California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White visited California State University, Northridge on Jan. 29, as part of his statewide tour of the university system’s innovative learning environments.
During the daylong visit to CSUN, White met with students, faculty, staff and alumni and learned about groundbreaking academic, student-life and campus infrastructure programs.
“It’s very impressive what you’re doing here,” said White about the innovative programs and projects at CSUN. He told the campus community, during an open forum at the Plaza del Sol in the University Student Union, that part of his goal in making campus visits is to get feedback on the common “touchstones” for talking about the CSU system and its success.
Friday’s visit was part of the chancellor’s tour of the 23-campus CSU system. President Dianne F. Harrison and CSU Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs Loren J. Blanchard joined him during some of the day’s activities.
“Hosting Chancellor White gave CSUN the opportunity to demonstrate the outstanding work being done across the university by our faculty, staff and students,” Harrison said. “He saw first-hand the abundance of innovation and creativity that are hallmarks of a CSUN education.”
The chancellor’s day began with breakfast at CSUN’s Physical Plant Management’s Ground Shop with the staff members who maintain the campus landscaping. They demonstrated a unique and innovative system that monitors the campus’ irrigation system in “real-time” to detect malfunctions, helping the campus conserve water.
White answered staff questions and talked about his humble beginnings as a first-generation college graduate.
“We don’t often connect the grounds back to learning and student success,” White said. “But a welcoming, clean, beautiful campus is a much more engaging place to live and to work and learn than a place that does not have that kind of ambience.”
The College of Engineering and Computer Science showed off its innovative, award-winning projects including the El Toro, an autonomous robot built by CSUN students; a Formula SAE race car designed and built by CSUN students; a hybrid layer 3-D printer; a portable solar charging tree; and a solar- and wind-powered reverse osmosis desalination system designed by students.
White also met with Associated Students President Jorge Reyes and about 30 other students to discuss a range of issues including financial aid and student access. During the open forum, White called on all CSU faculty and staff to commit to eliminating achievement gaps and providing access to all underserved communities.
“When we succeed we will eliminate the disparities from graduation success,” White said. “We declare a war on the achievement gap.”
Later in the day, White visited the Matador Emerging Technology and Arts (META) Lab. Thanks to an interdisciplinary partnership between the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Art, undergraduates and graduate students at CSUN are working together to develop web applications to help improve academic- and student-centric services, as well as taking on projects for external clients.
With this new lab, faculty advisers and university officials aim to educate and train the next generation of industry professionals (computer scientists, graphic designers and engineers) — armed with the tangible skills they’ll need for employment and success in the region’s burgeoning tech industry.
With White looking on, students demonstrated some of the state-of-the-art work with “gamification,” the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people. Students talked about the “DevOps” movement, a new approach and collaboration between developers and operations staff.
“It’s good to see the chancellor interested in what we’re doing,” said Lisa Smith, a student employee at the META Lab, majoring in computer information technology. “This lab is definitely innovation at CSUN. We are learning new ways to work together and collaborate.”