California State University, Fullerton

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Meet Ann Camp: the President’s Chief of Staff

Oct. 1, 2012

Ann Camp's later-in-life career took her on a pathway as an arts educator and fundraiser at museums in Orange County and Texas, but in more recent years, she found a new niche in academia.

For Camp, switching careers from the art world to higher education was a seamless transition: "In part, it was because I am an educator; it was just a different venue. ... I love working on behalf of students and providing them with the best education and the best services to ensure that they are successful."

Camp, who previously worked at Cal State Dominguez Hills since 2007 in key leadership roles, joined Cal State Fullerton in June to become chief of staff to President Mildred García. Over the summer months, she familiarized herself with her new campus and has settled into her workplace inside the President's Office.

"The people here have been very friendly, welcoming and helpful. They have gone out of their way to make sure we have what we need," Camp said.

The past two years, Camp served as executive assistant to García at the Carson campus. When it was announced in January that García would leave her presidency at Dominguez Hills to become Cal State Fullerton's new president June 11, Camp wanted to continue working with her as her top aide.

"I was flattered and delighted when she asked me to come. I'm thrilled to be here," Camp said of her new appointment. "If she hadn't asked me to come here with her, I would have asked her!

"I've learned so much from President García. She is very much an engaged president and is very dynamic; she has so much knowledge in higher education. At the end of the day, she does what is in the best interest of students. She is someone who will always say, 'What is the impact to our students? How will that affect our students?' She will do great things for this campus, which is already in a good place."

In her new post, Camp oversees the president's staff and ensures the office operates smoothly and efficiently. She also helps with the president's busy calendar, such as fielding requests for meetings, events, presentations and other campus and community engagements. To respond to those making requests, she works closely with Cheryl von Mirbach, who handles the president's calendar and also joined Fullerton from Dominguez Hills.

"I help get President García where she needs to be — whether it is with faculty, students, staff or community members. There are so many requests coming in for her time," Camp said.

With the fall semester under way, Camp is looking forward to meeting new people, including students, staff and faculty members, as well as building "open and friendly" relationships with the campus community.

"We want everyone to feel like they are welcome in the President's Office," she said. "We also want to have open communication and develop that level of trust and confidence people look for and expect."

Camp readily admits that she has a lot to learn about CSUF and its student-centered programs — and after being on campus for the last three months, she has become better acquainted with Fullerton's size and scope, compared to her former campus of 15,000 students.

"What I like about Cal State Fullerton is its diversity and the fact that there is a lot going on," she said. "One of the biggest challenges of a campus this size is learning who to call when a need arises and who does what. It's a whole new environment for me, but I'm an adaptable person, and I'm looking forward to having that sense that I know the campus better."

World of Academia

Five years ago, Camp landed a fundraising position in the Division of University Advancement at Dominguez Hills. She worked with alumni, corporations and foundations to accomplish fundraising goals and promote the academic mission of the university.

"I love working on behalf of students and providing them with the best education and the best services to ensure that they are successful," Camp said.

Later on, she was promoted to executive director for development, where she focused on grant writing to private foundations and corporations and helped to build lasting relationships with these entities to successfully raise and secure external resources for the university.

"We worked hard to build the reputation of the campus," she said. "Developing private philanthropic support takes a certain degree of patience, luck and a lot of really hard work."

One achievement she is most proud of is fostering a partnership with a private foundation to fund a summer program that brings incoming freshmen to the Dominguez Hills campus before the start of their first college semester. The initial gift was $25,000, and before she left that campus, the foundation gave the university a $250,000 gift.

"It was a collaborative effort with University Advancement, Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, and part of the success of that relationship is because of the three divisions' involvement," she said. "It was really nice to see that relationship grow."

As part of her development and campus activities, Camp had worked closely with García at Dominguez Hills. When the opportunity arose in 2010 to join the President's Office as a member of the senior management team, she landed the position as García's executive assistant. Camp supervised her staff and provided a variety support with campus and CSU issues, special projects, and other office responsibilities.

While her title has changed in her new position at Fullerton, Camp added that the job "feels the same," even though she has a larger office and CSUF is a bigger campus.

Going to College

More than a decade ago, and a year after her only son left home for college, Camp began her own higher education studies to earn a degree and pursue a career. She decided to major in chemistry with the goal of entering pharmacy school. But then a girlfriend urged her to take an art history class, and she became intrigued with the art world, changed her major and completed an internship at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

"I wanted to find out if I just liked visiting museums, or did I actually want to work at one," said Camp, who earned a B.A. in history of art from UC Berkeley. She went on to earn a master's in art education from the University of North Texas.

Camp's first art museum position was at the El Paso Museum of Art, where she was the assistant curator of exhibitions and education. Her responsibilities included managing and training docent volunteers on conducting educational tours, creating and coordinating educational components for exhibitions and writing exhibition-related proposals and grants.

She has also held posts in art education at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Forth Worth, then at Laguna Art Museum as curator of education, and later, director of development. She moved to the Orange County Museum of Art in 2005 to become associate director of development, primarily overseeing fundraising efforts, before joining Cal State Dominguez Hills two years later.

"I loved being in the galleries and developing educational programs. It was wonderful work," she said.

While working at museums, Camp developed a keen appreciation for all kinds of art —from abstract to contemporary works to photography — and shares her passion for visual art inside her new 10th floor office in College Park. Her office is adorned with artwork, including an abstract depicting Hebrew letters, and a book by Christopher Marley of vibrant images of insects rests open on a tabletop. She also surrounds herself with personal mementos: photographs of her toddler granddaughter, an album with family images from her mother's 90th birthday party, along with reminders of her former campus, such as an autographed soccer ball from Dominguez Hills' champion team.

Shaping Her Future

Camp is the middle child from a family of seven children, originally from South Bend, Ind. Her late father worked for an international company, and her parents moved the family to Mexico City, where she spent her childhood. She left after high school and returned to her homeland, yet her parents made their home in Mexico into their golden years.

Camp's young experiences in a foreign country gave her an inspiring view of humanity and an insight about other cultures and ways of life.

"Living in Mexico opened me up to different ways of thinking and made me appreciate a different culture and a different way of doing things," she said.

These days, one of her personal goals is to find as many opportunities as possible to use the Spanish-speaking skills she learned growing up.

As an adult and a mother, she lived abroad in the Philippines and in Spain, which further shaped her views of the world and contributed to her global education.

"Spending time abroad, in general, made me more accepting. It really helped to shape who I am today — someone who is open to new experiences and who is willing to rise to the occasion," she said.

Today, as chief of staff, Camp is looking forward to new experiences, as well as new challenges: "I like to work really hard, and I like working with people who are really smart — who know more than me. I know it will take a lot to get this job done; it takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, but at this point in my career, I'm ready to do that.

"I feel real lucky, honestly. I've had the opportunity to stay at home, raise my son, and now I don't have that concern about having a child at home to be thinking about and feeling divided. The timing is right for me to have this kind of a job, which can be very demanding. I have an amazing career. I feel like I have the best of it all."

By: Debra Cano Ramos, 657-278-4027

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