Academic Enrichment

In partnership with its donors, the California State University provides students resources, enriching experiences and opportunities to excel in and out of the classroom. By funding hands-on learning, career engagement and research activities, this generous support gives California’s future leaders essential tools to thrive in their careers of choice, including education, health care, technology, communications, agriculture and so many others. Although the CSU’s 4 million alumni are indeed spread out across the globe, about 84 percent remain in California, with one in 10 employees across the state holding a CSU degree. Together, CSU alumni are working at all levels to serve their communities, power the economy and lead California to its brightest future.

Philanthropy Helps Students Get Down to Business

California State University, Bakersfield received $1 million from the Ravi and Naina Patel Foundation to create and support the Mahatma Gandhi Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship. The Patels hope the fellowship will encourage young entrepreneurs to operate businesses that are environmentally and socially sustainable.

“The Gandhi Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurship positions CSU Bakersfield as a leader in an emerging discipline in business,” said President Lynnette Zelezny. “Social entrepreneurship applies a value-based approach to business innovation to improve the quality of work and life regionally. Through research and program development, faculty and student teams will approach business development in a new way, exploring issues like sustainability, building self-sufficient communities and creating workspaces that respect work-life balance.”

In addition, the university received two $500,000 commitments—one from the SeedCore Foundation and the other from the Skeet Varner Foundation—to create a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation on campus that seeks to spur business growth in the region.

“Our community has identified the need to both facilitate small business startups and to sustain them as they grow,” said John Stark, interim dean of CSU Bakersfield's School of Business and Public Administration. “Yet currently, there is no comprehensive support system for these efforts in the area. These gifts will help make the dreams of future entrepreneurs and small-business owners come true.”

These collective gifts are just the latest example of the extraordinary support CSUB has received over the years to help students become successful community leaders.

Center for Regenerative Agriculture Grows, Thanks to Generous Gift

Bruce Burnworth, chief empowerment officer at Healthy Soil Biomes, a charitable limited liability company, donated $1 million to the Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems (CRARS) at California State University, Chico. His nonprofit aims to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable agriculture. When Burnworth discovered an ally in CRARS, he toured the farm and became even more inspired.

Burnworth wants to grow the number of undergraduate and graduate students participating in Chico State’s applied research program. Through large pledges and a series of gifts in 2021-22, his generosity will also support the university’s research to promote a healthy, living soil and optimal carbon accrual in soil worldwide.

“It takes a world to save the world,” he said. “All of these ideas are great, but they don’t spread to the people unless we have an alliance of people helping to spread them.”

Donation Helps Snap the Digital Divide

Snap Inc., developer of the social media platform Snapchat, has gifted $5 million to California State University, Dominguez Hills to create an institute focused on addressing equity gaps in computing education. This is the largest single donation the university has received.

Housed in the CSU Dominguez Hills College of Education, the institute will center on equity and access, particularly for students with disabilities as well as bilingual, multilingual and dual-language learners. Through vital partnerships with Los Angeles-area school districts, the institute will make high-quality computer science education an integral part of the K-12 experience for all students.

“Integrating computer science education into the curriculum of K-12 schools in underserved communities is an important step in closing the digital divide that leaves many would-be scholars on the outside looking in,” said CSU Dominguez Hills President Thomas A. Parham. “With Snap Inc.’s help, CSUDH will smash that digital divide and create additional technology-savvy, academically engaged leaders throughout Southern California.”

Professor Sets Students on a Course for Adventure

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona received $100,000 from political science professor Renford Reese to fund student study-abroad opportunities. Reese leads annual, short-term study-abroad trips to places such as Ghana, Mumbai, Brussels and Hong Kong for Cal Poly Pomona students. However, the experience can be a financial stretch for many students.

This gift awards $500 scholarships to 20 undergraduate students over a decade. Reese hopes the funds will put study abroad within reach for all students, including formerly incarcerated students participating in the university’s Project Rebound program, as well as Renaissance Scholars and McNair Scholars.

“The university, the students, the staff and my colleagues—they have given me everything,” Reese said. “I want to give back to the university what the university has given me. I didn’t want to do it in my will. I wanted to do it while I am still living.”

Alumnus Gives Campus a lot to Smile About

Thanks to a gift from entrepreneur and Hornet alumnus Rekhi Singh, Sacramento State University students will be learning the art of joy. Singh’s donation established the university’s first endowed professorship in happiness. Meliksah Demir, one of the nation’s experts on the subject, holds the post.

The position is aimed at promoting happiness through academic research, curriculum development and partnerships across campus. Demir said he wants to teach students how to channel positive feelings to live happier, more fulfilling lives. Students in his course will be asked to practice happiness-promoting activities for one week and reflect on their state of mind before and after the exercise. “Increasing your happiness level is possible, but it requires intention, motivation and work,” Demir said.

Ultimately, he wants to set up “happiness booths” on campus that members of the Sacramento State community can visit briefly to listen to music, sip coffee or meet with a friend to boost their spirits.

Grant Will Fund Creation of Hispanic-Serving Institute

As part of Adobe’s new Anchor School Program, the creative technology company is giving $1 million to San José State University because it is a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). At HSIs, more than 25 percent of its undergraduate full-time students identify as Hispanic.

The gift supports the creation of an on-campus HSI Institute that will serve as a central university resource to advance “culturally sustaining programming, curricula and research,” according to Magdalena Barrera, vice provost for faculty success and professor of Chicana and Chicano studies.

“Built on a holistic understanding of the experiences, strengths and needs of the Latinx students, families and communities we serve, the HSI Institute will enable SJSU to recognize and amplify the powerful ways in which students’ campus and home lives are intertwined and inform each other,” Barrera said.

Generous Donation Fulfills Faculty's Longstanding Vision

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo’s College of Engineering received an eight-figure bequest intention from the Robert N. Noyce Trust to establish The Noyce School of Applied Computing. The new interdisciplinary school combines three departments—electrical engineering, computer science and software engineering, and computer engineering—under one umbrella to create interdisciplinary collaboration among departments and faculty performing applied computing across the university.

“This donation will help to fulfill a vision the faculty of the college has been promoting for a long time, which is to establish a school of applied computing at Cal Poly,” said Amy Fleischer, dean of the College of Engineering.

The Noyce School will provide faculty with additional resources for teaching and applied research and offer opportunities for undergraduate students to advance their interests in teaching and learning. Students will also benefit from paid internships in their chosen industry and dedicated mentors who will offer guidance and counseling.

Alumni D
onors Invest in the Future

The Student Investment Fund at California State University East Bay, which provides finance majors with hands-on experience in building an actual investment portfolio, was made possible by alumni donors Mike Coke, Mike Dance and Ken Pereira. With the students’ wise investment choices, that seed money will grow and eventually benefit more students in the form of scholarship funds.

An initial investment by Coke and his wife, Shirley, helped launch the Student Investment Fund. George Low, the then dean of the College of Business and Economics, shared the idea with Coke and he was immediately on board, with Dance and Pereira adding their support shortly after.

“I always thought every school should have one of these funds,” Coke said. “Dean Low walked me through what his vision was, and I thought it was excellent. I told him I could contribute money, help raise money or get involved with the students. Now that it’s executed, it’s super exciting.”​