Remarks by Dr. Jolene Koester - May 24, 2022

Meeting of the CSU Board of Trustees, May 24, 2022
Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester
Introductory Remarks (as prepared)

Thank you, Chair Kimbell, for the opportunity to say a few words of introduction before we begin the business of our May meeting, and good morning, all.

My service as the CSU's interim chancellor is an alignment of my core values and experiences and it reflects my deep commitment to the importance of the California State University system to the people of this state.

The CSU has been my professional home since 1983, first at Sacramento State, where I began as a faculty member who was steeped in the traditional academic roles of teaching, scholarship and service. I also became involved in university governance and administration and in my last years served as the vice president for academic affairs and provost. Then I was given the true privilege to serve as CSUN's president from 2000 until 2011. Since retiring from the presidency, it's been my pleasure to stay closely connected with higher education nationally, as well as within the CSU, by consulting with and providing executive coaching to literally hundreds of presidents and other academic leaders, to guide and support them, and enable them to become more effective university leaders.

My affinity for the CSU is rooted in the convergence of my personal values with those of this remarkable university system. Those shared values include a belief in the individual and societal transformations that public higher education allows. Those values also include the recognition that all people deserve access to higher education, and thus the commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is paramount. The CSU has also always allowed me to work and thrive through my fundamental values of respect, communication, inclusion, compassion, and, yes, trust.

For me, the wonderful thing about the CSU is that those values don't gather dust in some planning document on an office shelf, or sit on some seldom-seen “about us" page on a website. They are reflected in inspired work that changes lives on a daily basis at our universities across the state. I look forward to supporting and shining a light on that remarkable work.

But I also come to this role fully understanding that change is necessary, that we must do better. Recent events and revelations have made it clear – sometimes painfully clear – that we have not always carried out our work in a manner that was true to our core values. We must restore trust among all our constituents and stakeholders; to do that we must take a hard and clear-eyed look at our processes, policies, and organizational structures and make change where needed; we must respond quickly and adroitly to the operational and strategic challenges that confront us; we must advocate as a unified and powerful voice for the resources we need; and we must protect and build the reputation to which we aspire. Lest you hear only organizational objectives as my focus, let me be clear: while policy and structures are important, so, too, is the human and cultural aspects of change that we must seek to establish.

Put another way, we must work together to represent the CSU and its governance authentically, as trusted and transformational leaders, who collectively advocate for resources and provide services that position our 23 campuses for growth and success, success that is measured in transformed lives, thriving communities and, ultimately in a brighter future for California.

To succeed, I have more detailed goals that I will outline in my report this afternoon. For now, I simply ask you – the entire Cal State community – to move beyond the division, the bitterness, and the rancor and resentment to focus on that which unites us: our mission. It's what our current and future students deserve and it's what this extraordinary institution needs.

I have begun this work. I ask you all to join me.

Chair Kimbell?