CSUN names new provost

Daniel Shin

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CSUN President Diane Harrison announced the appointment of new university Provost Yi Li today, who will begin his position starting next month.

Li will join the CSUN academic community July 20, 2015, according to a press release, in time for next month’s scheduled CSU Board of Trustee’s meeting on the same day.

“[Li] is a consummate academician and scholar,” said Harrison in the press statement. “He is an analytical thinker, data driven and shares CSUN’s strong commitment to diversity.”

The new provost comes from a research-intensive STEM background with a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Minnesota. He will leave his position as Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Wright University in Fairborn, Ohio. Li has also served as the chair of University of Iowa’s mathematics department, according to his Wright University profile page.

Li will succeed former 11-year provost Harry Hellenbrand who stepped down at the end of this Spring Semester and will also inherit the title of Vice President of Academic Affairs which, according to a 2014/15 budget summary, oversaw over $140 million in funds this past academic year.

But amongst the titles and responsibilities come a number of pressing issues, including a declining university budget and impaction measures that require CSUN drop freshman enrollment by 1 percent over the next four years.

During a series of open forum Q&A sessions last month for potential provost candidates, Li expressed his commitment to providing fair access to higher education.

“We can decide to hunker down and especially in California we can shrink our enrollment, shrink our operations…but then we leave more people out of our doors because [higher education] is not a luxury anymore to have…it’s a requirement,” Li said during the May 21, 2015 forum.

He added that technological alternatives, such as online programs, would be key to addressing budget constraints.

“I believe you have one of the largest extended learning networks…that presence, that reach…that kind of reputation would help tremendously [with] any public university, facing any financial challenges because that provides that flexibility,” he said.

When asked last month about how he might deal with impaction, Li admitted to not being entirely familiar with the specific issue, but noted that he would begin addressing impaction through revisiting CSUN’s mission in relation to its students.

“I think I would start with looking at the value and mission of this university, what are the critical components that we must look at,” Li said. “I’m a strong believer in liberal arts education [and] a strong believer in providing an engaging environment for students [so] that you have the trademark of hands-on experience, research and scholarship.”