Cal State Fullerton’s new president, Framroze Virjee sees himself as more informal than formal. Referring to him as Mr. Virjee will leave him looking for his father.
“Fram is always fine,” Virjee said.
He plans to be on campus every day to better understand its students, faculty and staff. Recognizing the importance of what he doesn’t know, Virjee is excited to get to know the campus community.
A day spent entirely in his office would be a day wasted, he said.
“I hope I don’t appear strange but I’m going to stop and talk to people. Say ‘Hi, I’m Fram and I’d like to talk to you,’” Virjee said.
With prior experience selecting CSU presidents, Virjee has found that the most successful leaders are those who can walk around campus and be easily recognized and approached.
During his four years as general counsel and executive vice chancellor of the CSU, Virjee said he looked at campus presidents with admiration for their direct involvement with their respective communities.
“I had no thoughts or plans on doing something like this. I was envious,” Virjee said. “When the chancellor called me and said ‘I’ve got an idea,’ I almost jumped out of my skin.”
CSUF was his second stop on a tour of all 23 campuses when he first started working for the CSU.
Virjee said he was greeted by a swarm of lively activity as he first walked into Mihaylo Hall during “crazy time.”
“I was impressed with the balance of the university and I am still impressed,” Virjee said.
He said that one of CSUF’s greatest strengths lies in its diversity, something he advocated for during his 30-plus years as a lawyer. With the CSU, Virjee primarily worked on issues like Title IX and stressed the importance of the system reflecting the community it represents.
“This is who we are. If you take one segment of that, we are less, and as a result we are diminished,” Virjee said.
His father grew up as a “street kid” in Karachi, India (now Pakistan) and his mother on an Iowa farm. The two sought to raise a family with opportunity at the forefront. For Virjee, going to college was not a decision; it was a necessity.
As a first-generation college graduate, Virjee found his experience with higher education to be the single most definitive accomplishment in his life. Receiving both undergraduate and graduate degrees led him to emphasize education as the foundation for social progress.
“(Going to college) was always a presumption, which I think is a really important thing, and I think that’s something that the CSU can promote. It’s not ‘if’ but ‘where, when and how,’” Virjee said.
Throughout his career, Virjee said he has observed and facilitated the ongoing development of issues ranging from inclusivity to sexual harassment. His father initially questioned his position in litigation, but Virjee saw it as an advantage.
“I can do more on the employment side, representing employers than I can employees to make sure things are done correctly,” Virjee said to his father.
Given his experience working higher up in the CSU administration, Virjee said he recognizes the challenges he will face and plans to approach them using his background in law.
“The CSU is underfunded and has been underfunded for too long,” Virjee said. “I want to share with (faculty) what I know about what’s happened and why, but I want to hear from them, in an open-minded way, what I’m missing.”
He said he plans to use his term to reflect on, and learn from CSUF to help him make decisions that are best for the university instead of impulsively making decrees or adjustments to the already-established cabinet.
Having accepted the position of president with his term ending in June 2019, Virjee understands that sudden changes could hinder potential progress.
“I’m a great admirer of President García. I consider her a friend, and I’ve watched what she’s done and what this campus has done, and I don’t feel any need to disrupt that,” Virjee said.
Virjee’s “dastardly” commute from Palos Verdes will soon be shortened when he and his wife move to Fullerton, allowing him to immerse himself in the CSUF community.
“I know what kind of momentum this campus already has,” Virjee said. “What I want to do is jump in and swim with the group and have us all swim faster.”