Highlights from our 2016 Cooke Alumni Summit

Cooke Scholar Alumni at the Opening Reception

In October, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation hosted 95 Cooke Scholar Alumni at our biennial alumni summit in San Francisco. The group showed up to the event ready to reconnect with their fellow scholars and participate in various sessions centered on the theme of “Connecting Vision & Action”.

Natalie welcoming Cooke Scholar Alumni attendees

Scholar alumni traveled to the event from all over the United States including familiar faces from the DC area where our headquarters is located, an alum from Idaho who hadn’t been to a foundation event since he received his scholarship years ago, and plenty of alumni from the Bay Area and throughout California. Together the attendees had earned undergraduate degrees from more than 60 institutions and graduate degrees from 40-plus schools. Throughout the weekend, alumni engaged in vibrant conversations finding connections between their myriad career fields – artists and scientists, physicians and philanthropists, researchers and tech entrepreneurs, lawyers and public servants. As recipients of one of some of the most generous scholarships in the country, the conversations amongst the attendees were nothing short of intellectually stimulating and thought provoking.

Harold O. Levy, our executive director, and Natalie Rodriguez Jansorn, director of scholarship programs, kicked off the event on Saturday with a warm welcome to the alumni attendees. Along with the foundation’s address, keynote speakers Wendy De La Rosa and Danielle Harlan captivated the audience with their presentations regarding changing the environment in which people make decisions and reimagining leadership, respectively.

Cooke Scholar Alum Stephanie Guinosso facilitating a workshopAlumni attended toolbox workshops to learn how to take action to achieve their visions. We even had two sessions facilitated by Cooke Scholar Alumni. Kristina Weaver (Undergraduate Transfer Scholar, 2006 & Graduate Scholar, 2009), a nonprofit professional and owner of Acceso Strategies, led a session on getting nonprofit organizations funded through grants. Stephanie Guinosso (Dissertation Fellow, 2014), a project director with the California School-Based Health Alliance, conducted an interactive workshop on community engagement and facilitating stakeholder buy-in. Foundation grantee Colburn Academy sent its director of development Laurie Selik to share strategies on building donor relationships and alum Noah Ready-Campbell connected us to venture capitalist Morgan Beller.

Our foundation staff also contributed to leading sessions. David Egner presented an informative session to the entire alumni group on how to effectively write op-eds to get one’s voice heard. Beth Zielinski and Larry Thi closed the event on Sunday by presenting ways alumni can engage with the Cooke Scholar and Alumni community and the foundation. We announced initiatives (e.g. Cooke Alumni Association), collected alumni’s ideas for internships and mentoring, and had alumni share their experiences as chapter leaders, outreach presenters, and mentors.

Berkeley Burgess and Wes Spence, our events staff, designed and coordinated the entire weekend intentionally with engaging and interactive networking receptions for scholars to rekindle old relationships and create new ones. The weekend took place in the Financial District at the Hilton across San Francisco’s historic Chinatown. In addition, the beauty of the weekend further amplified itself with the United States Navy’s Blue Angels flying through the skies in performance for Fleet Week. Throughout the event, we were able to further cultivate and reconnect with our alumni community. The time and place for our 2016 Alumni Summit could not have been more perfect.

Group Photo with San Francisco Chinatown in the background


Natalie Rodriguez Jansorn, director of scholarship programs, and Larry Thi, alumni and outreach associate, both contributed to this blog post.