Monday, December 11, 2017
The RP Group
Meet Our Coaches

The LFM Academy focuses on promoting organizational coherence within each college through the integration and coordination of college nullprograms including equity, student success, basic skills, and professional development.

California community colleges need strong, innovative “middle” leaders — faculty, department chairs, directors, deans, student services professionals, researchers, classified staff — who can effectively respond to the myriad of reforms facing our institutions, facilitate communication, and move stakeholders to action. The RP Group is working to develop this group of critical change makers through our Leading from the Middle (LFM) Academy.

Robert Gabriner (Director)

Robert Gabriner (Director)

Robert Gabriner is one of the founders of Leading from the Middle; an RP Group program established in 2013. He currently serves as the program’s Director.

For the past 56 years, Robert focused his energy and career on social justice through the civil rights movement and within higher education reform. (Read More)

As an educator for 21 years, he taught at several community colleges and has served as executive secretary of the Peralta Federation of Teachers; the president of the Community College Council of the California Federation of Teachers; as the Dean of Research, Planning, and Grants at City College of San Francisco; as Vice Chancellor of CCSF and the Director of the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at San Francisco State University from 2009 to 2016.

Since the 1990s Robert Gabriner has provided key leadership to the RP Group, including founding the RP Group’s Center for Student Success, a key source for statewide research on student success in California Community Colleges.

As one of the architects of the Community College Reform Act of 1988, he also served on statewide task forces that became the foundation for the 2004 Community College Accountability Act and the 2012 Student Success Act.

Rebecca Wong (Curriculum Lead)

Rebecca Wong (Curriculum Lead)

Rebecca Wong has been with Leading from the Middle since its inception in 2013. She is a Steering Committee member, coach, facilitator, and most recently, took on the role of lead curriculum developer for the program.

Rebecca started her career in education as a high school teacher at one of the largest high schools in California located in a very diverse and economically challenged community. (Read More)

She has served as a Chapter I Resource Specialist; has helped develop and evaluate programs designed to improve proficiency in Language Arts and mathematics; and has coordinated the University and College Opportunity Program, assisting underrepresented students in enrolling in 4-year institutions after high school graduation.

Rebecca has served as chair of the Mathematics Department and as the Division Chair of the Science/Math division at West Valley College and is currently the director of its Title III grant. As an active leader in her community, she also serves on the Board of Directors of the Mayview Community Health Center, which provides high quality healthcare to low-income people in the South Bay.

Ireri Valenzuela

Ireri Valenzuela (Coaching Lead)

Ireri Valenzuela joined the RP Group as a senior researcher. In this role, she leads the evaluation of the Education Planning Initiative and leads projects focused on gathering student voices to help inform the efforts of California Community Colleges to address student equity gaps and create more equitable experiences for students to support their success.

Ireri joined Leading from the Middle in 2017 and currently serves as coaching lead and as a member of the LFM Steering Committee. (Read More)

Coming from a family of social activists, Ireri has focused her career on social justice issues for the past 23 years, through her work in the areas of education and advocacy focused on systems change.

She taught English to Latino and South East Asian immigrants in the Central Valley. Inspired by the impact education had on the lives of her low-income and immigrant students, Ireri returned to school and got a masters in Adult Education. Subsequently, she developed, implemented, and led a workplace education program for formerly homeless adults — part of the Supportive Housing Education Collaborative funded through a Community Development Block Grant in San Francisco.

Early in her career, she helped developed and lead the Campus Change Network (CCN), a group focused on working with community college practitioners seeking to address equity issues on their campuses by leading systems change efforts.

Ben Gamboa

Ben Gamboa (Research Lead)

Ben Gamboa began his participation in Leading from the Middle as a member of the LFM Crafton College team. Subsequently, he became an LFM coach and is now the Research Lead and a member of the Steering Committee.

Fascinated with effective and transformational leadership, Ben has led several transformative efforts, including revitalizating staff participation in college governance through the Classified “9+1,” procedure aimed at supporting undocumented students; and leading a professional development program for aspiring future faculty members. (Read More)

Currently, he serves as President of the Crafton Hills College Classified Senate; is involved in leading the implementation of Multiple Measures assessments; and is developing a College Promise program fully funded through community philanthropy.

Previously, Ben served in appointed and elected leadership roles for a classified labor organization, where he led outreach efforts for six years — communicating the organization’s message to its quarter-million members and the California electorate.

Outside of higher education, he has served on the San Bernardino City Workforce Investment Board delivering job training programs and successful job placements to thousands of unemployed residents. He currently serves on a water district community advisory board leading efforts to improve responsible water-use and to reduce excessive consumption.

Rose Asera (Evaluation Lead)

Rose Asera began her participation in Leading from the Middle as the Academy’s internal evaluator. She is currently a member of the LFM Steering Committee and a researcher and leader for the RP Group, where she has helped produce the Strengthening Student Success Conference. In this role, she worked with the the partner organizations, the conference’s steering committee, and RP Group staff to build the breadth and depth of the conference content.  (Read More)

Rose Asera has also served as director of the Carnegie Foundation’s community college project, Strengthening Pre-collegiate Education in Community College (SPECC), which was a powerful incubator for segments of present day community college work and has been responsible for nurturing a number of campus and statewide leaders.

Across her career, Rose has been a leader from the middle, side, and back. While she steps to the front when the need arises, she prefers to provide support from behind the curtain.

Anniqua Rana

Anniqua Rana (External Coordination Lead)

Anniqua Rana is currently the External Coordination Lead for LFM and a member of the Steering Committee, evolving into these roles from her initial participation as an LFM participant with her Cañada College team.>/p>

Anniqua has worked with faculty on her campus to support student language needs across disciplines and has coordinated the Basic Skills Committee and the ESL Department at Cañada. (Read More)

Later, she became the coordinator of the Center for Innovation and Excellence in Teaching and Learning at the College, and was a founding steering committee member of a network of educators and partners exploring systemic solutions to support adult immigrants achieving English language competency in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

During this time, she spent many of her summers in Pakistan coordinating multiple two-week training sessions on technology, language learning, and leadership in higher education with the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

In 2009, Anniqua also worked as the Bay Area Network Coordinator for 3CSN, where she helped plan and implement the 3CSN Network and the Basic Skills Initiative Leadership Institute.

She currently holds the position of Interim Dean at College of San Mateo.

Debra Polak

After “graduating” from LFM’s first academy in 2013, Debra Polak continued her involvement with LFM, and currently serves as an LFM coach and facilitator.

Debra has worked in the California Community College system for almost twenty years, and shortly after becoming a full-time English faculty member at Mendocino College, she was asked to coordinate the college’s ESL program. In this role she was instrumental in growing the program and bringing on the college’s first full-time ESL instructor. (Read More)

Debra has also served as the first Basic Skills coordinator at Mendocino College; was involved in organizing union affiliation for full-time faculty; served as Curriculum Committee Chair; and as Dean of Instruction and Dean of Centers, where she led the establishment of the new Center on the Mendocino Coast, previously under College of the Redwoods.

Currently, Debra serves as the Interim Vice President of Instruction at Mendocino College.

Erin Denney

Erin Denny began her participation in Leading from the Middle in 2016 as a member of the City College of San Francisco team. Then, in 2017, she joined LFM again, this time as a coach. Erin has served in a number of professional leadership roles at City College of San Francisco, including that of Basic Skills Coordinator for the English Department, during which time she built a core group of dedicated faculty and implemented innovative, grant-funded changes to the curriculum. (Read More)

During her time as CCSF’s Professional Development Coordinator, she led several efforts including; researching and implementing best professional development practices, creating a Professional Development Committee, creating a Professional Development Plan, and implementing online flex reporting on her campus.

Currently, she is the Department Chair of the CCSF English Department, where she has led efforts to rebuild the department’s pre-collegiate English sequence, which included a full revamp of the English Placement Test and integration of multiple measures as part of that placement system.

Kristina Whalen

Kristina Whalen’s first joined LFM as a participant with her City College of SF team and recently became an LFM coach.

After years of following her passion for teaching in the community college system, Kristina Whalen moved into district-level leadership positions, including Department Chair for Communication Studies and SLO Coordinator at (CCSF), which, at the time, was under heavy sanction for its outcome assessment practices. (Read More)

In this latter role, Kristina worked with other like-minded faculty leaders to further institutionalize a standard process for reporting assessment while validating the necessity of varied and multiple methods of collecting assessment data. She and her team also worked closely with the CCSF Research and Planning Office in order to inform and support the college’s assessment and equity goals.

In addition to these roles, Kristina Whalen has served as Chair of the Student Preparation and Success Committee; on two accreditation self-study teams; and as a member of the Accreditation Steering and Professional Development Committee.

Currently, she is the Dean of Fine, Applied and Communication Arts at CCSF, guiding support for 10 departments and the Fort Mason Art Campus. District-wide, she works on the launch of a Maker Space, on the introduction of a campus-wide Early Alert system, and with Basic Skills Initiative coordinators.

Vicki Fabbri

Working now as an LFM coach, Vicki Fabbri began her participation in LFM as a lead member of the Cabrillo College team. The team spent two years with the LFM program developing ideas about how guided pathways could be applied to the college and setting the stage for the college’s acceptance into the California Guided Pathways Project. (Read More)

Vicki’s role as an education leader began in the late 1970's as the coordinator of substance abuse education and prevention for the Guam Department of Education.

After graduate school she was the Assistant Director of the Program on Conflict Resolution at the University of Hawaii Manoa for several years. When she returned to teaching in California, she led a 5-year program planning process for the San Jose State University Communications Department.

Vicki has been at Cabrillo Community College since 2000 and during that time has participated in many college initiatives and committees. A few specific roles include: faculty Union Executive Board Member, Union Vice-President, Academy of College Excellence Director and Master Mentor trainer, faculty senate representative, faculty student-success and equity Coordinator. Currently, she is the Department Chair of the Communication Studies Department.

Keith Wurtz

Keith Wurtz participated in the first Leading from the Middle cohort in 2013 as a team member from Crafton College. In 2018, he joined the Leading from the Middle coaching team. Keith started his career as an Adjunct Sociology Instructor at Chaffey College teaching courses in marriage and family, sociology, research methods, and statistics. (Read More)

Early in his career, he began working as a research analyst, and ultimately became Director of Research and then Dean of Institutional Effectiveness, Research, and Planning at Crafton Hills College.

While at Crafton, Keith worked with faculty to implement a well-received student learning outcomes assessment process. He has also has received commendations and awards in data collection and dissemination, research, and planning. He has served on the RP Group Board, facilitated 3CSN workshops, and has been a member of the Chancellor’s Office IEPI Technical Assistance Team since 2015.

Melissa Bader

Melissa Bader began her participation in Leading from the Middle in 2016 as a member of the Norco College LFM team. She joined the Leading from the Middle coaching team in 2018. Melissa brings a great deal of college leadership experience to LFM, including serving as the Chair for the Communications Department and lead for the English discipline. (Read More)

She has also been a member of her Academic Senate, has attended the State Senate Leadership Institute; and has led the development of a a training program for new full-time faculty.

She has also served as the District Enrollment Management Representative for Norco College in her multi-college district; is the current Chair of Chairs, and is the current Institutional Strategic Planning Council Co-Chair for her college.

Melissa’s work with her LFM team helped establish the meta-majors and initial pathways for Norco College, and she is now co-chairing Norco College’s Competition Initiative and the Norco California Pathways Initiative workgroup.

In addition to helping develop a nationally-recognized summer bridge program focused on appropriate placement in English and math, Melissa has played an integral role in the effective onboarding of incoming first-year students.