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Kristen Soares

President, AICCU

Kristen Soares is the fourth president of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities. Soares works in partnership with leaders around the state to shape policy for California’s independent colleges and universities. Under her leadership to advance new policy initiatives to address the needs of today’s students, AICCU adopted an agreement with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to adopt the Associate Degree for Transfer pathway, a groundbreaking program to improve community college transfer for students. Soares has an extensive background in higher education, policy, administration, and governmental advocacy. Before coming to AICCU, Soares spent nearly 25 years at the University of Southern California (USC). She served as the senior associate vice president for government relations and civic engagement, where she provided strategic direction and leadership for USC’s government and community relations offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C.

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Alex Graves

Vice President for Government Relations, AICCU

Alex Graves joined AICCU in January 2019. As vice president for government relations, he is the chief lobbyist and is responsible for legislative advocacy and public policy leadership in support of independent higher education. Graves serves as the liaison between AICCU and the Governor’s Office, the California Legislature, California Student Aid Commission, and other public bodies. Prior to joining AICCU, he worked as the legislative advocate at the California State University Office of Advocacy & State Relations, where he staffed legislation pertaining to admissions, financial aid, K-12 and teacher preparation, student basic needs, and transfer. He has also worked as a legislative assistant at the Alzheimer’s Association, and as a graduate research assistant at the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy. In 2016-17 he completed the California Education Policy Fellowship Program, a year-long program designed to help equip education leaders address the state’s unique education policy needs.

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Ann McElaney-Johnson

President, Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles

Dr. Ann McElaney-Johnson is the 12th president of Mount Saint Mary’s University, the only women’s university in Los Angeles and one of the most diverse in the nation. She has over 30 years of experience and is recognized as a thought leader for the advancement of women and a champion for innovative teaching and learning. Since her appointment in 2011, Dr. McElaney-Johnson led and implemented a strategic vision for the University that fosters a culture of inclusiveness and excellence, preparing students to be global leaders and pursue purpose-filled lives. Her vision is rooted in the traditions and heritage of the University’s founding Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, as well as the University’s institutional mission. She serves on several executive boards including: Chair of the Board for the Women’s College Coalition, Advisory Board Member of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s, Chair of the Board of the AICCU Executive Committee, Member of the Board of St. Joseph Center, and Member of the Executive Committee of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Ted Mitchell

President, American Council on Education 

Ted Mitchell has served as president of the American Council on Education (ACE), the major coordinating body for the nation’s colleges and universities, since 2017. Mitchell and his team work closely with Congress, the executive branch, and the private sector to develop policies and innovative practices that serve our country’s postsecondary learners. Mitchell served in the Obama administration as U.S. under secretary of education from 2014 to 2017 and was responsible for all postsecondary education policies, such as initiatives focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, minority serving institutions, and federal student aid. Mitchell and his team at the Department of Education (ED) reinstated Pell Grants for incarcerated adults, created the College Scorecard, and restored millions of dollars to students who were defrauded by their institutions. Before joining ED, Mitchell served in a variety of higher education leadership roles, including as president of Occidental College; vice chancellor and dean at the University of California, Los Angeles; professor and department chair at Dartmouth College; and a member of the Stanford University Board of Trustees.

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Mary Lomax-Ghirarduzzi

Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, University of the Pacific

Mary J. Lomax-Ghirarduzzi joined Pacific in 2021 as the university’s inaugural vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and chief diversity officer. She is also a professor in the Communication Department. A leader on race, leadership and faith-informed social justice, she is guiding the university through a transformative framework designed to integrate DEI into all aspects of campus life and operations. Prior to Pacific, Lomax-Ghirarduzzi served as dean of students and vice provost of diversity and community engagement at University of San Francisco, where she led diversity initiatives that resulted in one of the most ethnically diverse student bodies and faculty in the nation. She is an affiliate faculty member at the Race and Equity Center at University of Southern California and president of the Northern California chapter of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. Lomax-Ghirarduzzi’s awards include the Black History Month Legacy Award of Excellence; Human Rights Defender for Gender Equality in San Francisco; and being named one of the Bay Area’s Most Influential Women by the San Francisco Business Times.

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Mitchell Chang

Associate Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, UCLA


Mitchell Chang has nearly 30 years experience on the UCLA campus, as a graduate student and a School of Education and Information Studies faculty member, as well as his professorial appointment in UCLA’s Department of Asian American Studies. In 2022, he became the third person to serve as the Associate Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at UCLA. Chang, who is a faculty member in the division of Higher Education and Organizational Change, has been helping to strategize how the University can further diversify its faculty. His research focuses on the educational efficacy of diversity-related initiatives on college campuses and how to apply those best practices toward advancing student learning and democratizing institutions. Chang has written over 90 publications, some of which were cited in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of Grutter v. Bollinger, one of two cases involving the use of race-sensitive admissions practices at the University of Michigan.

Additional Speakers Coming Soon...

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