Walter Zelman, a public health professor at Cal State LA, has been named a recipient of the California State University (CSU) Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award for his exemplary achievements and contributions to student success.
Zelman is one of only 19 faculty members in the CSU system to receive the award, which recognizes outstanding faculty leaders who use innovative practices in teaching, course design or support programs that significantly improve student outcomes.
“I am particularly pleased to receive this award because in honoring me the CSU is indicating that it values the kinds of other-than-academic career experiences I have had and the unique educational opportunities those experiences can produce for our students,” said Zelman, a resident of Malibu.
A committee of faculty and staff from the CSU Chancellor’s Office, as well as student representatives from the Cal State Student Association, selected the awardees out of more than 200 nominations.
“These outstanding faculty consistently engage students with innovative practices and foster stimulating and equitable learning environments that support these students on their path to graduation,” CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White said. “Their commitment to deepen and enrich learning by putting students at the center of all they do is fundamental to the mission of the CSU, and is helping to transform higher education nationwide.”
Zelman is director of the Department of Public Health in Cal State LA’s Rongxiang Xu College of Health and Human Services. He has more than 20 years of experience working in health policy. During the Clinton Administration, Zelman served as a senior White House adviser on efforts to win health reform and universal coverage. He was a senior fellow for the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles.
Since 2013, Zelman has organized the annual CSU Health Policy Conference (CSU-HPC) in Sacramento, where hundreds of students and faculty have met with legislators, lobbyists, journalists, staffers and public health professionals. Students are exposed to careers in public health as they attend legislative hearings and network with professionals. The trip is largely sponsored by The California Endowment, but its impact has led to more CSU campuses funding students and faculty to participate.
“Professor Zelman’s passion for the field of public health and desire to help students across the CSU are an inspiration to us all,” said Cal State LA President William A. Covino. “We congratulate him on this outstanding recognition.”
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Zelman secured a $1.25 million education grant from Covered California to lead a statewide effort educating CSU students about the new law, resulting in a reduction of uninsured CSU students from 25-30% to less than 10%. He also recruited students as coordinators, providing them with outreach experience on 14 campuses.
In addition, Zelman established an internship program with the California Department of Public Health to provide students an opportunity to gain hands-on work experience. Most recently, Zelman piloted the Careers in Health project at Cal State LA, which includes a well-received career conference for students.
“Professor Zelman embodies our ethic of service and the public good,” said Jose A. Gomez, provost and executive vice president at Cal State LA. “His innovation and dedication have benefitted the CSU, Cal State LA, and the students we teach and mentor.”
As part of the CSU recognition, Zelman will receive a $5,000 cash award and $10,000 will be allocated to the Department of Public Health at Cal State LA to support ongoing innovation and leadership to advance student success.
He will be formally recognized at a special reception in conjunction with the CSU Graduation Initiative 2025 Symposium on Oct. 17 in Sacramento.
The Faculty Innovation and Leadership Awards program was created last year as part of the CSU’s efforts to recognize faculty for their crucial work in improving student achievement and their leadership toward reaching statewide Graduation Initiative 2025 goals. The initiative is part of a broader systemwide effort to eliminate opportunity and achievement gaps, and increase graduation rates for all CSU students.