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. 24, 2018

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



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 passion and programming necessary to deliver their missions. Emily’s highly skilled team works with organizations who know they can do more and want dedicated, problem-solving experts with the resources and knowledge to propel them forward.

Last December, as the Thomas Fire raged, Emily leveraged her resources and connections to create a second venture called Thomas Fire Help, which connects help with need on a grassroots level. Thomas Fire Help is a community-sourced online platform where survivors can quickly find what they need, from initial food and shelter to longer term needs like housing and recovery services. Thomas Fire Help played a pivotal role following the devastation of the Montecito mudslide. Emily worked tirelessly to acquire 64 volunteer pilots who would, over the course of the prolonged 101 freeway closure, provide lifesaving transport to over 117 recovery personnel; doctors; and patients with urgent medical appointments.

Originally from Colorado, Emily graduated from Cal Lutheran University with majors in Communications and German and a minor in Philosophy. She has been named one of the top 40 under 40 Business Leaders by the Pacific Coast Business Times; received Mayor Garcetti’s 2016 Small Business Recognition Award; is the 2018 Alumni of the Year for the Ventura County Leadership Academy, and VISIONALITY was recently named the

#1 Best Place to Work by the Pacific Coast Business Times in their Small Business category. Emily is also a Board Member for the California Lutheran University Center for Nonprofit Leadership.


Tom Holt '95

President & Chief Executive Officer, Urbane Cafe


Mr. Holt is the founder, CEO, and Chief Believer of Urbane Cafe. His first career was at the age of sixteen when he became a professional motocross racer. As a racer he traveled the world and won many championship races in Brazil and South America from 1988 - 1990. After his racing days concluded, he embarked on a new kind of race--college.  He graduated from California Lutheran University with departmental honors in Kinesiology, with an emphasis in physical therapy.  After college, Mr. Holt opened a Juice Bar in Camarillo, CA called “Juice Stop”.  Mr. Holt continued to open three more successful locations and developed one of the first Mobil juice trailers.  In 2002, he sold all his juice bars to Robeck’s Juice, and decided to open his own restaurant concept. He saw the need for healthy and delicious sandwiches and salads centered around fresh baked bread.  Urbane Cafe was born in September of 2003 in Mr. Holt’s home town of Ventura, CA.  Mr. Holt quickly realized that he was onto something, and that Urbane Cafe offered a healthy and delicious product that guests began to crave.  Mr. Holt has continued to develop and expand the concept throughout the last 14 years. In the summer of 2017, Urbane Café received an investment from Panda Restaurant Group to help with the growing expansion.

Mr. Holt enjoys time with his family, running, triathlons, skiing, and is passionate about supporting charities, such as Boys and Girls Club and Project Understanding.  He is currently on the State Board of the California Restaurant Association and is an active member of Young Professional Organization.


Mike Panesis (Moderator)

Executive Director of the California Lutheran University Center for Entrepreneurship


Mike Panesis is the Executive Director of the California Lutheran University Center for Entrepreneurship. He is a startup community leader in the Conejo Valley and Ventura County, to the north of Los Angeles.  He comes to Cal Lutheran from UC Santa Barbara, where he ran UCSB’s highly successful New Venture Competition. Mr. Panesis is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurship and early stage investing.

Mike is Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Governors of Tech Coast Angels (TCA), the largest accredited angel investor group in the country. He heads TCA’s Central Coast Investor Network. Mike is a founding member of the Santa Barbara Angel Alliance.

Mike’s career spans a diverse range of industries and roles, including executive management, tech startups, information technology management and management consulting for companies like Semtech, Whitestone Research, DealerTrack, Church & Dwight, Deloitte & Touche and AT&T.

Mike has an MBA 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. He is 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. In her 23 years she has worked her way through the ranks, currently holding the rank of Fire Captain. 

Marisol’s education includes a Bachelors in Business Administration (CLU), a Master’s in Public Administration (CLU), a PhD Organizational/ Industrial Psychology and is a Certified Erickson Professional Coach. She is an instructor with Los Angeles City Fire Department’s Leadership Academy. 

She currently holds affiliations with American Psychological Association and California Psychological Association.


  • Emily Barany '07, Owner, VISIONALITY
  • 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
  • Tom Holt '95, President & CEO, Urbane Cafe 
  • Thembi Moyo '00, Corporate Accountant, Amgen
  • Mike Panesis, Executive Director of the California Lutheran Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Bill Robe, Vice President, TOLD Corporation
  • Marisol Rodriguez '94, Fire Captain, Ventura County Fire Department
  • Jeannette Ruggiero '91, Director, Oakview Health Center
  • Russell Young '71, Former Chief Financial Officer of Lyondell Chemical Company
  • Robert Zitsman, Executive Director, University Village Thousand Oaks
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Past Events

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