Tessa has always held administrative positions alongside her community work, teaching and research/scholarship. Prior to working in academia, she was director of a variety of departments within  human relations and civil rights organizations as well as community youth programs. For a dozen years, she was director of the Community Engagement Center at Pitzer College, though has been on leave from that post since 2019. Currently, she directs CASA & OCAC, in addition to teaching.

Tessa, the dean of Pitzer College, the students of the Claremont Graduate University “Transformative Movement Organizing” course and community partners from a number of partnering justice-oriented organizations come together for the final day of class to break bread and review final community projects. The course is part of took place at CASA Pitzer and with a number of core CASA community partners.

CASA Pitzer

CASA (Critical Action and Social Advocacy)

Tessa was appointed to the position of CASA (Critical Action and Social Advocacy) in July 2018.


CASA Pitzer advances critical analysis and community partnerships around the most pressing issues in Southern California’s Inland Valley. The CASA Pitzer community center (a large community space in downtown Ontario) brings local residents, organizers, activists, artists, and nonprofits together with Pitzer College faculty and students to build community and enact change. The CASA Pitzer academic program (a two-course community engagement and research program) facilitates student internships and community-based participatory research on issues of regional equity and justice pertaining to incarceration, immigration, education, environment, labor, art, culture, and health.


  • Work collaboratively with community partners on research, service, organizing, and action projects that confront injustice and work toward justice, equity, rights, wellbeing, and community building.
  • Ensure work is responsive and accountable to the community, makes a positive impact, achieves long- and short-term goals, and generates meaningful community-building for all involved. 
  • Provide critical pedagogy-based teaching about self, other, social problems, social movements, and effective methods for social impact. 
  • Support, mentor, and critically teach our students, while respecting and learning from their knowledge and experiences. 
  • Create a space that is inclusive, welcoming, and supportive for community building, justice work, participatory action research, and personal and organizational development.

OCAC_Logo_Horiz_Color-300x80 - low res


Tessa was appointed to the position of the director of the Office of Consortial Academic Collaboration (OCAC) in July 2018.


The Office of Consortial Academic Collaboration works to develop and maintain effective, efficient, sustainable, and enduring cross-campus academic collaborations among the Claremont Colleges. In order to advance the core academic missions of the colleges, two principles guide our work: (1) Do together that which either cannot be achieved alone or would be more stunning if done together; and (2) Do together that which does not differentiate among our institution.


(1) To support the development of cross-campus programs and initiatives that benefit faculty, students, and other College stakeholders;
(2) To cultivate cross-campus curricular coherence; and

(3) To foster cross-campus research collaboration.

Responding to the interests of faculty, staff, and administrations across The Claremont Colleges, the Academic Deans Committee has identified some specific initiatives to focus this office’s attention. The two emphases for the 2017-2020 academic years are data science and justice education.