White House honors educator as ‘Champion of Change’


Graduations are emotional for many people — family, friends, the graduate.

Van Ton-Quinlivan, California Community Colleges vice chancellor for workforce and economic envelopment, has seen the lasting impact of education that’s celebrated in graduations. Ton-Quinlivan described watching the wife of a veteran emotionally talk about the positive changes in her husband after completing a program to allow him to be more competitive in the energy sector. Ton-Quinlivan recalled the happiness, emotion and how it positively impacted his family’s life.

“He had all the skills,” she said.

It was about a little bit of training to bridge the industry needs with his education, she said. Creating those opportunities for the future’s workforce is Ton-Quinlivan’s focus. Ton-Quinlivan, a mom of two young boys, moved with her family to be closer to Sacramento for the state position. But they maintain their home in Burlingame. Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Today, Ton-Quinlivan will be among 15 Asian American and Pacific Islander women to be recognized by the White House as “Champions of Change.” A part of the White House’s observance of AAPI Heritage Month, this event will recognize Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women who are doing extraordinary things to create a more equal, safe, and prosperous future for their communities and the country.

“These 15 women represent the strength and diversity of the AAPI community. These leaders — in business, advocacy, philanthropy, sports, the arts and academia — are wonderful examples for young women across the country,” Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, said in a press release this week.

Ton-Quinlivan is being recognized for her work to transform the country’s largest higher education system through Doing What MATTERS for Jobs and Economy — a framework to align the college offerings to real opportunities in the job market and emerging fields.

“We are delighted that the White House has recognized Vice Chancellor Ton-Quinlivan as a Champion for Change,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris. “She is leading our system’s drive to work more collaboratively on a regional basis to address California’s workforce needs. Our economy needs a nimble and highly strategic approach to labor market changes, and Vice Chancellor Ton-Quinlivan is steering us in the right direction.”

Workforce development has been important to Ton-Quinlivan since she was young. Her family moved to Hawaii when she was a child after the Vietnam War. Ton-Quinlivan described her mom with three young children in a new place while her father studied. It made Ton-Quinlivan really aware of the powers of education. She’s since taken every opportunity to further her own learning skills in both business and education reform.

“I have a commitment to working families and working adults and their children,” she said.

Ton-Quinlivan has been with the California Community Colleges since 2011 and has more than 15 years in a variety of corporate leadership roles, most recently as director of workforce development at Pacific Gas & Electric, where she created PowerPathway, a nationally recognized program in workforce development.

In her current position, Ton-Quinlivan gets to focus on closing the skill gap and targeting growing sectors. As such, she’s spending time getting to know different regions in California as well as their economic needs.

To watch this event live visit www.whitehouse.gov/live at 11 a.m. Monday, May 6. Ton-Quinlivan will be one of the panelists during the event. For more information about the White House Champions of Change program visit www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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