The San Diego Tourism Authority

The San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA) announced today the hiring of Theresa Cunningham as Director of Diversity, Equity Inclusion, and Community Engagement. This all-new position will strengthen the organization’s historic diversity efforts by having a dedicated director to manage and execute diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
In this new role, Cunningham will work closely with SDTA departments to create key performance indicators aligned with organizational goals, represent SDTA on community boards, and manage SDTA’s award-winning 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 and reaffirm San Diego’s reputation as an authentically welcoming destination. Earlier this year, SDTA completed a comprehensive 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, president, and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority. “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.”
“We are excited to have Theresa join the team and lead the organization’s initiatives that open doors for so many and ensure our tourism industry represents all voices within our community,” said Shawn Dixon, COO of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and chair of the SDTA Board of Directors. “She is an excellent leader who can promote diversity throughout San Diego and help welcome millions to our vibrant community.”
Previously, Cunningham served as vice president of strategic initiatives at Reality Changers, a San Diego nonprofit 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.”

Cunningham’s first day with SDTA will be August 22.

Theresa Cunningham - SDTA - first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Community Engagement
Theresa Cunningham - SDTA - first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Community Engagement
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