In spring 2018, the California State University Board of Trustees appointed Adela de la Torre, Ph.D., to serve as president of San Diego State University. We spoke with her about her new role, her goals and the importance of honoring heritage while embracing change.

 

Q: What are some of your first orders of business as president?

Dr. de la Torre: During my first 100 days I will be focused on listening and learning from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members. It's important to take the time to listen and learn from those who have been part of the extraordinary legacy of San Diego State University, so that together we can build a strategic vision for the next chapter of the university.

 

Q: What is your leadership philosophy?

Dr. de la Torre: Family, education, and hard work are important to me, and I value loyalty and integrity. I try to exemplify these core values in my personal and professional life, and I try to challenge those around me to do the same.

Empathy and respect are critical too. We learn much when we can put ourselves in another person's shoes. And humility is important as well. You really can't listen mindfully if you're not willing to hear what people say. Understanding different perspectives in a reflective and respectful manner is key because we grow from constructive criticism. 

And vision and courage are essential when looking at the bigger picture and when having to make tough calls that are in the best interest of the community and the university.

 

Q: What are your goals for your presidency?

Dr. de la Torre: This is an exciting time for San Diego State University and San Diego at large. My goal in a general sense is to bring the campus to the next level of greatness, growth and impact.

Student success has been and will continue to be a top priority for SDSU. I'm committed to working with faculty and staff to educate and graduate students who are global citizens, compassionate leaders, and ethical innovators—and who will be equipped to solve the world's greatest challenges.

San Diego State is a research-oriented institution that offers high-quality education with robust undergraduate and graduate programs. It is a regional engine for economic growth. I want to continue to guide the university on its trajectory of high impact both for our university and San Diego community.

For that reason, what is key at this moment is the Mission Valley campus expansion plan. If given the opportunity to purchase the land where the SDCCU Stadium is currently located, we will have the opportunity to expand our educational research and entrepreneurial programs. We will also be able to grow SDSU's economic benefits to the community for the next 121 years.

 

Q: What excites you most about this job?

Dr. de la Torre: San Diego State is known as a regional powerhouse in terms of research, teaching, economic impact and NCAA Division 1 athletics. It is a campus that has a national and international reputation. Being at the helm is a privilege that I don't take lightly. Recognizing that we have been successful in so many different domains and moving the university to the next level is meaningful and important to me.

I'm also excited to be part of a locally-minded, globally-focused institution that strives to look at the health of the region both economically and socially while honoring San Diego's richly diverse population.

I'm grateful to be here during this important moment of San Diego State University history with such tremendous opportunity for growth and community impact.

The opportunity to lead the next chapter of the university in Mission Valley if SDSU is given the opportunity to purchase the land is a legacy moment, and one we would be discussing for generations to come.

 

Q: You are the first female president of SDSU. Does your hiring say something bigger about the university and about America today?

Dr. de la Torre: More than half of all students at most colleges and universities are women, so having equal representation of female presidents makes sense. It is critical that opportunities for women increase in order to provide the important leadership role models for students.

I'm extremely proud to be the first woman president of San Diego State. I have great respect for the CSU Board of Trustees as well as the Chancellor for their vision and appreciation for the value women bring to the university as critical role models for the system and beyond.

The opportunity to lead at San Diego State is doubly rich for me because not only will I lead as a woman but I will lead as a woman who understands the border and the many cultural nuances of the community. My grandparents immigrated to the Central Valley from Mexico and my mother taught me the cultural traditions, the importance of family, the value of hard work, and the power of an education.

 

Q: What's something people would be surprised to learn about you?

Dr. de la Torre: I have three dogs that I have rescued, and I have always been a dog lover. Even as a child I would bring home stray dogs. They really keep me balanced in many ways; I enjoy their daily antics.

 

Q: What was the last movie you saw?

Dr. de la Torre: I recently saw "Coco" with my 3-year-old grandson. I really wanted him to have the experience of seeing a movie with me that celebrated our cultural traditions as well as the importance of family.

"Coco" showed that sometimes in life people make choices that are not ideal but it's still important to have empathy.

 

 

About Dr. de la Torre

Dr. de la Torre joins SDSU from University of California, Davis, where she has served for the past 16 years in various positions, culminating in her role as vice chancellor, student affairs and campus diversity.

Prior to her positions at University of California, Davis, de la Torre was director of the Mexican American Studies and Research Center at the University of Arizona from 1996 to 2002.

Dr. de la Torre is familiar with the CSU, having served in the management fellows program at the CSU Office of the Chancellor (1995-96), as the chair of the Chicano/Latino studies department at CSU Long Beach from 1991-95, and as a professor of health care administration (1988-96) also at CSULB. She earned a B.S. in political economy of natural resources and an M.S. and Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics, all from the University of California, Berkeley.