Published in the Daily Breeze
ALMOST five years ago, I arrived here in the South Bay as a transplant from New York to serve as the president of California State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson. In February, I was appointed to the presidency of one of our sister universities, Cal State Fullerton and will take my place there in June. As I look forward to the celebration of the 2012 Commencement Ceremonies on Friday and Saturday and look back on my tenure at CSU Dominguez Hills, it is with a sense of poignancy and pride.
Three factors stand out that will make the transition much easier: the university’s strong connections in the South Bay, pride in our graduates and the contributions they will make as productive citizens, and the progress CSU Dominguez Hills has made in becoming a model urban university for the region and nation.
I am excited by the personal and institutional partnerships that have been forged in the South Bay and the teamwork that has supported the incredible advancement of CSU Dominguez Hills, despite ongoing state and nationwide economic challenges. Together we have lifted up and propelled the university’s stature as a preeminent educational and cultural center, increased philanthropic support, and created a solid foundation for future programs and accomplishments that will benefit the region.
The South Bay faces a number of challenges in the 21st century, including cultivating business opportunities and growing the economy, educating future citizens and leaders, and providing jobs, services and resources to a broad and diverse array of citizens.
International trade, aerospace, technology, global communications, health and nursing services, biomedical research, media production, education, and financial and business services are some of the key industries in the South Bay. A dynamic workforce of college graduates prepared for careers requiring advanced technological and critical thinking skills is essential.
CSU Dominguez Hills serves as the largest educator for the region – no other local university provides as many graduates who are prepared for these knowledge-based industries that are vital to the South Bay.
Foremost among the new dynamic partnerships that are working to ensure a vibrant future for the greater South Bay, is a $1 million investment by the Annenberg Foundation, that will create the university’s first endowed professorship focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. STEM fields are critical for our region’s economic future and will require a highly trained, diverse workforce. CSU Dominguez Hills is well-positioned to invigorate local industries with the next generation of professionals and leaders, prepared to serve businesses in a global marketplace.
In addition, the university has partnerships and programs that benefit our students and the community with many of the global and regional corporations whose headquarters are in the South Bay: Toyota, Honda, Shell, Boeing, Verizon, Carson Companies, Watson Land Company, Northrop Grumman, to name a few.
One example is a partnership with the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Center at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed). Since 1998, this alliance has offered graduate biology students from underrepresented groups the opportunity to gain hands-on biomedical and clinical research experience, and to be mentored by nationally and internationally known researchers. The research ranges from molecular biology to clinical research studies of promising new therapies and drugs. LA BioMed mentors also serve on students’ thesis committees along with CSUDH faculty.
The university has also hosted several legislative and business roundtables and discussion panels, such as the “Mayor’s Roundtable” last year that brought together and informed the South Bay city leaders about the academic programs and resources available at CSU Dominguez Hills for their constituents and the region’s cities.
Our strategic and collective vision for the university and its role in the South Bay is coming to fruition by the hard work and dedication of the entire university and extended community, from students, faculty and staff, to alumni, donors and partners. These are the people who live, lead, work, teach, and study right here in the South Bay and who have dedicated their careers and lives to the university’s mission of educating the region’s 21st century citizens and workforce.
As we prepare for a transition in the university’s leadership and welcome Dr. Willie Hagan as interim president, I am heartened by the knowledge that many of our advancements have been institutionalized and I am confident that the momentum will continue at CSU Dominguez Hills.
In spite of repeat budget cuts to the university and rising tuition costs for our students, the people of the South Bay have embraced CSU Dominguez Hills with a renewed sense of pride and are collectively committed to ensuring that our youth and citizens get the high quality education they need, building partnerships and philanthropic support for this region’s leading public university, and ensuring that CSUDH becomes a top-notch university of choice.
I have made many friends in the South Bay and I am confident we will continue to work together for the advancement of higher education and our citizens in Southern California. It has been an honor serving this great institution and I thank you for the great privilege of leading the “university of the South Bay” and for serving this region.
Mildred Garcia is president of California State University, Dominguez Hills.