CSUF’s Fifth President Visits Campus
Mildred García Meets Titan Family; To Take Office After June 1
IMPRESSED WITH the university's student-centered mission for academic excellence, Mildred García, who will become the fifth president of Cal State Fullerton later this year, told a room full of campus administrators, faculty and staff members at Thursday’s Academic Senate meeting that she wholeheartedly embraces those values. Garcia, who has been president of CSU Dominguez Hills since 2007, will assume her new position at Fullerton sometime after June 1.
“I, too, believe that we must be student centered,” she said. “I, too, believe that we together need to work on the graduation rates of our students. It’s important that we prepare the next generation of leaders for Southern California and for California and the nation because, quite frankly, if this country is going to continue to be the premier country in the world, we must educate the diverse student body that comes into our institutions.”
García spent the day meeting students and other members of the campus community. So many wanted to meet her that she decided to return Friday for another round of introductions.
“I am so excited and impressed with this institution,” she said. “Our focus needs to be on preparing new scholars and realizing that everyone on this campus is an educator from the groundskeeping crews who maintain such a lovely environment, to the police force who help keep our students safe, to the employees in payroll who make sure that checks are cut on a timely basis. Everyone here is an educator, helping to ensure that students graduate and are successful.”
García also provided a bit of insight into her own background. Born in Brooklyn to parents who had immigrated with five of her six siblings from Puerto Rico, she was 12 when her father died and the family moved to the housing projects.
“I am a first-generation college student from very humble beginnings, and I have seen the power of what a college education can do — not only for me, but for the generations in my family after me,” she said.
“When you come from a poor family, as I did, the one inheritance your parents can give you is an education. While it was important to them that I hold onto my cultural values, they also taught me to embrace English and American society and to make sure you give back.”
She worked as a secretary to put herself through college and learned that an education was her ticket to success.
She earned a B.S. in business education from Bernard M. Baruch College, and M.A. in business and higher education from New York University, and M.A. in higher education from Columbia University-Teachers College, and a Ed.D. from Columbia University-Teachers College.
García credits her family, who worked hard to get educated and rise from poverty, for her success.
“I was told by my high school guidance counselor that I would never make it to college,” she said. “And, here I am because I'm stubborn. I learned that from my family.”
In addition to her 10 years as a university president and chief executive, first at Berkeley College and for the last four-and-a-half years at Cal State Dominquez Hills, García brings a record of accomplished teaching and research at Arizona State University, Montclair State University, and Hosta Community College.
“I have a real love for teaching and for research,” she told the group at the first Academic Senate meeting of 2012. “I particularly like student involvement in research projects. It has been demonstrated over and over again that students who are involved in research are more engaged. I want to foster a climate for these kinds of ‘high-impact practices’ where students are involved.
“I admit that I miss teaching and research, but I also enjoy administration,” she added. “I have a passion for ensuring student learning.”
At the senate meeting, García acknowledged the legacy of her predecessor, Milton A. Gordon, who was given a standing ovation.
“Dr. Gordon has created the campus as it is today through his leadership,” she said. “I consider him a friend and a mentor. It is because of his efforts that Cal State Fullerton is a premier, comprehensive university and I am humbled and honored to be a part of this university. My first role is to listen. I hope to talk with faculty and staff as we shape the future of this university. I am dedicated to the mission of Cal State Fullerton. I thank all of you for your hard work, and I look forward to working with you.”
When she met later on with student leaders, García told them her time with them was “the most important meeting of my day.”
She answered questions about how she plans to advocate on behalf of students and how she intends to fight for the university. She told them she wants to hear from students and that she plans to work on improving the graduation rate, which is 51 percent at Cal State Fullerton.
Answering a question about the rising cost of tuition, García said students must make their voices heard on the importance of public higher education through letters to legislators, talks with neighbors, friends and community members and through opinion pieces in newspapers and other publications.
“Together, we need to get the message out,” she said. “We must save the CSU.”
Jan. 26, 2012