Local leaders gather to inspire at Mathews Leadership Forum


Photo by Ulises Koyoc- Reporter

Ulises Koyoc, Reporter

Around 160 participants came together on Wednesday, Oct. 23 for the annual Mathews Leadership Forum at California Lutheran University. Community and business leaders gathered to provide networking opportunities for students, with a theme of “finding your path to success.” 

The event started in 1970 as a seminar created by former business professor and Cal Lutheran President Mark Mathews. According to the Cal Lutheran website, the Mathews Leadership Forum aims to connect Cal Lutheran students with successful individuals in the community. 

According to Cal Lutheran’s website, the forum is supported by the Community Leaders Association, an organization that has contributed $1.9 million to support academic programs and create scholarships for Cal Lutheran students.

During the forum, participants had the opportunity to meet people from different professional backgrounds. Individuals like Chief of Police for the City of Thousand Oaks Tim Hagel attended the event. 

Hagel was given the Hamm Award, an award recognizing individuals who have contributed to the betterment of Cal Lutheran or the city of Thousand Oaks. Hagel received the award for his work during the Borderline Bar & Grill shooting and Woolsey Fire in 2018. 

Emely Salguero, a first-year student studying communication, said she helped set up the event by making name tags and cleaning up. Salguero said she found attending the forum intimidating, but she wanted to hear Melissa Baffa speak. 

Baffa, a panelist at the event, works as a development officer for the  Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, a position Salguero was interested in. Even though Salguero is studying communication, she said new perspectives can bring new opportunities. 

“I feel like [Mathews Leadership Forum] gets kids out of their comfort zone,” Salguero said. 

President of CLA Tracy Noonan said the Mathews Leadership Forum is a unique experience for Cal Lutheran students. Noonan said that unlike CLA’s other two major events, a “high tea” and a golf tournament, the Mathews Leadership Forum is not a fundraiser but rather attempts to get to the core of making connections. Community leaders attend because they do not have many opportunities to interact with students who potentially are future leaders, Noonan said. 

“How often do you get to meet with the police chief… it’s a very unique event for students,” Noonan said. “Students at Cal Lutheran have struggles and have doubts, and hearing from people who have gone through school is so beneficial.” 

Alejandro Aguilar, an accounting major at Cal Lutheran, said the event was very useful. Aguilar said he attended the forum because he wanted to hear stories from successful individuals. However, Aguilar said he wishes he had the opportunity to speak to someone from a profession he aspires to be employed in. 

“I would say to someone who didn’t come, give it a try, you might learn something new,” Aguilar said. “What I took away today is persistence, keep doing what you’re doing.”

University Relations Coordinator Robin Fielding said in an email interview that the Mathews Leadership Forum has proved to provide mentorship for students. Fielding said the forum can be a life changing event for students who participate. 

“The Forum gives students an opportunity to use networking skills and meet members of the business community to build relationships which can lead to job opportunities,” Fielding said. “Every year, the business leaders have commented on how impressed they are with Cal Lutheran students.”

Gehssa Gorospe, a first-year at Cal Lutheran majoring in communication, said she felt nervous putting herself out there, but wanted to meet successful people. 

“Seeing other people being successful makes me want to be successful as well,” Gorospe said.