CSU Bakersfield Interim President Harper
Press Release Leadership

Vernon B. Harper Jr. Appointed Interim President of California State University, Bakersfield



CSU Bakersfield Interim President Harper

CSU Bakersfield Interim President Harper California State University (CSU) Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester has appointed Dr. Vernon B. Harper Jr. to serve as​ interim president of California State University, Bakersfield. Harper currently serves as CSU Bakersfield's provost and vice president for Academic Affa​irs. Harper will serve as interim president beginning on Dec. 31, 2023, for approximately 12 months while the CSU Board of Trustees conducts a national search for the university's next regularly appointed president. ​​

“Dr. Harper is a highly principled and energetic academic leader, with a well-established track record of innovation, student success, and inspiring faculty engagement and productivity," said CSU Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester. “He is a student-focused leader with a longstanding dedication to educational equity and a demonstrated commitment to institutional achievement through university-wide collaboration. In addition, Dr. Harper is deeply rooted in the CSU Bakersfield community with productive relationships throughout the region. I have every confidence that he is uniquely positioned to continue CSUB's upward trajectory."

Under his leadership as provost and vice president at CSUB, the university has seen all-time highs in graduation and retention rates; advanced diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives for faculty and students; built significant public-private partnerships to increase enrollment; and benefitted from successful philanthropic efforts and investments to advance student success.

“I am humbled and honored that Interim Chancellor Koester has entrusted me with the stewardship of this extraordinary university, where families from throughout the region find a welcoming home to grow and prosper," said Harper. “I have had an exceptional role model in President Zelezny, and I look forward to continuing the energy and engagement that are the hallmark of her legacy. Together, the CSUB family will remain focused on our mission: the students."

Harper's tenure at CSUB began in 2016, when he served as associate vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of Academic Programs, as well as a professor of communication. He was named interim provost in 2019 before accepting the permanent role in 2020, in which he oversees the academic life and faculty affairs at the university, as well as enrollment, retention, recruitment and graduation initiatives, research, partnerships, and projects to promote innovation, among other critical areas.

Prior to his roles at CSUB, Harper served as the associate vice president for Academic Administration (2012-2016) at West Chester University of Pennsylvania (WCUPA), where he led the opening of a branch campus located in downtown Philadelphia and worked with the Frederick Douglass Institute to develop the campus's Diversity Strategic Plan to attract diverse candidates for faculty positions.

In addition to his public higher education experience, Harper served as associate provost at Wilkes University of Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2012, where he was responsible for regional accreditation, assessment and institutional effectiveness.

Before joining Wilkes University, Harper was an associate for Academic Affairs at the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia, the system administrative body of the 16 four-year institutions and 23 two-year institutions in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Harper earned a bachelor's degree in communication from Pennsylvania State University, a master's degree in rhetoric and communication from West Chester University, and a doctorate in human communication from Howard University. He also served eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve and is the recipient of the U.S. Army Achievement Medal and the Martin Luther King Unity Award.

In July 2023, CSUB's current president, Lynnette Zelezny, announced that she would be retiring from her role at the end of the calendar year. Zelezny is the fifth president of CSUB and the first woman to hold the distinction.

About the California State University

The California State University is the largest system of four-year higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, nearly 460,000 students, and 56,000 faculty and staff. More than 40 percent of the CSU's undergraduate students transfer from California Community Colleges. The CSU was created in 1960 with a mission of providing high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of California. With its commitment to quality, opportunity and student success, the CSU is renowned for superb teaching, innovative research and for producing job-ready graduates. Each year, the CSU awards more than 125,000 degrees. One in every 20 Americans holding a college degree is a graduate of the CSU and our alumni are 4 million strong. Connect with and learn more about the CSU in the CSU NewsCenter.