Marion Mitchell Wilsonin memoriam, founder/board member emerita

Marion Mitchell-Wilson was Inlandia Institute’s executive director from its founding in 2007 until 2012 when she stepped down to focus on her health. Before her passing in 2015, she returned as a board member and executive director emeritus. Upon her passing, the Marion Mitchell-Wilson Endowment was established in her memory.

Board of Directors

Inlandia is led by a talented and committed Board of Directors with input from an inclusive and diverse regional Advisory Council. The work of the organization is accomplished by a strong committee system of the board and advisory council and a small, dedicated group of staff and volunteers.

To reach a member of the Board of Directors, email Inlandia@InlandiaInstitute.org.

Minerva Canto is the President of the Inlandia Institute board of directors and a longtime journalist whose work explores the places where politics, policies and people converge. A native of Mexico City, she speaks fluent Spanish and is a former staff writer for The Associated Press. Minerva recently earned a MFA at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Creative Writing program. She writes fiction and non-fiction inspired in part by her experiences as a cross-border reporter and an immigrant growing up in Santa Ana, California.

Nancy Melendez is Immediate Past President/CEO of the Inlandia Institute board of directors as well as President of the Spanish Town Heritage Foundation. Nancy Baca Melendez is a native of Riverside California born in 1950. She is a sixth generation “Riversider” whose family was among the 10 original families who walked the Old Spanish Trail from Abiquiu, New Mexico to the area in 1842 led by Lorenzo Trujillo. She has over 40 years of community volunteer service working for organizations and nonprofits that serve Riverside families.

Jonar Isip is Treasurer of the Inlandia Institute board of directors. He is a Marketing Resource Specialist who is a huge supporter of the arts, especially when it comes to literature. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing at UCR and his writing has been published in Inlandia: A Literary Journey, as well as Irvine Valley College’s “The Ear”. He also enjoys photography, and some of his photos have also been published by The Ear. Jonar currently lives in Corona, California with his dog and strawberry plant.

Hong-My Basrai is Secretary of the Inlandia Institute board of directors and the author of Behind the Red Curtain, a memoir about her seven years living inside fallen Saigon, Vietnam under communism. At 22 years old Hong-My immigrated to Southern California. She speaks and writes Vietnamese, English, and French, and shares a home with her Indian husband who is fluent in Gujarati and two other Indian languages, besides English. Hong-My is also a member of the Writer’s Club of Whittier and PIVOT, The Progressive Vietnamese American Organization.

Lisa Henry is curator for The Riverside Art Museum based in Southern California and Chair of the Blacklandia Steering Committee. Henry was formerly Assistant Curator for American Art at the Newark Museum. She has been a guest curator and art consultant for institutions on both the east and west coasts including The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, The High Museum of Art, The California African American Museum, Leica Gallery New York, The UCLA Hammer Museum, The Japanese American National Museum, and The California Museum of Photography.

Patricia Smith-Hunt recently retired as Head of Preservation Services at the University of California Riverside library. She holds a Masters degree in library & Information Science from Clark Atlanta University, and a PhD in Counseling & Higher Education from Ohio University. She is a member of the American Library Association, and serves as an officer for the UCR Retirees Association. Prior to coming to UCR she led the preservation services initiatives at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

Board Members Emeritus

Johnny Benderin memoriam, board member emeritus
Elio Palacios Jr.board member emeritus
Frances J. Vasquezboard member emerita
Ellen Estilaiboard member emerita
Larry Burnsboard member emeritus
Jeff Krausboard member emeritus

Cati Porter has been executive director of Inlandia Institute since 2013. Before that, she had been a presenter and volunteer before joining the staff as publications coordinator. When the founding executive director became ill in 2012, Cati took over day-to-day operations. She has a MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. Cati is a 2023-24 California Arts Council Individual Artist Fellow at the Established level. She lives in Riverside with her family.


Janine Pourroy Gamblin is programs and marketing coordinator. Janine grew up in Riverside and graduated from UC Riverside to become a teacher of elementary and middle school students and the writer of several books about film- and television-related topics. She is the author of The Making of WaterworldBehind the Scenes at ER, and Shooting Star: The Ewan McGregor Story and co-author of The Making of Congo and The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy.Janine now serves as publications and marketing coordinator for Inlandia Institute.


Laura Villareal is the Publications Coordinator of Inlandia Books. Her debut poetry collection, Girl’s Guide to Leaving, (University of Wisconsin Press 2022) was awarded Texas Institute of Letters’ John A. Robert Johnson Award for a First Book of Poetry and the Writers’ League of Texas Book Award for Poetry. She earned an MFA at Rutgers University—Newark and has been the recipient of fellowships from the Stadler Center for Poetry and Literary Arts, National Book Critics Circle’s Emerging Critics Program, and the Dobie Paisano Fellowship Program at University of Texas-Austin. She is a book critic, a contributing editor at West Branch, co-editor of Letras Latinas Blog 2, and a Letras Latinas associate.


Erin Michaela Sweeney (she/her) writes, speaks, and teaches about the healing potential of mindful creative self-expression. She supports writers and artists as managing editor (since 2022) of Inlandia: A Literary Journey, the Institute’s online literary journal, and writes Inlandia’s free weekly 100 Rejections Club newsletter to encourage creatives to embrace rejection. For twenty years, Erin was an editor on the east coast but returned to inland Southern California in 2011 to hang out at City of Hope for spa days (aka life-saving blood cancer treatments). Yes, there’s a memoir. She loves her child unconditionally and forever humbly serves Rexi the cat queen.


Christian Monroy and Connor RyanInlandia Literary Journeys newspaper column coordinators


The land of the Inlandia region belongs to the Cahuilla [ka-wee-ahh], Tongva [tong-va], Luiseño [loo-say-ngo], and Serrano [se-ran-oh] peoples and all of their ancestors and descendants, past, present, and future. Inlandia Institute respectfully acknowledges and recognizes our responsibility to the original and current caretakers of this land, water, and air. Today the Inlandia region is home to many Indigenous peoples from all over the world and we express our gratitude to them for allowing us the opportunity to live and work on their homelands. 

Black Lives Matter. Inlandia Institute stands against white supremacy and condemns police brutality and violence against all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities everywhere. We memorialize here our core values of equity and representation and shall endeavor on all fronts to ensure that they are adhered to. Read our full statement here. In response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police on May 25, 2020, the Inlandia community founded Blacklandia, a steering committee and events series. Learn more about what Blacklandia is doing in the community.

Accessibility. We firmly believe that the internet should be available and accessible to anyone, and are committed to providing a website that is accessible to the widest possible audience, regardless of circumstance and ability. To fulfill this, we aim to adhere as strictly as possible to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG 2.1) at the AA level. To access website accessibility settings and to view our full statement, click the blue circle icon in the lower left corner of your screen. All virtual public events are closed captioned. ASL interpretation is available upon request. For this and other accommodation needs, please contact Cati Porter at 951 790 2458 or cati.porter@inlandiainstitute.org.