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.
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.
Foundation Vice President,
Retired Community College Administrator
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.
Vice Chancellor of Facilities Management,
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.
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.
Vice President of 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.
Vice President of Administrative 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.
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.
Professor of Art,
San Diego Mesa College
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.
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.
Vice President of 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.
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.
Retired Education Administrator and Professor
Dr Hinkes spent 21 years (1998-2019) at Mesa College, as an anthropology professor and Dean of Institutional Effectiveness. She earned a doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Arizona. While at Mesa, she started the Physical Anthropology Lab class and managed the program's move to the new Social and Behavioral Sciences Building.
As Dean, she oversaw program review, outcomes assessment, and institutional planning. She maintains an active community service as a forensic anthropology consultant to medical examiners, law enforcement, attorneys, archaeologists, and Native American tribes. She has also worked for the US Departments of Defense and State. Dr Hinkes loves to travel to feed her fascination with natural history and archaeology.
She is proud to maintain her affiliation with the leading college of equity and excellence and to continue to contribute to Mesa. She loves our students!
Vice President of Information Technology,
Aviva McPherron serves as NuVasive’s vice president of information technology and is responsible for the company’s information technology strategy and organization. She drives the conceptualization, delivery and realization of technology solutions that create efficient, effective and innovative platforms for internal and external customers.
Aviva holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. As an individual with a non-traditional secondary school education, the community college system provided a path for Aviva to develop an academic record, which enabled her to go on to obtain her bachelor’s degree and build a meaningful technical career.
Aviva is a proud supporter of the community college system and hopes to leverage her personal and professional experience to support the Mesa College Foundation.
Zulma Heraldez (Duran) is the Administrative Assistant in the Office of Student Affairs at San Diego Mesa College. The daughter of two Mexican immigrants, Zulma was born the youngest of five children and raised in a small town outside of Bakersfield California. At the age of 19, Zulma decided to enlist into the United States Navy where she worked as a Cash & Salvage Aircraft Firefighter.
In 2011 she was awarded the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and later honored with the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal in 2012. After being honorably discharged from the military in early 2015, she was enrolled as a student and began working in Student Services at Mesa College. For the following four years, Zulma continued to take classes in while working two jobs until she was hired permanently in Student Affairs.
Zulma is recognized by peers and management for going above and beyond the normal job functions. She is inspired daily by her humble and hardworking parents to be grateful for the moments of peace in each day.
Tara Yousefi Nejad
Tara is a Kurd and born in Iran. She immigrated to The United States about four years ago.
Tara is Senator of Associated students at San Diego Mesa College, her senator's project is social media.
Tara is a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society.
Tara has been placed on SD Mesa College's Dean's List.
Tara is a full-time student at Music Major at Mesa College, she worked as a 'student aid' at the Music Department of Mesa College. Before that, she worked as a Volunteer there. Also she worked at Los Angeles Valley College.
Tara has worked as a music educator in the college and school settings for more than twelve years in Iran & Iraq.
Tara has twenty years of performance experience as the lead Folk Music singer and pianist. She is a multilingual singer and has performed concerts (Live & virtual) at Mesa College's several times.
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.
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.