President's Office

2016 Fifth Annual Welcome Address

President’s Annual Welcome Address

"Raising the Bar Higher to Lift Our Students"

Dianne F. Harrison, President
Valley Performing Arts Center, August 25, 2016, 9 a.m.

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Related Links:
Download a printer-friendly copy of the address (PDF)
Pre-address slideshow presentation • Video of the full address •  "CSUN 2015-16 Year in Review" video

Below is the full prepared text for President Harrison’s address. Note that portions of the address were abbreviated during the delivery in the interest of time.

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Thank you, Adam, and thank you, Sevag, for your inspiring remarks. Good morning and welcome back everyone!

I want to thank Adam for introducing our guests in the audience.

I would also like to acknowledge Officers Virgil Messmore and K9 Daisy, our newest addition to our K9 unit.

Let me also acknowledge one other person: seated with our guests at front to my right is my husband, John Wujack.

Before I begin, I want us to take a few minutes to remember our 14 colleagues and friends who passed away this last year. I ask we have a moment of silence together to honor their memories and important contributions to the university.

Thank you.


As we begin a new academic year, I want to express my appreciation to all of you for your continued commitment and contributions. Your work has led to a measurable rise in CSUN’s reputation and visibility. You saw many of these achievements in the slideshow that was playing when you came in and you will hear of more during my remarks. And these are just a few of our achievements this past year. We have hundreds! That’s a great problem to have – sort of like naming your favorite child. So, if this address is too long, you can take partial credit because of your achievements. But when one person, department or unit achieves, we all achieve! Again, I appreciate your efforts to advance the success of our students and the mission of the university. I am privileged to work with such a group of committed colleagues focused on our shared priorities and goals.

While I have been impressed by the productivity and innovation that has come from so many of you as we have moved forward the past four years, this is not a time to coast on our status quo: We have built a strong foundation for CSUN, but now we must re-double our efforts. More is expected of all of us, and much more than in the past. We are expected to significantly raise our FTF four- and six-year completion rates, with comparable progress for FTT, and eliminate the achievement gap. We have the strength, talent and dedication to continue our achievements and reach new heights.

All of the CSU campuses and, indeed, universities all over the U.S. are being asked to graduate students in a timely manner and demonstrate that students have specific competencies when they graduate.

With a changing public and legislative climate comes tremendous opportunity. Many of you – CSUN’s faculty and staff – have demonstrated leadership and determination to move us forward in support of our students. Now we need to assess our best and most promising strategies and scale those evidence-based programs in a more urgent and unrelenting manner. We have demonstrated our commitment to excellence in many ways throughout campus. We need to do that more consistently in our pedagogies, in our advisement and other support services, in data based decisions and tracking, and our refinement of strategies for retention, college completion, and eliminating achievement gaps.

We need to act with energy, commitment and accountability for all of us. We do not need to reinvent new wheels – there is ample evidence from other efforts nationally about what works and we have some our own evidence.

We are also in a presidential election year that is unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes and many of the issues reflect anxiety about where our country is headed, compounded by the tensions over the past year raised by too many shootings, income inequalities and racial strife. A recent nationwide survey by the Panetta Institute for Public Policy found that 55 percent of college students feel the country is on the wrong track – compared to 43 percent who felt that way a year ago – and 73 percent believe it will be harder for their generation to enjoy the same quality of life as their parents.

We should remember, however, that universities like CSUN are the key to giving students and the greater community the educational and intellectual resources needed to shape a society that is educated, tolerant, and well equipped to thrive in a world that seems increasingly fast-paced and changing. So I thank you in advance for working with me to raise the bar for the university, so that we can give our students the high quality education they need to succeed.

At CSUN our efforts are framed by our seven priorities, which I will use to discuss the university’s achievements, challenges and opportunities.

If you are new, these seven shared priorities are listed on the inside front cover of your program, and were developed from existing, ongoing efforts and campus documents we have been committed to for several years.

Requests for funding, staffing, or anything else need to be justified in the context of these priorities. And your support and commitment to these priorities – as the faculty, staff, and administrators of the university – are essential to CSUN’s success in serving our students and in engaging our communities, donors, alumni, elected officials and the public.

Today, I’ll need to spend a bit more time on a few of the priorities to talk about the important work in front of us – particularly Student Success. This means that I will only be able to provide brief highlights on some of the rest. I do not want you to think that the other priorities are not important – it just means that I needed to “economize” my remarks to ensure we were not here for four hours. Fuller descriptions and text will be available online at the Office of the President website.

Student Success

The priority that drives all our other efforts and all other priorities is student success. It is because of our students and the promise and potential they represent that all of us and the university are here. Student success at CSUN means access, retention, inclusive excellence, and timely completion.

This past spring, a record 11,120 students were eligible to graduate. We currently estimate 40,128 students this fall, including approximately 9,000 new freshmen and transfer students and almost 30,000 continuing students. I am frustrated like many of you and our communities by the requirement to admit fewer students, but overjoyed by the strong retention of our existing students. And even with our added impaction strategies, the proportion of under-represented students appears to be remaining steady and we will continue to track this. Our average unit loads are up slightly. Now I want to highlight a few of our academic achievements of which you can be proud.

  • Last fall, our 10-person Model U.N. team maintained its national reputation for excellence by earning the overall title of Outstanding Delegation as well as several individual honors. My congratulations to the entire team led by advisor, Political Science Professor Jennifer De Maio.
  • Last year, CSUN participated for the first time in the prestigious Clinton Global Initiative University, in order to engage the next generation of college student leaders around the world in finding innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Under the guidance of Dean Beth Say and faculty mentor Professor Kenneth Luna, CSUN sent a team of 12 students to the meeting. One of our students, Frida Herrera, a nutrition and dietetics major and the founder of “Let’s Grow Healthy,” a community gardening initiative through the Marilyn Magaram Center working in partnership with CSUN’s Institute of Community Health and Wellbeing, was selected from among 133 proposals to expand her program in the community.
  • In the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, the Cinema and Television Arts Department was listed by Variety as one of the top 40 “Schools on the Move” in the country, and once again has been included on The Hollywood Reporter’s list of the Top 25 Film Schools. Music is also ranked by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the Top 25 music schools.
  • Two CSUN students have been appointed to important statewide bodies by Governor Brown. Associated Students’ new Attorney General, Christian Rubalcava was appointed by Governor Brown to the California Student Aid Commission; and last year’s A.S. President – JorgeReyes Salinas – was named as the new student trustee on the CSU Board of Trustees! Jorgejoins our own Professor Steven Stepanek on the Board – who was reappointed by the Governor last year for a second two-year term. CSUN is truly on a roll!

These successes, of course, are deserving accomplishments by talented, smart young leaders (and Steven Stepanek, one more mature Matador) who we have been privileged to have on campus. We take great pride in their achievements and they show the kind of opportunities CSUN gives to students.

  • Another opportunity is the Bull Ring Challenge, CSUN’s version of the popular Shark Tank. In spring 2016, the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, in partnership with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (or LACI@CSUN), gave 60 student teams an opportunity to “fast pitch” their ideas to business leaders. A proposal from a team called Vibe Probiotics took the top prize of $25,000 for its venture to deliver a healthy mix of probiotics and electrolytes while at the same time battling malnutrition and dehydration in children around the world.
  • CSUN held its second annual AppJam Showcase Competition, led by the Division of Information Technology, that allows students the opportunity to develop a mobile app that is student focused.
  • And in recognition of the fast-moving nature of new technologies and the needs of our students, the Oviatt Library expanded its Creative Media Studio to include 3D printing for students starting this semester.

Innovative and engaging programs like these truly help raise the bar for students. And they are the kind of innovative ideas and plans we need to scale for all our students across campus, including those who need guidance and encouragement in adjusting to the demands and rigors of college-level work.

  • One such program is ExCEL, which stands for Experience Confidence and Enjoyment in Learning. A collaboration led by Professors Mark Stevens from Educational Psychology and Counseling and Kate Stevenson, Mathematics. ExCEL provides students with integrated strategies to improve academic self-confidence in developmental math courses. Over the first two pilot semesters the program targeted about 400 students in the lowest level developmental mathematics course. Results? ExCEL completely eliminated the achievement gap among students while raising overall passage rates by 15 percent. An expanded version of the program will be offered in Fall 2016.
  • Another incredible effort is Matador Momentum, which is part of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ Re-Imagining the First Year Initiative. The leadership team, led by Professor Cheryl Spector, consists of faculty, students, and administrators, and has led to a cadre of near and long term strategies to help us move forward.

Efforts like these are important to CSUN’s future. Demands on us to demonstrate measurable progress are not going away.

We have been and remain committed to the CSU System’s Graduation Initiative 2025 goals. A few weeks ago, the Chancellor’s Office provided us new goals for CSUN as part of the initiative.

As you can see in the numbers on the screen behind me, there is much work to be done and the stakes are high. Of course, we have annual goals to get us to 2025, and Provost Li, Vice President Watkins, and the deans have plans to achieve these goals, involving scaling up some of the programs I just mentioned and adding some new, innovative approaches tested on other campuses and adjusted for our needs. I have seen what you can do and today the university will need your commitment and hard work, and we have the analytics to help us measure and assess our progress.

I want to particularly call your attention to the four- and two-year graduation rate goals for FTF and FTT. These are receiving more attention than ever from the Governor, the Department of Finance, state legislators, and Congress. We know that many of our students of opportunity are challenged to complete their education in what is considered the “traditional” amount of time it takes to graduate. Two-thirds of our students need to work to support themselves and, in many cases, their families.

But we should not assume that at least a third and more of our students cannot rise to achieve these goals. We have been remiss in not giving more attention and resources to those who can complete their studies in four years, or two for transfers. Of course, we will continue to support and serve our entire population, including all of our students who may continue to take longer, but our efforts must also include those who can focus on a more aggressive timeline. In fact, the state has earmarked $35 million in one-time funds for the CSU for such efforts.

At CSUN, we need to question some of our assumptions about our students’ capacities to meet high expectations and not encourage or advise less. We need to meet all our students where they are… those of first generation, those from underrepresented groups, those who are underprepared, and all those students in these and other groups ready, willing and able to succeed in four years.

Certainly, we have some stretch goals – but we can and will meet them. We have a moral and professional obligation to meet them for our students. Until and unless the state reinvests in the CSU, the burden will fall on students and we need to do all we can to help students graduate, graduate sooner and in larger numbers. And not by lessening quality or lowering standards.

I am going off script for a minute: We have all seen the CSU survey on the numbers of students who are hungry and/or homeless. CSUN is not standing still on these issues. This fall, we will open an expanded food pantry for students and be working with the County of L.A. and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office and the city to offer temporary housing options for students who are homeless.

Dr. Janet Oh, interim director of Institutional Research, is disseminating data tools to identify results at the course level so we can magnify progress and redesign courses or sections that represent roadblocks to too many students. And under the leadership of Vice President Baker, Associate Vice President Ben Quillian, and Director of Data and Analytics Helen Heinrich in IT, the student success dashboards are becoming robust and user friendly. Please take advantage of these tools in designing change strategies and knowing where they need to be applied.

To help guide this process, Provost Li and Vice President William Watkins have developed in consultation with the deans and the Student Retention and Graduation Committee, a set of “Guiding Principles, Practices and Priorities for Student Success Initiatives” that provides a framework for the broad range of student success strategies that currently exist or may be developed CSUN. Among its principles:

  • The importance of faculty in affecting change through their relationships with students and making changes in curriculum, course delivery, and technology based on data.
  • Avoiding discouraging language that marginalizes students or suggest they are at risk, and to focus on strengths and degree completion rather than deficiencies and failure.
  • And providing a clear academic path and degree plans to degree completion.

Above all, these guiding principles allow the university to be responsive and nimble in a time of urgency and opportunity; we need to adjust or rebuild our CSUN student success plane while we are in flight.

This includes, of course, a focus on the retention of students – year to year – as retention leads to graduation. These numbers are rising, so it’s going in the right direction. To further move this needle, Dr. Elizabeth Adams, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies, in conjunction with the provost, have implemented specific retention strategies, including calling students who have dropped out, but who have markers for academic success and encouraging their return. We all play a part in this as well.

Our efforts outside the classroom are also critical for student success. The out of class student experience enhances and advances the overall student experience. Over the past year, we have done some outstanding work. Including:

  • Opening a real Dream Center at the USU and expansion of our Veteran and Pride Centers. We refurbished the Black House.
  • We did an upgrade to the Matador Bookstore, now known as the CSUN Campus Store, that will be celebrated with an official grand opening in early October.
  • We have mobile app updates to include Matador Safety Patrol and, added to registration, we have bill paying online.
  • Our Valley Performing Arts Center, of course, plays an important cultural role for the community, but it also is an opportunity to keep our students engaged. We are doing innovative work here too, with world class performers, as well as greater opportunities for faculty and students to perform on stage.
    • VPAC also has many collaborations with A.S. and the USU to bring celebrities to the stage, including Operation Comedy and Soledad O’Brien (and George Takei this coming year!).
    • The student-run VPAC Inside Out allowed student access to VPAC lobby during daytime hours, both as a quiet study area and for occasional student performances.
    • And while I am speaking of community supporters, let me give also a shout out to our campus-based radio station KCSN – which recently received an incredible endorsement from Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr, who specifically named 88.5 KCSN as the radio station he listens to in L.A. in an interview with Bloomberg Business Week. For KCSN’s general manager, Sky Daniels, that was icing on the cake, since the other surviving Beatle, Paul McCartney, called him out of the blue in 2014 to thank him for the station’s outstanding and eclectic playlist. In addition to these Beatles, we have countless station listeners who we will be enlisting to support CSUN.

Now I would like to offer us some challenges to consider. Earlier I mentioned the excitement for the Matador Momentum program, which is primarily first-year oriented. I believe we need to have a campus wide Matador Momentum campaign (one with "Matatude") symbolizing to students and faculty and staff that we have a laser focus on student success; that our campaign and efforts have campus wide buy-in (not just from a small group here or there or just from the president or cabinet or deans) but from students, faculty, staff, department chairs, deans, and from every single division on campus. We will be united and public in updating, designing and implementing strategies that will result in greater student success – whether this is at the course or section level, at the overall curriculum level in the majors, in re-evaluating General Education (has it been a decade already since this was done?); in our advising; in our interactions with students in areas and offices that are most frequently visited by students like the Student Services Counter in Bayramian Hall; and parking and police services – to name a few – and in all of our communications (both written and oral) with students.

If you want to know where our points of vulnerability are - ask our students, look at our data and surveys. Here is what I have learned from students on where we can progress:

  1. classes where faculty only lecture and use PowerPoint are seen as old school and boring;
  2. majors that do not include 21st century thinking and refinement;
  3. professors that do ask students their names or what a student prefers to be called;
  4. professors in their department who do not look like them or relate to them as students of color or as a woman or LGBTQ person who brings different lived experiences to the learning environment;
  5. classes and bus schedules that do not connect or work together;
  6. administrators who "blow" off or ignore complaints about their students' experiences;

And so on.

These are all areas that we can improve and fix. If we are teaching, advising, or serving our students the same way we did 5,10, 15, or, heaven forbid, 20 years ago, we need to wake up and experience this new generation of students and their preferences and needs.

I know that these critical comments from students do not reflect all of the incredible work that we do and the thousands of positive interactions we have every day with our students. But imagine if we can adjust and attend to these voiced concerns. How many more students can be successful?

I do hear about and get communications from students and parents who rave positively about particular faculty and their extra efforts and great teaching. And offices where one staff member, advisor or associate dean or dean or AVP went out of their way to help solve a problem and make a difference. I try and communicate with and thank all of you who have been commended for great service to our students. Keep it up and thank you again. I would not be upset if by your help in making a difference, I needed to write thousands of more emails to acknowledge your efforts. Please make me do it.

Now we need to move to create Matador Momentum campus wide. It will take each and everyone of us and I look forward to our progress in reaching our goals.

Focus on Employees for Success

I have spent considerable time on Student Success and appropriately so – it should drive virtually everything we do on campus. But we are also a community of 4000 employees who need support and development opportunities too, especially as we commit to raising the bar for ourselves. That is why the university’s second priority is the Focus on Employees for Success. All of us deserve to have a welcoming and supportive work environment, partly because your success and commitment are the keys to our students’ success. Some of our continuing work in this area include:

  • A robust catalog of personal and professional development opportunities and this year’s offerings look better than ever. Please utilize the resources available to you to continue to grow and engage with your colleagues. I’ve invited HR to share their calendar of the upcoming programs in the lobby. I want to encourage you to attend these training opportunities and use skills you learn so that we are always in a stronger position to support our students and the university’s mission.
  • The Help Make CSUN Shine Bright program (an inclusive excellence opportunity where everyone has a voice) continues to be a success thanks to your participation and input. This past year, we solicited feedback and ideas from the campus community on parking and the dining experience. And, partly based on the feedback you provided in back in Fall 2013, last year we officially became a completely smoke- and tobacco-free campus! My thanks to the committee’s co-chairs for their continuing leadership to implement the policy: Linda Reid-Chassiakos, director of the Klotz Student Health Center; Ken Rosenthal, Associate Vice President for Facilities Planning; and Diane Schwartz, professor of Computer Science, who were also the winners of the Jolene Koester Team Award at the Staff Service and Recognition of Excellence Awards Ceremony.
  • The Staff Holiday and Summer celebrations have continued to grow, showing a steady increase in participation since they debuted, almost 3000 participants a year in total. It is great fun and if you haven’t attended, you are missing out!
  • I am also pleased that our faculty and staff received salary increases. In my estimation, we have more work to do here, but we have shown positive progress nonetheless. Investment in our employees also leads to an investment in our students.
  • Finally, there is one specific employee achievement I must acknowledge: for the second consecutive year, a CSUN employee was recognized by the CSU with the system’s highest honor for faculty and staff – the Wang Family Excellence Award, which is presented to four faculty and one staff person in the system each year. This past year, our own Debra Hammond, director of the University Student Union, was honored with the staff award by the Chancellor and Board of Trustees.

While our ongoing activities and events of recognition and celebration are important and will continue, this year we plan to undertake a comprehensive initiative designed to enhance the everyday experience for employees. We know that one of the biggest impacts in the workplace for an employee is their supervisor. They set the tone and direction and are responsible to create an environment where we can accomplish our work and achieve our goals. It is therefore critical that we articulate the principles – or qualities – we believe are necessary for supervisors to carry out their work.

To this end, a committee has undertaken a thoughtful process to define leadership principles at CSUN. With support from campus-wide leadership, these principles – with definitions and examples - will be included in position descriptions, recruitment tools, and evaluation criteria to better define CSUN’s “leadership bar,” one that is both aspirational and inspirational. Our employees’ experiences in the workplace – especially as it relates to their supervisors – is important to me and the Cabinet, and crucial to the success of employees and our students.

Last year, while speaking on the topic of employee success, I also spoke about social justice and our need to ensure that our faculty and staff reflect the diversity of our students and are sensitive to and understand the needs and lived experiences of our students. This priority continues at the center of our hiring and retention radars.

I am pleased to share that during this last year, we have exponentially accelerated the pace at which we are using diversity and inclusion to provide all our students with the very best of a 21st century education.

Decades of research tells us that, when properly managed, diversity produces educational benefits for all our students. However, what is ignored on many campuses nation-wide is the “when properly managed” part of this statement. While other campuses may be, however, unintentionally, willing to overlook the catalytic power of their student diversity, at CSUN, we will intentionally and systemically put it to use as a positive force for change in every aspect of what we do. In fact, there are colleagues all over campus already doing so.

  • For example, we are cultivating a diverse cadre of next generation STEM leadership through the $22 million dollar BUILD-PODER Grant from the National Institutes of Health.
  • Our own MariaElena Zavala, Professor of Biology in the College of Science and Mathematics, has long been a champion and model throughout her career for what can be achieved through a commitment to diversity and inclusion. In recognition both of her work and her contributions to her discipline, this past spring, Dr. Zavala was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Plant Biology – only .02 percent of members are Fellows and she is the only Latina member to be elected to date.
  • And CSUN was selected by the Association of Public Land Grant Universities and Urban Serving Universities to participate in its first-ever pilot project to map campus diversity assets and programs. By participating in this project, we will have an up-to-date picture of our strengths and growth areas when it comes to diversity and inclusion as well as a sense of how we compare to other institutions in this regard.

CSUN’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, launching this fall, will be instrumental in administering the APLU/USU Assessment Pilot and putting its results to use elevating our diversity and inclusion efforts. Appointments for Commission membership, which includes community members, faculty, staff and students, are in process today! I thank all of you in advance who have volunteered their service to be part of the commission. The interest and response has been overwhelming and gratifying.

The will to “live” our values of collaboration, inclusion, and diversity is widespread. What other campuses, may lack, we have in abundance, leaders for change, who are intrinsically motivated to leverage our collective diversity as a tool to achieve what we all care about most – empowering students to thrive in an interconnected, rapidly changing, culturally complex landscape. We also have faculty, staff and students pushing us and willing to work with us to move forward.

The hiring of our Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Raji Rhys will help us connect diverse minds on and off campus, so we can together coordinate our actions and co-create the innovative solutions to pressing challenges such as our enduring achievement gap.

I challenge all of us to be even more authentic, and live our values, by taking part in professional development or other learning endeavors so we can put diversity to work as our norm. At CSUN, excellence through diversity and inclusion will be the default, not the exception. And it is not just Raji’s responsibility. We all need to own and be accountable for our intentions and outcomes.

In this vein, I commend our faculty search committees on their work last year building candidate pools that were much more reflective of the national availability of talent than ever before. I know this requires a focused effort engaging in pro-active recruiting, incorporating evidence-based best practices for successful searches, and more. Your efforts are appreciated. Our collective and continued efforts are critical because we know that a diverse, high talent faculty is more innovative, productive, and resilient than a homogenous one.

Students nationally are calling for diversity authenticity. We need to do more to bring our values to life in this regard. I know these conversations can be challenging and cause anxiety, and take skill and courage. Our administrators and staff and faculty are offering opportunities to strengthen the skills we need to constructively take part in these types of discussions. I am optimistic that CSUN will work collaboratively across all of our perspectives to move us forward and that we will continue to lead in this area.

As you know, the seven planning priorities we developed together as a campus community serve as a guide for virtually every aspect of what we do, from decisions about curriculum to community engagement, and from the initiatives we put in place for everything from employee success to fundraising.

We recognize that Diversity and Inclusion, like Student Success, is infused in all that we do.

Thus, following feedback from many employees and students, and intensive discussion among the Cabinet and Extended Cabinet, and in recognition of the importance of CSUN’s distinctive diversity and inclusion related assets and capabilities and as a cross-cutting driver across all seven priorities and all aspects of our mission, Diversity and Inclusion will be added as a NEW campus priority, and integrated into each of the other priorities.

We will also integrate into all of our priorities another core goal of our mission, Community Engagement. Community engagement reflects our responsibility as an urban serving university to be stewards of place. We bring the community in through committees, cultural arts programs, classes, athletics and the like, as much as we go out into the community through activities like service learning projects, research and internships.

By incorporating these new emphases, we will increase educational innovations and accelerate our progress towards achieving what I know we all care about most – empowering our students for 21st century success.

We have created a mindmap, of sorts, to illustrate. Student Success is in the center of all we do, with the other priorities supporting – and interconnecting – to build on each other and connect to our community. And Diversity and Inclusive Excellence is the foundation and encircles it all as a cohesive bond for our work. Look for an update by October 1 of the university priorities on the President’s Office website.

Image of Student Success Mindmap

May I also express appreciation for the design of this mindmap to Dean Joyce Feucht-Haviar and Rika Toyama Gaines of the Tseng College. You guys are great!

Increasing the visibility and reputation of the university

Increasing the visibility and reputation of the university. I have said before, this priority is not simply about accolades or being validated, though these are good too. It is also about earning a strong reputation that attracts the best faculty and students. All the success we have in our other priorities and in our everyday work in advancing the excellence of students and serving the community play a role in raising the profile of CSUN and having future employers recognize the value of a CSUN degree.

Accomplishments related to the visibility and reputation of the university include:

  • This spring the CHIME Institute’s K-8 Schwarzenegger Community School was named again as the 2016 Hart Vision Charter School of the Year by the California Charter Schools Association. In awarding the honor, the Associate commended the school for its believe that “the school serves as a model for educators through its partnership with CSUN’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education and the Los Angeles Unified School District.”
  • We also just learned this week that Erica Lynn Rood, a teacher at CSUN’s CHIME Charter School, has been selected to receive a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The award includes a $10,000 award from NSF and a citation signed by President Obama.
  • Tseng’s College of Extended Learning, under the leadership of Dean Joyce Feucht-Haviar, moved into its new building earlier this month, aptly named the Extended University Commons, which embodies CSUN’s commitment to graduate, international and midcareer education, as well as in applied research and research relationships with regional, national and international employers. The new space will respond to changing modes of research, teaching and learning in the years ahead and, as importantly, will provide much-needed additional classroom space to Academic Affairs and meeting spaces for community groups on campus.
  • Speaking of new facilities, the University Corporation, under the leadership of its Executive Director, Rick Evans, recently purchased and renovated a new annex building for CSUN on Reseda Boulevard, that also serves as another face for the university to the external community. It is now the home of our Alumni Relations office in the community, the multidisciplinary Center for Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, and CSUN’s L.A. Cleantech Incubator. The building gives CSUN a prominent presence in the community. We now have a true face on Reseda Boulevard.

I already mentioned the importance of the Valley Performing Arts Center to the success of our students – this world-class venue also plays an important role as another face or porch for the university to the community by offering diverse programming that enriches all of our lives and cultural horizons. Underscoring the great work the Center has done, the L.A. Weekly included the Valley Performing Arts Center on its “Best of L.A.” list last year and it was ranked third nationally among performing arts centers on campuses. This year, VPAC will be offering new student discounts for students, making it even more financially accessible for students.

All of the successes we have in our other priorities and in our everyday work in advancing the excellence of students and serving the community play a role in raising the profile of CSUN and, most importantly, having future employers recognize the value of a CSUN degree.

Plan for a future less dependent on state funding

Vice President Rob Gunsalus and his entire Advancement team have done well this past year to support our university priorities and faculty and students. We had another strong year in private fundraising:

  • CSUN received $19 million in total new gift commitments and saw continued increase in the total number of donors, including undergraduate alumni donors, over the past year.
  • Also on our project list is a proposed on-campus hotel, in which we will partner with an established business-class hotel brand. The project will not only bring some dollars to the campus, but also, more importantly, support the many events and programs that connect the university with students and their families, alumni, and the academic and business communities. The hotel construction will be fully funded by the developer. No state funds will be used.


I should add that our plans include ensuring that the university’s existing orange grove, along with the beautiful trees and ponds, will be preserved! We will still have it and enjoy it, and be able to donate 17,000 pounds of oranges a year to the Food Bank! We will also preserve the legacy of the Faculty Club with a facility that is modern, ADA compliant, and seismically up to code for our guests and visitors. Faculty are active and helpful members of the planning and selection team.

Increasing Research Activity and Sponsored Programs

In addition to teaching, research, scholarship and creative activity are among the core missions of any university, and such activities serve to advance the community and our greater society. They also benefit students by giving them access to cutting edge knowledge, research and creative activity, and providing them with opportunities to engage in hands-on learning and paid opportunities to support their education. Such efforts engage students in learning and scholarship, and promote their success. Under Associate Vice President Khachikian’s leadership, we will continue to encourage and incentivize faculty to employ students in their research and creative activity projects.

  • We should be proud of the great strides we have made in increasing research activity and sponsored programs. After making significant investments in our infrastructure and tools to enhance our research enterprise on campus, we received grant awards totaling $35 million in 2015-16, an increase of $4 million or 13 percent over the previous year.
  • In fact, our efforts are already being noticed: In one of the biggest news of the year for us already, we learned two weeks ago that Nature magazine had CSUN ranked among the top 25 in its 2016 index of Rising Stars in science, along with respected and elite institutions like Stanford, Michigan, Penn, NASA, and Columbia University. We were the only CSU campus listed and the only public institution in California. All because of the remarkable and significant work of our faculty in the College of Science and Mathematics. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
  • We also have somewhere between 2000-3000 undergraduate students involved in research. We need to get a concrete number and build goals to increase from there. But we are increasing and thank you!
  • To encourage future growth, we have organized scholar academies led by faculty coaches – one such academy has already successfully resulted in awardees for the National Science Foundation’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. My thanks to Provost Li and Associate Vice President Crist Khachikian for leading these efforts. We remain committed to working with faculty coaches and mentors to promote interdisciplinary, high quality research and grantsmanship across campus.
  • Through Faculty Affairs, as part of its Strategic Hiring Initiative, CSUN launched the Cluster Hire Initiative, that allows us to hire clusters of faculty into multiple departments and colleges as a way to successfully bring on board a critical mass of interdisciplinary faculty. Cluster hiring will allow us to foster interdisciplinary collaborations, launch new initiatives, broaden engagement with the community, and enhance diversity and inclusivity. This spring the Provost announced cluster proposals in three areas – Materials Science, Health and Health Disparities, and Water Resources – involving the colleges of Science and Mathematics, Health and Human Development, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. The final approval and recruitment for the cluster faculty hires are scheduled for this fall, and we are excited by the possibilities these new hires will bring to campus.
  • In support of these efforts, CSUN is also now moving forward to build a new 10,000 square foot research building that will house the clusters and other important programs like BUILD-PODER. Its expected opening is Fall 2017 and we look forward to the potential this new facility will have to support our expectations in this area.
  • And I want to acknowledge the many graduate students that are part of our university community. They come to us from all over the U.S. and world, including many Fulbright Scholars, to work with our excellent faculty. While working on their degrees many of our graduate students have the opportunity to serve as TAs and GAs mentoring our undergraduates. They also work alongside our faculty conducting research. CSUN has the largest number of students in the Chancellor’s prestigious California Pre-Doctoral program and the Chancellor’s Doctoral Incentive Program. We have graduate programs that are so well known nationally that we can only accept a small portion of their applicants. We also have one of the largest number of enrolled graduate students in California, ranking in the top 10, including the UCs.  Our graduate students complement the teaching, including the many impacts on undergraduate education, and collaborate on the rigorous research of our faculty.


In terms of sustainability, I remain personally and professionally committed to this priority: to underscore this personal commitment, I was recently elected and agreed to serve as chair of the Climate Leadership Network Steering Committee and ex-officio board member of Second Nature, a non-profit organization that involves faculty and administrators at hundreds of colleges and universities to help make the principles of sustainability fundamental to every aspect of higher education.

And the campus continues to excel in this area:

  • CSUN has completed and posted our campus action plan, with a tentative climate neutrality date of 2040;
  • We already have surpassed our water reduction goal of 20 percent, reducing water usage by 22 percent (or 55 million gallons) to date;
  • Our Master’s in Sustainability is in development.

To show how much we have come, this past spring, after years of planning and the collaboration of faculty and staff members across campus, CSUN was awarded a gold rating by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) in its its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). This rating is the highest in the CSU under the system. It is a very complex and rigorous application process and I thank Helen Cox, professor of Geography and director of the CSUN Institute for Sustainability, for making this accomplishment possible, as well as Austin Eriksson, our Sustainability Program Manager, and Associated Students for their incredible participation.

Speaking of Helen Cox, I should also mention she was honored with the Sustainability Champion Award at the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference this past June. Bravo!

I signed the Climate Leadership Network Commitment, which affects carbon emission reduction and resiliency, and we will work with both campus and surrounding communities as to how we can mutually engage in resilience efforts related to climate change.

Our students are breaking ground in sustainability efforts as well – and I mean literally breaking ground! This fall, the Sustainability Center will start to take shape to provide a dedicated facility for programming and recycling efforts on campus. I know we will continue raising the bar for ourselves and make CSUN a model for sustainability, and a great partner with community efforts.

Students are also doing exciting work in this realm too: Manufacturing Systems engingeering students designed an aquaponics system that uses cloud computing to optimize the results. You would have to see it to appreciate it and it was awesome!

We also have had huge wins in the area of transportation to campus by advocating and getting CSUN included in the County, City and Valley efforts at improved transportation. We now have discounted Metro U-Pass tickets for students and improved bus schedules, and we are now included in Measure M. Our students and employees need better public transportation to campus and Measure M will provide a sea-change difference for all of us. I am prohibited from telling you how to vote on this, but I can say, vote your conscience.

Using Athletics as a Tool of Engagement

If you haven’t seen it, Athletics just released its annual report, and I encourage everyone to read it. It reminds us that athletics is not just about sports, it’s also about service to the community, academic excellence, and more. Like the Valley Performing Arts Center, our student performances and other opportunities for community engagement, athletics provides another “front porch” for the community to campus; we all unite under the Matador brand as it creates an extracurricular magnet for our students. And as educators, we know that the more time our students spend on campus for these events that engage them, the more likely is their academic success. Athletics had another impressive year, and I urge everyone in the coming year to go out and support the teams – CSUN’s almost 400 STUDENT-athletes!

And with the Olympics in Rio just ended, I want to say how excited it was to know that we had several CSUN alumni participating in the games, including:

  • Hafsatu Kamara, class of 2014, who represented Sierra Leone in the 100 meters.
  • Lynda Morales, class of 2010, was a member of Puerto Rico’s women’s volleyball national team.
  • And Katie Holloway, class of 2008, who will be participating in her third Paralympic Games in Rio, which starts September 7, as part of Team USA’s Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team.
  • In addition, one of our track and field assistant coaches, Lawrence “Buggie” Johnson, who is a hurdle specialist, trained three U.S. Olympians for the 2016 games in Northridge, including Delilah Muhammad, who won gold in the 400 meter hurdles. He attended the Games for the first time in his career to support the athletes he trained and earned a mention during the telecast.

This past year, CSUN continued to show its commitment to the competitiveness, as well as the academic and collegiate experience of its student-athletes through efforts like expanding seating in the Matadome by 50 percent prior to last season and, with IT’s partnership, improving wifi access in our sports facilities.

Being an academic institution, I also want to thank our Athletics Director, Brandon Martin, and our staff and coaches for their renewed emphasis on academic achievement and excellence. This past year:

  • 100 student-athletes were named to All-Academic Teams in the Big West Conference and Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
  • A record number of student-athletes – 95 – were inducted into CSUN’s Varsity N Academic Athletics Honor Roll.
  • A member of the women’s softball team, Maylynn Mitchell, was named a 2015 Big West Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year and nominated for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award.
  • The department also launched the Matador Scholar-Athlete Honor Society this year for student-athletes who achieved Dean’s List honors of a 3.5 GPA each semester and welcomed 49 students in the fall and 84 in the spring.
  • The completion rates for the 2010 cohort of student-athletes was 10 points higher than our general student population.


In closing – thank you. Thank you for the work that you have done and the important work that you will do for our students. The time is now to test our assumptions through data based on outcomes, to challenge ourselves, to innovate, and to raise the bar. Our students are counting on us, and I know that together, we can do this.

Now if you will allow me to take 90 more seconds of your time to take one last look back at an another amazing year at CSUN!

     Click here to view the video, "CSUN 2015-16 Year in Review"

Thank you and have a GREAT year!