student stories

#WEARECLU

Our students, alumni, faculty, and staff are emboldened by our mission to integrate self-knowledge with critical perspectives and contemporary skills to create sustainable social change—how to implement the Golden Rule.

They are changemakers in their own communities and organizations, and as an institution, we are proud of their remarkable stories and impact.

Judi Young

Before Judi Young finished her bachelor’s degree program, she had already set herself up for success working for technology startups in Silicon Valley in the 1990s. The pay was nice, but Judi had always had a passion for environmental and community assistance and wanted her role and education to reflect that.

Fast forward to 2017, and Judi started listening to her calling. 

“I discovered the field of sustainability through the company I was working for, SWCA Environmental Consultants, and that’s when I started looking for master’s programs in sustainability,” Judi said. 

Judi was accepted into multiple programs from highly recognized institutions. One of them was the Master’s in Sustainable Leadership degree at Claremont Lincoln University. 

“Beyond affordability and the online format, I chose Claremont Lincoln University because of their affiliation with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy,” said Judi. “Being a sustainability major, I was very interested in their research studies on environment and land use.” 

Judi also lives in California and has for most of her life. Surrounded by the state’s natural beauty and eager to make sure communities could more equally benefit from its lush forests, beautiful oceans, and magnificent mountains, Judi thought a leadership role in sustainability was a good direction to take. 

Social and Environmental Change in One 

Judi’s passion for sustainability began with a determination to make a difference in the world. She pursued her education, driven by a desire to contribute to environmental preservation. And along her journey, Judi became aware that broad efforts to save the planet were not meted out equally.  

Judi’s studies and career helped her realize that people in disenfranchised communities are more likely to face less sustainable living environments. And they have neither the resources nor voice to receive necessary aid that could make a difference.  

“With all the big cities across the nation, most factories go in the poorest neighborhoods, so the rest of us don’t hear about the pollution and other environmental hazards,” explained Judi. “It’s a nightmare to me.”  

Lessons in Diversity at CLU 

“Concerns for climate change, loss of biodiversity, and affected communities have been a focus for me, and that’s why I’ve wanted to take this path,” said Judi. “Sustainability pulls in the environmental and social justice aspects into one field of study.”  

That’s why Judi was pleased that CLU’s classroom diversity gave her exposure to different points of view about environmental protection. Engaging with peers from various backgrounds enriched her educational journey, broadening her perspective on sustainability and social justice.  

“I had a colleague from Iraq in working in regional water management there while taking this program. I got to experience someone going through sustainability efforts I was not aware of,” recalled Judi.  

CLU gave her the chance to meet individuals from different backgrounds from her own; she saw the world from a new perspective. Judi said it was an eye-opening experience for her and gave her ideas that she could possibly bring to communities closer to home. 

Balancing Life and Education 

Judi worked hard throughout her program but noted that the CLU faculty and staff were invaluable to her success. She said she used school resources such as writing assistance and didn’t hesitate to reach out to instructors when she had questions. Judi truly felt that everyone at CLU wanted to see her succeed.  

“The instructors had the flexibility to provide grace when needed,” said Judi. “My mother passed away during the program, and they let me take time to complete work while dealing with that situation.”  

Judi said that she wasn’t the only student who benefited from the instructors’ passion. She said all the professors seemed to make efforts to understand students’ unique situations and give them the help they needed. Professors even gave out their cell phone numbers! 

Judi’s Career Now and in the Future 

Today, Judi is a senior customer account manager for Central Coast Community Energy, where she works closely with city and county sustainability managers, county administrative officers, and elected officials. Her company provides electricity for nearly 450,000 customers in Central California while keeping an emphasis on clean, renewable energy. She was promoted to the position after graduating from the CLU Sustainable Leadership Program, and she’s still learning more about renewable energy in California because of her role.  

Looking ahead, Judi envisions a future where she can contribute to corporate sustainability initiatives and advocate for sustainable practices on a larger scale. In her free time, Judi plans to venture into clean energy consulting to push for a greater impact in her community. Her journey exemplifies the transformative power of education in shaping individuals dedicated to creating positive change in the world.  

Sheena Payne Banks

Some people take the safe path their entire lives, never stepping out of their comfort zone, never looking around with a fresh perspective. Sheena Payne Banks is not that person. With a good job in accounting, she could have built a long and successful career for herself. Instead, she set out with passion and purpose to build a brand-new vision for herself and others. Literally. 

From Accounting to Life Coaching 

Sheena founded ABrandNu Vision to help, develop, uplift, encourage, inspire, and support others on their forward journeys. She brings her knowledge in leadership, management, and mentorship to provide personal and career coaching to her clients. It’s not the road she set out on, but it’s where she she’s headed now. 

During her undergraduate program, Sheena got a glimpse of her future when she was part of a peer mentorship program. She liked helping other students and discovered she was good at it. Even though Sheena would graduate and work in accounting—and still does—that early experience planted a seed. She found she had a real passion for helping others, especially as they built their own careers. But did she have the right skillset? 

Choosing an Advanced Degree 

As a supervisor in accounting, Sheena was on a career that was moving in the right direction. A master’s degree seemed a good next step, but she realized she might want to explore other career paths. Maybe her degree didn’t need to focus on accounting. 

“I contemplated pursuing a master’s degree, but I was apprehensive about pigeonholing myself,” said Sheena.  

While she was researching programs, a colleague told her about the Organizational Leadership program he was enrolled in at Claremont Lincoln University.  

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay in accounting forever,” said Sheena, “so I decided to look through different programs and find one that was affordable at a reputable school, and upon doing my research I saw the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership with the concentration in Management at Claremont Lincoln University. And after meeting with one of the advisors, I was intrigued. One day I took the leap of faith and I enrolled.”  

A New Program and New Challenges 

Sheena began her program in 2020, juggling her studies with full-time work and a major family crisis. Her mother had been diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer and was battling for her life. Sheena needed to be there for her but was also determined to pursue her degree. Despite moments of doubt, she found the motivation to push through it all with the support of her instructors and the CLU community. 

“It was a very tough time because obviously the world was dealing with COVID. And while the rest of the world was dealing with COVID, I was dealing with a mother who had stage 3 cancer,” said Sheena. “One of the things that I will say that was absolutely amazing about attending CLU was just how supportive all of my instructors were during such a tough time. Their encouragement and empathy propelled me forward.” 

Sheena said the program was also a perfect fit. She wanted a quality, online program that she could afford. The CLU program accommodated her busy schedule and gave her the flexibility and work-life balance she needed. 

Professional Skills and Life Lessons 

The CLU program taught Sheena fundamental lessons in finance, accounting, project management, marketing, and organizational leadership. And while she could immediately incorporate those into her work as a supervisor in accounting for Inland Empire Health Plan, more important to her were courses that touched upon mindfulness and intentional listening. She learned to manage stress effectively, listen to others with intention, and to be present in her current situations.  

Sheena’s time at CLU also helped her master her time management. She became more adept at juggling all her responsibilities, while also proactively communicating with her professors, and tapping into the full breadth of resources available at the university.  

“For me personally, these resources that helped me manage my time made me feel like I became a better leader, mother, wife, and family member,” Sheena said. “The work I did in these classes gave me a different perspective about how I approach my working and personal relationships. I am more kind and patient because of these lessons from CLU.”  

And the program helped Sheena hone her leadership skills and reignited her passion to help others in their career journeys. Inspired by this newfound purpose, she launched ABrandNu Vision, offering coaching and mentorship services to individuals grappling with career decisions. 

“Going to CLU empowered me in many ways,” said Sheena. “It helped me push myself and because my instructors believed in me so much, I started to believe in myself more.”  

Now Sheena feels her purpose is to help others gain the confidence CLU instilled in her. Her new initiative will help her do just that.  

“It feels like I’ve finally found my calling,” said Sheena. 

Ruby Rose Yepez

From the time she studied architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Ruby Rose Yepez was drawn to sustainable infrastructure. But of particular interest to Ruby was how clean and renewable energy sources were unfairly distributed across socioeconomic groups. Disenfranchised people—including members of her community—were often left out of clean energy discussions. Impassioned to make a difference, Ruby became an Energy Consultant and focused on a career that could make a positive impact in California and around the world. According to Ruby, Energy Consultants truly move the needle by helping to decarbonize buildings and support the Clean Energy movement.

Ruby has also been a sustainability consultant, served on the South El Montel Planning Board, and currently works for Southern California Edison. Ruby has a clean energy message to send and big plans for the future.

Becoming a Leader in the Energy Sector

As Ruby expanded her career, she also sought to expand her mind. From a colleague, Ruby heard about an innovative university that was mission-driven, affordable, and online: Claremont Lincoln University. With a desire to hone her leadership skills, she enrolled in the online Master of Public Administration Program.

Ruby dove into her studies and discovered a great alignment between what she believed and what CLU taught. Many courses highlighted how to address issues in underrepresented communities. Her Civic Engagement and Complex Social Issues, Public Leadership and Governance, and Scenario Planning courses helped her develop plans to communicate and address issues to large groups, and how to have conversations about sensitive problems affecting these spaces. She learned about policy planning and issues that could potentially be resolved at a government level.

Taking Classroom Lessons Out into the World

Ruby’s program gave her theoretical and practical solutions that she could implement as a building advisor at Southern California Edison, as well as her within her volunteer efforts. The Claremont Core® matched her own positions and even in her everyday life.

“I’ve always been a big advocate for the importance of collaboration and communication not only in my work but also my community, and those are two things CLU really emphasized in their program,” Ruby said.

Ruby has taken lessons from CLU to highlight issues within her community. She educates people on clean energy initiatives and how they impact living conditions. And she elevates these discussions as she addresses energy concerns through her work with the State of California.

Building Community and Connections at CLU

Being a full-time employee, community leader, and mother of three, life gets very busy for Ruby at times. Returning to school added a new challenge to her already busy schedule.

“Things were definitely tough starting out, but the professors were flexible and very understanding with us being working individuals. It really helped me not feel too overwhelmed,” she said.

Ruby said her peers were not just there to collaborate with her on projects; they provided friendly conversation and support. She felt a strong sense of camaraderie between her fellow students and the faculty.

“Having faculty who were actively working in the space they taught about was great,” said Ruby. “And they were open and easy to get in contact with.”

Even after graduation, Ruby stays connected with members of her cohort. Ruby said that she has stayed in touch with Jofil Borja, for example, who also works in the space of community sustainability in California. Ruby values the relationships she made and appreciates that they can stay strong beyond Claremont Lincoln. She said she connects with peers on both a professional and personal level, while they all seek to bring improvements to the place they call home.

Bessie Celony

Bessie Celony has always had a deep passion to serve others, but her own path hasn’t been without detours.

“Some people, their path is just straight,” said Bessie. “What do they say? Make lemonade out of lemons. That’s what I did.”

Bessie was a dental assistant with plans to become a hygienist when she broke her arm and shifted gears. With a B.S. in Human Services, she had a good foundation for her next job as a case manager at Comunilife Inc. And it was there that she became determined to bring a more “person centered” approach to healthcare.

When asked why she does what she does, Bessie said “it’s the people.”

“I like what I can do for them and how I can make their quality of life better,” said Bessie.

Bessie’s Drive to Improve Healthcare

For the next decade, Bessie dedicated her life’s work to helping others get the care and resources they needed. She worked for a variety of care centers across diverse populations—senior citizens, people with mental health disorders, and those with other intellectual developmental disabilities. Through various positions, Bessie always paid close attention to the treatment and wellbeing of her patients and her peers.

“My biggest focus is quality of care,” said Bessie and she noted that especially during the Pandemic, people weren’t receiving the quality of care she felt they deserved. “Knowing what it is that they need because I work in-person with them, but not being able to take it to the higher-ups” was frustrating to Bessie and helped her decide to become a leader.

“I felt like the quality of care was lacking,” said Bessie. She noted that the past positions she held limited how much of a direct impact she could make, but that if she moved to a leadership position, she could make a real difference. From professional experience and her observations in her work, Bessie concluded that there was room for improvement in the medical landscape. During COVID she noticed how caregiver burnout affected people in her office and thought that a good leader might improve the system for everyone. She could become that leader, but she needed more knowledge.

Searching for the Right Program

Bessie began to search for a master’s program in health administration, but she had several criteria. It needed to be high quality and aligned to her values, but also a program that would allow her to continue working full-time. She said it took eight months to do her research, but when she stumbled upon the Claremont Lincoln University’s Master’s of Health Administration Program online, she was immediately intrigued by the values it carried. As she read through the program details and spoke with representatives at the university, she felt the CLU offered what she wanted.

“It’s their core values” that sets CLU apart, said Bessie. “It wasn’t just about the degree. It’s about the people, the individual. “

Bringing Classroom Lessons into the Real World

Once in her program, Bessie found she was able to immediately relate the lessons she learned in the classroom to what was happening at work.

“In every course and discussion I had, I was able to think about a situation at work where something could be handled differently,” Bessie said.

One example Bessie gave was how she was able to pull insights from a course on international medical care and consider what other countries were doing that might work in the U.S.

“I got to see the pros and cons of our healthcare system,” said Bessie. “There’s more that can be done.”

She also noted that the Claremont Core® taught her to be mindful, create dialog, collaborate, and implement those values to create positive change for healthcare workers and patients.

“Without mindfulness, I won’t say it’s impossible, but it will be difficult to provide the kind of services people need without mindfulness,” said Bessie. “The Core teaches you to be a different type of leader -where you’re concerned about others.”

Taking the Claremont Core® to Healthcare Workers

During her studies and after, Bessie pulled from what she learned at CLU. Her capstone project focused on caregiver burnout, and she is determined to promote the recognition and reduction of burnout in health care. Her goal is to create a dialogue in medical spaces where burnout can be dealt with head-on and properly addressed by leadership. She plans to turn her research into a podcast and hopes to reach an audience across the nation to bring more awareness to these issues.

Christine LaConte

Service has been a passion for Christine LaConte her entire life. Since she was in elementary school in the Girl Scouts, Christine volunteered in her Cape Coral, Florida community. And although she now has much experience, knowledge, and a master’s degree, she hardly took a straight path to her nonprofit management position.

“I wasn’t a traditional student,” said Christine. “I didn’t much care for the usual subjects. I got my GED and started a vocational program to become a certified nursing assistant -CNA. I earned a very good wage for a 17-year-old as a CNA.”

After earning her GED, Christine studied sociology at Columbia College. She volunteered in a variety of capacities and worked in violence prevention centers. As a public speaker and workshop facilitator, she focused on developing programs to fight power-based personal violence. She worked against domestic violence, sexual abuse, and human trafficking.

Pursuing a Master’s Degree

Christine knew she wanted an advanced degree, but she wanted one that would help her continue to bring change to underserved communities.

“After my undergrad, I wasn’t sure where to go from there,” said Christine, “but I knew I didn’t just want it to be some letters after my name. I wanted to use it.”

A master’s degree in social impact hadn’t been on her radar, but when a Facebook Ad for the Claremont Core® showed up in Christine’s feed, it piqued her curiosity. The Core® aligned with her own values. And the program was online and flexible enough to fit with her full-time work schedule, family life, and volunteer efforts. With the support of her husband, children, and her employer, she enrolled in the Social Impact Degree Program.

Determined to make the most out of the program, Christine chose the accelerated hybrid model, where she took courses online and attended in-person sessions at the university. She wanted the opportunity to collaborate with others on social topics and interact in real time; something that she had missed out on in her online bachelor’s degree program.

“Being able to go to California for the weekend gatherings was a great way for me to get what I wanted out of the program,” Christine said.

She got close with her peers and instructors through video, phone calls, and in-person meetings, where she could collaborate and hear different perspectives on the topics they covered in their courses.

Using the Core® to Educate Others

Two elements of the Claremont Core® that really resonated with Christine were the collaboration and dialogue elements. In her social impact courses, she was introduced to the concept of replacing “or” with “and,” to help encourage students to see that certain scenarios can have multiple solutions. Particularly as a violence prevention educator, Christine can help others look at situations from multiple angles. And in her own work, she can listen to different ideas, find common ground, learn to work together, and ultimately develop the best solution. Whether it involves management of funds from investors or ideas for campaigns, she hears out solutions and finds ways to incorporate multiple answers.

Strength of a Community that Works with Her

Near the end of her program, Christine’s community was hit by Hurricane Irma, and she evacuated to Parkesburg, Pennsylvania where she continued to work and complete her degree.

“It was not an easy time for me, but they were very understanding of my situation,” she said.

Christine said her instructors and cohort members made themselves available via phone and email to help her complete her course work as she was going through these challenges in her life.

“Because they were so willing to work with me, I was even more willing and excited to work with them and complete my program,” Christine continued.

In addition to the amazing support she received from CLU, Christine gives a lot of credit to her family for the support they offered. Her husband and children motivated her every step of the way, providing help and encouragement. And her academic efforts have already had a ripple effect. Seeing their mother work hard to achieve her educational goals motivated her children to excel in school, and now they are the first in her family to graduate from high school.

Today, Christine is extremely happy with her current career trajectory. She credits CLU with helping to further mold her into a community leader and effective manager at the United Way. She keeps in contact with peers from her program and loves to share the social impact work she does with them. As she continues her work, she aims to expand her reach to nonprofits and provide resources to underserved communities.

Jofil Borja

Born in the beautiful island country of the Philippines, Jofil Borja has always had a passion for his people and the environment. When he moved to California to study at UC Berkley, he chose political science and rhetoric, already thinking ahead to how it might serve as a foundation for policy changes that could help Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities and sustainability. His master’s degree in public administration from Claremont Lincoln University was likewise chosen with purpose—and has already helped him in his career and life’s mission.

Turning Classroom Lessons into Real-World Actions

“With my instructors, we were able frame classroom policy topics into relevant discussions that are happening today, specifically toward the communities in California,” said Jofil. According to Jofil, he was able to take what he was learning in his virtual classroom and bring his burgeoning knowledge into the workplace.

Jofil works as a County Planning Commissioner for Sacramento County and is an appointee for the Sacramento County Public Health Board. Plus, during his master’s program he co-founded Bluedot ENERGIES INC., a turnkey electric vehicle charging station company that supports a shift to clean energy on the roads and helps reduce carbon footprints. Jofil is dedicated to creating healthier, safer, and sustainable communities, particularly for underserved populations like API.

At CLU, he met peers who also wanted to elevate their own communities. With different concentrations of public policy than his, Jofil was able to gather new perspectives from individuals with the similar goals to his. Members of the cohort learned from their instructors and one another. And post-graduation, Jofil stays connected with them, sharing the work he does in Sacramento County and looking for opportunities to collaborate.

Why CLU?

Jofil was working with State Treasurer Fiona Ma in 2021 when she recommended that he speak with members of the CLU Inaugural Master of Public Administration Committee. She thought their mission aligned well with what Jofil was doing and where he wanted to go. Jofil spoke to members of the committee, discovered common ground around policy, and gathered insights into the program.

“The people behind the program are what made a big difference for my decision. I had very positive people, an engaging staff, and a very supportive and resourceful team over at CLU,” said Jofil.

Connecting CLU to a Broader Audience

Jofil said he saw the benefit of CLU from the very beginning because of the strong connections he made with his classmates. He said that many of his instructors and members of his cohort worked in some capacity with government legislation. They shared their experiences and he talked about his work with the California legislature focusing on sustainable transportation policy and the use of green energy. He also said that he’d like to see CLU’s influence expanded.

“I know Sacramento is roughly six hours away from Claremont, but I believe CLU has an opportunity to come to Sacramento and have an immediate impact,” Jofil said.

He believes CLU could expand its reach across the state of California, especially in Sacramento where he’s witnessed people’s trying to bring positive change through policy. Jofil and his peers have created a network to connect on policy changes and open positions in the government space, and they hope to provide this resource to incoming CLU students who are interested in public policy and administration. For all the opportunities CLU provided Jofil to expand his knowledge and make an impact on his community, he wants to pass it along. He continues to look for more ways to expand CLU’s outreach so others can receive the practical education he did.

Phillipe Cunningham

From beginning his working life in rural Illinois to earning a coveted leadership position at the Obama Foundation, Phillipe Cunningham’s career path was far from linear or meticulously planned. He’s the first in his family—on either side—to attend and graduate from college. Phillipe earned his undergraduate degree and then graduated from Claremont Lincoln University with an MA in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Civic Engagement in 2021.

Phillipe began his academic studies as a Chinese Studies major due to a passion for martial arts, but shifted gears shortly after graduating from his baccalaureate and began teaching special education students in the South Side of Chicago, Illinois.

From Student to Teacher

“I worked with some of the most vulnerable kids in the entire city,” said Phillipe. When the teachers union went on strike, Phillipe said he realized that he “couldn’t protect my students from the broader system. That was the catalyst to me wanting to affect systems. That’s when I came to understand public policy.”

In 2014, Phillipe moved to Minneapolis to become a youth worker and community organizer, with a focus on equality and inclusion among disenfranchised populations, and he often thought, “if only there was a teacher in the mayor’s office. It could bridge the gap between what the kids need and what the city provides.”

What better way to make that happen than to be an advisor to the mayor?

Working in the Mayor’s Office

Phillipe became a senior policy advisor in education, youth success, racial equity, and LGBTQ issues to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. He saw the power of policy from the inside. In his two-year stint in the mayor’s office, Phillipe helped to transform a $25,000 youth violence prevention pilot program into a $362,000 work-to-career pathway program for the most disenfranchised youth in Minneapolis.

The experience working with elected officials inspired Phillipe to run for office himself. When he joined the Minneapolis City Council, he made history as the first openly transgender man elected to public office in the United States. While in office, he not only focused on long-term, systemic solutions to persistent poverty, violence, inequity, and government inefficiencies; he also pursued his master’s degree.

“I started and completed my master’s degree when I was on the Minneapolis City Council,” said Phillipe. Phillipe’s tenure as a city councilor also coincided with tumultuous times in the United States. George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer and millions took to the streets across the US in massive support of Black Lives Matter, the decentralized network of activists seeking to highlight racial inequality experienced by Black people. A lot was going on for Phillipe, both professionally and personally.

Serving in Turbulent Times

“Those four years in office were the hardest years of my life,” said Phillipe; but he found a home at Claremont Lincoln. “I’d always felt like a number, but at CLU, that was the first time I felt connected. It was the first time I felt present. My professors saw, respected, and cared for me. And I was taking what I learned and using it every day at my job.”

The Curriculum at Its Core

Although Phillipe didn’t choose CLU just for the Claremont Core®, it has become essential to his leadership style. He said that the academically rigorous content, rooted in social justice with concern for humanity that CLU offers was immediately appealing, and he still uses the mindfulness and communication lessons he learned at CLU every day.

“I literally have materials from the class that I still use,” said Phillipe. “I’m building out this program and I can plug lessons in at the beginning. It’s human-centered and very intentional.”

In Phillipe’s role at the Obama Foundation, he designs, launches, and implements leadership development programs that target values-driven changemakers with at least three years in their field with demonstrated success. Bringing the Claremont Core® into that equation has been invaluable for his work.

“CLU and the professors are why I am where I am,” said Phillipe.

Paquita Gannt

Paquita Gannt calls herself a “lifelong learner” and there’s plenty of evidence to support the claim. Even after she received her undergraduate degree from UNC Chapel Hill, SHRM-CP certification, and hands-on HR experience, she wanted to expand her knowledge and make a larger impact. A Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership with a Human Resources focus from Claremont Lincoln University was her answer.

Life At CLU

“It was beyond anything I could have imagined, honestly,” said Paquita. “The faculty and administration at CLU were great.”

Paquita went to a large school for her undergraduate communications degree, but especially as a first-generation college student, the experience was difficult.

“I loved my undergrad, but I was a little fish in a big pond when I went to school,” said Paquita. “In hindsight, smaller would’ve been better.”

Small was what she got from Claremont Lincoln University. Paquita said that right from the start, she “felt as though they cared.” She had small class sizes and connected well with her professors and cohort members—still keeps in touch with them even though they’re from California, Canada, and other locations while she resides in North Carolina. And Paquita said the content was extremely valuable; she still uses what she learned at CLU every day on the job.

“And the Core® is so unique. It’s phenomenal. It puts everyone on the same playing field and lets you know you have the tools to be a changemaker.”

What Is the Core®?

According to Paquita much of what the Core® taught spoke to who she already was. Lessons about the golden rule and empathy and really listening as a leader were all at her own core. But, she said, the Core® gave her the “why.”

The Core® is an approach to leadership that takes students through a process of personal and professional development. The journey and its lessons start with the self and mindfulness, move to dialogue, then collaboration, and onto positive change.

The Core® teaches to “learn, hear, understand,” said Paquita. “It’s the inverse of being completely about yourself.”

Finding CLU

Although Paquita said a master’s degree wasn’t something she necessarily felt she “needed” for her career, it was a goal—provided she could find the right university. First, it “1000 percent had to be online,” said Paquita. “I wanted something that was going to be attainable. I’m a full-time mom, active in my community. School needed to fit to my schedule.” It also had to be affordable and from an accredited institution she felt she could trust to deliver.

Paquita began to search online. She said she knew there were “algorithms out there” targeting her, but she didn’t rush in. She called herself “passive” in her search. But she did fill out an inquiry form and when a rep from CLU called, she listened. And she liked what she heard.

Applying CLU Lessons to Career Success

As a Senior Manager, Extended Workforce at Trusted Health, Paquita supports more than 3000 nurses and clinicians throughout the U.S. Every day she is able to take what she learned at CLU into her work. Recently promoted to a new position, she said that people immediately perceived her as a leader.

“It’s how you communicate,” said Paquita, “how you communicate and collaborate. When you do it well, you completely open up the conversation. When I say, ‘let me learn,’ ‘let me learn your work love language’ and when I seek to understand, it helps me to communicate with teams and leaders.”

According to Paquita, CLU and the Claremont Core® have helped her be a better leader and a better person.

Landen Mendoza

Landen Mendoza wanted to turn his associate degree into a bachelor’s, but he wasn’t willing to give up his career trajectory to accomplish the goal. As a manager of one the top selling stores with the H&M Group, a publicly traded international clothing retailer, Landen is excited about the path ahead.

Choosing a Bachelor’s Degree Completion Program

“I didn’t want school to be a barrier or an obstacle,” said Landen. “I work full time so going to school full time with a full course load just isn’t doable for my life at this time.” However, taking two courses at a time, online at Claremont Lincoln University was a perfect fit.

Landen said he knew any university he chose had to be online to fit around his work schedule and he also needed his credits from Collin College to transfer so he didn’t have to start from scratch. And because he’s running a store, the degree needed to be focused on business leadership.

“I had done my research,” said Landen. “My dad and I were looking together and considered affordability and flexibility. When CLU added a bachelor’s program, it aligned perfectly with my needs.”

An Online Business Program That Feels Personal

Part of one of the first Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership cohorts at CLU, Landen is slated to graduate in the spring of 2024. And although Landen didn’t know exactly what to expect from the online format, he said he was surprised at how worthwhile the discussions are. “The way the discussion boards are handled is very personalized and the professors follow up with responses that further the discussion. It causes us to be more engaged and we work for the engagement and feedback and not just for a grade.”

Another aspect of CLU that was in contrast to most schools Landen had researched was class size. One of his courses now only has five students—and that’s perfect for Landen. “Being one out of a thousand doesn’t work for me,” said Landen, “but having lots of interaction with my professors and classmates creates a more personal and intimate setting.”

Landen also feels that his experience as a store manager allows him to be a true contributor to his courses, while also learning about important concepts from his professors and peers. He noted that certain elements of a business degree are results-driven and rely on numbers and spreadsheets. “But when you work in the jobs, you need to have people skills and social awareness,” said Landen. “You won’t survive without them.” That’s why Landen finds the ideal of the mindful leader so valuable.

Becoming a Mindful Leader

“We talked about qualities of a mindful leader: authenticity and empathy,” said Landen. “I’ve always had a tendency to be a leader. I played sports, was a soccer captain, a coach, and a lighthouse for other people. But now when I deal with colleagues, I bring mindfulness into those conversations. CLU has really given me tools to make a difference in my job.”

Landen believes that “anyone can learn the basics of becoming a leader, but mindfulness is often lacking. It’s do this, don’t do that, but what makes a good leader has been touched upon in more than one of my courses. I had an old HR manager who used to say -people don’t work for companies; people work for people. I want my team to want to work for me.”

As to his current job, Landen likes what he does and is proud of his climb up the ladder within the organization. He welcomes the amount of responsibility he has and knows his somewhat nontraditional journey is inspiring to others. Adding a degree to the mix is something he hopes will also inspire his siblings. “I’m the oldest and the first one to go to college,” said Landen. “They see me managing my own store, going to school, not giving up. Hopefully, I’ve inspired them a little bit.”

Kelly Barrios

Kelly Barrios knew she wanted to work in healthcare administration before most of her friends had even heard about the field. When she was just a junior in high school, she already sensed that health care wasn’t fairly distributed in the U.S. and that healthcare administrators could help tackle the inequity. Her undergraduate degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Human Resource Management was the foundation that would lead her to a master’s program in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Health Care and a career that makes a difference.

Finding a Degree to Complement Her Healthcare Career

Kelly was working in health care when she decided to pursue her master’s degree. She took the time to research programs that would be convenient and affordable. She said she “wanted something cost-efficient and online because this would be my first time working full-time and going to school.” That’s when she came across an article from Claremont Lincoln University, that highlighted everything she wanted in an advanced degree program. It seemed the perfect fit!

But her search and decision were occurring over the Fourth of July holiday. And classes were starting in just five days. How could she possibly get everything pulled together for her application and admission before the program began?

She reached out to the admissions representatives at Claremont Lincoln University, and she said they were more than helpful. Their friendly, attentive, and fast response help solidify her decision.

“I worked nonstop with them to get everything they needed and received an expedited admission starting that next term,” Kelly explained. Even better, from Kelly’s perspective, CLU allowed her to take one course at a time so that she could balance her work and school.

Real-World Success During Her Program

Once in her program, Kelly was immediately drawn to the Claremont Core® and how it helps bring ethical and mindful leadership to the workplace. She was attracted to its message of collaboration and saw it in action among her peers and the CLU faculty. Kelly noted that each faculty member seemed to truly care about the success of individual students, consistently helping them to work toward their goals.

“At CLU, you have these smaller class sizes where you can be very personal, one-on-one with your instructors and really get to know them,” Kelly said. She noted that she forged strong connections with her peers and professors and is still in contact with some faculty—Including her favorite instructor, Dr. Kim Brown-Jackson—who gave her guidance throughout her program and after graduation.

And the lessons she learned at CLU were invaluable. She was able to apply what she learned in virtual classes to the real world. Especially within the healthcare track, her program was helping her on the job.

“Going through those courses while working in healthcare—they were applicable immediately,” said Kelly. At school, she studied how different healthcare organizations operate. And at work, she brought a solid understanding and new perspectives into her meetings and engagements.

“I was able to take these tidbits of knowledge from my courses and apply them in real-time. This program helped me get a promotion before I was even finished.” She attributed much of her current career success to the experiences she had in her program that allowed her to take on more responsibility and become a more expressive member of her organization.

Kelly’s Drive to Help Others

Kelly seems well on her way to fulfilling her early goal to make a positive impact in health care in the U.S. As a Cardiology Program Manager at Scripps Health, Kelly works closely with cardiologists to prevent, treat, and manage cardiovascular disease. Kelly said she’s especially proud of her work at the Cardiovascular Preventative and Integrative Cardiology Wellness Center for the underserved population in San Diego. She works on Integrative Medicine and Women’s Cardiology Outreach, providing valuable medical resources to underrepresented communities— especially women—and leading them to healthier lifestyles.

Still Driving Forward

With her goal to become a hospital administrator, Kelly continues to utilize the healthcare knowledge and the Claremont Core® in her work and personal life. She hopes to continue to implement these practices until she reaches her long-term goal and feels CLU has set her up for success. Kelly is also a member of the alumni board and hopes to build a community of CLU graduates who can assist and mentor new CLU students as they break into their chosen fields and work toward the success Kelly has been able to find post-graduation.

Anika Klix

Raising three children on her own, Anika Klix knew she needed to do more if she wanted them to have more. “After I had my kids, I realized I needed an education to increase my ability to take care of them,” said Anika. “It was time to up my skills and further my education.”

She finished her bachelor’s degree, went on for a master’s, and worked hard on her career, taking on increasing responsibility at the Port of Seattle. But even with that considerable experience, skills, and knowledge, Anika’s “always learning” mindset pushed her to ponder what would be next.

A Master’s Program in Human Resources

After more than a decade of working in HR, Anika wanted to supplement her knowledge with more formal education. She sought out master’s degree programs that fit her career path, philosophy, budget, and her busy life. Anika knew she needed something flexible and affordable. Claremont Lincoln University was a perfect match.

“What attracted me was the cost,” said Anika. “That was the first thing. Plus, the program was online and had the concentrations I was interested in.”

Anika also noted that the online, asynchronous instruction and possibility of an extended schedule put pursuing another master’s degree within her grasp. She enrolled in the Master’s in Human Resources Management program at CLU and went at her own pace, taking one course at a time and two years to complete it.

Mindful Thinking at Claremont Lincoln

Another compelling reason that CLU seemed such a good fit to Anika’s long-term goals was its focus on mindfulness. Anika had earned a Palouse Mindfulness certificate in 2020 and was already bringing the tenets of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction into her life and workplace. She knew mindfulness could have an important place in business.

“CLU is a school that was not only socially conscious, but also has the core values of mindfulness,” said Anika. Every program and course at CLU incorporates the Claremont Core ®. Beginning with self, students are encouraged to have focused awareness and to cultivate compassion. From that base, effective dialogue facilitates shared understanding among diverse perspectives to foster collaboration and effect positive change.

The CLU Experience

Anika said she had an amazing experience at CLU and never regretted the decision to choose an online institution.

“You don’t feel like you’re just a number in a sea of students,” said Anika. “The professors had such a willingness to interact with all students. And they were dealing with students from all over the world, juggling different time zones.” According to Anika, they did so effectively.

Anika said her favorite and most memorable part of her time at CLU was her Capstone project: Mindfulness at Work Program: A Model for Kind and Mindful Leadership in Organizations. The literature review and project plan explore the mindfulness and kind leadership behaviors that Anika believes are essential qualities for leaders to cultivate and practice in the workplace. She speaks most specifically to where HR can support and strengthen an organization through those mindfulness and kind leadership practices. Anika was able to use her knowledge, experience, and CLU education to develop a project plan that could be adopted by any organization to implement mindful practices in the workplace—starting with her own.

Beyond Claremont Lincoln University

Today, Anika pulls from her Capstone, her CLU education, and a lifetime of hard work to bring the best she can to the City of Seattle as an HR Project Manager. Anika introduced “Mindfulness Mondays” to her current work environment and has been excited to watch it grow. Emphasizing employee mental health and positive environments, her mindfulness program gained quick adoption from employees and has begun to garner support from leadership. Anika’s long-term goal is to continue her development of a comprehensive program for mindful leadership that can be adopted by any organization wanting to bring a more positive environment to its employees.

Ely Flores

By his own acknowledgement, Ely Flores came to Claremont Lincoln University through a “very nontraditional educational pathway” and nothing about his early journey would have predicted the success he has attained.

Almost “lost to a life of incarceration and headed down a path of destruction,” Ely said that although he always did well in school, he made mistakes in his youth. He grew up in poverty with no father in the picture and wound up on the wrong end of the criminal justice system. A father himself at 17, with little encouragement, and no plans for college, Ely could have chosen to believe in those who didn’t believe in him.

In the Los Angeles district where Ely attended school, he said “I never met with a college counselor. My school didn’t think that was for me.”

But then Ely discovered YouthBuild, a community-based nonprofit that provides job training and educational opportunities for at-risk youth. Supported by the organization and given a chance to find a job and a purpose, Ely broke away from a predicted path. He got into community organizing, working with incarcerated individuals, and giving back. He built a career and a life.

Earning a College Degree

“I was one of the fortunate ones. YouthBuild taught me to take ownership of my education. It taught me to take ownership of my life,” said Ely. “Now, I’m the first person in my family to go to college.”

While raising his children and working full time, Ely graduated with a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership in 2016.

“It was really hard,” said Ely. “There were a lot of early mornings and late nights. Before work, I’d drop off the kids to school, then I’d work 8-5. Then I’d pick up the kids, put food on the table, and put the kids to bed. Then I’d study, often til 1:00 AM.”

Ely said that getting his bachelor’s degree proved he could do even more. “I knew I could do graduate level work,” said Ely. So, he began to look for a program that would give him the knowledge and skills to make a difference in a leadership role.

“I found CLU online and started a conversation with them. There were other schools I considered—USC, Northwestern—but even their online programs had an in-person part. I work full time so I couldn’t do that,” said Ely. “And CLU felt more inviting and like a community, not just a university.”

Ely graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Impact in 2016 and still brings what he learned in his program to his career. “I definitely use it,” said Ely. “In addition to the social impact side, the Core is what I really use. It has to do with mindfulness and dialogue, how to be present. I’ve learned to be a mindful leader, one who invites dialogue. I can easily go 1000 miles an hour. I can be distracted easily. But being mindfully present with your staff, your family, your work, really being conscious of the emotion in the room, and your own emotions too and your own triggers, that makes a difference. I use the Core in both my personal and professional life.”

Making a Difference and Setting an Example

His professional life includes being the Executive Director of OCCORD (Orange County Communities Organizing for Responsible Development). OCCORD is a nonprofit community-labor alliance that engages residents, workers, and stakeholders in local government decisions that impact economic opportunity, community health, and overall quality of life. The organization promotes inclusive public decision-making in communities that have been typically disenfranchised.

In Ely’s personal life, he’s father to two children: an 18-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter. Both were “super proud of me,” said Ely. “They attended both of my graduations. It shows them what’s possible. My son just accepted an offer to attend college.” And Ely’s younger cousin is graduating with her PhD from UCLA.

“You don’t know how what you do, the example you set, will impact people until you see it,” said Ely. “You don’t know how far it will go.”

Ely Flores impacts the future every day, in his work and in his life.

Matthew Solomon ’22

While many people chose to step off the path to college during COVID, Matthew Solomon took a decidedly different turn. Not only did he return to finish up the bachelor’s degree he’d started years before; he continued on for his master’s.

“I left school to go be a rock star,” said Matthew, “became a film maker, and wound up doing consulting and conflict resolution. My job was to travel to different colleges and businesses, but then COVID hit.”

Like many people during the pandemic, Matthew saw his world turned upside down. He couldn’t do the same job he’d been doing, and he also lost his uncle and his mother during COVID. Not to mention all the social unrest that was haunting he and others across the nation. He took time and reassessed.

Going Back to College as an Adult Learner

Even though Matthew had always planned on going back to school, how and when it happened was certainly not planned. He was “in school,” working side-by-side with his children during lockdown and beyond. “We were all coworking, in school together.” It may have taken him a while to get there, but he loved it. And he had a good example of going back to school later in life; his grandmother graduated college when she was 89.

“I got my bachelor’s from Antioch and found I was really enjoying school. So, I started looking into master’s degree programs,” said Matthew. “I have this social justice background and I found some schools that may have been a fit, but their faculty lacked diversity. And then CLU came up.”

After a short conversation where all Matthew’s questions were answered, he felt like CLU “knew where I was coming from,” said Matthew. “It felt like home. The courses, the diverse faculty. I’m in. Where do I sign?”

Matthew graduated from the CLU Master of Public Administration program in 2022 and said CLU gave him a deeper understanding of public policy, “who the stakeholders are, and what’s important to them. I was able to use my privilege and apply issues to my coursework in public administration.”

Even when Matthew started off skeptical about how much he would enjoy a class, he was happily proven wrong.

“There were these urban planning courses. And I thought, ‘it’s going to be boring,’” said Matthew. “But nope. It was all about how communities are literally constructed, how they operate. Sanitation, transportation, things you may not think of. It gave me a broader lens to view everything.”

A Capstone Project and a New Mission

As part of his CLU graduation requirements, Matthew knew he needed to complete a capstone. Although most projects are papers built from a body of research, Matthew wanted to do something a little different. With all that was going on in the world and his own skillset in film, he chose to create a film that might have impact into the future.

And it did!

In Reimagining Safety, Matthew takes an transparent look at policing in the U.S., where we come from as a nation and a society, and how far we still need to go. Through interviews with 10 experts from various fields, the film highlights the problems with public safety. The speakers discuss how policing and incarceration create more harm than good and what changes might be made to turn things around.

The film that was a requirement for graduation soon took on a life of its own. It has been used by social justice activists and as a centerpiece for discussion on questions of race and equity. Cities, towns, and corporate organizations are screening it and Matthew has been traveling the country presenting it and facilitating tough conversations on its topics. He’s also looking for wider distribution though a streaming service.

What’s Next for Matthew Solomon?

As Matthew continues to promote his film, he’s already working on the next project—and he’s going back to school again.

“I wish CLU had a Ph.D. program,” said Matthew, “but instead I’m enrolled at Saybrook University.”

While he pursues his next degree, Matthew is planning his next film, a docuseries that will ask some more tough questions: “How would we shape our society if we really cared about one another?” asked Matthew. “How would we approach big issues like policing and climate change if we cared about each other as humans, if we had more humanity?”

Indeed, how would we?

Design for Action with Faeda Elliott ’17

Claremont Lincoln University alum, Faeda Elliott ‘17 (MA Social Impact), discusses her drive to design for action and help nonprofit organizations share their message through visual media. Faeda highlights how the social impact program at CLU has enriched her educational experience by giving her the tools necessary to help her create, positive social impact in a way that is sustainable and transformative.

Capstone Story: Kathy Trujillo

As a student, I always believed that learning was complemented and perfected by “doing.” This core belief explains why I was attracted to Claremont Lincoln University’s Masters in Ethical Leadership degree program. From my little corner of the globe, I wanted to be a part of something new, innovative and big! The Claremont Core offered additional assurance that I was embarking on a journey of self-exploration and unveiled to me the unique leadership gifts and abilities I possess. This educational trek has given me the awareness and courage I need to offer my talents to the world with confidence.

My Capstone Action Project helped inspire optimism and enthusiasm in a poorly performing junior high school through the creation of a collaborative stakeholders’ group and a peer mentoring program. By utilizing strengths based leadership principles and the application of Appreciative Inquiry we have helped change the school’s narrative which consisted of spiraling negativity and hopelessness. Our group spent no time wallowing in or focusing on the deficiencies of the school district but immediately went to work identifying the positive attributes of our students, school, and community. We have built a sustainable organization that is improving individual and organizational strengths, creating a more positive school climate and dreaming big about making a local and global impact.

Professors at CLU offered me quality educational scaffolding; demonstrating how to research, analyze and solve problems, and then offering support as I progressed through the program independently. I was consistently persuaded to work outside of my comfort zone and encouraged to create a better version of myself at every turn. I have learned a lot about leadership, followership and the fortitude it takes to remain true to personal values, moral principles and maintain integrity.

Now it is my turn, to give back what I have been given and to strive to influence the next generation of leaders. As I interact with school administrators, stakeholders, students and community members, I am passing on the wisdom that CLU professors shared with me. The Capstone Action Project provided me with the opportunity to influence a diverse group of individuals, who are influencing others and helping shape a more optimistic vision of our future. This is how we put wisdom to work!

Capstone Story: Jorge Bedregal Marzluf

In the Ethical Leadership program, my Capstone project was to build awareness among law students at the Universidad del Valle in La Paz, Bolivia about the need of incorporating the principle of accountability in their school life and future profession. Accountability is not part of the culture in Bolivia and it is even less present in the legal system among lawyers. To achieve the purpose of my Capstone, I applied the design thinking methodology to develop a creative workshop for law students. At the workshop, the term ‘accountability’ was presented in a way that would fit into the students’ Bolivian context. It was established that in order to put accountability into practice, students needed to develop a life purpose based on the element of accountability within their context, and which would closely relate to virtue ethics.

My capstone proved to be both creative and practical, as I made it possible for each student to use critical thinking and develop a life purpose. Through the workshop, students understood they were to remain primarily accountable to their own life’s purpose, but also to society; an obligation they would take on in their role as future lawyers.

As a side benefit to my project, faculty at the Universidad del Valle were encouraged by the success of my workshop and have started developing an Innovation Laboratory where more workshops can be implemented.

The Ethical Leadership program was key to develop the skills for implementing my capstone project, which are not easily found in other graduate programs. For example, the outstanding theoretical framework taught in the program was the basis for the type of leadership I applied during my Capstone: Servant Leadership. In addition, the Claremont Core was vital in the development of outstanding skills such as focusing on what really matters (mindfulness), developing true communication through active listening (dialogue), working as partners even in a cultural environment that is reluctant to doing so (collaboration), applying new methods (design thinking), and reaffirming the discovery that my purpose in life is to be an agent of positive change.

Help us empower more students like Jorge to engage to positive social change by donating to the CLU Community Working Together campaign.

Capstone Story: Midori Meyer

The mission for my Capstone project was to develop and implement an empathy workshop for college students. The goals of the workshop were to present a conceptual framework of the vital importance of empathy for self, relationships, community, and society and to develop skills and competencies integral to empathic behavior. These objectives were met through experiential learning, including meditation, self and group reflection, role-playing, and modeling through practice.

Prior to enrolling at CLU, I would have approached these objectives much differently by designing a workshop based on research alone. However, the Master’s of Social Impact program taught me to take a grassroots approach to development. This systems and design thinking strategy resulted in a made-to-order workshop, shaped and molded through a cooperative collaboration amongst my participants, stakeholders and myself.

We co-created the workshop utilizing the principles I learned in the Capstone Core. The Mindfulness training taught me patience and understanding. In the Dialogue course, I learned deep listening and respectful response. The Collaboration course enlightened me to the power of co-intelligence. These learned competencies delivered a workshop that felt custom-made to the needs of my participants.

My participants and I bonded over the course of creating and experiencing the workshop. At the end of the workshop, we participated in several volunteer activities as a group and we developed a special “empath” greeting to use in the future when we bumped into each other. The greeting is our unspoken way of letting the other know we are still here for them. To greet one of my fellow “empaths” — I tap my heart, then I tap my back, then I point the peace sign toward his or her eyes. We understand this to mean, “I care about you – I’ve got your back – I wish you peace.”

Last week, I was in a parking lot when I heard my name being called. I turned to see a big lumberjack of a man I did not know tap his heart, tap his back, and point the peace sign towards my eyes. I returned the gestures and without exchanging words, we both got into our cars. This warm, unexpected encounter with a stranger indicated to me that my participants have become leaders and are creating a buzz about the virtues of one of our greatest human virtues — empathy. Capstone mission accomplished.