Su Jin Gatlin Jez

Executive Director
California Competes

As executive director, Su Jin leads California Competes’s work to develop nonpartisan and financially pragmatic recommendations for improved higher education and workforce policies and practices across California.

Prior to joining California Competes, she served as associate professor of Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Sacramento. She also served as the director of the CSU Student Success Network, academic advisor for the California Executive Fellows Program, and associate director of the Sacramento State Doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Su Jin is an accomplished researcher whose work appears in a variety of publications including Teachers College Record, Education Policy Analysis Archives, Research in Higher Education, Community College Review, and Michigan Journal of Race & Law. Through her applied research, she has provided guidance to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, the California State University system, and California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education. Su Jin led a large scale study of the CCCCO’s Economic and Workforce Development Program and coauthored multiple reports analyzing the role of the California Community Colleges Career Technical Education in the college completion agenda. She has presented across the country and internationally on key issues in higher education and systems change, including economic and workforce development, college readiness and success, student college choice and decision making, and institutional effectiveness.

Su Jin is committed to her community, sharing her expertise and lived experience with leaders across higher education and workforce systems. Her service includes serving as a member of California’s Cradle-to-Career Data System Governing Board, the Public Policy Institute of California’s Higher Education Center Advisory Board, the Campaign for College Opportunity’s Policy Research Advisory Board, and the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Local Control Accountability Plan Committee. She also began service on the following councils and boards in 2022: Tipping Point Community’s Leadership Council, Credential Engine’s Council on Credential Transparency & Equitable Pathways, Transfer, and Recognition of Learning, The Graduate! Network’s Board of Directors, and the Every Learner Everywhere Equity Advisory Board. She was awarded the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning’s (CAEL) Pamela Tate Rise Award in 2021 for exemplary service to adult learners and forging connections between higher education, workforce development, and employer partnerships.

She holds a PhD in education administration and policy analysis and an MA in economics from Stanford University. She received a BA in statistics and a minor in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

What motivates you to advance California Competes’s mission?

This work is deeply personal to me. My parents ended up in California after leaving challenging circumstances — my mom from rural Korea and my dad from Arkansas. As a first-generation college student, California provided the opportunity to grow as a person, scholar, and community member. The benefits of higher education have profoundly impacted my life. I want all Californians to have this opportunity to reach their potential, regardless of their background or what life throws at them. Moreover, as a state, we must make this happen if we want to grow, or even maintain, our state’s standing as a world leader.