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VCLA – Fountain of Knowledge & Inspiration

Julius Sokenu, VCLA Cohort XXVI 

Interim President, Moorpark College

Ventura County Community College District



Prior to Friday, November 13, I did not know what it felt like to hold a drum between my legs and place my palms in a V to drum. Now I have proof that drumming is good for the heart and elevates the spirit. I did not know that Ventura is home to the eclectic Art City, an outdoor stone center created by world-renowned sculptor Paul Lindhard.  Neither did I know that at one time the city billed itself as the “Art City”.  

If you asked me a month ago, I could not have told you that California gas tax is the sole source of funding for Ventura County’s public transportation system. What shall we do when gas vehicles are phased-out as Governor Newsom proposes?  Prior to last Friday, I had heard about V, K and L shaped recovery from the pandemic. Matthew Fineup, Executive Director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting at California Lutheran University underscored that when it comes to the economy, nationally and in the county, “it’s a tale of two pandemics”. What you do and how you work defines how you experience the economic effects of COVID.

I did know that high quality arts education motivates our children’s academic achievement and that public art and the arts and entertainment sector influences the economic success of our communities. I did not know that Nobel Laureates were seventeen times more likely to be painters and fourteen times likely to be poets. Thanks Tracy Hudak for those fun facts. Yes, I did know that artists contribute to the economic vitality and the revitalization of our cities and towns. I now have some very concrete proof of that by referring to the community installations of Michelle Glass. A distinguished panel of directors of arts organizations confirmed what I suspected about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our local economy and particularly the financial devastation experienced by local arts organization. What I know is that anytime Cohort XXVI gets together it is destined to be a fun and inspiring time.  Of course, it is; we are virtually the best. Session 3 was no different.

I learnt that our county is resilient and the people and organizations continue to innovate and recommit to their mission while dealing with a global pandemic. I also learnt the aerobic value of drumming and the euphoria that resonates in the spirit after taking part in a drum circle. High fives to John Lacques of Drumtime.  I promise to attend an event of each of the art organizations that presented on Friday in the coming months.  Kudos to Pattie Braga and our remarkable guest speakers for another drink at the VCLA fountain of knowledge and inspiration.

December 1, 2019

In the Spirit of Being Grateful

By Carlos Evans

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and being grateful for the many blessings we enjoy here in Ventura County, here are just a few of the many people, places and things that I learned about/from during our November VCLA cohort session. It goes without saying that their contributions are worth acknowledging and celebrating:

  1. I had no clue that Oxnard’s very own Haas Automation Inc. is one of the Earth’s leading manufacturers of machines other companies purchase to create parts essential for their business plans. With over 1.2 billion dollars in revenue annually, Gene Haas has created a privately owned company focused on creating a robust, reliable, easy to troubleshoot product that is competitively priced against global competition. Haas’ products positively impact the automotive, medical, aviation, manufacturing and technology sectors. Of course, little of that is possible without their captive workforce that bleeds “Haas Red” which our cohort observed while touring their factory. Hats off to the Haas leadership team for hosting our cohort that morning and proving that Ventura County has the infrastructure required to attract, sustain and retain a global leader.
  2. Close to my heart was a presentation led by a fellow Naval Aviator, Brad “Brick” Conners, from Pharos Leadership. Brick was upfront and asked the cohort two critical questions for all leaders to ponder in the spirit of self-assessment before getting to his brief: (1) Why be led by me? (2) How will I honor their choice? Personally, I love great questions like these which when answered honestly force you to decide your leadership agenda. All of that to say, Brick went on teach us about innovation from the Native American medicinal wheel worldview through the wisdom centers of spirit, gut, head and heart. One of the great takeaways was that as we develop our personal and corporate wisdom centers, our leadership will be better prepared to innovate in any dynamic and chaotic environment.
  3. Has anyone ever asked you to re-imagine in order to re-invent the wallet to fit the 21st century lifestyle? Probably not, unless you have met the founders of Matterlabs. Built on the premise of progress through innovation, Matterlabs said something profound in their presentation that I instantly respected for them sharing publicly. After being wildly successful early on, they had lost a sense of purpose and yearned to leave a legacy worth remembering. Moving forward from this existential impasse, they would only take projects if it… Inspired, Impacted and Saved. Those values are powerful criteria to discern where to spend your time and how to make an impact in Ventura County. I can only hope that my next generation wallet design lives up to Matterlabs expectations!
  4. We changed venues in the afternoon to the brand new Gold Coast Transit Center in Oxnard. As a company with over 200 employees, 50+ buses, 20 routes serving thousands of customers predominantly in West Ventura County, their new 15 acre facility is well needed and deserved. Of note, I appreciated how they intentionally designed into their construction plans a community-minded meeting space able to host local groups like VCLA.
  5. Following lunch from Toppers (Thanks to Pattie Braga!!), we received presentations from the Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project, Ventura County Economic Development Collaborative, Ventura County Transportation Commission and burgeoning community land trust led by Tim Gallagher and Matthew Fienup. After taking pages of notes from those engaging speakers outlining the impactful work their respective organizations are doing for migrants, local businesses, commuters and aspiring homeowners, I left thinking the best is yet to come. Despite their individual specialties, all of the organizations shared in common the changing local socio-economic landscape and a passion to positively shape the future of Ventura County for its constituents before that opportunity is lost or taken.
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