My conversations with the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members were replete with reflections on the extraordinary quality of our academic programs, research, scholarly, and creative endeavors. I heard about the care and personalized attention that our faculty provide to our students that facilitate potential, unlock academic capacity, and help our students pursue meaningful career pathways. I heard about our innovative, nationally ranked programs and about CSUN graduates being exceptionally well-prepared for the workforce and graduate study. I heard great pride in the foundational curriculum that fosters civic engagement, intellectual agility, and the ability to thrive in a richly diverse and global context.
I heard about cutting-edge research that advances knowledge in service of the public good and the cultivation of inquiry, discovery, and creative activity that ignites curiosity, captures imagination, and illustrates the wonderment of the human experience. Many expressed the value of our physical location in the heart of the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles communities as an often untapped strategic asset for interdisciplinary research that has the ability to drive the future of our innovation economy and serve as a social and intellectual resource to the communities we are so proud to serve.
Across the colleges, I heard about many extraordinary interdisciplinary collaborations, including the Autonomy Research Center for STEAHM and within our BUILD-PODER program. I heard about the academic centers, institutes, and programs supporting our communities, including the VITA Clinic, the Marilyn Magaram Center, the HERE Center, the Tom and Ethel Bradley Center, the Institute for Community Health and Wellbeing, and, of course, Strength United. I heard novel examples of faculty across campus engaging in research and mentorship to advance equity, including the HSI Pathways to the Professoriate, the U-RISE program, and many more examples of academic quality nestled in a genuine sense of care for our students.
Several faculty members expressed concern that we have not implemented structures, policies, and resources that could catalyze the transformational research efforts that are happening on campus in ways that profoundly impact our local and global communities. Others shared a sense of confusion around the expectations of our teacher-scholar model and a sense that the university has changed in the past several decades, but faculty have not had a clear discussion about their vision for academic excellence into the future. For some, an expanded research focus is a vital aspect of our commitment to academic excellence and a critical next step in realizing our future and meeting the needs of our communities. For others, there is concern that an expansion of research, creative, and scholarly activity will diminish our access mission and commitment to advancing equity.
WHAT I’M THINKING:
Academic excellence requires ongoing investment in hiring additional faculty, diversifying our faculty ranks, and providing opportunities for research and creative activities that allow our students to think more deeply about the world and value the ideals of evidence-based reasoning and peer-reviewed scholarship that serves the public interest. If we are to realize our future, we will need to continue to invest in our academic programs and ensure that our faculty have the technology, tools, and physical infrastructure they need to continue to innovate and respond to emerging societal needs and advance student success. It is clear that we have some work to do in facilitating a broader discussion about the vision that faculty have for the future of our academic mission and greater clarity regarding a teacher-scholar model that serves our region and the future of California and beyond.