dealing with loss

Down to Business

A conversation with three alumni currently serving as president and CEO of chambers of commerce.​


With 4 million living alumni spread throughout the globe, the CSU has former students serving as decision-makers across​ a spectrum of industries, organizations and governmental bodies. This includes a number who are involved with chambers of commerce, organizations that promote and advocate for their local business communities. We asked three CSU alumni acting as their chambers' presidents and CEOs to reflect on their work, the CSU and the upcoming year.​

​​Jennifer Barrera​

President & CEO, Cali​fornia Chamber of Commerce
CSU Bakersfield, B.A. English '98​

What inspires your work at Cal Chamber?
​When I joined the organization, I believed in their mission, which is to provide resources and advocacy on behalf of businesses in California. And I'm still motivated by that mission. The businesses and employers in California are what create the lifestyle we have here in California. They create the jobs, they provide the benefits, they are the innovators who we turn to in California for so many different things, such as in the pharmaceutical world or our technology. To be able to represent those companies, tell their stories and advocate on their behalf is an honor.

We are going into a very challenging legislative year, and there's going to be a lot of uncertainty. We'll be working very hard in the advocacy space to mitigate any problematic mandates and try to advance any positive policies that will assist businesses as we hopefully are on our road to recovery from this pandemic.

How did your experience at the CSU prepare you for your current role or help you on your career journey?
CSU Bakersfield at the time was a small community where you had a personal relationship and connection with a lot of your professors and instructors, and I just felt a sense of community there, which was a very supportive environment in which to learn. I got an English degree, but I can't tell you how well that has served me in the roles I have been in, including this one today. The importance, emphasis and challenge those instructors put on me when I was obtaining my English degree to be a better writer and to do analysis of literature … helped provide me with a solid base to do a ton of legal writing in law school and now to do a ton of the advocacy writing in the position I'm in. I am very grateful for the foundation it provided me to help me elevate my career.

What advice would you give to students graduating this year?
Never underestimate what you can do. Set goals and know that despite whatever challenges you may have, you can achieve them. Hard work, perseverance and always being prepared is a mantra I've lived by. You have the resources available to have a successful career because you have already chosen to become more educated, which is an amazing first step.

​José Solache

President & CEO, Greater Lakewood Chamber of Commerce; City of Lynwood Mayor Pro Tem
​CSU Dominguez Hills, B.A. Liberal Studies '06​

What will motivate your work this coming year?
In 2021, at least in part of it, we experienced the post-pandemic reality. We're going into a more normal status in 2022, but there's still an overlap of the pandemic not being fully gone,. So, how do we fully come out of this pandemic? How do we use some of those things we learned, specifically technology, to better serve our business community, and how do we operate best using these tools? As chambers, we're always looking at how we connect with the business community and the different connecting groups.

How did your experience at the CSU help you on your career journey?
I was definitely a student who was very involved and engaged. I took being involved to a whole different level, in a sense, from being engaged in a club on campus to campus activities the university puts together to ultimately becoming the student vice president of the university. My experiences as a student and my involvement led me to a career where I could be a leader in my own organization, but more specifically, I get to interact with folks and be that people person. The CSU gave me that hands-on experience I needed to understand what I was going to flourish in to be a vibrant person and be myself essentially. I wanted to find a job that gave me the opportunity to be in that same atmosphere, that same environment—not necessarily a safe space, but a space in which to be an advocate and a voice.

What advice would you give to students graduating this year?
First, celebrate the moment you have accomplished. I think we only get that moment once in our life, which is a happy and successful moment you've accomplished. Then, use that degree and see where it takes you. Don't limit yourself to that one career you essentially went to school for. Use it to ideally go to that field you studied for, but note that the possibilities are endless, especially after receiving a degree from the CSU.

Bob Linscheid​

President & CEO, Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau; CSU Trustee Emeritus
​Chico State, B.A. Public Administration '75, M.A. Public Administration '78​

How did your experience at the CSU prepare you for your current role?
When I was a student at Chico State, I was elected president of the Associated Students and became involved in the Cal State Student Association. During my term of office, it was a tumultuous time in Chico State history. The unrest was centered around previous wars, political unrest and a desire for local control [at the campus-level]. But Chico State also provided opportunities for students to be engaged at all levels of the university—from faculty evaluations to selection committees. Also, the student government owned and operated all of the campus enterprises (bookstore, food services, student union). This was unique in the CSU at the time. I learned the important lesson of listening to all sides of an issue and providing the opportunity for students to be engaged in the governance process.

Later during my involvement with the Alumni Association, I was Chico State's representative to the CSU Alumni Council and was elected Alumni Trustee from 2005 to 2014. I served as chair of the CSU Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2014.

What advice would you give to students graduating this year?
Find a career you are passionate about.

What are your 2022 goals for the chamber?

  1. Increase the visibility and influence of the chamber.
  2. Create an environment where Walnut Creek businesses can thrive.
  3. Create partnerships to help attract innovative businesses to the region.
  4. Create world-class innovation hubs in the region.

Count the Chancellor In

In addition to the alumni working in this capacity, Chancellor Joseph I. Castro was appointed in 2021 to serve on the Board of Directors for the California Chamber of Commerce. Board members are elected by Cal Chamber members and provide leadership as the organization seeks to advocate for employers and foster a strong economy in both the state and nation. ​