Dr. Brownell holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and an M.A. in Demography, both from UC Berkeley. Prior to joining CPI, Dr. Brownell was an Associate Social Scientist at the RAND Corporation, where he also maintains an adjunct affiliation while continuing his role as Principal Investigator on projects relating to the occupational health of immigrant farmworkers and to estimating immigration flows. Dr. Brownell has also been a visiting research fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies and a guest scholar at the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, both at UC San Diego. His past research has focused primarily on immigrants and immigration, with a particular focus on migration between Mexico and the United States. Past projects have addressed the factors related to Mexican immigrants’ wages in the United States and the role of U.S. policy in structuring immigrants’ labor market outcomes and decisions regarding migration and settlement. His research has also addressed health topics such as youth smoking and the measurement of childhood obesity.
Clare Crawford joined CPI as Organizing Director in 2010, bringing over 17 years of experience working with disenfranchised and impoverished communities as an organizer and advocate. In San Diego as well as in Texas, Oregon and the South Bronx, Clare has been a leader in efforts to advance the rights of workers, immigrants and low-income communities through organizing, voter engagement, leadership development, coalition building and grassroots campaigns. She has led campaigns for public school reform, renters’ rights, affordable housing, electoral reform and the rights of homeowners throughout the country. She was named CPI Executive Director as of January 2011, replacing Donald Cohen, who moved on to head two national projects.
A journalism graduate of Indiana University, Susan Duerksen was a reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune for 17 years, covering healthcare and medical news during most of that time. Before joining CPI in 2006, she received a Master in Public Health degree from San Diego State University. She worked as a public health researcher at SDSU for four years, with a focus on policy and community changes to prevent childhood obesity. Susan also served as volunteer co-director of the San Diego chapter of Health Care for All, a group supporting state legislation for single-payer health care.
Christie Hill joined CPI as the Senior Legal and Policy Analyst in 2011, after having worked in California, Washington, DC and New York advocating for the rights of women, children, and low-income communities. Christie earned her Bachelor’s degree from the School of Social Welfare at Berkeley, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she served for two years as an adjunct faculty member. Previously employed by Advocates for Children of New York, Christie led a project to produce a public service announcement on student educational rights, published several policy briefings, and spearheaded an effort to reform alternative diploma options for students in the state of New York. Christie is admitted to the bars of New York State and the District of Columbia (inactive). She is not admitted to the bar of California.
Trinh Le graduated from UCLA with a BA in Sociology and Asian American Studies. Soon after college, she moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast where she spent three years working with the local community to rebuild and organize after Hurricane Katrina. Trinh worked for Hope Community Development Agency, organizing local residents to identify key neighborhood issues and empowering them to address those issues. She supported newly formed Asian American organizations by pushing to advance their local initiatives. On her return to California, Trinh worked with the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, San Diego Asian Film Foundation, and Little Saigon Foundation before joining CPI.
A San Diego native, Virginia Melendez has a track record of working for organizations that are proactive community and worker advocates. She previously served as Administrative Assistant and Organizer for the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, where she was responsible for managing the office, helping set up events and much more. Before that she worked for a court reporting and legal technology firm and volunteered her time with the Employee Rights Center. In her spare time Virginia loves walks on the beach and spending quality time with family and friends. She prides herself on gracefully making sure that CPI runs efficiently and effectively.
Before joining CPI, Dominique Navarro worked as a a volunteer and community organizer for a nonprofit that provided grassroots environmental education to San Diego communities. She earned a Master’s degree in International Environmental Policy at UC San Diego’s Graduate School of International Relations & Pacific Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Systems & Policy with a minor in Ethnic Studies. Her work has focused on environmental and food justice as well as sustainable community-building in underrepresented neighborhoods.
Robert joined CPI in November, 2013 as a Research and Policy Analyst. Originally from the Metro Detroit area, Robert’s personal experiences shaped his career path in social justice. Robert’s professional experiences include state-wide c(3) voter mobilization work with Michigan Voice, where he worked with progressive nonprofit organizations to develop and implement field plans targeted at low-turnout, communities of color. He has also worked for Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development (OCCORD) as a Policy Analyst and Community Organizer. During his tenure with OCCORD, Robert lead research efforts around a community benefits campaign, facilitated the Community Benefits Coalition in Anaheim, and later co-facilitated the Santa Ana Collaborative for Responsible Development, where they successfully implemented a Sunshine Ordinance in 2012. Robert possesses both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Michigan State University and UC Irvine, respectively.
Quynh Nguyen started at CPI in 1998 as an organizer and is now focused on building CPI’s membership and grassroots fundraising. She is a board member of the Southwest Center for Asian Pacific American Law. Quynh graduated from UCLA with B.A.s in Sociology and Asian American Studies.
Barbara Obrzut has a Master’s degree in Polish Literature and Language from Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. She worked in children’s theater in Kraków before moving to the United States in 1998. In the fall of 2008, Barbara also earned a Master’s degree in Sociology in 2008 from San Diego State University, where her research focused on immigration and specifically local ordinances directed at undocumented immigrants. She joined the CPI staff in May 2008.
As a video producer, digital strategist and web developer Crystal has spent the last four years creating and managing digital content on behalf of clients such as Good Jobs LA and Brave New Films. Additionally, while living in Chicago, she gave her time to WLUW 88.7 as broadcast engineer for community programming. Her syndicated reality show, “A Just Sparkle,” continues to air on CAN-TV teaching viewers how to shop sweatshop free. Crystal earned an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and a dual BA in Communication and Theology from Loyola University of Chicago.
Norma Rodriguez worked for Justice Overcoming Boundaries before joining CPI and currently serves on the JOB board. A native of Porterville, California, Norma earned a BA from UC Irvine in Studio Art with minors in Education and Chicano Latino Studies, and a Masters’ degree from UC San Diego in Latin American Studies with an International Migration emphasis. She has previous experience as an art and Spanish teacher in addition to community organizing on immigration reform and other social justice issues.
Executive Director, Center on Policy Initiatives
Executive Director, Community Housing Works
Save Social Security Field Director
Associate Professor of Sociology, San Diego State University
San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council
PICO National Network
Co-chair, Affordable Housing Coalition
Business Manager, San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council