In his first major address to the university community, Cal State LA Interim President Leroy M. Morishita welcomed the start of the academic year, sharing his priorities, and praising faculty and staff for the extraordinary work they do to serve students.
“For the next few months, I will be working alongside you, helping to move the university forward until your next president is selected and takes office,” Morishita said to a packed Luckman Theatre on Aug. 17 as part of University Convocation. “And I am happy to be here with you at a university that I have long admired.”
Morishita started as interim president of Cal State LA on July 31, following the retirement of President Emeritus William A. Covino, who served as the university’s seventh president for a decade. The California State University Board of Trustees is scheduled to announce the selection of a new president of Cal State LA at its September meeting.
“Each and every one of you make this university a welcoming, vibrant and wonderful place for our students to learn and develop their skills and knowledge so that they can be the leaders that our city, state, country and world demand, and so desperately need,” Morishita said. “So, thank you for doing all that you do for our students and this great university.”
During his remarks at University Convocation, which is the ceremonial start of the academic year, Morishita shared many of Cal State LA’s accomplishments. He pointed to the university’s continued success at promoting the upward mobility of its students, its strides in increasing graduation rates, recent historic athletic seasons, and exceptional faculty research accolades.
In a span of four years, five faculty members received National Science Foundation CAREER Awards. The five-year grant is the NSF’s most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty and recognizes those who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education. Professor Alexandra Wright in the Department of Biological Sciences received the award in 2022, Professor Yixian Wang in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry received it in 2021, Professors Ashley Heers and Christine Scoffoni in the Department of Biological Sciences received them in 2020, and Professor Susan Cohen in the Department of Biological Sciences received it in 2019.
Morishita also outlined some of his priorities for the fall semester. He announced plans to launch national searches for key leadership positions at the university, including provost and vice president for academic affairs, vice president for administration and finance, and vice president for student life. The goal will be to create a pool of candidates for the new president to choose from once they take office.
Other priorities Morishita outlined included refining processes at the university to promote collaboration to combat silos, implementing recommendations from the CSU Cozen O’Connor report related to Title IX and discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, and addressing the needs of Black students to enhance their sense of belonging and academic success and reduce equity gaps.
At the ceremony, Morishita and Academic Senate Chair Andre Avramchuk welcomed new faculty members to Cal State LA. Professor Kamran Afary, chair of the Outstanding Professor Awards Selection Committee, also presented this year’s outstanding faculty awards.
“The accomplishments of our award recipients are a real source of pride for each and every one of us,” Afary said. “As we step into the upcoming academic year, let’s continue to be inspired by them as we ensure the growth and development of all our students.”
Morishita comes to Cal State LA with more than 40 years of experience in the California State University system as an educator and administrator. He served as president of Cal State East Bay from 2011 to 2020.
During his remarks, Morishita shared his experience growing up in Del Rey a small, primarily Mexican American farming community outside of Fresno, and becoming one of the first in his family to graduate from college.
“As I tried to figure out what career path I wanted to follow, I thought of my childhood friends from that community—many who did not have access to college or were not encouraged nor given the information to attend college,” Morishita said. “They became my inspiration for what I should do with my life.”
He shared that this dedication to serving and providing opportunities for students is what led him to accept the interim president position.
“My experiences and my faith in the power of education still push me today. I am here because I believe in Cal State LA and your mission,” Morishita said.
“Our time together will be brief, but we will make it powerful and good.”
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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.