CSUN’s Newest Deans Push for Collaboration Across the University

Two new deans are at the helms of California State University, Northridge’s College of Humanities and College of Health and Human Development (HHD)— Jeffrey Reeder and Mechelle Best. 
Jeffrey Reeder, CSUN dean of College of Humanities

Jeffrey Reeder, CSUN dean of College of Humanities

Reeder was appointed dean of Humanities in August 2022 after spending a year as the CSU International Programs Resident Director for Spain. Prior to his time in Spain, Reeder served as chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Sonoma State University where he taught Spanish courses in cultural studies, linguistics, teacher education, and translation. 

Although he held the title of dean for the past academic year, there is still a lot, Reeder said, he wants to learn and implement in his new role. 

“I’m going to say my goal next year is to over communicate about what we do in the college because my goal this year was to communicate,” Reeder said. “But it’s always hard to communicate enough.” 

This includes improving communication throughout the college and highlighting voices and ideas that previously haven’t been brought to light. 

The college is made up of the Departments of Philosophy; English; Modern and Classical Languages; Religious Studies; Linguistics and ESL: Interdisciplinary and Liberal Studies; Asian American Studies; Gender and Women’s Studies; Chicana/o Studies and Central American and Transborder Studies, the only such department in the country. 

“The vision of the college is really not one vision, but a whole bunch of different visions. We have a lot of really unique departments and unique programs that are strongly rooted in and strongly based in communities, in cultures and languages,” Reeder said. “They each have their own role to play in the institution and in society.” 

Reeder’s goal is to amplify these diverse perspectives in the college and that starts with what he calls “walking days” — meet and greet opportunities with students, faculty, and staff where they get to discuss ideas and, most importantly, listen to each other. 

“We’re the most diverse college on campus, and CSUN is one of the most diverse campuses in the country, and to be the most diverse college in one of the most diverse campuses means that there are voices, ideas and thoughts that have not really been articulated and publicized elsewhere,” Reeder said. “Part of my role as dean is to give space and amplify those voices.” 

Mechelle Best, CSUN Dean of College of Health and Human Development

Mechelle Best, CSUN Dean of College of Health and Human Development

In May, Best was appointed dean of the HHD after serving as interim dean since November 2021. Best has been part of CSUN for the past 15 years and previously held roles as chair of CSUN’s Department of Recreation and Tourism Management, professor and a range of leadership and management positions, as well as in the state and international tourism industry. 

Like Reeder, Best wants to see more collaboration and communication not just within her college, but throughout the university to better serve student needs. 

HHD is comprised of the Departments of Child and Adolescent Development; Communication Disorders and Sciences; Family and Consumer Sciences; Environmental and Occupational Health; Health Sciences; Kinesiology; Nursing; Physical Therapy; and Recreation and Tourism Management. 

“We call ourselves the ‘College of Life’ because the professions that we represent and are focused on is helping people to achieve their highest quality of life across their lifespan.” Best said. Moving forward, we want to collaborate more because we know that taking care of an individual or family is not just about how these services come together. 

“We are working on being more collaborative within the college so that various faculty from different departments work on projects and research together. But their collaboration does not end with the college. We’re also looking at more collaboration across colleges.” 

That includes the continuation of HHD’S Innovation and Collaboration Challenge – a grant program for faculty, students and staff that promotes collaboration with other colleges through new research, creative work or programs. Grants are awarded up to $10,000, with most grants awarded at the $5,000 level or lower. 

The grant program was unveiled last fall and funded 14 collaborative projects with HHD and other colleges. Best said she hopes to offer the grant again for the fall semester. 

As both deans settle into their new roles, Reeder and Best agreed that providing better tools for career readiness is a key part of the visions for each of their respective colleges. 

“The biggest project that I want to work on for next year is assuring our students are ready for life after college,” Reeder said. “We’re going to have career advisors specifically placed in the college to work with our students. That means knowing what to put on your resume for your skills, what kinds of jobs to look for and how to market yourself.” 

Best, meanwhile, wants to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion to better support underrepresented students in her college and prepare them for their chosen careers. 

“It’s really about helping our students to become professionals who can offer different types of services at different stages of life,” Best said. “My job for the next few years is to help us realize a lot of that potential.” 

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