Nearly 1,000—including 270 faculty—attended the investiture ceremony of Dianne F. Harrison, Ph.D., as California State University, Northridge’s fifth president on May 17.
Harrison, who was appointed to the post in June 2012, was officially invested by California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White during a ceremony in the university’s state-of-the-art Valley Performing Arts Center.
The event, which was themed “Unlocking Potential, Cultivating Achievement,” was attended by dignitaries and guests from throughout the country, including CSU Trustee Lou Monville; five CSU presidents (Tomás D. Morales of CSU San Bernardino, Michael Ortiz of Cal Poly Pomona, Mohammad Qayoumi of San Jose State University, James Rosser of CSU Los Angeles and Richard Rush of CSU Channel Islands); Richard Kornblith, an alumnus from Harrison’s alma mater —Washington University in St. Louis; and John Keever, a member of the UC Santa Barbara alumni association board of directors.
Speaking at the event were: Monville, vice chair of the CSU Board of Trustees, on behalf of the board; San Jose State President Qayoumi, on behalf of the other CSU campus presidents; Associated Students President Sydni Powell, on behalf of CSUN’s students; CSUN Alumni Association President Dennis DeYoung, on behalf of CSUN’s alumni; CSUN Foundation Chair Earl Enzer, on behalf of the community; Veronica Grant, special assistant to the vice president for university advancement, on behalf of CSUN’s staff; and Faculty President and chair of the Department of Computer Science, Steven Stepanek, on behalf of the faculty.
“It is my profound honor as the chancellor of the California State University to invest Dianne Harrison as California State University, Northridge’s fifth president,” said White before placing the presidential medallion, the symbol of authority of the presidency, on Harrison. “As you know, she is an accomplished academic as well as an accomplished university administrator. She was an outstanding choice for Cal State Northridge. She has a very strong and unwavering commitment to the success of our students from wherever they may be to launch them to a better future.
“Most importantly, she really does understand CSUN.”
Harrison began her remarks by thanking all the dignitaries who offered greetings and her family, including her brother and sister-in-law, who traveled from Mobile, Ala.; a sister from Birmingham, Ala.; her daughter, Melissa Montgomery, from Indianapolis, Ind., and her husband, John Wujack. She acknowledged the contributions of her four predecessors and the faculty, staff, alumni and community members who have “made CSUN what it is today.”
“Because of their vision and accomplishments, I inherit a resilient, rebuilt and strong institution that is ready to move on to a second story,” said Harrison, who recounted some of the many activities she has participated in since joining the CSUN Community, including hosting meetings and meals with numerous student groups; 10 of the university’s 18 sports teams; 70 staff members for breakfast; and 60 faculty for lunch. In just her first three months in office, she noted she also met with at least 600 community members.
“It has been an incredibly busy but productive and personally fulfilling first year,” said Harrison.
“From these meetings and activities, I can more emphatically attest that CSUN is a vibrant and enriching institution focused on excellence and student success … focused on unlocking potential and cultivating achievement.
“My job as CSUN’s president in coming years will be to continue to unlock the potential of this great university and cultivate achievement whenever and wherever I can. In short, my job is simply to create an atmosphere in which our students and the university flourish,” said Harrison, who has identified seven key priorities for the university: student success; a focus on employees for success; enhancing the visibility of the university; planning for a future less dependent on state funding; increased research activity and sponsored programs; sustainability; and using athletics as a tool for engagement.
Noting the challenges public higher education faces, Harrison outlined how CSUN is already leading the way by putting an emphasis on increased levels of funded research and redesigning and enhancing the academic experience with cutting-edge technology while reducing costs for students.
Harrison recently announced a partnership between CSUN and Apple that will provide participating students and their faculty educational resources and tools intended to enhance student learning. The initiative is called “myCSUNtablet.”
“Use of iPads and e-books and e-learning materials in a suite of courses will be less expensive and more accessible than traditional textbooks,” said Harrison. “This is a pilot project this coming fall involving 60 faculty members and 70 advisors across many majors that we will assess to ensure that the program is effective. It is also an example of how we are looking at new partnerships and creative ways to achieve our mission and engage students through innovative pedagogy.”
Harrison noted that innovation at CSUN goes beyond its borders, driving the creation of new industries and jobs in the region while enriching the quality of life of local communities.
“We are also actively working with a number of the region’s leading economic development organizations, such as the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC); the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA); and the Valley Economic Alliance as part of CSUN’s ongoing commitment to making the university’s basic and applied research along with its preparation of high talented professionals an essential and dynamic component of the region’s strength in the emerging global economy,” she said. “With this leadership role in mind, CSUN has joined the LA CleanTech Incubator’s Leadership Council and is actively engaged in exploring how that impressive new resource for innovation and commercial development for the region can collaborate with CSUN to make a positive impact on the economic future of the Valley and surrounding communities.”
The audience was filled with community members, staff, students and faculty adorned in regalia representing their various degrees and institutions.
A reception was held in the VPAC courtyard after the ceremony.
The event was fully sponsored with private funds by Follett Higher Education Group; Galpin Motors; National Notary Foundation–Milt and Debbie Valera; Northridge Hospital Medical Center; PepsiCo FoodService; Roy and Traci Salter; and Wells Fargo.