CSUF alumna Theresa Harvey’s experiences on campus have led her to a role as CEO and president of the North Orange County Chamber of Commerce

In 2018 Grad Guide, Features, Lifestyle
Theresa Harvey poses for a head shot.
Courtesy of North Orange County Chamber of Commerce

CEO and President of the North Orange County Chamber of Commerce, CSUF alumna Theresa Harvey graduated in 1980 and has since used her passion for her studies to give back to the local community.

Majoring in music education and public relations, Harvey promoted CSUF’s College of Arts when she was a student and helped local businesses grow, while still finding time to participate in several school’s committees.

After beginning a degree in music education at Chapman University, Harvey left the school once she came to the realization that it would take her a longer time to finish her classes than what her four-year scholarship permitted. She is one of eight children, and could not remain a student at Chapman University without the scholarship, so she decided to apply to CSUF.

After taking a look at CSUF’s course catalog and learning that a degree in music education wouldn’t allow her to teach the way she intended, Harvey decided to pick up communications as a double major.

“Many of us who were studying to be educators in the arts were told that our life would be spent in remedial math and reading classes. I knew after earlier experiences that it wasn’t going to be for me,” Harvey said.

She said she was drawn to the variety of skills that she felt the communications major offers in its curriculum. Subjects within the major such as journalism, photography and graphic design sparked passion for communications. Harvey eventually emphasized in public relations with the communications major.

When Harvey had children, she wanted to spend more time at home but couldn’t stay away from the workplace for too long.

Once her kids were old enough to attend school, she began working as a small business consultant from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., which allowed her to pursue her career and not sacrifice too much time with her family.

She calls her children her greatest accomplishment – her son is a film graduate from Chapman University and her daughter is an attorney at a major law firm and has also given Harvey a grandson who she said is her “pride and joy.”

Harvey started working at the North Orange County Chamber of Commerce in 2005 after having been a part of a number of different companies and organizations. She previously held a position as director of development at the Boys and Girls Club of Fullerton.

“I specifically recall the pride and excitement (Harvey) had when she became then-director of the Chamber of Commerce (now president and CEO). She looked forward to filling her new role and serving the business community in a city that she has called home for over 35 years,” said Harvey’s daughter, Ann Rossum, in an email.

When listing off the services she performs, it is clear that a sheer number of them alone would prevent her from being able to fit all of them into one day.

“To say that I do this daily is an oxymoron because I hardly ever have the same day twice,” Harvey said.

She said her work with the North Orange County Chamber of Commerce serves the business community by advocating for better work environments for employees and employers, working with government legislation and showing businesses possible opportunities for expansion.

While it might seem difficult to effectively accomplish all of these tasks, Christopher Reese, a colleague of Harvey’s who knows her through the Chamber board of directors, believes Harvey is one of the few people who can.

“Theresa has always been adept at helping her board see the broader implications of policy, working with them to develop effective policy with meaningful outcomes, and implementing that policy in a way that celebrates her board’s involvement while also creating benefits for her members, the local businesses, and the community,” Reese said in an email.

In addition to having such a time-consuming position, Harvey contributes to her alma mater of CSUF by serving as a member of the committee that organizes the annual Concert Under The Stars.

“Cal State Fullerton really shaped my life in my early years. It helped me identify the path I was going to go and gave me the opportunities to develop the skills I needed,” Harvey said. “Serving on the committees and participating as a donor on the campus now gives me an opportunity to give back to the university that I feel gave me so much.”

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