Get to know us.
Trudi Ferguson is a professor at the USC Marshall of Business, and a consultant to a wide variety of public and private organizations. Her expertise includes organizational change and effectiveness, strategic planning, executive coaching, career strategy, gender and diversity issues, and communications. Ferguson has consulted on hiring and retaining women for many organizations, including the Los Angeles Police Department.
Ferguson received her doctorate in Behavioral Science from the UCLA Anderson School of Business. She is the author of two books, Answers to the Mommy Track and Blue Collar Women, and is an expert in the successful integration of women and diversity into organizational life. Among her wide-ranging professional affiliations, Ferguson has been President of the Center for Applied Behavioral Science, a member and past Dean of the National Training Laboratories Institute, and a member of the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. Additionally, Ferguson has served as adjunct professor at Stanford University, UCLA, Antioch, and Loyola Marymount University.
Dr. Richard S. Cheung currently serves as the Vice Chair for the Advisory Board. Richard has been involved with LA’s BEST for almost 15 years. He was one of the original founding members of BEST Friends. One of Richard’s favorite activities with LA’s BEST is helping students with their homework at Castelar Elementary in Chinatown. He also has had the honor of being a judge at an LA’s BEST regional science fair. Richard lives and works in Pasadena, where he maintains a chiropractic practice.
Bill Coggins has worked as a psychiatric social worker for the Veterans Administration and the State of California. He also worked as a psychotherapist in private practice in outpatient psychiatric clinics, including the LA Suicide Prevention Center. From 1965 to 1966, Coggins studied and worked as a psychotherapist at Tavistock Psychiatric Clinic in London as a Fulbright Scholar. In November 1966, he was hired to develop the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling & Learning Center, a community service program funded by Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, Inc. In 1967, the Center opened with Coggins as founding director, with the goal to bring much-needed counseling and educational programs to the Watts community. What began with three people in one room in a prefabricated building has grown to a 30-member staff in a facility of more than 9,000 square feet, now located at the corner of 103rd and Success. Coggins has been a member with the LA’s BEST Advisory Board since 1988.
Jennifer Cowan currently serves as the Executive Director of Connections for Children—an early childhood resource and referral agency serving children, families, and communities in West L.A. and the South Bay. Previously, Jennifer led the development of strategic partnerships at First 5 LA. She has also designed, managed, and funded education programs at The After-School Corporation and Brooklyn Children’s Museum in New York City, and the Charles & Helen Schwab Foundation. Jennifer has held various board positions, including the Santa Monica Family YMCA and LA’s BEST, and is a member of the Santa Monica Social Services Commission. She received her M.A. in Education from the Stanford Graduate School of Education and B.A. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Eric Gurna joined LA’s BEST in 2015 as the second President and CEO in the organization’s history. He brings a deep commitment to positive youth development to his work at LA’s BEST, and a national reputation for thought leadership in the Expanded Learning movement. Prior to leading LA’s BEST, Eric was the founder, President and CEO of Development Without Limits, where he designed and facilitated staff development, curriculum and other resources for community organizations and schools nationwide. In the late ‘90s, Eric also served as LA’s BEST’s first Director of Staff Development. In that role, he was immersed in LA’s BEST values and operations, and codified the organization’s values, youth development principles and staff development practices. In 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Eric to the California Department of Education’s Before and Afterschool Advisory Committee, and he is a member of the California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance Steering Committee.
A leader in her community, Linda Harris-Forster has been an advocate at the grassroots level for the poor, under-served and disenfranchised for over 38 years. Linda Harris-Forster is the proud daughter of renowned community activist “Sweet” Alice Harris. She and four sisters worked hand-in-hand to help their mother found Parents of Watts Working with Youth and Adults Multi-Purpose Community Crisis Center in the early eighties. Currently, Linda is a wife, a mother, and the Founding Partner and President of Forster Company Inc., a community relations and construction management firm. Over the last 35 years, Linda has held positions that make a difference in people’s lives. Linda has been married to Egerton Forster for 28 years and they have two children (Aristacus and Renaissance). Linda earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1990 from Pepperdine University, and a Master of Social Work in 1994 from California State University, Long Beach.
Ann Reiss Lane is the Founder and Chair of Women Against Gun Violence, dedicated to education and advocacy to end gun violence. Lane also spent 20 years as a member of former Mayor Tom Bradley’s administration as a Commissioner for the Library, Fire and Police Departments.
Laura C. Romero is founding President of her consulting firm, Brillante Strategies, where she advises organizations on education, mentoring, public-private partnerships, government & community relations, and strategic planning. Prior to Brillante Strategies, Laura C. Romero worked at Los Angeles Universal Preschool focusing on corporate relations. During her UCLA tenure, Romero promoted the University’s mission of research, teaching and public service by working with elected officials, corporate and community leaders, university administrators, faculty and alumni. She worked in the Office of Government & Community Relations, the Higher Education Research Institute’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program, the Extramural Programs and Opportunities Center, and taught the new “Civic Engagement in Los Angeles” seminar. Before UCLA, Laura worked as Acting Director of Public Affairs at Univision Los Angeles and National Mentoring Coordinator of the award-winning Communities In Schools, Inc./Univision Mentoring Initiative. Dr. Romero received her Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral degrees from UCLA, and is honored to have been appointed to the LA’s BEST Advisory Board.
Lois has been an arts in education advocate and consultant for over 40 years. She was the Founder of the Cheremoya Community Arts Council, a parent support group to enrich the arts in the school; board member, Arts for Communities; Arts in Education Chair, Los Angeles County Center for the Arts in Education; and Founder and President of the Hollywood Arts Council to support the arts community in Hollywood. Lois was appointed to the Hollywood Revitalization Committee, the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Metrorail Hollywood Link and the Los Angeles Advisory Committee for MTA subway completion; founding member and Chair or President, Southern California Leadership Network, Los Angeles Cable TV Access Corp Channel 36 and the American Film Institute Associates; founding board member of LA’s BEST and the Los Angeles Jazz Society, which developed Jazz in Schools free concerts for elementary schools, bringing jazz to 23,000 children every year. She is past President, League of Women Voters Los Angeles, and former City Commissioner.
Lieutenant Christopher Stevens joined the Los Angeles School Police Department 23 years ago. He currently holds the position of Lieutenant, and is assigned as the Commanding Officer of the Northeast Division. Stevens was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley and is a product of the Los Angeles Unified School District, graduating from Monroe High School.
Christopher Stevens is a Police Lieutenant for the nation’s largest School Police Department, serving the second largest school district in the country: responsible for the security of one million students, 88,000 employees, and 1,000 schools covering over 710 square miles. The Los Angeles School Police Department was established in August 1948 to provide police services to the Los Angeles Unified School District. Christopher Stevens works with a rapidly changing, culturally diverse community and recognizes the complex issues facing law enforcement today.