques

Business Owner


Simone Henriques is a business owner in Clairemont. With many years of teaching experience in the field of Early Childhood Education, she helps build a strong learning foundation for students to thrive as they enter into higher levels of education.

Simone is passionate about her community and has previously served as Board Director and Historian for Clairemont Town Council. She is also a strong believer that different languages must be kept alive. She taught Portuguese at San Diego State as Instructor and Curriculum Developer for STARTalk – LARC (Language Acquisition Resource Center) and she is certified by SAILN (Southern Area International Languages Network).

Simone holds a Bachelors degree in Political Science from San Diego State University and is a San Diego Mesa College alumnus.

Lorenze Legaspi
more_vert Lorenze Legaspi

Vice President, Admin Services
San Diego Mesa College


Lorenze Legaspi serves as the Vice President of Administrative Services for San Diego Mesa College. Mr. Legaspi came to Mesa College in June 2018 from his position as Vice President, Administrative Services at Grossmont College. He brings a wealth of knowledge in the areas of budget, facilities, construction, and business communications.

Before Grossmont College, Legaspi worked as manager of Administrative Services at the School of Continuing Education (SCE) at North Orange County Community College District. During his time at SCE, Mr. Legaspi implemented processes that directly linked budget to planning and creating diverse enrollment management strategies. He has also been active in supporting the communities in which he lived and has served as a Board Member for Crittenton Services for Children and Families in Fullerton, CA.

Mr. Legaspi is whole-heartedly committed to serving the students of Mesa College.

Dr. Pamela Luster
more_vert Dr. Pamela Luster

San Diego Mesa College


Dr. Pamela Luster is the President of San Diego Mesa College; she is in her 8th year. Previously she served as the Vice President of Student Services, Interim Vice President of Instruction and Dean of Academic Services at Las Positas College. At West Valley College she held the position of Dean of Career Education and Workforce Development and started her career as a faculty member in the Disabled Students program.

Dr. Luster service includes membership on several local, state and national boards to include: San Diego Youth Services (SDYS), San Diego Mesa College Foundation, California Community College Athletics Association, and on the American Association of Community Colleges Commission for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She currently still serves on the CEOCCC Board representing Region XI, and is co-chairing the CEOCCC Task Force on Affordability, Food and Housing. This year she is the Chair of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Community College Association. Dr. Luster is an adjunct faculty member at San Diego State University, Doctoral Program in Community College Leadership.

Dr. Luster’s scholarly and professional pursuits are focused on student equity, diversity and inclusion and building campus and community coalitions towards cultural proficiency and humility. She is committed to finding permanent solutions to address the basic needs of community college students.

Jeff Marston
more_vert Jeff Marston

Former Assemblyman,
Director of Communications


Originally from Englewood, New Jersey, Marston is a former California State Assemblyman with extensive government and public policy experience. He is currently president and government relations director for his own San Diego public relations firm, Marston and Marston, Inc. He hopes to draw on his professional experience to boost the Mesa College Foundation.

Dr. Isabel O'Connor
more_vert Dr. Isabel O'Connor

Vice President, Instruction,
San Diego Mesa College


A native of Spain and the first one in her family to graduate from college, Isabel O'Connor earned a B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Alicante before immigrating to the United States in 1986. After learning English at Los Angeles City College, she obtained a B.A. in European Studies at Loyola Marymount University and a Ph.D. in medieval Spanish history at U.C.L.A. Isabel spent twelve years in Indiana, as a member of the faculty at the University of Southern Indiana and then as chair of the History Department at Indiana University South Bend.

In 2011, Isabel returned to California and became Dean of Human Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) at Cabrillo College. Under her leadership, the division saw the development of new programs, such as a Certificate in Latino/Latin American Studies and a Fire Academy to meet local workforce development needs. Isabel secured a variety of grants from the Baskin Foundation and the Giannini Foundation to support the work of programs in her division, such as Women’s Studies and the Children’s Center. She served on the Board of the Bay Area Public Safety Consortium and represented Cabrillo College at fundraising events held by the Santa Cruz County Court Appointed Special Advocates, CASA.

As Vice President of Instruction at San Diego Mesa College, Isabel is committed to working with faculty, staff, and administrators to help each and every student who comes to Mesa College achieve their dream for a better life.

Leslie Shimazaki
more_vert Leslie Shimazaki

Dean of Arts and Languages,
San Diego Mesa College


Leslie Shimazaki received a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in TESOL from Alliant International University, and her bachelors in Diversified Liberal Arts from the University of San Diego.

She has worked for the SDCCD since 1986 when she began as an adjunct instructor of Adult Basic Education. She soon transitioned to teaching ESL and was awarded a tenure-track position in 2000. Her first leadership roles with the SDCCD began soon after with roles such as program coordinator for special projects and Instructional Leader.

In 2007 she began her career as a Dean for the Parent Education and Emeritus programs in CE, and was significantly involved in the design, building, and management of the Continuing Education campus at Mesa College. In 2013, she applied for and was awarded the role of Dean of Arts and Languages for Mesa College. She continues in this position and most recently served as the Interim Vice President of Instruction at Mesa for the fall, 2018 semester.

Alexander Szeto
more_vert Alexander Szeto

Systems Engineer,
Northrop Grumman


Alex Szeto is a distinguished alumnus of San Diego Mesa College. He is a systems engineer at Northrop Grumman.

As a refugee immigrant with no money and only a ninth grade education, compassionate people and education changed his life. Alex is dedicated to helping others so they can enjoy the same opportunities and success. He is actively grooming young leaders and fundraising to provide access for the disadvantaged to have a better life. He is a proud coach of the robotics Team Inspiration.

Alex holds a MS in Aerospace Engineering from San Diego State University.

Advisory Staff

Jennifer Kearns
more_vert Jennifer Kearns

Director of Communications,
San Diego Mesa College


Jennifer Nichols Kearns is an award winning communications professional, with over 20 years in marketing, advertising, public relations, and events. She has specialized in education, environmental advocacy, government, retail, and non-profits. She holds degrees from the University of Southern California and San Diego State University. Currently, Jennifer serves as the Director of Communications at San Diego Mesa College. She oversees public relations, advertising, digital and social media, as well as program and event promotions. Previously, Jennifer served as the Director of Communications for a City of San Diego Council, and was the Strategic Partnerships Manager in the City's Office of Corporate Partnerships and Development. From 2006-2012, she supervised the City's award-winning Think Blue San Diego storm water pollution prevention education program. Before joining the City in 2006, she owned and managed a marketing consulting firm, TRIA Advertising, and worked for several top-ten ranked marketing and creative agencies.

Krista Stellmacher
more_vert Krista Stellmacher

Director of Resource Development,
San Diego Mesa College


Ask Krista Stellmacher what has most shaped her career and she will say “a passion for people and a desire to be useful.” In her role as Direct of Resource Development for San Diego Mesa College Foundation, she is able to fulfill both purposes. Since mid-2017, she has worked alongside dedicated faculty, an impassioned leadership team, and exceptionally intelligent and hard-working students to support Mesa's mission.

Krista’s journey started with community college when she enrolled in a program that allowed her to take college classes during her final year of high school. She then spent a year working abroad in Poland, Spain, Italy, Norway, and Sweden. When Krista returned to the United States to attend UC San Diego, she was not the only member of her family to pursue a degree. Krista’s mother, a non-traditional student, enrolled in a community college and—on what she considered one of the proudest days of her life—went on to graduate with her Bachelor’s degree soon after Krista earned a B.A. in Literature/Writing from UCSD. Through these experiences, Krista developed a passion for access to education and a deep appreciation for the role that community college plays in opening up pathways of opportunity.

Krista serves on the Grants Committee for Women Give and the Board for San Diego Leadership Alliance. She is a graduate of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce’s Lead IMPACT program (Class of 2019) and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy, a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Fieldstone Leadership Network's Leadership Reading Group, and is a San Diego Leadership Alliance Fellow.

Denise Rogers
more_vert Denise Rogers

Professor of Art History


Dr. Denise Rogers is a San Diego native, mother of two and Professor of Art History at San Diego Mesa College. She earned a B.A. in Visual Arts/Criticism from U.C.S.D., a Masters in Art History from S.D.S.U. and a Ph.D. in Visual Studies with an emphasis in Feminist Studies from U.C. Irvine. She currently teaches a variety of courses that range from Pre-Historic Art, Renaissance, Modern through to Contemporary art, as well as courses in regions outside of the west such as Africa, Asia and Native American art history. She manages the Mesa College World Cultures Art collection and curates yearly exhibitions in the Mesa College Glass Gallery.

She has also curated exhibitions at the Mesa College Art Gallery and San Diego Public Library. She has presented on African American art and the Diaspora during special events on campus as well as at the California Community College Association yearly conference, San Diego Museum of Art, Grossmont College, and the San Diego Public Library. She also Chairs the San Diego Museum of Art African and Pacific Arts Council and is the Educational Advisor and a Board member of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. See specializes in Modern Art and Contemporary art with specific emphasis on the art of Women, African Americans and the Diaspora and how indigenous artifacts inform contemporary ideologies. She shares this knowledge with her students, enabling them to recognize the importance of historical artifacts and how they inform our present identities.