The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Powerful Matadoras Through the Ages

File photo of CSUN President Erika Beck.

California State University, Northridge women presidents have made a difference over several decades.

Since 1992, there have been a total of four female presidents at CSUN. Each paved the way for their successors while accomplishing historical merits of their own. From demonstrating outstanding resilience in times of hardships to advocating the importance of higher education, they had a common objective to promote inclusion within higher education to fight for equity. 

The first female president of CSUN was Blenda Wilson, who was inaugurated in 1992.

President Wilson started her career in higher education as an assistant provost and assistant to the president of Rutgers University in New Jersey from 1969 to 1972. She then continued to work in administrative positions within institutions of higher education as a means to advocate for minorities. 

Wilson made history the day she was named president. Not only was she the first woman to become president at CSUN, she was also the first African American woman within the United States to acquire a title of that magnitude within higher education.

Wilson remained president for seven years. During her term she oversaw the reconstruction of the university after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The earthquake caused damage to parking structures, campus buildings and the University Library. In 1999, Wilson’s term ended, and was followed by an interim president.

Jolene Koester was instated as president in 2001, making her the fourth president of CSUN. Koester began her career in education as a communications professor at California State University, Sacramento. During Koester’s term as president, which lasted for a little over a decade, enrollment rates increased significantly and the university’s performance showed an overall increase.

After her time at CSUN, Koesters came out of retirement to take on the role of CSU interim chancellor. She launched several programs to ensure the success of transfer students and minorities. Additionally, as interim chancellor, she made efforts to eliminate discrimination and harassment within the CSU system.

In April of last year, Koester was awarded a Tosney Award for Career Service in Higher Education Leadership from the American Association of University Administrators for her continuous efforts.

In 2012, the third female president, Diane Harrison, was appointed. She was named one of the 500 most influential people in Los Angeles during her tenure by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

Prior to becoming president of CSUN, Harrison held the same position at California State University, Monterey Bay. Before then, she was at Florida State University, where she worked for 30 years.

With her experience, Harrison built important connections and encouraged students to succeed. Under her leadership, there was an increase in CSUN students graduating on time and a considerable increase in donations. Harrison was originally going to retire in 2020, but maintained her position amid the beginning of the pandemic.

In 2021, President Erika D. Beck, the fourth and current female president, took the helm.

Early in her career, Beck worked in various capacities for other universities with the objective of increasing the overall success of students. During her time at Nevada State University, she advocated for minorities and diversity, and improved graduation rates overall. 

Beck also served as president of California State University, Channel Islands, and helped the university excel in promoting higher education as fair and impartial. In a matter of four years, Beck spearheaded CSUCI’s success as a university and helped it rank at a national level in multiple categories.

According to an interview with Authority Magazine, Beck strives to incorporate CSUN’s values of equity, inclusion and belonging into all aspects of campus. Coming into the position during the pandemic, Beck is navigating the campus into a new era of academics.

Beck continues to lead CSUN and carry on the legacy of her predecessors.

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