About Cynthia Chase
I was born in Oakland California, where both my parents were raised. I grew up in Pleasanton California until I moved to Eagle River, Alaska when I was 18. I moved to Santa Cruz County on New Years Eve of 1999 as a transfer student from the University of Alaska at Anchorage. In 2001 I received my bachelors degree in psychology, receiving both honors in my major and from my college - Merrill. I am a proud Banana Slug who credits UC Santa Cruz not just for my excellent education but also for providing me with opportunities to connect with our community in ways that helped to shape who I am today. My experience at UC Santa Cruz taught me how to critically think about complex issues.Throughout my education, I was both challenged and inspired.
While at UC Santa Cruz I took advantage of a Community Studies course that allowed me to volunteer at Santa Cruz County Juvenile Probation where I was involved in creative and effective solutions to issues of community safety. This internship opened doors for me when I graduated and unlike many of my fellow graduates who had difficulty finding employment, I was offered a job as a Probation Officer within four months of graduation. My internship to employment experience motivates me to create strategies to increase connections between UC Santa Cruz students and our community so that they can remain in Santa Cruz and reinvest their invaluable education into the vibrancy of our city. As a student, I also volunteered with doctoral candidate Susan Greene whose dissertation project influenced the development of the Gemma program. Through my internship with her program, I worked with women in our local minimum security jail and learned first hand about the complexities of supporting a safe, stable and successful reentry into the community while reducing recidivism.
The pinnacle experience of my time with probation was learning to balance and respect the often opposing perspectives in criminal justice and public safety. I was responsible for preparing sentencing recommendations to the Court that addressed both the needs of the victim with my best efforts to help make the victim whole and repair the harm that was caused to them, but it was equally important that I responded to the needs of the person who committed the crime in order to address and reduce the chances they’d commit crimes in the future. This approach to finding balanced solutions is a unique and valuable asset that I offer to our city and the challenges we're presently facing. I also recognize that unlike friends and fellow students, I was only able to stay here because I got a well paying job quite quickly after graduation. All of my friends moved on, taking their education and skills with them. I want to keep the brilliant and creative minds of UC Santa Cruz here in our city so that they can give back to our city - but young people need opportunities to live and work here.
While at Probation I obtained my graduate degree in Social Work and then my license as a Clinical Social Worker. During this time I also worked as a therapist in the Chemical Dependency and Child and Family units at Kaiser Psychiatric. Additionally, I have been teaching for the undergraduate and graduate schools of Social Work at San Jose State University since 2008 and since 2013 at California State University Monterey Bay. I love being a part of shaping students learning and teaching them about the ethics and values of our profession, as well as getting them excited about public policy.
I have been the Director of the Gemma Program since 2008 and have been at the forefront of treatment, rehabilitation and reentry in Santa Cruz. Gemma’s closest partners are the Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department. Under my leadership, the Gemma program has produced unprecedented reductions in recidivism and is used as an example of both fiscally and socially effective programming to increase public safety and improve lives. Gemma succeeds, in no small part, because of it's stress on personal accountability and taking ownership of ones own actions.
My life experience has helped me develop the strong values of public service, and civic engagement. I believe that our community thrives when we encourage our neighbors to get actively involved in shaping our shared story. I am honored to call Santa Cruz my home and am grateful to live with my partner Howard and our dogs Maggie and Simon in this city that has offered me so many opportunities.