On April 3, 2013, nearly one year after I arrived at California State University, Fullerton as its fifth CSU board-appointed president, I welcomed Orange County Register readers to the inaugural section of the weekly column you’re reading now. Since penning that first “Titan Voices,” I’ve had the honor of publishing more than 50 others, and it is with mixed emotions (and a box of Kleenex) that I now write my final column as the university’s president.
Indeed, the weeks since I announced my decision to leave Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 22, 2018, to accept the presidency of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, have been emotional, and as I look back at all the archived Titan Voices, I am reminded why: The amazing people with whom I’ve shared this journey have become family. That may sound hyperbolic, and I must admit, when I received a chorus of greetings that began with “Welcome to the Titan family” upon my arrival in 2012, I did not fully grasp the depth of that phrase despite the earnest energy put forth by the people exclaiming it.
Rest assured, I do now.
Like “Titans Reach Higher,” there is emotional power to those words that speak to our belief that everyone at Cal State Fullerton — faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and external partners — are educators. And when you witness firsthand the transformational power your collaborative efforts have on the most important members of the community — the more than 40,000 diverse students we serve — you can’t help but feel a deep connection to and appreciation of those with whom you stand shoulder to shoulder, day in and day out.
You can’t help but feel like family.
And as a family, over the past five and a half years, we came together and flourished in ways that not only honored our now 60-year legacy, but also created a foundation for even greater success over the next 60 years and beyond. Together, we embarked on the University’s first-ever five-year (2013-2018) strategic plan, which has broadened and enhanced the excellent academic programs for which Cal State Fullerton has always been known. As that plan comes to completion in May 2018, we can proudly point to a 30 percent improvement in six-year graduation rates and a 64 percent improvement in four-year graduation rates for first-time freshmen — both university records. We also succeeded in cutting a historically stubborn…