Steps Magazine Summer 2014,
07:00 AM

10 Years Together

President Haynes Reflects on a Decade of Leadership at Cal State San Marcos

When you consider that the average tenure for a university president in the United States is only eight and a half years and that only a quarter of the presidents are women, Dr. Karen Haynes’ 10th anniversary at Cal State San Marcos is particularly remarkable.

“In many respects the years have gone by very fast,” said Haynes, who is now CSUSM’s longest standing president.

Haynes first visited CSUSM in 2003 when interviewing for the presidency. At a public open forum, she wore a bright fuchsia suit and humorously remarked that she wore the color because she wanted to be sure that she was remembered, and because she was certain that the other two male candidates wouldn’t wear that color.

Upon her appointment the North County Times declared, “Fuchsia Suit Wins!” And in the subsequent decade, Haynes’ bold leadership style has served both the University and the region well.

A Commitment to Educate Underserved and At-Risk Populations

“When I first came to Cal State San Marcos, I realized that so many people had come here for the same reasons I had—to build a new, truly unique and innovative university,” she said. “Our shared journey, our shared commitment and work, has created a university with expanded access and broader reach—a university that is both the anchor of this region and a model in the nation.”

A trained social worker and one of only five university presidents in the nation with a social work background, Dr. Haynes’ presidency has been shaped by her profession's values.

“When I came to CSUSM, we started to talk about what would be our major strategic priorities,” she said. “I felt a strong commitment to doing what was best for this region: educating regionally at-risk and diverse student populations, and those who would stay in this region and give back after graduation.”

In 2007 CSUSM launched its ACE Scholars Services program, offering scholarships, on-campus work opportunities, counseling and other support to former foster youth. Thanks to the success of ACE, Cal State San Marcos educates more former foster youth per capita than any other institution in the United States.

Like former foster youth, American Indian students also have historically been overlooked in higher education. Through college fairs specific to tribal communities, communications in Native languages and the efforts of CSUSM’s tribal liaison—the only full-time position of its kind in the CSU and created by Haynes in 2004—Cal State San Marcos is ensuring that more American Indian students are enrolling in and graduating from college.

In 2009 CSUSM was recognized as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution. The following year it earned its Hispanic Serving Institution status. Today over 64 percent of students self-identify as non-Caucasian and over 50 percent are first in their family earning a bachelor's degree.

“We are doing the work that our regional sister institutions are not,” said Haynes. “Yes, the other institutions are doing excellent work. They are increasingly meeting national and international needs and taking high caliber students, but these are not the educationally-at-risk students, the veterans, the former foster youth, the American Indians, the ones the statistics said wouldn’t go to college.”

A New Model for Public Higher Ed 

A few years after Haynes arrived at Cal State San Marcos, the Great Recession hit bringing a dramatic reduction in state funding. While many institutions slashed programs and laid off faculty and staff, Haynes was adamant that CSUSM remain positive, resilient and innovative.

The University quickly adapted to a new framework based on community partnerships to meet its priorities. This nimbleness was essential in the face of reports indicating that Riverside and San Diego counties were experiencing moderate to robust growth in the number of high school graduates—many of whom were not expected to continue their education past the 12th grade. Statistics also signaled that California would be short one million college educated workers by 2025.

The 2007 opening of CSUSM’s off-campus center in Temecula is one example of how University leaders worked with regional and civic entities to leverage resources and provide increased access to higher education. The center now offers programs specific to Southwest Riverside County’s industry needs, as well as broader programs in business and kinesiology.

As further proof of the University’s commitment to community engagement and raising the educational attainment rate, CSUSM has established 13 guaranteed admission programs with regional partners. Students who come to CSUSM through these agreements have higher GPAs and retention rates.

“We created the guaranteed admissions program to help at-risk students not just get into college but get through college and prove the statistics wrong,” explained Haynes.

No Longer the Best Kept Secret in North County

Over the last 10 years, Cal State San Marcos’ reputation has expanded beyond the boundaries of North San Diego County, putting the University in the national and international spotlight.

CSUSM faculty are actively engaged in groundbreaking research, including one professor who led an

international team of 75 scientists in the first-ever documentation of a pan genome shared by different algal varieties. The findings are opening new avenues for studying climate change and carbon cycling.

“It’s all work that may change the world, that will shape the future and that is transforming our region into a global knowledge center,” explained Haynes. “It’s work that is making us nationally known.”

CSUSM’s nationally known commitment to veterans led the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey to donate a sustainable building to the University for use as a new stand-alone veterans center in 2013. And it was CSUSM’s forward focus and innovative spirit that led a CSU trustee to select San Marcos as the ideal place to create and launch the CSU Institute for Palliative Care in 2012.

“The Institute for Palliative Care will address an important part of the national public health agenda that was being ignored, and the impact of our programs will be profound,” said Haynes.

A Great Future for a Great University

Haynes promises that she is not done yet and that Cal State San Marcos will remain focused on educating students through theoretical and experiential learning; investing in and supporting sophisticated, lifechanging research; and working hand-in-hand with its community to enable positive change, to solve substantive issues and to partner for the common good.

“In 10 years together, we have transformed lives, rebuilt communities and reinvigorated our economy. We have built a university geared toward educating the 21st century student,” she said. “I am so proud of the work we have done together and to be Cal State San Marcos’ president.”