Executive Leadership

To best serve the dynamic needs of our learners and faculty, we have assembled a passionate and diverse leadership team. The executive leadership at CalSouthern works together to redefine higher education, ensure the success of our learners, and carry out the University’s vision and values.

Clinton D. Gardner, Ph.D.

President and CEO

As president and CEO of California Southern University, Dr. Gardner leads our executive-level strategy and operations. He works closely with senior university leadership and partners to ensure academic program quality and effectiveness, legal and regulatory compliance, optimal resource utilization, and adherence with the policies, procedures and accreditation requirements of our university and sponsoring agencies. Dr. Gardner holds a Doctor of Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education degree with a specialization in Education Administration. He also has over 3 decades of executive leadership expertise in higher education and is an accomplished presenter, research scholar and instructor.

Brett Orourke

Brett O’Rourke, MBA

Executive Vice-President

As the senior member of the executive staff, Mr. O’Rourke provides leadership, strategic planning, and collaborative support towards the actualization of the university’s mission and strategic goals while managing the overall operational components of the university. Through an entrepreneurial lens, he focuses on both the future success and day-to-day operations by leading the various divisions, departments, and functional units with a commitment to continuous improvement.

Amanda Steed

Amanda Steed

Vice-President & Chief of Staff

Ms. Amanda Steed is responsible for the operational stability of the University by fostering a culture of equity and inclusion, proactively managing risk and conflict resolution, and integrating the University’s mission statement into everyday practice and application. Ms. Steed also maintains primary responsibility for assisting the Executive Vice-President in ensuring maximization of the administrative and operational performance of the University in support of its mission and goals by planning and executing a wide range of complex and sensitive executive and administrative responsibilities related to policy/program development and implementation, which includes fiscal and administrative operations.

James B. Rieger, EdD

Interim Vice-President & Chief Academic Officer

Dr. Rieger reports directly to the President and oversees all academic affairs for the University, including program quality and outcomes, performance metrics, accreditation and strategic planning. He holds a Doctor of Education with a specialization in Educational Leadership and Management, as well as additional degrees and certifications in Education and Music. Over the course of his career, Dr. Rieger has served as Chief Knowledge Officer, Accreditation Liaison Officer, School Dean, and Director of Instruction and his years of expertise span both k-12 and post-secondary education environments.


Manila Pillai, MCom, MBA

Vice-President & Chief Finance Officer

Ms. Pillai is a principal member of the University’s executive team responsible for maintaining, strategizing, and strengthening the University’s financial processes.

Perla Nguyen Headshot

Perla Nguyen, PHR, SHRM-CP

Vice-President & Chief Human Resources Officer

Mrs. Perla Nguyen is responsible for advising the President on all aspects of Human Resources and Organizational Development. Under the direction of the President, she promotes the University mission, vision, and values as well as enables business success through human resources management, including job design, recruitment, performance management, employee relations, training, discipline, development, employment cycle changes, and talent management. Mrs. Nguyen is a SHRM-Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and Professional in Human Resources (PHR).


Sam Qasem

Vice-President, Enrollment Management

Mr. Qasem is responsible for enrollment services, managing the team of admissions representatives, lead generation, and developing strategies and processes for continual improvement.

Zina B. Gleason, Esq.

General Counsel

As General Counsel, Ms. Zina Gleason’s primary role is to ensure California Southern University follows and remains in compliance with all applicable procedures, protocols and laws. In collaboration with the Executive Team, Ms. Gleason supports staff and learners during their time at CalSouthern. She is a licensed attorney in good standing with the State of California, as well as an author, entrepreneur, community leader and award-winning international speaker on issues surrounding conflict resolution. She supports and advises CalSouthern stakeholders by offering expert legal direction and unparalleled legal communication in order to facilitate the most favorable, diverse, fair and productive educational experience possible.

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