“I want to talk to you about going to college. I want to talk to you about Cal State Fullerton. We are here to partner with you every step of the way to make sure you are prepared and can afford college.”
Standing before hundreds of congregants at Christ Our Redeemer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Irvine Sunday, Feb. 17, Cal State Fullerton President Fram Virjee shared that the university is ranked fourth in the nation for graduating underrepresented students.
Each year, the 23 campuses of the California State University send campus presidents, administrators and faculty to more than 100 predominantly African-American churches throughout the state.
CSUF administrators who also visited churches include Bobbie Porter, assistant vice president of diversity, inclusion and equity, who spoke at Corona Community AME; Karyn Scissum, associate vice president for academic operations, who spoke at Friendship Baptist Church in Yorba Linda; and Berenecea Johnson Eanes, vice president for student affairs, who presented at Second Baptist Church in Santa Ana.
As he addressed the congregation, Virjee outlined the ways that Cal State Fullerton is committed to diversity and inclusion on campus. “On our campus, we are prepared to welcome and help you. We are proud of our record of supporting students. We continue to uphold them with a demonstrated commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity.”
He pointed out the university’s commitment to African-American students through such programs as “Fall In Love With Fullerton Day,” an event designed to ensure that all prospective African-American students and their families feel welcome; and partnerships with alums such as Bobby McDonald, president of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Orange County, whose collaboration with CSUF faculty has expanded what African American studies majors learn about the political, social and cultural history and expressions of black identity. There are African American studies programs, clubs, centers and more.
“How many of you think you can’t afford college?” Virjee asked. “We are an engine of opportunity created for you no matter your economic situation.” In fact, he pointed out that 80 percent of CSU undergraduates receive non-loan financial aid, and two thirds of all CSU students have their tuition completely covered.
“Why is that?” he asked. “It’s because CSUs and Cal State Fullerton are YOUR campuses. They are owned and financed by YOUR parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They are run and operated for you!
“You are not an impostor on a college campus, you are its future. You do not burden us with work, you lift us up with your potential. You do not lack the means to succeed. You have the tools and tenacity, the character and courage, the intelligence and the persistence.
“As we celebrate Black History Month, who do you think of and celebrate and admire? Those who came before us and who ushered in change. African-Americans who made a difference and are making a difference. They had a thirst for knowledge, searching for the tools to make life better for them, for their families and for their communities.
“You know, we are in the process of renaming one of our campus buildings after a former university president named Milton Gordon,” he continued. “When Dr. Gordon went to college in Louisiana in the 1940s, he was forced to sit in the back of the bus. He traveled in segregated train cars because of the color of his skin. But he fought back — with the power of education.
“That led him to become one of the first African-American presidents of a major university west of the Mississippi,” he continued. “He discovered his potential. He made his dream a reality. And make no mistake, with the power of a college education, he changed the world.
“So students, I encourage you to find your path to college and know that with the wisdom you accrue, you, too, will change the world.”