After beginning her presidency at a time when the campus and our world operated primarily virtually, on August 26, CSUN President Erika D. Beck delivered her first live welcome address to the entire CSUN community at Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya). Beck’s speech was also broadcast live.
There was a festive air in the Center’s Great Hall as faculty, staff, trustees and other dignitaries gathered for speeches and multimedia presentations that celebrated the achievements of the 21-22 academic year and prepared the guests for the road ahead. President Beck welcomed everyone to the event.
“Thank you all for joining me this morning as we come together to welcome the dawn of a new academic year and the promise of a new opportunity for our students to achieve their greatest aspirations.”
The event began with a greeting and blessing from the tribal leaders of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. Faculty President Michael Neubauer and Student Associate President Shayan Moshtael also extended welcomes.
Neubauer acknowledged the difficulty of the past few years.
“From the experience of trauma on the one hand and the experience of resilience on the other hand, we can create an increased sense of and commitment to our responsibility to our students, our colleagues on campus, the valley community of San Fernando, the LA area, California and the nation,” Neubauer said.
On behalf of the student body, Moshtael expressed his excitement about returning to campus and his appreciation for the faculty and staff.
“It’s not just talent that makes our faculty and staff so special, it’s that they care about the lifeblood of the University: the students,” he said.
President Beck began by sharing her experiences from the May 2022 launch ceremonies. It was a powerful reminder of the annual culmination of CSUN’s collective work, where a record number of nearly 12,000 graduates – many of whom were the first to their families to graduate from college – celebrated their academic achievements. As she shared a video of the latest graduate who danced on stage at one of this year’s ceremonies, she joked,
“This year, we’ve introduced a new beginning tradition — optional dance moves. Turns out mine aren’t as artistic as our students.’”
Beck used her”Roadmap to the futureas part of his welcome speech. The plan, which was created through a campus-wide effort and unveiled earlier this year, includes six strategic directions to lead CSUN toward a more equitable future for students and to ensure their success in college. These guidelines are:
- Advancing Academic Excellence
- Improve community connections
- Honoring our history and striving for a more equitable future
- Disrupt the inequalities of the system
- Facilitating Holistic Student Success
- Strengthen the capacity for institutional transformation
Praises and dedications
Throughout his speech, Beck commended faculty and staff, particularly for their work over the past few years navigating classrooms and caring for student needs amid changing COVID-19 restrictions.
“Over the past two years, you have navigated through unprecedented circumstances and been challenged in ways we could never have imagined,” she said. “And yet you continue to innovate, inspire and lead.”
She also highlighted ongoing research on campus, including the impact of sea level rise on low-lying coastal communities in California, and research on systemic racism and equitable online education. . She stopped to show a news coverage video showcasing the work of CSUN students who designed and built a system of air and ground vehicles to autonomously fight wildfires.
Beck noted the ongoing work to improve recruitment and retention of male teachers of color and efforts to expand paths to CSUN for black high school students, as well as encourage diversity in the pipeline toward graduate studies.
“How fitting that our campus has been named a 2021 Education Equity Champion by the Campaign for College Opportunity,” Beck said.
Graduation rate and equity
Beck also focused on CSUN’s graduation rates.
“Returning to our 2025 graduation goal of 66% of our freshmen graduating in six years, we see that in our final numbers from last year, our overall graduation rate increased to 54.2%” , she said.
However, Beck said, student retention work must continue.
“4,785 freshmen walked through our doors in the fall of 2015, yearning to take that initial step toward a life that was forever transformed. Six years later, only 2,594 of them have done so. “, she said.
She noted “surprising disparities” in the graduation rates of Native American, Pacific Islander, Latinx and black students.
“We need to shift the conversation from what our students need to do to be successful, to what we – as an institution – need to do to help our students achieve our goals,” Beck said.
Beck also noted that CSUN is seeing a drop in student enrollment this fall, similar to last year.
“This disturbing post-pandemic trend is evident across CSU and across the country and is having a devastating impact on our students of color,” Beck said.
Beck said work continues at CSUN to build bridges to college, especially among Black students, Asian American, Pacific Islander and Desi American students, as well as students from Indigenous communities.
“Our Black Matadors Rise program opens the door for Black students and their families by promoting access to CSUN through outreach, educational workshops, mentorship and career-focused programs,” she said. declared.
“As a proud minority-serving institution that relishes the richness of diversity, this is a trend we must reverse,” Beck said.
Beck ended his speech by noting many positives on campus and some very exciting upcoming events in the fall semester and the 2022-23 academic year, including:
A long-awaited celebration at The Soraya in November for union activist and organizer Dolores Huerta, who will participate in the event.
· Breaking ground next spring (2023) for an affordable student housing project.
· Continued construction of the Sierra Annex, the first new publicly funded academic building on campus in over a decade.
· Inauguration of the HSI Equity Innovation Hub, to serve as a learning environment for students interested in STEM career paths.
· Skyrocketing philanthropic commitments and donations to the university and growth of CSUN’s individual donor base.
After the program, Matadors and friends mingled in the late summer sun at a reception in Soraya’s beautiful courtyard, where they listened to Masanga Marimba, a performance group of students and alumni students led by CSUN music teacher Ric Alviso.