Executive Vice President
Why I Do What I Do:
“Because education was my pathway out of poverty and I believe every student deserves the same opportunity to succeed.”
Alma Mater(s): Sacramento City College, San Francisco State University and Saint Mary’s College of California
Your role in one sentence: I am in the business of winning the hearts and minds of policymakers and inspiring them to take action to ensure that more students can go to college and reach their dreams.
When I am not at work helping students get to and succeed in college I am…“School Boarding” (a phrase my 6- year-old daughter coined), raising two high-energy children, and wandering the world.
If not higher education then what cause? Working to encourage more women and girls to run for and get elected to public office.
Jessie Ryan grew up in the Central Valley and was raised by a struggling single mother. While life was often challenging, Jessie’s mother taught her that being economically disadvantaged did not mean a lifetime of disadvantage. She instilled the belief in Jessie that through education and civic participation individuals could vastly improve their quality of life. It was her mother’s strong sense of civic service and empathy for others that inspired Jessie to seek a college education, something her mother had always dreamed of doing, and devote much of her professional life to making it possible for others to follow their same college dream.
As the Executive Vice President for the Campaign for College Opportunity, Jessie leads the organization’s advocacy and policy efforts to increase the number of California students accessing higher education and impact the rate that students succeed in reaching their educational goals. A proud product of California’s Community Colleges and California State University System, in 2010 Jessie was thrilled to shepherd historic transfer reform legislation to simplify the transfer pathway from community colleges to four-year universities. In 2015, Jessie successfully led efforts to expand enrollment funding for the CSU and UC as well as direct $60 million dollars to community colleges for reforming their remedial education practices.
Most passionate about educational opportunity, leadership development, and elevating California’s Central Valley, before joining the Campaign Jessie served as a Circuit Rider for the Great Valley Center’s Community-based Assistance Programs (CAPs) working to support activities and organizations that promote the economic, social, and environmental well-being of California’s Great Central Valley. Acting as a technical advisor on local issues throughout the 21-county region, Jessie provided extensive outreach and capacity building services to rural and underserved communities.
In 2014, Jessie was humbled to be elected to the Sacramento City Unified School District, Board of Education. She represents some of the poorest, most diverse neighborhoods in Sacramento and is dedicated to ensuring that all students have a pathway out of poverty through public education.
Jessie graduated from Emerge California, a political leadership training program designed to identify, educate, and inspire Democratic women who want to pursue a career in politics at the local and state level. Jessie was a graduate of the Women’s Policy Institute, a program offered by the Women’s Foundation of California and created to increase the number of women leaders in California who are actively involved in shaping and implementing policies that affect the health and well-being of women and girls. She was a 2005 fellow in the Institute for Developing Emerging Area Leaders (IDEAL) program, which is dedicated to engaging a diverse group of valley stakeholders in strengthening effective public policy decision-making. Jessie was also selected to represent the valley in the Pew Partnership’s LeadershipPlenty – a program that teaches participants civic skills such as taking action, managing conflict, building partnerships, and engaging diverse communities in creating long-term positive community change.
In her spare time, Jessie enjoys serving on the board of the E.Claire Raley Studios for the Performing Arts, traveling, and supporting the anti-poverty work of Americorps* Vista (of which she is an alumna).
She attended Sacramento City College, was the recipient of a Kelly Broadcasting scholarship, and holds her bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communications from San Francisco State University. Jessie received her Master of Arts in Leadership Studies from Saint Mary’s College of California. She resides in Oak Park with her husband, Arsenio Mataka, Assistant Secretary for Environmental Justice at the California Environmental Protection Agency, and their two children.