Cal State LA President William A. Covino has announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2022-2023 academic year.
“I’m honored to have had the opportunity to serve as president of Cal State LA for 10 years,” Covino said. “To offer students a transformative education, one that forever changes their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities, is a high aspiration. At Cal State LA, we hit the mark day after day, year after year.”
The president’s retirement will be effective June 30, 2023. The California State University will soon launch a national search for Covino’s successor. CSU Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester thanked Covino for his service to the CSU and noted the university’s great strides over the years.
“Under President William Covino’s leadership, student achievement has reached unprecedented heights at California State University, Los Angeles,” Koester said. “The university has made remarkable progress by more than doubling the four-year graduation rate for first-year students. Students coming from community colleges are achieving similar success, with their graduation rates reaching all-time highs, as well. These success measures demonstrate just a few of the ways that Dr. Covino has positively impacted the university.”
In 2013, Covino became Cal State LA’s seventh president. In the years that followed, the university experienced a rise in national prominence and national rankings, saw improvement in student success metrics, and earned the distinction of being home to the most diverse faculty in the CSU.
When a 2017 Equality of Opportunity Project research study ranked Cal State LA number one in the nation for upward mobility, the university and Covino were in the national spotlight for their unmatched success in propelling graduates up the income ladder. Subsequent studies have confirmed the university’s adeptness at transforming the lives of students and their families.
“This study … really lays the groundwork for future study on how places like Cal State LA can be emulated,” said Robert Fluegge of Stanford University, one of several researchers involved in the 2017 study. “We want to understand exactly what is going on at places that look really good by our metrics.”
Over the past decade, Cal State LA has climbed steadily and sharply in U.S. News and World Report rankings. Cal State LA jumped 73 spots among all private and public regional universities in the West over eight years.
As a nationally celebrated proponent of civic learning, Covino brought to the university a renewed emphasis on community service. In 2014, he launched the university’s Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good to promote service learning and civic engagement. In 2018, the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities named Cal State LA an anchor institution for its commitment to improving the economic and social well-being of local communities.
The university expanded its vision and reach by creating the Cal State LA Downtown campus, aimed at providing working professionals and others with an opportunity to earn degrees and certificates to advance their careers.
The Prison B.A. Graduation Initiative, launched in 2016, provides incarcerated men at the state prison in Lancaster an opportunity to earn bachelor’s degrees and was the first in-person bachelor’s degree completion program for incarcerated students in the state.
Through Cal State LA BioSpace, the university has helped promote a thriving bioscience ecosystem in the heart of Los Angeles and provided emerging entrepreneurs with facilities, resources, training and knowledge to launch startup ventures and spur economic development in the region.
During Covino’s time as president, the university added a new college, the College of Ethnic Studies, which is the first such college to be established at a university in the U.S. in 50 years.
Covino and his wife, Debbie Covino, are fervent champions of the mental and physical well-being of students. The couple established the Mind Matters initiative, which was later renamed WellBeingU, to help encourage a welcoming and inclusive environment on campus and increase programming, resources and support for students’ holistic wellness.
This year, the university opened the Janice Cordova Garden of Well-Being, a peaceful and retrospective space for students and the university community to enjoy nature, meditate and relax on campus, which was made possible by philanthropic support.
More than two years of Covino’s tenure have coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. During the worst of the pandemic, he oversaw the depopulation of campus, the pivoting to online instruction, and the community’s return to campus. In 2021, Cal State LA served as one of the Biden administration’s first federal vaccination sites, and later a city vaccination site, administering more than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations at a time when the communities served by the university were some of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
Covino joined Cal State LA after a long career in higher education, as an educator and scholar of rhetoric. He served as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Fresno State. He was also provost at Stanislaus State, and he began his career in higher education as an assistant professor at San Diego State. He holds a Ph.D. in English and is a recipient of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement.
“Over the course of more than 40 years in higher education, Bill Covino has transformed the lives of countless students at San Diego State, Stanislaus State, Fresno State and Cal State LA, and I thank him for his many years of distinguished and dedicated service to the CSU,” Koester said.
Covino announced his retirement plans Thursday during University Convocation, an annual gathering that marks the start of a new academic year. This year also marks the celebration of Cal State LA’s 75th anniversary and the end of the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, which raised more than $101 million.
“Anniversaries inspire reflection and sometimes big moves. Now is a good time for each of us—for me and the university—to boldly step into the next chapter of life,” Covino said Aug. 18. “Debbie and I are thrilled to be part of the transformative energy that makes this university great, and so grateful to all of you who have established such strong foundations for the next 75 years and beyond.”
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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.