Erika D. Beck, California State University, Northridge’s newest president, is spending her first 100 days in office on a listening tour — meeting with students, faculty, staff, alumni and community leaders — in an effort to understand the opportunities, and challenges, the campus faces.
“I want to understand how people experience our academic and campus community, and I want to learn about the hopes, aspirations, opportunities and challenges from a wide variety of campus constituencies,” said Beck, who took office on Jan 11., succeeding former CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison, who retired at the end of last year. “While there are many challenges that face us in this moment, I am confident that the long-range future for CSUN is incredibly bright as we continue to serve as a model for equitable and inclusive higher education. At the conclusion of my listening tour, I will report back to the campus what I have learned, and we will work together to establish a road map for the future.”
Beck comes to CSUN from CSU Channel Islands, where she was president for more than four years. Prior to that, she was provost and executive vice president at Nevada State College. She said she appreciates that the events of the past year — from political tumult and racial strife to the pandemic — have had an impact on the CSUN community.
“At the heart of all the crises that we have faced this year is an inequitable landscape that replicates privilege and perpetuates inequity,” she said. “And while the challenges before us are daunting, our collective work has the ability to forever reshape the landscape and facilitate a brighter and more equitable future for us all.
“With the developments in vaccines, I am confident that we are getting closer to a time when we will be able to resume much more in-person academic activity this fall than we have for the past year,” she said. “That said, the extraordinary economic toll of the pandemic will impact our students and their families much longer. We will need to redouble our efforts to ensure our students have the resources they need to persist to graduation and beyond.
“Our work in realizing racial justice will take much longer, and require the full and dedicated participation of every member of our community as we establish an intentional plan that includes resources and an honest and ongoing assessment of our progress,” she continued.
“CSUN has always served as a leader in racial and social justice. I am confident that, working together, we can enact the change we need to realize our values and serve as a role model for other academic communities.”
A native Californian, Beck holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, San Diego, a master’s degree in psychology from San Diego State University and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the U.C., San Diego, where she also served as a faculty fellow. A former research associate at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, she has conducted research in the areas of developmental and cognitive neuroscience.
Beck said she was attracted to CSUN because of the university’s reputation “as one of the most significant facilitators of social mobility in our country.”
“CSUN has a well-deserved reputation for equitable and inclusive education, facilitated by the exceptional faculty who lead robust academic and research programs in service of nearly 40,000 students and 370,000 alumni,” she said. “So, it strikes me that this incredible institution — nestled in a region that serves as a magnet for innovation across a wide array of disciplines — is ideally suited to lead the future of public higher education as we continue to drive the future of Southern Californian by expanding opportunity across an inequitable landscape.”
Beck said equity, inclusion and justice are at the very heart of her leadership philosophy.
“They are the reason that I have dedicated my career to expanding access to the transformative power of higher education because a college degree does not just impact individual lives, it changes entire family trees and elevates every member of our community,” she said. “I work every day to ensure that all of my decisions are grounded in an equity lens, and that decisions are informed by diverse perspectives and lived experiences in service of inclusive excellence.”
Beck said the listening tour she is currently on is particularly important because it will help her shape her priorities for the campus and its constituencies in the coming years.
“As a leader, I believe that institutional priorities are something we set as a community, and that will take time and collaboration,” she said. “Given that I am new to the campus and the community, it is important that I engage with many campus stakeholders to understand the culture, the history and the opportunities before us as we write the next chapter of our journey.”