Brian Adkins is a member of Buchalter’s Real Estate and Litigation practice groups in the Firm’s San Diego office. Mr. Adkins has experience handling a variety of complex real estate matters throughout California and beyond. He specializes in housing discrimination investigations conducted by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He also regularly provides employment advice and counsel, as well as prepares employment agreements for his clients. He has also represented clients in California Labor Commission and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission matters.
Mr. Adkins previously served as in-house general counsel for a nationwide property owner/manager where he oversaw all litigation and compliance matters, and the acquisition and disposition of commercial properties (multifamily, office and retail). Additionally, Mr. Adkins has handled commercial and multifamily real estate purchase and sale transactions, as well as litigated real estate, business and employment disputes. He has worked with startups and small businesses, assisting with entity formation, IP protection, and commercial agreements. He is also an NFLPA certified contract advisor (Agent) representing NFL players in their contract negotiations.
Committed to community service, Mr. Altona has volunteered as counsel, director, and officer for numerous organizations. He aided in the formation of the Spreckels Organ Society and served for many years as its Vice President and Trustee. Mr. Altona acted as general counsel for the Center for the Arts – Escondido and the Horton Plaza Theatres Foundation. He was elected Chairman of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum and continues to serve on the Museum’s board. Erick R. Altona received his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from the University of California at San Diego. Before and after graduating, he worked as a technical assistant using genetic engineering to investigate the causes of cancer. Mr. Altona studied law at the University of California at Davis School of Law (King Hall) and joined the San Diego law firm of Higgs, Fletcher & Mack after receiving his Juris Doctor degree in 1985. In 1996, he and his partners left Higgs and formed Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak, LLP, where he remains.
Valerie Attisha serves as Vice President of Client and Community Relations for PNC, the nation’s fifth largest bank. Prior to joining PNC, Valerie was a dynamic, well respected and seasoned fundraising and nonprofit professional who spent over two decades working in the philanthropic sector and raised over $100M in charitable contributions.
Valerie received her undergraduate degree from the University of San Diego and her graduate degree from California State University, Sacramento. She is a graduate of LEAD San Diego, ADVANCE and the Public Leadership Institute. Throughout her career, Valerie has been deeply committed to making meaningful and impactful change through her involvement in the community and with organizations such as the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, Junior League of San Diego, San Diego Symphony Notables, San Diego Rotary (Club 33), and University of San Diego.
Jason is the current board treasurer and has served for over 3 years now. He learned of the museum through friends that enjoy visiting and since regularly brought his twins to the museum. (They all really enjoy their time there and look forward to its reopening.) After their first few visits, Jason booked a birthday party for his twins at the Museum and it was a fantastic experience: the staff were fun and made the kids' time enjoyable and educational. The Davis family was hooked!
Having never served on a board before, Jason was looking for an opportunity to give back to the community. He coincidentally met an SDCDM board member one evening and, as fate would have it, learned that SDCDM was looking for board members to join. Jason was introduced to the then-Executive Director and a few members of the board. The rest is history! Jason found the perfect fit of organization and mission.
Jason has been in banking and wealth management for over 25 years. He also worked in tax preparation for 14 years. Jason brings his expertise and knowledge to the museum's finance and audit committees and works with other committee members and museum staff to help SDCDM prosper and grow.
Kim is the current Board Chair for SDCDM and feels beyond fortunate to be a part of the Museum. She began bringing her kids, now 15 and 13, to the Museum when they were tiny little humans. As a stay-at-home-mom, she spent her time at the Museum covering tables with brown craft paper, decorating them with kid-thought-provoking questions, poetry, riddles, and doodles, and generally keeping busy while her kids free-ranged in the joy that was the Museum space. She consistently raised her hand to the then-ED asking for the opportunity to contribute. Eventually, her persistence paid off and as the Museum was transitioning to bigger and more interactive environs and a new leadership team was taking shape, she was recruited to the Board and has been happily engaged ever since. While her kids have essentially aged out of Museum programming, their lingering happy memories, and the thrill of learning it sparked in them before they realized they were learning underly all of Kim’s objectives as she leads the Board and supports the Museum team.
Kim has an MS in technical communication management from Colorado State University and a BA in history from the University of Colorado. With a background in organization development and marketing for non-profits, combined with her love of learning and the delight she experiences from interacting with future cultural contributors, Kim feels at home at the Museum and cannot fathom a better organization with which to be engaged. She envisions a day when her kids volunteer their time at the Museum and continue the family legacy of inspiring children to learn about our world through exploration, imagination, and experimentation.
Amanda Flisher is an experienced coach, facilitator, and consultant with over 10 years in the leadership development field where she works to develop leaders of multiple levels and in multiple different sectors. Her passion is to use a strengths-based approach to help her clients reach what she calls “Self-Leadership” potential.
Amanda earned her Bachelor's in Human Development from UC San Diego and Master's in Organizational Management from Ashford University. She is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation, a trained Strengths Educator through Gallup and is a college professor at San Diego Christian College. She began her private practice in 2014 after several years of working in HR, Leadership Development and Behavioral Health fields.
Most weekends you can catch Amanda, her husband, their three kiddos and pup running around San Diego enjoying the beaches, hiking trails and incredible local restaurants. Amanda also has a huge passion for education, the teaching field and loves bringing her children to SDCDM.
Steve Hermes is a member of the Museum’s Board and its Finance and Operations Committee. He previously provided the Museum with part-time CFO services and became familiar with its mission and programs.
He retired from public accounting eleven years ago. He was a Director and the Attest Services Practice Leader for CBIZ Mayer/Hoffman McCann, CPAs, and was formerly a shareholder of Nation Smith Hermes Diamond, CPAs in San Diego. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and California Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Steve is the Vice-Chair and Treasurer of the San Diego Public Library Foundation and chairs the Foundation’s Finance Committee. He is also on the Board of Guide Dogs of America and a member of the Investment and Audit Committees. Having served as Board Chair of the Alzheimer’s Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties, he currently chairs the Audit Committee of Alzheimer’s San Diego. He was previously on the board and Treasurer of Sustainable Surplus Exchange. He was the co-founder of Mission Edge San Diego, a nonprofit organization that provides business support services to small and mid-sized nonprofits.
Stefan studied engineering at Vanderbilt University and completed post graduate work at Duke and Stanford. With over 20 years of experience in a variety of industries he has been nominated for numerous leadership awards and recognized for fast growth within the private sector. Today, Stefan leads the Motionstrand team in strategy, marketplace innovation, and partnership development. Voted a ‘Top Place to Work’ by many and one of San Diego’s largest digital marketing groups, Motionstrand is a focused team of digital experience experts who love what they do and care about the impact of their work. Stefan is passionate about continuing the development of Motionstrand's brand and supporting impactful and clean local initiatives.
When not working, Stefan enjoys spending time with his 2 kids and wife, hiking, mountain biking, and enjoying Southern California.
Kush Kapila is Founder and CEO of STERLINGS, a mobile events company. Since 2012 STERLINGS Mobile has been providing services in their fleet of Airstreams, ranging from industries such as beauty, food & beverage and retail. Clients have included P&G, Warner Bros, Intel, Schick, Walgreens to name a few. Prior to STERLINGS, Kush had increasing positions of responsibility working in software, hardware and medical device, for private and public companies both in the high-tech and life science industries.
Born and raised in Montreal, he holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from McGill University, a Master’s in Bioinformatics from Concordia University and an MBA from the Rady School of Management - UCSD. He enjoys mentoring other startups and is currently the co-chair of Vistage on Campus at UCSD and sits on the advisory board of Endeavor Bank. When not working, Kush enjoys spending time with his two boys and wife, as well as playing hockey and guitar.
Robin Keith, CEO of networked-based consulting company EcoLeaders, is passionate about facilitating transformative organizational change. She previously led the Vision, Innovation and Strategy team at the San Diego Zoo. She has extensive expertise and experience in guiding strategic planning processes, improving non-profit governance, leading collective impact initiatives, and designing advocacy campaigns. Robin is currently pursuing her doctorate in Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leadership at the University of San Diego.
Alessandra Lezama is the founder and CEO of TOOTRiS, Child Care On-Demand, a Technology platform that is reinventing how parents find, enroll, and pay for quality Child Care. With over 20 years as a technology executive and serial entrepreneur Alessandra is passionate about supporting women in the workforce and as entrepreneurs. Lezama’s hands-on leadership across industries has earned her a reputation as a rainmaker and was named 2016 “Woman Who Means Business”, 2018 “Most admired CEO of the Year”, 2020 Business Woman of the Year and 2021 Moving San Diego Forward Award.
As an angel investor to San Diego based early-stage companies, Alessandra currently serves on the Board and Management Council of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the California Preschool Business Council and the San Diego County Child Care and Development Planning Council, where alongside other Child Care stakeholders she passionately advocates for quality early childhood education.
Carmen is a founding member of SDCDM and has served in various board roles. Her entire family has worked to support the museum over its 20 years, starting when her kids were eight and four years old. Carmen is dedicated to her adopted San Diego community and enjoys the beauty of San Diego’s natural, open spaces. In her free time, Carmen is an avid hiker and gardener.
She earned her B.A. in History from California State University Northridge, and Ph. D in Latin American History at UCLA . She joined the History Department at California State University, San Marcos in 1996. She is Professor of Latin American History and teaches courses in Latin American history, World History, and Chicano/Latino history. She was born in Los Angeles, has lived in Mexico, Spain, and Brazil, and speaks Spanish and Portuguese. Carmen resides with her family in Escondido.
Dr. Stanley Ralph Rodriguez is from the Santa Ysabel Band of the Iipay Nation, and a Tribal Councilman for the Nation, Director of Kumeyaay Community College, which offers an accredited Associates Arts program in California, a member for Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival, a U.S. Navy Desert Storm Veteran. Dr. Rodriguez teaches at Kumeyaay Community College, Cuyamaca Community College, and adjunct faculty at California State University San Marcos. Dr. Rodriguez was appointed by Governor Newsom to the California Native American Heritage Commission.
Dedicated to educating indigenous communities about Kumeyaay history, culture, and language revitalization, Dr. Rodriguez is a mentor to Native students of all ages and is an advocate for cultural preservation.
Debra is a Staff Engineer in the Engineering Process and Metrics Department at General Atomics. She brings the knowledge and experience to effectively develop, implement and maintain a lean implementation approach as well as over 25 years of engineering, manufacturing, continuous improvement, quality assurance, and process implementation leadership.
Debra has a passion for exposing youth to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM). She serves as Vice President on the Board of the Elementary Institute of Science (EIS), serves on the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum (SDCDM), and served on the Board of the former San Diego Science Alliance. She holds a BS in Physics from Southern University, an MBA in Technology Management from University of Phoenix and a Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB) credential from University of San Diego. Debra is a 2010 Tribute to Women in Industry (TWIN) Award recipient and a 2008 SD Business Journal Women Who Mean Business Nominee.
Hem is an accomplished investment, board and executive management leader with two decades of experience as an entrepreneur, venture capital & private equity investor, board professional, investment banker, general management executive as well as a researcher. His passion lies in early stage companies where he loves “rolling-up his sleeves” to help create and executive 360⁰ strategies to maximize commercial outcomes.
Hem’s industry experience spans software, technology services, food manufacturing, industrials, transportation, financial services, property & casualty insurance, restaurants, education tech, healthcare and digital marketing. Hem has an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, an M.S. in Industrial Engineering from University of Illinois and a B.Tech. in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi. He is passionate about the environment, equality and education for under-privileged children and loves reading, traveling and active pursuits.
Tashonda Taylor is vice president of customer operations for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), one of Sempra Energy's regulated California utilities. She is responsible for customer field services, customer programs, business services and Time-of-Use rate implementation.
She began her career at SDG&E over 20 years ago and previously served as director-design & construction management, director-safety, wellness and employee care services, and additional numerous leadership roles in project management, construction, operations, reliability, planning, protection engineering, and procurement.
Tashonda holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from California State University, Sacramento, and an MBA from National University. Tashonda enjoys traveling, spending time with family, volunteering, and mentoring within community organizations that encourage youth going into STEM fields, like SDCDM and the National Society of Black Engineers. She is excited about opportunities to work with the Museum designing STEM-related programs and exhibits and especially looks forward to time spent at the Museum sharing her STEM knowledge and passion directly with little learners.
Chad Vargo, a North County native, lives with his wife, two daughters, and, their most recent addition, a son, in North County San Diego. They love to go camping, hiking, and to the beach. Chad is a strong believer in service to community and others. Chad has been in the insurance industry for 10 years and believes insurance can be used as a tool to build a better culture within a company. In addition to serving as SDCDM’s Board Secretary, Chad lends his insurance guidance and expertise to the Museum.
Chad received his bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing from Point Loma Nazarene University, where he played soccer and was awarded 2005 All-Golden State Academic Conference honors.