Campus, News

A roundup of the three open forums for the search for CSULB vice president of student affairs

By Karla Gutierrez, Miguel Barragan and Madalyn Amato

Beth Lesen, Mary Ann Takemoto and Lea Jarnagin, finalists for vice president of student affairs, held open forums to speak with students, faculty and community members about what they could bring to the position if elected. 

Beth Lesen – Wednesday, Jan. 29

Beth Lesen

Beth Lesen, dean of student affairs at Sacramento State,  spoke about Latinx-serving institutions and focused on things that impact the lives of Latinx communities when making decisions for her student body.

“A large number of [the] Latinx student population, not just student population, are terrified right now,” she said. “We just had the Supreme Court decision that is going to impact so many people on our campus community.”

She said if Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is revoked, her first response would be to make sure that the students know that they’re safe on campus.

At the forum, a student asked Lesen about how she would approach working with disabled students.

“In the past two years, we had a testing center that was insufficient, it was worse than taking the exam in the classroom,” Lesen said. “I advocated hard and convinced them that we should create a new testing center.” 

Lesen said  she uses universal design principles to increase access for students and has worked to remove the need for accommodations  by presenting digitized material. 

“Next semester, we’re embarking on a project where …  they’re going to take three units off to take the time to completely redesign the curriculum using universal design principles,” Lesen said.

Mary Ann Takemoto – Thursday, Jan. 30

Mary Ann Takemoto

Mary Ann Takemoto, CSULB interim vice president of student affairs, who was appointed after former vice president of student affairs Carmen Taylor was “separated from the position” in 2018 spoke about her experiences with the position. 

“I have a lot of positive relationships with people in other divisions and other departments, so I think I could step into this position without much of a transition, but I also have a great love for this campus and passion for our students,” Takemoto said. 

She acknowledged her accomplishments in pushing health and wellness initiatives.

She said  as a result the administration increased training for faculty and staff, started a mental health advisory board, a student wellness board and hired a full-time position for a wellness coordinator. 

Takemoto also discussed plans for the Basic Needs Program, which offers a variety of services that target housing and food insecurity such as the Associated Students Inc. Beach Pantry and the Student Emergency Intervention and Wellness Program. 

“We are going to be expanding that program to try to meet the needs of our students who are food and housing insecure to really make sure that we can help support them as much as we can,” Takemoto said.

Marcelle Epley, president & CEO of Long Beach Community Foundation, said is most concerned with how the VP will connect  with the campus community. 

“It’ll be important for this role to make connections in the community …in a way that is meaningful for their career paths or the next stage and next step in their life,” Epley said.

Lea Jarnagin – Friday Jan. 31

Lea Jarnagin

Lea Jarnagin, California State University special assistant for student affairs and Long Beach State alumna, opened up about struggles she faced when it came to her education.

“I’m coming mostly from an enlisted military family, I was not on a college path,” Jarnagin said. “Nobody ever said the college word to me.”

She attributes her attendance at California State University, San Marcos as the key to finding her passion for higher education.

“I was incredibly fortunate after eight years in and out of the community college system here in California, to have Cal State San Marcos” Jarnagin said. “That really opened a beautiful dream for me, that dream is higher education is where I belong, I knew it.”

ASI Sen. Jireh Deng was the first to address the candidate. She asked about Jarnagin’s plans to further support students in need.

“I don’t expect that to be gone anytime in the near future, but as a vice president for student affairs, I would have to plan in a way that is not based on one year to the next, because you cannot sustain an organization as large and complex as a Division of Student Affairs [that way],” Jarnagin said. 

Jarnagin referenced her time at Cal Poly Pomona as vice president of student affairs where she expanded the institution’s student assistance programs. 

“When I was building this at Cal Poly Pomona, I brought my team right over here to see what y’all were doing, because I knew that you all were ahead of the game, in terms of what you were offering and how comprehensive it is,” Jarnagin said.

Deng followed upabout diversity, a topic that has been the focus of campus officials and members in the CSU system.

“The commitment to having a diverse environment, having the faculty and staff and administration reflect the diversity of the student population is not something that you say,” Jarnagin said. “It has to be completely woven through all aspects of the work that you’re doing.”

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