Breaking the Glass Ceiling Honorees


Honorable Ellen Corbett, Senate Majority Leader, State of California

Senator Ellen M. Corbett is serving her second term in the State Senate and was elected Senate Majority Leader in 2010.

Throughout her career, she has focused on strengthening California’s economy, standing up for consumers and protecting our natural resources while encouraging the growth of our green economy. Among the landmark legislation she has passed are laws to provide students with more information regarding student loan options and risks, give car buyers additional safeguards and protecting homeowners that have suffered during California’s housing crisis.

A lawyer and civic activist, she is dedicated to ensuring educational opportunities and working to grow California’s economy. Senator Corbett has a long history of public service in the district.  She served as a City Councilmember and was the first woman elected Mayor of San Leandro.  Prior to that, she worked as an attorney, community college professor and civic activist. Throughout her legislative career, Senator Corbett has worked to secure funding for education, transportation improvements, environmental projects and economic development opportunities in her district.

A native Californian raised in the East Bay, Senator Corbett graduated from the University of California, Davis and McGeorge School of Law.  

KarenCebreros.jpgKaren Cebreros, Founder & CEO of Elan Organic Coffees
Founder and CEO of Elan Organic Coffees, Karen Cebreros is recognized as a pioneer in the global certified organic and sustainability movements. After visiting her first coffee farm in Peru and founding the company in 1989, she began visiting other producing countries to source the highest quality certified organic coffees. Since then, she’s travelled to farms throughout South and Central America, India, Indonesia, and Africa to identify and build relationships with growers, millers, and exporters. With twenty-five years of experience at the cupping table, Karen has been involved in cuppings and served as a judge for five Rainforest Alliance certified coffee evaluation programs around the world.

An early supporter of Coffee Kids, she served two terms on the nonprofit organization’s board of directors. Karen has also contributed to Grounds for Health and Cup for Education. She was also a founder of the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Sustainability Committee and is a longtime member of the Organic Coffee Coalition a division of the Organic Trade Association.

Karen’s current passion is IWCA (International Women’s Coffee Alliance) which she cofounded in 2003. She took the first all-women’s coffee tour to Nicaragua to visit Sopexcca a women’s coop. As a result 14 International coffee chapters have been developed on four continents. As a serial entrepreneur, Karen’s latest venture is Earth’s Choice, a company with three divisions. The divisions include: First importer to exclusively import women’s coffee.; A microcredit union in financing artisans and crafts in Guatemala; Coffee Cares a cloud based customized coffee industry management tool, that measures social responsibility.

Escutia.jpgHonorable Martha Escutia, Former California State Senator

Martha M. Escutia, former California State Senator, was appointed vice president for USC Government Relations, effective May 1, 2013.  Ms. Escutia oversees the university’s federal, state and local government relations.

Immediately prior to joining USC, Ms. Escutia was a partner at The Senators, a law and consulting firm she co-founded, that provides strategic, legal, legislative, regulatory, and policy advice to a wide array of clients.  She was also a partner at Manatt, Phelps and Phillips from 2007 to 2010. 

Ms. Escutia was a member of the California State Senate from 1998 to 2006 and a member of the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1998.  She was the first woman Chair of both the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees. 

She has served as a guest lecturer at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and as an adjunct professor in the political science department at East Los Angeles Community College.  She currently serves on the Board of the California Emerging Technology Fund, a $100 million fund aimed at bridging the digital divide. 

In July 2013, she was appointed as a member of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.  

Ms. Escutia received her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University and her Bachelor of Science from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.  She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. 

ursula_kennedy.jpgHonorable Ursula Ellen Kennedy, Former Mayor of Tustin

Former Mayor of Tustin, Ursula E. Kennedy has been involved in her community since 1975, beginning with her service on the Tustin Planning Commission.  In 1977, she was elected as ad hoc member for the Tustin Location of the Saddleback Community College District.  She then set  her sights on the Tustin City Council and in 1978 she was the first woman to be elected to the Council and was re-elected in 1982 and 1986. From 1984 – 1985, she became the first woman to serve as Mayor of Tustin. In 1988, she was elected by the Council to serve as Mayor yet again.  In addition, she served three terms as Mayor Pro Tem.

In addition to serving on the City Council and the Commissions,  she also served as Trustee and President of Orange County Vector Control District from 1979 to 1989 and as Director of the Orange County Sanitation District from 1988 to 1989.  She served as President of the Tustin Area Senior Center Building Committee from 1987-1989. This Committee planned, funded and oversaw the construction of the Senior Center.   

Although former Mayor Kennedy no longer resides in the City of Tustin, she is a member of the Tustin Historical Society, and is a supporter of the Tustin Conservancy and remains active in Tustin politics. 

As if she weren’t busy enough during those years, former Mayor Kennedy decided to return to school, completing  her B.A. in Journalism/Communications from California State University, Fullerton in 1978 and her Juris Doctor from the California Western State University, College of Law in 1986., This was done while raising three children, Ursula Ann, Kathleen and Wiley III.  Of course, she couldn’t have done it without the support of her wonderful husband, Wiley Kennedy, Jr. 

Among other community interests, Mayor Kennedy published weekly columns in “Orange County Homeowners Review” 1971-1973, “Tustin Meadows Messenger” from 1971-1973, “Tustin News” social column 1977- 1978, and Cal State Fullerton’s “Daily Titan,” 1977-1978. 

Honors and awards include American Association of University Women, First Woman of Distinction 1990; South County YWCA Achievement of Excellence in Government Award 1990; Irvine Valley College Foundation Award for Extraordinary Service 1990; and Writer’s Digest National Short Story Competition Honorable Mention 1979 and 1980. 

allysonletter.jpgAllyson Sonenshine, Founding Project Director of OC Women's Health Project
Allyson Sonenshine, JD, has nearly 20 years of nonprofit, legal and volunteer experience in women’s health and reproductive justice.  She is the Founding Project Director for the Orange County Women’s Health Project, a nonprofit that identifies gaps and facilitates improvements in local women’s health through data analysis, policy development, education, and advocacy, and that presents the Orange County Women’s Health Policy Summit.  She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor and Co-Director of the new UC Irvine Program in Nursing Science Center for the Advancement of Women’s Health.  

Ms. Sonenshine formerly worked as Special Projects Officer for the Merage Foundations, where she helped launch the nationally recognized SOS-El Sol Wellness Center at El Sol Academy in Santa Ana, and prior to that, as an attorney with Bingham McCutchen in Los Angeles, where she specialized in employment and business litigation.  She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the California Family Health Council and is a Founding Trustee for the UC Irvine Child Development Center.  Ms. Sonenshine is the former Board Chair for Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino Counties and a former member of the Support Council for The Rape Foundation in Los Angeles.

Ms. Sonenshine graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania and earned her law degree at the University of Southerrn California School of Law.