President Mildred García announced Monday that she will be moving on to become president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and will be leaving Cal State Fullerton in January.
Although this is a great promotion for García, the move could leave CSUF and its students without a leader who understands its dominant demographic — Hispanic students.
During the 2016-17 school year, CSUF had 15,742 Hispanic students, making them the largest demographic on campus with white students being the second largest, at 8,513. CSUF is a Hispanic-serving institution and it will need to appoint another president who understands the needs of its majority.
Whomever is chosen to lead the university and its efforts in improving the campus must have the ability to uphold standard goals for every student and understand the complexity of meeting the needs of first-generation minority students. As a first-generation student herself, García understood that firsthand.
García is a Latina woman of Puerto Rican descent who instituted change for CSUF.
The American Council of Education awarded García with the Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award. She received the award for her creation of Student Success Centers in each of CSUF’s eight colleges to provide new support for students.
At an AASCU conference, García said that her priorities lie with cultivating cultural resources for a community that is unrepresented; first-generation and low-income students. Although the president of the university is changing, students seeking an education are not.
While García has been in office, the university has seen a 30 percent improvement in six-year graduation rates and a 65 percent improvement in four-year graduation rates for first-time freshmen. CSUF is also No. 1 in California and second in the nation in awarding degrees to Hispanic students.
García, in only her second year in office, led an effort in establishing the first Dreamers Resource Center out of the 23 California State University campuses. It is a place where undocumented students can find help with academics, information on resources and programs in a comfortable environment on campus.
The new president needs to have this same effort and dedication to students.
The CSU system stated in its Graduation Initiative 2025 that it plans to reduce the achievement gap for underrepresented minority students from 9 percent to zero. It also stated that the university plans to provide free support systems for underrepresented groups.
Seeing as García was the one to sign this plan and affirm its message, hopefully the new president can be as successful in that plan.
Someone with an understanding of students from diverse backgrounds should sit at the head of the university.
This shift in leadership will only go smoothly if the goals of the new president align with those of the current one.
García broke many records while holding the highest position for the university because she recognized her priorities.
The only way that the university will continue to benefit its students is with another leader who represents the diversity within the university and actively works to continue the progress that García has made for Hispanic students.