CSUN President Recognized for Trailblazing Impact

  • From left, CSU Humbolt Lisa Rossbacher, CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison, CSU Fullerton President Mildred Gacia, CSU San Marcos President Karen Haynes, Cal Poly Pomona President Soraya Coley and CSU Long Beach President Conoley. All six women were honored with a Trailblazer Award by Leadership California.

California State University, Northridge President Dianne F. Harrison received the Trailblazer Award from Leadership California along with five other CSU female presidents in recognition of their groundbreaking achievements and leadership in academia.

“With higher education in the forefront of state policy issues and as a desired goal of many of California’s people, the opportunity to honor the women leading higher education in our state could not be more relevant and timely,” said Pamela Hemann, executive director of Leadership California.

Initiated in 2010, the Trailblazer Award is given annually to women who are pioneers in their fields. This year marks the first time in Leadership California’s history that six women have been selected to receive the award as a group. The six honorees were recognized at the Legacy of Leadership awards ceremony in Los Angeles, last month. The annual awards celebrate women of influence, who serve as pioneers in their field, exemplify a spirit of exploration, passion and groundbreaking achievement that leads the way for others to innovate and succeed.

Harrison has led CSUN as president since June 2012. She is the third consecutive woman to lead the university, which is the third largest in the state.

“It is a great honor to be selected for this award, an honor that I am delighted to share with five other outstanding women leading CSU campuses,” said Harrison. “It is also wonderful to be part of the legacy of great women who have served as President of CSUN.”

Harrison’s academic and research areas of expertise include HIV prevention among women and minority populations and higher education issues related to social work and university leadership. A prolific researcher and writer, she has published dozens of articles and two books.

Recognized for her leadership and service in higher education and other fields, Harrison has served on more than 80 boards and committees of national, state and local organizations. She currently serves on the executive board for the California Campus Compact, as a member of the Steering Committee of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, and as a commissioner on the WASC Senior College and University Commission. In July 2014, she was appointed to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors and the Division I Presidential Advisory Group, and serves as the Chair of the Big West Conference for 2014-15.

She also serves on the NCAA Division I Committee on Institutional Performance and the NCAA Historically Black Colleges and Universities Limited Resource Institutions Academic Advisory Group. Harrison was recently re-appointed by Governor Jerry Brown to serve on the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

An active civic leader, Harrison serves on the boards of directors for the Los Angeles area Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA), and Valley Presbyterian Hospital. She is a member of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator Leadership Council and the Los Angeles Coalition’s Operations Innovation Team Advisory Council. She also serves on the board of governors of the Valley Economic Alliance and the executive committee of the Los Angeles Economic Development Council, and the Advisory Council of BizFed.

Prior to becoming President at CSUN, Harrison served as President of CSU Monterey Bay. She was vice president for academic quality and external programs at Florida State University, where she also served in various other leadership roles, and as a professor, for more than 20 years.

Harrison earned a Ph.D. in social work from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s in social work and bachelor’s degree in American studies from the University of Alabama.

“The recognition is richly deserved honored for an accomplished group of academic leaders who have dedicated their professional and personal lives to the service of all people in California,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White. “As mentors, CSU’s six women president’s serve as exemplary models for women leaders in higher education and beyond. We, as a system, laud them for their commitment to transforming their campuses, our state and the nation.”

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