San Marcos,
12:47 PM

CSUSM Celebrates 25th Anniversary All Year Long

By Christine Vaughan

From humble beginnings as a chicken ranch to becoming a bold, innovative university with a forward focus, California State University San Marcos turns 25 this year. To mark the milestone, the University will host a yearlong series of programs, activities and signature events, kicking off with The Prowl, a campus-wide scavenger hunt on January 27-28 featuring over $4,000 in prizes.

The Year Was...

Although founded in 1989 when the governor signed Senate Bill 365 declaring the former SDSU satellite campus as a new state university, CSUSM marks its anniversary by its first day of classes, which were held in the fall of 1990.

A lot can happen in 25 years. The same year that CSUSM opened its doors, the first webpage was posted on the World Wide Web; West and East Germany were officially reunited as one nation; the Hubble Telescope was launched into orbit; and Activist Nelson Mandela was released from prison after spending 27 years as a political prisoner in South Africa.

Where It All Began

Cal State San Marcos was the first in a new era of public higher education. Prior to its establishment, there had been no new comprehensive universities built in the U.S. in two decades.

Founded on principles of academic excellence and access, CSUSM welcomed its first students (448 juniors and seniors) in 1990. While the permanent campus was being constructed on the former site of the 304-acre Prohoroff Poultry Farm in the foothills of San Marcos, students attended class at a temporary storefront location. In those early semesters, students and employees informally nicknamed the university Cal State Jerome’s in homage to its nearby neighbor and landmark business, Jerome’s Furniture.

Within two years, enrollment reached 1,700 students and the University moved to its permanent address on Twin Oaks Valley Road with the completion of Craven Hall, Academic Hall and Science Hall I. The center of campus was marked by the Founders Seal which commemorates the twelve founding faculty who laid the groundwork to shape CSUSM with a bold vision that focused on community engagement and experience-based learning. That campus landmark has become the site of one of CSUSM’s urban legends; rumor suggests that students who dare to walk on the seal will not graduate in four years.

Since its modest beginning, CSUSM remains focused on its vision to prepare tomorrow’s leaders, build great communities and solve critical issues. Today CSUSM is home to nearly 13,000 students and boasts approximately 33,000 proud alumni who are making an impact every day in the region and beyond.

Discover more about CSUSM’s history by visiting

Ready. Set. Prowl.

Anniversary festivities begin on January 27 with The Prowl, a two-day, campus-wide scavenger hunt that invites students, faculty and staff to explore many of the unique offerings and hot spots around campus.

The Prowl features 25 stops. At each location participants collect a game piece sticker and earn free CSUSM swag and giveaways (while supplies last). Once completed and delivered to the final stop at the new Alumni Association offices in Commons 203, participants are entered to win top prizes, which include an iPad Air, tickets to Disneyland, a bicycle or skateboard, Dr. Dre Beats headphones, a parking pass, gift cards and other sweet prizes.

Gamecards can be picked up at the University Student Union Information Desk, located on the fourth floor of the USU in the East Pavilion.

A bonus selfie competition invites players to snap a selfie at up to 10 designated campus locations for a chance to win one of several Starbucks gift cards.

For the official rules and a complete list of prizes, visit

Celebrate with Us

Throughout its anniversary year, CSUSM will host signature events and programs to celebrate with students, faculty, staff, friends and the wider community. Mark your calendars.

January 27-28: The Prowl, Scavenger Hunt

February 5: Report to the Community
Every year President Haynes provides an overview of recent University successes while also sharing her vision for moving CSUSM forward in the coming year and beyond.

March 14: Super STEM Saturday
Explore interactive demonstrations and hands-on science activities at Super STEM Saturday, including rocket launches, build-a-robot stations, model displays, scientist chats and a obstacle course. The event is free and open to the public, drawing over 5,000 science enthusiasts each year to the university campus.

March 23: The Sports Center Groundbreaking Celebration

April 11: Discover CSUSM Day
An open house event for prospective students and the community, Discover CSUSM invites attendees to become acquainted with the campus and get an up-close glimpse into college life as a Cougar. Take a campus tour, attend an open class, meet professors, enjoy a matinee showing of the spring play, and cheer on the Cougars at an athletic game – all on Saturday, April 11.

June 20: Annual Gala
Join us for an evening of dinner, dancing and entertainment. Proceeds support innovative research, student programming and the professional development of faculty. Purchase your ticket at

For a complete calendar of events and to learn more, visit

Explore and Share

CSUSM is gathering memories and stories from faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the University and we’d love to hear from you. Each memory tells a unique story about Cal State San Marcos and together they provide a wonderful insight into our reasons to celebrate.

Submit photos and share your memories at