Contact Information

The Commonwealth Club of California
110 The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94105
CONTACT: John Zipperer, Vice President, Media & Editorial

The Commonwealth Club Names Dr. Carla Thorson New Vice President of Programs
Veteran Speaker Programming Expert Joins Nation’s Largest Public Forum

(FEBRUARY 2, 2021 – SAN FRANCISCO) — After an extensive search, The Commonwealth Club of California is delighted to announce that Dr. Carla Thorson has been appointed as its new vice president of programs. Dr. Thorson brings a wealth of experience as she takes charge of programming at the largest and oldest public forum in the country, which is celebrating its 119th birthday on February 3.

The Club’s President and CEO Gloria Duffy said, “At a time when robust public dialogue and high-quality information are so crucial to addressing our major global, national and local challenges, I am extremely pleased to welcome Dr. Thorson, a very thoughtful and highly professional programming leader, to the Club. She will add long experience, knowledge in many fields, insight and wisdom to our programming effort.”

“The Commonwealth Club is an extraordinary organization with a rich history and a plethora of activities.” says Dr. Carla Thorson. “I am thrilled to be joining this team, particularly at this moment when we all hope to see a more complete recovery from the pandemic. The Club has such an important role community, and I look forward to contributing to those conversations that are critical for us all to move forward.”

Dr. Thorson, who assumes her position at the Club in mid-February, will lead the team of professional program producers responsible for the Club’s robust stream of featured programming. She succeeds George Dobbins, who retired in September 2021 after 22 years as head of programming at the public forum. Thorson will be based at the Club’s headquarters on San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

About Dr. Carla Thorson

Dr. Thorson has served as senior vice president at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco since 2014; before that she was the organization’s vice president for public programs from 2004–2014. During her time at World Affairs, she created and oversaw hundreds of public and private programs, including conferences such as the annual Global Philanthropy Forum. She also designed travel and educational programming for World Affairs, including a Youth Outreach initiative for students from under-resourced schools and neighborhoods in the Bay Area. She produced and served as a moderator for “World Affairs,” the World Affairs Council’s weekly radio broadcast, and podcast series.

During her career, Dr. Thorson has taught comparative politics, civil rights, constitutional law and other topics at UCLA and California State University, Los Angeles; served as a research consultant for the RAND Corporation’s Center for Russian & Eurasian Studies; worked as an analyst for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Inc.; and served as a program officer at IREX (the International Research & Exchanges Board). She has written numerous articles, reports and book reviews in her areas of expertise.

Thorson earned her BA in history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, her MLitt in modern Russian history at the University of Oxford, her MA in international relations and comparative politics, and her Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. She and her husband live in El Cerrito.

About The Commonwealth Club

The Commonwealth Club of California is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public forum that hosts about 500 programs a year featuring speakers on a wide variety of topics and from a broad range of views. The Club has produced more than 800 online programs since the COVID shutdown began in March of 2020, that have been viewed online 10 million times in the past year.

The Club was founded in San Francisco in 1903, as a “public service club,” by two San Francisco Chronicle editors, the presidents of the University of California and San Francisco State University, and a judge. It has more than 15,000 members, and a volunteer Board of Governors led by Chair Martha Ryan and Vice-Chair John Boland.

In addition to its live events, the Club produces a weekly radio program—the nation’s oldest, on-air since 1924—that airs on 230 stations nationwide, a weekly TV program broadcast in the Bay Area, and hundreds of podcasts and videos a year.  It hosts “The Michelle Meow Show,” Week to Week Political Roundtable, Climate One, and the K–12 civics education project Creating Citizens. One-third of its programs are Member-Led Forums, produced by volunteers from among its membership.

Upcoming speakers range from “Jeopardy!” champion Amy Schneider to African-American studies professor Dr. Imani Perry to Dr. Michael Boskin, chair of the senior President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, to actor Nick Offerman and producer Michael Schur.

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