A Journey of Compassion and Insight: Reflecting on a Trip to Tijuana

Embarking on a trip to Tijuana, Mexico, with Dr. Sabith Khan as an MPPA student was a culmination of anticipation and eagerness, fueled by a yearning to delve into real-world issues and experiences. Having missed out on a previous opportunity due to lacking a passport, I was determined to seize this chance to explore and learn. Little did I know, the journey would profoundly expand my perspectives on the importance of public policies and fuel a desire for meaningful change in an area I knew little about.

Our first stop was at Xquenda Lab at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, an open space for citizen science focused on the indigenous and migrant populations. Directed by Maximino Matus Ruiz and his team, the lab’s dedication to preserving indigenous languages through digitization was inspiring. Witnessing student research projects and indulging in sopes while overlooking the Mexican Pacific Coast fostered a sense of appreciation for educational initiatives driving social change.

Venturing further, our next stop was at Casa del Migrante, a sanctuary for migrants fleeing violence and seeking refuge. Run by dedicated social workers and volunteers, the facility offered essential services and support to individuals navigating the complexities of migration. Learning about the arduous journey migrants face, coupled with the bureaucratic hurdles of asylum-seeking, underscored the urgent need for policy reform and humanitarian intervention at all levels of the government. The facility can hold up to 200 people for up to 60 days. This conflicts with the 6 to 7 month current wait time for a hearing, so in the interim they help people build lives in Tijuana by securing employment, help to find housing, offer certification programs, and enroll children in school and provide childcare. The facility is funded by the Catholic Church, donations, and fundraising activities, and ran by staff and volunteers.

As a student of public policy and administration, the visit to Casa del Migrante was eye-opening. It shed light on the multifaceted nature of social issues and the imperative for compassionate, multi-dimensional solutions. The passion and dedication of the staff resonated deeply, reaffirming the power of empathy and advocacy in addressing systemic injustices.

Leaving Casa del Migrante, I was filled with a sense of urgency and purpose. The experience really prioritized the need to effect change and advocate for marginalized communities. It reinforced the importance of amplifying voices that are often silenced and the need for centering lived experiences and real stories in policy discourse.2 3 4 Picture1


Our journey concluded with a bittersweet visit to Friendship Park / El Parque de la Amistad in Playa de Tijuana, a binational park at the US -Mexico border. The park was inaugurated on Aug 18, 1971 by First Lady Pat Nixon. There were no border barriers of any kind at Friendship Park for generations. I couldn’t find the exact year that changed, but even after walls were built in 2011 San Diego Border Patrol officials still opened the park for limited hours each weekend through the slats of the wall. Over more recent years, this public access for US residents was restricted and in February of 2020, the park completely closed on the US side. Walking amidst murals and remnants of shared histories, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of missed opportunities for unity and solidarity. We did learn that there is a concentrated effort to reopen the park, and I sincerely hope there are ways for us as students to support it.

In closing, I extend heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Khan for his unwavering dedication to exposing students to diverse perspectives and social issues. His commitment to fostering experiential learning and nurturing compassionate leaders is truly commendable. Here’s to the next adventure, may it also be fueled by empathy, advocacy, and a responsibility and commitment to meaningful change.



Guest post – How The MPPA Helped My Career In SEO and Digital Marketing – Nicolai Andersen

In this article, I will highlight the surprisingly many ways that the MPPA program has contributed to the advancement of my career in digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). I graduated with my MPPA degree from Cal Lutheran in 2021. Shortly after, I relocated to Norway. Having worked for years with digital marketing in the U.S., I secured a marketing position in Oslo, which required a master’s degree. I later established an SEO bureau in Oslo.

Many have wondered why a digital marketer would pursue a degree in public policy. Upon reflecting, I can think of countless ways this program has helped me become a better marketer as well as a more well-rounded, informed professional.

Global Perspective

The SEO bureau currently serves clients from several countries across three continents. For technical and design support, we frequently collaborate with international freelancers. In essence, the global perspective I acquired not only from the MPPA program but also through studying abroad has greatly assisted me in conducting business within an international environment. This perspective has proven invaluable in comprehending cultural nuances, understanding diverse audiences, and navigating the complexities of the global marketplace.



I acquired a large number of skills during my time at Cal Lutheran. Notably, my research, analytical, communication, and advocacy skills witnessed significant improvement. These skills are not only convenient but also necessary for a career in digital marketing and SEO. Analytical proficiency, for instance, is crucial when dissecting search data, researching algorithm changes, conducting keyword research, and presenting results to clients.

Advocacy projects were integral components of several courses, contributing significantly to my growth as a marketer. They provided valuable lessons on tailoring messages to diverse audiences and the ability to effectively market or advocate for any product or company.

Furthermore, the skills gained through the process of academic paper writing have substantially enhanced my expertise in content marketing. Blog articles, for instance, often play a key role in SEO. Given recent updates to search engine algorithms, there is a heightened focus on well- crafted, valuable written content.

Upon reflection, the MPPA program has emerged as a cornerstone in my professional journey in digital marketing. The diverse skill set acquired, ranging from ethical considerations to an understanding of how public policy influences business, has not only broadened my horizons. It has also been instrumental in shaping me into a more adept entrepreneur, digital marketer, and SEO specialist.

You can visit my website at – https://seotjenester.no/

Transcending Silos: What Your MPPA Degree Can Do For You

Processed with VSCO with t1 preset

 – Sean Veal, MPPA 2013

Earning a Master of Public Policy and Administration degree can be a dynamic credential to advancing one’s career in both the public and private sectors. It is common place for a sizable number of MPPA graduates to continue in or embark on public service careers with municipalities. Such positions may range from a role in the City Manager’s office, City Planning Department, Public Works, Transportation, Human Resources, and Fire and Safety. These job functions implement administrative prerogatives and public policies for helping operate our cities, schools, and infrastructure for the common good of our communities. However, the “public” or “civil servant’ connotation of a MPPA degree is by no means the only avenue a recipient of the degree can pursue. The dynamism of the tools gained in a public policy program provides transferable skills and knowledge that are applicable to private sector jobs as well.

As a graduate student in the MPPA program, I discovered my passion for housing policy and have dedicated my career to improving housing for our marginalized communities through learning the mechanisms that will address and alleviate the pressures of the housing crisis. Moreover, during the MPPA program I gained a repertoire of skills that have served me well to support my passion for housing policy through various public and private sector experiences as a housing researcher, city planner, affordable housing developer, and investment banker. These routes are all unique, yet facets of each role share the common thread of addressing housing, which is the fabric of our urban landscape.

In the MPPA program I learned the history, foundation, and theory of public administration and policy. Additionally, I gained skills in critical thinking, leadership, presenting, and teamwork. In concert with learning practical career skills, I was introduced to urban planning and housing policy topics that have morphed into my expertise and passion. The program gave me a sense of the duty, responsibilities, expectations, and challenges of working in the public sector. It goes without saying that all these attributes have been vital to my work in the private sector.

As private companies often form partnerships with public entities to achieve goals such as building affordable housing, knowledge of the public sphere is invaluable. For example, a public-private partnership that creates and preserves affordable housing is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits program which encourages private investors to work with developers and localities in financing affordable housing developments. In exchange for financing a portion of a development these private investors receive tax break incentives. In an effort to contribute to public-private financing, the MPPA program equipped me with an understanding of how localities operate, while simultaneously imparting the principles of thinking critically and understanding an array of perspectives involved in a finance transaction. The program also emboldened me with leadership fundamentals to work with diverse stakeholders to accomplish the financing of affordable housing.

While I used my MPPA training for traditional public servant roles, I also was able to leverage that same training to buttress my path in private sector financing. We can use our MPPA skills to transcend silos in the public or private realms for the betterment our communities.

MPPA In Action Interview: Public Service Entrepreneurship


Leo Casiple

A highly accomplished alumni, Leo continues to give back through his talents and unique experiences to several organizations, rigorous competitions, and his alma mater CLU. 

1. What motivated you to start Public Value, LLC?

I have always been fascinated by the functions that connect government, business, and the community. 

I grew up under martial law. When I became a Green Beret, I worked in many countries to help stabilize internal security. I offered national level military solutions, but they were not enough. Citizens needed financial, social, and other social safety nets beyond the scope and capabilities of Special Forces Advisors. 

I was fortunate that, when I earned an MBA in Global Management, I began to understand the underlying factors and methodologies that fuel and influence global economic momentum. When I earned a Master of Competitive Intelligence™️, I learned how to uncover blind spots by looking between the lines of annual financial statements, shaded intent based on organizational structure and commitments, and indicators not found in mission statements. 

But, I was still clueless about the public domain and about how policy is negotiated, created, and implemented. After I completed CLU’s MPPA program, I became more confident that with public policy knowledge, training, and passion for innovation I will help solve – in a holistic manner – the world’s most pressing economic, diplomatic, defense, and social challenges.

As it stands today, my company can touch just about every need within a community. I am excited that in my doctoral program, I will focus on solving global water issues. Water touches every community and industry. Public Value LLC will become central to global policies regarding the conservation, distribution, and availability of water. 

2. What is the mission/ vision of your company?

MIssion: We honor those who improve the world by delivering civic solutions where development, diplomacy, defense, and community converge.

Vision: A global organization that helps communities discover its value from within.

3. How do you see yourself contributing to solving some of the problems around us?

I am fortunate to have worked all over the world. Throughout the years, I realized that to solve problems, I have to resonate at the individual, human level by doing the following: 1) Listen and hear what communities explicitly and implicitly communicate; 2) Maintain my strengths so that I can help partners find theirs; and 3) Respect the processes and values of others, just as I would want them to respect mine. Everything else is commentary.

4. What unique perspectives has being a veteran given you?

This is a very good question. First, I want to make it clear I am a first-generation American who joined the Army out of economic necessity, and not out of patriotism. I was too young and self-centered to know what protecting others meant. Second, I lacked self-esteem throughout my life, but through challenges designed to test the individual, the Army taught me to believe in myself. Third, the military instilled discipline, leadership, and honor – traits that display vulnerability and courage, humility and respect, and a reverence for humanity.

Grassroots View. I am grateful for the opportunity to work in many parts of the country and the world. Nothing replaces meeting communities where they are at, resonating with their energy, and listening to their hopes and dreams. 

Decision-Making. The military trained me to plan carefully, assess attentively, and to make decisions prudently.  Some decisions are difficult. The Army taught me to make ethical decisions, even if those decisions are against the prevailing popular opinion.

Agility. My military leaders taught me that plans are tested often by antagonists and supporters. Being agile, not in a physical sense but in the intellectual realm, is a key element to creating sustainable solutions. Agility equates to stillness during chaos, elegance during turbulence, and strength during catastrophe.

How To Series: Internships at the GAO

GAO Photo

~Patricia Palao Da Costa

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is the auditing arm used by the United States Congress to improve and ensure government efficiency and accountability. Known as the “congressional watchdog”, GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that responds to congressmembers’ requests, legislative mandates, and other investigative needs issued by the legislative branch of government. After completing a program audit, the agency will almost always publish a public report that details their conclusions and recommendations for the program and/or respective agencies. To fulfill their vast role and requests, GAO has fifteen mission teams and eleven field offices that house general analysts and other specialists to ethically and comprehensively complete each assignment.

Internship Opportunities: Management and Program Analyst

GAO offers internships in both the operational and mission teams of the agency. My internship was for the International Affair and Trade mission team as a Management and Program Analyst (Student Trainee), based out of the Los Angeles field office. Most engagements are completed within 8-12 months, and since the internship length is 400-640 hours, each intern’s experience and engagement phases will differ. Each team will have a Director, an Assistant Director, a methodologist, a lawyer, an Analyst-In-Charge, and a number of other analysts as needed. Throughout their time, interns receive ongoing training, instruction, and education on the engagement as well as the organization of GAO as a whole. The internship has two main purposes: to provide enriching and applicable experiences to the student trainees, and to assess the intern’s abilities for the potential employment offer to join the Professional Development Program after graduation.


Start by taking courses that directly relate to this career. Research Methods, Quantitative Methods, Law in Public Policy, and Performance Management/Program Management and Evaluation were the most helpful in learning the material and skills needed during my internship experience. Second, check the GAO website for internship application openings. There are spring, summer, and fall internships with application windows beginning 4-6 months before the hire date and closing as soon as the maximum number of applicants have been entered (usually within a couple weeks). And lastly, network and connect with professors, guest speakers, or other individuals that are associated with GAO already in some capacity. Feel free to email me or connect with me on LinkedIn if you have any questions or are interested in learning more about the internship process!

Winter 2021/2022 Capstone: Integrating Environmental Justice Principles into the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan


By: Debbie Canas, Jessica Diaz, Nathan Hatia, Tina Secrease, and Lisa Vaiman

Faculty Advisor: Jacqueline Phelps

Article Written By: Nathan Hatia

Environmental justice is an essential factor to consider when creating land-use plans for communities. In short, Environmental Justice is a course of action or research focused on reducing or eliminating the disproportional environmental burden placed on communities of color, low income, etc. (Chakraborty, 2016). While environmental justice initiatives were not a part of the land use planning process until recently, it is pertinent that future land use plans, such as General and Area Plans and Area Plans seek to mitigate the burdens placed on these communities by previous planning decisions (Wilson, 2008).

The General Plan was created by the County of Ventura Resource Management Agency using analyses, data, and input from the community through surveys, informational sessions, and Workshops (VC-RMA, General Plan, 2020). A General Plan is the collection of goals, policies, and programs in which the County lays out its plans for land use over a specific timeframe. Within this General Plan are smaller Area Plans focused on unique communities and specific geographic areas. The County of Ventura has created a comprehensive General Plan in which environmental justice considerations are integrated throughout. Our project focused on integrating these Environmental Justice principles into the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan. The original El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan was created in 1980 and subsequently amended in 2011; however, a comprehensive update has not been completed since 1996 (VC-RMA Area Plan, 2020). As such, the El Rio/Del Norte has a significant need in several areas to bring it up to the standards of the surrounding communities and the goals outlined in the General Plan, particularly those related to environmental justice.

Environmental justice, or rather injustice, can occur in ways that may not traditionally be considered “environmental” issues. While our project incorporates traditional Environmental Justice topics such as water safety, we have also included uncommon or non-traditional topics such as Transportation and Housing. 

Specifically, our Capstone Project examined portions of the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan related to Housing, Transportation, Public Facilities and Recreation, Water Hazards and Quality, and Community Outreach, and provided recommendations to implement environmental justice principles relating to each topic. Through research conducted using area mapping and visits to the community, existing data provided by the County/State, comparable Area Plans, and existing research conducted on the specified topics, we created recommendations in the form of goals, policies, and programs, that either bolster existing topics or add missing elements within the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan. 

While many recommendations were provided, the following are few of the key recommendations: 

  • Community Outreach: Partner with local non-profits and community-based organizations in order to increase civic engagement and representation within the community.
  • Housing: Adapt Ventura County General plan policies into the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan in order to effectively allow for affordable housing. 
  • Transportation: Promote development of sidewalks and other pedestrian friendly infrastructure.
  • Recreation: Plan for parks and other similar recreation open areas to be constructed in the community. 
  • Water Safety: Evaluate the creation of a program to analyze and mitigate flood risks to the community. 

The community of El Rio is one of the most  vulnerable areas in our County, and one that has not had the land use planning advantages that the surrounding areas have benefited from. Therefore, as the County looks to implement a new General Plan and update the existing El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan, which will serve as a guideline for several years, consideration of environmental justice within this overburdened community is crucial. It is important that under-resourced communities such as El Rio have plans created for their future growth. Environmental Justice in planning is an important consideration for planning agencies in order to build  prosperous communities. 


Chakraborty, J., Collins, T., & Grineski, S. (2016). Environmental Justice Research: Contemporary Issues and Emerging Topics. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(11), 1072. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13111072  


Wilson, S., Hutson, M., & Mujahid, M. (2008). How planning and zoning contribute to inequitable development, Neighborhood Health, and environmental injustice. Environmental Justice, 1(4), 211–216. https://doi.org/10.1089/env.2008.0506  


Ventura County General Plan, 2020


MPPA Spring 2022 Newsletter

Spring 2022 Newsletter

Message from the Director


Sabith Khan, Ph.D.
Program Director & Assistant Professor, MPPA

Welcome to 2022! 


I started this year by setting a new goal: to read more. The past two years have taken a sort of strange effect on all of us, and I have not been immune from it. To address this, I felt it was necessary to read more and widely. The past two years have taken a sort of strange effect on all of us, and I have not been immune from it. To address this, I felt it was necessary to read more and widely. One such book that I am re-reading is called the Moral Imagination by John Paul Lederach, one of the influential thinkers (at least in the West) of conflict resolution. I first read this book as a grad student at Syracuse University 11 years ago. The lessons of this book seem relevant to today, as they were when it was written.

Lederach’s core thesis is that we can transcend violence and differences by “the capacity to generate, mobilize and build the moral imagination.” By moral imagination he means the ability to have the imagination and the belief in and pursuit of the creative act. It also means to have complex thinking and ability to assume the risk that lies when one steps beyond the predictable response and even being able to trust people one would not, under normal circumstances.

As we deal with multiple crises before us, all of which can have deadly consequences– a global pandemic that refuses to go away totally, a fractured political landscape made worse by disinformation campaigns– we need to ask ourselves: How do we develop this moral imagination; is it even possible in our day and age? Or, the converse question: What if we don’t find common ground and accept facts when they are presented to us?

On a related note, the debate around how much control governments need to exercise over our day-to-day activities persists, both in the US and in other parts of the world. We are facing what sociologist Gil Ayal calls a crisis of expertise, meaning that experts are perhaps being questioned as much as being relied on in making key decisions that regulate our daily lives. Science is also under attack with disinformation, vaccine hesitancy and the like, taking a real toll on people across the world.

We are planning new courses, including faculty-led travel seminars. We plan to cover Sacramento, Mexico, and Ecuador. Hopefully, with travel making a comeback, we will be able to take our students to these places to share not just knowledge but also to create educational experiences which they will cherish for a lifetime.

In the meanwhile, stay safe and write to us if you have any ideas, concerns, or programmatic suggestions.

Message from Faculty



Loredana Carson, Ed.D.



If you are a student or program graduate who has taken out a student loan to cover the cost of your graduate MPPA degree, and if you currently work for a public sector or non-profit employer, then the recent announcements regarding Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) might be of interest to you. In case you have never heard of this plan, the website defines the program in this way: “The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer” (Public Service Loan Forgiveness, 2022).

And yes, “120 payments” means 10 years of payments, but often 10 years is not enough to discharge the entire loan so having the balance of the loan forgiven after this time can be liberating and is well worth the while of investigating. Historically, this program has not functioned very well and there have been many difficulties for individuals who were in fact qualified but whose loan forgiveness plans were not enacted properly. That is why it is worthwhile to stay up on changes to the plan and to monitor the website for updates on a regular basis if you work for a public sector or qualifying non-profit organization. The website details the employer requirements and provides information on how to apply for the program. The Biden administration has been slower than they had hoped to be in making changes to get this program functioning efficiently. Any changes made to this point have come about as a result of presidential Executive Action. However, the federal Department of Education is also using this time to rewrite the regulations to improve program delivery. Recently, the Department of Education participated in a negotiated rulemaking session in which the department laid out proposed changes to the program, including: automating employment certifications, simplifying payment counts, and creating an appeals process to streamline the lengthy steps required to protest a disputed decision.

Unfortunately, the stakeholders involved in the negotiation (e.g., student loan borrowers, legal service advocates, school and government officials) failed to come to an agreement about these proposed changes, which throws the ball back into the Department of Ed’s court and allows them to decide which suggestions, if any, they will incorporate into the final rule. The estimated timeline shows that the new regulations are scheduled to appear in 2023.

In October of 2021, the Biden administration temporarily issued a limited PSLF Waiver which provides some relief to those currently enrolled in the program. Those details are explained here. I suggest you bookmark these pages and check back frequently if you are considering applying for this program. One of the main complaints to date has been that it shouldn’t be so difficult to receive this benefit, which was created to encourage people to consider careers in the public sector.

The Public Sphere

The Public Sphere is thetps MPPA’s blog that houses articles about pertinent topics ranging from current events, public administration, public policy, and, most recently, student and alumni accounts of their career tips and journeys.


How To Series: Internships at the County Government 

~Erin Niemi 

tps2As a young person trying to establish a career in public service, one of the highlights of my 2021 was getting to intern at the County of Ventura in their Public Service Internship Program. The Program consisted of various work opportunities within different County agencies and departments (e.g., County Executive Office, Human Services Agency, the Fire Department, etc.)…


MPPA In Action

leo c

Leo Casiple

Interview: Won Toastmasters Speech Contest and Participated in Brussel’s Peacewriter Prize Competition


A highly accomplished alumni, Leo continues to give back through his talents and unique experiences to several organizations, rigorous competitions, and his alma mater CLU.

1. Congratulations on winning the Toastmasters’ Club Level International Speech Contest and participating in the Peacewriter Prize Competition! For those who don’t already know you and all your many interests and accomplishments, could you introduce yourself to the MPPA community?

Thank you. I won the Area 6 Contest in November 2021 and will advance to the Southern Division contest in March 2022. The International Speech Contest is 5-7 minutes long: anything less than 4.5 minutes or over 7.5 minutes results in a disqualification.

I did not place in the top three essays in the 2021 International Peacewriter Prize Competition, Brussels, but many colleagues have mentioned that I could teach an entire college class with the elements I wrote about.

To Read More…

Majd Pic

Majd Almalki

Interview: New Director of Gender Balance Statistics at the Institute of Public Administration of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Continuing to apply her MPPA knowledge, Majd is making a profound impact in her new role as a Director at the Institute of Public Administration in her home country of Saudi Arabia, where Dr. Khan recently visited with Majd and other alumni.

1. You recently received a promotion to be the Director of Gender Balance Statistics at the Institute of Public Administration of Saudi Arabia– Congratulations! Tell us about the Institute and what it seeks to achieve.

First of all, I would like to thank you for this opportunity. It is always a pleasure to share with the MPPA community what happened recently in my career. The Institute of Public Administration (IPA) is one of the leading government agencies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. IPA seeks to increase the efficiency of public employees and to educate them to make them capable of shouldering their responsibilities, use their jurisdiction in a manner that would raise the level of administration, and support the foundation of national economic development.

To Read More…

Student & Alumni Updates


Matthew Gammariello, MPPA, JD

New Employment: Immigration Associate Attorney at Hadley Bajramovic

Matthew details his exciting new job opportunity, where he will be “practicing immigration law for one of the biggest full-service immigration law firms in the area…

I will be doing deportation removal defense proceedings, cancellation of removal, asylum cases, and DACA renewals. I will be in immigration court 2-3 days a week,” as well as potential opportunities to present before the Immigration Appeals Board like the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.



Sara Rivera, MPPA

New Employment: Health Equity Manager at Ventura County Public Health


Nathan Hatia

New  Employment: Assistant Staff Analyst at Los Angeles Department of Public Health

In describing his new career, Nathan states: “Working for the LA Department of Public Health during a historically significant time has been an unique experience. The preconceived notion that I had about government work being slow and/or un-innovative couldn’t be further from the truth. I am thoroughly enjoying my work and look forward to furthering my career in the public space.”



Oscar Trujillo, MPPA

New Employment: Academic Services Coordinator at CLU


san5Tina Seacrese & Patricia Palao Da Costa

New Board Directors at Many Mansion

Many Mansions is a nonprofit organization that serves low-income families and individuals in Ventura and Los Angeles counties by providing affordable housing and many other services.

Helping thousands of lives annually, Tina and Patricia are honored to have been chosen to serve on Many Mansions Board of Directors and look forward to volunteering their time and expertise to assist Many Mansions increase their impact for the many others needing its assistance.



Leslie Madrigal

New Employment:
Financial Aid Operations Assistant at CLU


sn7Dichele Harris, MPPA

2020 Hamm Award: Champion of the Vulnerable

The William E. Hamm Award seeks to spotlight the work extraordinary volunteers accomplish to impact California Lutheran University and their local communities.

In speaking of Dichele, the University published: “Over the years, she has served Cal Lutheran on university advisory councils… During the pandemic Harris provided outstanding leadership and extraordinary community support in the Conejo Valley to the homeless and others in need… She is a most extraordinary individual, admired and respected by the many volunteers in this community who work alongside her and nominated her for this award.”



Christine Birabwa, MPPA

New Employment:
Technical Specialist at County of Ventura


san9Mike Ramirez, MPPA

New Employment:
Assistant City Manager at City of Carpinteria

Hitting the ground running, Mike talks about his aspirations within his new leadership role in the City of Carpinteria in his recent Q&A session with the MPPA community.


Sara Martinez

New Employment:
Elections Records Technician II at County of Ventura

2021 & 2022 Capstone Projects

Fall 2021 Term

Music Program Breakdown for the Westview Family Development
Leslie Madrigal, Stephanie Rendon, Laura Vasquez
Faculty Advisor: Chris Beck

cp1Music is an integrated part of people’s lives that can spark a wide range of emotions and memories that last a lifetime. Studies show how music education introduced to young children “heightens children’s auditory acuity, thus increasing their ability to process language” (Etopio, et al., 2012).

Aside from that, there are also improvements in children’s self-identity that improve their confidence and also give them a place they have ownership of (Barber, Eccles, & Stone, 2001). Hence, this capstone will focus on developing a low-income music program for the properties owned or managed by Westview Family Development, a low-income housing unit in the City of San Buenaventura.

To Read More…

Winter 2022 Term

Housing the Unhoused
Ana Perez, Thiana Martinez, Veronica Navarro
Faculty Advisor: Sean Veal

The name of the capstone course is Housing the Unhoused: Skid Row Homelessness Policy Analysis. Through this project, students will analyze the court case LA Alliance for Humans Rights vs. The City of Los Angeles. They will partner with Skid Row Housing Trust, an affordable housing not-for-profit developer, to address how the court case can impact the organization and homelessness in the Skid Row Neighborhood. Through the capstone, students will address issues centered on housing policy, homelessness, economic and racial inequality, and policy implementation.

El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan Update
Debbie Canas, Jessica Diaz, Nathan Hatia, Tina Secrease, Lisa Vaiman
Faculty Advisor: Jacqui Phelps

The project is in partnership with the County of Ventura Resources Management Agency, and the students will be researching and analyzing existing laws and policies relating to environmental justice in order to propose recommendations for the El Rio/Del Norte Area Plan Update.

Faculty & Staff Updates

Summer Term Schedule
Students Can Register Now!

Dr. Sabith Khan
Second Place Prize in the Voinovich Innovation Challenge 

sanaIn detailing his experience with the competition, Dr. Khan stated: “I participated in the… Ohio University‘s Voinovich innovation challenge – a national competition with over 38 entries (hosted by NASPAA), with MPPA student Madison Bartula-Henkle for a project that we are involved in: IOREM, a research collaborative of scholars engaged in migration and remittances. We won the second prize! Thanks to all parties involved, in promoting this initiative and for highlighting the role of research and public education in this process.”

Read about Madison’s experience with IOREM and the competition in her recent blog post here.

Steve Mermell
Retirement from City Management in City of Pasadena

sanbAfter five years of dedicated service as the City Manager for the City of Pasadena, and more than thirty years of public service, Professor Mermell announced his retirement plans last fall for this new year of 2022. We are grateful for the expertise and enthusiasm Professor Mermell brings in the courses he will continue to offer for the MPPA program, and we congratulate and commend him for his many years of remarkable service he provided for the City of Pasadena!

PJ Gagajena
New Adjunct Professor

sancPJ Gagajena proudly serves as the Assistant City Manager for the City of Moorpark. As Chief Operations Officer, he oversees the City’s daily operations serving 36,326 residents and an annual budget of nearly $60 million. His 20-year career in local government includes working for the cities of Los Angeles, New York, Indio, and Torrance. PJ earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a Minor in Asian American Studies from UCLA and holds Master’s degrees in Public Policy and Urban Planning from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Professor Gagajena will be teaching this Spring’s Emergency & Crisis Management course!

Dr. Khan & ASPA
Limited, Free Memberships for Students


The MPPA program is delighted to offer FIVE FREE memberships to the South Asia section at the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA). Dr. Sabith Khan has been appointed as the Chair of this section recently.

If you are interested in networking, getting involved, and being sponsored to receive a FREE membership to ASPA and SASPA, please email ppalaoda@callutheran.edu!

Omairah Azizi
New Program Specialist

saneAs the Graduate Program Specialist for the School of Management, Omairah supports the MPPA, MBA-FP and MS Financial Planning programs. She organizes and manages the day-to-day activities of the Graduate Programs in relation to faculty and students. In addition to supporting the directors of the programs, she performs other departmental duties including preparing class schedules for the programs in each term, coordinating full-time and adjunct faculty teaching assignments and negotiating times and class locations with instructors. She also serves as a resource to graduate students and provides lead work direction to graduate assistants and student workers. She is also a graduate of California Lutheran University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications.

Omairah’s Contact Information
CLU Campus: Pioneer House
Email: omairahazizi@callutheran.edu
Phone: (805) 493-3678

Dr. Loredana Carson
Education Policy Offered This Summer Term

sanfElective course highlight! Describing her course, Dr. Carson shares: “This summer on Wednesday evenings I will be teaching Education Policy (PA 582-01) as an elective offering. Each week the class is structured around a central question that helps students understand the purpose of education in a wider context than how it typically portrayed. The class is interactive and enlightening, and I bring in guest speakers as available to discuss these and other important matters that pertain to education policy. You don’t have to be an educator to be impacted by education policy issues. We are all to some extent a product of our current system and understanding how it works (and doesn’t work) can be helpful to us moving forward. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about this class.”

International Meetings
Alumni in Saudi Arabia Meet with Dr. Khan


Dr. Khan, Program Director of MPPA met up with Saudi alumni on his recent trip to Riyadh, KSA. The first photo on the left (from left to right) pictures Majd Al Malki, Director of Gender Balance Statistics at the Institute  of Public Administration; Majd’s colleague and prospective student; and Dr. Khan and his wife, Fabiola Lara. The second photo on the right (from right to left) pictures Muhannad Al Khamis, External Auditor at GOSI; Abdullah Aldokhail, General Entertainment Authority; and Dr. Khan and his wife, Fabiola Lara.

What We Are Reading



Fall 2021 Capstone: City of San Buenaventura

Music Program Breakdown for the Westview Family Development

music capstone

~Leslie Madrigal, Stephanie Rendon & Laura Vasquez

Faculty Advisor: Christopher Beck

Music is an integrated part of people’s lives that can spark a wide range of emotions and memories that last a lifetime. Studies show how music education introduced to young children “heightens children’s auditory acuity, thus increasing their ability to process language” (Etopio, et al., 2012). Aside from that, there are also improvements in children’s self-identity that improve their confidence and also give them a place they have ownership of (Barber, Eccles, & Stone, 2001). Hence, this capstone will focus on developing a low-income music program for the properties owned or managed by Westview Family Development, a low-income housing unit in the City of San Buenaventura.

As studies show, music enhances children’s learning abilities and can help them with social interaction and language skills. Recorded music and rhythm instruments, as well as songs, chants, and fingerplays are staples in the early childhood classroom. Singing, improvising (banging around on the rhythm instruments), and appropriate background music provide a foundation for future music awareness (McDonald, 1979). Also, like other extracurricular programs, music programs are an essential part of a child’s core experiences as they grow up. In a study conducted through the Department of Psychology at the University of Cordova, it was found that “the group involved in activities outside the school day yielded better academic performance.” Being involved in outside activities helps students interpersonally and can lead to a better attention level. Aside from the developmental aspect that a music program can have on children, the community effects it brings are also just as valuable. For instance, having a well-tailored music program “can welcome children of a wide range of abilities into a group” (Wolf, 2021). The program’s welcoming atmosphere then allows the individual to work on social and communication skills with other children building a community space.

With that said, this music program will build off of and provide the varying benefits that can be instilled in children when exposed to music in a controlled environment. That is why the program will have a variety of instruments and volunteers for the children enrolled in the program to have as much exposure to music theory. For one, this program will allow children to gain interest and hobby in music, allowing the forming of a community amongst other children who also have sparked interest. It will also give them a sense of belonging and allow them to excel in an activity that carries growth and beauty. Secondly, the community will also have a place where the families can come together and see their children grow and further develop themselves. It will also bring different families into a shared space where they can create new relationships. Overall, the objective of the music program is to help provide a musical outlet for children to learn new skills, further develop a self-identity and gain confidence in who they are and what they are learning.

Q&A with Mike Ramirez: Assistant City Manager, City of Carpinteria

mike ramirez

1. You recently became the Assistant City Manager for the City of Carpinteria– Congratulations! What was your journey like to get to this public service position?

I’ve worked in local government for 22+ years, not including 4 years of volunteer service. I started my career in recreation and most recently served as Recreation Supervisor for the City of Moorpark. Although I worked in recreation, I always looked for ways to add to my toolbox, taking on stretch assignments, attending trainings, and investing in myself through books, online resources, and time with mentors. When I decided I wanted to transition to city management, I took bigger steps, including participation in the Ventura County Leadership Academy and enrollment in the Cal Lu MPPA program. With three daughters and long work days, it wasn’t easy, but I was persistent, taking one class a term, slow and steady.

2. For those unfamiliar with the role of City Managers, or how the Assistant City Manager supports the City Manager, could you take a moment to explain what your responsibilities are and how it fits in the scheme of municipal leadership?

There are different forms of municipal government. The type I’ve always been a part of is council-manager. In this form, residents are at the top of the organizational chart. They elect a council who then hire a City Manager to manage day-to-day operations and ensure that council priorities are successfully implemented. My role as the Assistant City Manager (ACM) is to assist in guiding this implementation. Currently, I oversee the Recreation, Parks, and Public Facilities Department, and several other council directives, including the development of a Racial Equity and Social Justice program, civic engagement program, and economic vitality efforts, to name a few. 

3. How have your past professional experiences, including your time in the MPPA program, prepared you for this new career position?

My past professional experiences have prepared me for this position by providing me with experience, knowledge, and guidance. Fortunately, I knew what I wanted to do when I entered the MPPA program. This allowed me to tailor the program to my goals. The ability to research, analyze, and support my conclusions and recommendations is the most helpful skill I developed during my time at Cal Lu. In addition, the relationships I formed and the confidence I gained have been priceless. You won’t know everything but having confidence in your ability to learn and people to support you will set you on a trajectory for success.

4. From your time in this new capacity thus far, what have you found to be the greatest benefits and greatest challenges that public service leaders face today, either generally or specifically in the City of Carpinteria? What do you hope to contribute during your time with the City?

In local government, the rewards and challenges are often one and the same. We face a myriad of issues: affordable housing; public safety; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI); homelessness; and budget constraints, just to name a few. As a public service leader, the reward is that you can affect real change in these areas, right in your own community. What I hope to bring to Carpinteria is a leadership style that emphasizes community engagement, supports strategic planning, and strengthens relationships amongst City staff, residents, and community stakeholders. Ultimately, trust is the foundation of progress, and I want to help my organization build trust everywhere I can.  

5. Before closing, do you have any suggestions or inside tips for those in the MPPA community who are also interested in a similar line of work?

Absolutely. Here are my top 5!

  1. Take Drew Powers and P.J. Gagajena’s classes as soon as possible. As active (and highly regarded) City Managers in the field, their knowledge and guidance will be invaluable.  
  2. Most, if not all, professors in the MPPA program will allow you some leeway in selecting papers and/or project topics. If possible, select topics that center on approaches to city management and/or current local government challenges.
  3. Find a mentor, or two.
  4. Watch as many city council meetings as you can and familiarize yourself with the various elements (e.g., City staff reports, public hearings, etc.).
  5. Join at least one city managers professional association and utilize their training,  resources, and networking opportunities (e.g., International City/County Managers Association – ICMA, Municipal Management Association of Southern California – MMASC.).

Good luck!

From everyone in the MPPA program, we wish you the best in your new capacity and thank you for your time in answering these questions!

Interview with Majd Almalki

Majd Pic

1. You recently received a promotion to be the Director of Gender Balance Statistics at the Institute of Public Administration of Saudi Arabia– Congratulations! Tell us about the Institute and what it seeks to achieve.

First of all, I would like to thank you for this opportunity. It is always a pleasure to share with the MPPA community what happened recently in my career. The Institute of Public Administration (IPA) is one of the leading government agencies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. IPA seeks to increase the efficiency of public employees and to educate them to make them capable of shouldering their responsibilities, use their jurisdiction in a manner that would raise the level of administration, and support the foundation of national economic development.  In addition, the IPA contributes to the administrative organization of government departments, offers consultations on administrative problems referred by government ministries and agencies, undertakes administrative research projects, and enhances cultural ties in the field of public administration.​ Today, IPA is a major strategic partner in achieving the Saudi Vision 2030. It helps the government achieve four main projects, which include the national programs of e-training, administrative leadership development, government innovation, and training programs for Saudi Vision 2030. 

2. Within your agency, what does your role entail and what goals do you hope to achieve in this new position?

My main role in the IPA is as a faculty member in the organizational behavior sector. I, like other colleagues and training staff, provide high quality training programs to government employees. My specialty is the issues of public administration, in general, and organizational behavior, in particular. As for the new position, the journey began when I joined a group of my colleagues at IPA to conduct a study on equal opportunities between women and men in the workplace, where many government agencies participated in the study sample. When we monitored the final study results, we found that there are differences between the women and men at work, especially with regard to assuming leadership positions and meeting differing needs. After that, we decided to present a strategic recommendation to the higher authorities in order to consider establishing a special center that creates gender balance. Fortunately, this proposal was approved, and the center was officially launched on November 9, 2021. I was chosen for the position of Director of Gender Statistics, and a few of my main tasks is the governance and analysis of gender data in the workplace, the creation of data disaggregated by sex in all sectors of the state, and considering the creation of strategic indicators that measure the progress of government agencies in creating gender balance and equal opportunities at work.

3. There are gender issues and inequalities in every country. What are a few issues that are specific to Saudi Arabia, and how does your team tackle those problems throughout the country?

As I mentioned previously, we found gaps in the balanced access to leadership positions between women and men. In addition, many obstacles were monitored, such as the lack of participation of women in decision-making processes, their failure to participate in the formulation of organizational policies or regulations in organizations, and their failure to participate in both the strategic and policy level, internally or externally. There are also some restrictions that limit women’s enjoyment of some powers and authorities at work, and this may be due to the stereotyped image that women suffer from in the workplace. 

We have begun to address these obstacles through the strategic pillars implemented by the Center for Gender Balance, including activating the role of studies and consultations that support gender balance and considering policies and regulatory procedures by coordinating efforts within Saudi Arabia and developing necessary policies in both the public and private sectors. We are also strengthening the role of training and development, providing training programs, and setting development plans to reduce the gender gap in the workplace. Finally, activating qualitative partnerships, building a network of communications with relevant entities that support gender balance, and creating agreements to exchange knowledge and experience in order to achieve common goals and reduce the gender gap.

4. What have you found to be the most difficult problem to tackle, in regard to either your position specifically or your agency generally? 

Spreading awareness that supports the concept of gender balance! It’s really hard work, trying in every way to change the old or general misconceptions about creating equal opportunity for both women and men. So, we desperately need to improve the organizational culture and correct the prevailing societal thinking about the role of women and men at work. We should enhance the importance of involving both women and men together to achieve the main objective and to clarify the benefits of achieving gender balance in increasing the country’s domestic product. 

5. For those in our MPPA community interested in working in the field you are in, could you give us a few tips that helped you during or after your time at CLU to get you to where you are today?

The most important tip I could provide to everyone in our MPPA community is to find passion in every field you work in! The MPPA program emphasizes the importance of considering every problem or gap at the policy level, not just theoretically. I wouldn’t have done what I’m doing today without this program. If I were to give another piece of advice, I would say you should contribute to your community and promote social responsibility, no matter how small or insignificant your contribution is. At CLU, we learn the essential role that the individual plays in improving communities. When I got back home, I began to work on improving and developing all that I saw as shortcomings, even without financial compensation, because I reaped greater profits than money, which is to see what I do being implemented in reality and feel that all my proposals are considered! 

Thank you for your time on this interview! We look forward to hearing the great changes and work you will accomplish in your new role.