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Sonoma State University Foundation Board

New board members

Maraskeshia Smith

Maraskeshia Smith 
City Manager of Santa Rosa 

Maraskeshia Smith is the first African American woman to take on Santa Rosa’s City Manager role since 2022. Before this pivotal role, Maraskeshia served as Deputy City Manager of Stockton, where her responsibilities spanned economic development, human resources, municipal utilities, and initiatives addressing affordable housing and homelessness. She has been dedicated to nonprofit organizations focused on youth education and development. Maraskeshia was acknowledged for her achievements with her selection as one of the 2023 North Bay’s Influential Women. She holds a Master of Business Administration from Eastern Kentucky University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Kentucky.

Ernesto Olivares

Ernesto M. Olivares 
Community Safety Consultant 

Ernesto M. Olivares has over 45 years of public safety experience, including over 30 years as a law enforcement professional and 17 years leading efforts in youth safety and violence prevention. Ernesto served on the Santa Rosa City Council for 12 years, including a term as mayor. Before his election to the Council, Ernesto was a lieutenant with the Santa Rosa Police Department, where he retired in 2008. Ernesto has served as a consultant helping communities develop comprehensive and strategic violence prevention plans, that include cities such as Long Beach, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Carpinteria, and Hagerstown, Maryland. Currently, he is assisting the City of Santa Rosa in updating its Violence Prevention Partnership Strategic Plan.

Marcela Piedra

Marcela Piedra 
City Manager of Rohnert Park 

Marcela Piedra began working as the City Manager of Rohnert Park in 2023. She has 20 years of municipal management experience as well as executive leadership, which includes serving as Deputy City Manager, Community Services Director, Director of Economic Development, and Redevelopment Manager for the City of El Centro. She has extensive involvement coordinating and overseeing community and economic development, redevelopment, housing, community services, and cultural activities. Marcela has an Associate of Arts degree in Business with an emphasis in Business Administration from Imperial Valley College. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business, with an emphasis in Spanish and Latin America, from San Diego State University, Imperial Valley Campus, and a master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.

Frank Chong

Frank Chong 
Former Superintendent/President Emeritus at Santa Rosa Junior College 

Prior to joining Santa Rosa Junior College as President/Superintendent in 2012, Frank Chong served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges in the U.S. Department of Education. He has previously served as president of Laney College, President of Mission College, Dean of Student Affairs at San Francisco City College, special assistant to Mayor Willie Brown of Oakland, speaker of the California Assembly, and he has been an administrator for multiple nonprofit organizations. Chong currently serves on the boards of Pepperwood Preserve and the Sonoma County Health Alliance, and is a former president and founding member of the national advocacy organization of Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education. Chong has a doctorate in education from Dowling College, a master’s In public administration from Harvard Kennedy School, and bachelor of arts in Social Welfare/Asian American Studies from the University of California in Berkeley.

Foundation Board members

Executive Committee

Board Chair 
David Felte, ‘01

Board Vice-Chair
Robert U’Ren

SSU Foundation CEO 
Mario Perez

SSU Foundation COO & Secretary
Ian Hannah, ‘04, ‘07

SSU Foundation CFO
Amanda Visser


Monir Ahmed 
Frank Chong 
Anita Christmas, ‘89, ‘92 
Taylor Frickman 
Cassandra Garcia  
Thomas Gillespie, ‘74
Joseph Huang, ‘02, ‘04, ‘18
Tom Isaak, ‘66
Brigitte Lahme 
Ming-Tung “Mike” Lee, SSU President
H. Andrea Neves 
Ernesto Olivares
Kenneth “Randy” Pennington, ‘85


Marcela Piedra 
Ali Pourghadir, ‘05
Travis Saracco, ‘12
Maraskeshia Smith 
Michael Sullivan
Brent Thomas, ‘92

Read more from Insights / Spring 2024