Across every corner of the university, I heard a singular commitment to serving a richly diverse student population across every dimension of identity and lived experience and a deep pride in CSUN’s history of advancing racial and social justice. Individuals across the campus celebrated the depth of our academic and scholarly work that continues to advance understanding of the real histories and lived experiences of diverse populations including our Queer Studies, Armenian Studies, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Gender & Women’s Studies, and Jewish Studies. I heard about Asian American Studies, American Indian Studies, our pride in being the only Central American and Transborder Studies program in the nation, and about The Storm at Valley State that led to the establishment of today’s Africana Studies and Chicana/o Studies departments.
Many shared how our faculty and staff across the campus have worked tirelessly to ensure that our students have a sense of identity and critical consciousness and experience a sense of belonging as they pursue their greatest educational aspirations, for themselves, for their families, and for their communities. I heard appreciation from the students in these programs including EOP, AIMS2, and Project Rebound. I heard about our cultural houses and centers, including the Pride Center, the Veterans Resource Center, the Dream Center, the Black House, Glenn Omatsu House, and so many more. I heard about our commitment to providing a welcoming environment for people of all abilities, such as our vibrant community of Deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
In addition to the sense of pride in what we have accomplished, I also heard an urgent need to align this work across the institution, make it more visible, and amplify our collective commitment to inclusive excellence. Many shared the need for an equity road map for the future — one that aligns this work with our core values and operationalizes our shared definitions — and ensures that equity is embedded into every operation and at every level. Many voices emphasized that inclusive excellence is a collective responsibility to be enacted across every corner of the campus and requires prioritization, resources, and an assessment of progress.
I heard a clear call to action in ensuring that the richness of diversity that our students bring to campus is reflected in our faculty, staff, and administrative leadership. In my conversations with students, they expressed the imperative for more diverse faculty, staff, and administrators who serve as role models, facilitate a sense of belonging and serve as evidence of equity to which the campus is committed. In my discussions with our colleagues of color, I saw clear evidence of cultural taxation and a deep desire that we lead the future we wish to see in the world by starting on campus. Several campus constituencies expressed concerns about a deficit mindset and emphasized the need to cultivate equity-minded practitioners across campus to advance a shared vision for equity and inclusion, embracing the aspirational capital that our students bring to our campus community.
In the broadest terms, I heard a recognition that our future success across every dimension of our mission is dependent upon how well we value, engage, include, and serve the rich diversity of our campus community.
WHAT I’M THINKING:
Inclusive excellence is at the very core of my leadership values and, in my view, is inextricably linked to academic excellence. This reflects the understanding that we have a moral imperative of ensuring all members of our campus feel valued and engaged and that a just and equitable campus delivers higher quality learning experiences for our students and a more positive work environment for our employees. Decades of research tells us that diverse teams are more innovative, strategic, and effective than homogenous ones. I strive every day to challenge my own thinking to ensure it is grounded in equity and that evidence of our commitment to inclusive excellence can be found in every corner of our academic community.
Hearing a shared commitment from thousands of students, faculty, staff, and community members in these last few months has filled me with optimism for our collective future. It is clear that our campus is comprised of the leaders we need to advance equity, justice, and belonging on campus and beyond.