Dorena Knepper, longtime CSUN director of governmental affairs, began her retirement on Dec. 31, 2005 after working at the university for more than 30 years.
Knepper’s job took her from Sacramento all the way to Washington, D.C., lobbying lawmakers to improve the lives of students.
Her job was to represent CSUN in the halls of power, working to ensure bills were passed that helped the university and students, fighting laws that would be a detriment, Knepper said.
She lobbied in Sacramento to get the state to allow CSUN to issue doctorate degrees in audiology and physical therapy. Knepper went with CSUN alumni who work in the audiology field to Sacramento to talk to legislators.
“I just love making those arguments,” Knepper said.
One of the major issues Knepper dealt with was the reauthorization of the federal Higher Education Act, a federal bill that has to be renewed every five years.
The HEA covers a broad range of issues in higher education including Pell grants, Knepper said.
Knepper started the Legislative Aides Association, which is composed of field representatives from county, state and federal levels and the Los Angeles school board. The LAA is made up of 25 people. The group meets quarterly to look at spotlighted programs, such as music therapy and the cadaver lab, Knepper said.
She put emphasis on student voting by helping to set up a voting precinct in 2001 on the CSUN campus.
CSUN is the only CSU campus that has its own voting precinct, Knepper said.
Knepper decided to retire from the directorship position because the role of governmental affairs for CSUN was changing.
Knepper said both, the CSU system and CSUN, were moving toward marketing the CSU system and away from purely lobbying to improve the laws concerning the university,
Knepper looks at the CSU system as key to the economy of California. The system educates the bulk of teachers, accountants and middle management in California, she said.
“I do believe the Cal State system is the economic engine of California,” Knepper said.
Michael Tou, policy deputy of U.S. Congressmember Brad Sherman, (D-Sherman Oaks) has worked with Knepper for four years and has great respect for her.
“She has really made a mark on my life and my profession,” Tou said.
Tou worked with Knepper on the congressional earmarking process for financial aid and in the United Chambers of Commerce for San Fernando Valley, Tou said.
Tou graduated from CSUN with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and began working as a go between for Congressman Sherman and CSUN.
“(Knepper’s) been a wealth of information for me,” Tou said. “She’s definitely a person I have come to admire.”
Knepper worked with the executive offices of other CSU schools to provide the best service for students.
Rosemary McNutt, executive assistant for the CSULA president’s office, worked with Knepper as governmental liaisons for 17 years.
“(Knepper) is the best when it comes to governmental affairs,” McNutt said.
Knepper was very hands-on in working with the community and CSUN, McNutt said.
“I’m really going to miss working with her,” McNutt said.
Elena Macias, CSULB assistant vice president of governmental and community relations, worked with Knepper and CSU alumni to push credit card and insurance companies to provide benefits to CSU alumni.
“(Knepper’s) a veteran, who knows the ins and outs of the CSU (system), legislature, state and local governments,” Macias said. “She always had more information than anybody else.”
Knepper is still involved in public work throughout the San Fernando Valley as chair of the United Chambers of Commerce. She works also for the Huntington Library, teaching children about plant care and leading tours of the 14 gardens.
“I’m young enough that there are other things I can do with my life,” Knepper said.
Joseph Wilson can be reached at email@example.com.