Mathews Leadership Forum


This forum provides an opportunity for the campus community to engage in meaningful dialogue on an important topic with prominent business and community leaders.

This evening event begins with networking followed by roundtable discussions where civic, business, and community leaders are paired with Cal Lutheran students and faculty members in order to build relationships and provide mentoring opportunities. The table topic discussions are led by a distinguished group of facilitators. This is followed by dinner and a keynote address or panel discussion.

The committee chooses an interesting and timely topic that fits into a major emphasis of the academic programs. The event is made possible through the generous support of local business and community organizations.

For more information, please click here or contact Robin Fielding in University Relations at 805-493-3084.

Finding Your Path to Success

Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019

5:45-9:00 p.m. in the Lundring Events Center

Watch a Video of the Event


2018 Speakers


Emily (Melander '07) Barany



Emily Barany has an insatiable need to solve problems, create efficient systems and empower people. In 2011 she launched VISIONALITY with a mission to help organizations dream big and a commitment to transform their dreams into reality.

VISIONALITY strengthens and runs the business operations side of nonprofits, allowing the organizations’ internal staff and volunteers to focus on the programming necessary to deliver their missions.

Last December, as the Thomas Fire raged, Barany leveraged her resources and connections to create a second venture called Thomas Fire Help, which connects help with need on a grassroots level. At the community-sourced online platform, survivors can quickly find what they need, from initial food and shelter to longer term needs like housing and recovery services.

The Pacific Coast Business Times has named Barany one of the top 40 under 40 Business Leaders and VISIONALITY the #1 Best Place to Work in the Small Business category. 


Tom Holt '95

President & CEO, Urbane Cafe


Tom Holt is the founder and Chief Believer of Urbane Café. His first career began at age 16 as a professional motocross racer. When his racing days concluded, he headed to college, graduating from Cal Lutheran with departmental honors in kinesiology, with an emphasis in physical therapy.

After college, he opened the Juice Stop in Camarillo which expanded to three more successful locations and one of the first mobile juice trailers. In 2002, he sold the juice bars to Robeks Juice.

In September 2003, Holt opened Urbane Café in his home town of Ventura. The restaurant offered healthy, delicious salads and sandwiches that guests began to crave. Holt continued to develop the concept, and in 2017, the Panda Restaurant Group invested in the growing expansion. Today, the family friendly restaurants are located throughout California.

Holt serves on the State Board of the California Restaurant Association and is a member of Young Professionals Organization.


Mike Panesis (Moderator)

Executive Director, California Lutheran University Center for Entrepreneurship


Mike Panesis is a startup community leader in the Conejo Valley and Ventura County. Before coming to Cal Lutheran, he ran UC Santa Barbara’s New Venture Competition. He is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurship and early stage investing.

He is a chair emeritus of the Board of Governors of Tech Coast Angels, the largest accredited angel investor group in the country. He heads TCA’s Central Coast Investor Network and is a founding member of the Santa Barbara Angel Alliance. His career spans a diverse range of industries and roles, including executive management, tech startups, information technology management, and management consulting for local and multinational companies.

Panesis holds an MBA in marketing from Rutgers University and a BS in computer science for business from the DeVry Institute of Technology. He lives in Camarillo with his wife and two children, and serves on the Steering Committee of the Ventura County Greek Festival. 


Marisol Rodriguez '94, MPA '00

Fire Captain, Ventura County Fire Department


Marisol Rodriguez has been with the Ventura County Fire Department as a firefighter since 1995. Now assigned to the training division, her responsibilities include serving as a Community Emergency Response Team instructor running fire academy programs, acting as a public information officer for the department and being the on-call safety officer. 

Rodriguez was the safety officer on duty the evening of Dec. 4, 2017, when the Thomas Fire broke out near Santa Paula. While assigned to the Thomas Fire for more than half of December, she saw evidence of the value of fire department programs aimed at reducing fire hazards around homes and training homeowners how to respond. This experience helped prepare her for her current assignment, to help raise education and awareness about those campaigns.

Rodriguez earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s in public administration from Cal Lutheran, a PhD in industrial and organizational psychology from Capella University, and certification as a professional coach from Erickson Coaching International. She is an instructor with the Los Angeles City Fire Department’s Leadership Academy, and holds affiliations with the American Psychological Association and California Psychological Association. 


  • Gerhard Apfelthaler, Dean, School of Management, California Lutheran University
  • Emily Barany '07, Owner, VISIONALITY
  • Adam Cavallero, Regional Lead Physician,UCLA Health, Assistant Clinical Professor, UCLA
  • Stefan Cosentino, Hospitality and Tourism Program Director/Assistant Professor, School of Management, California Lutheran University
  • Heather Cousin, Library Services Director, Thousand Oaks Library
  • Beth Dooley '12, MPPA '15, Police Records and Property Manager, Oxnard Police Department
  • Andrew Fox '98, Mayor, City of Thousand Oaks
  • Jim Friedl, General Manager, Conejo Recreation and Park District
  • Ingrid Hardy, Assistant City Manager, City of Thousand Oaks

  • Holt, Tom '95, President & CEO, Urbane Cafe
  • Moyo, Thembi '00, Senior Manager of Finance, Amgen
  • Mike Panesis, Executive Director of the California Lutheran Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Bill Robe, Vice President, TOLD Corporation
  • Marisol Rodriguez '94, MPA '00, Fire Captain, Ventura County Fire Department
  • Jeannette Ruggiero '91, Director, Oakview Health Center
  • Paul Witman, Professor, School of Management, California Lutheran University
  • Russell Young '71, Former Chief Financial Officer of Lyondell Chemical Company
  • Robert Zitsman, Executive Director, University Village Thousand Oaks
Photo Gallery

Past Events

Learn about our last event