Tuesday, November 30, 2021
The RP Group

 Our People

LFM coaches and facilitators are a dynamic group of (instructional and counseling) faculty, department chairs, directors, program coordinators, deans, student services professionals, researchers, and classified staff. The majority of our coaches and facilitators are graduates of LFM. As middle leaders themselves, they bring real-world experience, which serves to augment and contextualize the LFM curriculum. A few of our coaches have moved from middle leadership positions to become leaders in upper administration.


Director

Ireri Valenzuela, DirectorFor the past 17 years, Ireri Valenzuela has supported equity-centered structural reform efforts in higher education. In 2014, Ireri joined the RP Group as a Senior Researcher. In this role, she primarily conducts qualitative research to elevate the voices and needs of diverse community college student populations inequitably served by their institutions and to highlight the work that faculty and colleges are doing to increase educational attainment and close equity gaps. In 2017, in addition to her position as Senior Researcher, Ireri became the Lead Coaching Coordinator for the LFM Academy, a change-focused leadership development program. LFM develops and equips middle leaders from California Community Colleges with skills and strategies to advance efforts to close equity gaps in student success and completion. Most recently, Ireri moved into the role of Director for the LFM program... (Read More)

Ireri supports the development of emerging middle leaders by creatively blending her passions for organizational change, team coaching, qualitative research, adult education, and program design. Her expertise in systems change, evidence-based decision-making, leadership, and team development allow her to build trust and credibility with people across different roles and socioeconomic statuses. Further, she is an expert in creating and tailoring curriculum, training, and written materials for diverse audiences and in designing, implementing, evaluating, and managing complex programs and projects. Ireri’s commitment to diversity, equity, and social justice is central to who she is and is the lens through which she approaches her work.

Ireri is bilingual in Spanish and English. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in adult education from San Francisco State University. Ireri is also a Certified Team Performance Coach from Team Coaching International. Ireri grew up in Mexico City and San Francisco, California.


Facilitators

Michael Hoffman, Facilitator

Michael Hoffman

Michael Hoffman has been a mathematics instructor in the San Mateo Community College District (SMCCD) since 2007. During his tenure in the SMCCD, Michael has been involved in programs related to student-success and equity. He was the faculty Equity Coordinator at Cañada College for several years and currently works on Faculty Development initiatives related to improving Equity in STEM programs.... (Read More)

Michael has been an LFM coach since 2017.

Toni Parsons, Facilitator

Toni Parsons

Toni Parsons attended the LFM Academy in 2019 with San Diego Mesa College. At that time, she served as Pathways Co-Coordinator and math faculty. Currently, Toni is serving as the Acting HSI Title III Director. She has been a contract faculty member at Mesa College since 2005. During that time, she has served as a faculty leader through various positions including Curriculum Chair, Senate Treasurer, Department Chair, Basic Skills Math Coordinator, New Faculty Institute Mentor, and most recently as Pathways Co-Coordinator... (Read More)

She has also served at the state level on the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges Basic Skills, Curriculum, and Career and Technical Education Leadership Committees, as well as the Board of Governors Strong Workforce Taskforce in 2015.

Toni received her EdD in Community College Leadership from San Diego State University in 2020. Her dissertation focused on the degree aspirations of STEM majors that begin their postsecondary education at community college. Outside of the professional realm, Toni is a mother of two amazing teenagers, Nicolas and Maralyn.

Coaches

Artour Aslanian, Coach

Artour Aslanian

Artour Aslanian first participated in Leading from the Middle in 2018 as a member of the Crafton Hills College (CHC) team. In 2019, he joined the Leading from the Middle coaching team.

Artour started his career in academia as an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Azusa Pacific University in 2012 and has since taught at California State University, San Bernardino, California Polytechnic University, Pomona, and Chadron State College. In January 2017... (Read More)

Artour became an Assistant Research Analyst at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College and in October of that year took the position as the Senior Research & Planning Analyst at Crafton Hills. In this capacity, he is involved in efforts to enhance data literacy, assist in the implementation of Guided Pathways and AB 705, as well as various efforts around campus designed to eliminate equity gaps for students.

Artour is currently a Ph.D. candidate of Political Science at Claremont Graduate University. His academic research has focused on addressing and highlighting the disparities in Voting Rights among Native Americans residing in South Dakota as well as the experience of Native American elected officials in South Dakota.


   

Quinton Bemiller, Coach

Quinton Bemiller

Quinton Bemiller has 14 years of community college leadership and teaching experience. He is currently Dean of Instruction for the School of Arts & Humanities and the School of Social & Behavioral Sciences at Norco College, where he previously served as a tenured Associate Professor in Studio Art/Art History, Academic Senate President, Art Gallery Director, Teaching & Learning Committee Chair, Department Chair, and Guided Pathways Core Workgroup Member... (Read More)

Quinton participated in the 2018 LFM Academy, working with the Norco College team to create a comprehensive professional development plan that integrated Guided Pathways and equity goals and was subsequently adopted into the college’s strategic plan. He became an LFM coach in 2019, working with Bakersfield College and El Camino College. His educational background includes an EdD in educational leadership with a community college specialization from California State University, San Bernardino; an MFA from Claremont Graduate University; a BFA from Lesley University; and an AA from Pasadena City College. Quinton lives in Riverside, California.

Robert Gabriner, Coach

Robert Gabriner

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 57 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.

Ethan Hartsell, Coach

Ethan Hartsell

Since 2017, Ethan Hartsell has been a professor of communication at Porterville College, where he teaches classes on public speaking, interpersonal communication, mass communication, small group communication, and persuasion. He began his participation with LFM in 2019 as a participant on the Porterville LFM team and moved into a coaching role in 2020. At Porterville College, Ethan is working on the Guided Pathways committee in charge of developing meta-majors and program maps. He has also been active on the Porterville curriculum committee, scholarship committee, and student success and equity committee... (Read More)

Ethan received his PhD in communication from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2016. His research examined political identity and perceptions of credibility and bias in news media.

Brandi Howard, Coaching Coordinator

Brandi Howard

Brandi began her participation in Leading from the Middle as a member of the Laney College team in 2017, joined LFM’s coaching team in 2018 and has recently taken on the position of co-coaching coordinator for the program. Brandi currently works as Legal Coordinator for the Peralta Community College District. Previously, she held the position of Staff Assistant to the President of Laney College and had a leadership role, as Advisor to Laney College's... (Read More)

Alpha Chi Theta, Phi Theta Kappa Chapter that Brandi maintains to the present.

In 2015, Brandi joined the Laney College Classified Senate and was elected senate President in 2016. Before working in education, Brandi held executive administrative roles in the corporate and non-profit sector.

Brandi enjoys working in education and found collaborating with LFM to be rewarding because it gives her “a new perspective on how the work of education can ideally be done”. She believes that success can be achieved by students and staff and will come as a result of demonstrated reciprocity by highlighting the importance of collaboration and professional development through consistent focused work and commitment to the overall mission of our education system.

Alice Mecom, Coach

Alice Mecom

Alice Mecom has served in the California Community College system for nearly 25 years, starting her career as an ESL Instructor at Los Angeles City College and then as a Noncredit ESL Associate Professor at Glendale Community College (GCC). During her time at GCC, she became a noncredit ESL student and program advocate while also serving in the roles of Student Learning Outcomes Coordinator and member of the Academic Senate Executive... (Read More)

In 2014, Alice began her first administrator position as Associate Dean of Noncredit & Continuing Education at Pasadena City College and then moved to Rio Hondo College, where she has served as Dean of Communications and Languages since 2016. In addition to leading her division, she has taken leadership roles with Guided Pathways and professional development on her campus. During the first half of 2021, she served as Acting Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Alice joined the LFM coaching team in 2019.

Brent Monte

Brent Monte

Brent Monte considers himself first and foremost a teacher, currently teaching primarily statistics and calculus. Having obtained his PhD in higher education leadership, he is currently serving as Co-Chair of the Mathematics Department at Irvine Valley College. Previously, Brent was Co-Coordinator of Guided Pathways, Basic Skills Initiative (BSI) Coordinator, academic senate representative, faculty association representative, and a member of the curriculum committee... (Read More)

Brent began his affiliation with LFM as a participant in the LFM Academy and felt that what he and his team learned directly led to their progress and success in implementing Guided Pathways at Irvine Valley College. When the opportunity arose to share his knowledge and experience as a coach to other LFM attendees, Brent joined the LFM coaching team in 2019 without hesitation.

In his spare time, Brent enjoys spending time with his three children and running marathons.

Newin Paul Orante, Coach

Newin Paul Orante

Since February 2021, Newin Paul Orante has been serving as the Vice President of Student Services at Skyline College. Prior, he also held the position of the Vice President of Student Services at Diablo Valley College (DVC). He holds over 25 years of experience working in various systems and segments of education and has served the last 20 years in the California Community College System... (Read More)

Newin also served as the Dean of Student and Academic Affairs at Laney College in Oakland, California. Moreover, he served for seven years as the Director of Extended Opportunity Programs and Services and CalWORKs at Los Medanos College and, toward the end of his tenure, as the Dean of Student Development.

Newin is an active member of Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education (APAHE). He also currently serves as a Board Member for the Oakland-based community organization, Homies Empowerment. As a scholar-practitioner, Newin’s work is predicated by his commitment to organizational development, community relations, and social justice education.

Dr. Newin Paul Orante first participated in LFM in 2016 as a member of the DVC team. In 2020, he joined the LFM coaching team.

Micheline Pontious, Coach

Micheline Pontious

Micheline Pontious started working in California Community Colleges in 2015, first at Mt. San Antonio College in the Research and Institutional Effectiveness Office, where her passion for institutional research grew. In 2016, Micheline was hired in the Office of Research and Planning at City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and has enjoyed living in the Bay Area ever since... (Read More)

At CCSF, Micheline focuses on student equity, Guided Pathways, institutional research, and the integration of all three. From 2016 to 2019, Micheline also worked as a consultant for the IEPI Integrated Planning team through the RP Group, which offered her opportunities to collaborate with colleagues from across the state and to build partnerships with faculty, research staff, and administrators.

Micheline began her participation in LFM with the 2019 Academy, as part of the CCSF team, and joined the LFM coaching team in 2020.

Rob Stevenson

Rob Stevenson

Rob Stevenson has been a faculty member of Modesto Junior College (MJC) since 2001, teaching in the areas of art history, humanities, and studio art. In 2017, he accepted an appointment for four-and-a-half years as a faculty co-lead for MJC’s Guided Pathways processes, and he now continues that work as part of the Guided Pathways Technical team. Rob has been a strong advocate of doing important work for the college through collaborative, collegial, and process-oriented leadership teams... (Read More)

Select roles at MJC include serving on the Academic Senate Executive team, as the co-chair of the Instruction Counsel, the chair of the Equivalency Committee, the chair of the Academic Standards Committee, and at the state level as the Course Identification Numbering System (C-ID) lead for studio arts.

Rob remains committed to teaching and learning. Recent scholarly awards include National Endowment for the Humanities Institute Fellowships to study South Asian culture in New Delhi, India; to study Islam in Asia at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii; a fellowship from the Korea Society at the Academy for Korean Studies in Seoul, South Korea; and the Dar al Islam Teachers’ Institute. He was honored with MJC’s 2016-17 Online Teacher of the Year award. In 2019, he was an organizer of the conference, “Establishing Indonesia’s Place as a Global Center by Updating Ideas About Its Past,” and presented at the Universitas Mataram, Lombok; Universitas Sebelas Maret, Suryakarta; Universitas Muhammadiyah, Yogyakarta in Indonesia.

Rob began his participation in LFM in the 2018 as a member of the Modesto Junior College team and became a coach for LFM the following year.

Tabitha Villalba, Coach

Tabitha Villalba

Tabitha Villalba began her career as a writing tutor and teaching assistant at California State University, Fresno. She continued her career as an adjunct English instructor at several different community colleges in the San Joaquin Valley before becoming the Writing and Reading Center Coordinator for Fresno City College in 2008... (Read More)

Tabitha continued her role as an instructor in learning assistance as part of the Library and Student Learning Support Services Division serving in various leadership roles on campus including Program Review Coordinator and Academic Senate President before accepting an Interim Dean’s position in the Humanities Division. She was also President of the Association of Colleges for Tutoring and Learning Assistance 2014-2016. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

Tabitha is a former LFM participant and has been a coaching for Leading from the Middle since 2018.

Diva Ward, Coach

Diva Ward

Diva C. Ward has been working in higher education for more than 20 years. Building on her librarian roots, Diva found her passion in higher education while working as an Assistant Project Director for the Upward Bound Program. She first discovered her passion for students, data, and data storytelling by working with low-income and first-generation students with Upward Bound... (Read More)

After spending more than 10 years working with TRIO, Diva then worked as a Hub Director for the Biotechnology Center — housed at Ventura College and funded through the California Economic Workforce and Development Department.

Diva also served as a Title V HSI Grant Director and Director of Student Support at Cañada College and continues to work as a collaborator and community-building instrument of change. She also continues to use data, data storytelling and data analysis as tools to guide her work and the design and implementation of programs and services that positively impact student success.