San Marcos,
13:16 PM

Neufeldt Gets Up-close Look at Future Home

By Brian Hiro

On the March day when she learned that she had been appointed the next president of Cal State San Marcos, a day she said she will never forget, Dr. Ellen Neufeldt received an email from CSUSM’s current president, Dr. Karen Haynes.

As part of the message to her successor, Haynes wrote, “Congratulations on attaining the best presidency in the CSU and beyond.”

Last week, Neufeldt (pronounced NEW-FELT) got her first intimate look at the university she will lead starting in July and began to confirm for herself the veracity of Haynes’ words.

“She couldn’t have been more accurate in her description,” Neufeldt said.

Neufeldt was speaking to a crowd of close to 700 students, faculty and staff in The Sports Center during an open forum Thursday that was an opportunity for her to introduce herself to the campus community and for the campus community to greet her and ask her questions. It was just one event in a packed two-day visit that saw Neufeldt meet with many CSUSM constituencies as the first steps in a listening tour that will continue after she officially begins her tenure this summer.

“Everybody is so committed to this campus,” Neufeldt said Friday afternoon at the conclusion of her two days at CSUSM. “I’ve heard ‘university first’ a lot, and I really interpret that to mean making sure we’re doing our very best for the students here, being committed to the whole community. Everybody really embodied that. It’s one thing to read it. It’s another thing to see it in action, so that was really nice.”

Neufeldt comes to CSUSM from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., where she is vice president of student engagement and enrollment services. She’s taking over for Haynes, who will retire in June after 15½ years, making her the longest-serving president in the CSU system.

Neufeldt told the audience at the open forum that her career has revolved around the issues of student success and social mobility. She established a link between Old Dominion and CSUSM, saying the universities share a commitment to diversity, to inclusivity and to ensuring that every student is given the best chance possible to graduate.

She also talked about her background. Neufeldt isn’t a first-generation college graduate, but her father is; after being raised on a farm in Canada in an immigrant family where English was a second language, he found his way to college, eventually earning a Ph.D. Neufeldt said her father’s efforts to go far in academia changed not only his life, but hers as well. She essentially grew up on his university campus in Tennessee, with the importance of higher education imprinted in her DNA.

“I wake up almost every morning grateful to be in such a purposeful profession, where we get to work together to change lives and to move the needle forward,” she said. “When I had the opportunity to come here, I came to realize very quickly that Cal State San Marcos stands for what the future is about in higher ed, a student-centered university that really aligns with my passions.”

Neufeldt’s message during her campus visit was well-received.

“She’s incredibly lovely,” said Savana Doudar, president of Associated Students, Inc., who served on the presidential search committee. “Definitely a listener, which is what I really appreciate and we were all looking for in a new campus president. Someone who’s willing to learn and understand what this campus needs and what our journey will look like moving forward.”

Said Jackie Trischman, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry: “I have found Dr. Neufeldt to be an engaging academic leader so far. She understands the challenges our students face and the complexity of the CSU system well, even if she has yet to learn most of our acronyms and policies. I look forward to getting to know her better as a president and as a colleague.”

After two full days at CSUSM, Neufeldt was looking forward to touring North County on Saturday, including a possible stop at the beach (hiking and spending time near the ocean are two of her favorite leisure activities). As she prepared to return to Virginia before moving west for good, she reflected on what she had seen and heard at her future home.

“My biggest takeaway is how impressed I was with everybody I met and the spirit of the entire community of faculty, staff and students,” Neufeldt said. “I can’t wait to be here full-time and immerse myself in this place.”

Media Contact

Brian Hiro, Communications Specialist | Office: 760-750-7306