Meet Our Team
Benjamin T. Duran, Ed.D.
President & CEO
(209) 522-5103 ext. 106
The Great Valley Center welcomed Ben Duran as President and CEO of the organization effective January 1, 2013. A lifetime valley resident, Ben served as Superintendent/President of Merced Community College District from January 1998 until retiring in December 2011. During his career at Merced College, he chaired the Community College League of California’s 2010 Commission on the Future, and served as president of both the California Community Colleges (CCC) Chief Executive Officers Board of Directors and the CCC Economic and Workforce Development Program Advisory Committee.
His community involvement has included serving on the Greater Merced High Speed Rail Committee, Merced County Regional Arts Council, Mercy Medical Center Board of Directors, Merced School Employees Federal Credit Union Board of Directors, UC Merced Foundation Board of Directors, CSU Stanislaus Community Advisory Board, GVC Board of Directors, and the Center for Public Policy Studies.
Ben earned a Bachelor’s degree from California State University, Stanislaus, an Master’s degree from Chapman University and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California. He spent 40 years as an educator in Merced County, first as a high school teacher in Le Grand, before becoming vice principal of Le Grand High School from 1976 to 1980 and then assistant director of the county’s migrant education program. He returned to Le Grand in 1983 as superintendent of schools, a position he held until 1991 when he became vice president for administrative services at Merced College.
(209) 522-5103 ext. 105
Jaime joined the Great Valley Center as a Program Coordinator for the California Connects Program in September 2011. He works on the recruitment of Community Trainers throughout 18 counties in California and to ensure that the trainers do their work effectively and in a timely manner. Prior to joining the Great Valley Center, Jaime worked as an inventory clerk for hospitals throughout California, handling data and taking accurate counts of various medical equipment and supplies. He also worked as an Assistant Manager for Movie Gallery.
Jaime has over four years of management experience supervising the day to day operations of employees. Additionally, his background includes work in retail customer service, an externship with Stanislaus County, serving as an Administrative Assistant at Turlock Regional Services, and coaching tennis at Livingston High School where he was responsible for both the boy’s and girl’s programs through the Merced County Office of Education. Jaime is a bilingual Spanish speaking Central Valley native, born and raised in Merced County. His education includes graphic design training and medical office training from Modesto Junior College and Kaplan College.
(209) 522-5103 ext. 102
Bryce joined the GVC in 2010 as an intern working with local governments to develop greenhouse gas emissions inventories as part of the Green Communities program. After being promoted to a full-time GVC team member in 2010, Bryce took the lead on wrapping up the first round of the program, and continues to manage the second round. Working with governments to identify energy efficiency and greenhouse gas solutions has allowed Bryce to match his analytical skill-set with his interests in sustainability, government administration and organizational dynamics.
Before joining the GVC, Bryce obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from California State University, Stanislaus. Coincidentally, a large portion of the research he conducted for his senior project relied on publications developed by the GVC. Bryce decided to continue his education at CSU Stanislaus, and received a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree in May of 2012. During his time as a graduate student, he completed internships at the City of Merced and CSU Stanislaus, as well as a service-learning project for the Turlock Police Department, each focused on organizational development. Bryce is especially proud of his two-year service to CSU Stanislaus as a student leader, where he was named Student Leader of the Year in 2010 for, as the Office of Student Affairs put it, “working tirelessly to improve participation and awareness in a student-led initiative on campus”. Bryce is a second-generation Central Valley native, born at Castle Airforce Base in Atwater and raised in Hilmar.
Senior Director of Strategic Planning
(209) 522-5103 ext. 111
Kathy joined the Great Valley Center (GVC) in 2011 as the Senior Director of Strategic Planning. She is responsible for strategic planning and program development for the Great Valley Center and the American Leadership Forum – Great Valley Chapter. Prior to joining the GVC, Kathy worked at AT&T for 32 years, the last 12 as Director of External Affairs, responsible for government, business and community relations and corporate giving in the Central Valley. Prior to that, she spent 13 years in customer service and seven years as an IT project manager, helping develop several key software applications for AT&T.
Kathy serves in many leadership roles in the community. She is the immediate past chairman of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, on the Executive Board for the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance; President-elect for Modesto Rotary, and currently provides leadership for the Great Valley Chapter of the American Leadership Forum. She also serves on the board for the Boys and Girls Club of Stanislaus County, the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Stanislaus County, and the ALF national board of directors. She is a graduate of Modesto Junior College and San Francisco University, where she received her degree in Organizational Behavior. She is a Class I graduate of the Great Valley Chapter of ALF. Kathy is a lifetime valley resident, and currently resides in Turlock with her husband and two children.
(209) 522-5103 ext. 101
Linda joined the Great Valley Center in October 2011, where she works on communications, public relations, marketing, event planning and project management. She writes GVC’s quarterly e-newsletters, e-mail updates, program “spotlights” and press releases, as well as blog, Facebook and Twitter posts, and assists with generating website and publications content. Linda served as co-editor of “The State of the Great Central Valley: Assessing the Region Via Indicators – The Environment 2006-2011,” which was published online in July 2012, and wrote six articles highlighting environmental best practices for the report. Recent additions to her duties include administrative functions, including payroll and HR responsibilities, and serving as program director for CA Connects while Desiree is on maternity leave. Linda also assists the American Leadership Forum – Great Valley Chapter with the annual Hillside Garden Party fundraiser and the ALF Facebook page. She provided logistical planning and management for the 2012 National Parks Institute, a 12-day seminar for park leaders from across the country and around the world. Linda has written three final reports for GVC grants, and assisted with the video script for the child sexual abuse prevention program in Merced County.
Prior to her position with GVC, Linda served as the Marketing and Public Relations Officer for Modesto Junior College for 12 years, where she was responsible for publicity, media relations, marketing and advertising campaigns, internal and external communication strategies, publications, and management of multiple events on behalf of the President’s Office. She was Manager of the Modesto Convention & Visitors Bureau for 14 years before working at the college. Linda holds a BA in Communications and Comparative Literature from the University of Redlands. She is active in the Central Valley Public Relations Organization and Modesto Shakespeare Club, and volunteers for the International Heritage Festival. In her leisure time she enjoys reading and participating in a book club, walking, gardening and leading Bible studies. Linda and her husband, Philip, live in Escalon, and their son, Robbie, attends UC Davis.
Desiree Cervantes Holden
(209) 522-5103 ext. 104
Desiree is the Program Manager for California Connects, a role that allows her to utilize her skills in strategic thinking, project management, facilitation, event planning, social media and communication. She is also the creative guru behind the Great Valley Center’s website design, and provides graphic design services for GVC’s publications and programs. Desiree is a specialist in web technology, information architecture and creative problem-solving, with a professional background in systems and web administration. She has an extensive history with the GVC, as a past employee and as a graduate of the 2004 IDEAL leadership class.
Desiree studied digital media and Internet technology at Foothill Community College and is currently finishing her Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology from University of Phoenix. She remains passionate about imaginative and artistic design and has worked as a web design consultant for small business and non-profit organizations. She is active in the Modesto community, and has served as a Board member for three years for the Young Women Social Entrepreneurs – a women’s leadership organization based in San Francisco. Born in Modesto, Desiree has lived here the past ten years with her husband and daughter, and spends leisure time hula hooping and spinning fire.