President's Office

2017 Welcome Address

President’s 2017 Annual Welcome Address

"Matadors Rising"

Dianne F. Harrison, President
Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts / August 24, 2017, 9 a.m.

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Related Links:
 Video of the full address - includes the pre-show slideshow presentation and closing video

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Thank you, Adam and Jonathan, and welcome back everyone!

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

Before we continue, let’s take a few moments to remember our 4 colleagues who passed away this last year. Please join me in a moment of silence to honor their memories and contributions to the university.


First, let me welcome you to the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts – or “The Soraya” for short! In mid-July, this beautiful venue was renamed in recognition of a transformative $17 million gift from the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Family Foundation that will support the first class performances and student engagement opportunities that we have grown accustomed to under the leadership of Thor Steingraber. The gift is one of the largest in the history of the California State University and the system’s largest single gift in support of the arts. I want to thank the Nazarian family, Vice President Rob Gunsalus, his colleagues in University Advancement, Thor, and the many others who helped make this investment in CSUN a reality.

The gift caps an exciting year for us and this morning I will share with you many of our other achievements over the past year. Collectively, they have contributed to CSUN’s rising reputation in our region and nationally. The credit all goes to you – the faculty and staff whose dedication and hard work on behalf of the campus and our students have made many take notice. And by the way, you have achieved a lot and I will do my best to keep my remarks under two hours.

This year we face two continuing challenges. Questions remain about what policies will come from the federal government. What this means for universities is a lack of certainty in different areas: for our DACA students, education policy, STEM fields, financial aid, research funding, Title IX, and more.

The second challenge is whether the governor and state legislature will decide to finally reinvest in the CSU. We must all work together telling our stories and advocating for the CSU. I ask all of you to remain focused on our commitment to our students and to excellence — to doing what you have always done with great dedication in meeting the needs of our students, and to produce graduates who are engaged and prepared to lead in today’s increasingly global world.

The theme of my remarks today is Matadors Rising – yes, that is the name of our student success campaign, our campuswide initiative to encourage and support more of our students to graduate and in a more timely manner.

And as you entered the Soraya today, you received a button that says, “Matadors Rising – We can do this.” Yes, we can do this! I see examples every day on campus. With student success as the university’s number one priority – Matadors Rising is an effort that everyone on campus, regardless of our role, department or division – can and does contribute.

I will frame my remarks this morning around our eight university priorities to discuss our achievements and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

All of our work, including budgeting, resource allocation and staffing, are decided in the context of these priorities, which also guide the way we engage with our communities, donors, alumni, elected officials and the public.

Student Success

Our focus on Student Success, of course, is our fundamental mission as a university and is the priority that drives all others and is measured traditionally through access, retention, inclusive excellence, and timely completion.

This past spring, another record number of students was eligible to graduate: 11,500! We currently estimate about 39,678 enrolled students this fall, which includes almost 10,000 new students. Even with impaction, we continue to see growing numbers of students from traditionally underserved backgrounds, particularly Latino and first generation students. However, our African American student enrollment remains a challenge, and not just for CSUN but for the CSU, and we will re-double our outreach efforts to reach these students.

Now let me highlight a few of our academic and student achievements:

  • For the fourth year in a row, our Model U.N. team again took top honors in December at back-to-back competitions in Seattle and Washington, DC. My congratulations to the students, the student head delegates, Jennifer Veitiaand Brooke Cichosz, and their adviser, political science professor Jennifer De Maio, for another impressive year.

  • In June, a CSUN alumna, Isela Lieber, was recognized as one of five California Teachers of the Year. Her story is particularly inspiring – she immigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador at 17, without a high school degree or knowing English. Supporting herself as a housekeeper, she earned her GED, attended community college and transferred to CSUN to attain her dream of becoming a teacher. Today, she teaches just a few miles from here, at James Monroe High School, where she serves as an inspiration and role model for other immigrant students.
  • But Iselais not the only CSUN-trained teacher to be honored this last academic year – she was part of a group of 22 Teachers of the Year honored in 2016 by the LAUSD, nearly a third of whom were CSUN graduates. And of this year’s 22 LAUSD Teacher of the Year honorees, nearly a quarter were CSUN alums!

My congratulations to them and the Michael D. Eisner College of Education for these accomplishments! 

  • This spring, as one of 14 universities selected by the NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative, a miniature satellite built by CSUN faculty and students named “CSUNSat1” was sent to the International Space Station aboard a space rocket launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once in space, CSUNSat1 communicated successfully with the ground station the CSUN project team built from scratch in Jacaranda Hall and successfully completed all of its assigned tasks, certifying it as a “mission success.” Though it has only a short lifespan, the satellite is still orbiting 400 kilometers above us at 22 times the speed of sound. My congratulations to electrical and computer engineering professors Sharlene Katz and James Flynn and the 70 students who worked on the project for getting CSUN into space! In the spirit of the 50th anniversary of the summer of love, I would add “FAR OUT!”
  • This spring, a team of five CSUN students who dubbed themselves the “Mean Squares” beat 15 teams from other universities that included Cal State Fullerton, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and USC to earn Best Insight and Best Overall at the 2017 American Statistical Association DataFest. DataFest is a “celebration” of data where teams of undergraduate students work around the clock to find and share meaning in a large, rich and complex data set. This year, the participants analyzed corporate-level data from the travel site Expedia. Kudos to the students, including their team captain, Seyed Sajjadi, and their faculty adviser, Wayne Smith, from the Department of Management.

These are just a few of CSUN’s student and academic successes this past year – I hope you all take great pride in what our colleagues and students are accomplishing all the time!

I also want to highlight some of the opportunities we create for our students and recognitions we have received for these efforts:

  • This spring, the Nazarian College of Business and Economics held its second Bull Ring Competition – CSUN’s version of the “Shark Tank.” Thanks to the support of CSUN alum Jeff Marine, a total of $35,000 in cash prizes and $30,000 in sponsorships were awarded to three teams of student entrepreneurs. Sleepyhead, an
    e-­commerce startup that sells boxed memory-foam mattresses and bed toppers, won the $20,000 first-place award at the final round.
  • In the second Fast Pitch competition, a team of three CSUN students – Edgar Limon (Marketing), Arvin Flores (Marketing) and Jasmine Beeman (Communications) – who pitched a smart script internet code they are developing to help the visually impaired better navigate through websites.
  • Information Technology held its first VARJAM event, where competing student teams demonstrated their virtual reality and augmented reality projects to CSUN students and faculty, and judges from various VR companies within the technology industry. First place went to Adventure VR, created by Miranda Taylor, an accounting major, to help those with mobility challenges to experience nature by bringing it to them.
  • This spring, we received our second Apple Distinguished School Award for the myCSUNtablet initiative, which was launched in 2013 and continues to allow students in courses from a variety of participating departments to use tablet technology for learning and content creation, as they would in the work place.
  • Last fall, CSUN received the Outstanding Work Award from the WICHE Consortium of Educational Technology (WCET) for our innovative work on mobile curricular app development to enhance STEM teaching and learning, and just last week, they were recognized by the CSU for this work.

Collectively, these achievements and activities are focused on one thing: student success.

I mentioned our Matadors Rising program, which we launched this year to support students towards degree completion and encourage more students to graduate in a timely manner.

We are making progress in all the critical areas for improving graduation and retention rates. The most notable improvement is in the graduation rate for transfer students. Preliminary estimates for 2016-17 show a 3% improvement in two-year graduation for our transfer students. We also improved our four-year graduation rate for students who started as freshman by 1%. Hundreds of students finished their degrees sooner because of your efforts.

Another key indicator of retention and a reduction in time to degree is measured by course load. Retention numbers are up and the average unit load is increasing. <slide>

To reach our 2025 CSU goals, under the leadership of Provost Yi Li and our Associate Vice President for Student Success Elizabeth Adams, we have embarked on a variety of initiatives:

  •  With the help of one-time state funding, we offered completion grants in summer 2017 to help students finish in two years if they were transfer students, or four years if they were FTF, and I just told you the positive results. To implement these grants, colleagues from financial aid, budget planning and management, financial services, the Tseng College of Extended Learning, admissions and records, academic resources and planning, and undergraduate studies all collaborated to help these students graduate. Thank you all for your incredible efforts!
  • With Matadors Rising, CSUN has been a leader in the CSU in focusing on faculty development efforts to advance student success. Faculty from across the university are working together on innovative pedagogy and course redesign. This summer, teams of 34 faculty who teach large lower division high DFU courses worked with the faculty development office, led by Professor Whitney Scott, and AVP Deone Zell and Hillary Kaplowitz from the Faculty Technology Center. These intensive one-week workshops or e-learning institutes combined new technologies for teaching with methods of inclusive pedagogy to reduce both the failure rates and the opportunity gaps in these courses.
  • One group of faculty from the History Department participated in one of these e-learning institutes. Using some of the data tools now available through CSUN Counts and the CSU Dashboard, they discovered that many of their lower division courses had opportunity gaps in grades – gaps they found unacceptable. As a group, they decided to apply for the e-learning institute to have a department wide impact and fix those gaps. Professors Patricia Juarez-Dappé, Clementine Oliver, Jeffrey Auerbach, John-Paul Nuño, Jessica Kim, and Jeffrey Kaja will bring new approaches to their courses this fall. They’ll be joined by dozens of other faculty who represent all the colleges which teach lower division general education courses.
  • Also, following a thorough review, we just re-aligned the policy related to the academic progress students must demonstrate to remain eligible for financial aid. The adjusted policies are now more comparable to other CSU campuses and resulted in a 52% reduction in the number of students who did not meet academic standards. This was a significant boost to our student retention efforts. I want to thank our Students of Color Coalition for this valuable suggested change.
  • We have also hired 11 people to serve as graduation and retention specialists, including a dedicated advisor in each college, one in financial aid, and an achievement coach in the college of Social and Behavioral Sciences. This team has coalesced quickly and is working with students who didn’t return in the Spring or who had not yet registered in the fall for Spring term. They’ve already brought new ideas for advising and student outreach to campus all based on data.
  • Under the leadership of the Senior Director for Institutional Research, Janet Oh, we launched CSUN Counts, a set of interactive data tools available to all faculty and staff. Dr. Oh and her staff, along with Kristy Michaud, Director of the Office of Student Success Innovations, offered data workshops through the year. They also spearheaded a team of 37 faculty and staff from across campus, representing all colleges who served as data champions. The data champions learned all the data tools and then designed their own projects for the Spring 2017 to look at their colleges or departments for areas where students may not be succeeding.
  • As an example of the effectiveness of their work, one of the Data Champions from the College of Science and Math examined data from Chem 100. As a result, the college will begin offering sections tailored to students in different majors. The rate of student success should increase with the specialization of the sections.
  • I would encourage every faculty member to use our data tools to examine your own results especially for opportunity gaps. Where you find them, consider your pedagogy and bringing new approaches to your teaching. Do not rest or feel confident until you have examined your own course data and can in good conscience say “I am reaching and effective with all of my students.” You do not have to lower the bar or your standards. And we have folks like Whitney, Deone and Hillary who can help you refresh and redesign your approach. If you are doing exactly what you have been doing for years, my hunch is you need to redesign and make use of new technologies and approaches that relate better to our growing and diverse millennial generation.

I also want to touch on a couple of issues that while outside of the classroom, still play a big role in student success, namely students’ well-being and security.

Food security for college students has become a major concern nationwide. To help students who suffer from food insecurity at CSUN, the Matador Involvement Center and the Women’s Research and Resource Center have opened food pantries on campus this past fall semester, and we have several other resources to help students with housing or food needs. It is an issue that Vice President for Student Affairs William Watkins and I take very seriously and will continue to track. Another example of how we have leaned in to support our students is the MataCare Grant Program which launched last spring and provides small emergency grants to students for costs such as rent and utilities, unexpected auto repairs and personal illness or injury. We thank all the members of the university community who donated to the Grant fund, which was able to assist 65 students.

There is also the continued uncertainty for undocumented students, including our DACA students. At CSUN, we remain committed to these students. In Fall 2014 we established the Northridge Dreamers Scholarship and in 2015 the DREAM Center at the USU. Last October, the National Scholarship Providers Association presented CSUN with the Scholarship Provider of the Year Award at its annual meeting, recognizing us for the CSUN Dreamers Scholarship. The award carried a $2,500 prize that we used to continue support of the Dream Scholarship.

Finally, the issue of sexual harassment and violence continues to be an issue of concern. It is a topic I raise during the new student orientations, where I speak about our collective responsibility to ensure a safe campus for everyone and the resources and rights of both victims and those accused of sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and any sexual violence. We have a zero tolerance level for such behaviors.

I have also been involved on the Federal level, advocating for a non-retrenchment of Title IX requirements.

I am proud of our many efforts in this area, such as Project D.A.T.E. and the It’s On Us campaign to bring awareness to issues of sexual assault and rape prevention. Everyone needs to be aware and attentive to campus safety for our students and employees.

In sum, every aspect of our work plays a role in our students’ success – and specifically in Matadors Rising. I’d like to share a video that was produced to help our students understand their pathway. This video is just another example of cross-divisional teamwork – and a demonstration of how we all support and need to support student success.

Elizabeth Adams and Cheryl Spector, and her team from Matador Momentum, produced this video with the support of Jeff Noblitt, Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications – take a look.

Focus on Employees for Success

While I hope you agree that our Focus on Student Success is always our overriding priority that drives all others, I also passionately believe in supporting employee wellness and development. After all, it is our faculty, staff and administrators who help make student success happen! Many of us spend much of our waking day at work, so it’s important to me that everyone feel pride and work in a positive work environment.

One recognition I am proud of comes from Forbes magazine, which this year included CSUN on its list of America’s Best Employers among mid-size employers in the country from across 25 industries!

Over the last year we again held several employee-focused events that have become CSUN traditions and continue to grow in popularity:

  • The 51st annual Staff Service and Recognition of Excellence Awards ceremony held in May, which honored 270 staff members for milestone years of service and the awards of excellence for the staff who are seated in front to my right and are listed in the program, including the 2017 Presidential Award recipient, Christopher Aston, and the recipient of our first ever Leadership Award for management employees, Heather Cairns.
  • And this little guy is the reason I had to miss the ceremony – my first grandchild! I look forward to bringing him to CSUN. <slide> For those who are grandparents in the audience, you know I could not resist showing a photo!
  • Also in May, we held our Honored Faculty Reception, which recognized faculty with awards of distinction and for length of service, and conferred emeritus status on 30 faculty members.
  • Our Summer Celebration in June and the Holiday Celebration in December continue to attract greater numbers of employees and their families.
  • There is also the CSUN Shine from Within Program, our staff development program, which just concluded its third year. This year’s cohort of 13 staff members from Academic Affairs to Physical Plant Management conducted a survey of 300 students to learn about their experiences and awareness of campus services. They reported their findings to the Cabinet last June and I thank them for their work, which was helpful and used in our student success efforts moving forward.

Diversity and Inclusive Excellence

As I announced last year, Diversity and Inclusion became one of our new university priorities. This priority, like Student Success and Employees for Success, is infused in all that we do and cuts across our seven existing priorities and all aspects of our mission. It also recognizes the distinctive history and tradition of CSUN as an institution that has embraced access, diversity and inclusion.

We will be in a national search this fall for a new Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). I am grateful to Susan Hua, Director of Equity and Diversity and Title IX Coordinator, for her willingness to serve as Interim Chief Diversity Officer as we conduct this search. Susan’s leadership and commitment will ensure that our efforts in this area – which includes the work of the newly constituted Commission on Diversity and Inclusion and other efforts will maintain momentum. Thanks to Prof. Gabriel Gutierrez for agreeing to co-chair the Commission with Susan.

And our efforts have not gone unnoticed:

  • Last fall, CSUN received the Insight into Diversity’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award for its long tradition of serving as a gateway for access and opportunity, and for the steps we have taken to build a diverse and inclusive campus community.
  • Individual faculty are being recognized for their work: The Los Angeles-based Museum of Social Justice has recognized California State University, Northridge journalism professor Kent Kirkton, director of the Tom and Ethel Bradley Center at CSUN, for his efforts to promote social justice and civil rights.

We supported more than 20 students to attend the Hispanic Association of Colleges and University’s (HACU) Annual Conference and 8 students at HACU’s 12th International Conference in Costa Rica, accompanied by Dario Fernandez, Coordinator of the DREAM Center, from EOP. With Dario’s guidance, these were opportunities for students to explore their academic and career goals, and identify potential areas for growth and development. It was a transformative experience for the students, some of whom had never been outside California before either of these trips.

And The Soraya itself is also a driving force of inclusion on campus with its series, “Music Knows No Borders.” Executive Director Thor Steingraber’s team brings together artists from around the globe to this very stage. I hope you will support the program by attending a performance, celebrating Cuba, Spain, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, and other countries and cultures.

In times of uncertainty, our campus community has come together not only to engage in difficult conversations but to work collectively to create a network of support resources for our students. In our continuing efforts to create an ever-inclusive CSUN and to recognize and strengthen the contributions of a diverse university community, I encourage you to continue finding these opportunities to engage with each other. “Diversity and Inclusion” is a campus priority and should be explicit in all our endeavors. We have to openly and repeatedly reject hate and bigotry in any and all forms.

Increasing the visibility and reputation of the university

The commitment and hard work all of you demonstrate each day and the success we have achieved in our other priorities all serve to advance our next priority, to increase the visibility and reputation of the university. Raising our profile is not simply about recognition or validation. It’s also about building a strong reputation that attracts the best faculty and students, and most importantly, having employers and partners recognize the value of our institution and a CSUN degree.

  • Last month, Money magazine included CSUN on its fourth annual Best Colleges for Your Money rankings.
  • College Values Online identified CSUN’s online Master’s in Educational Leadership among its list of top 30 such programs for 2017.
  • I also want to recognize the spectacular achievement of Computer Science Professor Richard Lorentz in the Computer Olympiad, sponsored by the International Computer Games Association. He took gold in a competition called Amazons and the silver in another called Breakthrough at this year’s 19th International Olympiad held in the Netherlands bringing the total number of medals he’s won over the years to 14! Professor Lorentz is one example of many of our faculty who receive international recognition for their work and thus raise CSUN’s profile.

Important components of our visibility and reputation are those programs that serve as our face to the community, such as, of course, the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts and our campus radio station, KCSN.

  • Last fall, the Cabinet asked Vice President Gunsalus to provide oversight and support for our campus radio station, KCSN, and its program director/general manager, Sky Daniels, and to complete negotiations for a partnership between KCSN and South Orange Coast Community College District radio station KSBR. I was pleased to sign the partnership agreement in July. This is the largest expansion of a non-commercial radio station in the history of the U.S. creating a single signal population coverage area of 11.5 million people, the largest in the country – a game-changing expansion of KCSN – and CSUN’s reach. My thanks to Rob and  to Sky Daniels for his ongoing visionary leadership and stewardship of our radio station.
  • I also want to acknowledge a recognition a bit closer to home – on June 7, Colin Donahue, our Vice President for Administration and Finance was recognized with a CFO of the Year Award for a government/public agency by the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. What a well-deserved recognition for Colin!
  • And, finally, our positioning platform campaign continues to advance our reputation on electronic billboards and tv commercials in L.A., another example of another great campus collaboration between the Departments of Cinema and Television Arts in the Curb College and University Marketing and Communication in Advancement.  Let’s take a look at one of the commercials now…
  • Please give us your ideas for other strategies to increase CSUNs reputation and visibility.

Plan for a future less dependent on state funding

As we all know, the purpose of increasing our financial strength beyond state support is to ensure that we can pursue the best opportunities and experiences for our students, provide scholarships, and to be a destination campus for our faculty, staff and community. This includes research funds, which I’ll review in a few moments, but all external sources of funding are an opportunity to create more knowledge, engage our faculty in new frontiers in their fields, and provide students with an opportunity to experience the creative and innovative process which is a proven high impact practice for student success.

Our Advancement team under the leadership of Vice President Rob Gunsalus – and the support of all of you – helps the university reach potential donors and share the stories of YOUR success, which is what inspires people to support the university.

I mentioned the incredible, record $17 million dollar gift to the university for the performing arts center, but there have been so many other stories and success on this front as well:

  • Last fall, CSUN successfully reached its targeted $25 million Nazarian College Campaign with a $5 Million Gift from CSUN alumnus Harvey Bookstein and his wife Harriet, resulting in the renaming of Juniper Hall, which houses the Nazarian College, to Bookstein Hall!
  • Nutrition professor Terri Lisagor and her husband, Mark, have generously arranged a planned gift to CSUN of $1 million to establish an endowed scholarship for students in the Resilient Scholars Program, which serves former foster youth students and another endowment that will support faculty research, travel, and professional development in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.
  • CSUN Distinguished Alumna Shigemi Matsumoto – an internationally respected opera star and now a teacher – and her husband, Marty Stark, who she met while both were students here – donated $1 million to the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication, to establish the Matsumoto Scholarship for undergraduate vocal arts students.
  • As these gifts show, we continue to build on a new standard for giving. Last year, with $23 million in gift commitments, was the fourth year in a row with giving near or above $20 million. And the number of individual donors came in at just above 16,000, the second year at that record level which has moved us from the bottom half of the CSU to #2 in that statistic. And of course, this year is off to a great start with the Nazarian’s $17 million commitment.
  • Plans for the hotel and restaurant I announced last year also continue to move forward. Entirely funded by the developer we have partnered with, a Hyatt Place Hotel is planned to be built on the site where the Orange Grove Bistro now stands, and the new facility will include a restaurant and conference space. Construction is expected to begin in 2018 and will give CSUN the opportunity to house university guests and students’ visiting family members and alumni; host campus events and programs; and support the academic and business communities, locally and beyond. And it will also provide additional financial support for the university — at no cost to the state or to our students. And the Orange Grove trees will still be part of our campus.

Increasing Research Activity and Sponsored Programs

CSUN continues to place a high value on faculty and student scholarship and involvement in research and creative activities. Over the past few years, we have grown our support for scholars and grantsmanship, which has translated to a steady increase in proposal submissions and a strong and diverse base of awards, even as the funding landscape locally and federally has become more competitive. There has been a significant growth of grants awarded to Assistant and Associate Professors. Last year over 350 students, half undergraduate and half graduate, engaged in the CSUNPosium, the campus celebration of scholarly activities; this is a record for the campus, surpassing the previous record by more than 150 students.

Research is not an isolated activity that a faculty member does in his/her office alone. Doing the work and getting grants is difficult and highly competitive. And, the work touches on all aspects of the university: student success, facilities, budget, reputation, etc. And, because of that, we all have to work together to reduce bureaucracy, increase quality and level of support, and be prepared to take calculated risks to push at the edges of knowledge creation.

Research and Graduate Studies and The University Corporation continue to work together to streamline the process for grant submissions, processing and post award administration to ensure the best possible experience for our faculty in an otherwise complicated process. We are working on all fronts to improve our processes.

Last year, 187 PI’s worked on 230 projects and generated $32 million in expenditures. 349 undergrad and graduate students were paid salaries totaling $1.2 million, while another 347 students received stipends totaling $2.1 million, showing how research helps both to educate and support students as well. My thanks to our productive faculty for these strong efforts and results!

  • Building on our reputation as a center of entrepreneurship and innovation, particularly through our on-campus incubator, LACI@CSUN, and student competitions like Appjam, Varjam and the Bull Ring, the National Science Foundation has given us a $500,000 grant over the next five years as part of its Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Program to support further science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and business entrepreneurship activities at CSUN.
  • And as part of our efforts to support and expand our research capability, we broke ground on the new 10,000 square foot research building. Unlike most traditional research facilities, the new building will promote a more collaborative and intentional interdisciplinary approach to research. It will house BUILD PODER, our nearly $22 million National Institutes for Health grant to encourage the diversification of health sciences, and our new faculty cluster initiative to hire faculty into multiple departments and colleges as a way to foster interdisciplinary collaborations, launch new initiatives, broaden engagement with the community, and enhance diversity and inclusivity. We project the building to open in November 2017and I hope to see many of you at the grand opening!


Sustainability as a priority is becoming more important every day. As chair of the Climate Leadership Network Steering Committee, the primary oversight body of the national Climate Leadership Commitments of over 600 university presidents, I have the opportunity to explain our role – in our curriculum, as role models and on our campus – and showcase how universities like CSUN can be sustainable and efficient.

  • Over the past year, in recognition of our work in this area, CSUN earned prestigious AASHE Stars Gold Status, Tree Campus USA recognition for the third consecutive year, and will receive recognition at the 2017 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference for our innovative irrigation upgrade project.
  • CSUN was ranked 47th out of 201 colleges and universities on Sierra Club’s Cool School list due to our strides in sustainability.
  • We also have many faculty and staff involved at the ground level. For example, Rosa RiVera Furumoto, professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies, is actively organizing local populations around environmental justice concerns. She advocates for the preservation and revitalization of the language, culture, values, and traditions of Chicano, Latino, and Native American community members, ensuring that the lived experiences of multiple generations are heard and honored for the benefit of present and future community stakeholders. Through her pedagogy she seeks to promote critical thinking, reflection, and action regarding climate change, sustainability, and other social justice issues, while encouraging engagement with and respect for nature. Congratulations and thank you, Rosa, for this work!

Our current projects include:

  • Two new sustainable structures are near completion or completed: the University Sustainability Center – CSUN’s and the CSU’s first Net Zero Energy Building – and the Extended University Commons earned CSUN's third LEED Certification for Energy-Efficient Design.
  • Continued improvements and upgrades in infrastructure have made CSUN more energy efficient. Major initiatives related to purchasing, transportation and water efficiency have transformed and brought recognition to the campus. CSUN is a more engaged steward of place and has defined a framework to create a campus resiliency plan in 2017-18, as well as a collaboratively created plan with L.A. Valley College, eventually expanding to a regional plan. We are recruiting nationally for a Director of the Institute for Sustainability.
  • We continue to advocate for better mass transit and public transportation for our community, as well as our students and employees: after extensive advocacy, CSUN and the North San Fernando Valley were included in Measure M, which passed last November, resulting in $200 million in mass transit investments that will benefit CSUN and the surrounding area. This is a game changer for public transportation to CSUN.

And to show our work is having an impact on our students even after they graduate, CSUN alumnus Mark Lopez, a 2015 master’s graduate of Chicano/a Studies, was the 2017 North American recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize – known by some as the “Green Nobel” – for his leadership on this issue as Executive Director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.

Using Athletics as a Tool of Engagement

And as I shared earlier, the student experience outside the classroom contributes significantly to our students’ success. Engagement and belongingness are fostered through identity to CSUN and Athletics is another way to do this. Some highlights from last year:

  • We hosted NCAA President Mark Emmert’s visit to CSUN this past spring.
  • Women’s and Men’s Soccer, and Women’s Track and Field, all won Big West Conference championships.
  • Nicole Thompson, from our women’s soccer championship team, was nominated for 2017 Woman of the Year Award – and was chosen by the Big West as the conference representative for the national award to be given in the fall. This award recognizes academic achievements, athletics excellence, community service and leadership.
  • And our commitment to excellence in athletics includes academic success as well:
    • Three CSUN teams earned NCAA Public Recognition Awards for having multiyear Academic Progress Reports in the top 10 percent of their sport: Track and Field, Tennis, and Water Polo.
    • We had a total of 99 Conference All-Academic Awards and 6 All-Americans – 6 is pretty darn good!
    • As part of its efforts to promote campus pride for our teams, Athletics has extended a special invitation to all CSUN faculty and staff to this Sunday’s Men's Soccer game versus Saint Mary's at 5 p.m. at Matador Soccer Field. Faculty and Staff with their CSUN ID or a copy of the program you received today are welcome to bring 3 guests who will also receive complimentary admission. I encourage you to invite families and friends and take advantage of this great offer – you’ll have a great time!

We are proud of their successes, for our student athletes, for the collective recognition, and for the unity and campus pride Athletics helps create.


So, where are challenges for coming year?

  • Student Success – need to totally focus on this and all of our challenges related to: retention, graduation and opp gaps.
  • Curriculum reform, including GE and the future of work – lots of work on GE we are required to do by the Chancellor’s Office and the legislature. It will be hard! But we also need to think about the future of work in our country and around the globe and how we are preparing our student to be ready for the changing world of work, a world that will be much more chaotic and will require us to give students depth in their disciplines and breadth in their ability to work across specialties.
  • We will be hiring four deans – We want success in these hires and diversity.
  • Please also know that we are together in facing white extremists, neo-Nazis and KKK and a White House administration that seems so far not to be aligned with the values and goals that we hold at CSUN and the CSU. Given the reality of an uncertain and challenging political environment, we need to reaffirm our commitment to diversity, inclusion and social justice.
  • Wear the buttons you received today with pride – “We can do this!” We all have a stake in our priorities – student and employee success, our reputation, external funding, diversity and inclusion, athletics, and sustainability. We are leaders and we will continue to lead with your help.

Thank you for your contributions and diligence last year and thanks in advance for the year ahead.

Indeed, we CAN do this. See you at the reception in the lobby right after one last look at the past year… <video>