Throughout my discussions on campus, I heard an unwavering commitment to our students and their success. I heard about inquiry and discovery in our classrooms, labs, and studios, as well as about the new technology frontiers making processes easier for students and the employee-funded scholarships easing our students’ financial obligations. A commitment to facilitating our students’ educational goals, intellectual promise, career aspirations, and future as engaged global citizens was regularly mentioned as points of pride and motivation by our faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.
I heard about the strength of our co-curricular programming and the holistic approach to the learning experience that stimulates engagement and facilitates a sense of belonging for our students. I heard about Unified We Serve, the Student Recreation Center, and the Matador Involvement Center. I heard about the meal from the Pantry that helped a student through finals, unfortunately more than once. I heard about the care and compassion of our University Counseling Center — and that we need more counselors. I heard about the magnificent grounds that provide a welcoming environment conducive to learning and the Wi-Fi and laptop programs that support our students struggling with the expansive digital divide. I heard about the varied student employment opportunities on our campus that help buttress our students’ preparedness for future careers, and I heard about the smiles exchanged in passing on the sidewalks that turned a rough day into a day of potential.
I heard countless reflections on our students’ resilience and determination and an upswell of pride in watching them flourish beyond our doors. Many faculty and staff expressed a desire to expand hands-on, immersive, and interdisciplinary learning opportunities that help our students value the ideals of evidence-based decision making and think more deeply about the world. Others shared the viewpoint that, as a large, urban university with many commuting students, CSUN would benefit from expanded opportunities to build a sense of belonging through increased participation in community, cultural, performing arts, and athletic events. Multiple campus constituencies expressed pride in our strong history of advancing student success, ensuring that our incoming students successfully transition to CSUN and removing barriers to degree completion.
And while I heard pride in what we have accomplished to this point, I also heard a sense of urgency for ensuring all of our students have the tools they need to be successful and a call for redoubling our efforts to eliminate equity gaps. Many members of the campus community, including the students, urged an expansion of data-informed initiatives to ensure that all of our students have the support, courses, and advising they need to facilitate timely graduation and others urged expanded attention to digital equity, mental health, and basic needs.
Several groups I met with expressed a desire to better embed our student success efforts in a growth mindset that emphasizes the strength, potential, and intellectual capacity of our students as an asset to be celebrated. I also heard desires to more fully express our identity as a Minority, Hispanic, and aspiring Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, and to weave these identities into our focus on eliminating equity gaps and ensuring timely graduation for all of our students.
WHAT I’M THINKING:
California is facing an unprecedented shortage in the number of baccalaureate degrees needed to fuel the future of our innovation economy. We know that individuals who hold college degrees are more likely to vote, volunteer, and become civically engaged members of their communities. CSUN serves as one of the greatest facilitators of social mobility in the nation. With the campus’ unwavering commitment to serving our richly diverse student body, I am confident that we can serve as an equity-centered model for the future of higher education, one which truly meets the needs of today’s diverse student body and provides our communities with the inclusive leaders it needs to advance civic engagement and future economic vitality.