Inspiring the Next Generation

Created: 04 October, 2018
Last update: 27 July, 2022

Women Leaders in the CSU are the Majority

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

When San Diego State University student Jocelyn Moran first heard incoming SDSU President Adela de la Torre speak at a luncheon she realized something: de la Torre is someone who is going to ensure that Latino voices are heard.

“As a Latina, seeing someone like her in that role gives me more confidence that the Latino community at San Diego State is going to be represented,” Moran said.

With the appointment of de la Torre and President of Cal State Bakersfield Lynnette Zelezny, the majority of leaders at the presidential level at the California State University system are now women.

While that majority is only twelve out of the 23, the increase of diversity among leadership roles within the CSU system is a change worth attributing to Chancellor Timothy White.

During an interview with La Prensa San Diego, White explained the importance of diversifying leaders to better serve and inspire students at each university.

“When you have people with a variety of experiences like life, academic and background come together as a leadership council,” White said, “that richness and the diversity helps inform everyone about thinking about the issues in front of us –both the challenges and the opportunities– in a much more holistic way.”

White added that in addition to the quality of leadership, having diverse leaders shows students that they too can achieve their dreams.

“It both motivates and inspires students when we look like our student body and it enriches our policy conversations to have multitude of views at the table,” White said.

The most newly appointed president, de la Torre, is the first woman and Latina to serve in such a role at SDSU, something which has already demonstrated to students like Moran that their needs will be represented.

Now almost 100 days into her presidency, de la Torre has adjusted well and shared that having more women in leadership is important because they can serve as role models to students.

“Today, in most institutions, over 50 percent of our undergraduate students are women, so they play a very critical role in developing the new model for higher education,” de la Torre said.

President of Cal State San Marcos Karen Haynes who has served more than 14 years in that role said it has been wonderful to watch the progress.

When she was appointed as president of CSUSM, she was the first women in history to serve in that role on that campus.

Haynes said being a first or only has various elements as it can be both lonely and feel like a burden because a misstep can be attributed to all women but there is also the ability to help women break barriers.

In an upcoming forum, to be held at CSUSM, professionals in higher education will celebrate the fact that women make up the majority of presidents in the CSU.

“It will be yet another important way to show women in higher education what is possible,” Haynes said.

Although Haynes announced that she will retire at the end of June 2019, Chancellor White said the search to find the next president will include a committee and take into account the needs of the university.

“There is always work to be done and I will never ever relax on the issue,” White said. “We are California’s State University and we should be reflective of the society that we are privileged to serve.”