85.7 F
San Fernando
Sunday, Jun 4, 2023

A College’s Course

Most universities are stocked with an intricate web of alumni donors, and community ties. They often possess storied histories that stretch back sometimes for hundreds of years. Such traditions and existing networks undoubtedly make the job of any university president easier. But Richard R. Rush, president of Cal State Channel Islands, has no such luxury. After spending nine years as president of Minnesota State University in Mankato, Rush came to a warmer climate, eager to build a school from scratch. Originally the school’s only employee, Rush has shepherded the arrival of 49 faculty members and about 1,700 full-time students who study in 10 major fields at the new school. By 2007, when the first freshman class will graduate, the enrollment will reach 4,000. The ambitious president aims to build a university for the 21st century and in the process become one of the main economic drivers for the region. Rush’s plans are slowly forming on the sprawling 673-acre Camarillo campus. Rush realizes that the student of the 21st century has different needs from those of the past. To adapt, CSU-CI has gone wireless with students capable of logging onto the Internet at any spot on the grounds. The well-spoken 62 year old is adamant about making sure that the students that graduate from CSU-CI will be on the cutting edge of technology, as well as being able to work with others and think beyond themselves. Question: What’s your vision to develop the relationship between Cal State Channel Islands and the business community of the 101 corridor? Answer: We’re actively contacting businesses. My vice president of university advancement has appointments every week. I frequently go with him to businesses. We’re trying to say to them, ‘we don’t have an agenda other than to hear what you need from us.’ So when we meet with them we ask how we can help. We want to know what the businesses in the community need in other areas. We want to be of use to the business community. I’ve been very active doing this along the 101 corridor and we will continue to do so. Q: What was your experience like working as the president of Minnesota State and how did it differ from your experience as president of CSU-CI? A: Minnesota State is now 135 years old. It’s not a brand new campus. It’s a difference in kind not in degree. When you’re at an established large institution there’s also a history which can be baggage or beneficial. But there’s always a history. Here we had nothing. We’ve had to create everything. We’ve had to create processes for teachers. We’ve had to create everything physically. We’ve had to create programs. We’ve had to create relationships. We have no alumni. We don’t have a body of support that goes back generations. What we have are most devoted. But they’re relatively small in numbers compared to what most established universities have just by their age and size. Q: How difficult was it to start a university from scratch? A: This is the second time I’ve started a university. I did the original planning at Cal State San Marcos 20 years ago. The difficulties involved are the pace and the targets. I’m constantly concerned about staff burnout because there are relatively few of us and great expectations on a short timeline. The people that I’m privileged to work with are terrific and they work very hard. But that’s a principle concern. We don’t want to burn out our human capital. In terms of developing non-state resources, we have to make a case among people who have not graduated from our campus nor have they had a history with us. We have to sell the future, rather than the emotional tie that’s already been established. Q: How do you safeguard against faculty burnout? A: We try to safeguard against burnout by establishing priorities and doing whatever is at the top of the list, by trying to manage our time so we don’t waste our energy. I try to make sure that staff takes time off as appropriate. Q: How do you plan on growing the university? A: We have a number of things that we are using to market the university. This summer, on Continental Airlines in July and August, there was a video for the state of California. We were the university that was featured. It reached 48,000 flights and 2.8 million people. We have an outreach marketing staff. We connect with all the high schools and community colleges in the region and throughout the state. Q: Have you found it difficult to get the breadth and depth of faculty that you would like to hire, considering that you are working on a limited budget? A: We budget pretty carefully and are able to hire the ones that we need to have. Q: What are the strengths and limitations of working at a small school? A: The strengths involve getting to know everyone and that’s a real joy. The limitations are that we don’t have the strength of size either for influence outside the campus, or inside so that we can attract the kind of necessary support to build programs more rapidly. There are positives and negatives to both sides but being small we have flexibility. There’s a dynamism and a sense of camaraderie. There is the sense that the students know everybody. They know the president. Q: What appealed to you about this job? A: The chance to start a university from scratch. Q: Without a preset alumni base, how have you gone about fundraising? A: We’ve established a university advancement arm and we have a number of initiatives for individuals, foundations, and corporations that we have developed. We have a President’s Circle Group that is a support group at a certain level of corporate counsel. You just keep moving forward. Q: What relationships have you built with other schools in the Cal State system? A: Good ones. We’ve had wonderful support from all the other CSU campuses. They’ve offered to help and they have in many ways. When I came here, I went around and visited the other presidents and chancellors in the universities and college in the region. They’ve been offering their support as well. We’ve been welcomed by the educational community. Q: How do you plan to integrate your students into the local business community? Are their job training programs? Internships? A: We have a lot of internships. When we make business visits we ask if people would be interested in having interns. We get a lot of positive response. We have service learning opportunities for students to gain contacts with businesses. We’ve started a small business institute where students work with faculty to help small businesses develop their business plans and their marketing. There are a lot of connections at different levels. Q: How have you felt the impact of the budget crisis at your school? A: It has slowed us down a bit. But we’ve been fortunate to receive great support from the chancellor and his staff. We really haven’t suffered under the budget crisis, except that the funds that should be necessary for higher education across the board haven’t been available. Had they been available we would’ve been able to gain access to them. Q: Where do you think the university will be in 10 years and further down the road? A: I think it’s going to be an institution of about 7,500 full-time students. I think it will be recognized as integral to this region and its future. I think people will be very excited about it. I think by word of mouth the university will have encouraged a lot of people to come. In the future, the university will eventually settle at having 15,000 full time students. SNAPSHOT Richard R. Rush Title: President, Cal State Channel Islands Born: Orange, N.J., 1942 Education: A.B. (tri-major: classics, English, philosophy), Gonzaga University, 1966; M.A., UCLA, English Literature; P.h.D, UCLA, English Renaissance Literature Most Admired People: Father, wife, and daughters Career Turning Point: Getting to move from being a professor at San Diego State to being involved in administration, then later receiving the opportunity to organize the startup at Cal State San Marcos. Hobbies: Reading, favorites include Shakespeare and John Milton. Playing golf. Personal: Married, two children.n

Featured Articles

Related Articles