For as long as there has been higher education, parents have been sending their high school graduates off to college with the hope that they will be going to the ideal learning environment where, above all, they will be safe and their education needs will be met.

Throughout their K-12 years, students are studying, dining, sleeping and living at home 24/7 with their parents serving as their life support system. Once in a university setting, the parental chord is virtually stretched or cut altogether, depending on individual circumstances.

And just as the goal of all students is to earn a college degree, the goal of the campus they attend is to serve as a strong buffer between living at home and taking the road to independence and adulthood, while providing an invaluable education. That is where CSU’s award-winning and nationally recognized Student Affairs programs play a vital role at each of the 23 campuses.

Since each campus is like a virtual “city”, Student Affairs provides much-needed services to all students -- services that include healthcare, financial aid counseling, sports and recreation, academic advisement, alumni outreach, fundraising and residence life.

Other Student Affairs services include:

  • Campus safety and law enforcement
  • Community Service or Service Learning
  • Off-campus student support
  • Greek Affairs
  • Judicial affairs or student conduct
  • Leadership programs, including student government
  • Student Unions for recreation, food and catering and other auxiliary services
  • Veteran’s affairs
  • Career development
  • Disability support services
  • Multicultural, gender and LGBTQ services and support
  • Spirituality, faith-based and religious services

Watching over this massive service network throughout the CSU system is Ray Murillo, director of student programs in the Chancellor’s Office. He constantly monitors the pulse of student needs by working closely with the Student Affairs Council (SAC) comprised of the 23 campus vice presidents of student affairs, the various program directors and the California State Student Association (CSSA), which includes representatives from the student governing bodies at each campus.

The SAC, by providing advice, feedback and reports on best practices, determines which programs and services best contribute to the students’ success while attending CSU campuses.

“Generally speaking,” says Murillo, “each campus has autonomy as to what services they provide based on the needs of the students. Somewhat of an exception, however, is student health and mental health services which are under executive orders outlining the minimum basic services that need to be provided.” He added that health services are one of the most utilized on every campus.

“Career services, for instance, are mostly similar because their professional standards and training line up perfectly with on-campus recruitment initiatives, including college job fairs, in-person interviews and one-on-one student meetings with prospective employers.”

He explained that among the more popular services offered on every CSU campus are the Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) which provide educational access and opportunity for low-income and educationally disadvantaged students who are mostly the first in their families to attend college. EOP services include admission counseling, academic counseling, peer mentoring, tutoring, supplemental financial aid and courses in math, English, ethnic studies, study skills and others.

One of those students was Frank Lamas, a Cuban-American who, as an undergraduate at State University of New York at Postdam, was the first in his family to go to college and later went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees. Today, after a nearly 40-year career in Student Affairs, Lamas serves as vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at California State University, Fresno.

“Having a wonderful college experience as an undergrad and getting that degree is what propelled me to have the kind of life that I wanted,” he said. “It totally changed my life trajectory. So for me, my satisfaction comes from helping other students reach their goals and contribute to their success by offering the many student affairs programs that we have at Fresno State.”

His passion for his job is evident both in his words and actions. His many years of experience in similar capacities at other universities across the country are valued by students, faculty and staff at Fresno State and on a national level as a long-standing board member for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), the leading association for the advancement, health and sustainability of the Student Affairs profession.

“One of the things I really love doing is to shape environments, not only putting new programs and services in place, but also getting involved in the building of student residence halls, recreation centers, athletic complexes and a student union,” said Lamas. “The ability to provide services and facilities is a game-changer in allowing students to be successful and reach their goals.”

That commitment to student success, which is the bedrock of Student Affairs at Fresno State, is also evident across the CSU’s other 22 campuses. That is why it is no surprise that each year, when the NASPA Foundation recognizes outstanding Student Affairs leaders with its Pillars of the Profession Award, CSU Student Affairs leaders are named to that all-star list. Four of the 14 winners of the 2016 award are from the CSU: Berenecea Johnson Eanes, vice president of Student Affairs at Cal State Fullerton; Ken Kelly, interim executive director of housing, residential life and auxiliary at Cal State Long Beach; Anna Ortiz, Cal State Long Beach professor, and Greg Sawyer, vice president for Student Affairs at CSU Channel Islands.

Student Affairs programs play a vital role in propelling students through their academic program, onto graduate and life-long success. “Whether it is through tutoring and supplemental instruction, our ‘clothing closet’ where students can get free clothes to go on internships and job interviews, or our “cupboard” program to prevent food insecurity, we try to be there when they need us,” Lamas added.​