The arrival of a new university president to the CSU system is always cause for celebration, and this year is no exception.

Five highly experienced education experts recently began their first full academic year as president at their respective campuses, bringing the total number of women presidents at the CSU to 11. In a system of 23 campuses, women now account for 47.8 percent of presidents—nearly double the national average of 26 percent.

All five of the new CSU presidents were recently able to share advice, personal taste in music, their goals for the future and more.


Q: What's the best piece of advice you received while a college student yourself?

Dr. Erika D. Beck, CSU Channel Islands: "My undergraduate research mentor advised me to 'embrace my inner scientist' and strive to foster my natural curiosity about the world."

Dr. Gayle E. Hutchinson, CSU Chico: "The department chair called me to his office just before I graduated and asked me to consider becoming a university professor after I taught school for a while. He went on to say that, as a professor, I could help even more young people achieve their potential. Up to that point, I had never considered working in higher education. I thought it was a grand idea, and I never looked back."

Dr. Ellen N. Junn, Stanislaus State: "The best piece of advice that I received as a student was to excel by applying for honors programs, undergraduate research opportunities and to become involved in service learning activities. By getting involved in undergraduate research, I was able to conduct my own research study with a faculty advisor who became a close mentor to me and who was instrumental in helping me successfully apply to a doctoral program."

Dr. Mary A. Papazian, San José State​: "To keep myself focused on the big picture—20 years ahead—and to always try to make choices that open doors, not close them."

Dr. Judy K. Sakaki, Sonoma State: "Use faculty office hours, seek counseling/advising support, take risks, and share your ideas. There are many people who want to assist you, but you have to take the initiative and ask for help."


Q: How do you like to spend free time on campus?

Beck: "Walking around campus, connecting with faculty, staff and students to share ideas and hear what is on their mind." 

Hutchinson: "Walking around campus, interacting with students, faculty and staff."

Junn: "I love walking around our beautiful campus and seeing the fountains and trees. You may not know this, but Stanislaus State is home to our region's largest urban forest!"

Papazian: "We have a beautiful, new Student Union. I enjoy meandering through for a meal or cup of coffee and casual interactions with students."

Sakaki: "I love chatting with students or being asked to take a 'selfie'."

Q: What has surprised you during your time as a CSU campus president so far?

Hutchinson: "The amount of meetings that serve food. I am working hard to fend off the freshmen 15."

Junn: "Something that surprised me about my new campus is that Stanislaus State happens to be one of the biggest sites for Pokémon Go! We have hundreds of people with their families hunting around campus for Pokémon day and night. Our fabulous police department even went viral with their hilarious PSA about safely playing this new game."

Papazian: "I'm not sure it's that big a surprise, but I've been really impressed by the dedication our faculty and staff members have for our students."

Sakaki: "The high level of media interest."

Q: What music do you prefer to help you focus or relax?

Hutchinson: "Swing."

Junn: "For deep relaxation, I prefer the classics—Beethoven and Bach. But I also love more modern music like the legendary Beyoncé! I just went to her concert a few weeks ago and ran into some of our amazing students!"

Papazian: "Just about anything my generation grew up with in the late '70's and early '80's."

Sakaki: "Smooth jazz."

Q: What makes this a unique time to begin your tenure at the CSU?

Beck: "In my view, there has never been a more exciting time to serve as a leader in the Academy.  Higher education as a whole is in the midst of significant change as we reexamine long-standing models, assumptions and practices to better serve our students and our communities. As the largest and most diverse higher education system in the nation, we have the unique opportunity to harness the intellectual power of our entire system to become ever more responsive to the needs of our global and diverse society."

Hutchinson: "The CSU Graduation Initiative. And a renewed sense of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in teaching, service and scholarship."

Junn: "This marks my 31st year in the CSU. I'm so honored that my culminating move will be at this fantastic campus surrounded by outstanding faculty, staff and students. I've had such a warm welcome back to the valley and I am truly humbled!"

Papazian: "There is such collective focus on student success—it is a wonderful galvanizing force for all of us."

Sakaki: "I am a product of the CSU. I owe much of my success to the education and support that I received while a CSU undergraduate and graduate student. I began my career as a CSU Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) outreach counselor.  I feel strongly about the mission of the CSU and am so excited to be in a position to give back by leading the Sonoma State campuses."

Q: How can your campus make the biggest impact in the future?

Beck: "Channel Islands is poised to serve as a national model for inclusive excellence, student engagement and success. As we move forward, we will continue to foster innovative approaches to expand access, ignite human potential, advance economic diversification and maintain a steadfast commitment to the highest academic standards."

Hutchinson: "Sustaining our reputation as a rigorous academic institution that provides students with a high-quality education and best value for their dollar. Enhancing the quality of our programs, making our degrees stronger and our alumni prouder. Sharing our best practices around civic engagement, culturally responsive pedagogy, interactive and instructional technologies, and environmental sustainability.

Junn: "Stanislaus State can and will make a huge impact by continuing to support and showcase the Central Valley by raising the quality and accessibility to graduate and baccalaureate degrees for students in our region. The Central Valley is underrepresented in higher education, although we are the bread basket of the state. Expanding opportunities for our region is so important and will make a huge impact!"

Papazian: "Being positioned squarely in the center of American's tenth-largest city (yes—San Jose is that big!) and as Silicon Valley's public university, SJSU is the primary source of talent that our business community wants and needs. As workforce needs adapt, we need to adapt, too. And we will."​

Sakaki: "Working together as a campus community, we have the opportunity to change the lives of students, their families, their communities, our region, and the state.  Our liberal arts and science/technology programs are strong.  At Sonoma State we can be a leader in community engagement, diversity, and sustainability, plus we have a world-class performing arts center on our beautiful campus in the wine country."