March 3, 1999
A Message to the CSUN Community
For almost seven years, I have been privileged to be part of a truly remarkable university community. Cal State Northridge has advanced its mission of access, excellence and equity in the midst of rapid change--what our faculty strategic planning advisors have called "perpetual whitewater." While overcoming the challenge of the Northridge earthquake is certainly the most visible evidence of the talent, resilience and creativity of this faculty, staff and administration, CSUN's ability to embrace shared governance, strategic planning and student-centered values is the strength that will sustain its quality well into the future.
I have made a difficult personal decision to pursue the values I share with the Cal State Northridge community in a very exciting new role, which I expect to assume after the end of the spring semester. I have accepted the position of President and Chief Operating Officer of New England's newest educational foundation, the nonprofit Nellie Mae Foundation. Started just seven months ago, the Nellie Mae Foundation is among the largest charitable organizations in New England focused exclusively on improving education. The Foundation=92s mission is "to promote accessibility, quality and effectiveness of education from pre school through postsecondary levels, for all ages, especially for underserved populations." Through grantmaking, research and policy initiatives, the Foundation will work with educational institutions and associations, cultural and community organizations, foundations, government agencies and others to encourage, establish and maintain programs and services that promote effective education.
During the 11 years that I have served as President and Chancellor of higher education institutions, I have become convinced that the most urgent issue of education in our time is making certain that an educational system designed for an earlier time and population will be effective for today's and tomorrow's students. Cal State Northridge is a leader in addressing issues of school reform, instructional uses of technology, multiculturalism and effective remediation. Our experience confirms that our universities can remain the best in the world only if our society finds ways to assure that our schools, particularly in urban areas, prepare students for academic success in rigorous collegiate programs of study. That challenge is central to the mission of the Nellie Mae Foundation. I could not have imagined that I would have the rare opportunity to help create an organization so perfectly aligned with my professional experience and the issue I'm most passionately concerned about at this time in my life.
Nevertheless, this decision was difficult and sad for me personally. I love this University, its mission, its leaders and its students. Every achievement of the past seven years is attributable to the extraordinary faculty, staff and administrators who work every day to "help our students achieve their educational goals." Looking back to the beginnings of our recovery from the earthquake, it is remarkable how far we have come. It would have been even more remarkable, to be sure, if we had not made any mistakes along the way. My only regrets are that I will not be here to see the last buildings completed and that I will not have had as much time with you as I would have liked.
It is important to note that the strategic directions the campus has defined for itself are totally congruent with the system's Cornerstones project and the priorities of the Chancellor. That gives me confidence that CSUN's broad leadership cadre, the Strategic Planning Governance Group, the Faculty Senate and Goal Teams will be able to continue to advance the University's strategic priorities without significant changes in direction. With the support of Chancellor Reed and the guidance of my staff and Executive Team, I hope to effect a smooth transition in leadership between now and the end of the semester.
During the next several months I will take every opportunity available to me to convey my profound gratitude, pride and confidence in each of you in a more personal way. In the meantime, please accept my best wishes for the continued success of this extraordinary community and for the well-being of faculty, staff and administrators whose vision and commitment will ensure its promising future.
Blenda J. Wilson