Gifts That Uplift Communities

The CSU is key to a growing and thriving California. Our students graduate with job-ready skills, empowered to contribute to the success of their communities. From Cal Poly Humboldt in the north to San Diego State in the south, the 23 universities of the CSU have a significant and undeniable impact on the culture and economies of their counties and communities. Donor support is essential to continue this powerful pipeline. Philanthropy paves the way for social mobility by preparing equity-focused educators in underserved communities across the country and exposing K-12 youth to careers in high-demand fields, including STEM and environmental studies.

Support Will Provide Students Space to Create

Chevron adds to its 30-plus years of support to California State University, Bakersfield with funding for a new outdoor space located behind the Engineering Complex that will give engineering students more room to work on their projects. The makerspace will feature a 20-foot-long, 40-foot-wide covered area housing workstations that include benches, testing and storage space, a welding station, power hubs and other resources that students can use for their designs. Chevron has provided $15 million in total support to CSU Bakersfield since 1990.

“We believe in the power of education to uplift Central Valley families as they strive to make their dreams a reality,” said Molly Laegeler, vice president of Chevron’s San Joaquin Valley Business Unit. “We’re confident that the investments we have made will continue to make our community an even better place to learn, work and live.”

Trailblazing Gift Assists Students With Special Needs

In 2019, Louise Shakarian-Ukleja invested in the needs of a wide range of California State University, Long Beach students by establishing the Leading, Educating and Developing Students (LEADS) initiative. “This transformative gift is a trailblazing effort to develop support for disadvantaged and underserved students so they can earn their college degree,” Shakarian-Ukleja said.

Over time, the initiative has aided thousands of underserved students by helping them overcome life challenges. Housed in the Student Success Center at Cal State Long Beach, LEADS offers comprehensive services, including for mental health and wellness, the Guardian Scholars program (for foster youth) and the Bob Murphy Access Center. 

“Through the high-impact LEADS gift, Ms. Shakarian-Ukleja is furnishing resources not only to enhance and expand existing programs and services but also to develop and implement new programs and services that are building on the university’s strong record of success in supporting the academic progress—as well as the health and wellness—​of students with special needs,” CSULB President Jane Conoley said.

Partnership Allows High School Students to Take First Steps

California State University, East Bay hosts the annual Discover Engineering! Camp. The weeklong camp, which served 54 students this year, allows high school students from Bay Area schools to gain experience in the field of engineering from university faculty. The camp aims to ensure a more robust link for students from high school to higher education and meet California’s STEM workforce needs. 

The camp is made possible thanks to a partnership with Chevron. Lily Rahnema, a Chevron community engagement manager, said, “The Chevron Richmond Refinery is excited to have sponsored this camp after having created it in partnership with the Cal State East Bay engineering team approximately 10 years ago.” 

CSUEB President Cathy Sandeen welcomed the participants: “I encourage you to continue stretching your minds and trying new things. I hope that one day, I can welcome you to Cal State East Bay and congratulate you on getting your degrees. It is possible. You have already taken the first steps.”

Addressing the Teacher Shortage

Thanks to a transformative gift from the Ballmer Group, California State University, Dominguez Hills will launch two programs that will help prepare more than 1,000 new preschool and early elementary school teachers to serve the Golden State. Ballmer Group is committing a historic $22 million to CSU Dominguez Hills over six years, marking the largest donation ever received by the university. 

The majority of the gift will fund scholarships for students through the university’s Toros Teach L.A. program, which will help address California’s severe shortage of early childhood educators by preparing, graduating and placing culturally competent and diverse teachers and leaders in schools across the Los Angeles region. 

“This program, supported by a generous gift from Ballmer Group, will have an outstanding impact on communities with a high need for credentialed preschool and early childhood educators,” said CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham.

Grant Helps Establish Degree Program for Incarcerated Women

California State University, Los Angeles received a $1 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will help the university establish the first in-person bachelor’s degree completion program for incarcerated women in California. Cal State LA is partnering with Chaffey College to offer the new prison education program, an expansion of the university’s Prison B.A. Graduation Initiative, which started in 2016 as a program for incarcerated men at California State Prison, Los Angeles County in Lancaster. 

Incarcerated students at the California Institute for Women in Riverside County will take courses in pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts in liberal studies, with an option in interdisciplinary studies in culture and society. 

“Our Prison B.A. Graduation Initiative is a testament to education’s power to transform lives and communities, and we look forward to expanding this important work with our new program for incarcerated women,” said Jose A. Gomez, Cal State LA’s then-provost and executive vice president.

Igniting the Next Generation of Innovators

The new Autodesk Technology Engagement Center at California State University, Northridge will be a place where students learn, create and innovate by making things. Autodesk Inc., a leader in design-and-make software, has provided over $7 million in total support. 

The facility will accommodate academic programs in the university’s college of engineering and computer science; equity-focused science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) programming; and Global Hispanic Serving Institution Equity Innovation Hub programming. It will include fabrication labs and state-of-the-art equipment for research, design and digital capture, as well as a “makerspace” for the campus and wider community. 

“Making is a front door to inspiring young people to do more with technology and pursue a technical education,” said Andrew Anagnost, CSUN alumnus and president and CEO of software company Autodesk Inc. “When they make something, their curiosity and interest are ignited. That’s what the Autodesk Technology Engagement Center is all about: igniting the curiosity and interest of the next generation of innovators.”

Fueling a Diverse Workforce Pipeline

The Gilead Foundation awarded San Francisco State University $3.5 million in grant funding for the university’s Science and Engineering Innovation Center (SEIC), slated for completion in 2024. The funds will outfit SEIC’s labs with modern equipment and furnishings that will train students in essential skills required for biopharma, biotech and engineering careers. For example, SEIC houses a fluids and process control lab with a wind tunnel to evaluate wind turbines and vehicle aerodynamic efficiency as well as a biophysical and chemical analysis lab where students can conduct sophisticated experiments. 

“Gilead’s generous investment in the building and our students’ success is also a tremendous investment in the Bay Area’s unparalleled STEM workforce,” said Carmen Domingo, dean of San Francisco State’s College of Science and Engineering. “Their support allows the university and our exceptional faculty to further strengthen SF State’s proud record of helping fuel a highly qualified and diverse regional workforce pipeline.”

Obliterating Opportunity Gaps

Joseph F. Johnson Jr. and Cynthia L. Uline are supporting the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) through a bequest to the center’s home at San Diego State University. They endowed a $75,000 scholarship for current and future educators involved with the university’s Black Resource Center. 

The NCUST endowment is named for former College of Education Dean Lionel “Skip” Meno, who recruited Johnson and Uline to SDSU after repeatedly crossing paths with them in educational settings over the years. Studies and teaching practices by NCUST have transformed learning in urban schools, historically hampered by underfunding or low expectations. NCUST aspires to obliterate equity and opportunity gaps. 

“Preparing leaders who are equity driven, preparing leaders who understand how to build these dream teams and preparing leaders who understand the whole environment is a critical part of putting all kids on the path toward success,” Uline said.

Foundation Outreach Expands Horizons

Five groups of Tulare County high school students visited the Cal Poly Pier this spring—some seeing the ocean for the first time in their lives. Ninth grade Lindsay High School biology students explored Avila Beach, actively learned about marine life and toured the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo campus through one-day field trip excursions. 

Funding from the Santa Rosa Creek Foundation supports student scholarships, field trip collaborations between Lindsay High School and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Learn by Doing Labs and summer camps for Lindsay Learners. Lindsay is an agricultural community near Visalia. Many students are from farmworker families and Spanish is the primary language at home. 

“I was guided to my career by outreach programs and being able to explore different fields within biology at Cal Poly,” said Crystal Castillo, a biology graduate student, in the freshwater animal behavior laboratory. “This is the perfect project for that.”

Professor’s Gift Helps Students Shoot for the Stars

On Girl Scouts camping trips, Lynn Cominsky learned about constellations from her mother, a troop leader. Those experiences later ignited Cominsky’s career of studying black holes and inspiring generations of young students. 

Now a professor of physics and astronomy and program director of the EdEon STEM Learning Center at Sonoma State University, Cominsky donated a generous estate gift to the university to ensure that her life’s work continues to impact students and science education worldwide. 

During her distinguished career, Cominsky has garnered more than $35 million in grants to create K-12 astronomy education, to operate a robotic telescope that’s used by high school and college students nationwide, and, more recently, to found NASA’s Neurodiversity Network to support students on the autism spectrum and encourage them to embark on careers at NASA and in other STEM fields.

Preparing Mental Health Care Providers of the Future​

California State University, Stanislaus received $210,000 from HealthForce Partners Northern San Joaquin to award scholarships up to $5,000 to graduate students preparing for careers in social work, clinical counseling and marriage and family therapy. The funds will be awarded to at least 22 students per year over two years. 

The scholarships are aimed at addressing the shortage of mental health care providers in the northern San Joaquin Valley and are an element of Stanislaus State’s participation in the San Joaquin Behavioral Health Workforce Partnership. 

“I applied for this scholarship because working in San Joaquin County is incredibly important to me,” Stanislaus State student Alejandra de Avellar said. “The support and encouragement I received from HealthForce Partners is truly invaluable. They are helping students like me become professionals within our local community and allowing us to help our fellow residents.”