2024 CCPA Leadership Team


Jose L medina III | University of California, Merced | PRESIDENT

Jose L. Medina III, a native of the Central Valley and Merced, California, is a formidable presence within the University of California, Merced (UC Merced). Serving with distinction in the Division of External Relations since 2022, Jose brings a wealth of expertise and an unyielding dedication to empowering and advocating for Central Valley students. At the core of his educational philosophy is a profound belief in the collaborative nature of higher education, emphasizing mentorship and support for students and emerging professionals in student affairs. His academic journey is marked by academic excellence, holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a Master of Science degree in Counseling with a notable emphasis on Student Affairs and College Counseling. Jose’s scholarly pursuits underscore his commitment to advancing the intellectual discourse within his field. Jose’s leadership has been showcased in various pivotal roles, including his tenure as Interim Director of Professional Development (2023), Director of Membership (2022-2023), and Graduate Student Representative (2020-2022). In addition to his institutional contributions, he serves as the Chair of Outreach for the Staff and Faculty of Color Association at UC Merced, embodying a commitment to fostering diversity and inclusivity. With an unwavering connection to the Central Valley, Jose takes pride in his scholarly and professional endeavors, particularly in championing college access for local students. His strong ties to the Merced community fuel a dedication to continued support, mentorship, advocacy, and research, with a focus on implementing best practices to serve the diverse student population of the Valley. Jose’s unflagging commitment to the Central Valley and higher education has rightfully positioned him as a leader of influence in his field. His extensive experience and scholarly expertise uniquely qualify him to drive meaningful change and make a lasting impact on the academic landscape, both within the Central Valley and beyond.



ChriZtopher Johnson  | California State University, Los Angeles | PAST-PRESIDENT

Chriztopher Johnson has worked as a professional in the field of higher education since 2008. He started his career with the University-Student Union at California State University, Los Angeles, where he coordinated on and off campus art, music, entertainment, and community service events. In this role, he discovered his passion for working with first-time freshmen to help close their retention gap, and developed the Freshman Activities Board to program community-building events specifically for this population. From there, Chriztopher helped to create a new department, New Student and Family Engagement, where he currently serves as its founding director and is able to focus his efforts on equitable retention programs designed to support first-year students. In addition to overseeing new student orientation, Chriztopher and his team also coordinate the university’s family engagement efforts, implementing a year-long workshop series for parents and family support members, as well as social events and volunteer opportunities. He also coordinates a peer mentoring program that provides social and academic support for first-year Black freshmen and transfer students and their allies, and leads a cross-divisional workgroup that focuses on the success of young men of color. Chriztopher completed his undergraduate degree at Duke University and his graduate degree at the University of Southern California. Chriztopher previously served as the Awards Coordinator, Member-at-Large, and Director of Membership for CCPA, and is a recipient of the ACPA Innovative Practice Award.



An award winning professional with more than 15 years of experience, Dennis McIver currently works for University of California Office of the President as EDIB Program Manager. His higher education background includes advising, athletic compliance, admissions, academic records and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Dennis has significant experience as a staff advocate and leader. As 2022-23 Chair of the Council of UC Staff Assemblies, the CUCSA delegation explored employee retention through three lenses, expanded its outreach throughout the University of California, and developed a five-year strategic plan. Dennis’ previous service includes being a past President of University of California Riverside (UCR) Staff Assembly and past Chair of UCR’s Black Faculty And Staff Association (BFASA). He is also a Co-Founder of the Black Leadership Alliance Council at the University of California (BLAC@UC). Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Dennis earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Maryland where he was an inaugural recipient of the Geppi-Aikens award, and member of the Green and Grey Society. Dennis also earned master’s degrees from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and University of Baltimore. He recently reached PhD candidacy in Leadership Studies at California Baptist University where his research examines higher education staff leadership development via employee resource groups.

DR. HEATHER FRENCH| UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, MERCED | Director of professional development

Heather French currently serves as Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students at University of California, Merced. In her role she oversees several campus departments that offer services to support students outside of the classroom, and she provides advocacy and direct support to students. Previously Dr. French held Vice President for Student Affairs roles at Fontbonne University and University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, served as Dean for Student Development and Engagement at Holy Names University, and held various roles in housing and residence life, first year experience and multicultural services within the UC and CSU systems. Dr. French has held membership in ACPA (including CCPA) and NASPA for several years and she is thrilled to be part of the planning for the 2024 fall institute. Dr. French received her B.A. in Human Studies from Bradford College, her M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Humboldt State University and her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary’s College of California. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, reading, writing, travel, Zumba, and spending time with her wife, Angela, grown-up kiddo, Simon, and their family pets.


Samantha Bautista (she/her/hers), is a first-generation college graduate student, and an aspiring higher education professional. Samantha received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Criminology in Spring 2021, and anticipates to graduate with her Masters degree in Counseling- Student Affairs and College Counseling in Spring 2023 from California State University, Fresno. She is currently serving as the AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander- Serving Institution) Work-Based Learning Experiences Project Coordinator for the AANAPISI Initiative at Fresno State, which is a support program for Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Criminology students. She has dedicated over 5 years of experience of working with students from diverse backgrounds, and seeks to continue to provide support for students throughout their college journey. Samantha is passionate about serving students, seeking professional development opportunities, and making connections across campuses to increase equity-minded practices.



Janrey Javier (he/him/siya) is a first generation student, cis-het male, Asian American, Filipino American, and child of immigrants. He finished his undergraduate studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston and will be completing his Masters in Organization & Leadership with a focus in Higher Education Leadership at the University of San Francisco in May 2023. Since moving to the Bay Area in June 2022 from Boston, Janrey has worked as the Coordinator for Student Leadership Development at California College of the Arts and will be entering a new role at the University of California, Berkeley as the Student Engagement Manager for the Jacobs Institute for Design and Innovation in April 2023. Janrey had been extensively involved during his undergraduate career, which ultimately became the catalyst for his passion and desire to work in higher education. He has worked closely with UMass Boston’s Asian American Studies Program and wrote his senior Honors thesis on the topic of “Asian American Student Leadership Development in Massachusetts Public Higher Education Institutions”. His masters thesis will focus on the topic of “Racism and Filipino American Student Leadership” and will be presenting his work during the 2023 Asian Pacific Americans in Higher Education Conference.



Dr. Belisle has a BA in Sociology with a minor in Education from UC Santa Cruz. After taking some time to work with elementary youth in the Bay Area, she went on to pursue her MA from Teachers College, Columbia University in Sociology and Education with an emphasis in Education Policy. She also graduated with her Ph.D. from the joint program at San Diego State University and Claremont Graduate University in Education with an emphasis in Student Affairs and Higher Education. She has over nine years’ experience working in higher education and over fifteen years’ experience in education overall. In her current role, she serves as the Chief Diversity Officer, supporting diversity, equity, inclusion accessibility and antiracism initiatives throughout the community college district she works in. Dr. Belisle’s research interests extend to supporting all marginalized students whether through multicultural education and other diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and/or through effective collaboration across and within academic and student affairs.



Ashley Gutierrez has passionately supported first generation students across the elementary, middle school, high school, and college levels. She attended Reedley Community College for 4 years and transferred to Fresno State where she obtained her BA in History in 2018. She became active in non-profit organizations, such as Arte Americas where she served as historical intern and grant writer, and Central Valley Latino Leadership Academy where she gained experience of serving on boards/committees and policy writing. After taking 3 years off of school, she returned back to Fresno State to pursue her master’s degree and has worked in different Fresno State programs such as Academic Success Coaching, the Transfer Success Center, and Dog Days Orientation. In 2023, Ashley was nominated for the Graduate Dean’s Medalist Award for her contributions to the Fresno State campus community, as well as successfully earning her Master’s in Student Affairs & College Counseling. Her most recent research project, “Forever Changed: The Lasting Impacts of COVID-19 on Latinx College Students & High Education” has been presented at conferences across CA where it helped others understand how the pandemic has an effect on higher education campuses and college students. She is currently the Counselor/Coordinator for the Dual Enrollment/High School Enrichment program at Reedley Community College where she has taught college and life skills courses across the Central CA rural communities.




I am a first-generation, Queer, Chicano/Latino man from Bell Gardens, California. I did my undergrad at UCLA where I majored in Chicana/o Studies and had a minor in Disability Studies. I was involved in multiple student organizing efforts, particularly related to student-run programs to support students from marginalized backgrounds. These efforts led me to pursue a career in student affairs, leading me to the Student Affairs in Higher Education program (SAHE) at Colorado State (CSU), which I will be graduating from in May 2023. I have worked in Housing for 2 years as an Assistant Resident Manager, and also was the Graduate Student Coordinator for the Symposium for Inclusive Excellence. I also am completing a practicum as a Graduate Student Advisor for the Associated Students of Colorado State University (ASCSU), working closely with the organization’s two advisors.I have recently accepted a position as Project Coordinator for MEChA Calmécac back at UCLA, where I will be starting by summer 2023.



Julia Stanton received her master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Indiana University and has worked in orientation, first-year experience programs, residential life, student conduct, and student activities. After moving to California, Julia got involved with CCPA in 2013, supporting the annual CCPA Institute planning. In 2017, she won the award for Outstanding Service to the Association, served as CCPA’s Director of Professional Development from 2017-2018, and most recently served as President of CCPA from 2019-2021. She has worked for three different universities in California and currently works as the Director of Orientation Programs at Loyola Marymount University. 



April Cardiel is a first-generation masters student currently pursuing her degree in Student Affairs and College Counseling at Fresno State. As a proud native of the central valley, April began her journey in higher education at the start of her undergraduate studies program. April began working as a student assistant with the Counselor Education and Rehabilitation Department, supporting graduate students as they begin their graduate journey. Since then, April has taken on the role of Grant Administrator and Administrative Support Coordinator within the same department. Most recently, April began the position of Graduate Admissions Coordinator with the Division of Research and Graduate Studies. Being a part of the Fresno State community and recognizing the impact she can bring to other first generation students has encouraged her to continue work through the university system. Working primarily with graduate students, April has recognized the importance of continuous support to students beyond their undergraduate experience and hopes to be an advocate, support and resource for graduate students throughout her career.



Belen Torres is a first-generation Chicana who earned her BA in Public Affairs with a minor in Chicanx Studies from UCLA. After graduating, she pursued an MA in Student Affairs and College Counseling at California State University, Fresno, with an expected graduation in Spring 2024. Belen has six years of experience working in higher education and holding leadership positions throughout her academic career. At UCLA, she contributed to Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment, taking on roles such as Executive Coordinator of Cub Tours, Cub Tour Guide, and Bruin Ambassador. Additionally, she served as Secretary of the Luskin Undergraduate Student Association. Currently, as a graduate student, Belen works with CSU Fresno’s Admissions and Recruitment as a High School Ambassador. Simultaneously, she serves as a graduate assistant for Fresno City College’s TRIO Upward Bound program. She also serves as SACC’s Graduate Student Association Member-At-Large. Belen’s research interests include actively supporting first-generation college students in developing self-efficacy and achieving career readiness.