An Update on the California State University Chancellor Search 

March 2nd, 2023
Vincent Rasso
University of California, Riverside

Last month, the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees launched a national search for its 9th Chancellor. The CSU is the largest four-year public higher education system in the country, spanning 23 campuses, serving nearly 500,000 students, employing 56,000 staff and faculty, and is one of California’s primary economic and social mobility drivers.   

 The CSU Board of Trustees has set in motion a selection process that includes two committees to oversee the Chancellor search. The implementation committee, led by the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Wenda Fong, is charged with identifying the characteristics and final leadership profile for the search firm, actively recruiting and reviewing all prospective candidates and making final decisions on contenders – including those who are advanced to be interviewed before the full Board. The assessment committee, serving as an advisory resource, will work alongside the implementation committee on their initial review of prospective candidates and making recommendations, based on their expertise in a diverse range of fields, on which candidates to advance.  

The search committees hosted three Open Forums on February 7th at the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach, February 8th at CSU Bakersfield, and February 9th at San Francisco State University. The forums were designed to solicit feedback on the most pressing issues facing students, faculty and campuses, the biggest opportunities to advance the system in the short- and long-term, and the important qualities the next Chancellor of the CSU must exhibit.  

The forums were attended by faculty, students, staff, and community members who had an opportunity to provide public comment to a panel consisting of members from both search committees, including interim-Chancellor Jolene Koester, CSU Trustees Larry Adamson, Jean Firstenberg, Yammilette Rodriguez and Julia Lopez, and Cal State Student Association (CSSA) student leaders. 

Students who joined the forums urged the search committees to identify a leader who will center student needs in their tenure as CSU Chancellor, especially when it comes to college affordability and basic needs. Students highlighted rising housing costs, distressing cases of food insecurity, and shortages in mental health resources across the campuses.  

Likewise, CSU staff emphasized the urgent need for investments in resource centers like food pantries, counseling and academic advising in order to advance the goals of the Graduation Initiative 2025, a systemwide effort to raise graduation rates while closing persistent racial equity gaps. 

Several speakers uplifted the need for the next Chancellor to have a skilled background in navigating the state legislature to secure funding and resources needed by the CSU to support students and offer competitive wages to faculty and staff to attract and retain a talented workforce. Dozens of faculty members urged the search committees to find a leader who will be able to work collaboratively with CSU union representatives.  

The Campaign for College Opportunity participated in each of the three open forums and called for the search committee to identify candidates with a demonstrated record of embracing racial equity, student access and success. I was able to attend the forum held at the CSU Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach and highlighted the need for the next CSU Chancellor to urgently address racial disparities in Black graduation rates: CSU only graduates 50% of its Black students in 6 years, compared to 71% of white students. Additionally, I spoke to the search committee members about the need for the next Chancellor to be committed to strengthening and streamlining transfer through the Associate Degree for Transfer. Last year, the Campaign recognized CSU campuses at East Bay, Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Sonoma and Stanislaus for their work to improve transfer rates for students with an ADT while also closing equity gaps for Black and Latinx students, an accomplishment the next Chancellor can work to scale across all 23 campuses.   

The Campaign’s Public Affairs Director, Katrina Linden, attended the forum at San Francisco State, uplifting the need for the next Chancellor to work intentionally and proactively with California’s education ecosystem: K-12, community colleges, the UC, private/independent universities as well as external community, civil rights, and business stakeholders to ensure greater college preparation, seamless transfer, and improved time to degree for CA students. Our partners at the Dolores Huerta Foundation in the Central Valley joined the Bakersfield forum, with Amerika Nino Rodriguez commenting on the work the next Chancellor must do to build a culture of academic success for students both before they arrive and when they get to the CSU campuses. Amerika said that the next Chancellor must lead equity initiatives that work to eliminate, once and for all, the persistent racial/ethnic disparities in enrollment and graduation rates among Black, Latinx and Native American students.  

CSU Board of Trustees Chair Fong announced that the current timeline for the Chancellor search includes a review of resumes and candidate interviews from May-June 2023, followed by identifying finalists who will be invited to meet with the Board of Trustees in July 2023. While an official date for the Chancellor’s appointment has not been set, a finalist is likely to be selected and nominated for approval before the Board of Trustees at the September or November meeting, with the next Chancellor assuming their role at the end of the year or early 2024.  

The CSU also has six campus presidential searches underway or upcoming including: Sacramento State, Cal State LA, Chico State, Cal State Maritime Academy, Cal State Fullerton and Stanislaus State. To continue advancing equity in higher education, the Campaign for College Opportunity together with our partners calls for the appointment of leaders that have a proven record of centering equity, diversity and student access and success.  

If you would like to submit ideas and recommendations on the next CSU Chancellor to the search committee, please fill out the CSU’s Chancellor Search survey, or nominate a candidate, at the official CSU Chancellor Search website.  

Read: CA Community Colleges select new Chancellor, Dr. Sonya Christian