Cal Humanities

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project

"The understanding of a culture comes from hearing the language, tasting the food, seeing personal interactions, experiencing the traditions, and so much more when it is in context."

— Elizabeth Laval & Candice Pendergrass, Sikh Youth Public History Project


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Rick Noguchi, President and CEO


Rick joined California Humanities as its President and CEO in 2023. Previously, Rick served as the Chief Operating Officer at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles, where he led the strategic direction of the museum and oversaw programs and external relations. Positions at the James Irvine Foundation and California Community Foundation have contributed to his extensive experience in programming, planning, fundraising, management, and strategic grantmaking, while an early professional experience at Arizona Humanities kickstarted a career-long dedication to the public humanities. Rick earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from Arizona State University and a Masters of Business Administration from Pepperdine University, and serves on the board of the California Association of Museums. He is also a published poet, children’s book author, and avid surfer. 415.391.1474 ext. 302

Brett Connor, Database and Grants Manager


Brett joined California Humanities in January 2016 to manage and provide ongoing strategy and support for our database systems. With over 20 years of database administrator & CRM manager experience, Brett has managed database systems for industries ranging from office products to medical services and devices. Born and raised outside of Chicago, Brett received his BSc in Business Information Systems from Illinois State University, and an MA in Church Music from Concordia University Chicago. 415.391.1474 ext. 308

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Marika Garcia, Director of Development


Marika is based in Marysville, California. Previously, she served as a Development Officer for Sutter County, where she supported fundraising goals for Sutter County Library and the Sutter County Museum. During this time, Marika was selected to participate as part of California Humanities’ 2022 Library Innovation Lab cohort, where she designed and implemented “New Neighbors,” a series of Farsi and English podcasts to engage and share resources for Afghan immigrant women throughout the Yuba-Sutter region. Previous positions also include as a Development Manager with Young Audiences of Northern California, based in San Francisco, and serving as the Executive Director for the Marysville-based arts agency Yuba Sutter Arts & Culture. 415.391.1474 ext. 315

Felicia Kelley, Senior Program Officer
Felicia Kelley, Project and Evaluation Director


Felicia is based in California Humanities’ Los Angeles office, where she currently manages the Humanities for All Project Grant and Library Innovation Lab programs.  She has been with the organization since 1997, working various programs including California Reads, Community Stories, and Literature & Medicine®. Felicia holds an MA and a PhD in International Relations from the University of Southern California and a BA in Politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Before joining California Humanities, she held teaching and administrative positions in higher education and worked on public programming and community education projects with several Los Angeles–area nonprofit organizations. 415.391.1474 ext. 316

John Lightfoot, Program Officer
John Lightfoot, Director of Media and Journalism Programs


John has managed the California Documentary Project grant program at California Humanities since 2007. Previously, he produced, directed, and taught documentary film for over 15 years in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John holds an MA in American Studies from Brown University and an MFA in Cinema from San Francisco State University. 415.391.1474 ext. 314

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Nancy Olivares, Government Relations and Community Outreach Manager


Nancy is based in Los Angeles, California, where she assists with advocacy efforts on the state and national level and with outreach to communities throughout California. Previously, she served as a public policy fellow at UCLA Pritzker Center for Children & Families, and as a consultant for the ACLU of Southern California’s Education Equity Project. Nancy‘s work with Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis’s office and with The Children’s Partnership nonprofit have also contributed to her deep experience with advocacy and community outreach work. She received her master’s in Public Policy from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and grew up in East Los Angeles. 415.391.1474 ext. 305

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Zuriel Ortiz, Board and Executive Coordinator


Zuriel is based in Riverside, where he assists the President and CEO with the coordination of Board of Directors affairs and executive administration. Previously, he served as the Marketing and Communications Assistant at Californians for the Arts, and as an Archival Intern at Claremont Graduate University. He has an MA in Arts Management and an MA in Archival Studies from Claremont Graduate University, and a BA in Art History from the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 2022, Zuriel worked with Dr. Romeo Guzmán, an Assistant Professor of History at Claremont Graduate University, on the California Humanities-supported public history and archive project, East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte. Zuriel enjoys reading, watching horror films, weight training, and visiting museums. 415.391.1474 

Beth Segura stands in a garden area.
Beth Segura, Operations Coordinator


Beth joined California Humanities in 2021, after working several years in public education administration and operations. She has lived across the state of California her entire life: in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California, along the coast in Santa Barbara, in the desert of San Diego county, and in the urban San Francisco Bay Area. She has a background in visual and performing arts and is thrilled to support the valuable work of humanities-based programs across the state. In her spare time, Beth enjoys sitting in coffee shops (ideally with a cat in her lap), dancing, and getting lost in a variety of art, literature, and music. 415.391.1474 ext. 312

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Lucena Lau Valle, Program Officer


Lucena joined California Humanities in 2018 as an Associate Program Officer in our Los Angeles office, where she manages the Humanities for All Quick Grant program, the Literature & Medicine program, and our organizational equity work. Lucena is a seasoned arts and cultural manager, educator and researcher and has worked in the field of arts education and the public humanities for more than a decade. Lucena holds a Ph.D. in Visual Studies from UC Irvine, and an MS in Art History from Pratt Institute. In addition to her work at California Humanities, Lucena’s scholarly writing and research examines the cultural, economic and social significance of ethnic and culturally specific arts institutions in Los Angeles. 415.391.1474 ext. 316

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Kirsten Vega, Associate Program Officer


Kirsten joined the Oakland office in 2019, where she manages civic initiatives, including Civics + Humanities Middle Grades Grants and the speaker series California on the Ballot. As a liaison for statewide grants, Kirsten enjoys working with applicants, grantees, and partners to fund and build cultural programs that provoke thought about California’s past and future. Kirsten holds a degree in History and Spanish Literature from Bennington College in Vermont and previously worked at Salem Public Library, Historic New England and Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard. She enjoys ballet, gardens, and prowling thrift stores for vintage fashion. 415.391.1474 ext. 304

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Kerri Young, Communications Manager


Kerri joined California Humanities in 2023 as the Communications Manager. Born and raised in San Francisco, Kerri has a background in public history and promoting community-based programs within the cultural heritage sector. Before joining the organization, Kerri led communications and managed neighborhood programs at preservation organization San Francisco Heritage. She also led the standards-aligned Teaching California project at the California Historical Society, which spotlighted the state’s rich archival resources. Kerri holds an MA in Public History from Royal Holloway, University of London, and a BA in History from the University of California, Berkeley. Kerri’s passion is for community history and she has enjoyed working with several San Francisco Bay Area history-based organizations over the years. 415.391.1474 ext. 303

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