Imagine an academic course that brings together preeminent business and cultural leaders, all focused on sharing their stories of success, and sometimes failure. That’s the focus of the Lessons from Leaders series at the Cal State San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus.

These personal, intimate presentations are designed to inspire students at the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus to persevere, take chances and reach for goals they may never have thought possible.

This winter’s speakers in the university’s Lessons from Leaders series include:

  • Jan. 8: Col. Jack Brennan, former chief of staff for President Richard Nixon;
  • Jan. 22: Tracy Hitchcock, CEO of Create Common Good and former international products developer for J.R. Simplot Companies;
  • Jan. 29: Hilda Solis, board of supervisors, Los Angeles County, and former secretary of labor for President Barack Obama;
  • Feb. 5; Carl Wescott, entrepreneur and investor, founder of Westcott Group;
  • Feb. 12: JoAnn Wellner, philanthropist, former in-house counsel for TIAA-CREF;
  • Feb. 19: Diane Vines, psychiatric nurse specialist, former White House Fellow and director, former vice chancellor, University of Oregon system;
  • Feb. 26: Bridget Bilinski, Marriott International Area vice president-Southwest;
  • March 5: Ann Rhoades, former national vice president for Southwest Airlines and founder/CEO of national human resources consulting firm, PeopleInk;
  • March 12: Eddy Hartenstein, founded DirectTV and former publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times (March 12); and
  • March 19: Al Annexstad, chairman emeritus of Federated Insurance Companies and founder of the Annexstad Family Foundation and national Leaders for Tomorrow college scholarship program.

Lessons from Leaders is a for-credit class that focuses on a different business, nonprofit or government leader each week to highlight their professional experience and personal advice for success.

The class format begins with an introduction by instructor Michael J. Ortiz, president emeritus, Cal Poly Pomona; followed by the visiting speaker providing 30-40 minutes of content, and then an open conversation with the enrolled students. The class concludes with a reception where students can interact with the speaker and gain critical networking skills.

The experience and insight of the speakers can be a life-changing experience for students. The CSUSB Palm Desert Campus is comprised of predominantly first-generation college students, but they all have one great thing in common — a drive to succeed and be a force for change in their families and communities. The class looks for speakers who can inspire.

The class meets from 4-5:50 p.m. and the community is invited to attend at no cost.

Located in beautiful Palm Desert, the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees, a doctorate in educational leadership, and teacher credentials and certificates. With more than 1,400 students, it is the Coachella Valley’s four-year public university and plays a vital role in educating and training the region’s growing population.

For more information about the CSUSB Palm Desert Campus, contact Mike Singer in the campus’ Office of Public Affairs at or (760) 341-2883, ext. 78107, or visit the campus website at