11:22 AM

Neufeldt Touts Power of CSUSM at Report to Community

By Brian Hiro

During her annual community address on Thursday morning, President Ellen Neufeldt briefly told the inspirational story of a Cal State San Marcos student.

Antolette “Apple” Kasler, Neufeldt related, is a first-generation college student who immigrated to the United States with her mother. While Kasler was studying at MiraCosta College before transferring to CSUSM, her mother died of cancer.

That tragic loss fueled in Kasler a desire to make scientific discoveries that lead to progress in the fight against diseases like cancer. Working in the lab of biology professor Julie Jameson, Kasler was part of a team of students that recently made a major research breakthrough, identifying a new gene connected to alopecia areata, an autoimmune disorder that causes individuals to lose their hair in clumps.

After graduating in May, Kasler now is living out her dream as a doctoral student at Sanford Burnham Prebys, a world-class medical research institute in La Jolla.

“As a first-generation student,” Neufeldt said, “Apple epitomizes why we do what we do.”

In so many ways, students like Kasler are the embodiment of what makes CSUSM different – welcoming in students who often are the first in their families to attend college, engendering in them intellectual rigor and innovating thinking, then graduating them into good-paying, stimulating careers that benefit themselves, their families and the region.

That’s the power of CSUSM, and that theme now is enshrined in a new strategic plan that will guide the university for the next five years. The tenets of that plan, which indeed is titled “The Power of CSUSM,” were weaved throughout Neufeldt’s fourth Report to the Community in the USU Ballroom on Thursday.  

“Collectively, we are declaring right here and right now that Cal State San Marcos will become a national leader of social mobility,” Neufeldt said to a room filled with about 350 people representing a broad swath of regional business, nonprofit, education and government leadership.

“It will be a first-choice university for first-generation students and future generations of students. And we will do this as we drive intellectual engagement, innovation and sustainability for a diverse, global society. The measure of our success will be the success of our students and the impact they make after graduation.”

The strategic plan may be new (it was unveiled this spring), but CSUSM already has taken notable strides toward the objectives outlined within it. In terms of social mobility, CSUSM this year ranked in the top 40 of universities nationally – and first regionally – in the Economic Mobility Index by Third Way, a national think tank. It also received a $1 million gift from longtime donors Steve and Laura Wagner to create a fund devoted to social mobility, and in June it hosted the two-day National Social Mobility Symposium, which was emceed by the chair of the CSU Board of Trustees and attended by university leaders, faculty and experts from across the country.

Regarding the pillar of inclusive excellence, Neufeldt touted an agreement signed in February with a group called the Coalition of Black and African American Education that is leading to action focused on enrollment, retention and the bolstering of the campus culture for Black students. She also talked about other significant efforts to enhance diversity, from the university’s first summit dedicated to Latinx student success to campus task forces that are exploring ways to expand support for American Indian and APIDA (Asian Pacific Islander Desi American) students.

And pertaining to innovation and engaged learning, Neufeldt discussed the long-awaited grand opening of the Innovation Hub in the spring, the future construction of a building for integrated science and engineering (it will be CSUSM’s first publicly funded academic structure in more than a decade) and the recent opening of the SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union Education Active Learning Lab, which puts the university at the forefront of K-12 teacher education.

“I truly believe that there is no greater place that unites such a diverse and talented population in common pursuit of knowledge, creativity and impact,” Neufeldt said. “At a time when the value of higher education is being called into question and when most universities are measuring prestige based on who they keep out rather than who they accept, Cal State San Marcos stands out as a beacon of hope and opportunity.”

In other highlights from the Report to the Community speech: 

  • CSUSM faculty last year received nearly 60 research awards totaling $14 million, and in the last two years, total private giving has reached almost $12 million.
  • The university is launching computer engineering next fall, and when the new academic building is completed, mechanical, industrial and systems engineering programs will follow.
  • CSUSM is working to expand classes in engineering and early childhood development at its Temecula campus to complement existing programs in business and nursing; also, Temecula-area students now can take classes in business and criminology at Mt. San Jacinto College.
  • Jennifer Fabbi, dean of the CSUSM library, is working with library faculty to create a makerspace where students can design, experiment, build and invent.
  • A Senior Experience team in the College of Business Administration recently partnered with the College of Education, Health and Human Services for a report that revealed that CEHHS students annually contribute more than $17 million and 650,000 hours at 550 locations in free clinical, education, health and wellness services across the state.  

Report to the Community is hosted each year by University Council, a citizen advisory board consisting of community leaders interested in the development and welfare of the university.  

North City and Wells Fargo served as the presidential sponsors of Report to the Community. The premier sponsor was SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union. The signature sponsors were Hunter Industries and Kaiser Permanente.

Neufeldt's complete speech is available here

Media Contact

Brian Hiro, Communications Specialist

bhiro@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7306