The most recent Campus Conversations webinar took place Sept. 30, featuring CSUN President Erika D. Beck and Associated Students President Jonathan Hay as they discussed their goals for the future and how they pertain to equity and inclusion. These conversations serve as a way for students to pose questions to campus leaders and learn more about ongoing projects and changes at the university.
Beck and Hay highlighted the impact of the planned Global Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Equity Innovation Hub, the largest donation in school history, plans for spring 2022 and ways to make CSUN more inclusive.
Beck provided details on the upcoming HSI Equity Innovation Hub, which is scheduled to open in fall 2024 and aims to inspire students from historically underserved groups to pursue degrees and develop the skills needed to succeed in careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
“The Equity Innovation Hub’s primary purpose is to facilitate the elimination of equity gaps in our campus and to learn and to serve as a model for other institutions around the CSU, the state and the country,” Beck said. “The Equity Innovation Hub will really serve as a distinctive sense of place and a pretty powerful symbol of our collective approach to advancing excellence and future creative technologies for teaching and learning.”
CSUN was recently a recipient of a $40 million donation from philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott and her husband Dan Jewett, the largest gift from a single donor in the institution’s history. Part of this donation will be used to support Beck’s and Hay’s common goal of diversifying the university’s faculty and staff. They said they hope to reform hiring and recruitment practices to increase retention, so the campus can benefit from a richly diverse faculty and staff and the cultural wealth they bring.
“Diversifying the faculty ranks is critical to advancing academic excellence and student success,” Beck said. “A university is rooted in its exchange of ideas, and in that exchange of ideas, diverse perspectives, identities and lived experiences are essential. They are a critical source to our strength and our vitality, and we also know through decades of research that diverse teams are more innovative and more effective.”
Another main goal that Beck shared was the need for identity-based resources and centers on campus that will help close equity gaps. An upcoming academic resource center is the renovated Sierra Annex, which will break ground in spring 2022. It will include sustainable designs that allow for flexible learning and collaboration among students.
Both leaders said they also hope to increase support for transfer students at CSUN. “Vice President Kaitlyn Orozco and I have been very keen on working with our different mentorship programs that we have on campus, which is a huge way to get involved and allows students those opportunities to really find their place on campus and where they connect,” Hay said.
Hay strongly encouraged students to participate in the ongoing Campus Conversations, because their ideas could foster change down the line for the whole campus. Beck also noted that Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Mary Beth Walker will be leading a roadmapping process that will help identify the priorities of students and faculty for future change and progress at CSUN.
Beck said she was happy to see students back on campus this fall, and she is hopeful that significantly more students will have the opportunity to return safely in the spring. She expects fewer restrictions and no class-size limits, but ultimately, the campus will follow Los Angeles County health and safety guidelines, Beck said. In January, a plan will be released for commencement events that will include opportunities for the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 to participate alongside the current graduating class, she added.
Associated Students hosts Campus Conversations throughout the semester.