Hundreds of women sat, stood or kneeled Monday evening in an overflowing conference room filled with uproarious laughter.
California State University, Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley was one of six women on stage at the front of the room in the Omni Los Angeles Hotel where she and her colleagues joked about what they do to keep stress at a minimum.
“The last time I had balance was 1978,” Conoley said.
President Conoley received the Trailblazer Award for women leaders along with the other five women California State University presidents during the Legacy of Leadership Award Ceremony.
Leadership California, the nonprofit organization that honored President Conoley and her fellow awardees, is comprised of more than 1,500 women leaders whose goal is to advance the leadership role of women in California.
At the event, CSU Chancellor Tim White took the stage to congratulate the six women and to recognize that, with one in 10 California workers having graduated from a CSU, the presidents have the ability to affect positive change in a vast number of people.
Conoley said that she enjoyed her time as interim chancellor at the University of California, Riverside because she had the chance to work with diverse and often underprivileged students. Conoley said she was very happy to assume the presidential position at CSULB because of the similar demographics.
“This is a transformational experience rather than just a finishing school,” Conoley said.
As the first woman president at CSULB as well as the first woman dean at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Texas A&M, Conoley is a pioneer with her work on the application of positive psychology in the field of education. She has won a number of awards and has contributed to, edited or authored more than 200 books.
Conoley said she is particularly proud of CSULB’s diversity with respect to ethnicity, age and gender, but she recognized that there are difficulties ahead of her in the CSU system.
“[Declining state investment] meant we turned down thousands of CSU eligible students.” Conoley said. “This is not a happy day. We think our prestige, our importance is based on the transformational experiences we offer our students. It’s not based on how many people we turn away.”