Maria Contreras-Sweet, an accomplished entrepreneur and Cal State LA alumna who serves on President Barack Obama's Cabinet as the administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters during Cal State LA's 69th Commencement. She will be the keynote speaker during the June 10 Commencement ceremony for the University's College of Business and Economics.
Ms. Contreras-Sweet has spent more than three decades of service in the public and private sectors and has promoted entrepreneurial initiatives to enable underserved community members to elevate their socioeconomic standing. Raised in Baldwin Park in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles, she majored in political science and public administration at Cal State LA.
Prior to serving on President Obama's Cabinet, Ms. Contreras-Sweet was appointed as secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. In overseeing the influential state agency she became the first Latina to hold a cabinet position in California. Ms. Contreras-Sweet later founded ProAmérica Bank, a Latino-owned community financial institution in Los Angeles that provides capital to small and mid-size businesses.
Ms. Contreras-Sweet was selected to serve on the Harvard Women's Leadership Board, which advises the university and supports research opportunities for professors who are women. She was a founding director of The California Endowment, a multi-billion dollar philanthropic foundation that helps organizations address healthcare inequality in California. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Ms. Contreras-Sweet came to the U.S. at age 5. She learned the value of hard work from her single mother, who worked at a poultry processing plant east of Los Angeles to help her family make ends meet.
In recognition of her distinguished career, her contributions helping individuals achieve socioeconomic success and her role as a community advocate for equal opportunity, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and Cal State LA are proud to confer upon Contreras-Sweet the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.