‘The Honor of My Life’

President Dianne F. Harrison and husband John Wujack

CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison and her husband, John Wujack, enjoy a moment in the campus’ beloved orange grove, in February 2020. Photo by Steve Babuljak.

Reflecting on my time as president of CSUN, I also reflect back on the trajectory of my life and career. These past eight years have been among the most memorable and impactful in my whole life — both personally and professionally.

Growing up, I saw firsthand how education can open doors to opportunity. My mother, whose memory inspires me to this day, left college to get married before completing her nursing degree. I was 14 when my father passed away, leaving my mother to support the family. I saw how hard she worked at her job in the medical field, but she never had the earning power of nurses because she lacked a degree. Her experience is not unique to students today, which is why I made student success and degree completion my top priority.

There is no hesitation in my mind that the more than 70,000 CSUN graduates since 2012 are the highlight of my career. Each graduate’s trajectory was lifted by that CSUN degree. The ripple effects are as far reaching as they are difficult to measure. How many families move up the social mobility ladder thanks to those degrees? How many businesses, organizations and communities are enriched by the knowledge imparted in CSUN classrooms? How many children look at the example of their parents, siblings, even grandparents and will follow that example? Those futures keep rising because of the CSUN education.

With my own schooling, I was always inspired by helping people and the struggle for equality. Social work became my calling and allowed me to work with people from all walks of life—veterans, married couples, women with HIV and everyone under the sun. I gained a tremendous respect for the challenges we all face and committed to helping people who might be going through tough times. I learned a lot about resilience, lessons that have been invaluable leading CSUN through a pandemic.

The recent challenges give me incredible appreciation for the tenacity of the CSUN community —our nearly 40,000 students, 370,000 alumni and every member of our faculty and staff. While I had planned to be off on new adventures these past few months, like so many, we pivot and rise to the occasion. The innovation and determination exhibited across the university to continue to realize our mission, even under very different circumstances, makes me forever grateful. I was honored to continue to serve through these dark days.

The pandemic, as devastating as it has been across the globe, is not the only threat to our way of life and brighter future. Persistent racism, injustice and inequality plague our country. Throughout our history, CSUN has played a role in opening eyes and minds to these affronts to our values. However, the senseless killing of George Floyd and so many other Black men and women at the hands of law enforcement has laid bare the steep hill we have yet to climb to achieve true social equality. This summer and into the fall, the CSUN community has jumped into action about how we can do more as a university to make apositive difference. These initiatives will live on and continue to grow into a movement that I believe will make lasting change.

There is so much more I could say about my time at CSUN — the students I have mentored (and how much I have learned from them), the lifelong friendships forged with an incredible team of leaders, the faculty members expanding our understanding across every discipline, and the alumni who are changing the world and giving back to help today’s students.

I am also extraordinarily proud of my family. They all bring me such joy, and everything said about being a grandparent is true! While my next chapter is yet to be written, I am looking forward to spending more time with my whole family and enjoying being a grandmother.

CSUN will always have a place in my heart and be a part of my extended family. I look forward to seeing the university continue to thrive far, far into the future. Leading this great university — and impacting the lives of so many students — has been the honor of my life.