Our Team

Student Leadership


Ria Coen Gilbert // State Board Chair

Ria Coen Gilbert is a current senior at the University of California in San Diego. She is studying Sociology, concentrated in Law and Society with a minor in Political Science. She is the Chapter Chair of UCSD’s CALPIRG board as well as the Chairperson of the Statewide Executive Committee. Her start in CALPIRG activism began at the beginning of the pandemic, when she felt called to action during the 2020 election. Within a few months, she became the Campaign Coordinator for the New Voters Project and helped UCSD place first in the Secretary of State’s Ballot Bowl among the UCs. After the election, Ria transitioned to coordinating the 100% Clean Energy by 2030 campaign where she helped lead and MC the Statewide Clean Energy Summit, the largest virtual youth climate summit on record. Currently, you can find Ria investing her time in building strong coalitions of young people fighting for a greener planet.


Radha Patel // State Board Secretary

Radha is a 4th year Sociology Major at UCLA and the CALPIRG Students State Board Secretary, as well as the Chapter Chair at UCLA. She got involved her sophomore year working to increase youth voter turnout and make textbooks affordable across the University of California. Since then, she has helped register over 10,000 students to vote, lobbied to reduce plastic wastes in California, and served as a national spokesperson countrywide. She is now continuing to address textbook affordability across different outlets alongside interns and volunteers for an equitable access to education. As the State Board Secretary, she is responsible for serving as a designated leader of the state by coordinating statewide meetings, connecting with the Organizing Director, and ensuring student voices are heard in the halls of power.


Jarred Cole // State Board Member-at-Large

Jarred Cole is a senior in Political Science: Public Policy at the University of California San Diego. He is the Vice-Chair of the UCSD Chapter and a Member-at-Large on the Statewide Executive Committee. He joined CALPIRG his freshmen year and quickly became Chapter Chair the next quarter, serving two terms building student power at our San Diego chapter. Since joining, Jarred helped commit the UC’s to phase out single-use plastic and spent most of his time on the campaign for 100% clean energy statewide by 2030 by building support from community leaders. As a member of the Statewide Executive Committee, Jarred works to help coordinate our projects statewide to create lasting change for the public interest.

Our Staff

Veronika Michels  //  Organizing Director

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Veronika Michels is the Organizing Director for CALPIRG Students, based in Los Angeles. Veronika got her start as a chapter student with her CALPIRG chapter at UC San Diego as an undergraduate before coming onto staff as a Campus Organizer in 2019. In her time on staff with CALPIRG Students, Veronika helped win campus and statewide commitments to phasing out single-use plastics and getting to 100 percent clean and renewable energy. In her spare time, Veronika enjoys hiking, surfing, and visiting friends.

Jenn Engstrom // CALPIRG Executive Director

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Jenn directs CALPIRG’s advocacy efforts, and is a leading voice in Sacramento and across the state on protecting public health, consumer protections and defending our democracy. Jenn has served on the CALPIRG board for the past two years before stepping into her current role. Most recently, as the deputy national director for the Student PIRGs, she helped run our national effort to mobilize hundreds of thousands of students to vote. She led CALPIRG’s organizing team for years and managed our citizen outreach offices across the state, running campaigns to ban single-use plastic bags, stop the overuse of antibiotics, and go 100% renewable energy. Jenn lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys spending time at the beach and visiting the many amazing restaurants in her city.

Dan Xie  // National Political Director

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Dan directs the national political strategy and grant fundraising for the Student PIRGs. Dan has managed successful campaigns from coast to coast to cap global warming pollution, fight the high cost of higher education, and make voting more accessible for students. She has recruited and trained hundreds of students and staff on public interest campaigns. Dan lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., where she is an avid cyclist and climber.