Dear Titan Family,
Happy New Year and welcome back to campus for Spring 2023!
I hope your winter break was restful, rejuvenating, and full of reviving energy. For me, the break was a time of reflection and gratitude as I thought about all we accomplished together in 2022 and all I have had the joy of being a part of since joining the Titan family five years ago in January 2018. The break was also a time of consideration and contemplation of the future – of what lies ahead for CSUF and the Titan Family and for me, not just in 2023, but beyond.
As I share my best wishes for the new semester, I also want to share with you that as part of my personal contemplation and considerations, I have decided to retire from the position as your President later this year, effective July 31, 2023. This was an incredibly hard decision – I love CSUF and the Titan Family deeply, and as president over the past five years, I have dedicated my entire being to this great institution and the students, faculty, staff, and community we serve. That said, after careful consideration and discussion, Jules and I have decided that it is time for us to retire, spend more time with our loved ones, and enjoy watching and supporting our beloved university and its faculty, staff, and students soar to even greater heights under the leadership of a new president.
It is impossible to express to you in words what being your president has meant to me. I am so proud of all we have accomplished together. The list is a long one, and I know I will fail to cite everything, but just by way of example:
- We educated and supported a record number of students in attaining their college degrees. Since 2018, more than 45,000 Titans have graduated, meaning 14 percent of all Titan alumni crossed our commencement stage over the past five years. As of spring 2022, our four-year graduation rate for first-time freshmen was 39 percent, a 7.7 percent year-over-year improvement since spring 2021 and a 53 percent improvement over the spring of 2018. As we emerge from the pandemic, we will continue to enhance the Titan Experience and provide transformational pathways to a degree.
- We updated and renovated our beautiful campus. Since joining CSUF five years ago, together, we instituted a new, 19-year Physical Master Plan; built the Titan Arch and Promenade; renovated the library and reopened its South Tower; built a brand new 600-bed residence hall (with a second on its way); completed a new/renovated baseball and softball complex; constructed a new aquatic center; broke ground on the new Visual Arts Complex; renovated the second floor of McCarthy Hall with all new state-of-the-art lab space; painted buildings and installed new outdoor gathering spaces and digital signage all over campus; opened the Center for Equitable Digital Access, and on and on. Today, our campus is a beautiful and welcoming home that we can all be proud of and into which we can and do welcome our community. And with the new Engineering and Computer Science Innovation Hub and Titan Gateway Bridge on the way, we are on track to do even more.
- We brought financial stability and fiscal strength to the campus, even amid the hardest of budget times. When I joined the Titan Family in 2018, we were running an $8 million financial deficit and using up our reserves at an unsustainable rate. Together, in that first year, we balanced the budget, which has been balanced each year since, including through a 10 percent funding reduction from the state and during a pandemic. Today, we have a solid financial foundation, increased funding from the state, and replenished reserves. Perhaps as important, together, we have advocated, pushed, and lobbied for equitable funding for CSUF from the CSU system, an advocacy that has begun to provide results as the system wrestles with the reallocation of resources among campuses based on demand.
- We successfully navigated through a pandemic and emerged as a stronger and more caring community. Focused upon our twin touchstones of health and safety, and continuity of learning, we were among the first campuses in the nation to go completely virtual and then among the first to come back fully in person. During both transitions, we discovered much about our community, learning, and about caring for our fellow Titans. I am so very proud of all we did to keep each other safe, build community, and ensure students’ continued progress to degrees.
- We ushered in a new focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. If there has been a single defining principle or emphasis of my time at CSUF, it has been our unwavering and complete devotion to creating a community where all can thrive and reach their full potential, a community dedicated to equity, inclusion, and social justice. From establishing our equitable pedagogy module– seeking to increase equitable and inclusive instruction in the classroom– to our Inclusive Champion Certificate Program, our allyship certifications, our One Book program, and our jointly-created Guiding Principles for Social Justice that have become ubiquitous on campus, we have worked tirelessly to establish a community where Titans both learn and enjoy the richness of inclusivity, and prepare to change Orange County, California and the world. While there is still much work to do, we have created the foundation to be the truly inclusive community that we hope to see in the world around us.
- We brought attention and focus to investing in the Titan Family with our $250 million comprehensive campaign. It is hard to believe that when I joined our campus five years ago, we had never had a comprehensive fundraising campaign! But we kicked off that campaign (just two weeks before the pandemic hit) with an ambitious goal of raising $175 million in investment funding for our students and campus. We soon learned we were aiming too low, especially when MacKenzie Scott, recognizing our incredible work, granted us a gift of $40 million! Today, as we close out our campaign, we raised our goal, first to $200 million, then to $250 million, and ended up raising over $270 million, making clear to the world that people believe in CSUF and the Titan Family, and that they are willing to commit their time and treasure to further our mission.
We have done so much more together over the past five years, from earning a full 10-year reaccreditation from WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and multiple reaccreditations for individual campus academic programs to securing two trips to the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament, astonishing choral tours of Spain and Australia and a triumphant performance at Carnegie Hall; from the establishment of our internationally known Nick and Lee Begovich Gravitational Wave Center, to our Titan Capital Management program capturing first place over and over again in Investment Research Competitions, with our undergraduate students beating out MBA students from such established institutions as USC, Stanford, etc.; from the establishment of CSUF as the lead CSU Project Rebound Consortium campus for the entire CSU (and the opening of the only housing facilities in the nation dedicated to housing formerly incarcerated students), to the receipt of the Seal of Excelencia and the INSIGHT Into Diversity’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award (for the last four years!), and the creation and celebration of ¡Somos Titans!, and the rejuvenation of our Alumni network. And the list goes on and on.
Today, we are not only the largest undergraduate university in California; we are No. 1 in California for graduating women, No. 2 in the nation for graduating students of color, No. 7 in the country for social mobility, and No. 13 in the nation for academic rigor. We are a destination campus, with 80,000 applications each year for 8,500 spots and an average entering GPA of just under 3.7. We boast the second-largest business school in the nation and are among the top CSU campuses in academic research and publications. We produce half the nurses, teachers, engineers, and accountants in Orange County.
My fellow Titans, Julie and I could not be more proud of the work that we have done together. I could not be more honored to have been able to serve as your president for the past five years. I could not be more blessed to have been able to engage in this life-changing work and to begin to build the dreams that we all have for tomorrow with the love of my life, Julie, by my side, working unceasingly for our community day in and day out.
Of course, the journey is not yet over! We have the spring semester ahead of us. We have the foundational groundwork for establishing a new strategic plan; we have new projects to advocate for. We cannot and will not take our eye off our continued commitment to DEI and social justice, and we will continue to build the community critical to the future of our campus and our Titan family. Julie and I plan to finish strong.
Our door will remain open to all Titans, and we will be all-in 24/7 for the next several months, just as we have for the past five years. There will be plenty of time for goodbyes and celebrations, but for now, I want to say thank you. It has been a true blessing and honor to serve with you, build with you, and move us toward the Beloved Community.
Let’s make it a great semester and Go Titans!