CPI Staff

Clare Crawford, President and Executive Director

Clare Crawford joined CPI as Organizing Director in 2010, bringing over 17 years of experience working with disenfranchised and impoverished communities as an organizer and advocate. In San Diego as well as in Texas, Oregon and the South Bronx, Clare has been a leader in efforts to advance the rights of workers, immigrants and low-income communities through organizing, voter engagement, leadership development, coalition building and grassroots campaigns. She has led campaigns for public school reform, renters’ rights, affordable housing, electoral reform and the rights of homeowners throughout the country. She was named CPI Executive Director as of January 2011, replacing Donald Cohen, who moved on to head two national projects.

Peter Brownell, PhD, Research Director

Dr. Brownell holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and an M.A. in Demography, both from UC Berkeley. Prior to joining CPI, Dr. Brownell was an Associate Social Scientist at the RAND Corporation, where he also maintains an adjunct affiliation while continuing his role as Principal Investigator on projects relating to the occupational health of immigrant farmworkers and to estimating immigration flows. Dr. Brownell has also been a visiting research fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies and a guest scholar at the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, both at UC San Diego. His past research has focused primarily on immigrants and immigration, with a particular focus on migration between Mexico and the United States. Past projects have addressed the factors related to Mexican immigrants’ wages in the United States and the role of U.S. policy in structuring immigrants’ labor market outcomes and decisions regarding migration and settlement. His research has also addressed health topics such as youth smoking and the measurement of childhood obesity.

Jessica Cordova, Communications Specialist

Jessica graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a BA in Ethnic Studies and a Masters in Latin American Studies with an emphasis in Communications. Most recently she worked at the County of San Diego Registrar of Voters in Latino Outreach. She has co-produced and edited various short documentaries. She formed part of an audiovisual oral history project interviewing militants and survivors of the Spanish Civil War and Francoist Dictatorship over three summers in Spain. These oral histories are available for public streaming at the UCSD Special Collections Library. She is currently working on another oral history project; gathering the stories of San Diego based Chicana activists. Her latest project “Everything Comes from the Streets,” a documentary tracing the origins and history of lowriding in San Diego and Tijuana, has screened at the San Francisco Latino Film Festival, San Diego Barrio Film Festival and has been accepted to the San Antonio CineFestival, and the Ethnografilm Festival in Paris.

Susan Duerksen, Senior Communications Advisor

A journalism graduate of Indiana University, Susan Duerksen was a reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune for 17 years, covering healthcare and medical news during most of that time. Before joining CPI in 2006, she received a Master in Public Health degree from San Diego State University. She worked as a public health researcher at SDSU for four years, with a focus on policy and community changes to prevent childhood obesity. Susan also served as volunteer co-director of the San Diego chapter of Health Care for All, a group supporting state legislation for single-payer health care.

Kyra R. Greene, PhD, Research and Policy Analyst

Before joining CPI, Dr. Greene was an Assistant Professor of Sociology at San Diego State University where she taught courses on socioeconomic inequality, race and qualitative research methods. She has served as an instructor in sociological courses on public policy at both Rider University and Stanford University. She was also the Diversity Coordinator for the Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (EDGE-SBE) program at Stanford University. Dr. Greene’s past research has focused on social movement messaging/framing, legislative processes and public policies affecting the lives of people of color and people with disabilities. Dr. Greene earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University. She also holds a B.A. in Social Sciences from Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

Christie Hill, Program and Policy Director

Christie Hill joined CPI as the Senior Legal and Policy Analyst in 2011, after having worked in California, Washington, DC and New York advocating for the rights of women, children, and low-income communities. Christie earned her Bachelor’s degree from the School of Social Welfare at Berkeley, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she served for two years as an adjunct faculty member. Previously employed by Advocates for Children of New York, Christie led a project to produce a public service announcement on student educational rights, published several policy briefings, and spearheaded an effort to reform alternative diploma options for students in the state of New York. Christie is admitted to the bars of New York State and the District of Columbia (inactive). She is not admitted to the bar of California.

Trinh Le, Leadership Development Coordinator

Trinh Le graduated from UCLA with a BA in Sociology and Asian American Studies. She went on to organize in many diverse communities in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast before coming back to San Diego. At CPI, Trinh worked as an organizer for three years on numerous campaigns including landfill, Property Value Protection Ordinance, and Project Labor Agreements. She spent most of her time forming and convening the Community Budget Alliance and advocating for a more accessible, transparent, and fair City of San Diego budget that is equitable across all neighborhoods. Now she will be focusing on CPI’s leadership development initiatives. Trinh is currently on the board of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) – San Diego chapter, Mid-City CAN in City Heights, and the San Diego Leadership Alliance. She has over eight years of community organizing experience and recently was awarded the “Most Valuable Organizer” of the year for 2013 by the New Organizing Institute.

Samer Naji, Coalition Organizer

Born in Brazil, Samer began his organizing career by working on immigrant rights and other grassroots campaigns in California, including opposing Proposition 8. While earning his Political Science degree at UC San Diego, Samer worked to empower students by organizing to combat funding cuts to the UC while protecting access to public higher education for underprivileged communities. He also helped set up a new student run organization which worked to reform how student registration takes place on the campus, achieving significant increases in student registration rates. Through extensive outreach and recruiting efforts, Samer helped lay the foundation for continued student activism at UC San Diego by ensuring the presence of new, young activist and leaders. After graduating and prior to joining CPI, Samer worked on a public sector union organizing campaign in Vermont.

Dominique Navarro, Development Coordinator

Before joining CPI, Dominique Navarro worked as a a volunteer and community organizer for a nonprofit that provided grassroots environmental education to San Diego communities. She earned a Master’s degree in International Environmental Policy at UC San Diego’s Graduate School of International Relations & Pacific Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Systems & Policy with a minor in Ethnic Studies. Her work has focused on environmental and food justice as well as sustainable community-building in underrepresented neighborhoods.

Quynh Nguyen, Development Director

Quynh Nguyen started at CPI in 1998 as an organizer and is now focused on building CPI’s membership and grassroots fundraising. She is a board member of the Southwest Center for Asian Pacific American Law. Quynh graduated from UCLA with B.A.s in Sociology and Asian American Studies.

Robert Nothoff, Research and Policy Analyst

Robert joined CPI in November, 2013 as a Research and Policy Analyst.  Originally from the Metro Detroit area, Robert’s personal experiences shaped his career path in social justice.  Robert’s professional experiences include state-wide c(3) voter mobilization work with Michigan Voice, where he worked with progressive nonprofit organizations to develop and implement field plans targeted at low-turnout, communities of color.  He has also worked for Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD) as a Policy Analyst and Community Organizer.  During his tenure with OCCORD, Robert lead research efforts around a community benefits campaign, facilitated the Community Benefits Coalition in Anaheim, and later co-facilitated the Santa Ana Collaborative for Responsible Development, where they successfully implemented a Sunshine Ordinance in 2012.  Robert possesses both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Michigan State University and UC Irvine, respectively.

Barbara Obrzut, Finance and Operations Director

Barbara Obrzut has a Master’s degree in Polish Literature and Language from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. She worked in children’s theater in Kraków before moving to the United States in 1998. In the fall of 2008, Barbara also earned a Master’s degree in Sociology in 2008 from San Diego State University, where her research focused on immigration and specifically local ordinances directed at undocumented immigrants. She joined the CPI staff in May 2008.

Crystal Page, Communications Director

Content producer, digital strategist and web developer — Crystal has spent the last decade creating and managing digital content for clients and employers such as SEIU-USWW, Good Jobs LA and Brave New Films. Additionally, while living in Chicago, she gave her time to WLUW 88.7 as a broadcast engineer for community programming. Her syndicated reality show, “A Just Sparkle,” continues to air on CAN-TV teaching viewers how to shop sweatshop-free. Crystal earned a MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and a dual BA in Communication and Theology from Loyola University of Chicago.

Karen Plascencia, Organizer

Karen is a first generation college graduate, and earned a B.A. in History and minor in Women Studies in 2013 from California State University San Marcos. She was born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Mexicali, B.C, Mexico for the majority of her childhood. She has a deep passion for economic justice that comes from her own experiences, Karen believes a living wage is a human right and no worker should ever be forced to live in poverty. She is also a board member for the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, and dedicates as much time as she can to fighting besides the migrant community in the struggle for just policies that advocate for better treatment of this population. 

Norma Rodriguez, Lead Organizer

Norma Rodriguez worked for Justice Overcoming Boundaries before joining CPI and currently serves on the JOB board. A native of Porterville, California, Norma earned a BA from UC Irvine in Studio Art with minors in Education and Chicano Latino Studies, and a Masters’ degree from UC San Diego in Latin American Studies with an International Migration emphasis. She has previous experience as an art and Spanish teacher in addition to community organizing on immigration reform and other social justice issues.

Board of Directors

Clare Crawford, President

Executive Director, Center on Policy Initiatives

Richard Barrera, Chair

Secretary-Treasurer/CEO, San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council
San Diego Unified School Board Trustee

Sue Reynolds, Secretary

Executive Director, Community Housing Works

Lowell Waxman, Treasurer

Retired Librarian

Jill Esbenshade, Personnel & Finance

Associate Professor of Sociology, San Diego State University

Tom Lemmon, Personnel & Finance

Business Manager, San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council

Donald Cohen

President of InThePublicInterest.org

Greg Akili

Community Leader

Stephanie Gut

PICO National Network

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The Center on Policy Initiatives is a nonprofit research and action institute dedicated to advancing economic equity for working people and diverse communities throughout the San Diego region. CPI works to increase access to good jobs and quality healthcare, and to improve conditions for low-wage workers and families.