In her first remarks to CSUN’s faculty, new university President Erika D. Beck reinforced the connection of the institution’s work to its loftiest purposes, noting that its commitment to inclusive excellence makes it a role model in public higher education.
“What we do here matters not just to our community, it matters to every community,” said Beck, speaking over Zoom at CSUN’s annual faculty retreat. “We are disrupting intergenerational inequality, facilitating social mobility and playing a direct role in who has the opportunity to fully participate in our democracy. In the hardest of times, it is especially important to remember that our work holds the promise of a brighter future for everyone our academic community touches.”
Like most CSUN events over the past 10 months, the Jan. 14-15 retreat took place virtually. It was a chance to reflect on the difference-making work of CSUN faculty under extremely challenging circumstances, as well as an opportunity to look ahead at the ways the university will continue to change lives in a world impacted by the pandemic and the continued fight for equality and racial justice.
Beck, who became CSUN’s sixth president on Jan. 11, reinforced her commitment to working with a broad coalition of leaders across the campus to set the course for the university’s future, starting with a “listening tour” over the first 100 days of her tenure. The purpose of the tour is to understand the context in which CSUN operates as well as current strategic priorities, she said.
“More importantly, I need to know you — your aspirations, your challenges and vision for our collective future,” Beck told the faculty. “No leader accomplishes anything meaningful by themselves — it takes the dedicated and sustained efforts from faculty, staff and students to advance a thriving academic community, and I intend to build the relationships and trust that we need in order to facilitate a bright next chapter for our campus.”
Before arriving at CSUN, Beck served as president of CSU Channel Islands for more than four years. Prior to that, she was provost and executive vice president at Nevada State College. A California native, she holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, San Diego, a master’s degree in psychology from San Diego State University and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from UC San Diego.
Beck provided insight into her values, including a love of higher education instilled by her grandmother, a Norwegian who came to the United States for educational opportunities and worked to obtain a graduate degree.
“It is because of those early lessons that I, as my children like to say, went to college and never left,” Beck said. “I have devoted my career to facilitating access to the transformative power of higher education because it doesn’t just impact individual lives. It changes entire family trees and elevates our communities.”
Faculty President Michael Neubauer said he appreciated the opportunity at the retreat to learn more about Beck and her approach to her new role.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to hear President Beck — on only her fourth day as CSUN’s president — introduce herself, describe her leadership style and lay out her plans for the first 100 days,” Neubauer said. “Her priorities are the priorities of the campus. As faculty president, I look forward to working with her to advance our campus goals in a spirit of shared governance.”
CSUN will continue efforts to diversify faculty and provide students with research and creative opportunities, Beck said. Efforts will continue to eliminate equity gaps and boost student success rates. CSUN leaders demand excellence from students, and themselves, she said.
Beck said she will continue to seek a diversity of opinions, including dissenting opinions, in “an ecosystem of mutual respect.”
The transformative work at CSUN will be challenged by the intersecting crises — public health, environmental, economic and social — all exacerbated by injustice and inequality. Still, CSUN is positioned to make a positive impact, which will require a clear course of action and consensus on future priorities. Conversations in the coming months will shape those priorities, Beck said.
“The fundamental purpose of an institution of higher learning is to enable human potential,” Beck said. “I am dedicated to fostering a culture that places people first and allows each of us to achieve our highest aspirations. Not just our students, but all of us.”