December 19, 1996
Walt Disney once observed, "You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality." Cal State Northridge today is a vital, successful university because of people: our faculty, staff, and students are able to dream and back it up with extraordinary talent and dedication. As we depart to celebrate the holidays with friends and families, I'd like to share a few reflections about our past year.
1996 has been a year of vitality throughout the campus, marked by impressive faculty accomplishments in research, community service and creative endeavors. These have been reported throughout the year in the UIB and its successor newspaper, @CSUN.edu which debuted this fall.
Centering the university around students became our explicit reason for being this year as representative faculty, administration, staff, and student groups first debated and then formulated statements of our mission and values. These statements were developed as part of our multi-year strategic planning process, and I have been delighted to see how quickly these ideas have taken root in our community and begun to achieve expression in both our planning and our everyday work.
The after-effects of the Northridge earthquake hobbled us in 1994 and 1995. With the enthusiastic leadership of our new Vice President for Administration and Finance, Dr. Arthur J. Elbert, we have begun to put that experience behind us and are reconfiguring the university in ways that will serve us very well into the future.
Physical reconstruction continues as we rebuild and modernize our physical plant, with the help of large grants from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the State of California's Office of Emergency Services. Tedious reminders of the earthquake, such as trailers, remain; and new inconveniences, such as extensive trench digging, are being created each day, but we know that the end is in sight and that the results - a modern infrastructure, renovated buildings, improved landscaping, and better parking - will be worth these efforts. Our university community is to be commended for their patience, understanding, and helpful participation in our redesign and renovation activities.
Along with repairing our buildings, we have created two new colleges: Arts, Media, and Communication and Health and Human Development. As you know, organizational restructuring in higher education is very, very rare. Our faculty and deans, with the support of Provost Louanne Kennedy, demonstrated unusual creativity and wisdom in creating colleges that will be better able to serve students, sustain major industries in our region, and provide opportunities for faculty members to work together in innovative partnerships. The excitement that the new Colleges are generating, both inside the university and in related organizations in the community, is wonderful to see. The rest of the university received its share of praise earlier this year in the successful four year review by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Cal State Northridge was praised for creative programming, our leadership in incorporating technology into instruction, our commitment to assessment of our programs and activities, and our efforts to reform General Education (all challenges were not put behind us in 1996!) Of course, Vice Provost Susan Curzon and her staff deserve special thanks, too, for their wonderful work on behalf of all of us in advancing technology. We are grateful that our enrollment, which had declined to our great concern in recent years, has rebounded strongly, in large part because of the excellent work of our Outreach and Recruitment staff, under the leadership of Vice President Ronald Kopita. Stable fees, for which we thank the State Legislature, and a stable base budget, for which we thank Chancellor Barry Munitz and the CSU Board of Trustees, also contributed to our strong enrollment and our ability to initiate major improvements in technology, recruitment, training and planning, budget planning, and public communication.
I want to acknowledge my pride in our students for their calm behavior before, during, and after the debate on affirmative action this fall. Despite the tensions of strongly held opposing views, they, and Associated Students President Vladimir Cerna, comported themselves with dignity and intelligence. This event tested one of the most cherished values of a university and a democracy: that reasoned debate and discussion are superior to sloganeering or force. Thanks in large part to the wise counsel of Faculty President James Goss - an attribute I've come to depend upon greatly - and the sensitive dialogue between faculty and students, the debate demonstrated anew that universities are places where controversial positions can be taken and where the skills of civil political discourse and seeking common purpose in opposing points of view must be taught. This fall, it would have been a great social good had various community organizations and individuals taken lessons on their responses from our students. A special personal thanks to the many colleagues who provided kind, and deeply appreciated, words of encouragement to me during that period.
In 1996, Cal State Northridge engaged in major conversations between the university and off-campus groups in regard to the Transit Center proposal and the North Campus MarketCenter. In sometimes difficult but enriching dialog, we are committed to including our neighbors in discussions which have an impact on our total community. The MarketCenter will be a focus of facilities planning discussions on and off the campus this spring.
Community alliances have been affirmed as one of our core values, and new alliances such as the Northridge Business Improvement District, in which our College of Business Administration and Economics is an advisor, will vividly demonstrate the contributions CSUN makes to the surrounding community.
The grant of $5 million to our renowned National Center on Deafness this year and its designation as a service center for the Western United States also reaffirms our role as an educator beyond the boundaries of our campus and epitomizes the stature of many outreach and community service programs centered at CSUN.
The year brought several wonderful examples of our campus commitment to community service including an unprecedented turnout of more than 650 faculty, staff and students in the AIDS Walk Los Angeles this fall, raising more than $18,000 for AIDS research and service. Significant numbers of our students are participating in the Community Based Enterprise Program, which places interns in county agencies, and the "L.A. County Store" in which marketing students actually created and operated a county retail store, showcasing the county's products and services.
For every individual whom I've named here, there are hundreds, indeed, thousands, of individuals on the campus whose names should appear here as well. Please know that I know that the dream becomes reality only through the efforts of the hundreds and thousands. I thank all of you on behalf of all of us.
You have my sincere good wishes for a joyous holiday season, and I look forward to resuming our work together in the New Year.
Blenda J. Wilson