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Meet the team behind the Connecting Cultures Mobile Museum.



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It taught me so many new things about different cultures. I even learned new things about my own home country (Russia).– Liana T., Student
Millikan Middle School





Board Members

Valerie Lezin, Founder, President, Chairperson of the Board

valerie2Valerie Lezin has been sharing artifacts from around the world with students since 1990. She combined her long-standing interest in other cultures and new-found teaching skills to prepare multicultural events at the local public schools her children attended.

Ms. Lezin built a personal collection of international artifacts over the years which became the core collection of CCMM, which she first displayed at Palms Middle School in 1995. She continued building the collection to reflect what was important in the students’ home communities. She has taken CCMM to an ever expanding number of schools, reaching tens of thousands of students.

Ms. Lezin has been recognized for her many volunteer efforts. In 1999, she received the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles award for Outstanding Volunteer Service. The Los Angeles Tenth District California Congress of Parents, Teachers and Students awarded her Volunteer of the Year in 2003. Ms. Lezin earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Communications from Stanford University. She earned her Juris Doctor from University of Illinois.

Donald Goldman, Chief Financial Officer

donDonald Goldman is a retired partner of the international law firm McDermott Will & Emery. A former Deputy Attorney General for the State of California, in private practice he specialized in health care law representing large health care companies including many non-profit institutions. He served on his firm’s management, executive, and compensation committees. He is a co-founder of CCMM and serves in a volunteer capacity as a board member and as CFO.

Mr. Goldman completed both his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and his Juris Doctor from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Murray Heltzer

Murray Heltzer has always been a part of the Los Angeles community. He, along with his wife Gail, attended Fairfax High School and UCLA. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science, minoring in accounting. He put his minor to work as an executive in the savings and loan industry for 20 years, and then as a consultant to savings and loans, commercial banks and FSLIC for another 10 years. In 1990, Murray turned his attention to the world of law firm administration, working for a LA-based firm for 10 years. Murray completed his career at McDermott, Will and Emery (where he worked with CCMM founder Don Goldman). During his tenure at McDermott, Murray applied his considerable talents to opening the firm’s offices in Germany, England, Italy, and China.

Volunteer work has been an important part of Murray’s life. He is a former board member of the Los Angeles Fair Housing Congress and the San Fernando Valley Fair Housing Council. Since retiring in 2012, he has served on the board for the Therapeutic Learning Center for the Blind. He also volunteers for Center Theater Group and for the Museum of Tolerance. He is also an active volunteer for CCMM, doing a wide spectrum of work including installing and packing up the exhibition, correcting student worksheets, photographing objects for the catalog, and doing data entry.

Ellen Pearlstein

Ellen Pearlstein is an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, teaching in Information Studies and in the UCLA/Getty Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation. In her latter capacity, Ellen is presently working with weavers in southern CA, the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in CA and the Hibulb Cultural Center in WA, involving them in graduate conservation education. Her research interests include American Indian tribal museums and how museum staff defines cultural preservation; effects of environmental agents on ethnographic and natural history materials; introducing context into cultural materials’ conservation education; and curriculum development. Ellen is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, winner of a Keck Award for distinguished teaching and mentoring in the field of Conservation. She is co-director of the UCLA and Getty Conservation Institute feather research project.

Jennifer Rich

jenniferAn avid traveler, Jennifer Rich has been a long-time contributor to CCMM, donating artifacts from her journeys around the world. After finally settling in Los Angeles, Ms. Rich was invited to the board in October 2013 and is honored to help shape and expand the future of this wonderful and vital program.

In addition to visiting more than twenty-five countries, Ms. Rich has lived in Kenya, Australia, and Israel, as well as cities around the United States. In Kenya, she served as a research assistant in wildlife management field studies, looking at elephant damage to particular plant species within migration corridors. In Australia, Ms. Rich worked in conservation to restore wetlands.

Ms. Rich earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Psychology from the University of Southern California and Pepperdine University, respectively. She has worked in education as a behavioral aid and presently spends her time doing suicide counseling as well as non-profit fundraising for underprivileged youth. Ms. Rich intends to pursue a doctorate in psychology and to continue exploring wonders and making friends around the world.

Dr. Marlene Wagner

marleneDr. Marlene Wagner’s career as a senior administrator at the University of Southern California spanned more than three decades. She is currently engaged in an “encore career” guiding memoirists to write their autobiographies around prescribed themes and teaches Thematic Autobiography in the USC Emeriti College and privately.

A board member for Connecting Cultures Mobile Museum, she is also on the boards of the Phi Kappa Phi All-University Honor Society, USC Chapter; the USC Saks Institute for Law, Mental Health and Ethics; and the YWCA Santa Monica/Westside.

Alan Mangels, Emeritus

alanAlan Mangels brings a life-long interest in travel and education to his role as Member of the Board. Mr. Mangels earned his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History at California State University at Fullerton, where he also earned his Master of Business Administration in Public Administration. He served in army in Vietnam. He continued to serve in the Army Reserves until recently.

Upon his return, Mr. Mangels earned his Juris Doctor at University of California at Los Angeles. He taught courses in urban planning and in environmental politics at Fullerton. Mr. Mangels spent his legal career as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of California.

Staff & Personnel

Julia Goldman, Executive Director

juliaJulia first saw CCMM as a middle school student in 1995. In 2011, after 15 years of active involvement with CCMM, she became the first executive director of the newly formed nonprofit organization.

With a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education and a Master of Business Administration in Nonprofit Management from American Jewish University, Ms. Goldman’s familiarity with nonprofits and education make her an invaluable resource to CCMM.

Concepcion Dueñas, Director of Installation

conchaConcepcion Dueñas has been an integral part of the CCMM team for more than fifteen years. Ms. Dueñas directs the installation and removal of the exhibition at each of the schools, and provides administrative support during the presentations.

Ms. Dueñas’ experience as an immigrant to the United States has given her a vital perspective on how to engage students from immigrant families, no matter their countries of origin. Her bilingual language skills give her the ability to put Spanish-speaking English Language Learners at ease and to augment their visual experience with Spanish narration. Ms. Dueñas also encourages members of the various immigrant communities to donate artifacts from their cultures.