July 21, 2024
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Our View: Pacifica made a shrewd move with pick for new president


The trustees of Pacifica Graduate Institute have made a bold choice in choosing Leonie Mattison to be the next president of the university.

Now they should give her the support she needs to prove that she’s an academic leader with a bright future. With her unanimous appointment, which becomes official on Oct. 3, Mattison becomes the first Black woman to lead a post-graduate institution on the Central Coast. Pacifica has campuses in both Carpinteria and Santa Barbara.

Her hiring was lauded by a number of academic leaders in the region, including Cal Poly San Luis Obispo President Jeffrey Armstrong.

Mattison has served as chief operating officer at CommUnify, formerly known as the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County, but she has academic credentials, including a stint as adjunct professor at Antioch University. She holds a doctorate in education from Argosy University and an MBA in organizational leadership from Georgian Court University.

“I welcome working together, holding heads, hands, and hearts into the future of Pacifica,” she said in a statement. “It is the collective unit that will allow Pacifica to live into its worldwide mission to tend souls.”

She takes over at a time when her organizational development skills will face a challenge. Turnover among faculty led to a no-confidence vote in the Pacifica Institute’s provost earlier this summer. Among the departures were two professors in the institute’s highly regarded clinical psychology program.

Mattison has won kudos for her six-step THREAD program, which combines the teaching of Jungian psychology with spiritual development as part of the personal discovery process.

Mattison is a member of the American Psychological Association, American Christian Counseling Association, and Association of Black Psychologists, among other educational and professional organizations.

In 2021 she was recognized by the Business Times as an emerging Black leader in the region and participated in our publication’s Black Leadership Roundtable.
As we’ve gotten to know her, we recognize that her unique combination of talent, ambition and a preference for collaborative decisions will serve her well.


Speaking of college presidents, Sept. 23 marks the investiture of Richard Yao as the third president of CSU Channel Islands since it opened its campus to students 20 years ago.

He’s been functioning in that role for quite a while. He was appointed interim president early in the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020, and stepped into the role in January 2021, when his predecessor, Erika Beck, left for the president’s job at CSU Northridge. Then in January of this year, the CSU Board of Trustees named him as the university’s permanent president.

Yao has earned praise for his leadership during the pandemic and for bringing major gifts across the finish line from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and the family of the late Oxnard developer Martin V. Smith, a Business Times Hall of Fame member.

There are challenges ahead in terms of growing enrollment and building out the campus, but Yao is starting with some wind at his back.