College Presidential Advice: ‘Never Lose Your Soul’

DI: What was the appeal of the California State presidency?
As U.S. News & World Report states, (CSU Dominguez Hills) is the most diverse university west of the Mississippi, where no one ethnic group is in the majority. I wanted to be at a university that should be a role model for the country in how to prepare individuals to become leaders in a diverse global, technological world.

DI: What are the challenges and/or benefits of presiding over a university that’s part of a large state university system?
I have a fabulous group of presidents at 22 campuses, and they have been so helpful. You have a chancellor who supports his presidents, that’s absolutely wonderful. I have seen a lot of people in command and this chancellor gets our student body. The challenges are the budget. The State of California’s elected officials need to understand that education is a benefit. Education is an investment, it is not an expense, and being at the bottom of the chain for funding is not the way to go.

DI: Diverse just wrote an article about an increasing number of students starting out at community colleges by choice. You started your college career at New York City Community College, tell us about that experience.
The community college was a fabulous experience for me. My experience was that the community college opened doors because I was thinking after two years I’ll stop, yet it was the faculty members that encouraged me to continue and go for a bachelor’s degree.

DI: What is the best professional advice you have received?
Acquire all the education you can, get as much experience as you can but never lose your soul. Be who you are. There were people in the profession who said to me, oh, you shouldn’t wear such colorful clothing, or you need to cut your hair, or you need to stop wearing that type of jewelry, or you need to stop publishing about issues of diversity. I remember that advice, and I said if it takes that to become a president, I don’t need to become a president.

DI: How would you describe the racial climate on campus?
What’s happening here in Dominguez Hills is people may be coming from neighborhoods that are very segregated. Once they get here, they are studying together, and they are doing student clubs together and they are learning together in classrooms. They’ve learned to accept people for what they bring to the table.

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