SMC — The Santa Monica College Foundation has chosen Nathalie Rayes as the winner of the 2012 Distinguished Alumni Recognition Award for Outstanding Professional and Community Service Achievement.

Rayes, who graduated with honors from SMC in 1994, works in the corporate arena but has also been active in municipal and national government, serving in such roles as adviser to President Obama. She has also made her mark in public service and philanthropy, winning honors for her achievements.


She will be recognized at commencement, which will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 11 at SMC’s Corsair Field, 1900 Pico Blvd.

Rayes currently serves as the U.S. national public relations director of Grupo Salinas, a Mexican conglomerate with $5 billion in annual sales and 60,000 employees in Mexico, the United States, and Central and South America, and with operations in the broadcasting, retail, banking and financial services, telecommunications and Internet industries.

Rayes is also the executive director of Grupo Salinas’ philanthropic arm in the United States, Fundaci√≥n Azteca America. In these roles, she has personally led numerous national campaigns that seek to improve the quality of life of Latinos by partnering with existing local and international governments, scholars, universities, and nonprofits to empower, create awareness and motivate change on social and immigration issues. These campaigns have included voting, financial literacy, education, and health.

Rayes demonstrated good citizenship while attending SMC by graduating with honors in 1994, earning an associate of arts degree in sociology. She then transferred to UCLA where she received a bachelor’s degree in sociology cum laude and master’s in public policy with concentrations in international relations and education. After leaving UCLA, she went on to serve as a U.S. Department of State fellow in the economic/political section of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.

After leaving college, she was appointed as Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn’s deputy chief of staff, considered the second most powerful position in City Hall, before the age of 30. At the mayor’s office she specialized in intergovernmental relations, serving as chief liaison to federal, state and regional governments, and to the Los Angeles City Council.

Rayes currently serves on many boards including the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute Advisory Board, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Advisory Council, and U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Rayes has not forgotten her roots. For example, she has offered internship opportunities for SMC students at the local Azteca station in Los Angeles. Currently she is seeking ways to expand study abroad opportunities for SMC students to Mexico.

Rayes currently resides in Boston. She is married to Harvard professor Tarak Samad, and has two sons, Julian and Alexander.

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