Commission Members


Catalina Cifuentes
Chair - California Secondary Schools Representative Governor Appointee

Commission Chair Catalina Cifuentes

Catalina Cifuentes is an educator who has demonstrated a gift for counseling and advocacy on behalf of all students. 

In her former position as lead counselor at Santiago High School, Corona- Norco Unified School District, Catalina worked with the counseling team to design a successful guidance program which led to Riverside County as well as California Department of Education recognitions for exemplary counseling practices. She worked with her administrative team and staff to transform the school by raising the academic rigor and expectations from students resulting in the highest graduation rate and second highest A-G completion rate in Riverside, Inyo, Mono and San Bernardino County.


Anahi-Marcella Araiza
Student Representative Governor Appointee

Commissioner Anahi-Marcella Araiza Student Representative (Governor Appointee)

Anahi-Marcella S. Araiza (she/her) is a third-year Global Studies major with two minors in Arabic and Human Rights at UC Berkeley. Originally from the Imperial Valley and Mexicali, Baja California, her background has made her passionate about affordability and accessibility in higher education. She has previously served as Fund the UC Vice Chair for the University of California Student Association, In October 2023, she was appointed to the California Student Aid Commission.


Patrick Day
California State University Representative Governor Appointee

Commissioner Patrick Day

Patrick Day currently serves as the Vice President for Student Affairs at San José State University where he is responsible for units focused on co-curricular learning, enrollment management, and a critical array of student services.  Prior to joining SJSU in 2018, his career in higher education spanned 25 years and took him to a diverse set of institutions across the United States.  Most recently, he served as the Vice President for Student Life at University of the Pacific, and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston.


Juanita Doplemore
General Public Representative Speaker of the Assembly Appointee

Commissioner Juanita Doplemore

In her time as a California Student Aid Commissioner and Youth Advocate, Juanita has gained the perspective on educational systems, policies, and budgets necessary to fight for the students in our schools. As part of her mission as a commissioner, she has become a trainer for Cash for College events and she has hosted several college fair events because college readiness and affordability is essential.


Audrey Dow
General Public Representative Governor Appointee

Audrey Dow  Commissioner General Public Representative

Audrey Dow is the Senior Vice President of the Campaign for College Opportunity, a California-based policy and research organization that ensures more students go to college and succeed. As a member of the Executive Team, she has broad responsibilities for co-leading the organizations’ strategic direction, robust research agenda, and for leading strategic media, communications and coalition building efforts. At the Campaign, she has led successful campaigns to end the use of the SAT/ACT in admissions at the University of California and California State University, ushering in remedial education and transfer reform at California’s community colleges, urgently prioritizing the hiring of racially/ethnic and gender diverse faculty, college and university leaders across California’s public institutions of higher education, and reforming financial aid to serve more low-income students regardless of when or where they go to college. She has been a principal author and contributed to numerous watershed reports on higher education and racial/ethnic inequity.


Shannon Gary
Independent CA Colleges and Universities Representative Governor Appointee

Commissioner Shannon Gary

Shannon Gary is the associate vice president of student life and dean of students at the University of San Francisco.

Dr. Shannon Gary is a first-generation college student from Philadelphia, PA.  He earned his undergraduate degree from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. He earned both his master’s degree and Doctor of Education degree in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.


Debra Maxie
Secretary - General Public Representative Senate Rules Appointee

Commissioner Maxie Picture

Mrs. Maxie began her teaching career in 1973 in the school district where she was educated Kindergarten – 12th grades, the Chicago Public School system, teaching physical education before moving into the field of counseling.  In 1979, Mrs. Maxie relocated to San Diego where she immediately joined the teaching force of the San Diego Unified School District.


Guillermo Mayer
General Public Representative Speaker of Assembly Appointee

Guillermo Mayer

Guillermo Mayer is President & CEO of Public Advocates Inc., a nonprofit civil rights law firm and advocacy group committed to challenging the systemic causes of poverty and discrimination. Under his leadership, the organization has expanded its advocacy into postsecondary education, with the goal of expanding college access, affordability and success for low-income students and students of color in California. Previously, Guillermo worked as member of the Public Advocates’ legal team for more than 9 years advancing litigation and policy efforts to increase funding and promote equitable decision-making in K-12 education and public transportation.


Charles Nies
Vice Chair - University of California Representative Governor Appointee

Commissioner Nies Picture

Dr. Nies is the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. He has responsibility for areas that create an engaged campus life and that foster student learning outside of the classroom.

He has worked in higher education for over 25 years in a variety of roles. He was the dean of students at a small private college, a program director for a minor in leadership studies, and an assistant dean of an interdisciplinary school at a large public university. As an instructor, he has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in leadership theory, organizational theory, student development, and social identity development. He has served as a consultant to a number of universities, non-profit organizations, and public agencies.


David R. O’Brien
California Community College Representative Governor Appointee

David R. O’Brien Vice Chancellor for Government Relations

David O’Brien has served as Vice Chancellor for Government Relations for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office since April of 2020. In this role, he oversees a division responsible for formulating and advancing the legislative agenda of the California Community Colleges and represents the Chancellor’s Office before the Legislature and executive branch of the state and federal governments.


Eva Robinson
General Public Representative Governor Appointee

Eva Robinson General Public Representative (Governor Appointee)

Eva Robinson currently holds the position of Deputy Project Controller for the Employment Development Department’s modernization initiative, EDDNext. In this role, she oversees project management, budgeting, contracts, and financial aspects, offers strategic guidance on policies, and advises stakeholders on fiscal matters and expenditures. Over the past decade, Eva has progressively taken on higher levels of responsibility in various IT leadership roles within the State of California.


Alexis Takagi
Student Representative Governor Appointee

Alexis Takagi Student Representative on the Student Aid Commission

Alexis Takagi is a first-year doctoral candidate attending Santa Clara University’s (SCU) School of Education and Counseling Psychology studying social justice leadership with an emphasis on higher education. Alexis earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with honors from Santa Clara University in 2022 and was subsequently appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom as a commission member for the California Student Aid Commission. She currently works at Learnfully, Inc. as an Educational Specialist, where she provides students with personalized instruction that is aligned to their specific strengths and needs using evidence-based methods and technology. 


David Valladolid
General Public Representative Senate Rules Appointee

Commissioner David Valladolid

President and CEO Emeritus, David Valladolid has spent 18 years managing and overseeing all administrative and personnel aspects of Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE). His responsibilities included financial management, fund development, program operations, new hires, and program evaluations. Mr. Valladolid served as the primary spokesperson for the organization and as the liaison to the PIQE Board of Directors. He was instrumental in expanding and opening 10 regional offices across California and replicating PIQE’s “Parent Engagement in Education Program” in Texas, Arizona and Virginia. He has played a critical role in the implementation of PIQE’s “Best Practice Model” in ten other states. He remains critical in the promotion of PIQE’s “Best Practice Model” across the nation. Mr. Valladolid firmly believes that we as a community should support parents so that they can provide their children with unconditional love, academic, social, and emotional support so families and children may be successful in school and in life.


Chao Vang
General Public Representative Governor Appointee

Chao Vang, General Public Representative Governor Appointee

Chao Vang currently serves as the Assistant Vice President of Educational Equity Programs and Student Success at California State University, Sacramento. In this role, Chao is responsible for providing broad oversight of global outreach, access, and student success initiatives to advance educational opportunities and equity.