Setting the Stage for Success

Community leaders grace us with their presence, perseverance and ability to achieve their dreams while making a positive difference in the lives of others. Here, we celebrate a handful of incredible local women who inspire with their service, accomplishments and commitment to succeed.

 

Dr. Erika Beck, Camarillo

President, California State University Channel Islands 

Words to Live By: Run your own race. It’s yours.

Great leadership begins with assembling a team that is singularly committed to facilitating a shared vision of the future and is firmly rooted in shared values. Great leaders empower those around them to realize their best and highest purpose and they ground their daily work in a vision that is larger than themselves.   

Mentors: My mother and grandmother.

CSUCI & Leadership: I believe in the power of higher education to transform lives for the better. Throughout my career, I have seen firsthand that universities enhance human potential and in so doing make our world stronger and more resilient. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling career than one that helps to foster a more inclusive and equitable future for us all. 

As a leader, I strive every day to ground the details of our work in its greater purpose. Every financial aid package we process, every word of encouragement we offer and every learning experience we facilitate fosters human potential. That is our North Star—the opportunity, the commitment and the responsibility to transform lives for the better.

I believe leadership works best when it is shared. Leaders emerge from every corner of our campus community. I am profoundly honored to have the opportunity to serve as President of Cal State Channel Islands where I am surrounded by thousands of leaders who facilitate human potential every day.

On Being Named Senate District 19 Woman of the Year: I am deeply honored to receive this recognition, which is a reflection of the tremendous work our entire university is doing to transform the lives of our students and our community.

Contributions: I am proud of all that Cal State Channel Islands has achieved in recent years, including being ranked 23rd in the nation for improving the social and economic mobility of our students, graduating record numbers of students each spring and becoming the fastest growing campus in the California State University system.

Rewards: My greatest reward can be seen on the faces of our students when they walk across that commencement stage to a life full of promise and possibility.

Accomplishments: My proudest accomplishments lie in the leaders we graduate every year and the difference they will make in our community for years to come.

Hobbies: My favorite past time is playing basketball with my two sons, who are still young enough that I can beat them (but not for long!).

Future: Keep your eye on Cal State Channel Islands. We are fast becoming recognized as a national leader in providing equitable, affordable and transformative education that enables social and economic mobility for the students we are so proud to serve.

 

Dr. Cynthia Flores, Camarillo

Assistant Professor of Mathematics at California State University – Channel Islands

Words to Live By: You are my other me. If I do harm to you, I do harm to myself. If I love and respect you, I love and respect myself.

A great leader is a visionary and an influencer that can bring people together, communicates the vision and works alongside them to make the vision a reality.

Mentors: My leadership mentors hold me to a high bar. As a student, I had an excellent mentor, Dr. Maria Helena Noronha, from California State University – Northridge, who has been Principle Investigator on several National Science Foundation grants to support students with scholarships to study mathematics. Now as a professor, I see my peers and administrators as my leadership mentors.

CSUCI & Leadership: Tomorrow’s problems demand responsible individuals to solve them and likely those who understand mathematics. The only way we can ensure our society’s success is by acting as a community to support the upcoming generation. I feel a strong sense of responsibility toward holding a high bar on students’ mathematics preparation while also providing the necessary supports to meet that expectation.

On Being Chosen as an Emerging Scholar: Being one of 15 selected out of nearly 1,000 applicants in academia is a national recognition and something I had hoped to achieve because it will give me at a stronger voice in advocating for girls, women and those historically underrepresented groups in mathematics, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and academia.

Contributions: I’ve organized and/or participated in several outreach activities for students that demonstrates what it means for a mathematician to be a part of the community, which include organizing a 55 elementary school student afterschool math club, organizing a special African-American Girls Expanding Mathematics Day at Cal State Channel Islands, and attending countless school events to showcase fun math problem-solving. It is so rewarding knowing that they are the next generation of students that I’m waiting to teach.

Rewards: My students’ awards are rewarding for me and hearing about their successes.

Accomplishments: I have been a researcher at the NSF-funded Park City Mathematics Institute on harmonic analysis and at the Michigan Center for Applied and Interdisciplinary Mathematics on math and material science. A related accomplishment is a $2 million NSF award, which I’m a Co-Principle Investigator. The NSF program is part of the Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate and our program is the California Hispanic Serving Institution Alliance, which will design and test a model to prepare the next generation of professors for federally designated Hispanic Serving Institutions. Also, I’ve co-authored with CSUCI Assistant Professor Dr. Selenne Bañuelos on a forthcoming paper on hiring practices at the professor-level for the Notices of the American Mathematical Society.

Hobbies: I love hanging out with my entire family and friends. My favorite activity is beach camping and cooking.

Future: My immediate career goals include achieving tenure at CSUCI. I will continue to advocate for high-impact teaching practices that elevate student achievement while closing any equity gaps.

 

Kim Maselli, Westlake Village

Artistic Director at California Dance Theatre and Pacific Festival Ballet

Words to Live By: To whom much is given, much is expected.

Great leaders live each day by example and inspire those around them!

Mentor: My mother, who was a community leader herself. She is a dancer and poured the love of ballet into me, my sister and many of her students. She encouraged us to follow our dreams, cultivate our talents and share our passion for the arts.

Ballet & Leadership: Ballet naturally instills dedication, focus, discipline and respect. These attributes have become a part of my everyday life and hopefully they overflow onto people around me.

Contributions: Bringing an awareness and appreciation for the performing arts to the Conejo Valley has been so important to me. Co-founding and cultivating Pacific Festival Ballet and California Dance Theatre, the training school to the company, with Joyce Hurley and Lori Sorensen has allowed us to share the beauty of classical ballet with thousands of community residents over the past three decades.

Being a part of the Civic Arts Plaza since the theatre opened its doors in 1994 has been a huge privilege. Our nonprofit ballet company has brought world-class professionals to the Conejo Valley and in turn we have had the opportunity to train and launch talented local dancers into full careers of their own.

Rewards: One of my greatest rewards is seeing former students achieving their dreams. Classical ballet has a heritage and an unspoken legacy. To see the art form preserved and passed on to the next generation is a beautiful thing.

Accomplishments: My dance career has had a broad brush stroke across the performing arts canvas. I have danced with six ballet companies in the U.S., including the American Ballet Theatre II and Los Angeles Ballet. While ballet has always been my first love, I had the good fortune of dancing for four years on the hit TV series “FAME,” which allowed me to expand my career into the Hollywood arena. Teaching and choreographing have always been a passion of mine as well as passing on the ballet knowledge that was instilled in me on to the next dance generation.

Hobbies: Since I spend so many hours in the dance studio, I love being outdoors in nature, whether its swimming, hiking or walking.

Future: To continue to train dancers, inspire audiences in our community and possibly spend a little more time outdoors!

 

Lauren Brener, Agoura Hills & Kara Nelson, Newbury Park

Co-Directors and Co-Founder (Kara) of 100 Women Who Care Conejo Valley

Words to Live By: You don’t have the power to change the world all by yourself, but you can make a difference in someone’s day.

We think that to be a great leader you need to make the needs, growth and development of others your priority. Putting yourself second and not being afraid to do some heavy lifting yourself is the best way to inspire others to do the same.

Mentors: Our leadership mentors are all of the individuals who have started local nonprofit organizations, along with those who volunteer and dedicate their time to making a difference here in the Conejo Valley.

The Nonprofit Sector & Leadership: When we have the opportunity to spend time and speak with the incredible individuals who run the various nonprofit organizations that are presented at our meetings, it inspires us to continue to go out and encourage women around us to do what they can to make a difference.

Contributions: In addition to providing financial support through 100 Women Who Care Conejo Valley, we think the greatest contribution we make to the community is sharing information about the local nonprofit organizations. There are so many small, local groups trying to make a difference in the lives of people around them. At every meeting, our members hear about programs that they probably didn’t even know existed and many times, they decide to offer additional financial support or volunteer with these groups on their own.

Accomplishments: As of January, we have donated $70,000 to 11 local nonprofit organizations. Our donations have helped pay medical expenses for a local victim of a traumatic spinal cord injury, provide reading glasses to children in need, provide guidance and counseling to local schools on the issue of bullying prevention, support families facing pediatric cancer and Alzheimer’s, and provide enrichment programs to foster children.

Rewards: The biggest reward is seeing the pure joy and thankfulness of each and every recipient of our donation. We love knowing that because of our very simple concept, we are able to make things a little easier, even if just for a little while.

Hobbies: We love to spend time with our family and friends, try new local restaurants and travel!

Future: We are proud to say we grew this group organically. We started small with 28 women by inviting our friends and families. Our members continually help us spread the word, along with our ever-growing social media presence. Now that we’ve hit 100 Women Who Care, our goal is to continue to build the group and grow it to the next hundred. We look forward to the day that we present a $20,000 donation to a local nonprofit organization.

 

Wendy Meuser Wynands, Thousand Oaks

Vice President/Senior Commercial Banking Officer at Montecito Bank & Trust 

Words to Live By: Grace, gratitude and thankfulness.

I believe that the best attributes of a great leader are those that inspire, motivate and encourage his/her team members to take responsibility for their respective roles and clearly communicates expectations and their vision for their team and the goals of the organization. A great leader creates an environment that encourages creativity, has honesty and integrity when dealing with their people and expects the same from them.

Mentors: I have been very fortunate during my career to have had some amazing mentors that have taken the time to invest in me personally and provide me with the tools to be the best that I could be. Among those are my first manager out of college; Phyllis Saferite, as well as Jim Huggins and Candace Cornelius all during my tenure with Xerox Corporation. During my banking career the people who have personally invested in me are George Leis, president of Montecito Bank & Trust, and Brian Donovan, regional senior vice president for the Ventura County, also with Montecito Bank & Trust.

Banking & Leadership: The overall approach and attitude of being a trusted advisor to the clients you serve. To have a can-do attitude and the willingness to listen and provide solutions that are specifically tailored to the client’s needs.  

Contributions: The greatest contribution to the community is to get involved. I have personally volunteered for numerous organizations over the years, including fundraising for the American Red Cross, Boone Center for the Family at Pepperdine University, Centennial Guild of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and as a wish grantor for the Starlight Foundation. I served as a board member for the Women’s Economic Ventures from 2016 to 2017. I am excited in my role with Montecito Bank & Trust to encourage nonprofits to apply for our Community Dividends program, which awards $1 million dollars to hundreds of 501(c)(3) designated organizations that serve low and moderate-income individuals and families in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. 

Rewards: The greatest reward is to help your clients achieve their financial goals; whether that be to provide financing for a commercial project, provide a personal banking relationship or be a strategic partner.

Accomplishments: I have received numerous awards and accolades for overachievement of sales goals over the years at both my tenure with Xerox Corporation and my tenure in the banking industry as a commercial lender. Over the years I have been fortunate to participate in certifications and training sponsored by my employers.

Hobbies: Spend time with family and friends, outdoor activities, including hiking and paddle-boarding, short weekend trips and enjoying good wine!

Future: To continue to build my brand and reputation of being the best commercial lender who provides a level of service that surpasses expectations. I want to provide continued value to Montecito Bank & Trust by sharing the bank’s commitment to the communities we serve.