CSUN President Erika D. Beck last week greeted the CSUN community — and welcomed students, faculty and staff returning to a partially reopened campus — in her annual Fall Welcome Address on Sept. 10.
In kicking off the 2021-22 academic year that began Aug. 28, Beck set a tone of inspiration and challenge, reflecting the campus community’s focus on amplifying inclusive excellence and shaping a brighter future for Matador students.
“It is a distinct honor to lead this university and to formally mark the dawning of a new academic year, abounding with promise and renewed opportunities to ignite human potential and advance a more just and learned future,” Beck said.
“[Our] community is deeply rooted in a shared commitment to academic excellence full of inquiry and discovery that facilitates a transformative learning environment; enables potential; and pushes on borders, literally and figuratively,” she said. “Throughout the last year, we saw innumerable examples of transformative learning environments across every college, department and division.”
Beck shared the progress and continuing opportunities of the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025 (GI2025), and the campus-wide initiative to help more CSUN students graduate on time and realize their dreams and aspirations, while eliminating the equity gaps between better-served and traditionally underserved students.
“We have made substantial gains in four-year graduation rates for first-time freshmen,” Beck said. “Pending the results of the summer courses, we are projecting a grad rate of 24% for the fall 2017 cohort. This is nearly double our graduation rate of 12.6% when GI2025 launched. Double!
“The impact of our efforts should be celebrated, and I am so grateful to all of you for your commitment to ensuring that our students are able to walk across that commencement stage to a life that is forever transformed,” she continued.
Beck celebrated the campus’ steady progress in these areas but also emphasized the need to redouble efforts to close the equity gaps that still exist.
“I know that we all share an unwavering commitment to serving our students and eliminating equity gaps, and it is important to remember that this work is complex, it involves multiple strategies, and it takes time,” the president said. “Working together, I am confident that we can ensure we have the data, practice, leadership and disruptive strategies to eliminate systemic inequities, in perpetuity.”
Beck hailed the launch of CSUN’s brand-new Global Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Equity Innovation Hub, slated to open in fall 2024 and featuring equity as a core design principle, “creating a space that fosters aspirational capital and inspires intellectual curiosity.” The Equity Innovation Hub aims to provide students with interdisciplinary pathways in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and equip them with skills they need to become future innovators and creators, Beck said.
The president heralded the state of California’s $25 million investment, in its recent approved annual budget, to help CSUN build the Hub — holding the university up as a model for the future of equity and innovation. She also celebrated the additional $25 million gift from Apple, the second-largest gift from a single donor in CSUN history, to support the project’s programming.
“CSUN will serve as the epicenter of programming focused on transforming HSIs throughout the CSU and nation, to diversify the future of STEM professionals,” Beck said. “This incredible opportunity will accelerate our own institutional transformation and open our arms to engage a national network of HSIs to learn from one another — and add to the national dialogue of culturally relevant practices to enhance student success.”
Beck’s speech referenced her 100-Day Listening Tour Report, which summarized findings from her comprehensive listening tour during her first 100 days in office earlier this year, meeting with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and industry and community leaders in an effort to understand the opportunities and challenges that CSUN faces.
As part of the listening tour and in continued discussions, Beck said, she heard concerns about the continued racial violence, pain and trauma surrounding policing; the need for investment in diversifying CSUN’s faculty and staff through inclusive recruitment, hiring and retention practices; and the urgent need to build more community, including the development of more identity-based resource centers on campus.
“If there is any public institution in our country that has the potential to put us on a course to a more equitable and just society, it is this university,” the president said. “We do not need to be more like any other university, in L.A. or beyond. We need only become more of ourselves.”
Tribal elder Dennis Garcia of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians opened the video with a blessing, and Beck shared a land acknowledgement, recognizing that the university stands on the Sesevenga, “the historic and unceded territory of the Sesevitam. The descendants of the first inhabitants of this land are still here, among us as citizens of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians,” Beck said. “We honor this sacred history today and every day.”
In launching the new academic year, Beck also warmly welcomed campus leaders, including Michael Neubauer and Theresa White, president and vice president of the Faculty Senate; and Jonathan Hay and Kaitlyn Orozco, president and vice president of Associated Students; as well as new faculty members, staff and administrative leaders.
To watch President Beck’s full address, go to https://www.csun.edu/node/11001/presidents-annual-welcome-address-2021.