San Diego Tourism Authority Hires Director of DE&I, Community Engagement

The San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA) has named Theresa Cunningham director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and community engagement. This new position will strengthen the organization’s diversity efforts by having a dedicated director to manage and execute DEI initiatives.

Stepping into the new role on August 22, Cunningham will work with SDTA departments to create key performance indicators aligned with organizational goals, represent SDTA on community boards, and manage SDTA’s Tourism Accelerator program, which helps San Diego-area businesses owned by women, veterans, people of color and LGBTQIA+ community members expand their operations and tap into the local tourism industry.

Cunningham will also implement recommendations from the Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM) assessment, which will strengthen SDTA’s DEI initiatives. Earlier this year, SDTA completed a TDM assessment, which surveyed team members, board members and industry partners to identify organizational strengths and areas for improvement, with actionable recommendations.

“Diversity is vital to the future of tourism—not just as a ‘nice-to-do,’ but as a true business case to reach more people and ensure the best-possible traveler experience,” said Julie Coker, SDTA president and CEO. “Theresa has an impressive background in organizational development, strategy, equity and engagement and is the perfect person to lead our DEI initiatives and strengthen our presence in the community.”

Previously, Cunningham served as vice president of strategic initiatives at Reality Changers, a San Diego non-profit that prepares youth to become first-generation college graduates and agents of change in their communities. She has worked for Teach for All, a global network that works to expand educational opportunities, and has also held positions with UNESCO and Columbia University’s Office of International Affairs at Teachers College, as well as the Institute for Urban and Minority Education.

“I believe that solutions designed by and with local communities and not for communities are what make a viable path toward developing a more inclusive economy,” Cunningham said. “I look forward to partnering to advance SDTA’s work to build awareness and increase diversity and upward mobility throughout all sectors of the tourism industry.”

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